Category Archives: Book Review

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.

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Posted by on 14 Jul 2018 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).

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Posted by on 12 Jul 2018 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.


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.

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Posted by on 5 Jul 2018 in Book Review, Books, SJOT


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’ll settle into a reading of it early next week.  More anon.


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.

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Posted by on 3 Jul 2018 in Book Review, Books, Karl Barth


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.

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Posted by on 28 Jun 2018 in Book Review, Books, Church History, TVZ, Zwingli


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.

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Posted by on 28 Jun 2018 in Archaeology, Book Review, Books


A Companion to Joachim of Fiore

Joachim of Fiore (c.1135-1202) remains one of the most fascinating and enigmatic figures of medieval Christianity. In his own time, he was an influential advisor to the mighty and powerful, widely respected for his prophetic exegesis and decoding of the apocalypse. In modern times, many thinkers, from Thomas Müntzer to Friedrich Engels, have hailed him as a prophet of progress and revolution. Even present-day theologians, philosophers and novelists were inspired by Joachim’s vision of a Third Age of the Holy Spirit.

However, at no time was Joachim an uncontroversial figure. Soon after his death, the church authorities became suspicious about the explosive potential of his theology, while more recently historians held him accountable for the fateful progressivism of Western Civilization.

Contributors are: Frances Andrews, Valeria De Fraja, Alfredo Gatto, Peter Gemeinhardt, Sven Grosse, Massimo Iiritano, Bernard McGinn, Matthias Riedl, and Brett Edward Whalen

I’ve worked through it and will post my review of it Monday.

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Posted by on 22 Jun 2018 in Book Review, Books, Church History


Tigurinerchronik (3 Volumes)

Die dreibändige Ausgabe macht erstmals das historiografische Hauptwerk Heinrich Bullingers (1504–1575), die sogenannte «Tigurinerchronik», zugänglich. Das Werk vermittelt die Sicht des engagierten und belesenen Zwinglinachfolgers, der darin die Geschichte Zürichs mit jener der Eidgenossenschaft und Europas verquickt und aufarbeitet. Die Darstellung, die sich von vorchristlicher Zeit bis zur Reformation erstreckt, ist heilsgeschichtlich angelegt und versteht die Entwicklung des Christentums und der Kirche als Ausbreitung der Wahrheit (Antike), deren Verschüttung (Mittelalter) und der Wiederentdeckung (Reformation). Dabei erhält die Stadt Zürich hohe Bedeutung und ihre Reform die endgültige Legitimation.

Mit der vorliegenden umfangreichen kritischen Edition – Bullingers eigenhändiges Manuskript umfasst rund 1800 Folioseiten – steht der Forschung nun diese wichtige Quelle des 16. Jahrhunderts zur Verfügung.

Heinrich Bullinger Werke, Band WA4 = HI1
2018, 1854 (in drei Bänden) Seiten, 16.8 x 24.4 cm, Leinen mit SU
ISBN 978-3-290-17851-2
450,00 €

A review copy has been sent.  More anon (after I read through it-  which will take a couple of months).

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Posted by on 22 Jun 2018 in Book Review, Books, Bullinger, Church History, TVZ


Erfahrung im Alten Testament: Untersuchung zur Exegese des Alten Testaments bei Franz Delitzsch

Der Tatsache, dass die exegetische Arbeit des Leipziger und Erlanger Theologen Franz Delitzsch schon zu seiner eigenen Zeit als altmodisch galt, entspricht nicht die Rezeption und Aufmerksamkeit, die seine Schriften im deutschsprachigen wie im englischsprachigen Raum genossen haben und teilweise noch genießen. Diese Dissertation untersucht mit Blick auf dieses Phänomen den von Delitzsch angewandten Ansatz und dessen Wurzeln in der lutherischen Erlanger Schule, zu der er – so zeigt es sich – eindeutig gehörte. Gegenwärtige Debatten über die Stellung des Alten Testaments in christlicher Theologie bestätigen die dauerhafte Relevanz solcher Untersuchungen, gerade wenn man Delitzschs bemerkenswerte Beziehung zum Judentum bedenkt.

EVA has also sent a copy of this for review.

The volume at hand is a revised doctoral dissertation, submitted to the Humboldt University in Berlin in 2016.

Chapter One serves to introduce the reader to the biographical waystations of Prof. Delitzsch, from his youth through his time at Leipzig, Rostock, Erlangen, and back to Leipzig.  It also includes an excursus on the exegetical environment and Delitzsch’s place in the history of research at the time.

Chapter two moves into the chief contributions of Delitszch overturning the allegorical approach by means of  the ‘Salvation Historical’ approach.  This chapter is incredibly interesting and opens an important window on a very significant period of the development of academic theology.

Chapter three presents a more problematic aspect of D’s work- his belief that Christianity (and Christ) are resident within the Old Testament.  To be sure, his approach was remarkable for its time- but we have learned better.

The fourth chapter is what I would term a highwater tirade against Marcionitism as found in the modern Church and its refusal to appreciate fully the Old Testament.  This wide ranging section includes such aspects as the work of the prophets and their inspiration as well as a discussion of the Psalms and wisdom literature.

Chapter five is also quite illuminating from a historical perspective because it discusses various of the academic battles fought between the school of Wellhausen and the conservatives (including Delitzsch).

Finally, in the sixth chapter, Corzine provides a summary of the argument of the entire volume.  This is followed by a bibliography of Delitzsch, a subject index, an index of persons, and an index of places.

This is a lovely volume and very informative.  Did you know, for instance, that Delitzsch was born on 23 February in 1813 and that he began the study of Hebrew at the Nikolaigymnasium in 1827?  He was, then, studying Hebrew at the age of 14.  He was also tremendously interested in the mission to the Jews.  So interested, in fact, that he translated the New Testament into Hebrew and that translation still stands as the most widely used and cited.  Here is a sampling:

עַל־כֵּן גַּם־הָאֱלֹהִים נְתָנָם לַטּוּמְאָה בְּתַאֲוֹת לִבָּם לְנַבֵּל גְּוִיּוֹתֵיהֶם אִישׁ בְּרֵעֵהוּ׃
אֲשֶׁר הֵמִירוּ אֲמִתּוֹ שֶׁל הָאֱלֹהִים בַּשָּׁקֶר וַיְכַבְּדוּ אֶת־הַבְּרִיָּה לְעָבְדָהּ תַּחַת בֹּרְאָהּ הַמְבֹרָךְ לְעוֹלָמִים אָמֵן׃
בַּעֲבוּר זֹאת נְתָנָם הָאֱלֹהִים לְתַאֲוֹת בּוּשָׁה כִּי־נְשֵׁיהֶם הֶחֱלִיפוּ אֶת־דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ בְּשֶׁלֹּא כְּדֶרֶךְ אָרֶץ׃
וְכֵן גַּם־הַזְּכָרִים עָזְבוּ דֶרֶךְ גֶּבֶר בְּאִשָּׁה וַיֵּחַמּוּ זֶה בָזֶה בְּתַאֲוָתָם וַיַּעֲשׂוּ תוֹעֵבָה זָכָר עִם־זָכָר וַיִּקְחוּ שְׂכַר מְשׁוּבָתָם הָרָאוּי לָהֶם בְּעֶצֶם גּוּפָם׃
וְכַאֲשֶׁר מָאֲסוּ דַּעַת אֱלֹהִים נְתָנָם הָאֱלֹהִים בִּידֵי דֵעָה נִמְאָסָה לַעֲשׂוֹת אֵת אֲשֶׁר־לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה׃

Few scholars have impacted Conservative (in the best sense of that much maligned word) scholarship than Delitzsch.  His commentary on the Old Testament, his translation of the New Testament, and his many monographs have shaped the minds of many.  This present book is a glorious introduction to the man in his time and place and to his contributions in their historical contexts.  I highly recommend it.

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Posted by on 13 Jun 2018 in Book Review, Books, Church History


Metaphor Competition in the Book of Job

Within the book of Job, the interlocutors (Job, the friends, and Yahweh) seem to largely ignore one another’s arguments.

This observation leads some to propose that the dialogue lacks conceptual coherence. Lance Hawley argues that the interlocutors tangentially and sometimes overtly attend to previously stated points of view and attempt to persuade their counterparts through the employment of metaphor.

Hawley uses the theoretical approach of Conceptual Metaphor Theory to trace the concepts of speech and animals throughout the dialogue. Beyond explaining the individual metaphors in particular texts, he shows how speech metaphors compete with one another, most perceptibly in the expressions of job’s words are wind. With regard to animal metaphors, coherence is especially perceptible in the job is a predatory animal metaphor. In these expressions, the dialogue demonstrates intentional picking-up on previously stated arguments.

Hawley argues that the animal images in the divine speeches are not metaphorical, in spite of recent scholarly interpretation that reads them as such. Rather, Yahweh appears as a sage to question the negative status of wild animals that Job and his friends assume in their significations of people are animals. This is especially apparent in Yahweh’s strophes on the lion and the wild donkey, both of which appear multiple times in the metaphorical expressions of Job and his friends.

The first question potential readers of this book will want answered is ‘what is it about?’  The answer:

The discourse between Job and his companions is one in which each side grows increasingly frustrated with the other. Although the dialogue seems to devolve into entrenched speeches for and against their respective points of view, the speakers demonstrate a level of common knowledge about the way that the world functions. In the course of their speeches, they express numerous metaphors to support their arguments. Acts of metaphor production and interpretation depend upon interlocutors sharing knowledge and basic assumptions about the world, which are grounded in embodied experiences (Gibbs, Lima, and Francozo 2004, 1189–1210). In order to make meaning out of metaphorical construals, speakers and hearers must have a common source world, from which they project and interpret the imagery construed in metaphor.

The volume works through Job with a fine toothed comb and mines it for every minute narratival metaphor within.  Furthermore

The book of Job is a single written corpus that proceeds on at least three discourse levels. The first level is an author’s discourse communicated to potential readers. On the second level, the narrator seeks to communicate with an audience, synonomous with the readers themselves in the book of Job. The third level is represented by the dialogue between the characters within the Joban discourse.

Unlike the faddish few who discount Wisdom as genre, Hawley maintains

Interpreting the book of Job as wisdom literature is essential for recognizing its literary conventions and its function as a text.

And so it is.  The book proceeds in six chapters to show the interconnections between all of its characters.  Beginning in Chapter One, ‘The Book of Job as a Conceptual Narrative’, Hawley lays the groundwork methodologically.  The methodological development continues in Chapter Two, ‘Conceptual Metaphor Theory and the Joban Discourse’.  Chapters three and four delve into speech metaphors and animal metaphors in Job and here Hawley begins to apply the previously discussed methodological tools and shows, with great skill, how carefully the author of Job has chosen his words with incredible care.

Chapter Five, ‘Yahweh’s Animal Images as a Response to Job’, is the apex of the monograph, showing in a profoundly interesting way the metaphorical power of Yahweh’s response to Job.  Chapter Six is the conclusion (where Hawley summarizes it all).

In the book of Job, metaphorical construal discloses the speakers’ assumptions and variant perspectives on Job’s suffering, highlighting key areas of agreement and disagreement throughout the discourse. The dialogue takes place within the discourse world of the literary characters, which is presented by a real author to real readers. The book is so difficult, in part, because readers are only able to access the major themes and rhetorical aims of the text through the direct speech of the characters. And which voice wins out? Job is more right than the friends (42:7), but he is also wrong (38:2). The typically trusted voice of Yahweh is opaque, and the relatively silent narrator does not provide us with an interpretive key. In spite of the book’s philosophical and literary difficulties, the readerly effort to seek out the meaning of the book of Job is not to be discounted. Indeed, part of the meaning must reside in the experience of reading itself, struggling with the complexities and ambiguities throughout the dialogue. Any effort at conceptualizing the meaning of the book of Job must keep in mind the overall arc of the book, but also grapple with the minutia of the poetic dialogue, that is, particular turns of phrase, subtle innuendoes, and elusive allusions, all of which come to light in the study of metaphor.

The usual indices follow.

This is a fine study.  It is careful, it is leaned, it is filled with insight.  It is highly recommended.


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Posted by on 8 Jun 2018 in Book Review, Books


Sprüche (Proverbia) 1-15

Bernd U. Schipper reads the book of Proverbs within the context of ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature and at the same time as an integral part of the Old Testament. As a work of literature from the Second Temple period, the book of Proverbs takes part in the theological debates of its time over issues such as the significance of the Torah (and particularly the Deuteronomic law) or whether humans are capable of living in accordance with the divine will.

The analysis of ancient Near Eastern parallels gives special attention to textual material that has previously not been applied to the exegesis of the book of Proverbs: the sapiential texts from the Egyptian Late Period (6th–2nd c. B.C.E.).

On the whole, the final form of the book of Proverbs emerges as a text from the late Persian and early Hellenistic periods that can be ascribed to a circle of “scribes” who were well-versed in the scriptures of ancient Israel.

The publisher, V&R, have sent a review copy. My thoughts are below, and to save space you are encouraged to visit here for the TOC and front matter.

Two words spring immediately to mind concerning this volume:  Lengthy and thorough.  The volume is 870 pages long plus indices, and it only covers just less than half of the Book of Proverbs!  By contrast, the entire Book of Proverbs itself runs from page 947 to 972 in Dothan’s edition of Codex Leningradensis, a paltry 25 pages.

Schipper fills the space with 116 pages of introduction leading up to his discussion of Pr 1:1-7.  Each pericope is prefaced by a bibliography and includes a new translation of the text, copious text critical notes, an ‘orientation’ to the passage, the ‘Form’ of the passage, and a word by word and phrase by phrase commentary proper.  Each pericope is then discussed as to its ‘Aim’ (or goal).

This pattern is repeated throughout the volume with occasional insertions of ‘Forschungsgeschitliche Skizze’ when needed.

English readers need no despair; the present volume will also appear in English in the Hermeneia Commentary series (though at the moment it does not yet appear on the Fortress Press website).

This is a historical critical commentary in the best sense of that phrase.  It is classic in style and presentation and offers scholars (though not casual readers) a state of the art critical commentary on one of the Bible’s most intriguing books.  Schipper writes clearly and in spite of the size of the work, precisely.  He wastes not a word.

Readers of the volume are encouraged to take special note of the ‘Aim’ of each pericope.  Here Schipper makes some of the most interesting and relevant observations found in the volume.  In short he shows with stunning clarity the utter relevance of the Book of Proverbs.  Yet he does so whilst avoiding completely any eisegetical tendencies.  Proverbs is shown to be relevant- but without the gymnastics usually performed by eisegetes.

Weisheitliche Bildung hat zwar ihren Wert, kann jedoch den Menschen nicht allein zum Leben führen.  Dazu ist JHWH nötig, denn neben der weisheitlichen Kompetenz gibt es den Weg der Torheit, der genauso machtvoll ist wie die personifizierte Weisheit (p. 578).

Readers of German will want to obtain a copy for themselves or encourage their library to do so and English readers will want to watch for the publication of the Hermeneia edition.  This is a commentary well worth consulting.

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Posted by on 5 Jun 2018 in Bible, Book Review, Books


The Violence of the Lamb: Martyrs as Agents of Divine Judgement in the Book of Revelation

The act of martyrdom in the worldview of the Apocalypse has been considered to be an exemplification of non-violent resistance. Paul Middleton argues here, however, that it is in fact a representation of direct participation by Christians, through their martyrdom, in divine violence against those the author of Revelation portrays as God’s enemies. Middleton shows that acceptance of martyrdom is to grasp the invitation to participate in the Revelation’s divine violence. Martyrs follow the model laid down by the Lamb, who was not only slain, but resurrected, glorified, and who executes judgement.

The world created by the Apocalypse encourages readers to conquer the Beast through martyrdom, but also through the experience of resurrection and being appointed judges. In this role, martyrs participate in the judgement of the wicked by sharing the Lamb’s power to judge. Different from eschewing violence, the conceptual world of the Apocalypse portrays God, the Lamb, and the martyrs as possessing more power, might, and violent potential than the Emperor and his armies. Middleton believes that martyrdom and violence are necessary components of the worldview of Revelation.

Bloomsbury sent a review copy.  Following are my thoughts on the work.

In his introduction, Middleton discusses the notion of violence and martyrdom in the book of Revelation in terms of the way he reads ‘violence’ in the Apocalypse and in terms of how he reads ‘martyrdom’ in the book.  He then outlines for readers the road ahead (presumably so that readers can decide right off if that path is one they wish to travel).

Following on that is the first chapter wherein our guide to things apocalyptic describes the notion of Christian ‘persecution’ (his scare quotes) and the dating of the Apocalypse.  Chapter two is a discussion of the Christology of the Apocalypse.  Then, naturally, chapter three, which seems to me to be the heart of the matter, is a thorough discussion of the Lamb of the Apocalypse and his role as proto-martyr.  Here Middleton puts on the hat of the exegete and he wears it well.  It fits, it’s fair to say, and he doesn’t do a terrible job of it.  And that, it must be said, is something that cannot be said of so much of the work which passes as exegesis of Revelation.

Chapter four continues the exegetical task and this time the focus is on the Lamb as the divine judge.  Chapter five is titled ‘A Theology of Martyrdom in the Book of Revelation’ and serves as a theological exposition on the basis of the exegetical work performed in the previous two chapters.  Here, in this reviewers estimation, Prof. Middleton is at his best.  He’s a good historian, a better exegete, and a really very fine systematician (though for some reason I think he would see things in exactly the opposite way).  Yet I must suggest that Middleton has truly shown a gift for theological exposition in this final chapter: a gift that very few New Testament scholars in our time possess (with the very notable exception of Peter Stuhlmacher, who is the finest New Testament theologian presently working).

Read the conclusion first, though, because it summarizes the work so helpfully that reading it first will help readers immensely.  Middleton (or his editorial team) then provide a bibliography which is quite up to date and indices of references and authors.

This, to be sure, is not a commentary on the Book of Revelation.  It is a classic monograph.  It looks at one aspect of the text and then musters all the evidence necessary in order to show modern readers what the ancient text is attempting.  Yet unlike many (too many) academic monographs, Middleton does it in an interesting and at times entertaining way.  So, for instance, a sample can be seen in his discussion of the four horsemen:

This is a wonderfully enjoyable book.  It is the ideal supplemental text for a course on Revelation (along with a couple of good commentaries as the primary text of course).  And it is the ideal book for anyone interested in violence in the Bible and / or martyrdom in the early Church.

I cannot resist recommending it.

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Posted by on 4 Jun 2018 in Book Review, Books


The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers: Learning to Interpret Scripture from the Prophets and Apostles

A method of interpretation–a hermeneutic–is indispensable for understanding Scripture, constructing theology, and living the Christian life, but most contemporary hermeneutical systems fail to acknowledge the principles and practices of the biblical writers themselves.

Christians today cannot employ a truly biblical view of the Bible unless they understand why the prophets and apostles interpreted Scripture the way they did. To this end, Abner Chou proposes a “hermeneutic of obedience,” in which believers learn to interpret Scripture the way the biblical authors did–including understanding the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament.

Chou first unfolds the “prophetic hermeneutic” of the Old Testament authors, and demonstrates the continuity of this approach with the “apostolic hermeneutic” of the New Testament authors.

Chou begins his survey with a ‘quest for authorial logic’ and follows with the set of presuppositions and methods he will employ.  The meat of the volume commences in the third chapter, where Chou investigates the prophet as exegete and theologian.  Then he turns to the critical question of prophetic self understanding; i.e., did the prophets speak beyond what they meant to say?  The fifth chapter explores apostolic exposition of the Hebrew Bible and chapter six the ‘theological fabric of the New Testament’.  The seventh chapter draws the implied conclusion of the entire enterprise: ‘reading as they read and intended’.  The eighth and final chapter attempts to draw readers into the hermeneutical process itself.

The work concludes with a bibliography but it lacks any indices and the bibliography makes no mention of Hans Hübner or Leonhard Goppelt!  This last fact is utterly astonishing because these two scholars have done more to aid us in understanding the hermeneutics utilized by the writers of the New Testament than any other academics yet.  It’s akin to writing a book about the Reformation and not mentioning Luther or Calvin or Zwingli or writing a study of the Gospel of John and ignoring the existence of Rudolf Bultmann or preparing a volume on the Septuagint and refusing to acknowledge the existence of Rahlf-Hanhart’s edition.

Chou is, on the other hand, heavily indebted to G.K. Beale, D.A. Carson, Eugene Merrill and other very conservative scholars.  Accordingly, the proper title of the volume ought really be ‘The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers: Learning to Interpret Scripture from an Exceedingly Conservative Perspective And Less from the Prophets and the Apostles’.  Or, to put it more simply, this is an ideologically driven monograph.

The author finds what he expects to find concerning hermeneutical method because that’s what he fully expects to find.  His argument is circular.  His reasoning is clear, yet hog tied by a raft of presuppositions which, to be fair, can be held by anyone.  Yet in holding presuppositions, we owe it to ourselves and our readers to make it clear that we have them and that we are supporting them in our arguments without very much interest in contrary facts or evidence.  Chou, and all of us, can be as biased as we want.  But we have to say we are.  Pretending to be objective whilst not honestly being such is misleading.

Finally, the Christological lens through which every part of the Old Testament is seen is simply exegetically wrong.  Further, it is inappropriate.  Isaiah meant what Isaiah meant and he meant it for his day and time.  If we want to make some sort of Christological claim from it we can (and the Church has from the beginning) but it has to be clearly said that such a move is purely interpretive and has nothing to do with what Isaiah meant.  You can see Christ under every stone and behind every tree in the Old Testament that you want to.  But that doesn’t mean he’s really there any more than he’s really there in your cheese toast or your door or your cloud.

Chou’s work would have been better and more rounded had he simply brought in viewpoints with which he didn’t agree.  But the line he took from the very beginning was a staunch Conservatism, and his volume suffers for it.

This volume is great propaganda (for a conservative perspective), but it is sub-par scholarship.  If you hold a conservative view of Scripture, this volume will be wonderful for you.  Because it will reinforce what you already presume.  But it won’t teach you anything, and at the end of the day if a book doesn’t teach us something it really has no reason for being.

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Posted by on 28 May 2018 in Book Review, Books


Loci praecipui theologici

Volume 1 of a new edition of the Loci praecipui theologici nunc denuo cura et diligentia Summa recogniti multisque in locis copiose illustrati 1559, by Philipp Melanchthon has recently been published by EVA of Leipzig.

Philipp Melanchthons »Loci praecipui theologici« in der Letztfassung von 1559 sind die reife Summe ­seines theologischen Schaffens. Gemeinsam mit der »Institutio« Johannes Calvins sind sie die wirkmächtigste reformatorische Dogmatik. Sie liegen nun erstmals ins Deutsche übersetzt in einer lateinisch-deutschen Ausgabe im ersten Teilband vor.

Die philologische Seite der Übersetzung lag bei dem Basler Altphilologen Peter Litwan unter Assistenz der Altphilologin Florence Becher-Häusermann. Die theologische Redaktion hatte Sven Grosse, Professor für Historische und Systematische Theologie an der Staatsunabhängigen Theologischen Hochschule Basel. Die Ausgabe ist auf zwei Bände angelegt.

Der 2. Band der Loci erscheint im Juli 2020.

The publisher has sent along a copy for review.   The lovely volume commences with a foreword that nicely describes the importance of Melanchthon for the entire Lutheran reformation and the key place the Loci (in their various incarnations) played in it.  Then, very briefly, a few of the more important editions and translations of the Loci are listed, along with other key texts (including Calvin’s Institutes and a number of works by Zwingli!).

The next segment of the book at hand is a ‘philological foreword’ wherein editions of the Loci which serve as the textual base of this book are fully discussed.  These include the Leipzig edition of 1559, and an edition (in Latin) published in England.  Next, Melanchthon’s wonderful literary style is the topic and finally the modern German translation is described.

Then commences the volume proper (and the second is promised in the Summer of 2020).  On the left side stands the Latin text and on the right, the modern German.  Line numbering is provided (in increments of 5’s) and on the Latin page the pagination of the original editions consulted, along with other relevant footnotes when necessary.

In terms of contents, it extends from the preface through the Loci concerning God, the Trinity, The Son, the Spirit, Creation, Sin, Free Will, the Divine Law, the decalogue, The Second Table of the Law, Natural Law, The Uses of the Law, Legal Precepts, The Gospel, Grace and Justification, The Old and New Testaments, and finally the indices.  The second promised volume will contain the Loci on the Church, The Sacraments, Penance, Predestination, The Reign of Christ, The resurrection, The Cross, Prayer, The Magistrate, Human Ceremonies, The Mortification of the Flesh, Scandals, and finally, On Christian Freedom.

The font is beautiful.  Here’s a sample:


Concerning the textual basis for this edition, it can hardly be criticized since it is the earliest and best edition of the Loci of 1559.  And the modern German rendering is both scientifically accurate and artistically beautiful.  Here, again, is a photo illustrating this fact:


This is a really special volume, providing, as it does, the interested reader with the Primary Source of Melanchthon’s most mature theological reflections on every important Christian doctrine along with a fantastic German rendition.  No one interested in the Lutheran branch of the Reformation, Systematic theology, historical theology, or Melanchthon studies can afford to ignore it.

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Posted by on 23 May 2018 in Book Review, Books, Melanchthon


Die Badener Disputation von 1526

9783290177577Die im Rahmen einer Eidgenössischen Tagsatzung vom 19. Mai bis 8. Juni 1526 im aargauischen Baden in deutscher Sprache abgehaltene Disputation war ein Grossereignis der Reformationszeit, vergleichbar der Leipziger Disputation 1519 und dem Reichstag zu Worms 1521, und von entscheidender Bedeutung für den weiteren Verlauf der Schweizer Geschichte. Sie war der mit der österreichischen Regierung und dem Bischof von Konstanz abgestimmte Versuch der damals noch mehrheitlich altgläubigen schweizerischen Orte, Zwingli zum Schweigen zu bringen und Zürich zurückzugewinnen. Über Realpräsenz, Messopfer, Heiligenverehrung, Bilder und Fegfeuer stritten Johannes Eck auf katholischer und (anstelle Zwinglis) Johannes Oekolampad und andere auf reformierter Seite. 

badenJetzt liegt erstmals ein kritisch edierter Text vor – samt Sprach- und Sachkommentar, einer historischen sowie einer philologischen Einleitung und einem bio-bibliografischen Verzeichnis von ca. 60 der namentlich bekannten rund 200 Teilnehmer: eine erstrangige Quelle für Historiker, Theologen und Germanisten.

It’s available from TVZ or, in North America, ISD.  And, if you’re in Switzerland, there will be a formal presentation of the book on the 19th of May.  All the details are available here.

The disputation which took place at Baden was extremely important for the development of the Reformation in Switzerland.  As Philip Schaff notes

The disputation was opened in the Catholic city of Baden, in Aargau, May 21, 1526, and lasted eighteen days, till the 8th of June. The cantons and four bishops sent deputies, and many foreign divines were present. The Protestants were a mere handful, and despised as “a beggarly, miserable rabble.” Zwingli, who foresaw the political aim and result of the disputation, was prevented by the Council of Zurich from leaving home, because his life was threatened; but he influenced the proceedings by daily correspondence and secret messengers. No one could doubt his courage, which he showed more than once in the face of greater danger, as when he went to Marburg through hostile territory, and to the battlefield at Cappel. But several of his friends were sadly disappointed at his absence. He would have equalled Eck in debate and excelled him in biblical learning. Erasmus was invited, but politely declined on account of sickness.

The arrangements for the disputation and the local sympathies were in favor of the papal party. Mass was said every morning at five, and a sermon preached; the pomp of ritualism was displayed in solemn processions. The presiding officers and leading secretaries were Romanists; nobody besides them was permitted to take notes.1 The disputation turned on the real presence, the sacrifice of the mass, the invocation of the Virgin Mary and of saints, on images, purgatory, and original sin. Dr. Eck was the champion of the Roman faith, and behaved with the same polemical dexterity and overbearing and insolent manner as at Leipzig: robed in damask and silk, decorated with a golden ring, chain and cross; surrounded by patristic and scholastic folios, abounding in quotations and arguments, treating his opponents with proud contempt, and silencing them with his stentorian voice and final appeals to the authority of Rome. Occasionally he uttered an oath, “Potz Marter.” A contemporary poet, Nicolas Manuel, thus described his conduct:—

“Eck stamps with his feet, and claps his hands,
He raves, he swears, he scolds;
‘I do,’ cries he, ‘what the Pope commands,
And teach whatever he holds.’ ”

Schaff continues

Oecolampadius of Basle and Haller of Berne, both plain and modest, but able, learned and earnest men, defended the Reformed opinions. Oecolampadius declared at the outset that he recognized no other rule of judgment than the Word of God. He was a match for Eck in patristic learning, and in solid arguments. His friends said, “Oecolampadius is vanquished, not by argument, but by vociferation.”1 Even one of the Romanists remarked, “If only this pale man were on our side!” His host judged that he must be a very pious heretic, because he saw him constantly engaged in study and prayer; while Eck was enjoying rich dinners and good wines, which occasioned the remark, “Eck is bathing in Baden, but in wine.”

The papal party boasted of a complete victory. All innovations were forbidden; Zwingli was excommunicated; and Basle was called upon to depose Oecolampadius from the pastoral office. Faber, not satisfied with the burning of heretical books, advocated even the burning of the Protestant versions of the Bible. Thomas Murner, a Franciscan monk and satirical poet, who was present at Baden, heaped upon Zwingli and his adherents such epithets as tyrants, liars, adulterers, church robbers, fit only for the gallows! He had formerly (1512) chastised the vices of priests and monks, but turned violently against the Saxon Reformer, and earned the name of “Luther-Scourge” (Lutheromastix). He was now made lecturer in the Franciscan convent at Lucerne, and authorized to edit the acts of the Baden disputation.

The result of the Baden disputation was a temporary triumph for Rome, but turned out in the end, like the Leipzig disputation of 1519, to the furtherance of the Reformation.

I cite this rather long passage in order to set the stage for the volume presently under consideration. It is, after all, best to return to the sources themselves, no matter how useful and insightful secondary sources may be. Schaff’s work is impressive, but it pales to insignificance in comparison to the first hand accounts. And that is exactly what this impressive book amply provides.

This very large volume weighs in at over 700 pages and is comprised of a Foreword, a thorough list of abbreviations, a historical introduction (from pages 27- 200), a philological introduction (pp. 249-253), the Baden Disputation texts (the first hand accounts of the events which took place at Baden and the reactions of those who were there) (pp. 249-542).  There next follows a series of indices covering the biblical text, persons, places, and authorities and sources (pp. 543-642).  Finally there’s a marvelously useful and really immensely interesting biography/ bibliography of all the major persons discussed in the texts.

The volume also contains a number of illustrations.  The book is festooned with valuable footnotes which direct readers to the copious literature available from the Disputation’s participants and witnesses.  Indeed, there are enough footnotes to make even the most meticulously minded Germanic scholar proud.

The amount of work it took for the editors to produce this volume is staggering.  From sifting through original hand written ‘minutes’ taken during the disputation itself to the examination of the official and not so official protocols later published by the Catholic and the Reformed participants and adherents must have taken many years to achieve.  Yet the careful scholarship pays huge dividends for Reformation researchers and students of history.

Extremely interesting especially to the present reviewer is the material presented in the historical introduction concerning Zwingli’s absence from the proceedings themselves and yet his presence through swiftly transported letters from Zurich to Baden and back.  Zwingli’s absence was not his wish but that of the Zurich council which knew that, had he gone, some harm would have befallen him.  As we read on page 101

Zwingli hatte sicherlich keine Angst vor einem Zusammentreffen und einen Kräftemessen mit Eck, aber die Badener Disputation hatte von Anfang an den  Charakter einer gegen ihn gerichteten Aktion und stand von Anfang an unter dem Vorzeichen einer altgläubigen Dominanz.

The texts of the disputation are presented in 16th century Swiss German but there are sufficient notes to assist modern German readers to comprehend the unusual vocabulary and orthography.

This volume is an utterly remarkable and thoroughly commendable work.  The Reformation cry Ad Fontes is here realized in an amazing way.

If I were to recommend any improvement at all it would be to add a cd-rom with the contents of the protocols (at least) on them so that searching any term or phrase would be quite simple and easily accomplished.  Several of the volumes published by TVZ contain cd’s (I’m thinking of the records of the Reformation in Zurich and Basle in particular).  Such a tool would add significantly to the already significant usefulness of this volume.

Still, I love this book.  It is scholarly, it is meticulous, it is brilliant.

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Posted by on 21 May 2018 in Book Review, Books, Church History


Johann Froben, Printer of Basel: A Biographical Profile and Catalogue of His Editions

In Johann Froben, Printer of Basel, Valentina Sebastiani offers a comprehensive account of the life and printing production of Froben, a major representative of early modern Europe’s most refined printing traditions. Some five centuries after they first appeared in print, Sebastiani provides a bibliography of the 329 Froben editions published in Basel between 1491 and 1527 (including an analysis of some 2,500 copies held in more than twenty-five libraries worldwide), listing the paratextual and visual elements that distinguish Froben’s books as well as economic, technical, and editorial details related to their production and distribution. Sebastiani’s study sheds new light on Froben’s family and career, his involvement in the editing and publication of Erasmus’ works, and the strategies he adopted to market them successfully.

Folk who love the history of the Church and who love books and who love the art of printing will be interested in this, I think.

The volume is comprised of two major divisions.  In the first, a biography of Froben is provided.  In two chapters.  In the first, readers are introduced to the early life of Froben and in the second Froben’s work with Erasmus is the center of focus.

The second major division makes up 9/10ths of the book and is a meticulous listing of everything Froben ever printed from 1491 through 1527.  This catalog is thoroughly annotated and each includes title, contents, cost, and other historical data.

The volume also includes manuscripts of doubtful Froben-ian provenance, illustrations of title page border frames, printer’s devices, a bibliography of Froben, a general bibliography, an index of authors, contributors, editors, and translators, an index of works, an index of various catalogues, and indices of the title page frames and printer’s devices as well.  Finally, there is an index of libraries and archives. From the portrait of Froben at the opening of the volume to the final page of the index, this volume is a real goldmine of historical material.

To illustrate the author’s style I’d like to cite a fairly long section from the introduction, for two reasons: first, it provides a suitable example of the writer’s style and second it tells potential readers precisely what is in store for them between the covers of this tome:

Johann Froben’s name is a shining star in the firmament of scholarly and humanist publishing in Europe’s Early Modern Age. The authority and magnificence of the books he produced in Basel between 1491 and 1527 are well known—and not solely to specialists in the printed book. For nearly fifteen  years, the key concepts of modernity elaborated by the “Prince of Humanists”, Erasmus of Rotterdam, were advanced beneath the emblem of the caduceus which, like a modern corporate logo, was instantly recognisable as the symbol of Froben’s press. Froben’s publishing program met with success on the international book market, and most of the volumes that Froben published—classics in Latin and Greek, the seminal texts of the Church Fathers, the Bible, and the latest titles in the humanistic tradition—sold exceptionally well. Indeed, Froben reprinted them two, three, four, or even as many as eleven times to satisfy the enormous demands of his European scholarly readers. Notwithstanding the exemplary contribution to the history of print and to European culture that Johann Froben and his work represent, little is known about this representative of the most refined publishing house in early modern Europe. Although the scholarship in this area is substantial, it has offered a somewhat ambiguous image of Froben or, in any case, an unfocused one. Nor has a comprehensive bibliography of Froben’s publications ever been prepared, though such a work has long been a desideratum for a wide community of scholars in the multiple fields of Renaissance and Reformation studies, the history of the book, and Erasmus studies. This book aims to fill that gap.

This volume is a shining star in historical studies.  Readers will learn so very much about so important an artist and will come away from the experience fully inspired and totally appreciative of those giants upon whose shoulders all academics today stand.

Be advised, though: this is a gigantic book at over 900 pages.  The work takes effort.  But it rewards in spades.

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Posted by on 16 May 2018 in Book Review, Books, Church History


Rewriting and Reception in and of the Bible

This new volume, in English and German, arrived in early April for review from Mohr.  I’m very excited about it because it is a Festschrift for my very dear friend Mogens Müller.  He’s a wonderful scholar and has long deserved the recognition brought via a Festschrift.  He deserves a celebration.

Die Beiträge dieses Bandes setzen sich kritisch mit der Arbeit Mogen Müllers zu antikem Judentum, der Septuaginta, den Evangelien des Neuen Testaments und der Rezeptiongeschichte der Bibel auseinander und decken dabei ein breites Themenfeld innerhalb der biblischen Redaktion und Rezeption ab. Neuschreibung und Rezeption sind Teil eines fortlaufenden Prozesses, der innerhalb der biblischen Literatur begann, und der sich in der Geschichte der interpretierenden Gemeinden fortsetzt, die die Bibel bis heute auf zahlreiche Arten rezipieren und wertschätzen. Der vorliegende Band möchte die wissenschaftliche Debatte über solch wichtige Themen innerhalb der Bibelforschung voranbringen. Er zeigt, dass man sich mit dem Begriff der Rezeption aus sehr verschiedenen Blickwinkeln und unterschiedlichen hermeneutischen und methodologischen Perspektiven befassen kann, welche alle neue Einblicke in die antiken Texte und deren Nachleben bieten.


Jesper Høgenhaven/Jesper Tang Nielsen/Heike Omerzu: Introduction: Rewriting and Reception in and of the Bible

Part I: Rewriting and Reception in the Bible Ancient Judaism– Jesper Høgenhaven: Fortschreibung und Kanonbildung in der Bibliothek von Qumran: Bemerkungen mit besonderem Hinblick auf Genesis-Kommentar A (4Q252) – Ingrid Hjelm: The Coming of a ‘Prophet like you’ in Ancient Literature – Thomas Thompson: ‘Rewritten Bible’ or Reiterative Rhetoric: Examples from Yahweh’s Garden – Siegfried Kreuzer: New Testament Quotations and the Textual History of the Septuagint

New Testament– Michael Labahn: Die Königin aus dem Süden und ihr Auftritt im Gericht: Q 11,31 oder zur (Wirkungs-)Geschichte einer Begegnungserzählung – Troels Engberg-Pedersen: The Messianic Secret in the Fourth Gospel: On the Fundamental Importance of Mark for John’s Rewriting of the Story of Jesus – Jesper Tang Nielsen: Lukas und Johannes: Szenen einer Beziehung – Frederik Poulsen: A Light to the Gentiles: The Reception of Isaiah in Luke-Acts – Martin Meiser: Torah in Galatians: The Significance of the Reception of the Septuagint

Part II: Rewriting and Reception of the Bible Ancient Times– Martin Karrer: Reception and Rewriting: Beobachtungen zu Schriftreferenzen und Textgeschichte der Apokalypse – Heike Omerzu: Das Petrusevangelium als ‘rewritten Gospel’? Eine forschungsgeschichtliche Erörterung der Rezeption der Kategorie ,rewritten Bible’ in Bezug auf frühchristliche Texte – Tilde Bak Halvgaard: Reception of the Johannine Logos in the Trimorphic Protennoia: The Gnostics and the Bible – Part II – Francis Watson: Reception as Corruption: Tertullian and Marcion in Quest of the True Gospel – Thomas Hoffmann: Everywhere and Nowhere: On the rewritten Bible and Qur’ān – John Strange: Rewriting the Bible in Pictorial Arts: Some Examples and Observations

Modern Times – Christina Petterson: Zinzendorf’s New Testament and the Production of Gender – Halvor Moxnes: Desiring Christ: A Nordic Christology in the Time of Romantic Friendships – Gitte Buch-Hansen: Converting Refugees and the Gospel: Exegetical Reflections on Refugees’ Encounter with Denmark and with the Lutheran Church

The wide ranging interests of Mogens Müller are perfectly reflected in this well conceived and executed Festschrift.  Subject areas like the Septuagint, Ancient Judaism, the Gospels, and how those have been received throughout history fill the work.

I first met Mogens in New Orleans at a meeting of SBL and a few years later when I attended a conference in Copenhagen he graciously allowed me to stay with him and his wonderful wife at their beautiful home.  He is a friend and consequently I am positively disposed to his being celebrated.

I am also positively disposed to this volume because it celebrates his work properly.  Its contributors are experts in the fields for which they present essays and all well acquainted with MM’s contributions.  Of special note are the essays of Hjelm, Thompson, Kreuzer, Engberg-Pedersen, Poulson, Watson, and Moxnes (who in typical fashion for himself is more than willing to shake some cages).

My favorite essay, though, and the one which was most informative (in terms of new facts with which I had previously been unfamiliar) is that of Christina Petterson on Zinzendorf’s New Testament.  Here she describes the Moravians and their Bibles, and the choirs of the Moravian churches, along with the groups of which they were comprised (men, boys, girls, widowers, etc.).  All in an effort to delve into the understandings and implications of gender and social relations in the Moravian community.  Fascinating stuff to be sure.

The volume uses footnotes instead of endnotes (which every scholar I know prefers, i.e., footnotes), has a list of contributors, an index of sources, and an index of modern authors.  It lacks a subject index, but to be fair collections of essays really don’t need one and it also lacks a bibliography of the celebrant, which I think every Festschrift ought to have.  A number of essays are in German and most are in English.  Greek and Hebrew occur often enough and the font used for each language is clear and pleasant.  And, finally, Strange’s contribution features several reproductions of important works of art.

This is a fine collection; much to be appreciated is contained herein and much to be learned by virtually every reader.  It is worthy of its celebrant, who is himself worthy of accolades and appreciation.  It is my hope that students and scholars who have not yet come to know Mogens Müller’s work will be intrigued by what they find here and be led to read the many works which provoked such a positive response.

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Posted by on 12 May 2018 in Biblical Studies Resources, Book Review, Books


Caesar and the Sacrament – Baptism: A Rite of Resistance

When the earliest Christ-followers were baptized they participated in a politically subversive act. Rejecting the Empire’s claim that it had a divine right to rule the world, they pledged their allegiance to a kingdom other than Rome and a king other than Caesar (Acts 17:7).

Many books explore baptism from doctrinal or theological perspectives, and focus on issues such as the correct mode of baptism, the proper candidate for baptism, who has the authority to baptize, and whether or not baptism is a symbol or means of grace. By contrast, Caesar and the Sacrament investigates the political nature of baptism.

Very few contemporary Christians consider baptism’s original purpose or political significance. Only by studying baptism in its historical context, can we discover its impact on first-century believers and the adverse reaction it engendered among Roman and Jewish officials. Since baptism was initially a rite of non-violent resistance, what should its function be today?

This is the best  monograph on baptism that I’ve read since George Beasley-Murray’s.  In 11 carefully constructed chapters, Streett lays out his case.  First, he defines terms; then he discusses baptism in its historical context.  In Chapter three he turns to what is really the skeleton of his thesis: baptism and Roman domination.  He then layers on muscle in his examination of John the Baptizer, the baptism of Jesus, baptism and resurrection and restoration of the kingdom, baptism and Pentecost, and baptisms beyond Jerusalem.  The skin of his theory is found in the final three chapters, where he discusses Paul’s theology of baptism and baptism in the other letters and the Apocalypse.

Potential readers will naturally want to know if Streett’s argument is correct.  It is.  They will also want to know if his handling of the evidence is fair and accurate.  It is.  Does the book inform, they’ll wonder.  Yes, it does.  It is a volume that I should invest resources and time in, they may wonder as well.  And the answer is a resounding yes.

Streett includes a good bibliography, though not thorough; and he offers an index of Scripture.

I am no fan of the recent raft of New Testament studies Malina-esque in character and focusing on ’empire’ (a word so overused now that it has achieved the status of irritant).  Streett’s book is not like them, though, in spite of his interest in empire as a topos.  He sees baptism in a very interesting way and he sees its function as something more than it is usually understood to be- and I think he’s on to something.

Streett writes ‘The gospel of the kingdom was an alternative metanarrative to Rome’s claims of manifest destiny and its good news of peace (Pax Romana).  It was not about individual bliss in the afterlife.  The message of the resurrection of Christ in its first-century context was essentially a counter-imperial proclamation that was subversive to the core‘ (p. 157).

Buzzwords like metanarrative and imperial aside, this book is a master course in baptismal theology.  Take the course.

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Posted by on 5 May 2018 in Book Review, Books