From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

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By Timothy George
November 28, 2016

Five years ago, InterVarsity Press launched the Reformation Commentary on Scripture, a projected twenty-eight-volume series of exegesis covering both the Old and New Testaments, gathered from the writings of sixteenth-century preachers, scholars, and reformers. Now comes the ninth volume published in the series. At 745 pages, it is the largest volume thus far in the RCS. It offers Reformation comment on six of the “historical” books of the Old Testament: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and 1-2 Chronicles. The in-house editorial moniker for this volume is Samicles: “Sam(uel, Kings, and Chron)icles.” The volume is the work of Derek Cooper, who teaches world Christian history at Biblical Theological Seminary, and Martin J. Lohrmann, professor of Lutheran confessions and heritage at Wartburg Theological Seminary.

One of the major purposes of the RCS is to cultivate the art of listening to what God has been saying to his people across time. This is a form of contextual theology, except that the “context” here is not this or that group chosen from the panoply of today’s identity politics, but rather the oft-disregarded community of believing Christians through the centuries. When it comes to the Bible’s historical texts in particular, like those chosen for scrutiny in this volume, this means that we must deconstruct reductionist approaches to Scripture in order to listen afresh to how God addresses the church through the inspired remembrances of ancient Israel. Cooper and Lohrmann help us to do exactly this, by giving careful exegetical selections from a wide range of Reformation-era readers and interpreters.

Those who attempt to read the Bible straight through will find lots of show-stopping drama in these historical books of the Old Testament. Here we encounter some of the best-known characters and episodes in the entire Bible: the slaying of Goliath by young David, Elisha’s cursing of boys who made fun of his bald head, Saul’s quest for wisdom from the witch of Endor, the faithful prophet Micaiah. There are also Hannah the praying mother, Jonathan the beloved friend, Solomon the wise king, and Elijah the Tishbite with his villainous foes Ahab and Jezebel. All of these people are characters in what Christopher J. H. Wright has called “the narrative of God’s mission, through God’s people, in God’s world, for God’s purpose—the redemption of all of God’s creation.” Because of this, these writings found a special place within the Tanakh of ancient Israel, but they also resonate in the theology and witness of the New Testament and the early church. Jesus, the apostles, and the early Christian writers all read and quoted from these books. Read the rest at First Things.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, November 28, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims' American Jewish Holiday

By Ed Simon
November 21, 2016

A month after the Continental Congress had drafted the Declaration of Independence, one of that document’s architects, Benjamin Franklin, sketched out a brief description of his design for the Great Seal of the new nation. Franklin wanted the Great Seal of the United States to feature, “Moses in the Dress of a High Priest standing on the Shore, and Extending his Hand Over the Sea, Thereby Causing the Same to Overwhelm Pharaoh.” He wrote that the seal should depict “Rays From a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds Reaching to Moses, to Express That He Acts by Command of the Deity.”

Of course, Franklin’s design was not the one that was chosen. Rather, the heraldry that was selected to adorn our currency and other official government documents was William Barton and Charles Thomson’s spooky all-seeing eye, with its incomplete pyramid, and its dignified eagle reassuringly holding olive branches in one talon but arrows in another. Barton and Thompson’s final version is a hodgepodge of seemingly occult and Masonic imagery that has acted as a boon to the fervency of creative-minded conspiracy theorists for the better part of two-and-a-half centuries. The official Great Seal of the United States of America may have made its first prominent appearance in 1784 at the negotiations that led to the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, but Franklin’s Exodus-inspired seal proposed eight years before is a telling artifact of a more revealing history.

Franklin’s suggestion wasn’t the only biblically inspired design for the Great Seal. Alongside an all-star assembly of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the three constituted the first committee charged with designing the official heraldry of the new U.S. government. Jefferson’s proposal also took inspiration from the Hebrew scriptures, with the champion of separation of church and state nonetheless proposing that the Great Seal depict the Israelites in the wilderness, following their flight from Egypt but before their arrival in Canaan. Read the rest at Tablet.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, November 24, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Four Life Lessons from the Funeral of Cliff Barrows

Beeson Divinity School joins with many thousands of believers around the world in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of our friend Cliff Barrows. We were blessed by his presence and ministry with us on many occasions at Beeson. He was a faithful evangelist, a beloved apostle of encouragement, and a good soldier of the cross. We are glad to pass along this tribute written by Beeson alum Ed Stetzer and published in Christianity Today.
--Dean Timothy George

By Ed Stetzer
November 2016

This morning, I was at Cliff Barrows’ funeral.

In ways I did not expect, the service moved me. Surprisingly, it was not because of the music (although it was amazing), but because of the life that was celebrated.

I posted a clip of the music, and you can watch it here.

However, it was after hearing some of the tributes, uttered above the pine box that was—by Barrows’ request—his casket, I texted this to my new Chicago accountability group:

I’m at Cliff Barrows’ funeral right now, struck by how people talk of him—his character, how he loved his family, his integrity, he was not about himself, he focused on Jesus. One day, it will be us in the wooden box. May people speak that way of me—and of us. Anyway, it was on my heart and I thought I’d share it with my new friends.

I was struck by several things at the funeral. In short, Cliff Barrows’ death made me think about my life. That's what the funeral of a good man does.

Here are a few things I was reminded of during the funeral, followed by some exhortations to follow. Read the rest at Christianity Today.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Wednesday, November 23, 2016
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