An ostracon (piece of broken pottery with writing) discovered at Tel Lachish, has been hailed as the alphabet’s missing link by Austrian Archaeologist Dr. Felix Höflmayer. The discovery is being referred to as the alphabet’s missing link because until now a chronological gap existed between the earliest evidence for the alphabet and its appearance in ancient Canaan. The earliest form of alphabetic writing known comes from the Sinai (Serabit el-Khadim) and Egypt (Wadi el-Hol) and dates to the 19th century B.C. (see my article Oldest Hebrew Writing Discovered From Egypt?). Previous to this discovery at Lachish the oldest alphabetic writing in the Levant (the area which includes Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel) dated to the 13th century B.C. This discovery helps to close the chronological gap and demonstrates that writing existed in ancient Canaan earlier than previously thought.
Alphabet’s Missing Link: What Does It Say?
The ostracon contains a total of nine letters. Two words of three letters each appear, along with 3 miscellaneous letters. Reading from right to left, the first word, written diagonally in the upper left, contains the letters ʿayin (ע), bet (ב), and dalet (ד) which spells the Hebrew word ‘ebed meaning “slave.” Höflmayer suggests this may be part of a name since names containing these components are common in all Semitic languages (e.g., Ebed-Melech–Jer. 38:7ff.). The second word, at the bottom, reading right to left contains the letters, nun (נ), pe (פ), tav (ת) which spells the word “honey” or “nectar.” The two letters in the upper righthand corner and the letter between the two words are all the letter nun (נ). The significance of these letters is not known, although it appears there was more to the inscription than what appears on this potsherd. It needs to be noted that the words “slave” and “honey” are conjectural. During this period when the alphabet was being developed there was no standard direction for writing letters, so the letters might be read from left to right or right to left (sometimes they were even written vertically!).
Why Is a Small Piece of Pottery With 9 Letters On It So Significant?
For Bible believers, the discovery is significant because it shows that writing was possible and more widespread than previously thought. Some have argued that Moses couldn’t have composed the writings contained in the Torah because an alphabet hadn’t been invented yet. The alphabetic writings from Egypt, Sinai, and now Lachish, demonstrate that the alphabet not only existed during the time of Moses but was being used throughout the region the Bible locates the Israelites in.
The discovery is also significant because it can be precisely dated. Höflmayer writes, “The newly discovered inscription from Tel Lachish is currently the earliest securely dated example of early alphabetic writing in the Southern Levant.” Other examples of early writing exist, but either they were not found in a secure archaeological context, or it is disputed if the writing is alphabetic. One example of this, which also comes from Lachish, is the Lachish Dagger (photo can be found here). This dagger, discovered in 1934 at a tomb in Lachish contains what most scholars believe is four alphabetic symbols. This dagger dates to the late Middle Bronze Age (1650 B.C. – 1550 B.C.). Some, however, dispute that the symbols are alphabetic.
The discovery of this “missing link,” along with the dagger, and other writings, has some scholars believing that Lachish was an important center of writing. Höflmayer states, “Indeed, Lachish has yielded more examples of Late Bronze Age early alphabetic inscriptions than any other site.”
What Do Clothes Have to Do With Sin and Redemption?
Picture with me a doctor, a business woman, or a football player. What all of these people have in common, including the cowboys in the picture above, is a certain type of clothing that identifies their profession. A few months ago I wrote an article entitled “Clothing in Samuel: You are What You Wear,” where I examined the significance of the clothing motif in the books of Samuel. This post continues that investigation by focusing on a particular theme communicated by clothing in Scripture, namely, what clothes have to do with sin and redemption.
In his book Figuring Resurrection, Jeffrey Pulse notes what clothes have to do with sin and redemption. A number of the insights that follow are based on his observations. Pulse points out that clothing is frequently associated with three main concepts: 1)Sin and deception; 2) blood; and 3) redemption. Since the clothing motif in Scripture is widespread, I will focus on the Book of Genesis, and a few passages from the prophets, the Gospels and Pauline letters.
What Clothes Have to Do with Sin and Redemption in Genesis
Adam & Eve (Genesis 2-3)
Clothing, or the lack of it, becomes a major focus at the very beginning of Genesis in the story of Adam and Eve. Perhaps the inspired author considered it important to mention that Adam and Eve were naked, since we normally picture people with clothes on. More significantly, nakedness represents trust and vulnerability in the story. The serpent takes advantage of this vulnerability and the trust between Adam, Eve, and God is shattered as they scramble to cover themselves and hide among the trees in the garden (Gen. 3:7-13). The covering of fig leaves suggests the inadequacy of human beings to deal with their own sin. By the end of the story, God has provided coverings of skin for the couple (Gen. 3:21). Thus, in the first story of Scripture, we find the clothing motif identified with sin (the covering of fig leaves), blood (the killing of animals to provide skins), and redemption (God clothes the couple, as only He can adequately provide a proper covering for them).
Jacob Steals the Blessing (Genesis 27)
I will only briefly mention here the scene where Noah lies uncovered in his tent (Gen. 9:20-27). This story has similarities in language and theme with the Adam and Eve story. However, it is with the story of Jacob, that the clothing motif picks up steam in the Book of Genesis. The story of Jacob and Rebekah stealing the blessing involves the changing of garments (Jacob puts on Esau’s clothes and uses the hair of the goats to cover his skin), and the shedding of blood (goats are slaughtered), all in an effort to deceive blind, old Isaac. There is also the potential of Jacob’s blood being shed by his brother Esau who desires to kill him (Gen. 27:41). Salvation comes to Jacob, however, when Rebekah is informed of Esau’s desire. Jacob is sent to Paddan Aram to spend time with Rebekah’s family (Gen. 27:42-45), until Esau’s anger is assuaged.
The Story of Joseph and His Brothers (Genesis 37-50)
The Coat of Many Colors
Clothing is a very important motif in the Joseph story. In fact, his ups and downs can be traced by the type of apparel he wears. When Joseph is introduced we are informed that his father gave him a special garment (the famous “multi-colored” robe), because he loved him (Gen. 37:3). The garment is actually suggestive of royalty (see the story of David’s daughter Tamar who is the only other person in Scripture said to wear this kind of garment–2 Sam. 13:19). The garment foreshadows Joseph’s royal destiny, but in Genesis 37 it provokes his brothers to a jealous rage. When Joseph is sent on an errand to check on the welfare of his brothers, they strip him of the robe (Gen. 37:23), dip it in blood (Gen. 37:31) and leave it to their father to draw the conclusion that Joseph has been killed (Gen. 37:32-33). Note how clothing continues to communicate the theme of deception and how, once again, clothing is associated with blood. In fact, the motifs of goats and garments recall Jacob’s deception of his father and brother. It seems he is reaping what he has sown, as his own sons now deceive him.
Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38)
Genesis 38 tells us of Judah’s marriage to a Canaanite woman. Judah has three sons by her but two of them die due to their wickedness (Gen. 38:7-10). As a result, Judah is reluctant to give his youngest son to Tamar, the wife of his other two sons. When Tamar realizes that Judah is not going to fulfill his promise to give her his son Shelah, she removes her widow’s clothes and dresses like a prostitute (Gen. 38:13-15). Judah has relations with her and she gives birth to twin sons. Once again, clothing is the source of sin and deception.
Joseph in Potiphar’s House (Genesis 39)
The story returns to Joseph in Genesis 39. In spite of being sold as a slave, Joseph rises quickly in prominence within the household of his master Potiphar. This, we are told, is because, “The Lord was with him” (Gen. 39:2-3). All is well until Mrs. Potiphar propositions the handsome young Joseph (Gen. 39:6-7). One day Joseph foolishly enters the house when no one is there except for Potiphar’s wife. Taking matters into her own hands (quite literally), she grabs Joseph’s garment as she attempts to seduce him. Joseph, however, flees, leaving his garment in her hand. Spurned by her slave, Mrs. Potiphar seeks revenge by using Joseph’s garment against him in a claim of attempted rape (Gen. 39:11-18). Once again, Joseph’s clothing gets him into trouble! Joseph is put in prison, but the story reminds us that God is still with him (Gen. 39:20-23).
From Rags to Riches: Joseph’s Rise (Genesis 40-41)
When no one is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, Pharaoh’s cupbearer recalls Joseph’s ability and Joseph is brought out of prison. As Joseph is preparing to meet Pharaoh, the story pauses to tell us that he changes clothes (Gen. 41:14). This change in clothing is a hopeful sign that things are looking up for Joseph. After his successful interpretation and wise counsel, Joseph is elevated to second in command over all Egypt. This elevation is noted by a further change in clothing and accessories. Joseph is given Pharaoh’s signet ring, a gold chain around his neck, and, of course, a change of garments (Gen. 41:42). The changes of garments in this part of the story signify Joseph’s redemption.
Joseph Saves His Family (Genesis 42-45)
Pharaoh’s dreams, as interpreted by Joseph had predicted a severe famine. When the famine hits, Joseph’s brothers are sent to Egypt looking for food. When the brother’s appear before Joseph, they don’t recognize him (Gen. 42:8). No doubt this was due to his clothing (both royal and Egyptian), and the fact that he spoke through an interpreter (Gen. 42:23). Over a period of time, and after putting his brothers through several severe tests, Joseph finally reveals himself to them (Gen. 45:1-5). Although they fear retribution from Joseph, he reassures his brothers that he means them no harm. Besides sending them home with plenty of provisions and urging them to return with his father so that he can provide for them during the famine, Joseph demonstrates his forgiveness in yet another way. He gives each of his brothers a change of clothes (Gen. 45:22). Although his brothers had stripped him of his clothes many years before, Joseph doesn’t seek revenge, but blesses each brother with a new garment. Of course, the old problem of favoritism is still with the patriarchs as Joseph gives his brother Benjamin 5 changes of clothing along with 300 pieces of silver! But the brothers seem to have overcome the obstacle of jealousy by this time and show no animosity towards Benjamin. Once again, clothing becomes a sign of redemption in the story. Joseph’s gift of clothing to his brothers is a symbol of his forgiveness and a pledge that he will provide for them. Following this motif through Genesis demonstrates that clothes are an important symbol of proclaiming the themes of sin and redemption.
Beged and Bagad: The Relationship Between Clothing and Deception
One of the Hebrew words for clothing is the noun beged. It occurs frequently in Genesis and throughout Scripture (over 200 times). The verbal form of beged is bagad. What is fascinating about the verbal form is that it means “to deceive,” “to act faithlessly,” or “to act treacherously.” It occurs forty-three times in Scripture (NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 582). Given the use of clothing to cover up or deceive, it is easy to see a relationship between the noun and the verbal form. While many scholars support this connection, others believe that beged is not related to the verb bagad meaning to act treacherously. They contend that there is another word with the same spelling as bagad that has a different meaning but is never used in Scripture. This may sound confusing, but it can be illustrated by using some examples in English. For example, the word “bear” can be used to say, “I can’t bear that,” or it can be used to say, “Look there’s a bear.” Although the words are spelled the same and pronounced the same, they have no relationship to each other. Many other examples could be adduced in English. I might say, “that sounds fair,” or “I went to the fair.” Again, we have two words that look and are pronounced the same but with totally different meanings. Thus some scholars argue that even though beged is related to bagad, it is a different bagad than the one which means to act treacherously. While we cannot be certain then that beged is related to the verb that means “to deceive” or “act treacherously,” I would still argue there is a connection. Biblical Hebrew is famous for its puns on words. Therefore, in places where beged (clothing) is being used in the context of deception and sin, it would certainly recall the verb bagad which means to deceive. So either beged comes from the verb which means to deceive, or it is at least a pun on that word.
What Clothes Have To Do With Sin and Redemption in the Prophets
I will keep this section brief by noting two passages from Isaiah and one from Zechariah. In a famous passage from Isaiah the prophet says, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6, NKJV). The word translated “rags” is the word beged. Here Isaiah uses the clothing motif to speak of human sin. The passage is very poignant because it compares human righteousness with God’s glory. In His presence our righteous clothing is nothing but filthy garments. Isaiah’s clothing imagery is not all negative however. Although our garments may be as filthy rags, Isaiah, speaking about God, says that he rejoices because, “He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:10).
In a scene reminiscent of the Isaiah passages just mentioned, the book of Zechariah pictures the High Priest Jeshua in filthy garments (i.e., garments covered in excrement), but the Angel of the Lord clothes him in clean garments stating, “See I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes” (Zech. 1-5). Once again, clothing is a picture of sin and redemption.
Clothing, Sin and Redemption in the Gospels
My main focus here will be on two passages. One concerning the crucifixion of Jesus and the other his resurrection. But before examining these passages, I would like to inspire you to think of as many examples in the Gospels that involve clothing as you can. Here are a few to get you started. When the Prodigal Son returns, his father clothes him in a robe and puts a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet (Luke 15:22). Jesus tells a parable about a man who comes to a wedding, but because he is not wearing the proper wedding garment, he is cast out (Matt. 22:11-14). Then there is the story of a woman with an issue of blood, who believes she will be healed if she can just touch the hem of Jesus’s garment (Mark 5:25-34). All of these stories use the clothing motif to speak of sin and redemption. However, the clothing motif found in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is the most impactful of all.
Part of the cruelty of the cross was not only the physical pain associated with it, but also the shame and humiliation connected with it. Romans crucified their victims naked as a way of further humiliating them. This is, of course, not shown in paintings or in film as it would be too graphic and perhaps considered blasphemous to depict Jesus in this way. But the Romans had no such scruples. The Scripture is clear that Jesus’s clothing was taken from him. Matthew 27:35 records the taking of Jesus’s clothing, which fulfills the prophecy of Ps. 22:18. The shame that Jesus bears on the cross, however, is not his shame. It is ours. The cross brings us full circle from the story of Adam and Eve who, following their sin, realized they were naked and became ashamed. In the cross, the themes of sin, blood, and redemption are united and the clothing motif helps to communicate the truth of what God has accomplished in Jesus’s sacrifice.
Curiously, several stories in the Gospels also mention that the grave clothes of Jesus remained in the tomb. Luke 24:12 states, “But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened” (ESV). The Gospel of John records the same event: “Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself” (John 20:6-7, ESV). Only dead people wear grave clothes, and so the significance of these passages is to point out that Jesus was no longer dead. Jesus the risen Lord no longer needed the apparel of earth, because he had been clothed in an immortal body (cf. 1 Cor. 15:42-57).
Clothing, Sin, and Redemption in the Pauline Epistles
While we could look at other writings of the New Testament, we will conclude this investigation by noting a few examples of the clothing motif in the letters of Paul. Paul, who was heavily influenced by the writings of Isaiah, picks up the idea that the believer has been clothed in God’s righteousness. In Romans 13:14, Paul encourages his readers by saying, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (ESV). Similarly in Galatians 3:27 Paul writes, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (ESV). The Christian’s filthy rags have been exchanged for the clothing of God’s righteousness which is described as actually putting on Christ. Paul also speaks about “putting off the old self and putting on the new” (Col. 3:9), and uses the idea of “putting on” various Christian virtues which demonstrate a believer belongs to Christ. In Colossians 3:12-14 Paul exhorts, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (ESV). Thus the clothing of the believer is more than mere outward attire. In a famous passage, Paul exhorts believers to put on the armor of God in order to withstand the spiritual powers of wickedness (Eph. 6:11-17). In each of these instances Paul’s use of the clothing motif emphasizes the redemption that is ours in Christ and the new nature that He has given us.
Conclusion and Summary
So what do clothes have to do with sin and redemption? Apparently, everything, according to Scripture. Our clothing actually becomes a teaching aid in the story of redemption. Keeping the Scriptural motif in mind, as we put on and take off our clothes we are reminded of a number of important truths. First, our clothing reminds us that we are sinners and there is a need to cover our shame and nakedness. Second, we are also reminded that our ability to clothe ourselves, like Adam and Eve, is inadequate. Third, we can accessorize and cloth ourselves in a way that presents a certain image to the world; an image of ourselves that may be deceptive and not fully accurate. Finally, our sin can only be dealt with by the One who willingly gave up his clothing on the cross, so that we might be clothed in His Righteousness. The clothing that we all desperately need is the armor of God, and the virtues of kindness, humility, and love.
If you’ve made it to the end of this long post, I would love to hear your reflections in the comments below on other passages of Scripture that use the clothing motif to emphasize the message of sin and redemption.
It has been hailed as, “the second most important archeological discovery since the tomb of Tutankhamun” (Betsy Bryan, Egyptologist, Johns Hopkins University). The lost city known as Aten, is the largest ancient city ever discovered in Egypt. This 3000 year old city dates to the time of Amenhotep III, one of Egypt’s most powerful pharaohs. Amenhotep III was the ninth pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty and reigned from 1391 to 1353 B.C. and is the grandfather of the famous Tutankhamun (King Tut). Aten was the homebase of the Pharaohs during this time until Akhenaten, the son of Amenhotep III, moved the capital to Amarna.
Discovery and Location
Zahi Hawass, the director of the excavation, and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, stated, “Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it.” The 3000 year old city was discovered accidentally while searching for the Mortuary Temple of Tutankhamun. Excavations began in September 2020 near Luxor (ancient Thebes) and the Valley of the Kings, about 300 miles south of Cairo. The Valley of the Kings is famous as the burial place of many pharaohs and state officials from the 16th to the 11th centuries B.C. King Tut’s tomb was discovered in this location in 1922. While Hawass still believes the Temple of Tutankhamun will be discovered, the uncovering of the 3000 year old city was something no one anticipated.
The Pompeii of Ancient Egypt
When I first read about the discovery of Aten, the first thought that came to me was that this discovery was the equivalent of the discovery of Pompeii. (I have since seen a YouTube video using the same language.) The reason is that the city was found in an amazing state of preservation. According to Hawass the discovery included the, “city’s streets flanked by houses,” with intact walls up to 9-10 feet high (3 meters) and “rooms filled with tools of daily life … left by the ancient residents as if it were yesterday.” This provides an unprecedented ability to learn much about daily Egyptian life during this most prosperous period of Egypt’s history. Among the items found were, jewelry, pottery, amulets and mud bricks bearing seals of Amenhotep III. An inscription dated to the 37th year of Amenhotep III, found on a container filled with boiled or dry meat (anyone hungry for some 3000 year old meat?), gives a secure date for the city.
The City’s Layout
The amazing state of preservation of this 3000 year old city has allowed the excavators to identify 7 different residential neighborhoods. There is also an industrial and administrative center. There is evidence of glassmaking, metal work, and even a bakery. In fact, the bakery is quite large and includes a cooking and preparation area with ovens and storage pottery. Hawass notes, “From its size, we can state the kitchen was catering a very large number of workers and employees.” A cemetery, along with stone tombs similar to those in the Valley of the Kings, has also been located, although they have yet to be explored. It has been stated that, “The mission expects to uncover untouched tombs filled with treasures.” While most of the southern portion of the city has been excavated, the northern region still awaits the excavator’s spade. This, of course, means that we can look forward to more exciting finds.
A little over six months ago Logos announced it’s latest upgrade. The folks at Faithlife/Logos wanted to know how I was doing with Logos 9 six months later. Among the new features, what have I found the most helpful? What features am I not using? In short, how am I getting along with Logos 9 six months later? When Logos 9 launched in October 2020, I wrote a review mentioning its main features, such as the FactBook, Sermon Builder and Manager, and Counseling Guide (see the review here) . In this review I’ll look at some of the smaller features I’ve found helpful, as well as note how I’m doing with some of the larger features.
Smaller Features of Logos 9
Reading plans is definitely a new feature that I’ve enjoyed. Rather than have to hunt through my Logos library for a book I’m reading, I love the fact that I can put it right on my desktop. More than that, I love how it keeps track of where I’m at. Although all of my reading to this point has been personal, I like the fact that the reading plan also provides a way for a group to read the same book together.
When you select a book for your reading plan, a card appears on your Logos desktop. One click allows you to pick up where you left off. The reading plan card can be seen in the screenshot below in the middle bottom column. (Feel free to zoom in on all screenshots).
In the next screenshot, you’ll see what the reading plan looks like on the inside. On the left is the current chapter of the book I’m reading. The top right provides a section for taking notes, while the bottom right charts my progress as I read through the book.
While Logos has always had shortcuts which can be made by pasting things to the top of the menu, I like the new feature that allows you to add folders. Instead of cluttering the top of your menu with many different items, you can keep similar items in a folder. As you’ll see in the example below, I’ve put a number of my favorite Bibles together in a Bible folder. Rather than search my library for a particular Bible, or use the parallel resources button if I want to use a Bible besides my ESV, I can now click on the folder and choose from my favorite Bibles.
Of course you could also make a file with your favorite Bible Dictionaries, Grammars, Commentaries, Atlases, etc. If you look again at the screenshot above you will also notice an up and a down arrow in the menu. The arrows allow me to magnify or decrease the magnification of what I’m reading. I don’t know that this is a new shortcut, but thought I’d point out that this is a handy shortcut to have on your menu bar.
Bible Books Explorer
I will admit that this is one of the new features I haven’t spent a lot of time with yet, but I want to. If someone is looking for some basic information about a biblical book, this is a good place to start. If you’re looking for the kind of genre, who the author is, when the book was written, etc. you can find that information here. The Bible Books Explorer also links to the FactBook for more information on a particular person or topic. The Bible Books Explorer is found in the Tools menu. I have posted 2 screenshots below. The first shows the opening page of the Bible Books Explorer. The second shows some of the information available simply by clicking on one of the books. I’ve used the Book of Genesis for this illustration.
The Main Features in Logos 9 Six Months Later
One of the features that the creators at Faithlife/Logos seemed most excited about was the expansion of the FactBook. Although it existed in earlier editions of Logos, the FactBook was designed in Logos 9 to be the main go-to site when beginning the study of anything (person, topic, Bible passage, etc.). I think Faithlife is to be congratulated on this one as I’ve found the FactBook to be a gold mine of information. The FactBook also provides links to the other important guides in Logos such as the Passage guide and the Exegetical guide (which remain favorites of mine).
The Counseling Guide
As a Bible college teacher I consider it a sacred trust to disciple and counsel my students. COVID 19 has certainly changed my normal interaction with students over the past year. Therefore, I haven’t engaged in much one on one counseling. As a result, I haven’t used the Counseling Guide and so I cannot offer any further evaluation of it. It’s good to know I have it available should the need arise, although a lot of my counseling is better described as discipleship and usually involves discussing biblical topics and passages or praying with students. The deeper issues tend to be dealt with by our Dean of Men and Dean of Women. For pastors and those in the counseling profession, I would expect that this feature is more valuable than it has proven to be to me personally.
Sermon Starter, Sermon Builder and Sermon Manager
Because I am not a full-time pastor, I do not preach on a regular basis. When I am asked to preach, I usually have a limited time to prepare. I use the FactBook, the Passage Guide, and the Exegetical Guide in my preparation, as noted above. I believe the Sermon Builder would be a wonderful tool, but to this point I have not taken the time to learn how to use it. Some people pick up on things quickly. I’m definitely a slow prodder and it takes me awhile to catch on and therefore I have not utilized these tools.
I recently watched a free webinar by Morris Proctor on the Sermon Starter Guide. I found his demonstration on how to use the Sermon Starter Guide, very helpful. I’m sure I will utilize it in the future when I am struggling with how to begin and flesh out a sermon. As Proctor points out, these tools (i.e., the various Sermon Guides) are not just for pastors. They can help Sunday School teachers, and Bible study leaders of small groups. I’m sure they would be helpful for a Bible College Teacher as well, but at times it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks! While I always attempt to stay fresh with my research and approach, I already have a multitude of notes and powerpoints that I use in my presentations. Therefore, it’s been more difficult for me to be motivated to try something new. The great thing about Logos is that there are many different ways to approach Bible study and the various guides are helpful when it comes to finding out what works best for each person.
So how am I doing with Logos 9 after six months? I would answer that I am as happy as ever with my Logos Bible software. As noted above, I have actually found some of the smaller features more to my liking than some of the larger features. This has more to do with my comfort level of using familiar features in Logos than it has to do with any shortcoming of the new features. If you are a Logos 9 user and have made it to this point in the post, I would love to hear in the comments what you think of some of the new features of Logos 9, how they have helped you, frustrated you, and what advice you might have for incorporating some of these new features into a daily Bible study routine?
I have not taken the time to explain the step-by-step method of how to access and use the features mentioned above. What has proven the most helpful way for me to learn about these features and how to use them is the Logos free training videos. I have provided a link below where you can watch videos on all the new features of Logos 9.
A friend of mine commented on how we only utilize a small portion of our brain’s capacity and it seems to be the same with our use of Logos. This is definitely true in my case, and many others I know. Hopefully six months from now, we’ll all be more proficient in various aspects of Logos 9 as we learn together how to use this powerful software to study and teach God’s Word.
“Paul and the Power of Grace” is a shorter, and updated version of John M. G. Barclay’s “Paul and the Gift.” It is written for a wider audience (being less technical) and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in the last three years. In my opinion it is a must read. According to Barclay, “. . . this new book as a whole offers both an accessible summary of Paul and the Gift and an extension and development of that work (Paul and the Power of Grace, p. xi).
What Does It Mean to Say Grace is Free?
Barclay asserts that the New Testament concept of grace is not only understood by examining the Greek word charis, but is bound up in the idea of gift-giving. All Christians would assert that grace is a free gift. But, as Barclay points out, that assertion means different things to different people. He cautions that, “We should beware of labels such as “free” and “pure,” lest they carry the connotations of modern ideologies of gift (Paul and the Power of Grace, p. 5). Barclay contends that, “What we associate with ‘gift,’ including its definition in our dictionaries, may be a product of modern cultural shifts, and it would be anachronistic to retroject these connotations onto the past or to take them for granted in our reading of Paul (Paul and the Power of Grace, p. 11). The tendency, according to Barclay, is to “perfect” a concept. He argues that we push our definitions of gift to an extreme, especially in relation to a divine gift or grace. As a result, Barclay has identified at least six perfections of gift/grace.
The Six Perfections of Gift/Grace
1. Superabundance–A superabundant gift is perfected in scale, significance, or duration: it is huge, lavish, unceasing, long-lasting.
2. Singularity–benevolence or goodness is the giver’s sole or exclusive mode of operation. The giver is of such a character as only ever to give benefits: he/she would never do anything in a contrary mode, such as harm, punish, or judge.
3. Priority–Priority concerns the timing of the gift, which is given before any initiative taken by the recipient.
4. Incongruity–Incongruity concerns the relationship between the giver and the recipient, and maximizes the mismatch between the gift and the worth or merit of its recipient.
5. Efficacy–Gifts that achieve something, that change things for the better, might be regarded as better than gifts with limited positive effect.
6. Noncircularity–As we noted in the last chapter, Western modernity is inclined to perfect the gift as “pure” only when there is no reciprocity, no return or exchange.
(Paul and the Power of Grace, pp. 13-16).
The Significance of Recognizing the Six Perfections
For further elaboration on the meaning of the above “perfections” see Paul and the Power of Grace. My point here is to note Barclay’s contention that throughout the centuries people have used various combinations of these perfections, resulting in different understandings of grace. As Christians, we may all insist that grace is free, but our doctrine may look different from others based on the perfections we have consciously, or unconsciously accepted. Barclay states, “. . . different interpreters of this concept have tended to operate with different clusters of perfection. Nonetheless, they have often regarded their interpretation as the “correct” interpretation of grace, such that any other is not just different but wrong”. . . Disagreements may arise, not because one side emphasizes grace more than the other, but because they perfect the term in different ways” (Paul and the Power of Grace, p. 17–author’s emphasis).
Furthermore, Barclay maintains that if we want to see which perfections of grace Paul is in agreement with, we should compare these six perfections to what we find in his letters. By this means, we can arrive at a biblical (or at least, Pauline) definition of grace. This discussion alone was worth the price of the book!
What Paul Means By Grace and What He Doesn’t
There are two results of Barclay’s investigation of the Pauline concept of grace that I would like to highlight. One Pauline perfection differs from the Roman world, while the other differs from our world.
Grace for the Unworthy
As believers, we are very used to the biblical idea that God extends His grace to those who don’t deserve it. Paul writes in Romans 5:6 that “Christ died for the ungodly.” He continues by stating that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). We recognize that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 3:23), and therefore, we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
Barclay notes that this concept of grace is counter-cultural. In the Roman world, grace was only to be bestowed on people who were considered worthy. Since the giving and receiving of a gift meant a social bond, one would not want to be associated with a disreputable giver. Neither would one wish to bestow a gift and connect themselves with an unsavory individual. Afterall, “Who would wish to degrade their reputation by tying themselves to people without worth?” (Paul and the Power of Grace, p. 7).
Receiving Grace Obligates the Receiver
Barclay traces the history of gift-giving by pointing out that in the modern Western World a gift is not considered a gift unless it is given without obligating the other person. Nothing could be farther from the truth in the first century Roman world. While a gift could not be earned, the receiver was obligated to the giver. As noted above, a social bond was created. While the recipient might not be able to repay the gift-giver, he/she was obligated to them and expected to express gratitude in various practical ways (See my post on Grace in 3D for a further explanation). This is no less true of the concept of grace in the New Testament. The church has frequently erred in modern times by communicating that grace is free, meaning there is no obligation on the part of the receiver. To put it in Barclay’s words, New Testament grace is unconditioned (it is given without regard to worth or capacity), but it is not unconditional (a response is expected because a relationship has been established between the believer and God). The gift of grace transforms the believer because he/she is now in a relationship with God.
Barclay’s, Paul and the Power of Grace, contains much more than this short review has covered. I have sought to highlight aspects that enriched me as I read. In some cases, Barclay confirmed and fortified things I already understood about the New Testament concept of grace. In other ways his treatment enhanced my understanding of this key biblical concept. Barclay’s treatment will hopefully lead to greater understanding among all Christians about the meaning of grace as we uncover the ways in which we have perfected grace in comparison with Paul and the New Testament.
Paul and the Power of Grace is available at Amazon USA / UK