Monthly Archives: December 2017

Luke 2:52

Yesterday I read my wife the first two chapters of Luke, covering the miraculous birth of John the Baptist and then of Jesus, and ending with Jesus, at twelve years of age, discussing theology with the teachers in the temple area. The chapters are full of amazing facts, and they end with a succinct summary of the life of the growing Jesus, between this episode at the temple and the time when he begins his earthly ministry almost twenty years later. Says the historian Luke: “And Jesus grew is wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (v. 52).

I think that we can basically understand what it means that Jesus grew in stature and in favor with man. He was, after all, human, and grew up in the normal way. He matured physically and over time would have earned the respect of those who knew him. But what does it mean to say that Jesus, the perfect one, the Son of God, grew in wisdom or that he grew in favor with God? We must conclude that the incarnate divine Son who never sinned nevertheless matured not only physically but spiritually. It is a striking realization. This cannot mean, of course, that Jesus had to be sanctified in his behavior and learn to reign in and diminish his sin. Nor can it mean that Jesus ever acted foolishly and had to grow in wisdom in the sense of correcting his folly—as we do. Jesus was never foolish or sinful. But the statement remains: he grew in wisdom and favor with God.

He Grew in Wisdom

Jesus grew up in a God-fearing home, with godly parents. God made sure that this would be the case. Mary certainly was specially chosen by God and serves us well as an example of one fully committed to trusting obedience even in the most awkward and difficult of circumstances. Joseph also was chosen by God. Matthew 1:19 informs us that he was “faithful to the law” (NIV), or “a just man” (ESV). We can be sure that Jesus was taught the scriptures his whole childhood. There is the temptation to think that Jesus had a supernatural insight into the meaning of Scripture. I don’t believe that is the case. I think that Jesus learned the Scripture by the same means as anyone else: study and meditation, believing in the holiness of Scripture and depending on God’s Spirit for help in understanding, and that by these ordinary means he gained the wisdom contained in God’s word. In Luke 2:46, when Jesus’ parents find him in the temple courts, the boy Jesus is not teaching the teachers. Not yet. Instead, he is “listening to them and asking them questions.” He is learning. Now certainly, he had learned a remarkable deal for his age, as those present were also “amazed at his understanding and his answers.” He was ahead of the curve, as we might expect. But I do not think this is because he was being beamed the answers from heaven. Jesus loved the scriptures because they were the Word of God. He was committed to seeking the wisdom, the understanding, and the will of God as contained in the scriptures. He did this his whole life. When he is grown, we still see him in the synagogue on the Sabbath (as in Mark 1:21). At that point, he is teaching. He had been doing this regularly, probably for years. In Luke 4, we see that going to the synagogue to read and discuss the scriptures was Jesus’ custom, his routine. If Jesus simply had the scripture in his mind by virtue of his divine nature, habitual scripture reading at the synagogue would hardly have been necessary. But Jesus was not operating on earth as his divine nature would have allowed. He emptied himself in the incarnation. He operated as a man, a man of God. Part of this was the fact that he was not born wise. He, like we, had to grow in wisdom. But he, unlike we, never failed to use the means or revelation God has given us to grab hold of the wisdom God wants us to pursue. He always understood that “the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Pr 2:6). As Jesus got older, he also internalized the truths of what God had revealed. Jesus also put these truths into practice, so that as he grew up, he was also growing in wisdom.

He Grew in Favor with God

For those who affirm the sinless perfection of the holy, glorious, and eternally existing Son of God, the idea that Jesus grew in favor with God may be even more puzzling than the idea that he grew in wisdom. Can this mean that Jesus was ever out of favor with God? Certainly not. Rather, one of the best insights I was ever given regarding this statement is that it reflects covenantal language and speaks of Jesus’ active obedience on our behalf. Sometimes we talk about Jesus’ “passive obedience,” which is his obedience in being willingly subjected to the cross, and his “active obedience,” which refers to his life of positive obedience to the Law of God.

This obedience to the Law is sometimes overlooked but is actually extremely important for Jesus’ role as our Savior. Adam and Eve related to God in a covenant of works—that is, a covenant in which they had to follow the terms set out by God, with blessing promised for obedience and curses promised for disobedience. Adam sinned and violated the covenant. He failed. And we with him, as he was the representative of the human race. Jesus comes to us as the second Adam, that is, a second representative of all who are united to him. We are all united to Adam by birth. We are united to Jesus by faith and rebirth. The covenant given on Mt. Sinai is a recapitulation of the covenant of works. This is important, because for Jesus to redeem us from the curse of the Law, he must bear up under the weight of the Law where Adam stumbled. He must keep the terms of a covenant of works where Adam failed to keep such terms. And he must represent a people as Adam does, so that we can cease to be “in,” or represented by, Adam, and begin to be “in,” or represented by a new head, who fulfilled the law and earned God’s blessing rather than God’s curse. In God’s long script of redemption, Moses gave a covenant of works, with blessings and curses attached, so that a thousand years later, “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Ga 4:4, 5). Since no one is able to obey the terms of the covenant, Moses’ ministry is called a “ministry that [brings] death” (2 Cor 3:7). In the New Covenant, Jesus’ law keeping is credited to us through simple faith, making Jesus’ ministry a “ministry that brings righteousness!”

To go back to Jesus’ childhood, we see right before our statement at the end of Luke 2 that Jesus went back to Nazareth with his parents and “was obedient to them.” Jesus was obedient to his parents and to God all his life. As he grows up, he continues to keep the terms of the Law. He continues to succeed in obeying the Law. So when it comes time for Jesus to be ordained for his earthly ministry in verse 22 of the next chapter, God the Father can review Jesus’ life and say to him, “with you I am well pleased.”

Even up to the time of the cross, Jesus was going through a process. The writer of Hebrews gives us an insight in chapter 5 of his letter. He says:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience through what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him and was designated by God to be High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Strange though it may seem, Jesus underwent a learning process during the time of his first advent. He was born a man, a boy. He was born under the Law of the Old Covenant. He had to grow and develop and learn. By living a life pleasing to God, by submitting to God, by humbling himself and becoming obedient (Phil 2:8) he grew in favor with God, since God “therefore” (that is, due to his obedience) exalted him to the highest place. That’s the language of covenant keeping.

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NIV Sola Scriptura: a Review

It was the spring of 2015. My wife and I had watched a video about typography and the Bible. Typography is simply the art of formatting words for reading, with consideration given to the layout and the typeface (font). The “layout” consists of many different elements, like how the letters should be spaced and aligned. The use of ligatures (letter pairs, as below, that are made into a single glyph where the normal pairings are awkward) is also a typographical consideration. In the picture, the first two ligatures are standard (common and considered more important), whereas the third would be considered discretionary.

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At the same time, Kickstarter had funded Adam Greene’s Bibliotheca project, the first multi-volume reader’s Bible that we had seen or heard of. We bought it, with the expectation that it would ship in about six months. It took two years. But it finally came. I offered my review of that set previously. I loved it. It is a finely crafted Bible set with exquisite typography and build quality. I had only one complaint: the American Literary Version used as the Bibliotheca text, and done especially for Bibliotheca using the American Standard Version as its starting point, is too old fashioned and jarring for smooth, long, distraction-free reading. Sadly, this undermines the very thing the project sought to accomplish.

Fortunately, other Bible publishers got the message: the reader’s Bible format is a wonderful way to present God’s word. Crossway followed with their six-volume English Standard Version reader’s Bible set. That set, by all accounts, is also very well done. But those who have read my blog over the past year know that my real wish would have been for a similar set in the New International Version. In October of this year, Zondervan made my dream come true.

I give you the NIV Sola Scriptura project—a four-volume reader’s Bible set.

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The Name: Sola Scriptura

There can be no doubt that the project’s title, “Sola Scriptura,” carries a double meaning. The set was released at the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the seminal provocation that grew into the Protestant Reformation. The doctrine that the Bible alone, and not church tradition or papal authority, was the rule and standard for belief and practice was at the heart of the Reformation movement. This title celebrates that bedrock of the true Christian church. But I think there is something else. As a reader’s Bible, Sola Scriptura does away with all the verse numbers, cross references, study notes, textual notes, and section headings, leaving you with nothing but the scripture itself. It seems likely that this facet of the project is also alluded to in its name.

Physical Features

Sola Scriptura, as mentioned, breaks the text of the Bible, which is a book of books, into four volumes. The multi-volume format is used so that pages can be thicker (no more “Bible pages”), making the reading experience better. This is the case here, as we would expect, which eliminates the ghosting often seen in single volume Bibles. Each volume is a cloth-over-board hard cover book with a blue ribbon marker. Each volume contains a preface about the Sola Scriptura project and at the back, the NIV translation information.

The presentation of the content of the Bible does not exactly follow the traditional Western order. Rather, Sola Scriptura follows the NIV Books of the Bible in using a “fresh yet ancient presentation of Scripture” in which the books are presented as they were to the ancient readers of the Torah, or following a more logical, content-oriented sequence. For example, in Volume 4 (the New Testament), we are told that Sola Scriptura:

Expresses the ancient concept of the fourfold gospel in a fresh way. Here each gospel is placed at the beginning of a group of closely related books. In this way, the books can be seen as giving four witnesses to the one gospel of Jesus the Messiah.

The four volumes of the set are:

  1. The Torah and the Former Prophets
  2. The Latter Prophets
  3. The Writings
  4. The New Testament

But don’t worry. Together these volumes comprise the standard sixty-six books of the Bible, no more, no less.

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9780310448129A sweet surprise to me was the project’s use of classic marbled endpaper, that is, the inner lining of the book covers. I have seen this on many older books and to me this unexpected design choice gives the book a friendly feel.

The book spines are navy blue with a wheat-colored, well, wheat design, as seen in my previous photo. This too I like. Other reader’s Bibles sets had gone with the handsome but risk-averse minimalist approach to the spine design. Sola Scriptura tried something a little more eye-catching, and I think it succeeds.

The set comes in an elegant slipcase made of thick cardboard that also features the ear of wheat design. However, the slipcase leaves virtually no room to grip a book and pull it out. The books fit snuggly, too. This left me picking at the spines with a fingernail. To save the spines and my wits, I ended up putting a foam “stopper” inside the case so that the books stick out about an inch. Problem solved.

 

Typography

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Randy Brown, another Bible reviewer, identifies the font as size 10.3 Karmina. It indeed appears to be Karmina, though I will defer as to the precise size. Suffice it to say, the text is large enough to be comfortable, as in an average book. Overall, the formatting is perfectly mundane and there is not much to say. However, typographical formatting is where Bibliotheca truly excels. I have a few minor scruples with the typography. First, I would have increased the space between lines of text just ever so slightly (this is called the leading).

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Here I show Sola Scriptura on top and Bibliotheca on bottom for comparison. You can see that Bibliotheca has more space between lines for a less dense body of text and easier reading. The fact that while the volumes of each these sets are about the same width, the Bibliotheca volumes are about a centimeter taller may make the more spacious leading possible.

IMG_20171209_191753635Also, if you look at the word fish/fishes in the text, you can see that Bibliotheca is making use of ligatures, while Sola Scriptura is not. This puzzles me, as Karmina supports ligatures and incorporating them should be as easy as checking the box in your publishing software. The only thing I can say is that the kerning(spacing between letters) in Sola Scriptura does seem wide, and the upper terminal of the “f” does not collide with the dot of the “i”. Expanding the kerning may have eliminated the aesthetic advantage of ligatures.

Third, in Bibliotheca, the text is left aligned and “jagged” on the right. I prefer this over the “justified” text in most books, which forces every full line of text to be the same length by adjusting the space between words.

Conclusion

Reader’s Bibles are a recent trend, but I hope they are here to stay. This set by Zondervan is a welcome addition to the library of available multi-volume reader’s Bibles, and I was personally very excited when it was released. It is reasonably priced, being listed at $99.99, but easy to find for closer to $70. If you are considering a reader’s Bible set, I can recommend this one without hesitation. If you are reluctant to spend the money and want to get your feet wet before diving in, the NIV Books of the Bible single volume Bible may be a good place to start.

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