Category Archives: General

Quantifying the Task of Learning Greek

Inspired by the folks over at FiveThirtyEight to apply quantitative analysis to everything in life, I thought I’d take a look at the statistics for acquiring Greek vocabulary for the study of the New Testament.

Every introductory Greek class presents statistics about the vocabulary distribution and why we focus on high frequency words (and what that gets us). But I haven’t ever seen it presented in quite this fashion in order to quantify the challenges of acquiring NT Greek, but also some sources of hope for the task.

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NIV 50th Anniversary and Translation Strategy

Tonight at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Zondervan sponsored a dinner celebrating the 50th anniversary of the NIV translation. It was a well-done event with videos featuring members of the Committee on Bible Translation, a great meal, a touching tribute to Doug Moo (the current chairman), and a delightful gift of a leatherbound NIV for all attendees.

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Theological German and French: A Starter Kit

“Why do you have to learn German and French?”

I’ve been asked this question numerous times by family members and friends. I’ve asked myself this question numerous times myself.

But for most PhD students in the humanities, including biblical studies, acquiring some decent level of competency in both German and French is a requirement. The simple reason is that we are required to become subject matter experts in our fields, and there are a lot of scholars in said fields who do not publish in English. While classic works are often translated, very few modern books or journal articles in German or French are ever translated due to the cost and time. Hence, to be fully conversant in one’s field, you have to be able to read those materials in the native language, for there’s no other option.

Many American students, however, learn at most one additional language in grade school, and these days that is most often Spanish, for obvious cultural reasons. A decent number may break the mold to take French instead, but very few even have the opportunity to learn German unless they are at a particularly well-resourced high school.

So the reality for many of us is that we’re stuck trying to learn French and German as grown-ups with tired, over taxed brains. And it is truly hard to teach old dogs new tricks. But we have to learn them nonetheless.

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Two Kids and this Thing Called the Tour de France

Today Cambridge played host to Stage 3 of the Tour de France. The entire city was pretty much shut down other than pubs and Starbucks. It was a gloriously sunny day, so my wife and I decided to join about a million other people to cram the streets and watch the riders go by.

Our original plan was simply to attend the morning festivities, and then I would fly solo to leverage my height (and street smarts, and brute strength) to find my way to the race course to see the riders. But once we were there, we just tried to make a go of it with our 4 year old and 2 year old. They actually handled the crowds quite well. (The crowds, on the other hand, did not much appreciate our double-wide B.O.B. stroller).

We arrived for the morning festivities at Parker’s Piece, where the race officially began. There was a huge LCD that didn’t actually show anything useful and several vendors of food, etc. It was neat to see all the riding groups from around the city out in full force in their club uniforms.

Aspiring Tour riders. This must have been one of the most exciting days they’ve ever had.

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Moving to the UK … and What to Do When You’re There (Cambridge Version)

This summer not a few people from the US will pack up crates and move to the UK. It’s an experience that is both terrifying and exciting all at once. It is also a logistical nightmare (or wonderful problem to solve, depending on your perspective).

My wife and I were blessed to have a few contacts “on the ground” here who helped answer a lot of our questions before we moved, and we have learned a ton since we arrived as well. We thought it would be helpful to future pilgrims to document what we learned.

I have written several posts about getting to the UK, and Kate has written several about what to do when you are here (specifically focused on Cambridge, but the basic principles are the same elsewhere). I thought it would be beneficial to do a quick summary with links to each of those posts.

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Kibera: There Was Only a Door

Recent activities among radical Islamic groups in Iraq, Nigeria, and other places have spilled into Kenya (once again). This got me thinking about my time in Kenya in 2005 and 2011, which is documented in my Projects section. I thought I might re-post something I wrote a decade ago about my experience in Kibera, which is the large slum (or informal settlement, as the Kenyan government officially likes to call it) outside Nairobi.

I wrote this piece while sitting in a hostel in Johannesburg on my way back to the States after my first trip to Kibera. The Oscars were on in the background.

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“So You Want to Get Married?” Brief Thoughts on Pre-Marital Counseling

In honor of the fact that today is our 8th wedding anniversary—and in honor of the woman to whom I have been delightfully attached for over 12 years—I wanted to do a quick post following up on recent pre-marital counseling sessions we did together.

We had the opportunity to meet with a young couple to talk about marriage before they tie the knot in June. It was our first time doing it, and it was a tremendous blessing both to get to know them and to think about our own marriage through the process.

As we didn’t necessarily expect to be doing this while here in Cambridge, all our marriage books (and our own pre-marital counseling notebook) were left in storage in the States. So we had to put together something ourselves.  While what we came up with is far from perfect, we found it worked well and was simple enough to serve as a framework to build upon, depending on the amount of time one might have with any given couple.

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Oxbridge Biblical Studies Conference 2014

Each year the Old Testament and New Testament graduate students at Oxford University and Cambridge University gather together in May for a student-led conference. The location of the event alternates each year between the two institutions, and this year the academic throw-down will be hosted by Oxford and take place at Keble College.

This conference is a fantastic opportunity for students to present some aspect of their research to receive feedback from peers. It is often difficult as a student to get a slot to present something at a bigger conference, where the “pros” play. So this conference fills a void whereby we can learn from one another and gain experience in the important skill of “giving papers,” which is a key part of any academic researcher’s job description.

The lineup for this year’s event is as follows. The program flyer can be downloaded for more details.

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New Sermon: Mark 8:11–21

Earlier today I had the opportunity to preach at Christ Church Cambridge, where we currently attend during our Cambridge sojourn. We have found a most welcoming home at Christ Church. The philosophy of the church and, in particular, the two ministers, is to foster and encourage the pastoral development of those in the flock who (like me) are pursuing a long-term calling to the ministry. So I was humbled and delighted to be extended the opportunity to preach, given that an expatriate with a Southern accent and a desire to keep serving in some way while abroad cannot necessary presume such chances will automatically be there. So I’m quite grateful, and I hope to be able to do so again.

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Grief Without a Label

In the span of a little over a year, three friends of mine on both sides of the Atlantic have mourned the death of their infants either just before birth or just after. Late yesterday I learned that the son of one of my friends lived from 10:08am to 10:28am that morning, after which his young but eternal spirit entered the presence of his Creator to await a glorious resurrection, when the phrase “chromosomal abnormality” will have been conquered.

Words cannot adequately give voice to their grief—the silence of phantom cries, which should be there but aren’t, is too loud. Tears cannot adequately capture our own suffering with them—for though we can help bear the burden, we cannot take it away.

Few funerals have been harder for me than seeing a classmate bravely and brokenly deliver a eulogy for his son who died after only one 24-hr period of life. Few videos cause more tears than watching another friend hold his 3-yr old daughter’s hand as they delicately placed flowers on her deceased sister’s fresh grave.

Few things are more difficult than knowing what to say to a friend who has entered into such a period of suffering.

And, oddly, there isn’t even a set way to refer to such a person. A child whose parent(s) have died is called an orphan. An adult who has lost a spouse is called a widow/widower.

But there is no label for this kind of grief. Parents who have lost a child far too early. Families with a gaping hole torn into the family portrait that is invisible to everyone but those who still remember. Brothers and sisters with a sibling they will only know from vaguely recollected, tear-stained stories.

We all know that, should the Lord tarry, our children will ultimately die. But some parents are prematurely bereaved.

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