Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Does It Mean?

In a recent blog post, beginning a series in the forthcoming book King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus by Tim Keller, Scot McKnight noted as he closed his post, ". . . in the temptation [Keller] sees Jesus and Adam (I think it is Jesus and Israel in the wilderness, though Mark's Gospel is not as clear in this regard as are Matthew and Luke)."

A reader of Scot's blog asked, "Could the temptation not be both? In other words, could Jesus' resisting of temptation not be a sign that he succeeds where Adam, Israel, and all of humanity have failed in the past?" In his response, Scot made some very good points about reading Scripture:

You touch a sensitive nerve when you ask if it could be both. "Of course, it could be anything," is what I'm tempted to answer. But I'd like to explore this briefly:

1. The goal of reading is to discover, more or less, the intent of the author as expressed in a text . . .
2. Which means we are asking what Mark intended here . . .
3. Which means we are driven to ask what evidence there is in the text for what we think we are seeing . . .
4. Which means "Adam" does not appear in the text but allusions perhaps do appear to Eden/Paradise -- perhaps . . .
5. Which means saying it means both things means we've got evidence in the text for both and that Mark was intentionally giving us a double entendre . . .
6. Which is different from our ability to suggest it could be this and it could be that -- our could bes are not Mark's intentions.
7. The evidence, and Keller actually plumbs this if my memory is right, in Matthew and Luke is almost entirely in the direction of a Second Israel and not a Second Adam (Paul has Second Adam theology).

So, what evidence in Mark is there for a Second Adam typology? That's the question. Second Adam theology is, of course, true, but it doesn't mean it's true to this text.

When I teach sessions on reading and interpreting the Bible, I talk about "extracting the right doctrine from the wrong text," meaning essentially what Scot does. From now on I may talk about "being true to the text."

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


As I move closer to 60 than to 50 -- years, that is -- I think I'm going to take on the role of "grumpy ol' man." Well, maybe not. But I do reserve the right to "grump" once in a while, and this is one of those times. I'm tired of hearing about "Signing Day" . . . though perhaps not for an obvious reason.

In case you missed it, yesterday (Feb. 2) was the 2011 national signing day for NCAA Division I football: the first day recruits can sign a National Letter of Intent for their school of choice. The reason I'm tired of hearing about it isn't that I don't like college football, and it isn't that "my team" lost a great recruit to a rival team. What has bothered me is the talk of recruits committing and decommitting. Yesterday, I read about a high school linebacker who had committed to the University of Alabama, switched his commitment to Auburn University, and then switched his commitment back to Alabama. Thus, he committed three times and decommitted twice. [For what it's worth, I checked the online Oxford English Dictionary and just now, and neither included "decommit." I could opine as to why someone might feel the need to create such a term, but I'll leave that alone for now.] When did this young man really commit (keeping in mind the connotations such as "to obligate," "to bind," and "to pledge") to his school of choice?

My main concern is not for whom the young man plays college football; nor is it the misuse of the English language (though you who know me well, know that the latter is of more concern than the former). What really bothers me is the devaluation of the concept of commitment reflected in the story of the high school football player mentioned above. I certainly don't know all the facts in the story, but if he gave a verbal commitment in the first instance to the University of Alabama, what did he think he was doing? Was he obligating . . . binding . . . pledging himself to that university? Apparently not. Nor was he obligating himself to Auburn University when he committed to them. How would he feel if the cleats were on the other foot . . . if Nick Saban committed to sign him to play for the Crimson Tide, then decommitted? "No big deal, coach. I understand." I don't think so.

As I was writing this, I saw a story about another recruit. According to, this young man not only decommitted (switching from the USC Trojans to the Oregon Ducks), he was 45 minutes late for his signing ceremony -- apparently to make a dramatic entrance. I wonder if he made a commitment to be on time?

Lack of commitment to commitments is a sign of a lack of integrity. When someone makes a commitment to me, I expect them to mean it and to carry through on it. When I make a commitment, I expect the same thing of myself. That's integrity. [No, I'm not saying I've always been successful in this regard. But I do know when I've failed, and I desire, by the grace of God, to be a man of integrity.]

Down-home wisdom says, "Say what you mean, and mean what you say." Jesus says, "Let your 'Yes' mean 'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No'. Anything more is from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37, New American Bible). God, make us people who honor commitments, people of integrity, people of The Yes and The No.