Happy Birthday

Another example of ‘gospel’ language in the Greco-Roman environment is the inscription found at Priene (ca. 9 BC) about Augustus:

It seemed good to the Greeks of Asia, in the opinion of the high priest Apollonius of Menophilus Azanitus: “Since Providence, which has ordered all things and is deeply interested in our life, has set in most perfect order by giving us Augustus, whom she filled with virtue that he might benefit humankind, sending him as a savior [σωτήρ], both for us and for our descendants, that he might end war [= ποιῇ εἰρήνην] and arrange all things, and since he, Caesar, by his appearance [ἐπιφανεῖν] (excelled even our anticipations), surpassing all previous benefactors, and not even leaving to posterity any hope of surpassing what he has done, and since the birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the good tidings for the world that came by reason of him [ἦρξεν δὲ τῷ κόσμῳ τῶν δἰ αὐτὸν εὐαγγελίων ἡ γενέθλιος τοῦ θεοῦ],” which Asia resolved in Smyrna (text and translation cited from Evans 2–3).

The ‘gospel’ of Caesar from Priene is then that: (1) he splendidly brought salvation by ending war, and (2) he acted in such a way that all subsequent generations will look back at him in awe. Particularly during Augustus’s reign, the Roman military established pax et securitas (peace and security) through its various exploits (see Harrison 87; Horsley 30–31; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 7.245, 11.65). Quite naturally, therefore, as the ultimate head of the Roman military, the emperor, was eventually credited with these achievements (e.g., Josephus, Jewish Wars 3.143, 3.503, 4.656; cf. Friedrich, “εὐαγγελίζομαι, εὐαγγέλιον, κτλ” 722), and his birthday was celebrated as the first day of the life that brought these things.


In this post:

Flavius Josephus
Flavius Josephus
Gerhard Kittel
Gerhard Kittel

SBL Greek Font

The Greek font that the Society of Biblical Literature has been developing is now complete and available for download.
sbl-greekDownloading and usage are free for non-commercial projects, but the font itself is not open-source. A list of open-source Greek fonts is available, however, as well as instructions for installing and using any of these unicode fonts under Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu.

For assistance with the SBL Greek and Hebrew fonts, you can also check the SBL font forum or email font support.

Good News . . . for Whom?

First century Christians were not unique in their use of ‘gospel’ language. In fact, this word group (which exhibits the εὐαγγελι- stem in Greek) actually comes into several connections in ancient literature. For instance, in his Jewish Wars, Josephus records the following:

So the men of power, perceiving that the sedition was too hard for them to subdue, and that the danger which would arise from the Romans would come upon them first of all, endeavored to save themselves, and sent ambassadors; some to Florus, the chief of whom was Simon the son of Ananias; and others to Agrippa, among whom the most eminent were Saul, and Antipas, and Costobarus, who were of the king’s kindred; and they desired of them both that they would come with an army to the city and cut off the sedition before it should be too hard to be subdued. Now this terrible message was good news [εὐαγγέλιον] to Florus; and because his design was to have a war kindled, he gave the ambassadors no answer at all (Josephus, Jewish Wars 2.418–20).

This ‘good news’ was actually only ‘good’ for Florus. The emissaries and those who sent them would have had, to say the least, quite a different perspective on the matter. This usage, consequently, highlights a very general application of ‘gospel’ language to something with which someone happens to be pleased, irrespective of what other people’s assessments might be.


In this post:

Flavius Josephus
Flavius Josephus

New Testament Greek Resources

A new page is now available that will eventually house several resources for learning New Testament Greek. Currently, the page features MP3 audio recordings of the basic verb and noun paradigms as well as some songs that have been translated into Greek. Repeatedly hearing these paradigms and the songs in which they are used can provide one more way of cementing New Testament Greek in memory.

Right now, the Greek resources page basically reflects my old faculty page at Faulkner University, but expect more material to become available and a more friendly organization to develop over the coming weeks.

Bavinck on the “Divine and Human” in Scripture

Asking whether the New Testament specifically or the biblical literature generally has a divine or human origin and a divine or human nature imports a dichotomy that literature itself does not reflect. From this literature’s own perspective, the literature is not viewed as always either human or divine in origin and nature, nor is it sometimes human in origin and nature and sometimes divine. Rather, this literature and several significant figures in early Christianity represent the biblical literature as having both a human and a divine origin simultaneously (see 1 Tim 5:18; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21; 3:15–16; Ferguson 2:5–6).

Herman Bavinck 1:434–35, further reflects on this intermixture of origins and natures within the biblical literature, saying:

The theory of organic inspiration alone does justice to Scripture. In the doctrine of Scripture, it is the working out and application of the central fact of revelation: the incarnation of the Word. The Word (Λογος) has become flesh (σαρξ), and the word has become Scripture; these two facts do not only run parallel but are most intimately connected. Christ became flesh, a servant, without form or comeliness, the most despised of human beings; he descended to the nethermost parts of the earth and became obedient even to the death of the cross. So also the word, the revelation of God, entered the world of creatureliness, the life and history of humanity, in all the human forms of dream and vision, of investigation and reflection, right down to that which is humanly weak and despised and ignoble. The word became Scripture and as Scripture subjected itself to the fate of all Scripture. All this took place that the excellency of the power, also of the power of Scripture, may be God’s and not ours. Just as every human thought and action is the fruit of the action of God in whom we live and move and have our being, and is at the same time the fruit of the activity of human beings, so also Scripture is totally the product of the Spirit of God, who speaks through the prophets and apostles, and at the same time totally the product of the activity of the authors. “Everything is divine and everything is human” (Θεια παντα και ἀνθρωπινα παντα).

An incarnational model, such as the one Bavinck employs, has received some attention in the past few years, and some problems with it have been noted (e.g., Beale 298–301; for an alternative model, see Sparks 229–59). Nevertheless, with this model, Bavinck does find a way to hold together two principles in the biblical literature that may often be set against one another but which the biblical literature itself does not hold in such opposition: scripture’s divine and human aspects.


Herman Bavinck
Herman Bavinck
Everett Ferguson
Everett Ferguson
Kenton Sparks
Kenton Sparks