Exegesis and Systematics and Church

from N.T. Wright’s Justification, which I’m currently working my way through:

“But the present debate about Paul and justification is taking place between people most of whom declare their allegiance to Scripture in general, and perhaps to Paul in particular, as the place where and the means by which the living God has spoken, and still speaks, with life-changing authority. This ought to mean, but does not always mean, that exegesis–close attention to the actual flow of the text, to the questions that it raises in itself and the answers it gives in and of itself–should remain the beginning and the end of the process. Systematize all you want in between–we all do it; there is noting wrong with it and much to be said for it, particularly when it involves careful comparing of different treatments of similar topics in different contexts.  But start with exegesis, and remind yourself that the end in view is not a tidy system, sitting in hard covers on a shelf where one may look up “correct answers,” but the sermon or the shared pastoral reading, or the scriptural word to a Synod or other formal church gathering, or indeed the life of witness to the love of God, through all of which the church is built up and energized for mission, the Christian is challenged, transformed and nurtured in the faith, and the unbeliever is confronted with the shocking but joyful news that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world.  That is letting Scripture be Scripture.”


The “Blank” Greek NT Series…

I have really enjoyed reading my new 3-volume Nestle-Aland 27 and writing notes and thoughts the past few days.  (I’ve been working through Matthew’s Gospel, now in chapter 13.)


Here’s all the posts describing my exciting (and terrifying) journey…

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The “Blank” Greek New Testament- Part 3

(If you just joined us, check out part 1 and part 2 first!)

So here I was with three stacks awaiting spiral binding.  I did a final run-through to make sure the pages were aligned as well as possible on the binding side.  I also printed a front and back cover page for each volume and cut them to match the page size.  (You’ll see the cover on the finished pictures below!)  The front basically has the NA27 title info, plus the books included in the volume.  The back has my name, address, and contact information in case poor Smeagol should ever lose his Precioussss…  These I had Office Depot laminated in lieu of the covers they provide with spiral binding.  The laminated covers should offer some protection for the interior pages, and they’re shiny!

I took them into Office Depot, order the spiral-punching and binding, and then went home to worry the rest of the night.  One potential problem vexed me some.  In this initial binding cut, there was evidently a slight curvature to the pages, and as I collated, I could tell some unevenness on the binding edge of each page.  Which meant that potentially, the pages with less room between the text and binding edge could find holes going through the words of the text!  Not good!  I felt confident there was room enough, if they hole-punched straight, by the hourly employee of the local office supply store.  Goo!

Well, I returned the next day, and my books were safe and alive! (The spiral work is about 2-6 dollars, depending on who rings it up!)

Here they were…


You can see the three volumes, each one weighing in about the size of the original NA27 by itself.

IMG_0092The spiral binding is very secure.  I know some people worry about hole-punching and binding because of experience with 3-ring notebooks and the constant tearing of pages with normal use.  But in spiral-binding each hole (30 of them on these babies) supports each other and so you have much more strength.  They feel very sturdy!

What about the inside?  Were my fears confirmed or relieved?


As you can see hear to the left, the original binding cut was a little slanted.  But no words of the actual text were wiped out! You can also see the glorious blank page to the right for note-taking!

Here is another picture of a much tighter page!  IMG_0096Here the holes go right up to the words, touching a letter or two, but not obscuring them.  (Whew! Sigh of relief) So if you want to copy this project, figure out a way to cut the binding off straighter for more consistent pages!

I was a little worried that the difference in thickness between the NT pages and blank ones would be problematic.  NA27 pages are extremely thin.  But with the spiral binding, it flips pretty well, and the blank pages actually seem to support and protect the thinner ones somewhat.

So I had done it!  I started a project, and with no leftover pieces.  Maybe this was the beginning of something new, the dawn of a new era in successful projects for me.


If you recall from part 2, I originally planned on having Matthew-John in one volume, but when I had to go to 3, I moved John from the first stack to go before Acts in volume 2.  And apparently in all that switching and flipping, I put John on top backwards!

IMG_0094 You can see the outer edge on the inside by the spirals.  Essentially, John flipped from right-to-left.  If only this was Hebrew, not Greek!  Volume 2 went John 21-John 1, then Acts 1-2 Corinthians.

It turned out to be a pretty simple fix, though.  De-binding the spirals is pretty easy (You cut off the bent-end and basically uncoil it through the holes).  I then took John out, separated the NT pages from the blank (since I don’t have to recut those), and took the John pages into Office Depot to have the spiral holes punched on the opposite side.  I also went ahead and had them trim the holes off the other side.  This was partly just for aesthetic reasons, but also the holes on the outside edge could catch something and start a tear in a page.  After that, I re-collated John with the blank pages again, and then ran the coil through it.  To finish it, I twisted the end of the spiral coil to lock it off.

So I was finished.  A little snafu.  But success.  I wrote on the last page of volume 3 something like this.

“Blank New Testament completed September 22, 2009.   I hope that it will be filled before 2020!”

The “Blank” Greek New Testament- Part 2

(If you missed Part 1)

So my brand new Nestle-Aland27 arrived in the mail.  There’s nothing like the feel and smell of a new book.

So the next step was going to be the hardest of the entire project.  Cutting the binding off and launching do-or-die into this project.

Now, for those who don’t me, I’m the guy who fixes things and somehow ends up with leftover pieces, almost without fail.  Apparently, those hours of my childhood dedicated to Legos have absolutely failed me in later life.  So I could easily imagine this project ending with a pile of pages on the floor and me sobbing into them.

So I sat there at my desk staring at the new book.  Do I?  I did.  I took a pair of scissors and detached the cover.  I did lose two maps in this step, as the NA27 has a map inside each cover.  O well.  It’s not like I’m going to drive through 1st Century Palestine and need to compute mileage from Bethpage to Capernaum.

IMG_0088 There you can see the separate core of the pages from their husk.  You can also see a map inside the cover if you look closely.

The next step was to cut off the binding (the brown part on the left of the pages in the photo to the left).  Some use table saws to do this; living in a 1-bedroom apartment means I don’t have one.  I previously learned from Office Depot that their giant paper cutter can handle books up to about 1 1/4″ thick.  The NA27 is fairly thin, so no problem.

This was the next scariest step after that very first one.  I wish I could have done it myself, but my Office Depot in town wasn’t real keen on that.  So the girl behind the counter took my book, with instructions to cut as close the binding as possible (more on that below), and in about 45 seconds I received back a loose-leaf NA27 for a $.75 cutting charge.

IMG_0089 This to my left is the loose-leaf stack.  Obviously in order to make this NT “Blank”, I needed to pick up some blank pages to insert.  For that, a ream of the store-brand copy paper (20 lbs., acid-free) was all I needed.  It only cost $4-something.  Awesome.

We measured the page size of the NT and found it was 7 3/8″ by 5 1/8″.  This means that you can get two blank pages from every piece of normal copy paper.  (Actually, 4 if you’re counting both sides.)  There are about 690-something pages of NT text in the NA27, so that means I would need 345 blank pages.  (I put 2-3 in at the start of every NT book for intro notes as well.)  So I could very easily have asked for half the stack to be cut to match.  But something in my brain wasn’t clicking that I could get 2 per page, and I had them cut the whole thing. O well, 2 bucks.

I assume here that one doesn’t feel the need to “blank” the pages of the German/English introduction and the text notes at the end of the NA-27.  That would obviously require more pages, etc. Even I’m not that big a nerd.

Now for the time-consuming part…collating.  Following Tony Reinke’s advice, I simply made 2 stacks- one with the NA27 pages and one with the blank pages.  Then after putting on a disc of Seinfeld, I went to work, putting a blank page in between each page of the NA27.  These I stacked in the middle.  As I went through, I periodically would hit the middle stack like a deck of cards against the table surface to align the pages on the side where the new binding would go.  This paid off later. I also added in extra pages near the start of each book (3 for larger books, 2 for smaller) as I went.

The great thing about the NT is that while collating feels like it is starting off very slowly, because the Gospels are very long, around Galatians you’re knocking out a book every couple of pages and feeling good.  I originally set a finished stack of the Gospels to the side, as I was hoping for 2 volumes.  Then I finished Acts- Revelation.

So there I had two giant stacks that I could eyeball and tell were over the 1 1/4″ spiral binding limit at Office Depot.  I did measure them just to make sure!  So I was going to need three volumes.  I thought about putting all the text notes and introductory materials into one volume and maybe having two for the NT, but since the critical materials did not have the thicker “Blank” pages in between, their size was not of enough consequence to alleviate the need for 3 NT volumes.  So I went a Matthew-Luke Volume 1, a John- 2 Corinthians Volume 2, and a Galatians-Revelation Volume 3.  Essentially I just had to move John from the end of the first Volume 1 to the other stack.  And then split it in half, which was about Galatians.  And great for me, each of these division points was at a place where the book started a new page in the text.  So no photocopied or orphaned book ending/beginnings!

So now I had this…3 stacks waiting to be bound into 3 volumes.


The final steps in part 3…

The “Blank” Greek New Testament- Part 1

I have to start this blog by giving due credit to those who inspired this project for me.  IMG_0079First, credit would have to go to my lovely wife and our dog, who managed to combine forces a few months ago and spill some liquid drink all over our coffee table, thus turning my beloved Nestle-Aland 27 Greek New Testament into a sticky, warped phantom of its former self.

Second, I have to give huge kudos to Tony Reinke since it was from his blog that I first learned of the “Blank Bible” concept and since he actually provides a step-by-step DIY instruction guide which I largely followed on this project. For those who don’t know, a “Blank Bible” is simply a Bible with a blank page in between the Bible pages for note-taking/journaling.  Jonathan Edwards had a famous one (it’s now at Yale, I believe), and Zondervan actually is now selling a similar product available in NIV/TNIV.

Now to my actual quest…

Hearing about the concept of a “Blank Bible” struck quite a chord with me.  I struggled much with the thought of making one from an English text.  For starters, what translation does one pick for this massive understanding? For serious Bible study, there’s NASB, but the awkward sentence structures honestly makes me want to just read the actual Greek.    There’s NIV, but that’s going to be defunct by 2011 (ditto on the TNIV).  I think the HCSB is actually a pretty good and readable translation, but it also is due for a text update in 2010.  Plus, it’s seems to be having trouble shedding the Hard Core Southern Baptist (HCSB) identity.  And there’s the ESV, which has some awkward spots, but its identity with the Reformed Resurgence provides another sticky spot.  (But the pocket size edition my wife has is pretty cool for carrying around.)  Anything less literal than these versions would defeat the point of a note-taking, Bible-studying Blank Bible.  So I got stuck there.

Besides, I’ve done too much work in Seminary to get myself into the Greek to not stay in it for the rest of my life.  And with the destruction of my old NA27, the path was now open for such a possibility.

Why not just use your computer to read Greek?

I like having an actual copy of the Greek text to underline, highlight, hold in my hands (I don’t drink coffee so I don’t have the built-in IQ boost that one gets holding coffee while reading their laptop.), and of course, having space to write notes.  I also have an issue while using my Accordance software of either a) depending too much on the Instant Details box when I get stuck on a word or b) getting distracted by an email or a sudden thought to check out my RSS subscriptions since I’m on the computer already.  Sometimes this artificial intelligence we have can be death to actual thinking.

So with that, I ordered a new NA27 from Amazon, for the purpose of cutting it apart, inserting blank pages into it, and rebinding.

Part 2 Tomorrow.

Part 3 Here.