AN EXEGETICAL SKILL | Identifying + Analyzing Repetitive Texture

THE VALUE OF REPETITION | Newsflash — Yes, the Bible often repeats itself! Yeah, I’m talking about throughout the scriptures; we’ll read the same stories and the repetitive phrases.

One of the most potent storytelling tools is repetition. Some of our greatest orators have used repetition to deliver their messages. Let us not forget Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Hearing “I have a dream” repeatedly helped us understand the contents of his dream. Hearing biblical passages and not imposing my wrong notions on them is a skill I am working to build. But, like any other useful biblical interpretation tool, exegesis takes time to learn. As part of my learning process, I recently read a section from David A. deSilva’s book, “An introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Information” (pages 808–810). deSilva did a fantastic job of sharing great examples and ways to explore the “inner texture” of a passage.

Understanding repetition and inner texture of passages come from both large and small scales. The teachings, miracles, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the first four Gospels are repetition on a large scale. All four books emphasize the importance of a person, them, or event. The use of repetition through all four Gospels brings greater credibility than without repetitiveness. By using repetitiveness, the authors were able to provide different perspectives to tell Jesus’ story.

On a small scale, we will see in the Bible repeated ideas, phrases, and themes. An example is in Exodus 6:7 and God’s promise to Moses. This same concept is repetitive through the Old Testament through Genses 17:7, Numbers 15:41, Leviticus 26:12, Jeremiah 7:23, and Ezekiel 36:28.

One of the critical points deSilva makes is that oral delivery and aural reception are the New Testament text’s primary components. In building my exegetical skills, I find myself paying closer attention to the many preachers I listen to and how, as deSilva points out, they engage in the repetition of important words or phrases from the text. I am learning that understanding the biblical author’s larger rhetorical and ideological goals is enhanced by verbal repetition.

Repetition and progression throughout biblical works bring together situations that we may typically keep apart. Repetitive texture helps to reveal the macro values, convictions, and beliefs of the passages. I believe that we receive a better understanding when we receive a repetition of the best truths. — #ToddCPittman

PROPHETIC LITERATURE + DISPUTATION | The Book of Malachi

Richard Hess is one of the most trusted scholars of the Old Testament. Earlier this week, I took a look at Mr. Hess’s overview of The Book of Malachi. Specifically, I reflected on Chapter 35 in Hess’s book “The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction” (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016. Print) and how his overview related to my current study of the interpretation of prophetic literature.

The last in a long line of foretelling prophets, his name is a Hebrew term that means “my messenger.” There is no doubt that Malachi was a messenger and was considered a mostly-anonymous prophet. He was a messenger with God’s message, and the important thing is the message’s content. During the time of Nehemiah and Ezra, Malachi’s ministry spread across Jerusalem.

Hess broke down Malachi’s readings in six different context areas: Premodern Readings, Higher Criticism, Literary Readings, Gender & Ideological Criticism, Ancient Near Eastern Context, and Canonical Context. I found that Hess’s overview of Literary Readings is most in line with what I am learning in my studies.

I saw a clear, uncommon prophetic oracle form called disputation as a connection between Hess’s overview and another book I am reading, “Invitation to Biblical Interpretation” (Kostenberger and Patterson, 2011). Kostenberger and Paterson refer to Ezekiel 18 and Amos 3:3–8 as excellent examples of disputation speech using this literary device’s most common declaration, discussion, and refutation elements. Kostenberger and Patterson also reference Malachi as being best known for using disputation as a prophetic literary device.

The six disputations in The Book of Malachi are:

· 1st DISPUTATION | God says he loves Israel — the people disagree — God responds by pointing out the fate of Edom/Esau. | Malachi 1:2–5

· 2nd DISPUTATION | God says he is father and master deserving honor — the priests dispute that they have dishonored God — God responds that they have offered polluted food and sickly animals upon the altar. They have corrupted his covenant with Levi. | Malachi 1:6–2:9

· 3rd DISPUTATION | Malachi says that we have one Father who created us — why do the people profane the covenant by being faithless to one another, and why does the Lord not accept their offerings by divorcing the wife of his youth. | Malachi 2:10–16

· 4TH DISPUTATION | The people have wearied the Lord — how we have wearied him — by claiming that God is indifferent to wickedness; the Lord will come and refine the sons of Levi and judge the impenitent | Malachi 2:17–3:5

· 5th DISPUTATION | YHWH does not change, but you must return to God — how shall we return — by not robbing God of the tithe; the promise of blessing. | Malachi 3:6–12

· 6th DISPUTATION | Their hard words against God — how have we spoken against God — by saying it is vain to serve God; the day of the Lord is coming when you will see distinguished the righteous from the wicked. | Malachi 3:13–4:3

The Book for Malahai is a prophetic summary conclusion to the Book of the Twelve. Keep seeking understanding! — #ToddCPittman

Wondering Why Christians Have Such Contrasting Theological Conclusions? Here Is a Book Getting More Popular

“Coming from someone who does not have a strong theological background but is pursuing a deeper understanding of theological principles, I found Putnam’s book well-written and informative.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

When Doctrine Divides the People of God (Crossway, 2020) is an outstanding evaluation of Doctrinal Diversity and Christian Unity. The author, Rhyne R. Putman, received his Ph.D. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, where he serves as an associate professor of theology and culture. Putman has served in that capacity since 2010. In addition to his contributions to the seminary, he is the pastor of preaching and vision at First Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana. In addition to teaching and his pastoral duties, Putnam has published multiple volumes and articles. Rhyne and his wife, Micah, currently reside in New Orleans with their two children.

Coming from someone who does not have a strong theological background but is pursuing a deeper understanding of theological principles, I found Putnam’s book well-written and informative. To support the information he provides, Putnam uses various concepts and theories to address why so many Christians disagree on doctrine even though we share a commitment to Scripture.

Putnam divides his writing into two sections. He first writes about why Christians disagree about doctrine, and in the second section, he takes a look at what we should do about doctrinal disagreement. I feel that today, more than any other time in my adulthood, many things divide our country. One of those divisions raises the question in my mind: Why do so many similar Christians end up with such contrasting theological conclusions? To help me tackle that question, I appreciated Putman explaining in section one five reasons why we disagree on doctrines. Putnam starts explaining the foundation of the biblical belief system and leads into a breakdown of some of our reasons for disagreement. In his efforts to let the reader know that it is ok to disagree as long as the center of our focus is the Bible, Putnam did an excellent job of letting me see the foundation for those disagreements. First, we don’t all read with a perfect understanding of the Scriptures. Second, there are so many different methods used to interpret the Bible that everyone’s approach is different. Third, everyone’s thinking about things in a logical, sensible way results in a difference in reasoning. Fourth, many of us have a love-hate affair with our emotions and sometimes allow that to get in the way of reasonable biblical interpretation. And fifth, we all have presuppositions that we sometimes allow to influence how we receive the Scriptures.

The second section of the book addresses what we as Christians need to know and recognize about our theological diversity. I appreciated Putnam’s reference in Chapter 6 to the biblical proverb, “As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend” (199). This reference serves as a reminder that our theological diversity presents us with the opportunity for epistemic self-improvement. Putnam provides three questions that we should ask ourselves when faced with interpretive disagreement. For me, Chapter 8 in the book provided a fantastic insight into the discord and lessons learned from Whitefield and Wesley. What I like about Putnam’s writing in this book is his use of real-time questions using a historical context such as, “What would a letter written by an apostle look like in the age of the internet?” (241).

Putnam’s writing style and the issues he raised in the book are appropriate for the student of theology at any level. However, for those simply seeking a deeper theological understanding, the book is not a light read given its heavy scholarly weight. Regardless of whether the reader is furthering their education, profession, or spiritual growth, When Doctrine Divides the People of God is a treasure that will help all Christians better understand doctrinal disagreement and advice on how to agree to disagree. A big takeaway for me was that one of our most significant sources of controversy is our lack of unity and harmony when dealing with presuppositions of theology. If you want to understand how to disagree and remain true to your faithfulness towards God wisely, I encourage you to read this book. – #ToddCPittman

THE HERMENEUTICAL CIRCLE | Understanding Our Checked Baggage

“We’ve got to make room in the baggage we carry for the understanding of what God is trying to tell us.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep I Said It!

In late 2020 I was moved to commence graduate studies. My mind raced in a circle as to whether I should focus my time pursuing an MBA to further my professional career or enter a graduate-level Christian studies program to personally further equip me with knowledge in biblical and theological learning to enhance my Christian faith and witness. Well, after praying on it, a pursuit of investing money and time into a limited professional career did not outweigh the ROI of a personal pursuit and an eternal investment in God’s Kingdom. So since January 18, 2021, instead of reading one of the #1 books for MBA students, “The Lean Startup” I have received the opportunity to read new insights into biblical hermeneutics and ways in which interpretive models can help in my biblical understanding and interpretation. That pursuit has led me to look closer at this process of understanding called “The Hermeneutical Circle” and a question posed in Chapter 3 of the book titled, “Biblical Hermeneutics Five Views.” In the chapter, The Philosophical/Theological View” authored by Merold Westphal, the question was posed “What is going on, often behind our backs, when we interpret texts and other phenomena?” 

What Is the Hermeneutical Circle?

Hmmm, to get a better understanding of what the heck is going on behind my back, I wanted to settle on what’s first in front of me and my basic understanding of the hermeneutical circle. With that, I came to the understanding that the hermeneutical circle is about taking a body of scriptural text – meaning that text that has a concept or has a message – and breaking that text into the smallest parts by taking each one of those parts and relating it to the overall concept or the big picture of the text itself. What I believe is that by going through the hermeneutical circle I will gain a higher level of understanding of a certain concept of the Scripture.

But What about My Presuppositions to Scriptural Text?

I believe that my seminary Professor, Dr. Casey B. Hough, put it best when he said, “. . . none of us are ever unbiased, uninfluenced interpreters of the text. Every one of us reads the text with cultural, historical, and emotional baggage.” I think of navigating my own biases in biblical interpretation as to when I used to navigate my way to baggage claim after getting off a business flight. Often after a long business flight, I would navigate to the airline’s VIP lounge for a beverage and a snack and take a moment to unwind before picking up my checked baggage. Similarly, when it comes to reading and interpreting the text, there are times when we need to wait a while before we go to baggage claim to retrieve our cultural, historical, and emotional baggage. Before I fully settle on the specific biblical interpretation I realize that I need to not only become acquainted with the ancient biblical culture that is assumed by the texts, but I must also read the Bible from the macro-level perspective in which the text was written. I do not doubt that reading the Bible from its context will not only help me to understand what the Bible is speaking to but will also provide what genuine messages God wants to tell me. Checking my cultural, historical, and emotional baggage not just helps my Christian faith, but also helps those around me to have a logical understanding of the Bible and Christianity.

Righteous Anger or Self-centered Joy?

“I’m trying to practice a little more sorrow in humility than joy in pride.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Proverbs 15:1 | NLT | A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

“Back to the practical tips for living, the Book of Proverbs. The scriptures in this book help me to put my self-centeredness in check. You know what I’m talking about. There have been times in the past when someone has brought to our attention our wrongs and we will make it right by cussin’ them out. Instead of receiving the heads up on a self-improvement opportunity, we would rather happily tell someone off than to reflect on what we’ve done wrong. There is a big difference between righteous anger and reactive anger that brings carnal joy. In the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus ran the money lenders out of the temple, that was righteous anger. But when our wrongs are brought to our attention and we, in turn, tell people off, block them on our phone, de-friend them on social media, and continue to develop our dysfunctional relationship with the truth – that my peeps are examples of us living an average, unconverted life – the type of life that leads from one mess to another. Let’s not let our feelings drive us to say and do things just to set things right as we see it. Remember, think before we speak, what we sow, we reap.” – #ToddCPittman

“Look Inward, Not Outward”

“Our facade will get us but so far and only fool those that don’t make a difference.” – #ToddCPittman

“1 Samuel serves as a good reminder that we are given choices in life. Two of the many choices we have are how we look at other people and how we present ourselves to the world. In other words, we can choose to limit our vision of who a person is by being impressed by their physical looks or wealth and we can also limit our prosperity by putting our energy into pleasing those around us whose accolades have no weight when it comes to our eternal fate. Let us learn from the prophet Samuel and how his limited perspective impacted his ability to see beyond outward appearances. Good looks don’t make a good leader and a fat bank account doesn’t give us perspicacity. We need to be careful to not judge a book by its cover and stop wasting our time and resources on being people pleasers. Instead, let’s put our attention to what we can do to transform the thoughts from our minds and the words that flow from our lips to ensure that they are pleasing to God. Let’s make fewer deposits into false narratives here in the natural and increase our investment in our treasure in heaven.” – #ToddCPittman

“Opportunists Have Been Busy for a Long Time”

“We can follow those who exploit circumstances to fulfill their agenda, or we can cast false narratives and heed to the warning from back in the day.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Matthew 24:4-5 | NLT | 4 Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, 5 for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many

“Sometimes I think we are reliving Michael J. Fox’s ‘Back to the Future”, but this time going back to somewhere around AD 80 – 90. No joke! That’s when Jesus gave a heads up to His disciples that they would be overrun by folks claiming that reality is not real and there will be so many fraudsters He warned folks not to be overwhelmed. Then is now. Just turn on the tv or take a peek at the divisiveness exposed on Tik Tok and you will find people exploiting circumstances for their advancement. Unfortunately, today we have those around us that will give us bad advice, spread mistruths to manipulate our opinion and work against us with the misperception that bringing us down will bring them up. Don’t be overwhelmed! Let’s not be tricked by people around us who would like to have the appearance of godliness, but deny His power!” – #ToddCPittman

Important Life Skill | Handling Anger

Yep, I Said It! – “We can’t control the way other folks act to circumstances, but we darn sure can control how we do.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

. . . and so did Psalm 37:8 (NLT) – Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.

“Handling anger is a life skill that if not mastered will lead to our destruction. I can speak for myself when I say ‘IT AIN’T EASY!” But when we realize how anger ruins our health and steals our joy, we will realize the need to stop justifying our anger and start taking accountability for it. A lot of folks pay for counseling sessions – and I am 100% for counseling – but let us not forget to include the most Wonderful Counselor. The counselor who prays for us. The counselor who through His salvation never leaves us. And the unsurpassed thing is His counseling is free! Outside of putting in the work to follow God’s Word – there are no financial costs to receive the principles on how we can handle our irritating circumstances in a godly manner and overcome sinful anger. Let’s master this ya’ll! Let’s not let anger become entrenched in our lives. When we habitually practice reliance on God’s Holy Spirit, we will not only overcome ungodly anger, but we will glorify Him in our response!” – #ToddCPittman

“We’ve Got to Be Accountable for Our Actions”

“We can hide behind our wrongs or we can acknowledge them out of love for our family and friends.” – #ToddCPittman

Yep, I Said It!

and so did . . . 2 Samuel 24:16-17 – (16) But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!” At that moment the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. (17) When David saw the angel, he said to the Lord, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep—what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.”

“This morning I read from 2 Samuel, and it was in Chapter 24:16-17 that reminds us of being accountable for our actions. Look we all have sinned and will probably sin again and David was no exception. But the question that comes to mind is are we going to own up to our sin or let others around us pay the price for our mishaps, missteps, and blatant mistruths and then sit back and wonder why family and friends show us nothing but mistrust? Let’s make today the day to be accountable. Let’s make today the day to ask for forgiveness. Let’s make today the day we own up to our wrongs and bear the punishment until God says enough! Oh, and believe me – true testimony – He will eventually say enough is enough. But first, we have to take enough ownership in the circumstances we create to realize that repentance might lead to discomfort and know that God does use evil agents and uncomfortable circumstances in us to accomplish His purpose. Bottom line, whether MAN or WOMAN, It’s time for us to man up!” – #ToddCPittman