Monday, June 30, 2014

Festschrift for Seyoon Kim Is Now in Print!

Guess what came in the mail today? 
After a year of planning, writing, editing, proofing, and indexing, finally the Festshrift in honor of Dr. Seyoon Kim, Fire in My Soul, is not only in print, but available to order from Wipf and Stock. Many thanks to John Wipf, Chris Spinks, Ian Creeger and the W&S team for all that they have done to make this possible.
It's also nice to see endorsements on the back cover from dear friends of Dr. Kim: Dr. Don Hagner from Fuller Theological Seminary, Dr. Chan Hie Kim from the Claremont School of Theology, and Dr. Klyne Snodgrass from my own home institution North Park Theological Seminary - they all shared some wonderful words about the volume and their congratulations.
   Needless to say, I'm just elated to see the Festschrift in print. I only hope that it can convey the deep appreciation I and so many of his past students have for a beloved mentor, teacher and friend. 

Postscript (edit 7/3/14):  If any of you are interested in getting your own copy ($32.80 web price; $41.00 retail), you can place an order now directly at Wipf & Stock via email ( or by phone (541-344-1528) or here: Fire in My Soul (W&S)

Post-Postscript 7/3/14: Just in time for the July 4th weekend, the Festschrift is now available online via Dove Books for a discounted price of $31.99 here: Fire in My Soul (DB). It is also available on amazon here: Fire in My Soul (Amazon)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

There Can Be Only One... So Run to Win!

Hope you don't mind the "highlander" reference in the title (if you don't know what I mean, click: this), but here is a short excerpt from Lucian again. It's such a perfect parallel to 1 Cor 9:24 that I want to make just a few comments on it. From Lucian, Anacharsis 13 (LCL; Eng. trans. modified from Harmon), Solon explains to Anacharsis that there is no 2nd place in the pan-hellenic games:
  • Anacharsis: Always I would very gladly mention that they are such (fine) prizes (note: he is being very sarcastastic about the wreath of olive branches or apples)! But tell me, do all the competitors receive them (πάντες αὐτὰ λαμβάνουσιν οἱ ἀγωνισταί)?
  • SolonNot by any means! Only one among them all (εἷς ἐξ ἁπάντων) is their winner (ὁ κρατήσας αὐτῶν). (13)
Footrace from the Panathenaic Games (= setting for Lucian's Anacharsis)
Photo of 5th cent. BC amphora from Wikipedia Commons
In the games, there is no silver or bronze medal. There is one prize per event with the one winner. You walk away from an event basking in glory, or head bowed down in shame and defeat. So if you are going to endure such a rigorous training program at the gymnasium, abstain from certain foods, wine, and sex, then you can expect that every athlete will give a 110% to win. They will run until blood sweats out from their pores. No one is going to leave a lingering doubt whether they gave their all or not. 

Now compare the exchange between Solon and Anacharsis with what Paul says in 1 Cor 9:24: 
  • Do you not know that in the stadium, all the runners run, but only one receives the prize. Run in this way, in order to receive it! (Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἐν σταδίῳ τρέχοντες πάντες μὲν τρέχουσιν, εἷς δὲ λαμβάνει τὸ βραβεῖον; οὕτως τρέχετε ἵνα καταλάβητε.)
Paul's point here is not that the Christian life is about believers trying to out compete one another for blessing and acknowledgement from God. God acknowledges and uses all who are faithful to Him. God does not reward us based on how we outdo other Christians in the way we serve and sacrifice.
   Rather, Paul expects that all Christians will fight for godliness and endure challenges in their ministry as if, or in the same way (οὕτως), that an ancient athlete runs, sweats, and sheds blood when there is only one person who walks away with the wreath. Run in this way! as if there is only one person who receives an eternal crown, though we know that God will say to every Christian athlete who has fought off sin, injustice, and the powers which threaten to derail faith: "Good and faithful servant!" (cf. Matt 25:21, 23).
   Christian life and ministry is not for wimps. It is not easy. Expect suffering. Expect hardship. But the Lord will do great things through the ones who run with everything they have for his glory, and not their own.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The AnteNicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers on Kindle

This might be old news to some, but I just discovered a more than affordable complete set of Philip Schaff's 38 volumes (really 37 plus an index volume) on the AnteNicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene Fathers. The volumes cover in English translation the writings of the apostolic and patristic fathers from the late 1st century AD through the 6th. The collection spans from Clement of Rome to Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great and so on (some 65 ancient authors and church fathers total). It even includes translations of the apocryphal New Testament books.
   The entire library has now been digitalized and is searchable on Kindle for $2.99. No, I did not misplace the decimal point. Yes, under $3, on amazon: 
Click here to preview and order the Kindle version

Here is a comparison. In print form, the best deal on the published bookset (retail $1100.00) can be found on CBD for $299.99:

Click here to preview and order the print set

$2.99 for the electronic edition is an incredible deal. What a tremendous resource! How is this even possible? It is because of the auspices and faithful work of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL - the website: Ecumenical in its mission, housed at Calvin College, and available online for free, the CCEL has taken a classic set and made it available to a wide reading public and researchers.
   I personally appreciate the Kindle version and while you can download PDF versions of the volumes for free at the CCEL website, on Kindle the text is crisp, clear, searchable, and easy to read. I find PDF files sometimes freeze on my Samsung Tab reader so I enjoy the Kindle version. The PDF files are, however, nice to have as an alternative to browsing through Kindle if I want to cite the translation. You can cite the English translation of ANF and NPNF following the new pagination scheme of the CCEL or the original pagination by A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, and A. Coxe. Kindle's one big flaw is that it does not keep the original pagination of a print book, so this is a bane for researchers. However, if you enjoy just reading ancient texts as I do in a leisure setting, the Kindle version of ANF/NPNF is a God-send. 
   Thought I would share this find with you. Blessings on your summer reading!

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Manic Christian and Lucian's Satire on Greco-Roman Athletics

   In the excerpts below, I quote the 2nd century AD satirist Lucian's parody of the pancratium, wrestling and boxing. It features a dialogue between the Greek Sidon and a visiting Scythian Anacharsis, the latter of whom is baffled by the brutality of athletic competitions. Sidon and Anacharsis both visit a gymnasium, and upon seeing how the athletes train, Anacharsis remarks how crazy the training program is:
  • AnacharsisThey push one another about with lowered heads and butt their foreheads together like rams. And see there! That man picked the other one up by the legs and threw him to the ground, then fell down upon him and will not let him get up, shoving him all down into the mud; and now, after winding his legs about his middle and putting his forearm underneath his throat, he is choking the poor fellow, who is slapping him sidewise on the shoulder, by way of begging off, I take it, so that he may not be strangled completely (1)... Others, standing upright, themselves covered with dust, are attacking each other with blows and kicks. This one here looks as if he were going to spew out his teeth, unlucky man, his mouth is so full of blood and sand; he has had a blow on the jaw, as you see. But even the official there does not separate them and break up the fight—I assume from his purple cloak that he is one of the officials; on the contrary, he urges them on and praises the one who struck the blow (3) ... I want to know, therefore, what good it can be to do all this, because to me at least the thing looks more like madness (μανίᾳ) than anything else, and nobody can easily convince me that men who act in that way are not out of their minds (ὡς οὐ παραπαίουσιν). (5)
Athletes are maniacs! Why would anyone want to punish themselves this badly, wonders Anacharsis. The conversation gets even more ridiculous when Anacharsis asks what kind of prizes the athletes receive for their pain: 
  • AnacharsisAnd these prizes (τὰ ἄθλα) of yours, what are they?
  • SidonAt the Olympic games, a wreath (στέφανος) made of wild olive, at the Isthmian one of pine, and at the Nemean one of parsley, at the Pythian some of the apples sacred to Apollo, and with us at the Panathenaea, the oil from the holy olive. What made you laugh, Anacharsis. Because you think these prizes trivial? (9)
At this point, the conversation takes a serious turn. When seeing Anacharsis laughed at the ridiculousness of being choked, maimed and broken in two, all for a piece of parsley or crown of apple branches, Sidon explains why even just one of these wreath-crowns (in Greek στέφανος) were so coveted: 
  • SidonBut, my dear friend, it is not the bare gifts that we have in view! They are merely signs of the victory (σημεῖα τῆς νίκης) and marks to identify the winners (οἱ κρατήσαντες). But the glory (δόξα) that goes with them is worth everything to the victors (τοῖς νενικηκόσιν), and to attain it, even to be kicked is nothing to men who seek to capture glory through hardships... the one who wins is, in fact, counted equal to the gods (ἰσόθεον)    (10) [excerpts above taken from Lucian, Anacharsis 1, 3, 5, 9-10; Eng. trans. by Harmon, LCL, pp. 3-12]
So Sidon explains to the bewildered Anacharsis that the crown is the not the prize, but the glory, honor, praise and prestige that the athletes achieve for themselves and the cities which they represent. 
The goddess Nike presents a stephanos (wreath) to an athlete (ca. 5th cent. BC)
image credit:
   The above excerpts make the remarks of Paul in 1 Cor 9:25 even more poignant:

  • Every competitor/athlete (ὁ ἀγωνιζόμενος) exercises self-control (ἐγκρατεύεται) over all things; they do this to receive a perishable wreath (στέφανον), but we an imperishable one.

While Greco-Roman athletes train to get a perishable crown, a symbol of fleeting glory and prestige for oneself and one's city, the Christian minister trains for an imperishable crown, a symbol of the eternal glory that is gained not for ourselves but for the God we seek to honor. Call it madness! Or call it the best and most worthwhile life a person can hope to experience! 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Gold's Gym or God's Gym?: Abstinence, Discipline, and Endurance for Godliness

Bronze boxer (ca. 2nd cent. BC) recovered from the ANTIKYTHERA shipwreck
Photo taken by Max Lee © 2014 Athens Museum
Continuing from the post on ancient athleticism and training regimes, I wanted to make a few remarks on the 1 Timothy 4:7-8 text: 

  • "Make no room for worldly or superstitious myths (lit. worldly myths and myths told among elderly women) but train (Γύμναζε) yourself towards godliness (πρὸς εὐσέβειαν). For bodily training (σωμτικὴ γυμνασία) is beneficial for a few things, but godliness is valuable for all things because it holds the promise of life in the now and for the life to come."

   Mention abstinence, discipline from a strict coach, self-control, and pushing the limits on endurance for a physical workout at Gold's gym, and no one will think twice about how each training routine is vital to the growth of a competing athlete. Mention these same practices in the context of the Christian life, and people too often get offended or at least touchy that their freedom is being infringed upon. 
    Abstinence?! In this day and age. Yes, says Paul. Not only from immorality (cf. 1 Cor 9:25; 10:8), but in the case of the 1 Timothy text, Christians are called not to perpetuate, nor participate, but rather abstain from superstitious ideas and long-standing myths (e.g., the American dream that success is measured by material gain) that structure life outside the church but hopefully never within it. If an ancient athlete can abstain from desserts and sex, curb wine consumption, and diet to a strict regime, the Christian athlete pursuing godliness must learn to say "no" to the practices and lifestyles that cripple holiness.
    A spiritual coach? We pay physical trainers at gyms to help us go through a circuit of running and weight-lifting, but do we have a spiritual mentor whom we give permission to point out our sins and faults? Who tells me when I'm wrong and calls me, with grace, to repent? An athlete who listens to no one but "me, myself, and I" is doomed to failure.
   Self-control, discipline, and hard work, even pushing the limits so we pray, fast, and labor in ministry farther than we ever imagined is the kind of spiritual training we all need. Easy? No. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But essential? Absolutely! Prayer, for example, is hard work. It takes the first 30 minutes of praying to stop babbling like a pagan and move from selfish prayer to a deeper, holier communion with God. When was the last time any of us were so caught up in prayer, it became - in the words of Thomas Merton - timeless? The Christian athlete in timeless prayer is unaware that hours have gone by because the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is that precious and sweet.  
   When I think about how hard ancient athletes train, it raises the bar for me to pursue godliness with greater zeal... and with greater humility.

About the bronze statue: the photo was taken from the Athens museum during my January 2014 Greece trip. The statue features a boxer posed to strike a punching bag (κώρυκος). The bronze boxer was part of a special exhibit on the cargo and remains of a Roman merchant ship which was recovered from the bottom of the Aegean Sea. It was called the ANTIKYTHERA exhibit because of the amazing recovery of a seafaring navigation device (called the ANTIKYTHERA mechanism; more on this much later when I finally get to post on ancient travel and Paul's missionary journeys). But the exhibit also featured statues, armory, glass bowls, ceramics, clay vessels, jewelry, coins, and other cargo. So glad I got a chance to see the exhibit right before it closed at the end of January. MJL

Friday, June 13, 2014

Déjà vu... Teaching Undergraduates Again

In case anyone is wondering why I'm adding some post-script assignments to select blog posts, well, I'm slotted to teach an undergraduate class for the Biblical and Theological Studies Department at North Park University this coming Fall. I'm still keeping my day job as full-time seminary faculty, but since Scot McKnight's departure for Northern, the undergrad wing of the university's BTS dept. has been short-staffed. I'm happy to help out and relive my days as an college professor (3 years at Wheaton College and 1 year at Westmont) here at NPU. But it has been 8 years since my undergraduate teaching experience, so hopefully I can get up to speed very quickly.
Teaching at the seminary (left photo) and
Anticipating teaching at undergrad again (right photo)
   I thought it would be good to integrate this biblioblog with my Paul course. I have set up several exegetical exercises for NPU (and may be later seminary?) students under the label/tags "exegetical exercises." My hope is that the more I blog, the more posts I can use for pedagogical purposes. And if everything goes well, my students will have a blast using the resources on Paul Redux. We shall see. 
   FYI, the above left photo is from my cozy seminary course on intercultural readings of the Bible. On the right is a photo from my days teaching at Wheaton College (I'm preaching at the senior graduation chapel). I anticipate the class size to be much larger among the undergrads. It will take an adjustment on my part but I'm eager to (re)connect with a younger generation of motivated minds and hearts. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Ancient Athletic Training: Regimes, Dieting, and Sports Complexes

When athletes train, they usually enter a sports complex called the palaestra (Latin; Greek παλαίστρα), which in classical times often referred to the wrestling ring but by the Roman era came to designate a specialized area for professionals who trained for the games. It could be part of a larger gymnasium (γυμνάσιον) or an independent facility by itself. Vitruvius Pollio gives an entire description of how to build the palaestra in his work On Architecture (5.11). 
Six Greek athletes at the games (ca. 510 BC)
Photo of the funeral relief taken by Max Lee © 2014 Athens Museum
A quick visit to the ancient sports complex or gym, via the literary description of several Greco-Roman authors, can help the modern reader appreciate the kind of intense training an athlete underwent. The Roman playright Plautus, in his play Bacchides, for example, has his character Lydus, a tutor, describe his visit to the palaestra as follows: 
  • Unless you got to the sports complex (palaestram) before the sun rose, the gym supervisor (gymnasi praefecto) laid a strict penalty upon you. When this occurred, there was an additional punishment: both the coach and the trainee were in disgrace. Here in the sports complex, trainees worked more at running, wrestling, throwing the javelin and discus, boxing, playing ball, and jumping than at kissing prostitutes. They spent their time there [= the gym], not in shady sports [= the brothels]. (Plautus, Bacchides 3.3.20-26; Eng. trans. modified from Sweet, pp. 113-14)
Lucian, the 2nd century AD satirist, makes these comments about the gym workouts:
  • When we arrived at the gymnasium (γυμνάσιον) we removed our clothing. Then someone [in our party] practices holds at arm's length (ὁ μὲν τις ἀκροχειριασμῷ), another neck-holds and upright wrestling (ὁ δὲ τραχηλισμῷ καὶ ὀρθοπάλῃ ἐχρῆτο). Another [of our group] after rubbing himself with oil practiced slipping out of his opponents grasp by twisting (ὁ δὲ λίπα χρισάμενος ἐλυγίζετο); another punched away at the sandbag (ὁ δὲ ἀντέβαλλε τῷ κωρύκῳ); still another shadowboxed with lead weights in his hands (ὁ δὲ μολυβδαίνας χερμαδίους δράγδην ἔχων ἐχειροβόλει). (Lucian, Lexiphanes 5; Greek LCL text but Eng. trans. modified from Sweet, p. 114)
Next, the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, a near contemporary of the Apostle Paul, has these things to say about the diet and exercise routine of athletes: 
  • You say, "I want to win at the Olympic games!" Wait a minute. Look at what is involved... you will have to obey instructions [from your trainer], eat according to regulations, keep away from desserts, exercise on a fixed schedule at definite hours (γυμνάζεσθαι πρὸς ἀνάγκην, ὥρᾳ τεταγμένῃ), in both heat and cold; you must not drink cold water nor can you have a drink of wine whenever you want. You must hand yourself over to your trainer (παραδεδωκέναι σεαυτὸν τῷ ἐπιστάτῃ) just as you would a doctor. Then in the competition (ἐν τῷ ἀγῶνι) itself, you must gouge and be gouged. There will be times when you will sprain a wrist, twist an ankle, swallow mouthfuls of sand, and be flogged. And after all that, still there are times when you experience defeat (νικηθῆναι)(Epictetus, Diss. 3.15.2-5; Greek LCL; Eng. trans. modified from Sweet, p. 114)
Finally, Galen, the 2nd century AD physician, comments on how unnatural the athletic training program is. It rips away at the body. As a doctor, he does not recommend the physical conditioning an athlete endures as a normal routine. It is extreme:
  • For Hippocrates [5th cent. BC doctor] says somewhere: "A healthy condition is better than the unnatural state of athletes" (διάθεσις ἀθλητικὴ οὐ φυσει, ἕξις ὑγιεινὴ κρείσσων). Or again: "Among those who do sports/train (γυμναστικοῖσιν), peaking conditioning is dangerous, that is to say, in the bodies of athletes and those who sports-train (ἐν τοῖς ἀθλητικοῖς τε καὶ γυμναστικοῖς σώμασιν)."  But you must understand now that in saying "athletic" or "sporting" Hippocrates does not refer to the activities of those who exercise randomly... but those who compete as [professional] athletes against the strength of opponents (Galen, Thras. med. 9 = Claudii Galeni Pergameni Scripta minora, III.45 = Kühn, V.820, lines 1-8; Eng. trans. modified from Sweet, pp. 115-16)
So, if I were distill the above excerpts into a quick summary, I would describe the overall training regime of athletes as follows: 
  1. Wake up early in the morning. Before the sun even rises, you are already at the palaestra starting your workout routine. Otherwise, be penalized by the gym supervisor.
  2. Workout involves several intense exercises with weights, sandbags, grappling hold practice, sparring, shadowboxing, throwing practice with javelins, discus and balls. There was also sprinting and endurance running. But at the end of the day, you got to wind down at the public baths. Think spa.
  3. Abstinence from sex. Period. Sometimes, you can have wine, but not often.
  4. Strict dieting. Absolutely no desserts. Low carbs. High proteins. In fact, some even went on a meat-only diet (Diogenes Laertius, Lives 8.12). I think modern nutritionists would scratch their heads on this part of ancient athletics. All meat, no carbs, makes for a buffed but energy-less competitor. 
  5. Get a trainer who will push you beyond your limits. And obey him/her (but it was usually a "him").
Want to learn more? I recommend the following sourcebook and commentary, from which I drew the English translations (Greek and Latin texts were from other sources): Waldo E. Sweet, ed. and trans., Sports and Recreation in Ancient Greece (Oxford Univ. Press, 1987).
   Food for thought: now what do you think the writer of the Pastorals meant when he charged a young pastor in 1 Timothy 4:7-8: "Train (Γύμναζε) yourself towards godliness (πρὸς εὐσέβειαν). For bodily training (σωμτικὴ γυμνασία) is beneficial for a few things, but godliness is valuable for all things.

Postscript 06/13/14: Exegetical Exercise: 1) Read the above post. 2) Go to the bible dictionaries/encyclopedias in the reference section of the university library and learn more about athletes/the games in the Greco-Roman world. 3) Interpret 1 Cor 9:24-27 drawing insight from your background study. In other words: how does understanding the training, discipline, and endurance of the ancient athlete in the Greco-Roman world help you to understand Paul's message/exhortations in 1 Cor 9:24-27? 4) Be sure to consult at least one academic commentary on your biblical text from the reference section.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Before MMA, There Was the Pankration

Lately, I've been trying to get myself back to the gym and into shape. So athletic training has been on my mind. Today, I thought I would write a blurb about the pankration (Greek παγκράτιον; Latin pancratium). This was one of the most vicious competitions in the Greek athletic games which combined both boxing and wrestling. In many ways, it was an ancient form of modern-day mixed martial arts. Aristotle describes the athletic events this way: 
  • Bodily excellence in athletics (ἀγωνιστική) consists in size, strength, and swiftness of foot; for to be swift is to be strong. For one who is able to throw his legs about in a certain way, to move them rapidly and with long strides, makes a good runner (δρομικός); one who can hug and grapple, a good wrestler (παλαιστικός); one who can thrust away by a blow of the fist, a good boxer (πυκτικός); one who excels in boxing and wrestling is fit for the pancratium (παγκρατιαστικός)... (Aristotle, Rhetoric 1361b.14; LCL; Eng. trans. by Freese)
Painting of Theseus' Battle with the Minotaur in the Labyrinth
from an Attic kalyx crater (wine-diluter) ca. 480 BC
Photo taken by Max Lee © 2014 Athens Museum
Legend has it that the pancration was a technique created by Theseus as he fought against Minotaur in the labyrinth. According to Dio Cassius, Emperor Caligula popularized the sport in Rome (Roman Histories 59.13). It was very likely still a crowd favorite at the Isthmian games sponsored by Corinth at the time when Paul visited the city. The winner was determined when the loser was killed or "tapped out" by slapping the side of the victor in a gesture of submission. 
   The pancration gives us just one more example of how radical Paul's use of the athletic metaphor was to describe the kind of discipline, training, and endurance which the Christian athlete needed to exercise self-control over wrong desire. 
Picture of two pankratiasts fighting (center), a trainer (right) and onlooker (left)
from an Attic skyphos (wine-cup) ca. 500 BC
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons