Theology as Freedom: On Martin Luther’s »De servo arbitrio«

Veröffentlicht auf Englisch. Andrea Vestrucci präsentiert eine Analyse von Martin Luthers »De servo arbitrio«, einem der anspruchsvollsten Werke christlicher Theologie. Von Gottes Verborgenheit zur Vorherbestimmung, von der Rechtfertigung zur Ontologie, von der Logik zur Ästhetik erforscht Vestrucci Perspektiven der theologischen Sprache, die einen Paradigmenwechsel auslösen.

Look for the review tomorrow.

To Have What You’ve Written Be Loved…

Is the most satisfying thing in life.

A History of The Bible

John Barton’s book arrived some weeks back And it’s FANTASTIC.

And while it isn’t my custom to review books that I buy, I’m going to this time.  First, because Barton’s work is worth the time.  And second, because a volume like this is needed at a time like this.

The publisher writes

The volume is comprised of four large sections:

  1. The Old Testament
  2. The New Testament
  3. The Bible and its Texts
  4. The Meanings of the Bible

Each of these large sections are divided into smaller segments which are themselves divided into smaller bits.  A dozen or so illustrations are found within its pages as well as copious endnotes (I wish they were footnotes, but that’s always a publisher’s decision), a ‘Further Reading’ section, a bibliography that is quite extensive, and indices.

In the author’s own words ‘This book tells the story of the Bible from its remote beginnings in folklore and myth to its reception and interpretation in the present day’ (p.1.).   If that sounds like a large project, it most certainly is such.  There are 489 pages of text and 40 pages of endnotes.  And they are all packed with detail.

‘A further purpose is to distil the current state of biblical scholarship’ (p. 2).  Accordingly, in constant dialogue with culture and society as well as the history of the Bible, Barton describes forcefully and insightfully the books now called the Bible.  Where it came from, what it is, what it means, and how it is used by people of faith and people without faith.

Barton accomplishes his goal by taking readers through the history and language of Ancient Israel, and then its narrative literature, legal and wisdom literature, prophetic literature, and poetic literature.  Having written what amounts to an introduction to the Old Testament, Barton then does the same for the New, describing in ingenious prose the beginning of Christianity and its early letters and Gospels.

Once the Bible is ‘introduced’ (in a way that is not remotely boring or uninteresting, which is itself quite a feat), Barton turns to consider how the books of the Bible were transformed into Scripture and how Christians and Jews both came to cherish their collections of texts in a way that was processional rather than procedural.  He even manages to discuss the niceties of textual criticism without provoking so much as a single yawn.  Barton writes, for example, of the ‘canonical process’-

‘The books had assembled themselves without debates or rulings being necessary.  The New Testament writers, like the rabbis who put together the Mishnah, took them for granted as holy texts.  No one ever canonized them, in the sense of taking a positive decision that they should be regarded as authoritative, still less insisted on this against opposition.  They were simply accepted’ (p. 221).

The fourth and final section of the book offers readers a chance to think deeply about the meaning of these sacred texts.  What is the Bible’s theme?  What role did the Fathers and Rabbis play?  How was the Bible utilized and interpreted in the Middle Ages?  The Reformation? Since the Enlightenment?  And today?

The conclusion of the book is called ‘The Bible and Faith’.

What Professor Barton has managed to produce here is a volume which is the ideal work for students of the Bible.  It is perfect for courses on the Bible whether undergraduate or graduate and it is also ideal for those laypeople who wish to understand the Bible.  I will be requiring it for both my Old and New Testament courses along with the much shorter but equally helpful work by Philip Davies’ ‘The Bible for the Curious’.

If you are looking for a volume which opens up the Bible and explains its various genres, themes, and historical development, then this is the work you have awaited.

One of the Proverbs famously declares

“Many daughters have done valiantly,
but you surpass them all!”

Mutatis mutandis, the same can be said of this volume, and its author:

“Many authors have done valiantly,
but you surpass them all!”

The Disciples’ Prayer: The Prayer Jesus Taught in its Historical Setting

Jeffrey Gibson’s book came out in 2015.  I’ve now reviewed it (because it was just recently that I laid hands on it).-

Christians around the world recite the “Lord’s Prayer” daily, but what exactly are they praying for—and what relationship does it have with Jesus’ own context? Jeffrey B. Gibson reviews scholarship that derives the so-called Lord’s Prayer from Jewish synagogal prayers and refutes it. The genre of the prayer, he shows, is petitionary, and understanding its intent requires understanding Jesus’ purpose in calling disciples as witnesses against “this generation.” Jesus did not mean to teach a unique understanding of God; the prayer had its roots in first-century Jewish movements of protest.

In context, Gibson shows (pace Schweitzer, Lohmeyer, Davies, Allison, and a host of other scholars) that the prayer had little to do with “calling down” into the present realities of “the age to come.” Rather, it was meant to protect disciples from the temptations of their age and, thus, to strengthen their countercultural testimony. Gibson’s conclusions offer new insights into the historical Jesus and the movement he sought to establish.

My review has been sent along to Reading Religion, where it will appear shortly.

Johannes Bugenhagen: Friend of Luther

bugenhagenJune 24, 1485: Close friend of Martin and Katie Luther’s, Johannes Bugenhagen was born in Wollin, Pomerania, now a part of Poland.

Bugenhagen became a supporter of Luther in the early 1520s and soon moved to Wittenberg. On October 25, 1523, he was named the pastor of St. Mary’s church in Wittenberg, making him Luther’s pastor. He also became a lecturer and professor at the University of Wittenberg. Luther often affectionately referred to him as Dr. Pommer in reference to the location of his birth.

Luther and Bugenhagen soon became close friends. It was Bugenhagen who performed the marriage ceremony for Martin and Katie. They also gave him the honor of being named one of the god-fathers of their first born Hans.

Bugenhagen proved himself useful to the spread of Lutheranism as well. He was often sent out by Luther to advise various territories in Northern Germany and Scandinavia. He also revised the church orders in these areas, removing the papistic abuses and including more congregational singing.

In this painting from the altarpiece from the City Church (St. Mary’s) in Wittenberg, Bugenhagen is depicted administering the office of the Keys – forgiving the sins of the penitent and retaining the sins of the impenitent. The painting is by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

-Rebecca DeGarmeaux

Quote of the Day

Footprints in the sand on beach near San José del Cabo, Mexico at sunrise

When asked why there was only one set of footprints, Jesus replied, “It was then that I unfriended you on Facebook.” – Unvirtuous Abbey

Who is A Theologian?

“Anybody who wishes to be a theologian must have a mastery of the Scriptures, so that he may have an explanation for whatever can be alleged against any passage.”  –  Martin Luther

If someone has no skill in accurate exegesis he or she is no theologian.

Fun Facts From Church History: The Augsburg Confession

“Melanchthon began the preparation [for the Confession] at Coburg, with the aid of Luther, in April, and finished it at Augsburg, June 24. He labored on it day and night, so that Luther had to warn him against over-exertion. “I command you,” he wrote to him May 12, “and all your company that they compel you, under pain of excommunication, to take care of your poor body, and not to kill yourself from imaginary obedience to God. We serve God also by taking holiday and rest.” – Schaff

These days folk take years to write considerably less and considerably less important.

Call For Submissions

The June Biblical Studies Carnival (posting 1 July) will be hosted by yours truly.  If you see a post in any of the following categories, please do pass them along:

  • Hebrew Bible
  • New Testament
  • Archaeology
  • Textual Criticism
  • Books
  • Miscellaneous Things

Thanks, in advance.

Today With Zwingli: The End of the First Kappel War

On June 24, 1530, the treaty [that ended the First Kappel War] was signed, and Zwingli on that day expressed himself as satisfied and thankful. The treaty contained eighteen Articles, of which these were the chief:

  • 1. Neither side was to persecute anyone for his faith’s sake. The majority in each canton was to decide whether the Old Faith was to be retained or not.
  • 2. The alliance with Austria was to be dissolved and the papers pertaining to it “pierced and slit.”
  • 3. The six cities of Zurich, Bern, Basel, St. Gall, Mülhausen, and Biel, all Reformed, renounced definitely for themselves and their dependencies all pensions and foreign subsidies of every description, but merely recommended a similar course to the Five Forest Cantons.
  • 7. Schwyz was to support the children of Jacob Keyser (or Schlosser), whom she had burned for his faith’s sake.
  • 10. Abusive speech on both sides was to cease.
  • 13. The Forest Cantons were to reimburse Zurich and Bern for the cost of the war inside of fourteen days from the date of the treaty; on penalty for failure to do so the six cities would refuse to sell-them food.

So SM Jackson.  Regrettably the peace didn’t hold and not too much later Zwingli would be killed while serving as Chaplain to the Zurich troops in the same little meadow at Kappel.

Happy Birthday Beza!

Theodore Beza turns a respectable 500 today, so happy birthday, cranky old dude!  The folk in Geneva are celebrating.

There is Only One Christian Response to Evil

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,”Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteousand his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3

How Christians Are Supposed to Behave

But I say to you, Love your enemies– Jesus

Remembering Eduard Lohse (February 19, 1924- June 23, 2015)

lohseSeine unverbrüchliche Liebe zum Evangelium hat sowohl Eduard Lohses wissenschaftliche Arbeit als auch sein Wirken als Landesbischof und Ratsvorsitzender geprägt”, heißt es in dem Kondolenzschreiben. Lohse ist am Dienstag im Alter von 91 Jahren in Göttingen gestorben. Er war von 1971 bis 1988 Landesbischof der Evangelisch-lutherischen Landeskirche Hannovers. Das Amt des Vorsitzenden des Rates der EKD hatte er von 1979 bis 1985 inne.

He was a brilliant, readable, gifted theologian.  I always profited by whatever he wrote that I had the chance to read.  If you aren’t familiar with the man and his work, a quick search on Amazon will reveal his impact.

Signs of the Times

And all of it rubbish.

Are They More Wicked Than You? Nope

It was just about this time that some people arrived and told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than any others, that this should have happened to them. They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell, killing them all? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’ (Lk. 13:1-5)

Repentance is your only escape.

Wedding Foot Washings…

Pride Precedes Destruction, Politicians

Because his heart grew swollen with pride, and his spirit stiff with arrogance, he was deposed from his sovereign throne and stripped of his glory.  He was driven from human society, his heart was more like an animal’s than a man’s; he lived with the wild donkeys; he fed on grass like oxen; his body was drenched by the dew of heaven, until he had learnt that the Most High rules over human sovereignty and appoints whom he pleases to rule it.  (Dan. 5:20-21)

If you won’t humble yourselves, God will do it for you.

This Sounds Orthodox, But It is Actually Marcionite

The problem with this sentiment is that 1) it devalues the Old Testament as it stands, and proffers the false belief that the Old Testament is only meaningful for Christians if Christ can be mined from its every verse.  And 2) it is simply false.  Jesus of Nazareth, who is Christ, is not present in the Old Testament except through anachronistic misinterpretation, misprision, and downright falsehood.

The Church needs to stop treating the Old Testament like it’s the red-headed stepchild of faith and realize that in and of itself, separate from any superimposed Christianity, true Word of God for the Church.

Quote of the Day

If you sincerely believe a lie, you will suffer the consequences. You must not only be sincere, but you must be right. ~C.H. Spurgeon