Cultural Shifts and Ritual Transformations in Reformation Europe

This volume honors the work of a scholar who has been active in the field of early modern history for over four decades. In that time, Susan Karant-Nunn’s work challenged established orthodoxies, pushed the envelope of historical genres, and opened up new avenues of research and understanding, which came to define the contours of the field itself. Like this rich career, the chapters in this volume cover a broad range of historical genres from social, cultural and art history, to the history of gender, masculinity, and emotion, and range geographically from the Holy Roman Empire, France, and the Netherlands, to Geneva and Austria. Based on a vast array of archival and secondary sources, the contributions open up new horizons of research and commentary on all aspects of early modern life.

Contributors: James Blakeley, Robert J. Christman, Victoria Christman, Amy Nelson Burnett, Pia Cuneo, Ute Lotz-Heumann, Amy Newhouse, Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer, Helmut Puff, Lyndal Roper, Karen E. Spierling, James D. Tracy, Mara R. Wade, David Whitford, and Charles Zika.

It sounds fantastic.  The link above has the TOC.  A review copy has arrived.  More anon.

Prophets, Priests, and Promises: Essays on the Deuteronomistic History, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah

This collection of essays is forthcoming-

Shortly before his untimely death Gary Knoppers prepared a number of articles on the historical books in the Hebrew Bible for this volume. Many had not previously been published and the others were heavily revised. They combine a fine attention to historical method with sensitivity for literary-critical analysis, constructive use of classical as well as other sources for comparative evidence, and wide-ranging attention to economic, social, religious, and political circumstances relating in particular to the Persian and early Hellenistic periods. Knoppers advances many new suggestions about significant themes in these texts, about how they relate one to another, and about the light they shed on the various communities’ self-consciousness at a time when new religious identities were being forged.

Johann Jakob Wettstein’s Principles for New Testament Textual Criticism

In Johann Jakob Wettstein’s Principles for New Testament Textual Criticism Silvia Castelli investigates the genesis, development, and legacy of Wettstein’s criteria for evaluating New Testament variant readings. Wettstein’s guidelines, the Animadversiones et cautiones, are the first well-organized essay on New Testament text-critical methodology, first published in the Prolegomena to his New Testament in 1730 and republished with some changes in 1752. In his essay, Wettstein presents a new text-critical method based on the manuscripts’ evidence and on the critic’s judgment. Moving away from the authority invested in established printed editions, Wettstein’s methodology thus effectively promotes and enhances intellectual freedom. The second part of this volume offers a critical text and an annotated English translation of Wettstein’s text-critical principles.

Brill have graciously provided a review copy.

Violence in the Hebrew Bible

In Violence in the Hebrew Bible scholars reflect on texts of violence in the Hebrew Bible, as well as their often problematic reception history. Authoritative texts and traditions can be rewritten and adapted to new circumstances and insights. Texts are subject to a process of change. The study of the ways in which these (authoritative) biblical texts are produced and/or received in various socio-historical circumstances discloses a range of theological and ideological perspectives. In reflecting on these issues, the central question is how to allow for a given text’s plurality of possible and realised meanings while also retaining the ability to form critical judgments regarding biblical exegesis. This volume highlight that violence in particular is a fruitful area to explore this tension.

A review copy has arrived.  More anon.

Die Aarauer Konferenz (1897–1939)

Aarau als Brennpunkt neuerer Theologiegeschichte: So kennt man die Hauptstadt des Aargaus gar nicht. Doch fand hier von 1897 bis 1939 im Frühling jeweils die «Christliche Studentenkonferenz» statt, ein Stück frühe, zeitweise sehr erfolgreiche evangelische Akademikerarbeit in der Schweiz. Studierende aller Fächer aus Basel, Bern, Zürich und ab den 1920er Jahren auch aus St. Gallen trafen sich während drei Tagen zu Vorträgen über theologische, philosophische und gesellschaftliche Themen, die anschliessend intensiv und oft kontrovers diskutiert wurden. Angestossen von theologisch «positiven» Kreisen öffnete sich die Konferenz bald für alle kirchlichen Richtungen, sodass sich in den jährlichen Tagungen der Aufbruch der Theologie im frühen 20. Jahrhundert spiegelt.

Wer immer in der deutschsprachigen evangelischen Theologie Rang und Namen hatte, wurde nach Aarau eingeladen: Ernst Troeltsch, Adolf von Harnack oder Paul Tillich. Religiössoziale wie Hermann Kutter oder Leonhard Ragaz, aber auch Carl Gustav Jung und frühe Vertreterinnen der Frauenbewegung wie Dora Staudinger. Und natürlich die Protagonisten der dialektischen Theologie: Karl Barth mit seinem berühmten Aarauer Vortrag «Biblische Fragen, Einsichten und Ausblicke» und Heinrich Barth, Emil Brunner, Eduard Thurneysen oder Friedrich Gogarten. Frank Jehle zeigt anschaulich auf, wie ihre Beiträge Geschichte geschrieben haben.

Frank Jehle has proven himself one of the best historical theologians of our day through his incredibly thorough and eminently readable books.  The book at hand continues that tradition of excellence.

Here Jehle examines the history of the student conference organized by the Christian Young Men’s Association and commencing in 1897.  That year’s conference theme was ‘Can a Christian be a Darwinist?’  And it featured Hermann Christ.  In the following years theological superstars like Ernst Staehelin, Paul Wernle, Johannes Weiss, Ernst Troeltsch, Hermann Kutter, Leonhard Ragaz, appeared.  But it wasn’t simply a matter of men speaking to men.  Women too played a part in the conference.  These included Aline Hoffmann, Dora Staudinger, and others.

In 1916 perhaps the most important of the events took place with the appearance of the newly invented ‘Dialectical Theology’.  Karl Barth preached the sermon that year and soon Heinrich Barth and Emil Brunner appeared.  1920’s gathering was a watershed, with papers read by Adolf von Harnack and Karl Barth.  Gogarten and Thurneysen’s papers were delivered in 1921.

1923 was the beginning of the end for the gathering, which held it’s last meeting in 1939, when it was simply no longer possible for such events to take place.

The volume includes an overview of the conference’s papers and a bibliography as well as an index of persons and an index of images.

Persons interested in the development of dialectical theology and the theological history of the early 20th century will learn a great deal from this volume. It is a pleasure to read and is festooned with interesting photographs which serve to bring the history of the conference to life.  It also is comprised of numerous, copious citations, such that the reader encounters the conference’s participants at first hand, in their own words.

Student conferences such as the one here examined were once upon a time substantive theological events.  How very different they are from today’s rather lame and infotainment oriented Christian youth conferences.  Perhaps what the Church needs is a return to substance and an abandonment of silliness and entertainment.  Substance begets substance.  The ‘Aarauer Konferenze’ was substantial.  As is this book about it.

Wisdom in the Hebrew Bible

What is the source of wisdom? What is the biblical understanding of it, and how is it revealed? In this book, T. A. Perry brings his creative impulse and critical mind to some of the most enigmatic passages of the Hebrew Bible.

Perry provides serious students with an insightful and incisive lens through which to interpret, among other biblical passages, the story of Judah and Tamar, the riddle proposed by Samson, and the words of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes) reflecting on the advancing years of life.

A review copy arrived today.  More anon.

The Gospel of Mark, Scripture Journal

Available from Hendrickson and sent for review.  Here is a photo of it in my hand to give a sense of the size.  They are smallish volumes:

A Greek Scripture Journal for the Gospel of Mark is a unique book that offers students, scholars, and pastors a way to deepen their study of the New Testament.

The Nestle-Aland text of the Greek New Testament has long been the standard text-critical edition for serious students and scholars. Now, the German Bible Society has released a special journaling edition of one of the key books of the New Testament: the Gospel of Mark.

The 28th Edition of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece provides the trusted critical text of NA28 in a clean format, with no apparatus. Each page of Greek is paired with a blank lined page for recording notes and comments. This beautifully minimalist edition will be welcomed by scholars, students, and pastors alike as a valuable resource in their personal study of the Gospel of Mark.

Of course there’s no need to review the 28th edition of Nestle-Aland.  And the Gospel of Mark is well beyond being reviewed by any person.  What is worthy of review, and mention, regarding this present volume is its potential.

Is this a useful edition of the Gospel of Mark?  Indeed!  As a matter of fact, it is IDEAL for courses on Mark which examine the Greek text.  It seems to me that this edition would be the perfect course textbook.  Students, as they work through the Gospel, would easily be able to note particularities of interest to themselves and Professors lecturing on the Gospel could assign this edition as the course ‘notebook’.

Individuals working through the Greek text of Mark would also find it quite useful.  It’s better suited to note-taking than a ‘wide margin’ edition and it’s compact enough to be easily portable.

I hope that Hendrickson, and the German Bible Society, produce editions of each of the New Testament books (or small groups of texts like James, 1-2 Peter, and Jude).  Such a series of booklets would be a Professor’s dream and a Student’s joy.

Until that’s done, readers of the Greek New Testament should get hold of what is available and take full advantage of all the possibilities such an edition presents for both learners and teachers.

Reading Scripture as the Church: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Hermeneutic of Discipleship

Although the practice of reading Scripture has often become separated from its ecclesial context, theologian Derek Taylor argues that it rightly belongs to the disciplines of the community of faith. He finds a leading example of this approach in the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who regarded the reading of Scripture as an inherently communal exercise of discipleship.

In conversation with other theologians, including John Webster, Robert Jenson, and Stanley Hauerwas, Taylor contends that Bonhoeffer’s approach to Scripture can engender the practices and habits of a faithful hermeneutical community. Today, as in Bonhoeffer’s time, the church is called to take up and read.

We’ll see.

Navigating Tough Texts: A Guide to Problem Passages in the New Testament

While the core message of the New Testament is clear, there are often puzzling, alarming, or confusing things we encounter when we get into the details of the text.

Murray J. Harris, veteran scholar and translator, is an ideal guide through these complicated passages. In Navigating Tough Texts, he clearly and concisely provides exegetical insights to over one hundred tricky New Testament verses that have implications for theology, apologetics, mission, and the Christian life.

Navigating Tough Texts is an indispensable resource for pastors, students, and curious Christians who want to be better readers of the many important—and often confusing—New Testament passages.

A review copy of this also arrived today.  Stay tuned.

When Did Eve Sin? The Fall and Biblical Historiography

When responding to the serpent’s temptation to eat the forbidden fruit, Eve says that one “must not touch it” (Gen 3:2–3). In this, Eve appears to embellish upon God’s clear command that one must not eat from the tree (Gen 2:17). Did Eve add to God’s command, becoming the first legalist? Was this an innocent mistake? Or is the answer altogether different?

Jeffrey J. Niehaus tackles this issue head-on in When Did Eve Sin? Though many commentators believe that Eve altered God’s command, there are notable exceptions in the history of interpretation that suggest another answer. Using Scripture to interpret Scripture and analyzing biblical stories where characters retell the facts, Niehaus recognizes a common scriptural pattern that resolves the mystery of Eve’s words.

Niehaus examines his view’s implications for biblical historiography, what it meant to eat from the tree of life, how a sinless being can fall into sin, and the nature of the mysterious serpent. Everyone engaging with these questions will be deftly guided by Niehaus’ thorough study of this thorny issue.

Sounds fun.  A review copy arrived today.  More anon.

The Synod of Dort: Historical, Theological, and Experiential Perspectives

This volume seeks to shed light on various aspects of the Synod of Dort in order to inform the contemporary reader of its proper historical and theological context and its experiential emphases. Some leading scholars of post-Reformation Reformed thought and the Synod have contributed essays to this work.

The Bible With and Without Jesus: How Jews and Christians Read the Same Stories Differently

A-J has a new book coming out that looks fantastic.

Esteemed Bible scholars Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler take readers on a guided tour of the most popular Old Testament stories referenced in the New Testament to explore how Christians, Jews, and scholars read these ancient texts differently. Among the passages analyzed are the creation story, the role of Adam and Eve, the suffering servant passages in Isaiah, the sign of “Jonah” Jesus refers to, and the words Jesus quotes from Psalm 22 as he is dying on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Comparing Jewish, Christian, and academic interpretations of each ancient narrative, Levine and Brettler offer a deeper understanding of these contrasting faiths, and illuminate the  historical and literary significance of the Bible and its place in our culture. Revealing not only what Jews and Christians can learn from each other, The Bible With and Without Jesus also shows how to appreciate the distinctive perspectives of each. By understanding the depth and variety of reading these passages, we not only enhance our knowledge of each other, but also see more clearly the beauty and power of Scripture itself.

A review copy arrived in late July and I’ve been spending a LOT of time with this work. In what follows, I’ll provide excerpts from the volume and then remarks upon them.  Doing this will, I hope, provide potential readers with all the information they will need in order to determine whether or not this is a book that they will want to read.  And, by the way, it is!

First, the table of contents:

The copy provided was a prepublication electronic version, so that should be kept in mind.  Each of the 13 chapters have several subsections, some of them quite short and others of them quite expansive.  Each subsection deals with an aspect of the overarching chapter theme.  So, for instance, on chapter 4-

Each subsection also offers extensive endnotes so that curious readers can pursue even more information on the topics and subtopics of interest to them.  The authors treat the material from the point of view of their respective scholarly positions, but their arguments are so tightly interwoven that there is no way to determine where one begins and the other picks up and carries on.

Some of the more interesting materials are found in chapter 5’s subsection titled:

Aside from the obvious- i.e., that the authors write with clarity and specificity, there is also the fact that they somehow have managed to address the very issues that will be of most interest to modern souls.  Fearlessly.  They simply are unafraid and accordingly they speak frankly and honestly about even the most controversial of topics.

An in depth analysis of the subject of justice, so central these days, leads readers to connect with ancient texts in a profoundly interesting way.  The subject at hand, then after said deep analysis, provokes the further conclusion that

As I suggested above, our authors are fearless. They tackle what must surely be one of the most obvious disagreements between Christians (some, anyway) and Jews: the so called virgin birth.

Honest exposition is so refreshing when so many have an ‘angle’ and the text’s voice is silenced by its supposed interpreters.

One final extract will round out the examples, which, to be honest, could be multiplied into the dozens and hundreds.

Jews and Christians have much in common.  This book will help both Christians and Jews see things from the point of view of the other and by doing so, will facilitate both understanding and hopefully acceptance and love.

This is a remarkable book.  It is an invitation to a dialogue and once entered into, a dialogue that is astonishingly deep and scintillating.  The authors have done us all a very important service by writing it.  It would be a tragedy if you failed to read it.  You won’t know what you’ve missed and any summary will fall short.

Take this book in hand and read it as soon as it’s out.  You owe it to yourself.  You owe it to your own understanding of the message and meaning of the Bible.  And you owe it to your dialogues and interactions with scholars of other traditions.

Creator and Creation according to Calvin on Genesis

In her work Rebekah Earnshaw provides an analysis of Creator and creation according to Calvin on Genesis. This offers a new theological reading of Calvin’s Genesis commentary and sermons, with an eye to systematic interests.

This analysis is presented in four chapters: The Creator, The Agent and Act of Creation, Creatures, and Providence. Calvin on Genesis gives unique insights into each of these. First, the Creator has priority in Calvin’s thought. The Creator is l’Eternal, who is infinitely distinct and abundantly for creatures in his virtues. Second, the agent of creation is triune and the act of creation is “from nothing” as well as in and with time. This is a purposeful beginning. Third, Calvin affirms creaturely goodness and order. The relation of humans and animals illustrates Calvin’s holistic view of creation as well as the impact of corruption and disorder. Providential sustenance and concursus are closely tied to the nature of creatures and the initial word. Fourth, fatherly governance for the church is presented separately and demonstrated by Calvin’s treatment of Abraham and Joseph.

Earlier presentations of Calvin on Creator and creation are incomplete, because of the lack of sustained attention to Calvin on Genesis. This analysis supplements works that concentrated on the Institutes and Calvin on Job, by bringing new material to bear. Further, throughout this analysis lies the implicit example of a biblical theologian, who pursues what is useful from scripture for the sake of piety in the church.

Insights from Calvin’s thought on Genesis provide a foundation for systematic work that reflects on this locus and the integrated practice of theology.

Rebekkah’s little book (just over 200 pages) aims to

… provide …  a theological analysis of Creator and creation according to Calvin on Genesis. This brings together three elements: a doctrinal locus, a man, and his exposition of a biblical book in commentary and sermon. Until now, this combination has not been thoroughly scrutinised. Therefore, the question at hand is what contribution do these texts make to our understanding of Calvin’s theology in this area and, hence, in what areas might contemporary theological research be furthered by heeding this new insight.

A simple enough thesis, right?  But filled with perilous paths and dangerous potential pitfalls.  For instance, which of Calvin’s materials to examine?  In what languages?  How extensively?  With what focus?  All of these dangers are seen in advance:

This investigation is prompted and shaped by four factors of increasing specificity: theological interest in Creation, the inclusion of exegesis of Genesis in previous theological work on Creation, publication and translation of Calvin’s Genesis sermons, and limited attention to Genesis in earlier treatments of Calvin on Creation. Each of these makes the present question significant and can be considered in turn.

As part of her survey of the material, E. remarks

This sweeping survey of treatments of Calvin on Creation cannot do justice to their scholarship. However, the purpose here is more modestly to identify that within these earlier works there has been some reference to Calvin’s treatment of Genesis, but there has been no study of its contribution as a whole in this area. The brief comments from the end of Book One of the Institutes remain the authoritative account despite more recent broadening of the horizons within Calvin studies to focus on other texts or diachronic analysis.

This volume remedies that.  Quite nicely and thoroughly.  As she notes later on

Throughout his work on Genesis Calvin promotes faith in the Creator that issues in piety; that is, his exegesis develops doctrine with pastoral outworking. This is not accidental, as Calvin happens to be a theologian who enters a pulpit. Rather, Calvin continually concerns himself with the use of Creation in accordance with scripture in the life of God’s church. His conclusion to his first Genesis sermon is typical in this regard.

That, then, is what we need to remember about these words of Moses, and we must, in short, apply ourselves to this endeavour and become acquainted with God our Creator in such a way that we pay him homage with our lives, acknowledging him also as our Redeemer and confessing that we are doubly obligated to him, so that we may dedicate ourselves completely to his service in all holiness, righteousness, and integrity.

Calvin may be outdated in terms of his scientific understanding of the ‘how’ of creation.  But he remains incredibly relevant when it comes to the theological ‘why’ of creation.  And this book, well written and well executed, helps we 21st century folk hear that ‘why’ with a certain clarity and forcefulness.

The Ascension of Christ: Recovering a Neglected Doctrine

Lexham have sent this along for review:

The good news of Jesus includes his life, death, resurrection, and future return—but what about his ascension? Though often neglected or misunderstood, the ascension is integral to the gospel.

In The Ascension of Christ, Patrick Schreiner argues that Jesus’ work would be incomplete without his ascent to God’s right hand. Not only a key moment in the gospel story, Jesus’ ascension was necessary for his present ministry in and through the church. Schreiner argues that Jesus’ residence in heaven marks a turning point in his three-fold offices of prophet, priest, and king. As prophet, Jesus builds the church and its witness. As priest, he intercedes before the Father. As king, he rules over all.

A full appreciation of the ascension is essential for understanding the Bible, Christian doctrine, and Christ’s ongoing work in the world.

Weighing in at a slight 116 pages, this little work aims to highlight the significance of the ascension of Christ in terms of his threefold office as Prophet, Priest, and King.  That being its aim, it is a success.

Schreiner does a good job tying together the threads of Christ’s multiform work and the ascension.  He also does a good job of assembling the relevant biblical and theological material.  And, most importantly, he doesn’t attempt to say too much.  He allows the material to set the parameters instead of trying to fill the work with fluff and irrelevancies.  This book could have turned into some 300 page monstrosity had Schreiner lacked the good sense that he clearly possesses. As it stands, however, it is like the porridge that Goldilocks ate: it’s cooked just right.

The book can be faulted, though, for including reference to Calvin and Bavinck while completely and inexplicably ignoring both Luther and Zwingli. Both of whom had important things to say about the Ascension of Christ and which could have been included herein for fullness sake.  Still, I don’t want to appear to be one of those terrible people who tell an author what I want rather than examine what he himself wrote.  Yet I would fail in my duties to full disclosure of the work’s strengths and weaknesses if I failed to remark concerning this chink in its argumentative armor.

To be fair, every theological work should include some bit or other from Luther and Zwingli.  And when they don’t, they aren’t all that they could be.

Another bit of a blunder is found in the Index, which while being useful, has ‘Y’ where there should be a ‘T’.  Someone must have seen a ‘T’ at some point in the editorial process, but I assure you, it is a ‘Y’.

All in all, however, this is a delightful book.  And I recommend it.  Unhesitatingly.

Everyday Prayer With the Reformers

When God’s children pray, we talk to a God familiar with the requests, praise, and longings of generations of his people. We have much to learn from those who went before us. In this devotional, Donald McKim takes us back to the wisdom of over twenty Protestant Reformers—including John Calvin, Martin Luther, and Philip Melanchthon. As McKim draws from the insightful writings and prayers of the Reformers of yesteryear, he provides brief, meditative readings, along with reflection questions and prayer points, to nourish our prayer lives today.

McKim here aims to provide

… a series of short devotional reflections on quotations from Protestant Reformers that are drawn from a variety of sources.

To fulfill his aim, he begins with the prayer of Zwingli at the opening of the Prophezei (more on this in a moment) and naturally that decision sets the tone for the whole.  Entering into the act of study necessitates prayer.  Indeed, entering into a new day also necessitates prayer.  Navigating life necessitates prayer.  Prayer is necessitated by existence.  And so McKim opens the door to various Reformers and their studies or libraries and lets us sit with them or kneel with them as they perform the most essential daily act- the act of prayer.

And what better way to begin, as suggested above, than to say, with Zwingli,

Almighty, eternal and merciful God, whose Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, open and illuminate our minds, that we may purely and perfectly understand your Word and that our lives may be conformed to what we have rightly understood, that in nothing we may be displeasing to your majesty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Making use of Scripture and brief devotional observations, McKim interweaves appropriate citations from the leaders of the Church and offers those of us who pray a little guidebook and aid to deepen our own devotional practices.

Each devotion begins with a passage from Scripture and this, which should be read first of all, introduces the remarks of McKim which follow.  At the conclusion of each devotional a question is posed and readers/ users are invited into the dialogue between Scripture and theologian.

Following is a sample-

Why Do We Need to Pray?
Psalm 50:12–15

A direct and most precious promise about prayer comes from Psalm 50: “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (v. 15). This is a promise for all seasons. We may need to pray to God because we are facing a “day of trouble.” When we do, the promise “I will deliver you” is given. Then, our need is to pray to express our deepest thanksgiving for what God has done in delivering and helping us. We shall “glorify” God by giving gratitude to our deliverer! This is captured by the Heidelberg Catechism. It asks, “Why is prayer necessary for Christians?” The answer is “Because it is the chief part of the thankfulness which God requires of us.”

While we need to pray to seek God’s help, we also—especially— need to pray to express our most profound thanks for the help we receive. We glorify God with our praise and thanks. We also glorify God by what we do to live out our gratitude in commitment and service to the One who delivers and saves us.

This response of thanks is a primary mark of a Christian, according to the Reformers. We are supremely people of thankfulness. We are those who live in the grip of gratitude to the God who gives us salvation in Jesus Christ, who died for us. We cannot help but pray in praise to our God!

Prayer Point: Pray and request help for the “troubles” of your life. Pray also in deep thankfulness and praise for God’s help in delivering you.

This little book is a treasure trove of devotional helpfulness.  Not only does each devotion bring readers nearer to the goal of godliness, each citation from the various Reformers which intersperse the little work bind us to our theological heritage and remind us that we are members of a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who are – because of that – neither alone nor abandoned.

Take, for instance, this prayer of Melanchthon-

I give thanks to Thee, Almighty God, for revealing thyself to me, for sending thy Son Jesus Christ, that he might become a sacrifice, that through him I might be forgiven and receive eternal life. I give thanks to Thee, O God, for making me a recipient of thy great favor through the Gospel and the Sacraments, and for preserving thy Word and thy Holy Church. O that I might truly declare thy goodness and blessings! Inflame me, I earnestly beseech Thee, with thy Holy Spirit that thanksgiving may shine forth in my life. . . . Enlighten my heart, I beseech Thee, that I may be more fully aware of thy favor toward me and forever worship Thee with true thanksgiving. — Philip Melanchthon

The body of Christ transcends time and space.  By means of texts such as these and biblical citations and helpful devotional observations and probing questions, we are engrafted more firmly into that body.

Professor McKim is to be thanked for his wonderful work and his cogent spirituality.  All persons, whatever their theological persuasion, will find value in this volume, but the Reformed especially will be especially encouraged.

BasisBibel: The New Testament and the Psalms

Since the publication of the New Testament edition, the BasisBibel has been hailed in the English-speaking world by students and professors of German alike. Each sentence contains no more than sixteen words and no more than one subordinating clause. With its concise sentences, contemporary German, and straightforward explanations of key biblical words and concepts in the margins, it is the perfect German Bible translation for the student of German. It can also be read in a variety of formats, including tablets, computers, and smartphones, and additional background information on the content is available online.

Now that the Hebrew Psalms have been newly translated for the BasisBibel, we are pleased to offer a new edition with the New Testament and the Psalms together. This new translation is notable in that the character of the Hebrew poetry remains recognizable in the German version. The text lines reflect the typical parallel structure of Hebrew poetry and are therefore ideal for both personal and class reading. The consistently rhythmic language and the extensive retention of the unique metaphorical expression of the original text make the reading of this fascinating book of the Bible in German a delight.

When a new edition of the Bible appears the only sensible procedure is to evaluate it in terms of its predecessors.  If there’s nothing in it which moves readers forward in their understanding of the meaning of Scripture, either through its clarity or its depth of insight into the source languages, then it can simply be disregarded.  This is certainly the case, for example, with the NIV.  That version neither deepens readers’ understanding of the meaning of the text nor does it bring them closer to the meaning of the Grundtext.  It has no advantage over any of its predecessors.  It is a useless translation for those reasons alone.

Accordingly, any evaluation of the new edition in German published by the German Bible Society has to be evaluated in terms of whether or not it brings readers closer to the ‘original’ texts, i.e., the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek documents that make up the Bible.  To come to a decision in that regard we simply need to compare the BasisBibel to the premier German translation, the 2008 Zurich Bible.  With that in mind, below, I’ll offer a segment of text from the Zurich Bible and compare it to the BasisBibel.

Our first snippet is from Psalm 23-

The Zurich Bible-

Ein Psalm Davids. Der HERR ist mein Hirt, mir mangelt nichts, er weidet mich auf grünen Auen. Zur Ruhe am Wasser führt er mich, neues Leben gibt er mir. Er leitet mich auf Pfaden der Gerechtigkeit um seines Namens willen.  Wandere ich auch im finstern Tal, fürchte ich kein Unheil, denn du bist bei mir, dein Stecken und dein Stab, sie trösten mich. Du deckst mir den Tisch im Angesicht meiner Feinde. Du salbst mein Haupt mit Öl, übervoll ist mein Becher.  Güte und Gnade werden mir folgen alle meine Tage, und ich werde zurückkehren ins Haus des HERRN mein Leben lang.   (Ps. 23:1-6)

That rendition is both beautiful, articulate, and accurate.  What then of the BasisBibel?

EIN PSALM, MIT DAVID VERBUNDEN. Der HERR ist mein Hirte. Mir fehlt es an nichts. Die Weiden sind saftig grün. Hier lässt er mich ruhig lagern. Er leitet mich zu kühlen Wasserstellen. Dort erfrischt er meine Seele. Er führt mich gerecht durchs Leben. Dafür steht er mit seinem Namen ein. Und muss ich durch ein finsteres Tal, fürchte ich keine Gefahr. Denn du bist an meiner Seite! Dein Stock und dein Stab schützen und trösten mich. Du deckst für mich einen Tisch vor den Augen meiner Feinde. Du salbst mein Haar mit duftendem Öl und füllst mir den Becher bis zum Rand. Nichts als Liebe und Güte begleiten mich alle Tage meines Lebens. Mein Platz ist im Haus des HERRN. Dorthin werde ich zurückkehren – mein ganzes Leben lang!

The first thing that strikes the reader is the much shorter sentences which the BasisBibel utilizes. The style is thus more staccato and consequently less smooth. Yet that isn’t necessarily a drawback, as the reader is forced to think each line through before moving to the next. This structure was an intentional decision of the editorial board, as shorter sentences are easier to ‘digest’.

The translators of the BasisBibel have taken a few more liberties with the underlying Hebrew text here than the Zurich Bible does. Note, for instance, this phrase from the Zurich Bible-

Du salbst mein Haupt mit Öl

This is a literal rendering of the Hebrew text. The BasisBibel, however, opts for

Du salbst mein Haar mit duftendem Öl

Though not literally accurate, it is technically correct given that unless the anointed is bald, it is indeed the hair that’s soaked with oil.

John 3:16 is always a ‘test case’ for any translation I examine. Here, the Zurich Bible has

Denn so hat Gott die Welt geliebt, dass er den einzigen Sohn gab, damit jeder, der an ihn glaubt, nicht verloren gehe, sondern ewiges Leben habe.

Meanwhile, the BasisBibel has

Denn so sehr hat Gott diese Welt geliebt: Er hat seinen einzigen Sohn hergegeben, damit keiner verloren geht, der an ihn glaubt. Sondern damit er das ewige Leben erhält.

Again the BasisBible opts for a ‘fuller’ more ‘interpretive’ reading than the technically more accurate Zurich Bible.

Our final test case is the crux interpretum, 1 John 2;2. Here the Zurich Bible goes with

Er ist die Sühne für unsere Sünden, aber nicht nur für unsere, sondern auch für die der ganzen Welt.

And the BasisBibel-

Er hat für unsere Schuld sein Leben gegeben und hat uns so mit Gott versöhnt. Und das gilt nicht nur für unsere Schuld, sondern auch für die der ganzen Welt.

ZB’s Sühne becomes so mit Gott versöhnt.

It’s really a fascinating rhetorical move. And a path that is more interpretive, again, than the Zurich Bible will take.

In sum, qua translation, the BasisBibel is more interpretive than the Zurich Bible, but its interpretive moves are not inaccurate or misleading.  On that count, then, it does take readers forward in their comprehension of the biblical text.

Other aspects of the edition are the fact that it adopts a one column layout, making it more like a ‘normal’ book.  Each page has sidebar notes where various terms are explained.   More precisely put- words in reddish color in the main text are explained in these little notes and they are much fuller than footnotes and contain much more detail than the usual bible footnotes do.  It has a nice ribbon bookmark as well.

There are a few maps at the back of the volume and an editorial ‘Afterword’ wherein the editors explain the project’s aims.

I like this version very much.  It is readable, the font is easy on the eyes (like Rachel, not like Leah), and the binding is sturdy and colorful.  If you are relatively new to German it is probably the ideal version to practice reading in since the sentences are short and the vocabulary isn’t ‘heavy’.

The entire Bible will be published in January of 2021, Old and New Testaments together, and I am very, very keen to see it.  Until then, I’ll enjoy this edition.  If you read it, you will too.

Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706): Text, Context, and Interpretation

Petrus van Mastricht (1630–1706): Text, Context, and Interpretation »is not just a statement of the state of the art on Mastricht studies. It also points the way forward for further exploration of Mastricht’s thought and the history of Reformed Orthodoxy in general« from the Preface by Carl R. Trueman.

This volume presents collected essays from scholars around the world on various aspects of Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706) theology, philosophy, and reception in the context of the challenges of orthodoxy in his day. This book, then, locates Mastricht’s ideas in the context of the theological and philosophical currents of his day. The pre-Revolutionary status of theology and philosophy in the wake of the Enlightenment had many of the same problems we see in theology today as relating to the use and appropriation of classical theology in a 21st-century context. Ideas about the necessity of classical primary sources of Christianity in sustaining Reformed theology are once again becoming important, and Mastricht has many insights in this area. The last thirty years have witnessed a remarkable revolution in the study of Reformed Orthodoxy, that broad movement of theological consolidation which took place in the two centuries between the early breakthroughs of the Reformation and the reorganization of intellectual disciplines within the university world heralded by the arrival of the various intellectual and cultural developments known collectively as the Enlightenment. The old models which tended to prioritize one or two figures in the Reformation. In place of this older scholarship, we now have a growing number of studies which seek to place Reformed thinkers of the period in a much wider context. One of the results of this is that serious scholarly attention is now being directed at figures who were previously neglected, such as Petrus van Mastricht, a German-Dutch theologian, who has emerged as significant voices in shaping the Christianity of his day. He was the author of a major system of divinity. This work is in the process of being translated into English (two volumes are available at the time of writing). Mastricht is also the subject of a growing body of literature in English, of which this volume is a fine example. The essays contained in book work represent precisely the range of scholarly interests that the new approach to Reformed Orthodoxy has come to embody. Dealing specifically with the areas of theology, philosophy, and reception, this book points toward three critical areas of study.

The obvious benefit of this volume is that if presents readers a basic overview of the works of a once famous and now all but forgotten theologian.  Van Mastricht isn’t the usual topic of conversation at AAR and certainly not at SBL.  He doesn’t generate the interest of Barth or Calvin or Zwingli or Luther or even Brunner.  He wasn’t ‘flashy’ or ‘stupendous’ and he clearly did not leave such a legacy that children are named after him.

But in his day he was so very important.  And even today he deserves an audience.  And this book may serve a purpose if it causes people to think about the contributions of van Mastricht to Reformed theology.

To kick things off, Trueman offers as good an apologia for van Mastricht research as anyone could.  This is followed by Neele’s Preface which contains a short summary of the volume’s contents.

The body of the volume itself is comprised of a section on Theology, one on Philosophy, and one on Reception.  Important appendices provide readers with a chronology of his life and work, a bibliography of his publications, and a fairly extensive (if the fairly small body of secondary literature on an undeservedly obscure theologian can be called ‘extensive’) list of secondary materials.

The Theology section is the most interesting to me.  It provides essays on van Mastricht’s understanding of the twofold kingdom of Christ, the external and internal call, Christology of the Old Testament, and practical theology.  The Philosophy section and its three essays will appeal to those with a philosophical bent.  And the Reception section will appeal to those whose interests are more centered in historical theology.

The contributors are a relatively diverse group, including several Europeans, several Asians, and many Americans.  One is an entrepreneur, several are Professors, and one is a PhD student.  Their wide range of backgrounds means that this volume engages a range of perspectives.

In terms of the contents of the volume in relationship to scholarship and scholarly insight, it is very good indeed.  One essay was relatively weak but the remainder were really very well executed.

Petrus van Mastricht was a really very interesting person.  He could be a bit dry and a tad boring at times but that’s true of everyone who writes and especially is it true of theological works.  And that’s fine.  I much prefer someone who is a bit dull and yet remains relevant to someone who peppers their works with pop culture references that are outdated within a year or two of publication.  While trying to be witty and contemporary what they actually achieve is planned obsolescence.   Their jokes and puns and asides where reference is made to Spiderman or Captain Kirk may generate buzz, at the end of the day that’s all that’s generated.  They are all form and no substance.

And that’s an accusation that can never be made against those theologians whose works stand the test of time.  They are substance first and care nothing for the act of putting makeup on a pig.  They exalt substance over form, unlike the soon irrelevant form over substance crowd.

Petrus van Mastricht is all substance.  Whatever one thinks of his form.  And this little book is an ideal entry into his thought-world.  Give it a read.  You won’t regret it.  And there isn’t a pop-culture reference in the whole thing.  Thanks be to God.

Teach Us to Pray: The Lord’s Prayer in the Early Church and Today

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the oldest and most widely used short summaries not only of how Christians pray but of what they believe about God, the world, and humankind. Justo González, whose textbooks have taught Christian doctrine and history to thousands of pastors, draws on scripture, the Church Fathers, and his own life experience to make this vital prayer from the Christian past comprehensible for readers who want to understand—and live—Christianity in the present. Teach Us to Pray is for all who are learning or practicing Christian discipleship and ministry, from college students and motivated laypeople to veteran pastors and teachers.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Uses in the Ancient Church
  • 2. Our
  • 3. Father
  • 4. Who Art in Heaven
  • 5. Hallowed Be Thy Name
  • 6. Thy Kingdom Come
  • 7. Thy Will Be Done On Earth as It Is in Heaven
  • 8. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
  • 9. And Forgive Us Our Debts, as We Forgive Our Debtors
  • 10. Lead Us Not into Temptation
  • 11. But Deliver Us from Evil
  • 12. For Thine Is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever
  • For Reflection and Discussion

Phrase by phrase, and sometimes word by word, Gonzalez leads readers through the meaning and theology of the Lord’s Prayer.  Beginning with the Prayer in the life of the Church and the Christian, G. moves to a very profoundly engaging exposition of what is probably the most important prayer every conceived.  Beginning with the little word ‘Our’, and making use of a personal experience (binding the reader to the writer), G. draws us in to a deeper appreciation for the concept under discussion.

Then, drawing on the early Fathers and discussing their understanding of the word we are taken next to a consideration of the significance of intercessory prayer for the Christian life.  G. recognizes the significance of the Biblical context and background of ‘Our’ and he discusses that in turn.  It is only then that he addresses the key issue present in the little word ‘our’- the priesthood of all believers.

Each chapter follows the same careful outline; i.e., G. explores the materials relevant to each concept contained in the Prayer.  Thus, in the second bit, ‘Father’, he discusses the radical nature of this astonishing claim and the ‘gender’ issue is not skirted either.

And so throughout, with great care and insight into both the biblical text’s own context and the life of the Church writ large, G. takes us far more deeply into the meaning and relevance of the Lord’s Prayer than most books, which tend to focus on one bit or another or which only concern themselves with historical matters without bothering to look into the Prayer’s theology or, vice versa, volumes which concern themselves with the theological content of the prayer without ever setting it in its historical context.

There are, at the end of the book, a brief collection of ‘discussion questions’ drawn from each chapter and a small index of authors and of subjects.

This is, in sum, historical theology at its best.  I heartily recommend it.  I not only think that you will enjoy it, but you will be challenged by it.  Especially ‘Deliver us From Evil’.

Jews and Protestants

This new book will be of interest to many people.

The book sheds light on various chapters in the long history of Protestant-Jewish relations, from the Reformation to the present. Going beyond questions of antisemitism and religious animosity, it aims to disentangle some of the intricate perceptions, interpretations, and emotions that have characterized contacts between Protestantism and Judaism, and between Jews and Protestants.

While some papers in the book address Luther’s antisemitism and the NS-Zeit, most papers broaden the scope of the investigation: Protestant-Jewish theological encounters shaped not only antisemitism but also the Jewish Reform movement and Protestant philosemitic post-Holocaust theology; interactions between Jews and Protestants took place not only in the German lands but also in the wider Protestant universe; theology was crucial for the articulation of attitudes toward Jews, but music and philosophy were additional spheres of creativity that enabled the process of thinking through the relations between Judaism and Protestantism.

By bringing together various contributions on these and other aspects, the book opens up directions for future research on this intricate topic, which bears both historical significance and evident relevance to our own time.

DeGruyter have sent a review copy.  Be sure to visit the publisher’s link above and scroll to the contents.  The essays contained in this work were delivered first at a conference in Jerusalem in 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.  The essayists hale from universities in Europe and Israel, and America and their papers cover a wide range of topics, from the impact of the Reformation on early modern German Jews to the legacy of anti-semitism in Bach’s cantatas, to Jewish and Gentile interpretations of Luther’s anti-Jewish writings.

The aim of the conference, and the volume, is to deepen Jewish-Christian understanding.  In particular, Jewish-Lutheran understanding.

The most important contribution to the collection is that of Kyle Jantzen, “Nazi Racism, American Anti-Semitism, and Christian Duty”.  Not because it is the most profound or the best written (though it is profound and it is well written), but because it is incredibly relevant to the situation in America right now.

The rise of the alt-right and the surge of neo-nazi groups in this country right now has stunning and depressing parallels to the situation in this country in 1938.  And though we should have learned the lessons of 1938, it is obvious that we have not.  Nor does it seem that we are likely too.

Those who refuse to learn the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.  This volume is a helpful reminder of the entire history of Jewish and Christian interaction since the Reformation.  A history that we are repeating.  And not in a better way.