In defense of Lexham Context Commentary - a rant and a reason to buy it

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Feb 10 2020 5:02 PM

First, the rant - one that you've seen many times before so it is "noncontroversial - I lost". The tagging of Genesis 1:1 uses, much to my annoyance "Holy Spirit". I object strenuously on several grounds:

  • the concept of "Holy Spirit" was unknown at the time of the writing and hence is anachronistic
  • there are significant segments of the population reading the passage as scripture who would disagree - Jewish and non-Trinitarians
  • it is not what the text says - it is what we interpret the text to mean once we apply canonic criticism.

The problem is, as I see it, that when using the scripture in dialogue with others, I know I can always rely on reaching an agreement on the text itself but I cannot assume that will be reach the same conclusions when I start applying particular methods of interpretation e.g. canonic criticism. I can point you to examples of the early church fathers carefully sticking to the rabbinic canon for the conversion of Jews -- avoiding the issue of the emerging rabbinic canon and the LXX differences.

So, yes, I get angry when I see the LCC replace the word in the scripture "take" with their favorite "keep" because it avoids addressing a cultural difference. I get seriously annoyed when they step outside the method the commentary exhibits to promote a view of a former employee. I chuckle at their editing when they tell me that Joseph was the first righteous man ... without qualifying it to the book of Matthew. Or when two different things are identified as the first to bring the Gentiles into view. But other nnnnnnnnn authors give me deliberately erroneous quotes, quotes edited to change the meaning, misunderstood data ... so I have developed a healthy response of reading very carefully and very suspiciously. And, yes, I can give precise instances of all my "charges above". But my point is that many Logos readers likely don't read super-critically if they aren't holding their authors to a higher standard.

So why do I really like the Lexham Context Commentary?

  1. By sticking to a single form of criticism it highlights what that criticism can add to our understanding of the text.
  2. As a result it helps the reader make a clear distinction between the text itself and the interpretation of the text.
  3. When it slips, as in replacing the Biblical "take" with "keep", the slip is easy to catch as the reader is apt to be jarred by the change in language.
  4. Because it is not cluttered with many different types of criticism, it is easier to catch errors like two different things being "first"
  5. Therefore, this LCC not only illustrates one form of criticism but illustrates very well how the various Biblical criticisms highlight particular aspects of the text - both the mundane and those that give new insight into the text.

I would suggest that those who say "I have many commentaries that do that" are right in the sense that they have other commentaries that note the text structure and interrelationships. But they are wrong in that that is not the real strength of the product. Consider the product as a very long lesson in reading closely and accurately - reading the text that is actually there not the text that you remember.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 10 2020 5:49 PM

It’s a fine resource for what it does.  I could either get that for $27 or the 5 Solas series for $9 with a credit I have.  I could also get the solas now for $9 and just wait for next’s month connect 25% off coupon or an introductory sale.

Decisions, decisions!

I hope FL sees the importance of sample pages.  If it wasn’t for those, I’d be comfortable not buying the LCC, but now I don’t mind adding it to my library, thanks to seeing several sample pages.  Keep the samples coming on all resources πŸ‘πŸ˜πŸ‘Œ

DAL

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 10 2020 6:21 PM

I guess here's my question (no need to answer, since it's not really just one question). 

Who would you recommend this for, such that they should pay for it? And for that person, would you choose this commentary? Or a better one?

I can't think of anyone I've ever met. But, I've only lived in the crispy nail-it world.

"I didn't know God made honky tonk angels."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 10 2020 7:33 PM

Denise:
Who would you recommend this for

  • All those who read popular preachers/theologians and simply nod their head in agreement rather than demanding that the author be truthful and accurate
  • All those who think "biblical criticism" is a dirty word
  • All those who can't distinguish between the text itself and their interpretation of it esp. if they want to adjust tagging to reflect their error.
  • All those who think they found it themselves in "what the scripture clearly says" rather than acknowledge that they have been taught to read it in that way
  • All those who love to quote "key passages" with "all's" and "only's" that are not actually in the text
  • In short, a large group of people who want to (or should want to) actually focus on what the text actually says rather than pretending to do so.

Is that the same as suggesting that the Literalist Church of the Bible have a number of unaffiliated sister churches, each with a membership of one?

Of course, that leaves me thinking of what kind of specialized commentaries would highlight some of my "more horrendous logic common errors" in reading the Bible for its literal, plain sense.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 10 2020 8:28 PM

Well, I was hoping a specific person (not their name, of course). I usually try that, and usually can find someone I know, who wouldn't get mad at me for wasting their money.

MJ. Smith:
Is that the same as suggesting that the Literalist Church of the Bible have a number of unaffiliated sister churches, each with a membership of one?

I would hope so. But normally they unfortunately dump God, before recognizing the problem was the churchmen (guy-opinions generally).

But that leads to your next comment ...

MJ. Smith:
Of course, that leaves me thinking of what kind of specialized commentaries would highlight some of my "more horrendous logic common errors" in reading the Bible for its literal, plain sense.

I can't think of a one. Take for instance Gen 6:2. The sons of the god(s) were attracted to women. I thought that was curious (my new quote below).

Ok. I'll admit Lexham-ity bias. I should re-look!

"I didn't know God made honky tonk angels."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 10 2020 10:04 PM

Denise:
Well, I was hoping a specific person (not their name, of course).

Unfortunately, I fear my top two candidates might recognize themselves.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Veli Voipio | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 10 2020 10:48 PM

Denise:
I can't think of a one. Take for instance Gen 6:2. The sons of the god(s) were attracted to women. I thought that was curious

Then someone comes and detonates the bank (the traditional Western view) and says that the "sons of the god(s)" is just the name of the neighboring tribe. After that there is nothing curious, just the plain natural sense left (young brave men stealing girls from the neighboring tribe and the young ladies happily conforming). Smile

Gold package, and original language material and ancient text material, SIL and UBS books, discourse Hebrew OT and Greek NT. PC with Windows 8.1

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Puddin’ | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Feb 10 2020 11:58 PM

MJ. Smith:
I fear my top two candidates might recognize themselves.

Careful now—one of them is reading thisπŸ€“πŸ˜³.

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 6:23 AM

Veli Voipio:
Then someone comes and detonates the bank (the traditional Western view)

Well, before THAT ... as you know scripture informs scripture (a very man-ly doctrine), and therefore Jesus was there at the time, and the 'sons of gods' (angels?) can't or at least don't get married (from Jesus), so it's understandable what must have happened. Not unlike the high incidence of porn-watching among the later 'sons'. 

As irreverent as this may sound, it's what folks wonder about and chat about, after Bible class. 'Context', as they say.

"I didn't know God made honky tonk angels."

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Mattillo | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 7:34 AM

The oddest thing about this commentary set to me is the complete lack of promotion prior to release.  It just appeared one day... why not drum up interest for it and get pre-orders going?  If I see it on sale in the future though I'll probably grab it... OR wait for L9

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J. Remington Bowling | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 8:12 AM

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I get the impression that you think this commentary is best suited for those who need to be pulled out of their naive Bible reading where all they can see in the text is their interpretation. But what counts for relevant context is also an interpretive issue. Take, for example, part 5 of Longman's "How To Read Genesis" which is all about "Reading Genesis as Christians." This difficulty, it seems, surfaces more clearly in the OT, which might be part of the reason why Faithlife still hasn't committed to undertaking that task.

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 8:52 AM

People read the Bible and draw wrong conclusions about it. Yep. It happens. Will this set solve that problem? Big picture--no, that's impossible. In occasional cases, perhaps it helps a few people develop a sense of hermeneutical rigor. Hope so.

The problem I have with the premise of this set, though, is the assumption of the authors/publishers, specifically, that they KNOW what the context of a given text is. I realize there are a variety of different contextual scenarios that can trip up exegetical rookies. Helping them avoid those traps is a good thing. My concern with this publication is that it will be (unless a genuine miracle has taken place) far too constrictive with its definition of context. Although this example isn't exactly from the LCC but rather from someone commenting about it, I'd bet my lunch money that there are similar examples within the commentary...

MJ. Smith:

The tagging of Genesis 1:1 uses, much to my annoyance "Holy Spirit". I object strenuously on several grounds:

  • the concept of "Holy Spirit" was unknown at the time of the writing and hence is anachronistic

Sorry, MJ, but this is PURE ASSUMPTION on your part. I see this kind of statement on a fairly regular basis, where someone dismisses an instance of evidence, and then comments that "except for that, there is no other evidence". How convenient. Anyway, narrowing down on my concern, the issue here is one of alleged "anachronism".

At its core, this boils down to the question of "How did we get the Bible?" One perspective (key terms in bold) takes the view that sees humans acting in history through a developmental timeline that progresses and adjusts to historical events. This is a slavishly diachronic view. It is this view that MJ is adhering to, otherwise she wouldn't be decrying the anachronism of the term "Holy Spirit" (or even "holy spirit") in Genesis. She sees the use of that term as a problem because she thinks humans hadn't devised or used such language until later on down the ONE-WAY arrow of time.

The other view is different, primarily in who the author Author is taken to be: YHWH. Because ':Elohhiym is directly responsible for the content of the Book, and the Author is inherently achronistic (timeless) in His being, the concept of anachronism recedes drastically, because the Author of both Genesis and Revelation (and everything in between) KNOWS THE WHOLE STORY BEFORE THE FIRST WORD IS COMMITTED TO PAPYRUS. This assertion isn't a hypothesis--it is a fundamental requirement. Why? In a word: PROPHECY. Prophecy enforces a synchronic perspective of the Bible's "development". I put the word "development" in quotes because it is not the kind of development postulated by the diachronic view. In terms of themes and the prophetic web that connects every book in the Bible with every other book, the Book is loomed whole cloth. The aspect of development occurs in two ways: 1) there is the fact that the timeless Creator has chosen to work in time, and since everything can't & doesn't happen in one giant plop, some things inevitably occur before others do--this isn't evolution, just revelation; and 2) because the humans that YHWH created don't have His capacity to see and know all (by His design, not our fault or error), they are inherently reactionary in there behavior, responding to events as they occur. However, this limited "development" at no point entails religious evolution, because THE BIBLE IS NOT WRITTEN FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A HUMAN; IT IS WRITTEN FROM THE AUTHORIAL PERSPECTIVE OF GOD.

As a result, it is a falsity to say that use of "Holy Spirit" is anachronous in Genesis, most especially because pretty much the ONLY WAY much of the material of Genesis could be accurately represented in text is if YHWH expressly transferred awareness of the story's details to a scribe. The "narrator view" that is present throughout Genesis frequently speaks of YHWH's frame of mind. Following this thread of logic, saying that the only possible Author of Genesis didn't know about the Holy Spirit is the equivalent of suggesting YHWH hadn't figured that part out yet. 

I just finished a cage match on Facebook with a guy who tried to dispute something I said about the Bible by appealing to genres. He's apparently trying to make a case for genres having this magical trait of delimiting interpretational options. Good luck with that. Like I recently said in one or two other posts, prophecies (regardless of the kinds of genres in which they are couched--and they are couched in ALL of them) are like neutrinos--they pass through all so-called barriers as if they do not exist at all.

So this is the take-away, as I said on FB (two bracketed comments follow): 

[[The idea that there was a CONTEMPORARY AUDIENCE that MUST HAVE UNDERSTOOD what was written in the Bible is simply bogus. Paul says very plainly that the things that happened back then and that were written down in Scripture were for "OUR ADMONITION"...NOT for the admonition of the people of the author's time. Prophecy is utterly non-diachronic--rather, it is utterly synchronic. The Bible could not be properly understood until the Book was completed...but even having the completed document doesn't in itself mean that the Book can be understood, because prophecy very clearly says that the Book will be sealed until the time of the end.]]

[[My primary point is that prophecy is ubiquitous and ignores supposed genre barriers as if they don't exist. As I said, the Bible is fundamentally synchronic in its perspective. This is demonstrated by the existence of hundreds upon hundreds of multiple-point overlaps of every supposed genre with every other genre. There is pretty much zero limitation on directional influence. In other words, prophecy exerts influence in utter disregard of the supposed "arrow of time". Genesis is written to EXPECT interpretative influences and explanations from every other book in the Bible. Said otherwise, it is impossible to correctly interpret Genesis without Revelation. Anything that Revelation says that affects Genesis is part of the compulsory context of Genesis.]]

I've said this before--the Bible's context is THE ENTIRE BIBLE. Unless this new commentary takes this perspective (and especially if it resists or rejects it), then it will inevitably do more harm than good.

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Chrisser | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 11:38 AM

I might not fully understand what's being argued about. I don't think I've got that resource either. But it also seems strange to tag it with Holy Spirit. I don't think there's a good reason to tag Gen 1:1 with Holy Spirit. Christ is more given credit in the NT than the Holy Spirit if I recall correctly, and I think it would be awfully awkward if Christ was tagged there....

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David Paul | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 11:43 AM

Donnie Hale:

I've had this in my amazon and ebay checkout carts for ages, but I can't get the price I'm looking for. I see it's in Logos, too, but I will only pick it up if I can get it as part of a tasty package deal.

If I had to guess, it is the presence of "Spirit of ':Elohhiym" in verse 2 that is inclining the use of Holy Spirit in verse 1. Of course, since I don't have the resource, I'm going off of what is being stated. With the Spirit hovering (i.e. moving) in verse 2, just before the daily creation acts kick in, it isn't a massive stretch to surmise the involvement of the Spirit in the activities being described. That said, just to back off of MJ a little, while the Spirit is clearly present in v. 2, it is inarguably a fact that the text doesn't support the Spirit as a translation of verse 1. Assuming that the Gen. 1:1 reference isn't a mistake, am I correct that "Holy Spirit" is being used in place of Ruuahh ':Elohhiym?

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SineNomine | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 12:50 PM

David Paul:
I see it's in Logos, too, but I will only pick it up if I can get it as part of a tasty package deal.

Well, it's in this one....

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 1:13 PM

Kenneth Neighoff:

Yes

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 1:23 PM

David Paul:
Sorry, MJ, but this is PURE ASSUMPTION on your part.


'Fraid not but I've learned not to get drawn into such discussions with you ... have to go too far back for common assumptions to be done in the forum setting.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Nathan Parker | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Feb 11 2020 7:02 PM

Quick question:

Would this benefit a PhD student who is minoring in Biblical Theology (majoring in Systematic Theology) involved in research classes that utilize canonical narrative Biblical Theology?

Since I have the FL Connect coupon, I'm wondering if I should spend the money for this now, or hold off and see if it's in a L9 package.

The page samples didn't really give me enough to tell, and the video was more flash than substantive.

Thanks!

Nathan Parker

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