Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts

What, exactly, is an “undesigned coincidence”? Lydia McGrew explains,

An undesigned coincidence is a notable connection between two or more accounts or texts that doesn’t seem to have been planned by the person or people giving the accounts. Despite their apparent independence, the items fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

In her recent book, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, McGrew puts forth many instances where the details in the account of one author lend explanation and credibility to other authors’ parallel accounts. As an example, we don’t know based on Matthew’s account in chapter 14 how he could have known what Herod was saying to his servants. But, coincidentally, Luke informs us in chapter 8 that Herod’s household manager is one of the women traveling with Jesus and his disciples. (pp. 87-89) Another interesting example is how Peter’s boasting in Matthew 26 provides explanation for the seemingly-odd question that Jesus asks him in John 21, of whether Peter loves him more than the other disciples. (pp. 57-60)

McGrew, I think, successfully argues that these are the sorts of coincidences that we would expect to see when as many four different accounts are being given of the same events. Eyewitness accounts often include details which may lack context or even literary purpose, and we would expect the details of different eyewitnesses–though different–to be consistent with, explain, and even corroborate the other’s details.

Craig Keener, in the forward, says we have here a “valuable and accessible approach for recognizing significant historical information in the Gospels that does not simply repeat arguments that most of us have already heard.” Craig Blomberg calls the book, “One more important plank in the ever-growing platform for the reliability of the New Testament.” And Sean McDowell says, “Even though I have been teaching and writing in the field of apologetics for nearly two decades, many of Lydia McGrew’s arguments were new to me. And I find them very convincing.”

Hidden in Plain View is published by DeWard and is available for $15.99 at Baker Book House.

Posted in Apologetics, Biblical Studies, Book Review | Leave a comment

Book Giveaway

It’s a Tuesday this time around, but this week I’m offering Engaging the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit by Matthew Levering. Here’s the catalog description and table of contents:

“Distinguished theologian Matthew Levering offers a historical examination of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, defending an Augustinian model against various contemporary theological views.

This work, a companion piece to Levering’s Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation, critically engages contemporary and classical doctrines of the Holy Spirit in dialogue with Orthodox and Reformed interlocutors, providing an introduction to the pneumatological landscape shared by all Christians. Levering focuses on the Spirit as Love and Gift in the economy of salvation as well as the Spirit’s mission to the church as Christ’s body. Through careful exegesis and interplay with sources from across the spectrum and throughout church history, and with special attention given to Thomas Aquinas and his theological heirs, Levering makes a strong dogmatic case for conceiving of the Holy Spirit as love between Father and Son, given to the people of God as a gift.

Engaging the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit will be of much interest to professors and students of systematic theology as well as Catholic and Protestant scholars.”

1. The Holy Spirit as Love and Gift
2. Naming the Holy Spirit: East and West
3. The Holy Spirit and the Filioque
4. The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ
5. The Holy Spirit and the Church
6. The Holy Spirit and the Unity of the Church
7. The Holy Spirit and the Holiness of the Church

Leave your name in the comments section no later than Friday, May 12th. I’ll draw the winner’s name that day. If I don’t hear back from the winner within seven days the book will go to another entry.

Posted in Book Give Away, Theology | 13 Comments

And The Winner Is…

Back from a busy weekend to congratulate the winner of last week’s book giveaway…Frank Federico! Frank won a copy of Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction.

Thanks to all who participated!

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The Face of Water

Most Christians are, rightly so, of the opinion that robust biblical scholarship is necessary for translating the Bible well. It can be convincingly argued that a love and care for biblical language and literature is just as necessary. I’m currently reading The Face of Water: A Translator on Beauty and Meaning in the Bible by Sarah Ruden. Ruden, a Quaker, is admittedly not a biblical scholar, but rather a translator of classical literature and an all-around lover of language.

It’s been fascinating to take a step back from hermeneutics as a means of learning theology or ethics or history, and instead to be urged to be taken with the style, meter, tone, and literary thrust of biblical writings. Ruden doesn’t seem motivated to complain about the “aesthetic inferiority” of modern English translations, which is a relief. Rather, she is content to openly and almost gleefully delight in and play with the literary devices of the Hebrew and Greek which make up the Bible.

The book’s first part examines about fourteen different biblical passages in order to highlight the way grammar, vocabulary, style, poetry, voice, meta-narrative, and comedy, respectively, contribute to those passages’ beauty and meaning. In the second part Ruden offers re-translations of said passages set side-by-side with the King James Version’s translation. Here is her translation of Romans 8:31-39, which I found compelling:

31 So what can we say about these things? With God on our side, who can be on the other side? 32  The God who didn’t begrudge his own son, but surrendered him for the sake of us all–how then will such a God not freely give us everything else, along with him? 33 Who will bring charges against those God has chosen to be in his charge? God is the one passing judgment! 34 Who’s the one rendering us guilty? Is is Jesus the Anointed who died–no, who came back to life–and who is at God’s right hand–and who actually intercedes for us! 35 Who will separate us from the love of the Anointed One? Will it be any pressure put on us, or the tightest place imaginable, or persecution, or starvation, or the inability to put clothes on our backs, or danger, or execution? 36 To quote the Scriptures:

“Because of you, we are dying all day long.
We are counted off one by one like sheep to the slaughter.”

37 But in all these things we are the victors over the victors, thanks to the one who has loved us. 38 I have been persuaded, you see, to believe that neither death not life, nor angels, nor the authorities on earth, nor things that are here now, nor things that are coming, nor supernatural powers, 39 nor the highest nor the lowest thing in the universe, nor anything else in creation has the power to separate us from the love of God in the Anointed Jesus, our Lord.

The book’s third part details Ruden’s resources and methods for translation.

The Face of Water successfully provides a unique and refreshing contribution to the discussion over Bible translation. If nothing else, it was neat to read something from someone who so clearly loves language and the possibilities that are present within our words.

The Face of Water is published by Pantheon Books and retails at $26.95. It is available at Baker Book House.

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Book Giveaway

This week I’m offering Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction by Ellis R. Brotzman and Eric J. Tully. Here’s the catalog description and table of contents:

“This accessibly written, practical introduction to Old Testament textual criticism helps students understand the discipline and begin thinking through complex issues for themselves. The authors combine proven expertise in the classroom with cutting-edge work in Hebrew textual studies. The book includes clear discussions of how biblical manuscripts were copied, how manuscripts relate to each other historically, how translators have affected the text, and the impact of different readings on our interpretation.

This successful classic has been thoroughly expanded and updated to account for the many changes in the field over the past twenty years. It includes examples, illustrations, an updated bibliography, and a textual commentary on the book of Ruth.”

1. Writing in the Ancient Near East
2. A Brief Overview of the Transmission of the Old Testament Text
3. Hebrew Texts of the Old Testament
4. Ancient Translations of the Old Testament
5. Critical Editions of the Old Testament Text
6. Scribal Changes in the Old Testament Text
7. Principles and Practice of Textual Criticism
8. Textual Commentary on the Book of Ruth
Appendix A: An English Key to BHS
Appendix B: What Text(s) Are We Attempting to Reconstruct?

Leave your name in the comments section no later than Friday, May 5th. I’ll draw the winner’s name that day. If I don’t hear back from the winner within seven days the book will go to another entry.

Posted in Bible Translation, Biblical Studies, Book Give Away | 16 Comments

And The Winner Is…

Congratulations to Dwight Gingrich on winning our last book giveaway. Dwight won a copy of Getting to Know the Church Fathers: An Evangelical Introduction.

Thanks to all who participated!

Posted in Book Give Away, Church History | 2 Comments

Update From Louis

Here’s an update from Louis (former curator of this blog) on what he’s up to these days:

“In July of 2015 I moved over to the publishing division as the publicist for Baker Academic and Brazos Press. It’s been quite the learning curve going from retail to publicity. I was at the store for 15 years and loved the job. Essentially my current job is finding media publicity for our new releases. I frequently work with producers for print, radio, and TV. In a manner of speaking I’m still “selling” books but my customer base has changed. Instead of a customer walking in the store I’m selling to producers, journalists and radio show hosts.

I’m also working closely with authors as I coordinate interviews for them. We have a wonderful group of authors and it is a privilege to be able to work with them. Another aspect of my job is to sit in on pub board and titling meetings. The former is a group composed of marketing, editors, and sales staff to consider new projects that are being proposed by our acquisitions editors for publication. In titling meetings we brainstorm ideas for the title of a book. So far I’ve yet to propose a winning title so if there is a title you hate I didn’t do it. Of course, if there is one you love I have to give credit to someone else.

Finally, I do still get to do book tables which allow me to get back to my retail roots. The only difference is most of my book tables are now out of state instead of in Michigan and I’m only selling Baker titles. To date I’ve been to California (Los Angeles), Texas (San Antonio and Dallas), Illinois (Chicago), Tennessee (Knoxville), and Missouri (St. Louis). I’ve been to conferences with as few as a couple of hundred attendees to one I did this year in Los Angeles that had about 30,000. Later this year I’ll be in Massachusetts (Boston) and Rhode Island for the annual ETS and AAR/SBL meetings.

Some of the projects I’m currently working on include The Year of Small Things by Sarah Arthur and Erin Wasinger, Salvation by Allegiance Alone by Matthew Bates, The Old Testament is Dying by Brent Strawn, The Epistle to the Ephesians by Karl Barth, Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament by Gary Anderson, and Israel Matters by Gerald McDermott. Needless to say my plate is very full.”

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