Tuesday, August 2, 2016

a textbook that inspires

I'm working on a really fun assignment this week. About 6 weeks ago, Zondervan Publishers asked me to help them develop instructional resources for a textbook by one of my mentors, Karen Jobes, on Hebrews and the General Epistles (James through Jude). What I'm writing won't come out in print, but it will be made available digitally to professors who adopt this textbook for their New Testament courses. I'm writing chapter summaries, collecting key words, coming up with quiz questions, and developing basic PowerPoint slides for classroom use. I've used Zondervan's instructional resources like this for the classes I've taught, and believe me -- they are a blessing!

The BEST part is that I'm getting paid to learn.

Last week I was introduced to a new couple, and when they found out I was a Bible scholar, they popped their current nagging question, "So who wrote Hebrews?" It just so happened that I had worked through Dr. Jobes' chapter on the authorship of Hebrews the previous day, so I had an answer ready. Gaining knowledge is one benefit of this kind of study. (By the way, if you want to know the answer you'll have to read the book for yourself!)

But what strikes me most about this textbook is the depth of wisdom it offers for the Christian life. Dr. Jobes' writing is clear and compelling. Her theological insights are profound. Here are a few of my favorite gems from the chapters on Hebrews:
"Death is not a punishment; it is the inevitable consequence of turning away from the source of life, which is God himself." (119) 
"[Sabbath rest] is not an invitation to idleness, spiritual or otherwise. Rather, it is a place of being where the normal routines of a right relationship with God can be established and enjoyed, because Christ has resolved the crisis of humanity's separation from God and an eternal stability has been achieved." (131)
"Anyone worried about committing the unforgivable sin or becoming apostate hasn't done so. Apostates are by definition hardened to God and arrogant toward what he has said by the Son." (141)
"The reason the unforgivable sin is unforgivable is that by rejecting the work of Christ as something other than the gracious work of God, one cuts oneself off from the only means of forgiveness and the only salvation that God offers. It is, therefore, the only sin that cannot be forgiven." (140) 
"To stay in a spiritually immature state under the delusion that it is okay to sin is like walking backward in the dark toward the cliff of apostasy." (141) 
Dr. Jobes also has great sections on the cultural and Scriptural background for understanding Jesus' role as the Son of God, on what it means in a Roman context to be an "heir," on the reasons that Jesus supersedes the Old Testament, and on the meaning of "perfection" in the book.

If you're a layperson who is motivated to understand the New Testament more deeply, you could profitably work your way through this book on your own. It's filled with helpful pictures, charts, and a glossary that will guide you. If you're a professor who will be teaching on this part of the Bible, don't miss this great resource!

p.s. In case you're wondering, Zondervan didn't ask me to write this. I simply felt that this resource was too good to keep to myself!

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