Zwinglius Redivivus

οὐαὶ ὅταν καλῶς εἴπωσιν ὑμᾶς πάντες οἱ ἄνθρωποι· – Jesus

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Textual Criticism Fun

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Written by Jim

July 16, 2014 at 18:32


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9783290177140The lovely folk at Theologischer Verlag Zurich have just published a new commentary on Qoheleth, by the excellent Annette Schellenberg:

Das biblische Buch Kohelet (oder «Prediger») übt seit jeher eine spezielle Faszination aus. Annette Schellenberg bietet einen Überblick über die Hauptthemen von Kohelets Theologie und zeigt die traditionsgeschichtlichen Zusammenhänge mit anderen Schriften aus dem Alten Testament und seiner Umwelt auf. Im anschliessenden Kommentarteil arbeitet sie heraus, von welchen Erfahrungen Kohelets Reflexionen ausgelöst sind: Weisheit führt nicht zwingend zu Erfolg, Gerechtigkeit setzt sich nicht immer durch, der Tod trifft alle gleichermassen. Dies zeigt, dass die Lehren der klassischen Weisheit zu kurz greifen, und entsprechend klingt manches im Koheletbuch pessimistisch. Doch dabei belässt Kohelet es nicht. Er nimmt die Dissonanzen zwischen der Erfahrung und den klassischen Lehren der Weisheit zum Anlass, um vertieft über Gott, den Menschen und die Welt nachzudenken. Diese Reflexionen führen ihn zu einer Lebensphilosophie, die alles andere als pessimistisch ist.

Schallenberg asserts in the very first sentence that her reading and interpretation of the book is not from the standpoint of a neutral exegete but rather that of a person who loves this book. That love shows on every page, from the foreword through the last word.  What Schellenberg provides, then, is the finest commentary on Qoheleth that has been written in half a century (and longer, truth be told).  She loves the book and as a consequence her exposition is thorough and exact and shows a grasp of the author(s) intention(s) in a way that the cold and calculating commentary written at arms length cannot.

What this suggests, then, is that the best commentaries are written by people who actually love and respect the books upon which they comment.  Schellenberg is not merely appreciative of the author’s work but understands it precisely because she appreciates it.  Sympathetic readers make the best exegetes.  There’s a lesson to be learned here.  And it’s just the first of many which readers of the volume will encounter.

Before, however, I discuss this particular commentary allow me the space to laud the series in which it appears.  The Zürcher Bibelkommentare is astonishing in that each published volume is of incredibly high academic quality.  Some commentary series are uneven and sometimes even contain volumes that are both very good and utter rubbish (as, for example, the Anchor Bible- which contains the brilliant Jeremiah in three volumes and the utterly horrible and completely meritless ‘Revelation’).

Returning to S.’s work- she commences, following the foreword, with the usual introductory material discussing authorship, canonicity, themes, traditions, and the date of the book.  The commentary proper begins on page 45 and concludes on page 165.  After it, S. provides a bibliography.

While the foreword is engaging, the discussion of authorship is eye-opening and provides, in perfect sincerity, many ‘aha’ moments for readers.  Many of those ‘aha’ moments are then immediately followed by those annoying ‘why didn’t I notice that myself’ moments which both thrill and madden.

Turning to the commentary proper, the translation upon which the work is based is really quite lovely.  Eminently readable, it is also amazingly modern and still faithful to the ‘authorial intent’ (if I might be forgiven for using such a term).  Every pericope is carefully explained and when necessary divided into subsections for ease of discussion.  The biblical text is in dark bold print, as are the verse numberings in the explanations so persons seeking information on particular verses can easily find them.

There are neither footnotes nor endnotes.  S. does something amazing for a writer of a biblical commentary: she thinks for herself.  To be sure, she has consulted all the relevant literature but, mercifully, she doesn’t feel compelled to slavishly restate what has already been stated elsewhere.

The volume is an academic tour-de-force which also manages to offer Pastors and Clergy and those responsible for proclamation grist for the mill.  In that, too, S. is nearly unique.  To illustrate the point, ask yourself how many academically rigorous commentaries you’ve read which offer anything useful for proclamation.  S.’s does.

This volume needs to be read.  It needs to be translated into English and published so non-German reading North American academics (their name is Legion) can have it to use.

In sum- Schellenberg disproves the author of Qoheleth when he says ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity’.  No, not everything.  Not this book.

Written by Jim

July 16, 2014 at 09:28

Quote of the Day

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“Exegesis is the only science in which everyone considers himself competent…to judge without special studies and to dispute every point without consulting those who spend their lives at this hard task.”  ~Marie-Joseph Lagrange

(Via Cliff Kvidahl)

Written by Jim

July 14, 2014 at 07:13

Posted in Bible, Theology

The Evangelical Exegetical Commentary: Lamentations

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Newly published and arriving today.  Here’s the opening of Chapter One-

lamThe opening chapter describes the utter desolation of Jerusalem. However, this is not merely a historical or even poetic description of the city. Rather, the poet uses theologically charged imagery to communicate the nature of Jerusalem’s fall. The poet focuses on the immense redemptive-historical ramifications of this event. For example, the writer describes Jerusalem in terms of the exodus (e.g., being a slave, vv. 1, 3) as well as a lack of rest (v. 3; cf. Psa 95:11; Heb 4:5). This helps the reader, ancient or modern, grapple with the magnitude of this moment. The point of this chapter is that life and history will never be the same. It deals with the “horizontal” or redemptive-historical impact of 587 B.C.

The poet develops this idea by first presenting the post-siege realities (vv. 1–6). He describes the loneliness of the city, its slavery, its subjection, and the removal of all its joy in a way that shows that this is the current state of exile. Such an outcome was the product of a history of sin and covenant disobedience (vv. 7–11). Israel is guilty, but the fact that this is based upon God’s rightness provides an opportunity for Israel to appeal to God. Nevertheless, at the current moment, God has poured out his wrath against the city and they have no comfort (vv. 12–22). Hence this chapter does not merely present a theological portrait of the era of exile, but also the painful reaction to that reality (vv. 12–20). Jerusalem’s personified agony indicates the nature of suffering that the poet will continue to develop in the book. However, the chapter also concludes with hope, as the poet prays for God to intervene in their distress. The first chapter exhibits the various theological dynamics of exile relative to the poet’s view of the world, as the poet walks his reader through the suffering of exile. This is an era of sorrow.

I’ll have more to say about the volume in the coming weeks.

Written by Jim

July 10, 2014 at 16:01

John the Baptist in Art- 10 Films

On the Reception History fb page-

Some artistic reception history for a Friday morning. An online series of films, presented by art historian Jennifer Sliwka and Ben Quash (KCL).

Have a look.

Who was John the Baptist and why has he been so important to artists and patrons over the centuries? 10 films explore the life of this pivotal figure through masterpieces in the National Gallery and beyond.

Written by Jim

July 4, 2014 at 08:25

David: King of Judah (Not Israel)

A New essay by Jacob Wright in Bible and Interpretation:

The traditions claiming that David ruled over a “united kingdom” of Israel and Judah emerged much later. If I am right on this point, the most popular legends about David are the creation of generations who lived long after him. David’s slaying of Goliath, his exploits in the court of Saul, his relationship to Jonathan and Michal, his fate as a fugitive, his military triumphs abroad, his affair with Bathsheba, his civil war with Absalom, his succession by Solomon – all these colorfully depicted episodes were created by later generations of writers.


Written by Jim

July 2, 2014 at 11:43

Coming Soon in the Old Testament Library…

danielThis November, WJK will release the next volume in the acclaimed Old Testament Library series. Carol A. Newsom offers a fresh study of Daniel in its historical context. Newsom further analyzes Daniel from literary and theological perspectives. With her expert commentary, Newsom’s study will be the definitive commentary on Daniel for many years to come.

I’m not so sure we can call something ‘the definitive commentary’ until it has been widely used and achieves peer acclaim.  But, given Newsom’s skills, I won’t be at all surprised if it’s excellent.

Written by Jim

July 1, 2014 at 08:43

The Last Things

kortnerWas dürfen wir hoffen? Das ist die Kernfrage, um die sich die Lehre von den letzten Dingen dreht, in der theologischen Fachsprache auch Eschatologie genannt. Sie handelt von dem,über das hinaus nichts mehr zu erwarten und zu hoffen ist,weil sich in ihm alle Hoffnungen endgültig erfüllen. Die Wiederkunft Christi, die Auferstehung der Toten, das Jüngste Gericht, Reich Gottes und ewiges Leben sind die überlieferten Glaubensinhalte, um die es dabei im Christentum geht. Doch wie kann von diesen Dingen unter den Bedingungen der modernen Lebenswelt gesprochen werden? Wie passen diese Glaubensaussagen zu unserem naturwissenschaftlichen Weltbild und unserer modernen Geschichtsauffassung?

Auf diese Fragen antwortet dieses Buch in allgemeinverständlicher Sprache. Es bietet eine Einführung in die christliche Eschatologie und gibt zeitgemäße Antworten. Theologische Fachausdrücke werden auch LeserInnen ohne theologische Vorkenntnisse erklärt. Vor allem wird das Gespräch mit den Texten der Bibel als der Urkunde christlicher Hoffnung gesucht.

Was genau vom Glauben erhofft wird, wie diese Hoffnung begründet ist und wie sich von ihr unter den Bedingungen der Gegenwart reden lässt, ist ebenso Thema wie die Lebenspraxis, die sich mit der christlichen Hoffnung verbindet.

Sounds neat.

Written by Jim

June 30, 2014 at 20:13

The BHS Reader’s Edition

athasGeorge Athas shares the happy news on facebook that

After 21 years worth of collaborative work with Donald Richard Vance and Yael Avrahami, the BHS Reader’s Edition is complete and now being printed.

He continues

Official launch at San Diego in November. Available very soon after that.

Written by Jim

June 25, 2014 at 21:20

Posted in Bible

On The Worthlessness of Mere Lip Service

According to Isaiah- “These people say they are loyal to me; they say wonderful things about me, but they are not really loyal to me. Their worship consists of nothing but man-made ritual” (Isa 29:13).

According to Ezekiel- They come to you in crowds, and they sit in front of you as my people. They hear your words, but do not obey them. For they talk lustfully, and their heart is set on their own advantage (Eze 33:31).

According to Jesus- ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me (Mat 15:8).

Written by Jim

June 25, 2014 at 15:05

Posted in Bible


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