Israel’s Past: Studies on History and Religion in Ancient Israel and Judah

This collection of essays gives an insight into the problems that we encounter when we try to (re)construct events from Israel’s past. On the one hand, the Hebrew Bible is a biased source, on the other hand, the data provided by archaeology and extra-biblical texts are constrained and sometimes contradictory. Discussing a set of examples, the author applies fundamental insight from the philosophy of history to clarify Israel’s past.

Bob Becking is the author.  The contents are viewable above.  All of the essays have appeared previously except the last one, which examines the contribution of Philip Davies to the question of ‘histories of Israel’.  And it is a worthy piece indeed.  After looking at Philip’s notion of the three sorts of histories of Israel, Becking shows how scholars reacted to his notions, both positively and negatively.  He then offers a brief ‘third way’ which harkens back to Weippert’s approach and ends up with a hybrid approach adapting elements of Davies to Weippert’s.

The remaining essays have, as I said, appeared before and have been duly examined by researchers in those various manifestations.  Yet, they are worthy of reexamination by scholars in the present volume as, taken as a whole, they advance the field.  Especially noteworthy are the chapter which examines Zephaniah 1:9, and the essay discussing the return of the deity from exile.  Becking has done some really remarkable work here.

The essays are naturally well written although in a number of instances they would have benefitted from a closer editorial look.  The word ‘bread’ is used where the author means ‘breed’ at one point and the word YHWH appears on several occasions in reverse direction, as though there was meant to be found the word in Hebrew font but the font wasn’t applied and one is left with the curious ‘hwhy’.  Additionally, ‘movemnet’ stands in the place of ‘movement’; ‘coul’ instead of ‘could’; ‘twbxm’ which should be in Hebrew font (right to left); ‘observebal’ instead of ‘observable’; ‘expresse’ for ‘expresses’; and, as the last instance to be mentioned, ‘disappaered’ for ‘disappeared’.

None of us are immune to typos.  Heaven knows I’ve blundered aplenty.  I mention them simply in hopes that if a second edition is published the editorial team will take a close look at the text as it stands and correct especially the Hebrew font issues.

The very extensive bibliography at the end of the volume is also extremely beneficial.

There are few scholars occupying the rarified air of the likes of Philp Davies and Gerhard von Rad and Julius Wellhausen and Niels Peter Lemche and Thomas Thompson and Manfred Weippert and Robert Carroll.  Scholars who make epochs, who forward the discipline, who make a difference.  Bob Becking is among them and as a consequence his work is must reading.  This volume is must reading.  Or, for those who have read these essays (save one) elsewhere, then this volume is must re-reading.

Read it.

Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical, Theological, Cultural, and Practical Perspectives

The conversation about the relationship between women and men and their roles in the Christian life and the church has evolved, but the topic continues to inspire debate and disagreement.

The third edition of this groundbreaking work brings together scholars firmly committed to the authority of Scripture to explore historical, biblical, theological, cultural, and practical aspects of this discussion. This fresh, positive defense of gender equality is at once scholarly and practical, irenic yet spirited, up-to-date, and cognizant of opposing positions. In this edition, readers will find both revised essays and new essays on biblical equality in relation to several issues, including the image of God, the analogy of slavery, same-sex marriage, abortion, domestic abuse, race, and human flourishing.

The table of contents is available at the link above.  I advise potential readers to take a careful look at it so they have a good idea of what they’re getting into.

I also advise potential readers that the present book has appeared in two previous editions, the first of which at least (I can’t find any copies of the second edition) had a quite different subtitle.   The full title of the first edition was ‘Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy’. I’m glad they changed the subtitle of the book when they added essayists and editors and expanded the treatment.  The previous subtitle was just simply off-putting and to be fair a bit misleading.  The present subtitle is both more accurate and more welcoming.

Yes, dear friend, red flags all around these days with that title.  It had several different editors and was considerably shorter.  I mention those details to point out that the third edition is, for all intents and purposes, a wholly different book.

I also need to mention the fact that this is the sort of book that will provoke all kinds of discussion and disdain from those corners of the internet where books are not read before they are debated and anger is the only criteria for the presumption of competence to comment.  To put it more briefly, this book will provoke lots of rage among those who have never and will never actually read it for themselves.

To be fair, this volume is not altogether convincing and there are parts of it that are just plain wrong.  But there are a lot, and I mean a lot more places where it is right and those with the intelligence and ethics to actually read carefully will be rewarded richly thereby.

The essays in this volume touch on some of the most angrily debated hot button issues of the day.  But they do it with a level of fairness one rarely sees on the right or the left.  Take, for instance, the essay by Ronald Pierce on same sex marriage.  Readers may or may not agree with his conclusions but there is simply no one who is fair minded who can accuse him of being biased or of misrepresenting a view he does not hold.  Indeed, Pierce’s essay is a model of fairly and equitably presenting both sides of an issue without either judgment or hostility to one position or the other.  More people writing on the topic of same sex marriage and homosexuality should be like Pierce.

Other exceptional chapters are penned by Gordon Fee (who is always fantastic), Cynthia Long Westfall (one of the best scholars of our day), Stanley Porter (whose essay titled ‘Gender Equality and the Analogy of Slavery’ should be turned into a book length treatment), and Alice Mathews (who provides perhaps the perfect capstone to the book).

This really is a lovely volume, and it provides much grist for the mill regarding the relations of the sexes, without being sexist, demeaning, or talking down to anyone.  More of these kinds of discussions are sorely needed and people then allowed to adopt a view which they can hold without being condemned for it.

Some will absolutely hate this book.  Without even reading it.  Those who read it may not love it but they will not dislike it, because it is the kindest, fairest, most level-headed multi-essay thematic volume produced on the subject of the Bible and the sexes (and sexuality) in a VERY long time.

Theological Anthropology, 500 Years after Martin Luther

Now out, from the inestimable Christophe Chalamet et al,

Theological Anthropology, 500 years after Martin Luther gathers contributions on the theme of the human being and human existence from the perspectives of Orthodox and Protestant theology. These two traditions still have much to learn from each another, five hundred years after Martin Luther’s Reformation. Taking Martin Luther’s thought as a point of reference and presenting Orthodox perspectives in connection with and in contradistinction to it, this volume seeks to foster a dialogue on some of the key issues of theological anthropology, such as human freedom, sin, faith, the human as created in God’s image and likeness, and the ultimate horizon of human existence. The present volume is one of the first attempts of this kind in contemporary ecumenical dialogue.

It sounds tremendous.  A review copy is on the way.

The Pharisees

For centuries, Pharisees have been well known but little understood—due at least in part to their outsized role in the Christian imagination arising from select negative stereotypes based in part on the Gospels. Yet historians see Pharisees as respected teachers and forward-thinking innovators who helped make the Jewish tradition more adaptable to changing circumstances and more egalitarian in practice. Seeking to bridge this gap, the contributors to this volume provide a multidisciplinary appraisal of who the Pharisees actually were, what they believed and taught, and how they have been depicted throughout history.

The table of contents is amazing.  A review copy arrived today.  More anon.

Spirituality According to John: Abiding in Christ in the Johannine Writings

The Gospel of John, the epistle of 1 John, and the Apocalypse all begin in the same way: by pointing to the importance of knowing the Word, both written and incarnate. Using an artistic, storytelling approach to spirituality, John relies heavily on readers’ imaginations to help them see what it takes to become disciples by abiding in Jesus.

Rodney Reeves combines exegesis with spiritual reflection to explore how the only biblical writer to employ three different genres presents a consistent vision of Christian spirituality. Rather than focusing on detailed instructions, John uses evocative metaphors and illustrations so that readers can envision how to follow Jesus—as disciples, in community, and even at the end of the world.

Filled with stories and implications for today’s readers, Spirituality According to John provides an accessible introduction to the rich spiritual world of the Johannine literature that makes up much of the New Testament. In John’s era and now, anyone who has ears to hear can learn to truly abide in Christ.

Blech.  I did not like this book at all, and it’s not this book’s fault.  And it’s not because of the unending ‘stream of consciousness’ reading of the Gospel or John, his letters, and Revelation, nor is it the ‘aimed to encourage’ personal anecdotes that festoon every page.  To be sure, those are minor sources of discomfort (and if I’m honest, annoyance).

No, the reason in chief that I did not like this book is because it’s mysticism by another name: ‘spirituality’.  But not the sort of spirituality one encounters in the books of Tozer, for example.  This spirituality, this mysticism is pedestrian, contrived, forced, too sweet, too sugary, too haughty.

In Part One Reeves leads his hapless victims on a sugar coated excursion through bits and pieces of the Gospel of John.  The theme, as he sees it, is ‘Following the Word Home’ and one is to do this by hearing the Word, confessing the Word, Incarnating the Word (!) and abiding in the Word.

Part Two focuses on John’s letters, which he conceives as leading believers to ‘communing with the Word together’.   Part three attempts (and fails) to help readers ‘remain in the Word till the end of the world’ through a fairly woeful reading of Revelation.

There’s a final word and a brief and virtually insubstantial bibliography and an index.

In each and every part there are what can only be described as pure exaggerations.  Take, for instance, this gem from page 199:

Because of John, all of us are seers.

No. We aren’t.  Or this one from page 102:

Because they see, others come to Jesus.  That’s why we will abide together until he comes.

Blerg.  Mysticism.  Blerg.

Mysticism is bothersome because it isn’t based in theology or exegesis, it’s based in feelings.  It is the exaltation of one’s feelings to the level, in many instances, of revelation itself.  Yet your feelings are not divine revelation and they do not equal in power the words of Scripture.  But mysticism pretends that they do.

And in some places Reeves is just simply historically wrong.  For example, on page 121:

Biblical literacy fosters communion.

Really?  Then where did communion come from in the early church, where loads of people were neither biblically literate nor literate at all.  It’s true that biblical literacy is important in our context; but it is false to presume that it fosters communion.  Indeed, lots of folks who are biblically literate share nothing in common and certainly they do not share fellowship.

Personally, I find the act of exegesis far more spiritually satisfying and meaningful than reading anecdotes loosely connected to decontextualized and cherry picked scriptural passages.  Spirituality according to John as the exegesis of John’s own words is a spirituality I can happily embrace.  Mysticism, not so much.

If mysticism is your kind of thing you’ll enjoy this book.  And you should read it.  Because you’ll like it.  I read it.  I didn’t like it.  I could never like it.  Because I prefer scripture as scripture, not as springboard for the feeling of my feels and your feels and our feels in a great orgy of emotional feeliness.

Blech.  It’s just so repulsive.

John Calvin and the Righteousness of Works

John Calvin’s understanding of works-righteousness is more complex than is often recognized. While he denounces it in some instances, he affirms it in others. This study shows that Calvin affirms works-righteousness within the context where faith-righteousness is already established, and that he even teaches a form of justification by works. Calvin ascribes not only a positive role to good works in relation to divine acceptance, but also soteriological value to believers’ good works. This study demonstrates such by exploring Calvin’s theological anthropology, his understanding of divine-human activity, his teaching on the nature of good works, and his understanding of divine grace and benevolence. It also addresses current debates in Calvin scholarship by exploring topics such as union with Christ, the relation between justification and sanctification, the relation between good works and divine acceptance, the role of good works in the Christian life, and the content of good works.

This volume is a revised doctoral dissertation and consequently is discipline specific in its intended audience.

Following the acknowledgements and the table of abbreviations, E. provides an introduction.  In it he describes the aims of his study and the way in which it will be presented.  And that aim is to investigate a particular segment of Calvin’s theology- to wit, Calvin on the Duplex Gratia and works righteousness.

Chapter one describes the current state of the question (as one would expect from a dissertation).  Moving into his own argument in chapter two, E. discusses the notions of human nature and human ability in their connection to the idea of righteousness.

Chapter three follows logically with its investigation of the concepts of good works and the acceptance (or not) of God of those efforts.  Here personal righteousness and justification are the focus.

The fourth chapter helps readers, or at least aims to help readers, wrestle with the saving value of good works (whatever those may be).  What have good works to do with personal holiness and communion with God and the assurance of faith, and rewards, and eventually, the fulfillment of salvation.

Chapter five is really the heart of the volume.  Everything up to this point lays the groundwork for the very extensive, very careful, very helpful, and very useful discussion of the actual contents of good works.  Several aspects of good works make an appearance herein: good works as the keeping of the law; good works as manifestation of love of God; good works as manifestation of the love of neighbor; and the ultimate importance of authentic affection.

Chapter six sums up the presentation and serves as a very helpful overview of the whole.  There are also a bibliography and an index of persons and subjects.

There are a few problems with the volume and, you will be unsurprised to learn, they relate to the virtual ignoring of Zwingli’s contributions on the subject.   First, Zwingli is mentioned several times throughout the volume but, unless I missed it (which I doubt), his very helpful suggestions on good works are never really dealt with whilst Luther and Melanchthon are often taken in as conversation partners for Calvin.  The volume would have been richer and deeper if Zwingli’s important contributions had been utilized more thoroughly.  To be sure, every author has to make decisions about what they want to discuss and that’s perfectly fine.  As a reader, I was somewhat surprised by the dearth of engagement with Zwingli’s theology and I would be a less than honest reviewer if I failed to say so.

And second, strangely, whilst Zwingli’s name is spelled properly in the list of primary sources (Huldrych) for some inexplicable reason it is misspelled in the index (Huldryck).  Huldryck?  In the words of Joe Biden, ‘come on, man’.

Nonetheless, I found the book very engaging and very enjoyable (inasmuch as doctoral dissertations can be called enjoyable)(it’s not as though they are a large cheese pizza with black olives and mushrooms and that glorious sauce and cheese that festoon them).  It was, if I might compare it to a food, a very nice cheese plate at a Zurich restaurant eaten whilst carrying on a nice conversation with Pierrick Hildebrand or Peter Opitz.  Or to say it plainly, it was good.

I commend it to you.  You’ll find it enjoyable too.  Especially if Calvin is, as the kids say, your jam.  Additionally, it will cleanse your intellectual palate of the cat food-esque smorgasbord of social media discussions of Calvin.  And that’s a very good thing.

Daily Scriptures: 365 Readings in Hebrew, Greek and Latin

Pastors, students, and scholars not in the midst of language coursework often find it difficult to maintain their knowledge of biblical languages like Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. For those looking to do so in a meaningful but manageable way, this devotional offers 365 short daily readings, pairing an Old Testament passage in Hebrew and Greek with a corresponding New Testament passage in Greek and Latin. Lexical notes in English are included as a way of facilitating a comfortable reading experience that will build one’s confidence and ability in reading the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament, and the Latin Vulgate.

A review copy has been sent by the publisher.  Let’s see if we like this.  More anon.

Corpus Christologicum: Texts and Translations for the Study of Jewish Messianism and Early Christology

In recent decades, the study of Jewish messianic ideas and how they influenced early Christology has become an incredibly active field within biblical studies. Numerous books and articles have engaged with the ancient sources to trace various themes, including “Messiah” language itself, exalted patriarchs, angel mediators, “wisdom” and “word,” eschatology, and much more. But anyone who attempts to study the Jewish roots of early Christianity faces a challenge: the primary sources are wide-ranging, involve ancient languages, and are often very difficult to track down. Books are littered with citations and a host of other sometimes obscure writings, and it can be difficult to sort them all out.

This book makes a much-needed contribution by bringing together the most important primary texts for the study of Jewish messianism and early Christology—nearly three hundred in total—and presenting the reader with essential information to study them: the critical text itself (with apparatus), a fresh translation, a current bibliography, and thematic tags that allow the reader to trace themes across the corpus. This volume aims to be the starting point for all future work on the primary sources that are relevant to messianology and Christology.

Greg Lanier has here assembled an extraordinarily comprehensive set of primary source materials which the interested reader will be astonished by.

Lanier begins with an introduction and then he brings to readers a very carefully constructed and clearly written overview of the presentation of texts which comprise the volume.  Or to put it another way, he describes how the book works.

To wit, he discusses the selection of sources, the commentary attendant on each text, the translation of the base text and its text critical apparatus, the references to which the text relates, and something he calls ‘thematic tags’.

I realize that all sounds rather odd, so here’s a photo of the overview:

Instantly potential users are given a map to each entry.  This resource is not merely a collection of texts which students of early Christology can mine.  It is a deeply useful and profoundly important guidebook to texts and their contents, contexts, and interpretations.  Each entry is a mini-course in textual history and interpretation.

Once Lanier explains how the book works, he provides indices for epithets, hypostases, figures, metaphors, and attributes.  A table of abbreviations and a key to terms is also offered.

Then, finally, the meat of the volume is provided: the Hebrew Bible and the versions, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, Philo and Josephus, and other Jewish and early Christian texts are assembled.

The volume concludes with a list of references (primary and secondary sources).

Again, rather than simply describing the materials, here’s a sample from the Pseudepigrapha:

The original language text occupies one column.  An English translation occupies the other.  The key words are underlined and textual notes and annotations are given.  And a short commentary gives readers a sense of the wider context.

This is an utterly remarkable resource and it reflects what would for most be a lifetime of work.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of this work and it is also impossible to overstate the value it has for biblical scholarship.

Even if readers are not particularly interested in Jewish Messianism, this work is a treasure-trove of primary source materials.  I find myself agreeing with my old friend Chris Tilling, who opines of the work that it ‘… offers something quite unique’.  Indeed it does!  I similarly must agree with John Collins who notes that Lanier has ‘… assembled a magnificent sourcebook…’

I am very keen to see to it that scholars and students make every effort to lay hold of this gem.  It is certainly my hope that they will.  Because there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if they do, they will also be enchanted, and grateful.

Thank you, Greg, for a volume worth owning in a day when so many volumes are neither worth owning nor even reading.  And thank you too, Hendrickson Publishers, for having the good sense to publish a work that matters.  Your reputation for solid scholarship is strengthened thereby.

John Davenant’s Hypothetical Universalism: A Defense of Catholic and Reformed Orthodoxy

Recently there has been a revival of interest in the views held by Reformed theologians within the parameters of confessional orthodoxy. For example, the doctrine known as ‘hypothetical universalism’–the idea that although Christ died in some sense for every person, his death was intended to bring about the salvation only for those who were predestined for salvation. Michael Lynch focuses on the hypothetical universalism of the English theologian and bishop John Davenant (1572-1641), arguing that it has consistently been misinterpreted and misrepresented as a via media between Arminian and Reformed theology.

A close examination of Davenent’s De Morte Christi, is the central core of the study. Lynch offers a detailed exposition of Davenant’s doctrine of universal redemption in dialogue with his understanding of closely related doctrines such as God’s will, predestination, providence, and covenant theology. He defends the thesis that Davenant’s version of hypothetical universalism represents a significant strand of the Augustinian tradition, including the early modern Reformed tradition. The book examines the patristic and medieval periods as they provided the background for the Lutheran, Remonstrant, and Reformed reactions to the so-called Lombardian formula (‘Christ died sufficiently for all, effectually for the elect’). It traces how Davenant and his fellow British delegates at the Synod of Dordt shaped the Canons of Dordt in such a way as to allow for their English hypothetical universalism.

I’ll be reviewing it for The English Historical Review, but posting a synopsis of the review here too.  Stay tuned.

 

James Barr Assessed

This arrived in late September for review.

James Barr is a widely recognized name in biblical studies, even if he is still best known for his The Semantics of Biblical Language. Barr’s Semantics, although first published in 1961, still generates animated discussion of its claims. However, over his lengthy career Barr published significant scholarship on a wide variety of topics within Old Testament studies and beyond.

This volume provides an assessment of Barr’s contribution to biblical studies sixty years after the publication of his first and still memorable volume on biblical semantics. As a result, this volume includes essays on major topics such as the Hebrew language, lexical semantics, lexicography, the Septuagint, and biblical theology.

The front matter is available at the link above and the table of contents also appears there.  In the introduction Porter describes the aim of the book and the contents of each chapter, essentially asserting what we all know- Barr has his critics, but they have not dethroned him from his lofty perch as the premier critic of the errors of the ‘biblical theology’ movement nor from his seat as the best and sharpest of critics of lazy and unsubstantiated thinking.

The essays in the volume then, in their five major sections, Hebrew Language and Old Testament, Lexical Semantics and Biblical Philology, Lexicography, Septuagint, and Biblical Theology, make the same points.  Barr has critics, but he remains one of the greatest scholars of the Hebrew Bible to grace the field.

The volume came to be because Porter thought it appropriate to mark in some way or the other the 50th anniversary of Barr’s seminal ‘Semantics of Biblical Language’.  And Porter is right to do so.

The introduction Porter pens is suitably appreciative and suitably scholarly in its refusal to fawn.  He confesses to having met Barr and having a brief conversation with him and that’s an anecdote that many of us have in common with him.  I met Prof Barr at a meeting of the SBL when Sam Balentine introduced us.  I then met his wife (a really lovely soul) at a subsequent meeting of the SBL and then had an extended conversation with her after Prof. Barr’s passing, when he was honored at the SECSOR meeting (that’s the Southeast region of the SBL).  Barr and bride loved birds and birding and I cannot tell you how much I learned about birds while chatting with her.

At any rate, personal memories aside, it’s very hard not to be bewitched by Barr’s essays and books.  And it’s harder still to maintain academic objectivity when those books and essays are the topic of discussion.  Yet each of our essayists manage it quite well.  So while I don’t know how well any of them knew Prof Barr (except John Barton, who knew him very, very well), they are all, to a person, suitably appreciative of Barr’s contributions and suitably critical of them when they need to be.

In short, the essays herein carry on a fantastic dialogue with Barr’s work.  A true dialogue.  An authentic examination and evaluation of ideas that though widely known and implemented, deserve and merit still wider attention.

Particularly well done are the contributions of Porter (mentioned above), Barton, Lambert, Adams (a real mind stretcher that one), Wishart, Seal, and Yoon.  Yet each in their own way, and all the rest, leave readers with things to ponder, issues unresolved, and questions unanswered.  In other words, they have started a conversation, each of them on topics unique to themselves, according to their interests and inclinations, which the rest of us are now summoned to enter into and continue.

Perhaps on the 75th anniversary of the publication of ‘The Semantics of Biblical Language’ a newer generation of scholars will carry on the conversation.  In the meanwhile, Porter et al have given us a lot to ponder.

Students of the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint in particular and scholars of the Old Testament and Lexicography in general will enjoy this work tremendously.  And if it  leads people to re-read, or to perhaps read for the first time, Barr’s books and essays, then it really will have done a service to the entire field of biblical studies.

Jacob Cerone’s Edition of Strack-Billerbeck: It’s Not a Disappointment

I’ve been using the German edition of Strack-Billerbeck (6 volumes) for a pretty long time now.  I consulted it in Seminary when I first started working with German and I bought a copy for myself when I moved away from a location with a library.  The German is straightforward enough that even beginners should be able to navigate it.

Cerone has edited the third volume (covering Romans through Revelation) with volumes one and two promised in the not too distant future.

The English is a very nice rendition of the underlying German.  Cerone, mercifully, does not try to translate the Hebrew and the Greek (which would really be a travesty, since the original languages are sort of the point of the work).  Accordingly, if you can’t work with Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek you won’t be able to make much use of the English version even if you wish to escape German.

Cerone also reproduces the large print main sections and the smaller print explanatory sections, which is super.

The problem with Str-B, and it’s a long standing complaint, is that the materials assembled as illustrative of the Judaism of the first century tend to date well after that period.  It’s rather like using documents from 1900 to illustrate thought in 1600.  One immediately can see the problem with that.  So the question naturally arises, what real use are these materials for any interpretation of the New Testament text itself?

Admitting that the Judaism of 300 CE was a bit different than the Judaism of the 30’s through 100’s of the first century CE, there is still much here that is both of use and, even more, of interest.   The views of the Rabbis in the 300’s and 400’s and 500’s may well be closer to the views of the Jews of the first century in Palestine than we might originally suppose.  And if not, Str-B. still gives us an amazing look into the Judaism of the early centuries CE.

Take, for example, this snippet from the commentary on Romans 1:27a:

“In you (Rome) wicked men have invented even intercourse with animals.” ‖ Babylonian Talmud Yebamot 63A: R. Eleazar (ca. 270) said, “What does ‘This one is at last bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh’ (Gen 2:23) mean? This teaches that Adam had intercourse with all livestock and wild animals; but his mind was stilled (was satisfied) only when he had intercourse with Eve.” ‖ Babylonian Talmud ʿAbodah Zarah 22B: R. Yohanan († 279) said, “When the snake had intercourse with Eve, it cast filth into her. In that case, it is also valid for the Israelites! In the case of the Israelites, because they stood at Mount Sinai, their filth came to an end; in the case of the goyim (non-Israelites), because they did not stand at Mount Sinai, their filth did not cease.” (The filth זוּהְמָא that the snake inflicted on Eve refers not to original sin but rather to the inclination to fornication that is contrary to nature; this came to an end for the Israelites at the giving of the law.) Parallel passages can be found in b. Šabb. 146A; b. Yebam. 103B.  (Hermann L. Strack and Paul Billerbeck, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud & Midrash, ed. Jacob N. Cerone, trans. Joseph Longarino, vol. 3 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2021), 85.)

You won’t find material like that outside Rabbinic texts.

Str-B will continue to be an amazing resource for a long time to come, just as it has been an amazing resource for a very long time already.  Cerone is to be thanked for his efforts and the forthcoming volumes should be welcomed by scholars of Early Judaism and early Christianity who, for whatever strange reason, never bothered to acquire reading knowledge of German.  They, it has to be confessed, are Legion.

Cerone offers us in his edition a work that is not a disappointment.

Deuteronomy in the Making: Studies in the Production of Debarim

A number of long-standing theories concerning the production of Deuteronomy are currently being revisited. This volume takes a fresh look at the theory that there was an independent legal collection comprising chs 12-26 that subsequently was set within one or two narrative frames to yield the book, with ongoing redactional changes. Each contributor has been asked to focus on how the “core” might have functioned as a stand-alone document or, if exploring a theme or motif, to take note of commonalities and differences within the “core” and “frames” that might shed light on the theory under review. Some of the articles also revisit the theory of a northern origin of the “core” of the book, while others challenge de Wette’s equation of Deuteronomy with the scroll found during temple repairs under Josiah. With Deuteronomic studies in a state of flux, this is a timely collection by a group of international scholars who use a range of methods and who, in varying degrees, work with or challenge older theories about the book’s origin and growth to approach the central focus from many angles. Readers will find multivalent evidence they can reflect over to decide where they stand on the issue of Deuteronomy as a framed legal “core.”

The volume’s table of contents, first of all, can be seen at the link above, under the ‘contents’ tab.  So there’s absolutely no reason to repeat it here.  Second, and in the spirit of full disclosure, this is an important point as will be explained momentarily: the book is dedicated to the memory of Philip R. Davies.

Philip was a friend of mine and I am for that reason predisposed to think well of anything done in his memory.  He was immensely enjoyable to spend time at pubs with whilst SOTS was meeting or over a dinner at SBL.  He was smart too.  One of the very smartest people I have ever known.  Witty, withering in his criticism of wrong thinking and equally effusive in those moments when something someone said or wrote was noteworthy.  An excellent conversationalist, he had interests well beyond biblical studies.  And as the kid of a Baptist preacher, he had a very good understanding of my own position.

I miss him every day, but especially during SOTS and SBL when we would invariably get together for eats or drinks.  It was he who sponsored my membership in SOTS and he who spoke with his own publisher about a book project myself and James Crossley produced.  He was, briefly, a genuine friend.

The present volume, then, rightly dedicates its contents to Philip.  It is, in the words of its editors

This book is the result of a three-year grant (April, 2017–June, 2020) funded by the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oslo for a project entitled, “The Production, Purpose, and Ideology of Deuteronomy” (“Produksjonen, formålet og ideologien til femte Mosebok, Deuteronomium”). The members of the core working group have been myself, Diana Edelman, who served as the project leader, Kåre Berge, Philip Davies, Philippe Guillaume, and Benedetta Rossi. Philip’s death was a huge loss to the group, but he attended early workshops and contributed enthusiastically to our brainstorming sessions. We are including the paper he presented at our first workshop, even though he died before he was able to revise and expand it for publication; Philip’s ideas were stimulating even in preliminary form and have influenced our thought in many ways. We discussed the paper at length when he presented it, and observations and feedback we can remember we gave him at the time are included in the interactive editorial summary. The BZAW series editors have asked us to provide footnotes to his paper posthumously, which we have done to the extent we feel able and comfortable.

The contributions are incredibly interesting each and every one but there is an astonishing lacuna in it: the work of Thomas Römer.  Few in our time have done more than Thomas to re-set the course of Deuteronomy studies yet he is not one of the contributors.  Furthermore, and even more astonishing, is the fact that Thomas is referenced but 5 times in footnotes throughout the volume.   That is, if I might say so, rather like a book on the Reformation not including a chapter on Luther and then he himself being mentioned only in footnotes a few times.

To be sure, no one can participate in every academic endeavor.  And it makes sense that Thomas may not have been at the gatherings where these papers were hashed out.  But to hear so very little of him is really a remarkable, even noteworthy thing.  

The papers which do make up the book are well presented.  I found amazingly engaging the following:

  • From Where Did Deuteronomy Originate?, Philip R. Davies
  • Deuteronomy as the Instructions of Moses and Yhwh vs. a Framed Legal Code, Diana Edelman
  • Deuteronomy’s Māqôm before Deuteronomy, Philippe Guillaume
  • Deuteronomy and the Older Royal Narrative: Some Core Questions, Graeme Auld (which I found to be the most engaging piece of them all)

And

  • Authority, Prestige or Subversion? Jeremiah and the Law Code of Deuteronomy, Benedetta Rossi (from which I learned the most).

Different readers will be impressed by different things, of course.  These are simply the ones which I found the most enjoyable.

Each essayist provides a bibliography, so that’s quite a useful thing, and there are indices of scriptures and non-canonical materials as well as subject and modern author indices.

If Deuteronomy is an interest of yours, this work will be something you’ll wish to, indeed, need to consult.  

Tolle, lege!

Jews and Christians – Parting Ways in the First Two Centuries CE?

The present volume is based on a conference held in October 2019 at the Faculty of Theology of Humboldt University Berlin as part of a common project of the Australian Catholic University, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the Humboldt University Berlin. The aim is to discuss the relationships of “Jews” and “Christians” in the first two centuries CE against the background of recent debates which have called into question the image of “parting ways” for a description of the relationships of Judaism and Christianity in antiquity. One objection raised against this metaphor is that it accentuates differences at the expense of commonalities. Another critique is that this image looks from a later perspective at historical developments which can hardly be grasped with such a metaphor. It is more likely that distinctions between Jews, Christians, Jewish Christians, Christian Jews etc. are more blurred than the image of “parting ways” allows. In light of these considerations the contributions in this volume discuss the cogency of the “parting of the ways”-model with a look at prominent early Christian writers and places and suggest more appropriate metaphors to describe the relationships of Jews and Christians in the early period.

As I finalize this review there’s a conference going on at Oxford that is both in person and online on the very topic which this book addresses.  I mention that fact because it illustrates the truth that the question of the division of Judaism and Christianity is still one of the most discussed, most interesting, and most uncertain of the many subjects examined by scholars of the bible, early Judaism, and early Christianity.  Or, more properly, early Judaisms, and early Christianities.

Neither Judaism nor Christianity were monoliths in the last century BCE and the first century CE, nor have they ever been since.  So the very topic of the ‘parting of the ways’ requires a great deal of clarification and nuance.  There is no longer any possibility of seeing the subject with a binary lens.

This volume, then, does several things, and those quite brilliantly.  First, it challenges the very notion that there was a parting of the ways (as that notion is commonly understood).   Second, it looks more deeply at New Testament authors and their places within the communities to which they belonged.  In particular, Paul, Matthew, and John (and their texts) come up for investigation.  But so do later texts like the Epistle of Barnabas and Justin Martyr.  Third, it opens windows on the communities of Jews and Christians in such diverse places as Asia Minor and Rome and Alexandria.

The essays contained herein are described fairly fully in the introduction.  Thankfully, that material is available at the link above, sparing you the need to read my summary and me the need to write it; thus freeing me up to offer in a precise way my view of this volume.

The essays are all composed in English and each has a German abstract at the beginning.  Key words are included as well.  There are footnotes aplenty, and not endnotes (thank heaven).  And each chapter also provides a bibliography.  The volume is sturdily bound (as is the case with every de Gruyter volume I’ve ever touched) and the font is crisp and sharp.  And while the young among you may not appreciate that simple fact, older readers certainly will rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

As to content itself, the essays are wonderfully done.  Pride of place, though, in my estimation, has to be given to Jorg Frey’s ‘John Within Judaism’.  It is a carefully worded, thoroughly investigated, unwaveringly fair and judicious treatment of a text that has been, it has to be said, the cause of great strife and difficulties for Jewish communities over the course of the history of the Church.

When Frey writes, sagely, at the conclusion of his contribution,

Scholarship, however, needs the critical approach that can also name difficult and inacceptable elements in otherwise valuable and insightful texts.  Compared with a false ‘political correctness’, such honesty is to be preferred (p. 211).

Frey isn’t willing to toss the baby out with the bathwater, unlike so many in the guild today: quick to cancel, slow to understand historical context and nuance.  That, thankfully, is not Frey’s approach.  Rather, he reads texts sagaciously and perceptively, and hands along to his readers the results of his immense learning in a comprehensive and intelligible format.

This book is worth your time, and your effort.  I commend it without reservation.  Not every essay rises to Frey’s lofty heights, but none of them hover in the lowlands or the swamps.

Resisting Jesus: A Narrative and Intertextual Analysis of Mark’s Portrayal of the Disciples of Jesus

This is a wonderful volume!

Very likely the first of the four Gospels to be written, Mark presents an intriguing and puzzling portrayal of the disciples with predominantly negative overtones. In Resisting Jesus, Mateus de Campos proposes that the evangelist’s characterization should be understood under the rubric of resistance—a willful disposition against Jesus’ self-revelatory program and his discipleship prescriptions.

Utilizing a combination of narrative and intertextual analyses, de Campos demonstrates that Mark’s portrayal of resistance to Jesus follows a specific plot dynamic that finds its fundamental framework in the Scriptural depiction of YHWH’s relationship with Israel. The study provides fresh insights into how the evangelist’s negative characterization of the disciples fosters a Scripturally-informed reflection and admonition concerning the nature of discipleship.

The link above will let you download the front and back matter and view the table of contents for this genuinely extraordinary work.  The work follows a clear and precise pattern of theory and assemblage of evidence concerning said theory.  After introducing his subject and overviewing past scholarship, de Campos leads readers through Mark’s scriptural framework and its impact on the entire narrative and on to the heart of the matter: the ‘episodes of resistance’ themselves.  Lastly he summarizes his findings.  There then is provided a bibliography and the usual indices of sources and authors and subjects.

The volume at hand is a revised edition of de Campos’s doctoral dissertation, submitted to the University of Cambridge under the supervision of James Paget and with input from the likes of Nathan MacDonald, Jeffrey Gibson, Elizabeth Struthers Malbon and others.

Why are the disciples so dense?  Or at least, so apparently dense?  It’s a question readers of the Gospel of Mark have struggled with for a very long time.  Mark doesn’t seem to have any interest in complimenting them.  Indeed, he appears to wish to paint them in the most negative light possible.

But as de Campos shows, that is hardly what is going on here.  Mark is instead showing that the willful failings of the inner circle of Jesus’ followers is actually an indication of the challenge of discipleship itself.  Mark, in other words, shows the disciples to resist Jesus precisely because he wishes to instruct Jesus’ followers on the difficulties of discipleship itself.  That’s the goal of the portrayal of the disciples.

Furthermore, de Campos’ investigation leads him to suggest that the portrayal of the disciples in Mark ‘encapsulates the whole trajectory of Israel’s relationship with YHWH’ (p. 220).  Scholarship will need to think about what is being suggested here for many years to come.  Indeed, this may be the most important observation which de Campos offers, for it opens the door to a whole range of future inquiries regarding the shadows cast by the writers of the Old Testament onto the authors of the New.  There may well be far more influence of the OT on the NT than has previously been appreciated.

The present study sheds interesting light on on old problem in a way that few revised dissertations have.  The clarity of de Campos’ prose;  His mastery of the primary and secondary material;  His flashes of brilliant insight.  All these factors make this an eminently readable and incredibly enjoyable experience.

I have a new appreciation both for Mark’s theological artistry and for his intention concerning his portrayal of the original followers of Jesus.  Perhaps they are just small mirrors of discipleship itself, both in terms of the Christian’s relationship to Jesus and in terms of Israel’s relationship to God.

I recommend this book most heartily to you.  I assure you, you will enjoy it very much indeed.

A Very, Very Brief Opinion on the New ‘Hebrew Old Testament, Reader’s Edition’

By Crossway.

The publisher claims

The Hebrew Old Testament, Reader’s Edition combines the text of the Westminster Leningrad Codex (WLC) with a running list of glosses of every word that occurs fewer than 75 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, for an easier reading experience in the original language.

Those with limited knowledge of Hebrew can smoothly read the Hebrew text without needing to constantly refer to other reference resources—accelerating their facility with the Hebrew text and making their time more rewarding and more enjoyable as they read the Word of God. Likewise, readers with a more extensive grasp of Hebrew will find the accessible glossing a helpful tool for recalling vocabulary words.

All that’s true.  Further, proper names are in a slightly faded color, setting them off from other words and making it easier for new students of Hebrew to spare themselves the trouble of not knowing which words are names and which aren’t.

As is the case of ‘Reader’s Editions’ of all manifestations and incarnations, the definitions are un-nuanced.  That is to say, they may not be the proper definition which the context and its nuance demand.  They are, by and large, good.  But the glosses should not be assumed to be the only possible rendering and they certainly should not be the only source of information students of the Hebrew Bible make use of.  Lexical work still matters.  Otherwise, readers end up with little more than an interlinear and all the hazards which those monstrosities foment.

Reader’s editions are a good place to start, but they are not a good place to end.

That said, I do like this edition.  The binding is excellent.  The font is lovely.  The paper is much better than competitors (especially Zondervan).  The one column layout is super.  The glosses are ok.  The words chosen for glossing are extensive.  The whole volume is a delight.

It’s a bit expensive.  It was $119 including shipping and postage.  But one should expect to pay when one deals with academic resources designed for a lifetime of use.  It arrived quickly and, as is usually the case with Crossway, questions about it were answered in short order.

I recommend this edition for those looking for a reader’s edition.  It’s as good as the genre gets.

Die Bibel: ENTSTEHUNG, GESCHICHTE, AUSLEGUNG

Kein anderes Buch hat die Welt religiös, kulturell und politisch so stark geprägt wie die Bibel. Konrad Schmid erklärt im Kontext der altorientalischen und antiken Geschichte, wie Lieder und Erzählungen, Rechtssammlungen und Weisheitslehren, prophetische Verkündigungen, Evangelien und Apostelbriefe entstanden und schließlich von Juden und Christen zu festen Einheiten zusammengefügt wurden. Eine meisterhafte Einführung in die Bibel auf dem neuesten Forschungsstand.

Konrad Schmid’s little book introducing readers to the book (or better, library) that we call the Bible is a masterful achievement of clarity and scholarship.  This little work off 119 pages plus indices lays before interested readers the chief topics related to reading the Bible.  The front inside cover contains a map of Palestine in Old Testament times and the back inside cover one of the New Testament era.  It has several images useful to illustrate the important subject matter they are connected with, and its 5 concise chapters give a spectacular overview of the biblical text.

Chapter one discusses the what-ness of the Bible.  What is it, exactly?  And where did it come from?  Chapter two is an examination of the writings of the Hebrew Bible.  It discusses such topics as the culture of writing, the exodus,  the beginning of Judaism, Job, the Torah, and many others.  The bulk of the book is found in this exceptionally readable chapter.

The third chapter is devoted to the texts of early Christianity and it draws a line connecting Jesus with antique Judaism as well as a super discussion of Paul and his letters, and the Gospels and Acts.  Naturally, the other NT texts are also described.

Chapter four helps readers better understand the processes by which the texts of the Old and New Testaments became ‘the Bible’.  In the final chapter, five, the history of the translation of the bible is given a helpful treatment in summary.

This work is a very helpful summary.  Scholars will doubtless find much to quibble with in terms of things that should have been included.  After all, whole forests have been slaughtered to provide enough paper for the books printed on each and every subject herein treated and many others besides, so that some will say ‘why did Schmid include X but not include Y’.

That typical scholarly Monday morning quarterbacking is well known in the guild and need not disturb us.  This book is meritorious and it should find interested readers in schools, colleges, and universities as well as in Churches and bible study groups.

It’s a fantastic resource.  I highly, genuinely, and happily recommend it.  You can read it in a few hours.  And you should.  It’s the perfect size for your bag or purse and you can go through it on your train ride in a morning and an afternoon.

Tolle, lege!

John Through Old Testament Eyes

Through Old Testament Eyes is a new kind of commentary series that illuminates the Old Testament backgrounds, allusions, patterns, and references saturating the New Testament. These links were second nature to the New Testament authors and their audiences, but today’s readers often cannot see them. Bible teachers, preachers, and students committed to understanding Scripture will gain insight through these rich Old Testament connections, which clarify puzzling passages and explain others in fresh ways.

In John Through Old Testament Eyes, Karen Jobes reveals how the Old Testament background of the Gospel of John extends far beyond quotes of Old Testament scripture or mention of Old Testament characters. Jobes discusses the history, rituals, images, metaphors, and symbols from the Old Testament that give meaning to John’s teaching about Jesus–his nature and identity, his message and mission–and about those who believe in him.

Avoiding overly technical discussions and interpretive debates to concentrate on Old Testament influences, volumes in the Though Old Testament Eyes series combine rigorous, focused New Testament scholarship with deep respect for the entire biblical text.

The aim of the present volume is to show readers the shadows cast by the Old Testament on the texts of the New, and in particular, how the OT influences the text of the Gospel of John.  Rather than looking at specific quotations of the OT, Jobes listens for hints of OT influence on John and finds them everywhere.  Properly.

The OT was, after all, the Bible of the early Church and it should surprise no one that its influence is felt everywhere in the texts of the first Christians.  And Jobes here does a very good job of seeing those shadows and hearing those reminiscences.

The layout of the volume is straightforward enough.  Passages are divided along their natural lines and each is then explored line by line and phrase by phrase for any impact left on the landscape by the OT.  Aside from these explorations, there are more focused ‘Going deeper’ bits set off in grey boxes festooning the volume.  These look more closely at particular notions or questions raised by the text.

To be sure, each line and fragment needn’t have any connection whatsoever with the OT for Jobes to highlight it, which means that more often than not the ‘through the OT eyes’ notion is set aside for a more honest ‘through the eyes of the reader’.  In other words, if potential readers are looking for cross references for every scene and word in John, it will not be found here.  The book is a mixture of reader-response criticism and literary criticism.

Not every line in John is drawn from the OT and some that appear to be are really just part of the milieu in which the NT arose as much as the milieu in which the OT was composed.  Which is why, from a technical point of view, a better methodology for approaching the OT in the NT is to examine in detail the specific citations of the OT found in the New.  This leads to a more accurate understanding of the way in which the NT authors read the OT.

Seeing shadows and imagery from the OT everywhere in the NT is a more suspect procedure, as it often devolves into how the modern reader wishes things to be rather than seeing things as they really are.  Indeed, a better process would be to read the OT through the eyes of John instead of John through the eyes of the OT.  Especially since, chronologically, the simple fact remains that the OT could never have read John whilst John clearly read the OT.  To be fair, and without wishing to seem self-promoting, Jobes would have benefitted greatly in her enterprise if she had consulted my ThM Thesis, ‘Explicit Quotations of Isaiah in the Gospel of John’.

In spite of its methodological weakness, the volume serves a useful purpose in collecting both real and imagined connections between the text of the Gospel according to John and the books of the Old Testament.  If, however, readers are genuinely interested in the interconnections of the OT with the NT, then Hans Hubner’s three volume Biblische Theologie des Neuen Testaments is still unsurpassed.

King of Kings: God and the Foreign Emperor in the Hebrew Bible

From the eighth to second centuries BCE, ancient Israel and Judah were threatened and dominated by a series of foreign empires. This traumatic history prompted serious theological reflection and recalibration, specifically to address the relationship between God and foreign kings. This relationship provided a crucial locus for thinking theologically about empire, for if the rival sovereignty possessed and expressed by kings such as Sennacherib of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Cyrus of Persia, and Antiochus IV Epiphanes was to be rendered meaningful, it somehow had to be assimilated into a Yahwistic theological framework.

In King of Kings, Justin Pannkuk tells the stories of how the biblical texts modeled the relationship between God and foreign kings at critical junctures in the history of Judah and the development of this discourse across nearly six centuries. Pannkuk finds that the biblical authors consistently assimilated the power and activities of the foreign kings into exclusively Yahwistic interpretive frameworks by constructing hierarchies of agency and sovereignty that reaffirmed YHWH’s position of ultimate supremacy over the kings. These acts of assimilation performed powerful symbolic work on the problems presented by empire by framing them as expressions of YHWH’s own power and activity. This strategy had the capacity to render imperial domination theologically meaningful, but it also came with theological consequences: with each imperial encounter, the ideologies of rule and political aggression to which the biblical texts responded actually shaped the biblical discourse about YHWH.

With its broad historical sweep, engagement with important theological themes, and accessible prose, King of Kings provides a rich resource for students and scholars working in biblical studies, theology, and ancient history. It is an important resource for understanding how the vagaries of history inform our ongoing negotiations with concepts of the divine.

We’ll see.  My review will appear in SJOT.

The Invention of Papal History

How was the history of post-classical Rome and of the Church written in the Catholic Reformation? Historical texts composed in Rome at this time have been considered secondary to the city’s significance for the history of art. The Invention of Papal History corrects this distorting emphasis and shows how historical writing became part of a comprehensive formation of the image and self-perception of the papacy. By presenting and fully contextualising the path-breaking works of the Augustinian historian Onofrio Panvinio (1530-1568), Stefan Bauer shows what type of historical research was possible in the late Renaissance and the Catholic Reformation.

Crucial questions were, for example: How were the pontiffs elected? How many popes had been puppets of emperors? Could any of the past machinations, schisms, and disorder in the history of the Church be admitted to the reading public? Historiography in this period by no means consisted entirely of commissioned works written for patrons; rather, a creative interplay existed between, on the one hand, the endeavours of authors to explore the past and, on the other hand, the constraints of ideology and censorship placed on them.

The Invention of Papal History sheds new light on the changing priorities, mentalities, and cultural standards that flourished in the transition from the Renaissance to the Catholic Reformation.

A review copy arrived last month and my official review will appear in Reviews in Religion and Theology in due course.  In the meanwhile, I’ll summarize here:

The history of the papacy has seldom received such focused treatment as it does here in Bauer’s learned and articulate study.  But his is not merely a study of the papacy, or a segment of the papacy, or even of a particular Pope or two or three.  Rather, uniquely, Bauer brings his expertise to bear in a thoroughgoing analysis of a historian of the 16th century and that man’s investigation of the papacy.

The name of Onofrio Panvinio may not be on the lips of every scholar or student of the Reformation, but his work was significant and it here receives the serious study that it has long deserved.  To accomplish his task, Bauer leads readers through the twisted path of the quest for historical truth.  ‘What is truth’, Pontius Pilate once famously is reported to have asked.  Bauer is in search of it here and Panvinio is his case study.

The Samaritan Pentateuch: Volume 1, Genesis

A critical edition of the Samaritan Pentateuch is one of the most urgent desiderata of Hebrew Bible research. The present volume on Genesis is the second out of a series of five meant to fill this gap. It provides a diplomatic edition of the five books of the Samaritan Torah, based on the oldest preserved Samaritan manuscripts.

Throughout the entire work, the Samaritan Hebrew text as gathered from 30 different manuscripts is compared with further Samaritan witnesses (esp. the Samaritan Targum, the Samaritan Arabic translation, and the oral Samaritan reading tradition) as well as with non-Samaritan witnesses of the Pentateuch, especially the Masoretic text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint, creating an indispensable resource and tool not only for those working with the Samaritan Pentateuch, but for any scholar interested in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible in general, and particularly the Pentateuch.

This amazingly important volume, produced by Stefan Schorch and a multitude of specialists in Hebrew transcription, Samaritan Arabic transcription, textual critics of the DSS and the Septuagint, and targumists and Peshitta-ists is a wonder.

First, a preface and an introduction in German are provided.  Then, the same in English.  There is also a Hebrew introduction (on the other end of the volume, where the text of the Samaritan Pentateuch of Genesis commences).

The introduction covers such matters as previous editions of the SamPent, and provides a full description of the present editio maior of the text.  The base manuscript of this diplomatic edition is D1, MS Dublin, 751 (1225).  There are six full manuscripts and 15 well preserved partial manuscripts as well as 2 fragmentary manuscripts that are consulted and which are the stuff of the textual apparatus.

Here’s a photo of the page layout, which, frankly, it is simply easier to show than describe:

IMG_5008

Each symbol and segment as well as all of the manuscript evidence as presented is fully defined in the introduction to the volume. As is immediately apparent, the text itself takes up but a third of the page whilst the remainder is devoted to the textual evidence and apparatus. This is the case throughout the edition.

A thorough table of abbreviations is provided as is a table of the symbols which festoon the work. Those not quite familiar with the Samaritan alphabet are given a table containing it and its Hebrew equivalent:

Next, a very complete bibliography is provided. Each portion of text is carefully analyzed and the textual evidence is as thorough as practical. Indeed, it is as complete as any edition of the Bible can be.

What Schorch et al have here accomplished is a marvel of scholarly competence and thoroughness. The font is clear and legible and the apparatus is fantastic. The choice of the Hebrew font for the biblical text is based on the practicality of the scholarly endeavor. As the editor puts it

The Samaritan Hebrew texts, on which the edition is based, are not reproduced in Samaritan but in Hebrew square script. This decision is purely pragmatic as the latter is much more familiar in general scholarship (p. xi).

Textual critics, scholars of the Hebrew Bible, scholars of the Samaritan Bible, and scholars of the Samaritan faith will be delighted by the appearance of this volume and will hunger and thirst for the remainder of the Samaritan Pentateuch to appear in the same series. This tool will stand the test of time and will come to be the most important critical edition of the biblical text produced in many generations (alongside BHQ).