Hermeneutics Focus of 2
Hermeneutics Focus of 2nd Quarter Sabbath School Lessons
During the second quarter of 2020, Adventists in Sabbath School classes worldwide will delve into the topic of hermeneutics. Many may not be acquainted with that term, but better understand the phrase “how to interpret Scripture.” Some members may ask why this topic and why now?
“As Adventists, we believe in the Bible as the foundation of our faith. But the Bible needs to be interpreted, and interpreted correctly,” says Clifford Goldstein, editor, Adult Bible Study Guide (ABSG).
In 2014, Dr. Frank M. Hasel and Dr. Michael G. Hasel were approached by the Office of the Adult Bible Study Guide to write the forthcoming manuscript on How to Interpret Scripture. Frank is the Associate Director of the Biblical Research Institute (BRI). Michael is Professor of Religion/Near Eastern Studies and Archaeology at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee; Director, Institute of Archaeology and Curator of the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum.
“Interpreting Scripture is like a watershed,” says Frank. “Many different bodies of water feed into a central waterway. Our life experience shapes how we read the Bible. Depending on where you start leads to where you will end up. Bible students must start with basic trust and use proper principles as they study and interpret Scripture. It’s important to allow Scripture to shape our thoughts and not use our thoughts to shape the meaning of Scripture.”
How do two scholars take a complex subject like hermeneutics and distill it into 13 lessons for a worldwide laity with varying degrees of understanding and education? “It’s exciting that two authors were invited to write on this topic,” says Frank. “My background is in systematic theology, and my cousin Michael’s is in Old Testament, archaeology and history. With this diversity, it allowed us to collaborate using our strengths as we wrote the lessons.”
The practical side of writing a series of lessons meant dividing the weeks up. “We would write our assigned week and then share the lessons with each other for feedback,” says Frank. “Then, we’d each revisit our manuscript to polish and edit.”
Each week’s lesson examines methods of interpretation and practical implications of Scripture. “One week, the focus is on context and how it determines the meaning of the text,” says Frank. “After Judas’ death, when Jesus said, ‘Go, and do likewise,’ He obviously didn’t mean for the reader to follow Judas’ example. Good hermeneutics takes into account the context of a statement. It thus avoids unwarranted conclusions and if it is done properly leads to good theology. Our desire is to point out that good hermeneutics leads to a practical application of the Word of God. When interpreting Scripture, always go from the clear to the less clear. Use the clear to shed light on the less clear.”
As the ABSG editorial committee considered the study topic, their desire is to equip all members with tools that will help grow their faith and understanding of God’s Word.
“Our hope, with this study on hermeneutics, is to give our people some basic principles on how to read and interpret the Bible,” says Goldstein. “With so many winds of doctrine blowing out in the Christian world, and in the church, we need to be firmly grounded on how to read and study the Word of God. It’s our direct purpose and intent that this quarter’s ABSG will help people do just that.”
Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists Becomes Online Resource
A global church project continues to develop under the direction of the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research (ASTR). The vision for the Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists (ESDA) is an estimated 8,000 articles accompanied by photographs, media, and original documents in online portal accessible by anyone. A beta version is available now with the official site set to debut at the 2020 General Conference session.
David Trim, director of ASTR, serves as editor, and Dragoslava Santrac is the managing editor of the church’s first online reference work. The editorial team includes also 53 consultant and assistant editors and research assistants from the 13 world Divisions and Attached Fields and the General Conference. Users will be able to access the continually updated materials about the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, it’s rich history and diversity.
“The goal of each Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists article is to be primary source-based, honest, open, comprehensive, and rigorous, representative of the diversity and richness of Adventism, and fully understandable to both church members and the public,” says Dr. Santrac.
Thousands of Seventh-day Adventists from each of the 13 divisions are voluntarily writing articles on various subjects. These will be peer-reviewed. The articles will include biographies, schools, hospitals, administrative units, ministries, the work in countries, publications, and more. An editorial board of laypersons, world church leader, academics, and scholars review the project regularly to guide the encyclopedia’s production.
ESDA is partnering with other church entities to enrich the user experience, including Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, Adventist Digital Library, Center for Adventist Research, the General Conference Biblical Research Institute, Centro Historico Adventista, Centro White - UNASP, Friedensau University, and Department of History and Political Science at Oakwood University.
Shorter versions of the ESDA articles are published in the ASTR newsletter (to subscribe to the ASTR newsletter, please write to [email protected]). Historical nuggets from the ESDA articles are shared on Twitter @EncyclopediaSDA and the ASTR Facebook page.
The ESDA editorial team invites Adventist Theological Society members to contribute articles to the encyclopedia. For more information, please write to [email protected].
Several Adventist Theological Society members are contributing to the ESDA project. They include:
- History of Theology and Ethics – Frank Hasel and Denis Kaiser
- Inter-American Division (Spanish-speaking) – Felix Cortez
- Ellen G. White Estate – Alberto Timm
- Ellen G. White Estate – Jim Nix
- Biblical Research Institute - Ekkehardt Mueller
Perspective Digest Celebrates 25 Years
In 1994, a new Adventist print magazine made its debut. The Adventist Theological Society had long published the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society (JATS). Under the editorial guidance of Roland Hegstad, Perspective Digest was launched to provide a laity-oriented theological magazine. “The ATS leadership desired to provide an instrument to share the content of JATS in a more readable format for informed laity,” says Gary Swanson, current Perspective Digest editor.
The magazine was available by subscription in print from 1996 until 2010. With the growth of online accessibility, the Digest transitioned to a web-based publication with free access to any reader.
Since its inception, Harry Knox has served as the graphic designer of the magazine. “When the magazine was launched, I had already worked with Hegstad on Liberty magazine. He asked me to fill the same role for the digest,” says Knox. “Through the years, the articles have been very educational to me and helped enlighten me in many areas.”
In 2005, Hegstad retired, and the ATS board approached Gary Swanson to assume the editorial reins. “I hadn’t heard of Perspective Digest before,” admits Swanson, “but the mission of the magazine resonated with me.”
In his 2005 inaugural editorial Swanson reflected on the authors who share their work and which is subsequently featured. “The writers for this publication are drawn from the best of academia. They have gone through rigorous training,” wrote Swanson. “They are the all-stars of religious thought, and somehow it is my task to present their spiritual leadership to the rest of us in a way that we’ll be able to understand—and apply to our everyday lives.” Those words still apply today.
“As I begin work on each issue, I choose four to five articles from the most recent edition of JATS,” says Swanson. “I’ll also include two to three articles from other Adventist periodicals.”
This list is then shared with the Digest's three associate editors, who prioritize the list according to importance and timeliness. Swanson then selects four articles and three columns or editorials which are written from a more informal slant. “The columns and editorials tend to be more informal and carry a devotional tone,” says Swanson.
Once articles are chosen, Swanson shares them with Knox. “I read the articles to get the gist of what is being said,” says Knox. “Then, I begin formulating illustration concepts for each article.”
Readership of the Digest is growing. “Our readership is divided almost 50-50 between the United States and the rest of the world,” says Swanson. "In 2019, we experienced 85 percent growth in new visitors accessing materials on the site.” At the end of 2019, the Perspective Digest website had 37 online issues available. Readership included an average of 1,060 visits a month, with 48 percent accessing on mobile devices or tablets.
“Articles featuring a theme on Creation have been the most frequently accessed,” says Swanson. “I believe this suggests how essential Creation is to other issues such as the Sabbath, salvation, the nature of God, and more. Many of these articles deal with the finer issues of theology that come from the root of Creation.”
As editor, Swanson looks to the future of what readers can expect from Perspective Digest. Referring again to his first editorial, Swanson wrote, “Perspective Digest boasts a distinguished past and a worthy objective: to present the ideas explored in current theological research in a fresh, complete way to those of us immersed in a too-often hostile culture. It is my personal hope that our readers will come to count on Perspective Digest to address the non- and anti-biblical ideas expressed explicitly and implicitly in today’s society.”
Today’s culture is growing more hostile than it was when those words were published 15 years ago. As Perspective Digest celebrates 25 years, it’s mission and relevance continue to be a voice that sounds clear and firm.
2020 General Conference Session
Several ATS members are slated to be featured speakers at the 2020 General Conference Session in Indianapolis, Indiana. These include Randall Younker, Michael Hasel, Felix Cortez-Valles, and Ronald Nalin. More information about their topics will be featured in the next ATS newsletter.
New Books and Articles
Recent books and articles published by ATS authors include:
• How to Interpret Scripture – Co-authors Dr. Frank Hasel and Dr. Michael Hasel examine the origin of the Bible, explores why it is the source of our theology, evaluates the influence of biblical languages, investigates prophecy, and so much more.
Although written as a companion book to the Adult Bible Study Guide lessons for second quarter 2020, this manuscript provides additional information and can be read as a stand-alone resource on biblical interpretation. It is available from local Adventist Book Centers
• In his Adventist World article “1888 and the Matchless Charms of Christ” Denis Kaiser briefly reviews events that led to 1888 General Conference Session and the righteousness by faith debate. He examines how it’s possible to become “unable to think outside the parameters that someone has laid down at the beginning of a discussion.” https://www.adventistworld.org/december-2019/
• Listen to the Word – In the January 2020 issue of the Adventist Review, Gerhard Pfandal provides a succinct overview of ancient Bible versions, translation of the Scriptures from the original languages into English and the aggregate 3, 384 other languages. He also provides a helpful list of the types of translations and how to choose a version based on what type of study the reader is undertaking. https://www.adventistreview.org/2001-40
• A Brief History of God’s Love – In his latest manuscript, Jack Blanco, former ATS president uses easy-to-read chapters to present an overview of the Conflict of the Ages series by Ellen G. White. For the busy reader, this series provides a synopsis of everything from the war in Heaven to the Creation week, through the world’s history as a part of the spiritual warfare, and the final fulfillment of promised redemption.
• Pacific Press to Release Living for God: Reclaiming the Joy of Christian Virtue – A new book by ATS scholar Frank M. Hasel explores the ideas of applying simple biblical virtues in daily life. He He explores the beauty of virtues such as gratitude, courage, patience, humility, contentment and more and invites the reader to follow Jesus, the most virtuous person to ever live, and to follow His example of love.
Middle East University Celebrates 80 Years
With 80 years of history, the story of Middle Eat University (MEU) continues to be one that reflects the theme of a recent celebration on the campus: We Walk by Faith. In spite of war, political unrest, and economic uncertainties, the university continues its mission. Current MEU president Larry Lichtenwalter, an ATS board member and former ATS president, believes the vision early pioneers had for the region and the dependence on the Holy Spirit’s leading are just as essential today for the region.
Call for Papers
The notice for the ATS call for papers for the 2020 annual conference was published in January. The proposal deadline is Friday, April 10, 2020. The overall theme will focus on Christianity and Islam. For more information, contact Rahel Wells, [email protected].
Hope Channel Features The Dig with Art Chadwick
Go on a month-long dinosaur dig in Wyoming with Art Chadwick in Hope Channel’s mini-documentary series, The Dig. This real-life story examines the passing of the baton from a learned geologist to a young scientist. Viewers learn about cutting-edge research, how data can speak for itself, and the challenges scientists face as they seek to uncover hidden answers.
For viewers who want to dig deeper, a 12-part lecture series by Chadwick is also available. Topics ranging from dinosaur body types to the philosophical importance of good science.
All episodes will be available to watch on demand using the Hope Channel app. It’s also available online at https://www.hopetv.org/thedig/.