Zwinglius Redivivus

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Mark and Paul – Paul and Mark

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Back some time ago the nice folk at De Gruyter sent two companion volumes for review.  The first, Paul and Mark: Comparative Essays Part I – Two Authors at the Beginnings of Christianity; and the second, Mark and Paul: Comparative Essays Part II – For and Against Pauline Influence on Mark.  I’ve worked through the bulk of the essays and offer my observations here.

You may, or may not, wish to read the review.  But you will want to, you must, read the volumes.

Written by Jim

September 15, 2014 at 08:12

Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology

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Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology, by Oliver D. Crisp has arrived thanks to the good graces of the folk at Fortress Press.

9781451486131bDeviant Calvinism seeks to show that the Reformed tradition is much broader and more variegated than is often thought. Crisp’s work focuses on a cluster of theological issues concerning the scope of salvation and shows that there are important ways in which current theological discussion of these topics can be usefully resourced by attention to theologians of the past.

The scope of atonement, in particular, is once again a hot topic in current evangelical theology. This volume addresses that issue via discussion of eternal justification, whether Calvinists can be free-will libertarians (like Arminian theologians); whether the Reformed should be universalists, and if they are not, why not; whether Reformed theology is consistent with a universal atonement; and whether the hypothetical universalism of some Calvinists is actually as eccentric and strange a doctrine as is sometimes thought. This book contributes to theological retrieval within the Reformed tradition and establishes a wider path to thinking about Calvinism differently.

Here’s what’s in it:


My review of this book is in PDF here.

Written by Jim

September 13, 2014 at 12:53

Posted in Book Review, Books, Calvin

A Forthcoming Book By James Crossley: Jesus and the Chaos of History

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Oxford University Press will publish in 2015 this volume- Jesus and the Chaos of History:  Redirecting the Life of the Historical Jesus, by James Crossley

  • Biblical Refigurations
  • Considers how the seemingly radical and egalitarian themes in the earliest Christian traditions co-existed alongside themes of power and dominance.
  • Includes three detailed case studies on the kingdom of God and “Christology”, “sinners” and purity, and gender in the earliest Gospel traditions.
  • Provides an overview of the historical location of the major trends in historical Jesus scholarship for students and scholars.

The contents-

1. Does Jesus Plus Paul Equal Marx Plus Lenin? Re-directing the Historical Jesus
2. Criteria, Historicity, and the Earliest Palestinian Tradition
3. Empire of God, King of Rome: Kingdom and Christology
4. ‘Sinners’, Law, and Purity
5. Camping with Jesus? Gender, Revolution, and Early Palestinian Tradition
An Irrelevant Conclusion

Written by Jim

September 12, 2014 at 13:56

Posted in Books

The Website for the Lang Verlag Series ‘The Reception of the Biblical Text’

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peter_lang_logo_enThe website has gone live.  I hope you’ll visit, and more than that, I hope you’ll consider sending along your work for potential inclusion in the series.

It is, by design, quite broadly described:

Biblical reception history is an important modern methodological approach to understanding and interpreting the biblical text, not merely as it stands in the Bible, but as it has been utilized throughout the histories of Judaism and Christianity in literature, paintings, sculpture, film, music, community and other artistic and textual expressions. Volumes in this series will address particular aspects of those ‘appearances’ of biblical stories and tropes in the world outside the pages of the Bible.

Contributors to the series are leading scholars in the field of biblical interpretation and their volumes will enlighten and inform persons interested in this burgeoning methodological approach. Contributors are also experts in other fields who have examined the Bible from the perspective of art and architecture and virtually any other field of human endeavor where the text of the Bible intersects life.

If you have any questions or wish a more detailed description of the process of submission, drop me an email or leave a comment.

Written by Jim

September 12, 2014 at 10:48

First Impressions of ‘Deviant Calvinism’

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9781451486131bI’ve been reading a good bit of Crisp’s Calvinism book today.  In fact, with just short breaks, it’s what I’ve spent the day working on.  First impressions:

1- The title of the book- Deviant Calvinism, is followed by a subtitle- ‘Broadening Reformed Theology‘.  Yet as one reads through great chunks of the book one discovers that Crisp equates, for all intents and purposes, ‘Calvinism’ with ‘Reformed Theology.’  He shows little interest in Reformed theology before Calvin (mentioning Zwingli twice, and both times simply in passing in toss off phrases, and Bullinger not even once).  Indeed, the fictional ‘Green Lantern’ gets three head nods.  How can the Green Lantern be more important to Reformed Theology than Calvin’s predecessor and contemporary?

The problem, as I see it, is that if Crisp really wants to ‘broaden’ our understanding of Reformed Theology and its various incarnations he would do well to avoid equating Calvin with the entirety of that tradition.  Calvinism is not coterminous with Reformed- but readers of Crisp’s volume will not discover that.

2- The only primary source which Crisp utilizes in his discussion of Calvin’s thought itself is the Institutes.  There’s nary a reference to a sermon, a letter, or a commentary.  Anywhere.  Calvin scholars have long known that one cannot, simply does not and will not grasp Calvin’s thought adequately merely by means of the Institutes.  The Institutes, furthermore, are only ever cited in the translation of McNeill.  Crisp does, though, admire himself, listing eight of his works in the bibliography.  Brunner gets one mention, Barth gets two. Indeed, no one has more works listed in the bibliography than our author.  Not a single primary work of Zwingli or Bullinger or Vermigli or Bucer  or Oecolampadius appears.  Hardly, then, to be completely fair, what anyone would or could rightly describe as an examination of Reformed theology.

My complete review will appear once I’ve worked through the book again, paying specific attention to Crisp’s utterances on universalism- the chief interest of the book by volume.

At this juncture I’ll simply note that what Crisp offers isn’t quite a broadening of the Reformed Tradition as much as it’s a narrowing of focus on a very narrow strand of the Reformed Tradition as a whole.  I.e., a very narrow focus on the issues of redemption and universalism from the point of view of a very small segment of Reformed Theology.

What Crisp wants to do, then, isn’t so much broaden our understanding of Reformed Theology (and if that is his goal, he has not achieved it) as it is to ask us to think more generously of the notion of universalism.  This book, in short, is nothing other than an apologia for that particular viewpoint.  But more on that in the complete review.

Written by Jim

September 11, 2014 at 18:31

Posted in Book Review, Books, Calvin

Rewritten Bible after Fifty Years: Texts, Terms, or Techniques? A Last Dialogue with Geza Vermes

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64003Brill have published Rewritten Bible after Fifty Years: Texts, Terms, or Techniques? A Last Dialogue with Geza Vermes.

Rewritten Bible After Fifty Years presents the papers of a conference on the meanings and usages of the term Rewritten Bible introduced by Geza Vermes in 1961. Leading scholars of the topic discuss their new insights and ideas comparing with Vermes’ initiative, whose participation on this conference was unfortunately the last chance for a life dialogue with him on this topic. Apart from the terminological discussions and comparisons several case studies widen the scope of the notion of Rewritten Bible/Scripture and rewriting as a genre and technique.

It contains the following essays-

Defining of Rewritten Bible

Geza Vermes, The Genesis of the Concept of “Rewritten Bible”

Redefining of Rewritten Bible

Anders Klostergaard Petersen, Textual Fidelity, Elaboration, Supersession or Encroachment? Typological Reflections on the Phenomenon of Rewritten Scripture
Jonathan G. Campbell, Rewritten Bible: A Terminological Reassessment
Eugene Ulrich, Crossing the Borders from “Pre-Scripture” to Scripture (Rewritten) to “Rewritten Scripture”
Sidnie White Crawford, Rewritten Scriptures as a Clue to Scribal Traditions in the Second Temple Period
George J. Brooke, Memory, Cultural Memory and Rewriting Scripture
Stefan Schorch, Rewritten Bible and the Vocalization of the Biblical Text

Case Studies: Inner Biblical Rewritings

István Karasszon, Reuse of Prophecy in the Book of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Rewriting and Canonization
Előd Hodossy-Takács, On the Battlefield and Beyond: the Reinterpretation of the Moabite-Israelite Encounters in 2Chronicles 20

Early Jewish Rewritings

Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of Hebrew Scripture and Scripture-Like Texts
Balázs Tamási, Apocryphon of Jeremiah C from Qumran: Rewritten Prophetic Text or Something Else?
Steven Fraade, Between Rewritten Bible and Allegorical Commentary: Philo’s Interpretation of the Burning Bush
Finn Damgaard, Philo’s Life of Moses as “Rewritten Bible”
Marton Ribary, Josephus’ “Rewritten Bible” as a Non-Apologetic Work
Christopher T. Begg, Josephus’ Rewriting of Genesis 24 in Ant. 1.242-255

Later Rewritings

Rachel Adelman, Can We Apply the Term “Rewritten Bible” to Midrash? The Case of Pirqe de-Rabbi Eliezer
Csaba Ötvös, Coptic Rewriting
József Zsengellér, Samaritan Rewritings

I very much appreciate the folk at Brill sending along a review copy.  Said review will be posted here.

Written by Jim

September 11, 2014 at 10:45

Mark Leuchter Reviews ‘Deuteronomy- For the Person in the Pew’

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Mark writes, on FB-

Several weeks ago, Jim West sent me a copy of his commentary on Deuteronomy, part of his series entitled “For the Person in the Pew“. Dr. West is well known among biblical scholars and those interested in the role of the Bible in modern intellectual history and culture, and his blog “Zwinglius Redivivus” is among the most widely read of those dealing with the history, reception, and PER-ception of the biblical materials. It was thus with great excitement that I set about reading his commentary on a book that has been so central to my own research as an historian and, I should add, to my own self-understanding as a Jew and my place in the long history of Judaism.

West’s commentary is not meant to be a “Critical Commentary” insofar as that genre of commentary is primarily geared for the critical, academic study of biblical texts. Rather, as the title of the series implies, his commentary is meant for someone who encounters the text in a devotional setting. The orientation of the work is primarily for Christian audiences, but West takes the ancient Jewish dimensions of the text seriously. He also gives the reader great intellectual credit, and assumes that he or she will approach the biblical text carefully…including aspects of the text in its ancient context.

For West, the ancient meaning, effects and understandings of the text among its original audiences have lasting importance for contemporary audiences. One’s obligation to the text as a defining feature of identity — both as an individual person of faith and as a member of a larger and dynamic community — is intimately connected to the past, the intricacies of ancient cultures, their suppositions and conceptual horizons.

Deuteronomy is a particular important text in this regard, for many scholars over the last several decades have drawn attention to its complex relationship to its own past. Deuteronomy negotiates the history of Israel’s covenantal traditions, countenancing different ideas but clearing the way for definitive and comprehensive attitudes that could endure and bind communities together. West’s careful explication of Deuteronomy’s verses show a deep awareness of this, and his commentary regularly delves into linguistic, geographical, and ritual details that, for many contemporary readers, remain hidden in the text’s sometimes hermetic rhetoric.

West’s discussion of Deuteronomy is ultimately rooted in an ethical commitment not only to the contents of the text but to the larger ideological cultures it helped create. It engages theological matters clearly and boldly, but also does not hesitate to draw attention to the complicated nature of those matters and the similarly complicated task of reconciling them with evolving contemporary needs. West also does a great service to his reader by making clear (through his discussions of critical details) that a host of other issues relating to ancient Israel and the communities who preserved this material in antiquity await those given to indulging their curiosities beyond the pew. As a Jew with great regard for the role that religious scripture plays in defining various communities of faith and setting them in conversation with each other, West’s commentary proved to be a rewarding and stimulating read, and bodes well for the rest of the volumes in his series as well.

I very much appreciate Mark’s having taken the time to read the volume and offer his assessment of it.

Written by Jim

September 10, 2014 at 23:11


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