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ETS Day 1 by Bill Mounce

Categories Theology Guest Posts


Greetings from the first day of the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. We are in Providence, Rhode Island.

In case you aren’t familiar with this organization and meeting, let me summarize. ETS is a scholarly society based primarily on a statement of biblical inerrancy, that the Bible is without error (as defined by the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy). About 2,000 evangelical professors and pastor and students attend. We get to see our friends, drool over all the books (many publishers are here displaying their books), and hear some scholarly papers read. There are a few plenary sessions that most people attend, and then lots of papers read by various people. These conclude with a question and answer time, so if you are going to read a paper you had better know your stuff.

The general topic this year is Text and Cannon. Peter Gentry (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) spoke at the first plenary session. He spoke on the methodology of evaluating the Hebrew text.

Being more in the Greek Testament, a lot of the discussion went over my head. He looked at the value of the various types of texts (Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, Latin, Peshitta, and Targums) as they compare to the Hebrew. His basic argument was that the Hebrew text was set by the time of Ezra, and variations are due more to what he termed "resignification." This is basically what preachers do to a biblical text as the preach it: simplify, explain, clarify. The prevailing view is that the Hebrew text was fluid (i.e., not a clear primary text) until 130 A.D.

Greg Beale (Wheaton) will give a lecture tonight on "The Authority of Scripture: A Biblical Theology According to John’s Apocalypse." I assume it is related to his latest book, The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism (Crossway). Later, Stephen Dempster (Atlantic Baptist University) will speak on the Old Testament Canon.

I attended two interesting papers. Dr. Gerry Breshears (Western Seminary) talked about the topic of the subordination of God the Son to God the Father. I had to leave before it was done, but in dealing with the biblical texts, he was arguing that God the Son is not subordinate in authority to God the Father; it was only as Messiah that he was subordinate. It was not what I expected, but Gerry is full of surprises.

The other paper was on different methods of memorizing Greek vocabulary. Dr. Daniel Streett (Criswell College) bemoaned current methods and showed how he uses gestures, pictures, interaction and the like to help students go from Greek to meaning and not necessarily through English. "Why do we memorize lexical forms when so often they are not the most used forms?" he asked. It is always fun to think through these issues.

It appeared that the most attended paper was the Counterpoint series on the use of the Old Testament in the New.

Some really good books have come out recently, and it is fun to see them. The ESV Study Bible is out and it is gorgeous. (Disclaimer: I was part of the translation team of the ESV but was not involved in the Study Bible.) The text is readable, the paper thick enough so the ink does not bleed through, the notes appear to be very well written, and the drawings and maps are spectacular. Time will see if it is as good as the NIV Study Bible, or better.

Baker has released two new volumes for their commentary series, Gene Green (Wheaton) on 2 Peter and Jude, and Robert Stein (Southern Seminary) on Mark. These will be well worth reading. I think this is the first year for Thomas Schreiner’s massive Theology of the New Testament. Zondervan also released Hebrew for the Rest of Us, Lee Fields' companion volume to my Greek for the Rest of Us. Lots of other good books as well.

Tomorrow looks like fun. Mark Strauss is reading a paper on how to make a good translation (the ESV) a better translation. I am pretty sure I know what he is going to say (since his preference overall is the TNIV) and the debate should be substantive and friendly.

See you tomorrow.

--Bill Mounce

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