How does one read the Old Testament as Christian Scripture? This question, voiced in both academic and ecclesial settings, invites a reflection on how to take these texts with both hermeneutical alertness and sustained imaginative seriousness. While scholars have recently engaged in robust discussion about theological hermeneutics, there have been relatively few worked examples with particular Old Testament texts. This book seeks to meet this need by providing a close reading of Isaiah 14:3–23, a text with a complex amalgam of textual, historical-critical, history-of-reception, and theological issues.
The author sent a review copy a bit ago and though I finished the review a few weeks back I have been occupied with other tasks until now.
Bordjadze’s book (hereafter B’s) is a reworking of his doctoral dissertation from the University of Durham. In spite of that, he mercifully only references one volume by NT Wright- so the work is already a great blessing.
The chapters are as follows:
- Text, Translation, And Philological Issues in Isaiah 14:3-23
- The Meaning of משל
- Imaginative World of Isaiah 14:3-23
- Myth and History in Isaiah 14:3-23
- Isaiah 14:12-15 in Reception History
- Reading Isaiah 14:3-23 as Christian Scripture Today
And of course there are the usual foreword, acknowledgement, abbreviations, bibliography, and index.
The first two chapters lay the groundwork for what follows and are fairly standard in terms of their approach and denouement. B. here isn’t seeming to strive for originality or ‘shock and awe’ but rather calm and steady technical clarity. And he does this well.
Chapter three is very good and should be consulted by all who wish to understand more thoroughly what the Hebrew morpheme משל is all about. B. also does a good job here of showing the Isaianic context of the morpheme.
Chapter four appears to be the heart of the argument with chapter 5 playing the role of supplemental data added to the core material. Chapter four, though, has a series of excurses which, while interesting and helpful, serve more the role of appendices than excurses proper (in my view they well could have been placed at the end of the volume and been called appendices). But that’s a mere quibble.
Chapter six turns to an examination of how Origen (the heretic) and Calvin (the blessed) used and understood this passage in Isaiah. On the face of it these two Church figures seem rather randomly chosen. Why Origen and Calvin and why not Augustine and Luther or Chrysostom and Zwingli, etc.? The reason is clear enough however- these two represent the main lines of interpretation. And that’s the best reason to include them. The volume would be unnaturally enlarged were every reception-historical avenue driven down so the author is to be appreciated for wise choices.
Given, however, that I despise Origen I’ll spend my time instead on B’s interpretation of Calvin. B. does a good enough job with the Genevan Reformer; he seems to understand Calvin’s aims and intentions and methods though he’s too dependent on secondary sources and doesn’t, in my humble (!) view, make enough use of primary sources. Indeed, B. seems more often than not to be in dialogue with B. Childs rather than J. Calvin. When B. does eventually get around to engaging with Calvin directly (which he does on page 162), he cites but two of Calvin’s works- his Commentary on Isaiah and his Institutes. But Calvin discusses the passage in question in his Psychopannychia. Consulting it would have enriched and strengthened B’s work.
Nonetheless, B. is clearly very in tune with Calvin’s mindset and he is therefore a reliable guide here to Calvin’s thought.
The final two chapters pull everything together and offer the reader a thorough summary of the book’s point of view.
All in all, this is an enjoyable volume. It is informative, stimulating, and intelligent. There are a few minor problems (or better, issues) with it which have been noted above. And in spite of them, I heartily recommend this work. It teaches.