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Posts Tagged ‘Tremper Longman’


Over the last year or so I’ve read a number of commentaries on The Song of Songs. Some of them have been good, and helpful (Gledhill & Longman), and some were not so helpful.

Like Revelation (no “s” at the end) it is very difficult to interpret with the underlying principle making a huge difference. Various commentaries view the Song as a drama (literal interpretation), an allegory, and a collection of love poems seemingly w/out structure.

Tyndale is updating their OT commentary series. This includes presentation or format (context, comment & meaning). I’m not sure I want to see some of those volumes replaced. In the case of the Song of Songs, they just released a new version by Iain Duguid. Based on his previous work, I knew I should get this and read it before teaching the Song in SS this year.

I have one complaint: it is way too short. Of course it is a Tyndale commentary so it will leave you wanting more. Thankfully an expositional commentary by Dr. Duguid will be forthcoming.

I don’t usually enjoy introductions for commentaries. I enjoyed this one, and found it quite helpful. Duguid approaches the song as wisdom literature. This is slightly more complex than it sounds. Throughout the book he notes words and concepts the Song has in common with Proverbs. Part of its message is a contrast with Solomon’s view of love and marriage (hundreds of wives and concubines). He often notes particular poems, but seems to also see them telling a story instead of disconnected poems. In the meaning section he ties it in to our relationship with Christ. He doesn’t do this in allegorical fashion, but by remembering that earthly marriage is intended to point us to Christ and the Church (Eph. 5). Allegory skips over the earthly marriage part.

There were some very helpful comparisons and contrasts. He reveals some of the parallels within the book: thematic and structural.

In the introduction he notes that at times one’s interpretation says more about you than the text. This is in reference to the sexual imagery. Some commentators see nearly everything as a sexual euphemism. Duguid is a bit more reserved. While not denying sexual imagery, he doesn’t find it everywhere like, say, Longman.

This was a very helpful little volume. It is able to be read quickly due to its size. It is hard to find that balance between detailed enough to be very helpful and so detailed it becomes laborious to use. While at times I wished for more, I was not so inundated with data and ideas that I felt lost. I shall now have to go back over my curriculum and update it, possibly changing some of my conclusions. No study of The Song of Songs can be complete without this great little volume. In this case updating the TOTC was a wise choice.

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God Loves Sex, now that is a book title! Sadly that is a concept that is foreign to so many Christians. It is easy to get that idea if you do a selective reading of the Bible. It is easy to find all the “do not’s” and get the idea that God doesn’t really like sex and views it only as a means to a procreative end. This kind of view has led many to take an allegorical approach to The Song of Songs, a book in the Bible which I believe exalts the beauty (and frustration) of a redeemed marital sexuality.

It has been a number of years since Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III have collaborated on a book together. It has been a very beneficial collaboration, in my mind. This particular collaboration is highly dependent on Longman’s commentary on The Song. I recently read that commentary to prepare for a Sunday School series on the Song. I’m grateful that this book was released in time for me to read it as well.

This is not an academic look at The Song. While it is dependent on Longman’s commentary it is not a commentary. Allender’s contribution is seen in the subtitle: An Honest Conversation About Sexual Desire and Holiness. It is written to the heart too, inviting us to ponder our sexuality and its expression in our lives.

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I’ve decided to commit career suicide. Okay, that is a bit extreme. I’ve done a SS class on Revelation. There are just some books of the Bible that should be tackled in a Sunday School setting instead of a sermon series. I couldn’t imagine preaching on Revelation. There are some parts that I haven’t settled on in terms of their original meaning. A Sunday School course allows you to offer up various viewpoints and not necessarily commit to one. I did approach the course with a mix of partial preterism and idealism. I think both are far more helpful than the historicist and futurist views. But some passages just seem to defy all categories.

The Song of Songs is another one of those books that is best done in such a setting but for different reasons. The content is more appropriate for an adult audience. I’m amazed at how anachronistic some approaches to the book are. They despise a more literal approach. I think the book is a series of love poems (not a sex manual or relationship guide). They do have a typological function pointing us to our relationship with Christ, but we must be careful not to eroticize that. It does have plenty of references to sexual activities in veiled fashion. As a part of the canon, it points us to a redeemed, or holy, sexuality. Much of the Scriptures offer warnings about our disordered sexuality. This is largely a re-ordered sexuality. Not perfectly though.

Here is what I’m using:

Song of Songs by Tremper Longman III in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series. This is rated as one of the top commentaries by Keith Mathison and Tim Challies. The opening chapter, which focuses on a history of interpretation, is very helpful in setting the stage for the study.

The Message of the Song of Songs by Tom Gledhill in the Bible Speaks Today series. It also appears on Challies’ and Mathison’s lists. I wasn’t too impressed with the chapter covering introductory matters. It did make some good points about the danger of removing the veil so to speak. People will have to be careful with what they learn and hear lest they plunge themselves into sexual sin by obsessing on something. This is something Mark Driscoll should have paid attention to.

Song of Songs by Dennis Kinlaw in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. I bought the volume for the commentaries on Psalms and Proverbs by VanGemeren and Ross respectively. I have yet to begin reading this. I’d better get on that!

Solomon on Sex by Joseph Dillow. Yes, the Song is not a sex manual but there may be some helpful material in there. I know I liked during my counseling coursework. It has been hidden in notebooks for years and has finally been unearthed. This is out of print and difficult to find. We purchased a photocopied version for our coursework.

Communion with God by John Owen. I read this years ago and remember that he refers to the Song quite a bit. It is not a commentary on the Song. I’ll pretend it functions typologically for my purposes.

Discovering Christ in the Song of Solomon by Don Fortner. Don and I will not agree on much. He uses an allegorical interpretive method, making it about Christ and the Church directly. There is no “original meaning” and then seeing it through the lens of Christ. He jumps right to Jesus. I can tell there is much that is true, but that is not what the text (in my opinion) is saying. There are some statements that I would deem dangerous or controversial. For instance, he takes her statement “I am black and comely” to mean she is both sinner and saint. I find equating black with sin to be troubling. I don’t recall any other portion of Scripture doing this.

Perhaps I’ll be back to update this when I’m done. I can only read so many books to prepare for the lessons without driving myself insane. I read far too many on Revelation (lesson learned!).

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I should stop reading blogs. But then I’d have less to say on this blog. Then again, who cares what I say.

Yes, I’m in a cranky mood. There are reasons, but not ones I want to share.

Will we fall for a lie too?

A number of people are of the distinct impression that the PCA should have issued a statement denying theistic evolution, or affirming the reality of Adam and Eve as special creations of God in His image. They believe the only way to confront the increasing popularity of this sub-biblical, and gospel-destroying view point is to issue a statement, hang a sign saying “not welcome”. There are some in the PCA who think this, and some outside the PCA who think this. I’ve even heard of a family that left the PCA because we didn’t make this statement.

As a member of the court who voted in the majority, I guess I take this a little too personally. I am not sure why this bothers me so much. Perhaps it goes back to why I’ve generally been in cranky lately. But there is the implication that either I don’t understand the gravity of the problem or don’t care about the problem. There is somehow the suspicion on the part of some that the PCA is moving closer to apostasy because we didn’t do something.

But we did. It is easy to look at the ruling, but not think of why people ruled. Some critics have stated why some of us voted the way we did- but still aren’t happy.

I get the seriousness of the issue. The issue of evolution was instrumental in my conversion. I am a young earth, 6 day creationist. I know this makes me a small-minded, caveman in the minds of some people. But I recognize that God’s Word is perfect (though our interpretations are anything but), and that science is not perfect. What they say today is not carved in stone because they always come up with new data, new methods of collecting data and new interpretations of data. It is foolish to think that the majority view of science supercedes Scripture. How’s that Ice Age predicted in the 70’s working?

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She was a heartbreaker- maybe it was the tight clothing.

I was heading to the Men’s Study this morning when I had to stop the seek feature for some Pat Benatar. The lyrics remind me of our plight as fallen people.

Your love has set my soul on fire, burnin’ out of control
You taught me the ways of desire, now it’s takin’ its toll
You’re the right kind of sinner, to release my inner fantasy

That sets us up for what I hope is the final post on sexual chaos, working thru a redeemed sexuality in the midst of sexual chaos. Since my last post I remembered another story of how not to do this. I was working at Ligonier when I had a call. I’m not sure what prompted the call, I can’t see R.C. Sproul having mentioned this, but this older woman told me that oral sex was wrong “because that’s what homosexuals do.” I responded with “they also kiss, hug and hold hands; does that mean we can’t do any of them either?” With that, let’s try to sort all of this out.

1. Consensual- redeemed sex is consensual. It is wrong to force your spouse into any sexual activity whether proper or improper. Consent is necessary, but insufficient for determining the appropriateness of a practice for a Christian. As I mentioned before, this seems to be the only criteria you find in many of the Christian sex blogs. It is a starting point, but not the whole canoli.

18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19  a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Proverbs 5

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Being in the early chapters of Genesis, I’m covering the topic of marriage as instituted by God.  One of the things that stands out to me is that marriage is a means (so to speak) of mission.  As a metaphor of Christ’s relationship with His people, we see the reality of mission.  Jesus has a goal for his people- he redeems them and makes them holy.

In Genesis 2 we see it was not good for the man to be alone.  Why?  It is not just about companionship.  He can’t fulfill God’s mission alone.  All the other biblical  reasons for marriage are tied together with mission.  Apart from mission, they become self-serving.

Apart from mission, companionship becomes idolatry.  It is ingrown.  And once you get bored … you look for a new companion.

Apart from mission, sex becomes self-centered, and idolatrous.  Once the sex stops, or gets boring (which is what happens when it is just about sex), you look for a new sexual partner.

Apart from mission, having children is selfish.  It is more about your need to have kids, and have them “succeed” than it is about raising kids to build the kingdom.

Apart from mission, financial stability also becomes idolatrous.  If someone can no longer provide for you, you look for another money maker.

Here are some very good books that I recommend about marriage.

  • When Sinners Say “I Do” by Dave Harvey.  This is one of my favorite books because it is so humbling.  Harvey keeps the gospel central in marriage.  This is important because every marriage includes 2 sinners.  Most of our problems in marriage are really rooted in our sinfulness.  Communication skills, while helpful, don’t get to the root of the problem.  I requires the application of the gospel.
  • Intimate Allies by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman.  There is so much to appreciate about this book.  I’m not wild about the discussion about “mutual submission”.  That seems to depart from the biblical emphasis in Ephesians 5.  But I love their emphasis on enhancing the other’s dignity and restraining their dignity.  THAT is a clearly biblical emphasis when looking at marriage. They broke this down into  the Intimate Marriage series available on DVD, workbooks and leader’s guide.
  • Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  The subtitle says it all, what if God wants to make us holy more than to make us happy.  He’s focusing on part of Paul’s discussion of marriage in Ephesians 5.
  • Redeeming Marriage by Douglas Wilson.  I read this when I appreciated Doug Wilson more than I do now.  But this is still a good book.  It is short and to the point.
  • What Did You Expect?  Redeeming the Realities of Marriage by Paul David Tripp.  I haven’t read or watched this, but I want to.  I find great benefit in nearly everything he writes.  The DVD was released first, and then it was released in book form.
  • Another book I have yet to read, but hope to is John Piper’s This Momentary Marriage: a Parable of Permanence.  I wish I had read it in preparation for my work on Genesis 2 & Ephesians 5.

I know there are some other good books.  But these are the ones the Cavman recommends.  They will help you develop a biblical understanding of  marriage.  May the Spirit work to make us an accurate picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

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I’m currently working on a sermon on idolatry.  Since I was addressing the topic in my recent sermon on Jonah 2, I thought that would be an ‘easy’ sermon to put together as I prepare for my trip to Arizona for my examination before Presbytery.

David Powlison has some good material on the subject.  His article Idols of the Heart and “Vanity Fair” seeks to connect counseling with this biblical pre-occupation.  He touches on my sermon text, the seemingly odd 1 John 5:21.  Idols are sinful substitutes for fellowship with the living God, which takes up most of John’s letter.

There is also Tim Keller’s excellent new book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters.  He is like a gentle physician seeking to make you well.  He’s kind to you as he tried to cut out your spiritual cancer.

Hidden in my boxes of books (one of my idols at times) I’ve got some good resources.  One is Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone.  She relies on the Puritans as she navigates the dark places of our hearts, and shed light on them.  It is a discomforting book precisely because our hearts are “factories of idols” (Calvin).

Also locked away is an older book by Dan Allender and Tremper Longman III which has been re-released as Breaking the Idols of Your Heart: How to Navigate the Temptations of Your Heart.  They work their way through Ecclesiastes to show how idols operate in our lives.

At some point I’d like to pick up G.K. Beale’s We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry.  Perhaps a bit more academic, but a thorough treatment of idolatry in Scripture.

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