Zwinglius Redivivus

Nihil salvum esse potest, donec rabies. – John Calvin

Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

Long Awaited and Joyfully Anticipated: Stuhlmacher’s ‘Biblical Theology of the New Testament’ Has Been Published

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In English.

It’s one of the most important NT theology’s ever written (perhaps the most important since Bultmann’s) and it has no, after many years, appeared in translation so that a wider audience can benefit from its brilliance.

Since its original publication in German, Peter Stuhlmacher’s two-volume Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments has influenced an entire generation of biblical scholars and theologians. Now Daniel Bailey’s expert translation makes this important work of New Testament theology available in English for the first time.

Following an extended discussion of the task of writing a New Testament theology, Stuhlmacher explores the development of the Christian message across the pages of the Gospels, the writings of Paul, and the other canonical books of the New Testament. The second part of the book examines the biblical canon and its historical significance. A concluding essay by Bailey applies Stuhlmacher’s approach to specific texts in Romans and 4 Maccabees.

I’m keen to work through it, to see how faithful it is to the German original.  Eerdman’s have sent along a review copy, so, more anon.

Written by Jim

19 Sep 2018 at 8:56 am

In the Mirror of the Prodigal Son: The Pastoral Uses of a Biblical Narrative (c. 1200–1550)

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In the Mirror of the Prodigal Son provides a comprehensive history of the function of the parable of the prodigal son in shaping religious identity in medieval and Reformation Europe. By investigating a wealth of primary sources, the book reveals the interaction between commentaries, sermons, religious plays, and images as a decisive factor in the increasing popularity of the prodigal son. Pietro Delcorno highlights the ingenious and multifaceted uses of the parable within pastoral activities and shows the pervasive presence of the Bible in medieval communication. The prodigal son narrative became the ideal story to convey a discourse about sin and penance, grace and salvation. In this way, the parable was established as the paradigmatic biography of any believer.

I reviewed it for Reading Religion. You can see the review here.

Written by Jim

13 Sep 2018 at 9:19 pm

The Book of Jeremiah: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation

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New from Brill, and sent for review:

Written by leading experts in the field, The Book of Jeremiah: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation offers a wide-ranging treatment of the main aspects of Jeremiah. Its twenty-four essays fall under four main sections. The first section contains studies of a more general nature, and helps situate Jeremiah in the scribal culture of the ancient world, as well as in relation to the Torah and the Hebrew Prophets. The second section contains commentary on and interpretation of specific passages (or sections) of Jeremiah, as well as essays on its genres and themes. The third section contains essays on the textual history and reception of Jeremiah in Judaism and Christianity. The final section explores various theological aspects of the book of Jeremiah.

More in due course. It’s a big book, so it may take over a month.

Written by Jim

6 Sep 2018 at 11:31 am

Martin Bucer (1491–1551): Collected studies on his life, work, doctrine, and influence

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This volume is of interest to all who care about important things.

This present volume aims to stimulate Bucer-research as it brings together a selection of the best of De Kroon’s and Van ’t Spijker’s articles some of which appear for the first time in English translation. In the first section Bucer is described as taking his independent stand in the patristic and scholastic tradition. The next five articles go into the close personal and theological relation between Bucer and John Calvin and make clear how much of Bucer works through in Calvin and Calvinism. Bucer’s efforts to bridge theological and ecclesiastical gaps brought him often in discussion with catholic as well as protestant theologians. How he dealt with this is the topic of the third section in this volume. The two following articles deal with his view on discipline and on the right of resistance. The next articles deal with Bucer’s doctrinal legacy and the last section focuses on sanctification as one of the most important characteristics of his theology.The most important issues of contemporary Bucer-research and the outlines of his theology are convincingly presented in this volume by known experts for this topic.

V&R have sent along a review copy.  If you are interested in the front matter and the table of contents, you can download a pdf of all that here.  Like the other volumes in this exceptionally articulate series, this volume brings to light valuable information about its subject matter.

Though most of the essays are by two persons (see the TOC), the value of the collection of essays is not thereby diminished.  The layout of the volume is quite sensible and the contents seamlessly fit together to conspire to offer a coherent whole which could well serve as both an introduction to the thought of Bucer and an introduction to an important era in the history of the Reformation.

The essays appear in about an even linguistic distribution of German and English offerings.  Particularly enjoyable – at least to the present reviewer – are

  • Willem van ’t Spijker – ‘You have a different spirit from us’ Luther to Bucer in Marburg, Sunday 3 October 1529.
  • Marijn de Kroon – Die Augsburger Reformation in der Korrespondenz des Straßburger Reformators Martin Bucer unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Briefwechsels Gereon Sailers.
  • Marijn de Kroon – Freedom and Bondage.
  • Marijn de Kroon – Martin Bucer and the Problem of Tolerance.

The others are quite useful but these four are really remarkably important and revelatory.  And though the word ‘groundbreaking’ is used far too often to describe academic works, it fits in this case.

A word about the series in which this volume appears seems in order at this juncture.  It is superb.  Herman Selderhuis is doing a really brilliant job of assembling volumes for this series which instruct and inspire research.  Every book in the series not only informs but they also prod thought and almost impel further studies.  In the best possible sense, each of these works is a treasure.

I highly recommend both this volume and its series companions.  None have yet disappointed and none will ever disappoint one fiftieth as much as your local and national politicians will.

Written by Jim

4 Sep 2018 at 10:59 am

The Dead Sea Scrolls and German Scholarship: Thoughts of an Englishman Abroad

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George Brooke is the author of this little work.  If you click the ‘look inside’ box it will give you all the details you need.  DeGruyter have provided a review copy, so look for it soon here.

Written by Jim

31 Aug 2018 at 9:32 am

Posted in Book Review, Books

The Magdalene in the Reformation

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Prostitute, apostle, evangelist—the conversion of Mary Magdalene from sinner to saint is one of the Christian tradition’s most compelling stories, and one of the most controversial. The identity of the woman—or, more likely, women—represented by this iconic figure has been the subject of dispute since the Church’s earliest days. Much less appreciated is the critical role the Magdalene played in remaking modern Christianity.

In a vivid recreation of the Catholic and Protestant cultures that emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, The Magdalene in the Reformationreveals that the Magdalene inspired a devoted following among those eager to find new ways to relate to God and the Church. In popular piety, liturgy, and preaching, as well as in education and the arts, the Magdalene tradition provided both Catholics and Protestants with the flexibility to address the growing need for reform. Margaret Arnold shows that as the medieval separation between clergy and laity weakened, the Magdalene represented a new kind of discipleship for men and women and offered alternative paths for practicing a Christian life.

Where many have seen two separate religious groups with conflicting preoccupations, Arnold sees Christians who were often engaged in a common dialogue about vocation, framed by the life of Mary Magdalene. Arnold disproves the idea that Protestants removed saints from their theology and teaching under reform. Rather, devotion to Mary Magdalene laid the foundation within Protestantism for the public ministry of women.

Excited to read this.  Reading Religion has sent along a pre-publication proof and when I’ve finished with it the review will be posted over there.

Written by Jim

31 Aug 2018 at 9:27 am

Posted in Book Review, Books

Die Septuaginta- Geschichte, Wirkung, Relevanz

Newly published by sent Mohr Siebeck and sent for review.

As the central biblical reference text for ancient Greek-speaking Judaism and Christianity alike, the Septuagint both aids and challenges expressions of Jewish and Christian identity. The diversity of its current debates are reflected in this volume, which brings aspects of textual criticism, textual history, philology, theology, reception history, and Jewish identity in the Second Temple period together to provide an up-to-date overview of the latest in international research.

Written by Jim

21 Aug 2018 at 9:16 am

Posted in Book Review, Books, LXX

The First Testament

IVP Academic have published this new translation of the Old Testament by John Goldingay.  A review copy arrived in the mail (or, in the post for the Brits) today.  I’ve been looking forward to this day since the volume was first announced – having used Goldingay’s earlier volumes to great profit.  More anon.

Most translations bend the text toward us. They make the rough places smooth, the odd bits more palatable to our modern sensibilities. In every translation something is gained and something lost.

In The First Testament: A New Translation, John Goldingay interrupts our sleepy familiarity with the Old Testament. He sets our expectations off balance by inviting us to hear the strange accent of the Hebrew text. We encounter the sinewed cadences of the Hebrew Bible, its tics and its textures. Translating words consistently, word by word, allows us to hear resonances and see the subtle figures stitched into the textual carpet. In a day of white-bread renderings of the Bible, here is a nine-grain translation with no sugar or additives.

Written by Jim

20 Aug 2018 at 10:26 am

Posted in Bible, Book Review, Books

In the Footsteps of King David

My review for Reading Religion is online.  Enjoy, fellow pilgrims.

Written by Jim

17 Aug 2018 at 5:20 pm

From Wittenberg to the World

Details here.

978-3-525-53126-6_600x600New publication at Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in the R5AS Series: From Wittenberg to the World. Essays on the Reformation and its Legacy in Honor of Robert Kolb, Charles Arand/Erik H. Herrmann/Daniel L. Mattson (eds.).

The book honours the Rev. Dr. Robert A Kolb, retired Director of the Institute for Mission Studies and Missions Professor in systematic theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and perhaps the leading authority on the development of “Wittenberg Theology” in the English-speaking world. At the same time, his teaching and writing, which continues without flagging, has emphasized the importance of translating and retranslating the historic Lutheran faith in terms that address contemporary issues and contemporary people. In this volume, colleagues and co-workers address and push forward Kolb insights into the history of the Reformation era and on the impact of those Reformation issues (and quarrels) on the life of the church in the world today.

With contributions by Charles Arand, L’ubomir Batka, Amy Nelson Burnett, Irene Dingel, Mary Jane Haemig, Scott Hendrix, Erik Herrmann, Werner Klän, David Lumpp, Mark Mattes, Daniel Mattson, Richard Muller, Paul Robinson, Robert Rosin, and Timothy Wengert.

See the contents here.

Readers are urged to consult the link immediately above where the table of contents and front matter are available.  Doing so permits you to see at a glance the great span of interesting essays which make up this very fine celebration of a very fine scholar’s work.

Robert Kolb began his scholarly career in 1968 and the vast array of publications he authored attest to his influence.  The bibliography the editors of the present work provide begins on page 327 and it is so extensive that it continues through page 355.  That’s twenty-eight pages!  That’s hundreds and hundreds of published works!  Kolb’s output is simply astonishing.  By contrast, my own bibliography is eight pages.  So Kolb has made me feel quite lazy and inadequate.

By the time he is finally done publishing on the subject of the Reformation his bibliography may well be in the 50 page range.

The contributors to this useful volume are also quite an impressive group.  Superstars in the field of Reformation research such as Amy Nelson Burnett, Scott Hendrix, Erik Herrmann, Richard Muller, Timothy Wengert and Irene Dingel all combine to make this gathering of essays very informative and educational.  This volume is indeed a very worthy addition to the prestigious Refo500 Academic Studies series published by Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht.

The essays which the present reviewer found to be the most engaging were those of Wengert and Dingel, along with Burnett’s.  These three are superb while the remaining essays are all very good.  Special mention should also be made of Mattson’s enjoyable ‘What Did Luther Know about Islam and Why Did He Want to Know It?’  It is both informative and timely.

I recommend this volume.  Readers will enjoy it.  I promise.  And furthermore, I offer the following assurance:  you will enjoy this volume as much as fans of the Harry Potter books enjoy them and even more than that, you will learn about actual things instead of about make believe pretendings.  If not, I will happily allow you a rebuttal here.

Written by Jim

17 Aug 2018 at 8:07 am

Der »Kritisch-exegetische Kommentar« in seiner Geschichte

Der Kritisch-exegetische Kommentar zum Neuen Testament (KEK) wurde von Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer im Jahr 1829 begründet. Bis heute wird dieser Kommentar noch unter dessen Namen als »Meyers Kommentar« geführt. Das Kommentarwerk bietet zunächst ausschließlich von Meyer, später dann von seinen Mitarbeitern, bald dann von Mitgliedern der Religionsgeschichtlichen Schule und der Dialektischen Theologie bis heute in 16 Abteilungen grundlegende Kommentare zur Auslegung der neutestamentlichen Schriften. Theologisch bewegt sich das Kommentarwerk in Korrespondenz zur jeweiligen Theologiegeschichte (Rationalismus, Philologie, Religionsgeschichte, Kerygmatheologie). Kennzeichen des Kommentarwerks ist jedoch eine sich durchhaltende philologische und religionsgeschichtliche Akzentuierung. Unter den Kommentaren, die stets nur auf einen einzigen Band zu einer Schrift festgelegt waren, befinden sich theologische Meisterwerke wie Rudolf Bultmanns Kommentar zum Johannesevangelium oder wie Wilhelm Boussets Kommentar zur Johannesoffenbarung. Das vorliegende Werk zeichnet die Geschichte des KEK, seiner Autoren und seiner Beziehung zum Verlagshaus Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht von seinen Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart nach und bespricht die wechselvolle Auslegung der neutestamentlichen Schriften.

This volume is available in North America from ISD.  The publisher has sent along a review copy, so look for it soon.

Written by Jim

8 Aug 2018 at 8:56 am

Approaching the Study of Theology: An Introduction to Key Thinkers, Concepts, Methods & Debates

Back in April I received a prepublication edition of this book. I’m reposting the review now after having received the published version which has just arrived. Sections marked UPDATE are new material for the present posting:

From the opening pages of the Bible, we learn of God as one who communicates with humankind—offering us first steps toward knowledge of the divine, the very foothold of theology. On this basis, Approaching the Study of Theology presents an engaging introduction to the breadth and depth of the study of theology, mapping the significant landmarks as well as the main areas of debate.

The book is divded into three parts:

Part I (Approaches) describes the major approaches to theology that have emerged and developed over time.

Part II (Concepts and Issues) explains the major concepts and issues, identifying theologians associated with each.

Part III (Key Terms) provides a helpful glossary of all the key terms that readers need to understand in order to better understand theology.

IVP have sent along a prepublication draft of this new work by Professor Thiselton.  In my review please note that no page numbers will be included because the draft manuscript includes none.

The work consists of an overview of theological trends in the introduction.  This overview discusses the biblical roots of theology and a description of  the major periods of theological development. Part One is very much akin to a ‘bible dictionary’ which lists, in alphabetical sequence, methodological approaches to theology including biblical theology, hermeneutical theology, political theology, and systematic theology among others.  Part Two adopts the same alphabetical sequencing but it’s concern is ‘Concepts and Issues’ like Atonement, Authority of the Bible, Justification, Resurrection of the Dead, etc.  These discussions, like those of part one, tend to be full and ‘encyclopedic’.  Indeed, part two is the bulk of the volume.  The third part of the volume, Key Terms, is simply a glossary.

The presentation is, necessarily, very general.  That is, each concept, term, method, etc. is described in quite sweeping terms.  The work aims to introduce, and merely introduce, the basics of theological enquiry.  The details are relatively accurate overall but sometimes they are incredibly inaccurate.

One glaring problem is what Thiselton writes about the Marburg conference:

In 1529 it became clear that there were disagreements among the Reformers on the nature of the Lord’s Supper.  Deeply concerned for Reformation unity, Luther sought a friendly conference with Zwingli, Melanchthon, and Bullinger (sic !)at Marburg. He did his best to achieve a united witness but Zwingli and others held firm in their beliefs…

The problems here are multiple: Luther didn’t seek any conference, friendly or otherwise, with Zwingli.  He was essentially forced into meeting with Zwingli and the others by Prince Philip.  He never wanted to participate and told friends on numerous occasions that the whole thing would be a waste of time.  He even wrote the Margrave thusly

I am indeed absolutely convinced that Your Sovereign Grace is completely sincere and has the best of intentions. For this reason I, too, am ready and willing to render my services in this, Your Sovereign Grace’s Christian undertaking, though I fear [my services] may be futile and perhaps dangerous for us. (Luther’s Works, Vol. 49: 230.)

Luther wasn’t interested in the meeting and thought it was a bad idea.

Further, Bullinger wasn’t there (see below).  And it wasn’t Luther who wanted to achieve a united witness but, again, the Prince and neither was it the others who were most intransigent- it was Luther.  In sum, then, the portrait of Luther here is totally wrong.  Thiselton simply misstates nearly every fact.

UPDATE:  the published version corrects the Bullinger error and replaces it with Bucer, rightly.  But the rest of the paragraph remains problematic.

As mentioned just above, the draft contains one particular error that I have reported to the publisher in hopes that there is still time before printing to correct it: Thiselton remarks, wrongly, that the conference in Marburg included Zwingli, Luther, and Bullinger (!).   Bullinger will be quite surprised to learn that.  Having offered a correction I’m happy to say that, thankfully, the editor has indeed agreed that this is an error (in consultation with the author) and have asserted that it will be corrected before the printing is completed.

The rest of the volume is not free of such egregious mistakes either, though.  For instance, in his treatment in part 3 of terms, Thiselton writes

The Greek words daimon and daimonion occur over 1200 times each and the verb daimonizomai over 1200 times in the Synoptic Gospels.

This is simply untrue.  ‘daimon’ doesn’t occur at all.  δαιμόνιον occurs only 15 times. δαιμονίου occurs 4 times.  And the verbal form δαιμονίζεται occurs but once.  In fact, δαιμον* in all its various forms only occurs 78 times in the entire New Testament.

UPDATE: The published edition retains these errors.  Regrettably.  Consequently, what I wrote concerning the pre-publication draft is still true of the published version:

Thiselton has written a volume that contains much that is useful.  But readers should fact-check his assertions via other resources.  He isn’t always accurate.

Written by Jim

7 Aug 2018 at 6:30 pm

Posted in Book Review, Books, Theology

Hiobs viele Gesichter: Studien zur Komposition, Tradition und frühen Rezeption des Hiobbuches

V&R have just published this:

Die in diesem Band gesammelten Beiträge behandeln die literarische Gattung des Buches Hiob, seine zentralen anthropologischen und theologischen Themen, wie das Verhältnis von Gerechtigkeit, Leid und Zeit, sowie die frühe Rezeptionsgeschichte. Die Stellung des Buches Hiob im Kontext antiker und vorderorientalische Theodizeedichtungen und sein Ort in der biblischen Literatur- und Theologiegeschichte kommen dabei ebenso zu Wort wie die Buchgestalten der frühen griechischen, aramäischen, syrischen und lateinischen übersetzungen. Alle Aufsätze verbindet, dass sie die vielfältigen Gesichter, die Hiob im Laufe der Komposition, Redaktion und frühen Rezeption erhalten hat, zum Strahlen zu bringen versuchen. Ein Schwerpunkt liegt auf den antiken und spätantiken Versionen des Hiobbuches.

Denn in ihnen setzt sich die Vielfalt der Profilierung der Figur Hiobs, die sich schon in der Kompositions- und Redaktionsgeschichte des hebräischen Textes spiegelt, fort. Narrative Leerstellen, die das hebräische Hiobbuch enthält, werden gefüllt. Im Modus einer innerbiblischen Schriftauslegung werden Figuren aus dem Buch ausgestaltet und Hiob selbst in der Geschichte biblischer Gestalten und Geschehen verortet. Die frühe Rezeptionsgeschichte erweist sich dabei als Fortsetzung der Kompositions- und Redaktionsgeschichte, sie lösst im Ausgangstext angelegte Erzähl- und Denkstrukturen genauer erkennen, reflektiert frühe Aneignungsgeschichten und trägt selbst zu einem tieferen Verstehen des Hiobbuches bei.

A review copy has been sent along by V&R.

I’t’s the perfect collection of essays leading up, eventually, to the publication of the author’s commentary on the Book of Job.  Indeed, what the author has provided is what many are beginning to provide: a series of preliminary studies on a biblical text in preparation for a larger monograph on that text.  In such volumes, scholars provide us with a window into their workshop.  How do they approach central issues?  How do they apply various methodologies to that text?  What sort of groundwork do they do in preparing to publish an extensive critical commentary?  Those questions are answered in volumes such as the present one.

The essays are arranged topically:

Was die Hiobforschung bewegt – Eine historisch-kritische Übersicht über 300 Jahre literaturgeschichtliche Arbeit am Buch Hiob makes up the first grouping of six essays.   The second group of seven essays is titled Die literarische Gattung des Buches Hiob – Robert Lowth (1710–1787) und seine Erben.  Three essays appear under the heading Der leidende Mensch im Spiegel des Buches Hiob.  Seven are subsumed under Beobachtungen zum Verhältnis von Zeit und Leid im Buch Hiob; six under Hiobs „Zeichen“ – Traditions- und theologiegeschichtliche
Anmerkungen zu Hiob 31,35–37; four under Die Torah in den Augen Hiobs; three under Hiob und seine Frau in jüdischen Schriften aus hellenistisch-römischer Zeit; and three under Hiobs Sohn – Eine textgeschichtliche Notiz zu Hiob 42,17 (Septuaginta).

Many of these essays appear in print elsewhere but here they are handily assembled and made easily accessible.  The volume’s value is precisely in the fact that so many studies of the Book of Job, which are incredibly insightful, are under one cover.

Der vorliegende Band versammelt acht ausgewählte Aufsätze zum Buch Hiob, die ich in den Jahren 2003 bis 2016 an unterschiedlichen, zum Teil etwas entlegenen Orten veröffentlicht habe, und eine noch nicht publizierte forschungsgeschichtliche Übersicht zur kritischen Hiobforschung in den letzten 300 Jahren.

The author is quite well informed on the topic and brings to bear a wealth of knowledge especially of the Rabbinic traditions.  Copious observations from the Talmud and other early Jewish texts shine through in nearly every part.  But historical-critical scholarship is also in Witte’s toolbox.  He is, briefly, a master of many methodologies and he is tied to none.

I look forward to his commentary.  In the meanwhile, I commend this work to you as you too await the appearance of a commentary sure to matter.

Written by Jim

24 Jul 2018 at 1:37 pm

In the Footsteps of King David: Revelations from an Ancient Biblical City

King David is a pivotal figure in the Bible, which tells his life story in detail and gives stirring accounts of his deeds, including the slaying of the Philistine giant Goliath and the founding of his capital in Jerusalem. But no certain archaeological finds from the period of his reign or of the kingdom he ruled over have ever been uncovered—until now.

In this groundbreaking account, the excavators of Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Valley of Elah, where the Bible says David fought Goliath, reveal how seven years of exhaustive investigation have uncovered a city dating to the time of David— the late eleventh and early tenth century BCE—surrounded by massive fortifications with impressive gates and a clear urban plan, as well as an abundance of finds that tell us much about the inhabitants. Discussing the link between the Bible, archaeology, and history In the Footsteps of King David explains the significance of these discoveries and how they shed new light on David’s kingdom. The topic is at the center of a controversy that has raged for decades, but these findings successfully challenge scholars disputing the historicity of the Bible and the chronology of the events recounted in it.

I’m reviewing this one for Reading Religion.  So you’ll find it there some day.

Written by Jim

14 Jul 2018 at 10:58 am

Posted in Book Review, Books

Sources of Evil: Studies in Mesopotamian Exorcistic Lore

Sources of Evil: Studies in Mesopotamian Exorcistic Lore is a collection of thirteen essays on the body of knowledge employed by ancient Near Eastern healing experts, most prominently the ‘exorcist’ and the ‘physician’, to help patients who were suffering from misfortunes caused by divine anger, transgressions of taboos, demons, witches, or other sources of evil. The volume provides new insights into the two most important catalogues of Mesopotamian therapeutic lore, the Exorcist’s Manual and the Aššur Medical Catalogue, and contains discussions of agents of evil and causes of illness, ways of repelling evil and treating patients, the interpretation of natural phenomena in the context of exorcistic lore, and a description of the symbolic cosmos with its divine and demonic inhabitants.

Thirteen essays by thirteen scholars of ancient magic and medicine are here assembled as the work product of a conference in 2015 on the book’s subject.  Essays are divided into five subject areas:

  • Organizing Magical and Medical Knowledge
  • Agents of Evil and Causes of Illness
  • Repelling Evil with Rituals, Amulets and Incantations
  • Concepts and Therapies of Illness
  • The Living and the Ordered World in Exorcistic Lore

An Index and a Preface are also provided as is an Introduction.

The editors are to be congratulated for masterfully organizing the parts into a cohesive, flowing whole.  Essays appear within the five divisions exactly where they ought to, without any second guessing coming to mind as one reads through them (asking things like ‘why did they put this essay here instead of somewhere else’).  The Introduction too is especially helpful as each essay is treated to a careful summary.  With the Introductory material at hand, readers can find their way to the essays of most interest and avoid those that are less interesting (to them).

The link above contains the table of contents, so readers are referred there for those particulars.  The present reviewer found the contributions of Frahm (chapter 1), Mertens-Wagschal (chapter 5), Schwemer (chapter 6), and Jimenez (chapter 12) to be the most engaging and the most informative and interesting.  The others were adequate, but these four were exceptional.

The general reader will find the work technical and dense.  Much is presumed of the volume’s readers.  Indeed, without a fairly good grasp of the language and literature of Mesopotamia the volume will be less than ‘open’.

But for specialists in one corner of ancient Near Eastern literature this volume is quite essential.  Or, to say that another way- if you are keenly involved in and engaged with exorcism and healing as understood in ancient Mesopotamia, you will not want to skip this volume.  If, though, a very narrow slice of ancient magical lore isn’t your cup of tea, you might well decide to spend your hard earned Shekels on something else (but do ask your research library to obtain a copy.  Someone will read it).

Written by Jim

12 Jul 2018 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Book Review, Books

Amos, Jonah and Micah: Evangelical Exegetical Commentary

JoAnna M. Hoyt’s contribution to the EEC is a brilliantly helpful exegetical volume.  Three of Ancient Israel’s most important texts are here carefully analyzed and explicated.  As is the case with other volumes in the series, Hoyt provides a clear introduction to each book; a helpful outline; important textual notes; up to date bibliographies; and most importantly of all, cogent and useful comments on each pericope.  The volume also includes maps and charts and all manner of pedagogical materials.

These days the word ‘Evangelical’ is taking a genuine beating and to be honest in many respects it has become quite empty of meaning.  In this volume, however, ‘Evangelical’ retrieves its authentic meaning and readers are genuinely provided ‘Evangelische’ Theology.

Take, for instance, this excerpt where the exposition of Micah 6:6-9 is introduced:

This second section of rhetorical questions transitions between the first (vv. 3–5) and the third (vv. 10–16) set of questions. The first focuses on Yahweh’s faithfulness while the third focuses on Israel’s unfaithfulness. In this section Israel’s covenant ignorance is exposed, highlighting the underlying reason for their unfaithfulness despite Yahweh’s faithfulness. The rhetorical questions (vv. 6–7), either voiced by the Israelites or spoken by Micah as an example of their ignorance, showcase their lack of even the most basic understanding of sacrifices and offerings as well as the purpose of such. Yahweh then offers correction. He does not detail sacrifices and offerings that they should offer; rather, he explains that he desires justice, mercy, and that they attentively follow him. While sacrifices and offerings are prescribed in the covenant, they are not the heart of the covenant.

A fresh translation of each pericope is provided and it has to be said that Hoyt is a very good translator.  Take her rendering of Jonah 4:1-3

1 And it was gravely unjust in Jonah’s eyes and it made him furious. 2 He prayed to Yahweh and he said, “Ah, Yahweh! This was my issue with your commission while I was still in my own country! This is why I tried to avert this by fleeing to Tarshish. Because I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in mercy, and one who relents concerning judgment. 3 Now, Yahweh, please kill me because it is better for me to die than for me to live.”

Hoyt’s renderings are both vivid and accurate.  Readers of this volume will not be disappointed.  And, furthermore, they will be instructed and edified.  This work does what a commentary is supposed to do and no higher praise can be paid it.

Written by Jim

10 Jul 2018 at 11:14 am

Supplementation and the Study of the Hebrew Bible

This new volume includes ten original essays that demonstrate clearly how common, varied, and significant the phenomenon of supplementation is in the Hebrew Bible. Essays examine instances of supplementation that function to aid pronunciation, fill in abbreviations, or clarify ambiguous syntax. They also consider more complex additions to and reworkings of particular lyrical, legal, prophetic, or narrative texts. Scholars also examine supplementation by the addition of an introduction, a conclusion, or an introductory and concluding framework to a particular lyrical, legal, prophetic, or narrative text.

You’ll see a review of this in a forthcoming number of SJOT.  It has essays by the superstars Reinhard Kratz, Thomas Römer, Konrad Schmid and Jacob Wright.

Written by Jim

5 Jul 2018 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Book Review, Books, SJOT

The Early Karl Barth: Historical Contexts and Intellectual Formation 1905–1935

Paul Silas Peterson presents Karl Barth (1886–1968) in his sociopolitical, cultural, ecclesial and theological contexts from 1905 to 1935. The time period begins in 1905, as Barth began to prepare for a speech on the “social question” (which he held in 1906). It ends in 1935, the year he returned to Switzerland from Germany. In the foreground of Peterson’s inquiry is Barth’s relation to the features of his time, especially radical socialist ideology, WWI, an intellectual trend that would later be called the Conservative Revolution, the German Christians, the Young Reformation Movement, and National Socialism. Barth’s view of and interaction with the Jews is also analyzed along with other issues, such as radical thinking, anti-liberalism, alterity, anti- or trans-historicism, Expressionism, and New Objectivity. The author also addresses specific questions disputed in the secondary literature, such as Barth’s theological development, the place of WWI in his intellectual development, his role in the Dehn Case, his reaction to the rise of fascism in Europe, his relationship to 19 thcentury modern liberal Protestantism, his relationship to the Leonhard Ragaz-wing of the Religious Socialists, and his relationship to the Weimar Republic.

Mohr have provided a copy for review.

This volume lands like a bombshell on the playground of the Barthians, fragmenting preconceptions and blowing apart the facade of Barth the zealous anti-Nazi Confessing Church hero.  Peterson’s work will change scholarship.

… in 1935 Barth moved to Switzerland and became more critical of National Socialism.  Before this, he was not publicly opposed to it.  For over two years in National Socialist Germany, Barth never spoke out against it (p.2).


Even for his time, Barth was propagating disturbing racist ideas.  He taught young people in his confirmation courses that people with African backgrounds, the “Neger” (‘niggers,’ ‘negroes’ or ‘blackamoors’), are ‘little intelligent’ and that they ‘live on a lower level’ and are even ‘inferior to the Europeans’ (p.2).


In the early 1930’s, Barth did virtually nothing for the Jews- and this even after some Jews called on him to act.  He went so far to claim that he would lose his Professorship if he did do anything.  Barth also put the Jews in a negative light on many occasions. … In National Socialist Germany, Barth argued that the ‘Jew question’ did not belong in the pulpit (p. 4).

That’s just material from the Introduction.  Peterson goes on to make his case, point by point, line by line, jot by jot and tittle by tittle that the early Barth is not the man so many perceive him to be as they view him (wrongly) through the lens of the later Barth.

Peterson’s work is a revised version of his Habilitationsschrift accepted by the Protestant Theology Faculty at the University of Tübingen.  Following the foreword and the list of abbreviations Peterson launches right into his deconstruction of the early Barth.

The Introduction concerns itself with a biographical overview and then a socio-political historical study which places Barth squarely in his Weimar-ian context.

The first chapter, ‘Socialism, Marburg and WWI (1905-1919)’ is a stellar examination of Barth’s early socialist thinking and the impact that the first world war had on him.

Chapter two, ‘Romans, Overbeck, Harnack and Ethics (1919-1931)’ is a bit longer and more detailed than the first chapter as it takes Peterson a bit of space to explain the intertwinings of Barth’s teachers and the politics of the day.

The third chapter is fairly brief but focuses entirely on ‘The Dehn Case (1931-32).’  This case is pivotal and critical for a proper understanding of the early Barth and Peterson here makes that crystal clear.

Chapter four, ‘National Socialism and Theological Existence Today! (1932-1935)’.  Peterson here takes readers through the forest of the Altona Confession and the Young Reformed Movement along with, of course, the key materials published in Theological Existence Today! which addressed the current church-political situation and then Peterson offers readers a very compelling discussion of the Barmen Declaration in juxtaposition with Barth’s response to the loyalty oath to Hitler!

The oath runs thusly:

I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to the leader of the German Reich and Volk, Adolf Hitler, observe the law, and conscientiously fulfill my official duties, so help me God (pp. 328-329).

Peterson observes

On the 7th of September, 1934, Barth wrote to Niesel about the Hitler Oath.  He expresses concerns about it but also entertains ways of interpreting it which would allow one to sign it, for example, with a ‘reservatio mentalis’ (p. 329).

The notion that Barth was staunchly anti-Nazi and rabidly anti-Hitler in the early period is simply wrong.

The fifth chapter then widens the focus to a discussion of Barth and dialectical theology and National Socialism and the Jews and Authoritarianism.  It is superb.

In his concluding chapter Peterson asks a series of questions:  Is Barth best understood through the theological lens alone?  Was he in continuity or discontinuity with 19th century liberal theology?  Was he apolitical in the Weimar Republic?  And did Barth contribute to the toxic forces that led to the downfall of the Weimar Republic?

The work closes with a bibliography, a listing of Barth’s works, other literature, and an index of names.

Many volumes have been written on Barth but few have been as engaging or important as this one.  The light shed on Barth, from his own writings (which are seldom consulted or read with anything but from a backward glance through the late Barth) on his early development is immense.  I can only heartily recommend this volume.  The Barthians will hate it, but the rest of us learn so much from it that our perceptions of Barth are forever changed.

Written by Jim

3 Jul 2018 at 9:24 am

Wussten Sie, dass die Reformierten lange Zeit für Theater sorgten?

A little collection of essays by our own Peter Opitz has been published by the great folk at TVZ.

Die gesammelten Kolumnen aus dem bref Magazin

  • Überraschendes aus der Reformation
  • Fundiert und humorvoll
  • Die beliebten Kolumnen aus dem bref Magazin

For those unfamiliar with Bref Magazin, it is a periodical focusing on issues of interest to the Reformed community in Switzerland and the wider world.  It commenced in 2016 and has been regularly published since then.

From time to time the very gifted Reformation scholar Peter Opitz has contributed brief pieces to the magazine.  Those are here collected and made available in one convenient place for interested readers.

Each essay is about a page and a half or two pages at the maximum and they cover a variety  of topics from the confusion of Luther with Zwingli in the popular mind to the part women played in the Reformation to laughter as a sign of God’s Spirit to whether or not the Reformed are also ‘Protestant’ to the illustrations of the Froschauer Bibel to Zwingli’s appreciation of music to Zwingli’s Hebrew teacher and many others.

It is wide ranging and informative and delightful and a bright example of scholarship for the masses.

This little 49 page volume with it’s twenty-one ‘Did You Know?’s is the perfect little introduction to Church History questions that are insightful, humorous, witty, and instructive.  If you read it, you will enjoy it.  I promise.

Written by Jim

28 Jun 2018 at 1:29 pm

The Bible & Archaeology

Ancient artifacts and the Bible illuminate each other in various ways, but it can be difficult to understand how this process works and how archaeological discoveries should be interpreted. In this book, Matthieu Richelle provides a concise, up-to-date introduction to the relationship between archaeology and the Old and New Testament Scriptures. He shows how historic physical artifacts and the biblical texts illuminate one another—creating a fascinating “dialogue” that sheds light on the meaning of both.  What emerges is a rich and balanced picture that enlivens our understanding of the Bible’s message, increases our appreciation for the historical and cultural contexts in which it was written, and helps us be realistic about the limits of our knowledge. This work is revised and updated from the original French translation.

It’s available here.

Originally published in French in 2012, Richelle’s volume is divided into six chapters:

  1. What Archaeologists Discover
  2. When Stones Speak
  3. The Limits of Archaeology
  4. The Bible and Archaeology: What Kind of Relationship?
  5. A Case Study: The Kingdom of David and Solomon
  6. Archaeology and Writing in the Time of David and Solomon

There are also a list of figures, a foreword, a preface to the English edition, a list of abbreviations, an Introduction, a conclusion, a bibliography, and the much dreaded endnotes, and, finally,  full color illustrations.

As Richelle moves through his material he has one goal in mind: the clear dissemination of those things which archaeology can do and those it cannot do.  This is not an introduction to method, it is an introduction to the limitations of archaeological knowledge, and it is superb.  Though a translation, it is fully revised and in many places expanded, so – at least to me – it is appropriate to call this a wholly new work.  Readers of the original French text will want to read the present rendition as it provides much that the earlier version lacked.

Those familiar with archaeological debates from the past decades will wonder where Richelle fits in the discipline.  Is he a ‘high chronology’ kind of guy or is he a ‘low chronology’ type?  He is, I’m very pleased to say, both, and neither.  Richelle is one of those rare characters in archaeological studies and biblical studies (and the two often overlap) who takes things case by case and decides upon the best evidence where he stands or sits on an issue.

Richelle methodically addresses the central issues of archaeological research:  what are the kinds of things archaeologists discover?  What do these things tell us about daily life in the ancient world?  What sort of written remains exist and what do they tell us, and what do they not tell us?

He also describes, really quite substantively, the limits of data interpretation and the limits inherent in excavations themselves.  But most importantly, at least to me, is his extraordinarily even handed discussion of the relationship of the Bible to archaeology.  Is ‘Biblical Archaeology’ an appropriate field of enquiry or are we already predetermining outcome by use of that label itself?  Is ‘Syro-Palestinian’ archaeology a more appropriate nomenclature?  And just how much should we use the Bible at all in terms of archaeological research?

In the fifth chapter Richelle offers his case study- David and Solomon.  Here he fairly and equitably describes the problem with traditionalist views.  He asks what is really at stake here.  And finally he offers his perspective.

The sixth and final chapter is a bit of a diversion.  Instead of addressing another case study it asks after the problem of literacy in the Davidic/Solomonic periods.  It’s a very intriguing investigation but it feels as though it doesn’t really belong and was added almost as an afterthought.  And I don’t mean that in any sort of negative way.  It just feels like an appendix and not part of the argument of the monograph.  Nonetheless, it is quite valuable, however it sits or why-so-ever it may be there.

The book at hand is the kind of work that every undergraduate course in Biblical Studies should include on its reading list.  It is the sort of work that persons introducing archaeological method should require.  And it is the type of volume that laypeople who have a subscription to Biblical Archaeology Review should read and digest before they look through another issue of that magazine.

In sum, it’s magnificent.

Written by Jim

28 Jun 2018 at 11:44 am