Category Archives: Scholarship

“Letter Carriers and Paul’s Use of Scripture” Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters

The most recent issue of the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters contains an article I wrote entitled “Letter Carriers and Paul’s Use of Scripture.” Here is the abstract:

Within the discussion of Paul’s use of Scripture, scholars have frequently wondered how his predominantly Gentile congregations would have recognized his often subtle allusions to and echoes of the Old Testament, let alone their broader context. One solution has been to suggest that the carrier of the letter played a role in further explaining its contents. In order to assess the validity of this possibility, this article begins by exploring the role of letter carriers in the ancient world. A survey of the Pauline epistles indicates that his letter carriers performed a similar range of tasks; they were more than merely couriers. They were similar to Greco-Roman envoys, sent as a manifestation of Paul’s παρουσία and authorized to act on his behalf. As a result of this survey, two implications emerge for the study of Paul’s use of Scripture and the audience’s competency to recognize it: (1) Paul’s use of envoys suggests they were authorized to explain the contents of the letter further, including his use of Scripture. (2) Given the letter’s role to mediate the very presence of Paul himself, it is reasonable to conclude that his envoys engaged in teaching, a central component of his own ministry. Thus, there are solid grounds for suggesting that Paul’s letter carriers played a role in helping the audience to recognize Old Testament allusions and echoes, as well as their original context.

If you are interested in the study of the how the NT authors use the OT, this article is for you.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

The Presentation of Studies in the Pauline Epistles

This past November I had the privilege of revealing the “secret project” I had been working on for four years: Studies in the Pauline Epistles: Essays in Honor of Douglas J. Moo. We surprised him with it at the dinner celebrating the 50th Anniversary celebration of NIV, held during the annual ETS conference.  Here is the video of our presentation:

Zondervan has also posted brief interviews with me and my co-editor Jay Smith, highlighting some of the distinctive features of this collection of essays:

You can purchase it on Amazon and other places online.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

Noteworthy Book – Philippians: A Mentor Commentary

CoverAs some of you know, I have been working on a Philippians commentary for the past several years. What a privilege it has been to live inside this rich letter and see my joy in Christ and his gospel deepen as a result. Philippians has much to say to us as believers today, so I have written this commentary to help pastors, missionaries, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, and all Christians understand and apply it to their lives.

I am excited to announce that it has finally been released in the United Kingdom (the publisher, Christian Focus, is located in Scotland) and will soon be available here in the United States and internationally. You can order it through Amazon or ChristianBook.com.

Here are the endorsements:

Matt Harmon explains Paul’s letter clause by clause, traces Paul’s argument, reads Paul’s argument in light of the rest of the Bible, and applies the letter to people today. He reminds me of two of his professors when he was working on his PhD at Wheaton: Doug Moo and Greg Beale.

Andy Naselli, Assistant Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis

 

Historically aware, exegetically astute, and theologically sensitive, Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is full of insight and ideas for those who want to understand this beautiful epistle. He is not simply up to date on recent scholarship, but digs deeply and appropriately into evangelical commentaries of the past too, to enliven and enhance his own exposition. His suggestions for preaching and applying Philippians are crisp, clear, and eminently useable. A new go-to resource for pastors and students!

Dr Lee Gatiss, Director of Church Society and Editor of the NIV Proclamation Bible.

 

Our Lord calls his own to love God with all their heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37). This blend is seldom seen in commentaries, which tend to favor either the academic or the devotional. Authors write as believing pastors, or as detached scholars – which would seem to sunder what God has explicitly joined. Matt Harmon represents this happy marriage in his commentary on Philippians. Harmon has no less a keen eye for the particulars of the Greek text and academic illumination than he does for the splendorous and transforming truths that text communicates. It is clear that Matt has put the text under a microscope; it is just as clear that he is thrilled with the Savior and Gospel it reveals. This will now be my “go-to” book for teaching or preaching Philippians, joining Martin and Silva and Lightfoot and the others. I can’t commend Matt Harmon’s commentary on Philippians highly enough to pastors and students in all areas of church ministry and life. It is deep-rooted, solid, and broadly accessible. God grant that it receives the visibility and use it merits, to His glory and His church’s edification!

Dan Phillips, Pastor, Copperfield Bible Church

 

Matthew Harmon has given us a fresh and faithful reading of Philippians that will be a powerful help to all who preach and teach the word.

James M. Hamilton, Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is a model of good commentary writing: clear prose, adequate interaction with the array of scholarly perspectives, and helpful application. I commend his work to students, teachers, and preachers who seek better to understand this important letter of Paul.

Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College

 

Matthew Harmon is a gifted and trustworthy guide for helping us to understand and apply this Pauline epistle of joy. This commentary strikes me as just the right combination of what most of us need: clear prose, sufficient background and lexical information (without overwhelming the read in technicalities), insightful theological analysis, and practical pastoral application. Pastors and laypeople alike can benefit from this finely crafted work.

Justin Taylor, managing editor, The ESV Study Bible

 

This commentary is a study in clarity and balance. It is simple in expression, yet profound in insight. It is thorough in scope, yet selective enough not to overwhelm. It is informed by recent scholarship, yet avoids fruitless complexities. It draws on knowledge of ancient languages, yet makes its case in plain English. It is classic in its focus on God, Christ, and redemption, yet current in showing how a gospel from long ago is just as true and powerful today. In a word, this is a fine resource for serious students of Philippians in both church and college settings.

Robert W. Yarbrough, Professor of New Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO

 

Matthew Harmon’s commentary on Philippians is an outstanding work. We find careful exegesis and a clear explanation of the the text. The commentary is theologically rich, in terms of both biblical and systematic theology, and so there is more than a running commentary. Harmon also applies the text to readers in practical ways. Scholars, students, pastors, and teachers will profit significantly from this work.

Tom Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

 

 

 

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor

Few people have influenced my thinking about the Christian life and ministry more than John Piper and Don Carson. So it was with great interest that I attended an event on April 23, 2009 at Park Community Church in Chicago entitled “The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor.” As a seminary professor called to equip men for gospel ministry, the two messages they delivered proved extremely helpful in thinking through how to be faithful to Christ in my calling. The video of each message is available for free:

John Piper, “The Pastor as Scholar”

D.A. Carson, “The Scholar as Pastor”

These same messages were also published in book form as The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry.

Although none of us will likely have the same kind of ministry of either John Piper or Don Carson. But all of us can learn from their example of laboring to see the gospel advance while having a foot in both the church and the academy.

 

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

How I’m Spending My Sabbatical

Yesterday I began my one semester sabbatical from teaching at Grace College & Theological Seminary. Although many have joked that this is merely a 4 1/2 month vacation, the reality is that my sabbatical will be quite busy with writing projects. Here are the two main things I will be working on:

  1. Finish a commentary on Philippians. I have been working for almost four years (off and on) on this commentary in the Mentor Commentary Series by Christian Focus. My hope is to complete the draft by the end of January and send it out to colleagues and friends for feedback. Once I receive feedback from them I hope to send it off to the publisher by the beginning of the summer, if not sooner. Lord willing it will come out in 2014.
  2. Begin a commentary on Galatians. Having written my dissertation on Galatians, I am excited to begin work on a commentary on Galatians. It will be part of a new series that Broadman & Holman entitled Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation. Look for more details on this series down the road; the lineup of contributors is stacked!

In addition to these two major projects, there are also some smaller ones (a journal article here, a chapter in an edited volume there, etc.) that will keep me busy as well. And from March 1-12 I will be leading a group of college and seminary students from Grace on a trip to Israel.

Please join me in praying that God will bless this season of writing to proclaim his glory and encourage his people.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon

A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America by John A. D’Elia

This past weekend I finished reading A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America by John D’Elia. For those who do not know him, George Eldon Ladd was one of the most significant evangelical scholars of the 20th century. In this biography, D’Elia sketches the life of this fascinating man in a readable and engaging manner. It was hard to put the book down, and at a mere 182 pages of text (plus another 50 pages of endnotes) it is a fast read.

Central to the book is Ladd efforts to gain a “place at the table” for evangelical biblical scholarship at a time (1940s-1960s) when very few in the academy paid any attention to it. Ladd recognized that this was in part due to a failure by evangelicals to actually engage liberal scholarship rather than dismiss it outright. As a result Ladd was among a small group of evangelicals who pursued doctoral work in elite level Ph.D. programs such as Harvard as a means of establishing scholarly credentials that would enable them later to produce scholarship from an evangelical perspective that could gain a hearing in the broader academy. The fact that many evangelicals today have a seat at the table in the larger academy is due at least in part to Ladd.

Ladd’s efforts to produce evangelical scholarship that would be received within the larger academy culminated in 1964 with the publication of Jesus and the Kingdom: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism (later renamed The Presence of the Future). Ladd hoped the book would a definitive study of the Kingdom of God in the New Testament, and the fact it was published by Harper and Row gave it a hearing in the broader academy. Ladd thought he had accomplished his goal of gaining a place at the table.

All of that changed when he read NT scholar Norman Perrin’s review, which thoroughly trashed the book. Although Ladd’s work was well-received by others, the prominence of Perrin within the academy meant that his review was devastating. Ladd was crushed, and as a result he spiraled downward into a depression that he never fully recovered from. The rest of his life he considered himself a failure, despite continuing to publish and teach for another ten years or so.

Before reading this book, I knew almost nothing about Ladd other than his groundbreaking work on the Kingdom of God. His New Testament Theology book remains a classic contribution to the field even 35 years later (a revised edition was produced in 1993 with some additional essays; I still use the text in my own NT Theology course). As I read the book, however, I was saddened to learn of the mess that was Ladd’s personal life. D’Elia does a nice job of describing Ladd’s upbringing and the effect it would have on him for the rest of his life (though I think this is overplayed at times). In his quest to gain a hearing for evangelical scholarship, he largely sacrificed his family, resulting in very strained relationships with his wife and two children. Because he set his hope on academic recognition, Ladd fell apart when he failed to received what he believed he deserved. He increasingly turned to alcohol and strongly considered divorcing his wife. The irony is that although Ladd considered himself a failure, he left behind a legacy of students who did go on to successful academic careers and gained a place at the table within the broader academy. Ladd simply did not live long enough to see this, dying in 1982.

Reading this book was a healthy reminder to me not to set my hope on academic achievement or recognition within the broader academy. I am grateful for my wife and kids who help keep me grounded and are a great source of joy in my life. I also am grateful for my local church an how it allows me to contribute to the growth of fellow believers in the gospel and how it applies to all of life.

  • Twitter
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Technorati
  • Reddit
  • Yahoo Buzz
  • StumbleUpon