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.

Two New Books by David Instone-Brewer

Church Doctrine and the Bible: Theology in Ancient Context

and

Moral Questions of the Bible: Timeless Truth in a Changing World

David has kindly arranged for the publisher to send along copies of both for review and I’m thrilled to do it. Looking forward to diving in. More anon.

Der Römerbrief

Dieser Kommentar bietet eine allgemeinverständliche Auslegung des Römerbriefs. Er berücksichtigt die neuesten Ergebnisse der Bibelwissenschaft, konzentriert sich aber darauf, den Leserinnen und Lesern die Botschaft dieses Briefs aufzuschließen. Dabei werden auch schwierige Details erklärt und der Zusammenhang mit grundlegenden alttestamentlichen Aussagen und der Botschaft anderer neutestamentlicher Schriften berücksichtigt. Ziel aber ist es, den Brief als Ganzes von seiner Prägung durch die Rechtfertigungsbotschaft des Paulus her zu erklären. Dieser Kommentar ist der erste der neuen Reihe “Die Botschaft des Neuen Testaments”.

Für die Auslegung aller Bände ist maßgebend: 1. Obwohl der Stand der wissenschaftlichen Auslegung voll verarbeitet wird, soll der Text des Kommentars wirklich allgemeinverständlich sein. 2. Die historischen Fragen zur Entstehung der jeweiligen Schrift werden berücksichtigt, im Mittelpunkt der Auslegung steht aber die Erfassung der Botschaft des Textes. 3. Deshalb werden in der jeweiligen Einleitung nur die notwendigsten Hinweise für das Verständnis des Textes gegeben. Die entscheidenden historischen und theologischen Fragen werden am Text mit den Lesern und Leserinnen erarbeitet. Ein Schlussteil fasst dann die Ergebnisse zusammen. 4. Die eigens für den Kommentar erarbeitete Übersetzung bietet einen ersten Einstieg in die Auslegung.

Die Folgebände – als nächster Band folgt: Das Markusevangelium – werden mehrheitlich von Walter Klaiber verfasst, ergänzt allerdings durch Kommentare weiterer namhafter Theologen. Bei Subskription der Kommentarreihe “Die Botschaft des Neuen Testaments” vermindert sich der Verkaufspreis um ca. 15 %.

This is the last of the 4 volumes I received to review.  Of the four, this is the largest.  As with the others, each pericope is translated, exegeted, and contains additional historical material in the form of ‘grey boxes’.  An exceptionally important few pages where the key theological themes of Romans are discussed, a brief bibliography and list of abbreviations followed by a subject index round out the volume.

‘Of the making of books there is no end’ is certainly true.  So each book or series of books needs to contribute something to the larger corpus of its subject matter.  That something can be a new observation, or a new summary, or a new approach.  Or it can be an aspect of the topic overlooked or too complex in other volumes.  Or it can be written with a new audience in mind.  I.e., instead of being for academics, it can be for lay-folk.

Of all the books of the New Testament that have been subjected to treatment the Book of Romans ranks up there among the most frequently addressed.  So doing something unique seems virtually impossible.  ‘There’s nothing new under the sun’ applies especially to books about the Bible.  And yet people keep trying.

Which is why Klaiber’s volume is so important.  He makes genuinely fresh and stimulating observations about familiar texts.  His examination, for example, of Romans 1, is both intelligible and engaging.  His treatment of the ‘homosexuality’ issue from that passage is one of the best I have ever seen.  He doesn’t fall into the trap of being ‘too clever by half’ which bedevils so many who examine the text.  Their attempts to read out of the text what they have only read into the text betrays them as eisegetes.  And Klaiber is no eisegete.

This is demonstrated in the clearest way in Klaiber’s exposition of Romans 9-11, which he titles “Gottes Ja zu Israel ist unwiderruflich”.  And with equal sensibility Klaiber shows how Romans 12-15:13 is the ethical outworking of God’s encounter with Gentile and Jew.  And finally, in his exposition of Ch 16, he spends sufficient time with the issue of the diaconate of Phoebe such that readers cannot be mistaken concerning his view of the ordination of women.

In terms of the larger project, this piece fits brilliantly within it.  Of the volumes I have looked at, I have discovered no egregious theological or exegetical errors.  The author’s are not the focus of attention (as happens in Barth’s ‘Romans’ where the reader comes away with a very good understanding of Barth and very little understanding of Romans, and as happens in so many commentaries today where the author is the voice heard and not the voice of the text).

It is not wrong to recommend this series.  Nor is it wrong to recommend the present volume.  Rather, it would be wrong not to.

The Gloss and the Text: William Perkins on Interpreting Scripture with Scripture

William Perkins is the father of Puritanism, often remembered for his preaching manual, The Art of Prophesying. Much attention has been given to the Puritan movement, especially in its later forms, but comparatively little has been given to Perkins.

In The Gloss and the Text, Andrew Ballitch provides a thorough examination of the hermeneutical principles that governed Perkins’s approach to biblical interpretation. Perkins taught that the Bible was God’s word as well as the interpretation of God’s word. Interpretation is no private matter; it is a public gift of the Spirit of God for the people of God. Ballitch’s study sheds light on Perkins as a preacher, theologian, and student of Scripture.

A review copy arrived today from Lexham Press.  More later.

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.

A review copy has arrived.  More anon.

#ICYMI- A History of The Bible

John Barton’s book is FANTASTIC.

And while it isn’t my custom to review books that I buy, I’m going to this time.  First, because Barton’s work is worth the time.  And second, because a volume like this is needed at a time like this.

The publisher writes

The volume is comprised of four large sections:

  1. The Old Testament
  2. The New Testament
  3. The Bible and its Texts
  4. The Meanings of the Bible

Each of these large sections are divided into smaller segments which are themselves divided into smaller bits.  A dozen or so illustrations are found within its pages as well as copious endnotes (I wish they were footnotes, but that’s always a publisher’s decision), a ‘Further Reading’ section, a bibliography that is quite extensive, and indices.

In the author’s own words ‘This book tells the story of the Bible from its remote beginnings in folklore and myth to its reception and interpretation in the present day’ (p.1.).   If that sounds like a large project, it most certainly is such.  There are 489 pages of text and 40 pages of endnotes.  And they are all packed with detail.

‘A further purpose is to distil the current state of biblical scholarship’ (p. 2).  Accordingly, in constant dialogue with culture and society as well as the history of the Bible, Barton describes forcefully and insightfully the books now called the Bible.  Where it came from, what it is, what it means, and how it is used by people of faith and people without faith.

Barton accomplishes his goal by taking readers through the history and language of Ancient Israel, and then its narrative literature, legal and wisdom literature, prophetic literature, and poetic literature.  Having written what amounts to an introduction to the Old Testament, Barton then does the same for the New, describing in ingenious prose the beginning of Christianity and its early letters and Gospels.

Once the Bible is ‘introduced’ (in a way that is not remotely boring or uninteresting, which is itself quite a feat), Barton turns to consider how the books of the Bible were transformed into Scripture and how Christians and Jews both came to cherish their collections of texts in a way that was processional rather than procedural.  He even manages to discuss the niceties of textual criticism without provoking so much as a single yawn.  Barton writes, for example, of the ‘canonical process’-

‘The books had assembled themselves without debates or rulings being necessary.  The New Testament writers, like the rabbis who put together the Mishnah, took them for granted as holy texts.  No one ever canonized them, in the sense of taking a positive decision that they should be regarded as authoritative, still less insisted on this against opposition.  They were simply accepted’ (p. 221).

The fourth and final section of the book offers readers a chance to think deeply about the meaning of these sacred texts.  What is the Bible’s theme?  What role did the Fathers and Rabbis play?  How was the Bible utilized and interpreted in the Middle Ages?  The Reformation? Since the Enlightenment?  And today?

The conclusion of the book is called ‘The Bible and Faith’.

What Professor Barton has managed to produce here is a volume which is the ideal work for students of the Bible.  It is perfect for courses on the Bible whether undergraduate or graduate and it is also ideal for those laypeople who wish to understand the Bible.  I will be requiring it for both my Old and New Testament courses along with the much shorter but equally helpful work by Philip Davies’ ‘The Bible for the Curious’.

If you are looking for a volume which opens up the Bible and explains its various genres, themes, and historical development, then this is the work you have awaited.

One of the Proverbs famously declares

“Many daughters have done valiantly,
but you surpass them all!”

Mutatis mutandis, the same can be said of this volume, and its author:

“Many authors have done valiantly,
but you surpass them all!”

If you haven’t read this book yet, do.

Der erste und zweite Thessalonicherbrief

The next volume in the series- Der erste und zweite Thessalonicherbrief – is reviewed below.

Die Kommentarreihe “Die Botschaft des Neuen Testaments” richtet sich sowohl an Theologen als auch an theologisch interessierte Laien. Die einzelnen Bände bieten eine fundierte Auslegung der Schriften des Neuen Testaments – nah am Text, um die Logik der Aussagen der Autoren zu verfolgen und deren Botschaft nachvollziehen zu können. Zentrale Begrifflichkeiten werden vor ihrem biblischen und zeitgenössischen Hintergrund erläutert, wichtige Beobachtungen am Urtext auch für diejenigen erschlossen, die kein Griechisch können. Allgemeinverständlich formuliert, ohne dabei das Niveau der Reflexion zu beeinträchtigen, richtet sich diese Kommentarreihe an alle, die die Bibel besser verstehen wollen. Dieser Kommentar fragt nicht nur nach den Unterschieden zwischen den Thessalonicherbriefen, sondern auch nach ihrer Einheit, wie sie sich vom 2. Thessalonicherbrief her ergeben soll. Im 1. Brief, mit dem die Missionare Paulus, Silvanus und Timotheus ihre unverzichtbare Stellung in der Gemeinde von Thessalonich untermauern, begegnet uns eine Spielart urchristlicher Theologie. Dem gegenüber möchte der 2. Thessalonicherbrief eine bestimmte eschatologische Deutung des 1. Briefes “korrigieren”, indem er ihn in einen neuen literarischen Kontext stellt, sodass sich einige seiner Bedeutungsspielräume verschieben. Der Kommentar nimmt damit die potenzielle Mehrdeutigkeit von (biblischen) Texten ernst.

One of the most interesting aspects of the series in which this volume appears is that it is so similar, in many ways, to Schlatter’s earlier work.  But whereas Schlatter’s New Testament Commentary was written by a single person, this series is the work of a number of really remarkably talented scholars.

Interesting too is the appearance of the series:

A white upper quadrant and a green lower in both series seems too coincidental to be a coincidence.  Are the editors of the present series paying homage to Schlatter’s work?  The fact that both are aimed at making Scripture plainly comprehensible also does not seem to be merely coincidental.  Could the present series be, subtly, a replacement for the earlier work of Schlatter?  Perhaps.  In any event the newer work is very much in the same line as Schlatter in that excellent scholarship is made available to intelligent Christians in the clearest of ways.

Hanna’s volume, like the earlier we’ve seen from the series, gives readers the text in pericope chunks and commentary on those chunks.  It provides internal notes (in smaller font) and differently shaded text boxes which give further historical data and which can be skipped by those wishing to follow the exegesis without interruption. Each letter’s treatment (exegesis) is followed by a summary of the message of each and the entire volume ends with the shortest of bibliographies, a list of abbreviations, and a brief index of subjects.

1 Thessalonians is understood to be an authentic Pauline epistle whereas, according to Roose, 2 Thessalonians is a pseudepigraph.   Her reasons for doing so are clearly spelled out and they are not unreasonable.  Indeed, they follow the usual lines of critical scholarship in their understanding of the issues.

The exposition of 2 Thessalonians 3:10, the famous ‘If they will not work, let them not eat’, is superbly handled.  Setting the proper context, Roose shows that the sentiment is neither unique to the author nor is it, as is usually understood, an encouragement to ‘anti-laziness’ (my term, not hers).  She includes a useful Wirkungsgeschichte of the passage as well, showing its history within Christianity.  It is truly a genius example exegesis.

This is a genuinely helpful and useful volume.  It should find a place on your shelves, and you should make use of it the next time you study the Thessalonian correspondence.

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.

The kind folk at Hendrickson have sent a review copy.  I’ll be given it a going over soon.  Stay tuned.

Der erste, zweite und dritte Johannesbrief

Die meisten Kommentare und Untersuchungen zu den Johannesbriefen sehen sie in der Auseinandersetzung mit einer gnostischen Strömung. Demgegenüber – so wird gesagt – versuche der Autor, seine Adressatengemeinden zur Rechtgläubigkeit zu rufen, während die Gegner als Verführer und Antichristen bezeichnet werden. Der vorliegende Kommentar macht aber deutlich, dass es in den Johannesbriefen nicht um die Frage der Recht- oder Falschgläubigkeit geht. Dem Verfasser geht es um das eine Bekenntnis zu Jesus Christus, dessen Bejahung einen Christen von einem Nichtchristen unterscheidet. Die Gemeinden, die er am Ende des ersten Jahrhunderts im Blick hat, werden von staatlicher Seite massiv gefährdet und unter Druck genommen.

Daraus resultiert eine Abwanderungsbewegung, der sich der Verfasser speziell des ersten Johannesbriefs entgegenstellt. Glaube ist deshalb für ihn nicht eine Satzwahrheit, sondern Ausdruck der ausschließlichen Bindung der eigenen Existenz an Jesus Christus. Das Bekenntnis zu Jesus vermittelt zugleich die Zugehörigkeit zur Bekenntnisgemeinschaft der »Kinder Gottes«. Nur denjenigen, die an diesem Bekenntnis trotz hoher Gefährdung festhalten und gegenüber der christlichen Gemeinde gegenüber solidarisch bleiben (»Bruderliebe« üben), ist das ewige Leben zugesagt. Das Bekenntnis zu Jesus Christus zielt also sowohl auf die Vergewisserung der eigenen Heilsorientierung – der gegenwärtigen Gefährdung zum Trotz – als auch auf die Abgrenzung nach außen. Eine innerchristliche Differenz ist im ersten Johannesbrief nicht im Blick.

As is true of the other volumes in this series, the introductory material is quite brief, covering only those issues deemed most important for understanding the text at hand.  Each pericope is offered in translation, examined exegetically word by word or phrase by phrase, and adorned with various side-bars and smaller fonted historical information.

Then following the exposition is further discussion of the message of the scripture.

Rusam’s exegesis is engaging and stimulating, as he clearly explains quite patiently and thoroughly the meaning and significance of the passages piece by piece.  He notes, to begin with, that 1 John is one of the most influential NT texts containing, as it does, one of the central truths of the Christian faith: God is love, and those who love know God while those who do not love their brother, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not.

Rusam further asserts that 1 John is the most read NT book.  He may well be right.  I suspect he is.

Excurses include one on gnosis, one on the death of Jesus in the Gospel of John, and one on the opponents of the author.  Among many others.  Rusam’s examination of 2 and 3 John follow the same pattern of introduction, exposition, and key theological themes found in the book.  There is a bibliography, a list of abbreviations, and a very short subject index.

Much larger volumes accomplish far less.  This book, and the series in which it appears, are the best thing to have happened to German New Testament commentary series’ in years.  Indeed, this series is the finest of them all to see the light of day since Schlatter’s.

If you are looking for works that will actually help you understand the message of the New Testament, this is what you’ve been looking for.

Revelation

Die neutestamentliche Forschung hat sich in den letzten Jahren eingehend mit dem letzten Buch der Bibel befasst. Von den Ergebnissen ist freilich wenig in der kirchlichen Verkündigung und bei normalen Bibellesern und -leserinnen angekommen. Dieser Kommentar möchte deshalb in allgemeinverständlicher Sprache den Ertrag der wissenschaftlichen Auslegung der Offenbarung einer breiten Leserschaft vermitteln. Er fragt aber darüber hinaus auch nach ihrer Botschaft für uns heute. Die Situation der Empfängergemeinden wird erklärt und die zeitgeschichtlichen Hintergründe werden hervorgehoben. Vor allem aber werden die Perspektiven herausgearbeitet, die über die zeitbedingten Aussagen hinausführen. Die alttestamentlichen Quellen der Visionen werden aufgezeigt und zur Entschlüsselung ihrer Symbolik genutzt. Auch die genaue Analyse des Aufbaus der Schrift wird zu einer wichtigen Lesehilfe. Die Spannungen innerhalb der Botschaft des Buchs werden klar benannt: Rigoristische Anforderungen an die Treue der Gemeinde neben bedingungsloser Einladung zu Gott, Theologie des Kreuzes neben blutigen Gewaltfantasien, Betonung der gnädigen Erwählung und die Bedeutung der Werke für das Urteil Christi. Doch es sind diese scheinbaren Widersprüche, die der Botschaft ihr besonderes Profil und Tiefenschärfe geben. Die Ermutigung zu einem Verhalten, das sich nicht von der Vergötterung menschlicher Macht verführen lässt, und zur Hoffnung auf den Sieg der gerechten und gnädigen Herrschaft Gottes hat bleibende Bedeutung auch für die Kirche heute.

Following a brief introduction and outline of the book of Revelation, the author launches immediately into his treatment of the text.

First, he provides a translation of each pericope to be discussed.  For instance, he subdivides chapter one into several expositional units.  Vv. 1-3 are discussed as a unit, followed by discussions of vv. 4-8, and vv. 9-20.  There are discussions of important exegetical points in blocked units marked by darker boxes and other issues discussed in smaller font paragraphs and these two special features are in addition to the main exegetical discussion which follows a verse by verse, phrase by phrase, or word by word arrangement.

Klaiber’s analysis of the Letters to the Seven Churches features a very helpful and exceptionally informative table where the letters are described side by side in terms of speaker, message, and addressees.

At the conclusion of the commentary proper, which runs from pages 17-296, there are a series of short ‘essays’ (for lack of a better term) which discuss the message of the book, its theological themes, and its relevance for the present.  And finally there is a discussion of the place of the book of Revelation in the larger New Testament (pp. 297- 328).

The work concludes with a bibliography, list of abbreviations, and a subject index.

When it comes to the exegesis offered in the work, it is wonderfully meticulous and incredibly clear.  Klaiber isn’t distracted, for example, in his exposition of Rev 13:18, by the lunacy so often associated with the passage.  Instead, he treats it as it should be treated: as a notion with relevance for the first readers of the book and the author’s intended audience.  The person described is simply an agent of evil and a servant of the satanic.  That image has modern relevance just as much as ancient, as evil continues to destroy lives.

Klaiber draws explanatory material from the Old Testament when that material is relevant to the meaning of the book of Revelation.  He does not simply pile up Old Testament citations and potential parallels in the manner of the dispensationalists who love to misquote texts in order to ‘prove’ their interpretation.

Throughout the exposition, Klaiber demonstrates himself to be thoroughly familiar with both exegetical and theological issues; and he addresses them spectacularly.  His use of sidebars and smaller fonts to assist readers in finding geographical or theological materials relevant to the pericope under discussion is also masterful.  He neither says too much, thus boring the reader with unnecessary details, nor does he say too little so that the reader is left wondering what something signifies.

There are a number of very helpful commentaries on the New Testament.  But few are as concise and yet as fully informative as the present volume on Revelation.  Readers are mightily encouraged to read this brilliant work.

Petrusliteratur und Petrusarchäologie: Römische Begegnungen

Peter was a central figure of emerging Christianity that has shaped an important branch of early Christian literature and has been linked to an early and equally important local tradition in Rome. However, both lines of the reception of Peter have only been linked occasionally, and at a relatively late point in time. In this volume, the authors deal with this from the perspective of New Testament texts and early church history. The articles discuss early Petrine literature within and outside of the New Testament and the Roman ecclesial and archaeological Petrine tradition since the second century.

Via.  A review copy arrived last month and I’ve enjoyed working with it.

Interested potential readers should view the table of contents and the introductory essay as well as a few pages of Christoph Heilig’s essay along with the end matter here.  Those materials give a very good overview of both what the volume is attempting and how its editors conceive it.

Die Gestalt des Petrus steht als Schlüsselgestalt unübersehbar an den Ursprüngen des Christentums, wenngleich oft unterschätzt – zumal von Protestanten.  Die fundamentale und universal-ökumenische Relevanz des Petrus ist nirgendwo deutlicher als in Rom, im monumentalen Memorialbau des Petersdoms mit seiner überdimensionalen Kuppelinschrift TV ES PETRVS … (Mt 16,18) und dem historischen Anspruch der Grabtradition unter dem Petersdom. Dass diese Grabtradition und darüber hinaus eine römische Wirksamkeit des Petrus überhaupt von kritischen Forschern – von Karl Heussi bis Otto Zwierlein– immer wieder bestritten wurde und wird und dass sie von anderen vor allem wegen ihrer Bedeutung für die römisch-katholische Ekklesiologie historisch und archäologisch nach Kräften verteidigt wird, ist die eine Ebene, nämlich die der historisch fassbaren Lokaltradition. Sie geht in jedem Fall bis tief in die Kaiserzeit zurück und hat in Rom eine bis heute greifbare petrinische »Erinnerungslandschaft« hervorgebracht; sie hat über die topographische Wirklichkeit christliche Frömmigkeitsgeschichte über Jahrhunderte geprägt.

Turning to the essays themselves, they provide a very good overview of the ‘reception’ of Peter in early Christianity (and later).  More specifically, how Peter was portrayed in art,  literature, and tradition, is the core of the volume’s intention.  Consequently, essayists strive to describe as clearly as possible aspects of that portrayal:

Chrsitoph Heilig does so by assessing the ‘New Pauline Perspective’ and what it may contribute to a new Petrine perspective.  Frey returns to his well traveled investigation of Second Peter to describe vestiges of a petrine-school.  And Kraus examines the Acts of Peter for clues it may contain regarding Peter in Rome.

In fact, several of the essayists look at Peter’s connection to Rome, including his potential burial place (Gemeinhardt).

The long and short of it is that this volume furthers our understanding of Peter’s reception in early Christianity.  It isn’t a study or collection of studies about Peter himself, but rather about those who wrote of him and who erected remembrances (and interpretations) of him.  Those interested, then, in the ‘historical Peter’ will need to turn elsewhere.

Those, however, who are intrigued by the figure of Peter in early Christianity will very much benefit by reading the herein collected essays.

Eschatologie und Wirklichkeit Jesu Christi: Zum Werk von Thomas F. Torrance

Viele biblische Texte sprechen davon, dass Gott unsere Welt auf eine fundamentale Weise neu schaffen wird. Wie ist das zu verstehen? T.F. Torrance, einer der meistrezipierten englischsprachigen Theologen des 20. Jahrhunderts, sagt: Wenn wir Jesus Christus als eine reale Größe in den Blick nehmen, können wir ein realistisches Bild der Neuschöpfung gewinnen. Diesen Zusammenhang rekonstruiert Geck in seiner historisch sensiblen Werkinterpretation. Torrance’ Entscheidungen fallen in seiner frühen Christologie, stehen in einer dialektisch gelesenen schottischen Tradition (u.a. Campbell, Forsyth, Mackintosh, Brunner), unterscheiden sich erheblich von Karl Barth und bleiben im ökumenischen Kontext sowie im Dialog mit den Naturwissenschaften prägend. Genial ist Torrance’ Gedanke, das Abendmahl als ‘Auferstehungsereignis’ zu verstehen. Doch sind seine latenten Dualismen zu korrigieren, um konsequent und realistisch von Gottes Neuschöpfung unserer Welt sprechen zu können.

Those who love Barth and Torrance will love this book.

Nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg gewinnt das Interesse an der Bedeutung biblisch-eschatologischen Denkens auch international an Intensität. Einer der ersten, die sich nun der Eschatologie widmen, ist der junge schottische Theologe Thomas F. Torrance (1913−2007). Er engagiert sich in der ökumenischen Bewegung, die in den 1940er Jahren an großer Dynamik gewinnt, und regt 1948 im britischen Zweig der Bewegung für Glauben und Kirchenverfassung (Faith and Order) an, sich intensiver mit der aktuellen Forschung zur Eschatologie zu beschäftigen. Er verfasst ein Gutachten zur zeitgenössischen Eschatologie und schreibt den Aufsatz Eschatology and Eucharist für einen Vorbereitungsband zur Faith and Order-Weltkonferenz in Lund.

With this background in mind

Fünfzig Jahre später haben diese Fragen keineswegs an ihrer Dringlichkeit verloren. Die enormen Gestaltungskräfte des Menschen lassen spätmoderne Propheten das neue Zeitalter des Anthropozän ausrufen, in dem die Menschen nicht nur ihren natürlichen Lebensraum, sondern auch ihre eigene Gattung zerstören können. Von theologischem Interesse ist hier nicht nur die Makroperspektive, die in säkularisierter und postmetaphysischer Manier nach dem Sinn und Ziel der uns zugänglichen Wirklichkeit fragt.11 Auch der erdenschwere Realismus dieser Zukunftsszenarien sollte die christliche Theologie nachdenklich machen. Sie muss sich keinesfalls von deren Denkmustern gefangen nehmen lassen, darf aber ihrem irritierenden Realismus nicht einfach ausweichen. Dazu besteht auch keine Notwendigkeit, ist ihr Erkenntnisgegenstand doch der dreieinige Gott, der sich in unserer Wirklichkeit – nicht aber an ihr vorbei – zeigt, um in und an ihr zu handeln.

What, then, is to be made of the intersection of time and eternity and resurrection in modern theology?  Or in the author of this informative volume puts it

Die Frage, ob Jesus wirklich auferweckt wurde, dient Torrance als eschatologischer reality check. An ihr entscheidet sich, ob die Verheißung der Neuschöpfung unserer Wirklichkeit gilt: „If Jesus Christ is not risen in Body, then salvation is not actualised in the same sphere of reality in which we are, and we are yet in our sins (1 Cor. 15.17)“. Es ist dieser Anspruch, der ihn dazu bringt, eschatologische Aussagen nicht von vornherein als uneigentliche Sätze zu behandeln, die in unserer Wirklichkeit keinen direkten Sachgehalt haben können, weil sie über die Erkenntnisbedingungen menschlicher Subjektivität hinausgehen.

The entire volume seeks to address that central question.  The last lines tell the tale in brief:

Die beschriebene Kontinuität zwischen dem erhöhten und dem kommenden Christus kann aber als Hinweis darauf dienen, dass sein schwer greifbares, endgültiges Kommen kein monolithisches Ereignis ist, welches den vielfältigen Welten, in denen wir leben, diametral entgegensteht. In dieser Hinsicht kann ein realistischer Blick auf die gegenwärtige Wirklichkeit Jesu Christi auch ein realistischeres Verständnis seiner ausstehenden Parusie ermöglichen.

This is a well written volume with a thorough bibliography.  And it uses footnotes instead of endnotes (and these days that’s a real blessing).  It is well presented and delightful.  You ought to read it.

[And, yes, this is a skeleton of a review.  It’s the best I could muster.  To be honest, as enjoyable as this book is, it just wasn’t exciting, and I find these sorts of things too meta.  Before long instead of studying a topic (eschatology) we will be studying what a particular theologian thinks about another particular theologian’s view of eschatology.  And, sure, there’s a place for all that, but it suggests that people are a) bored with eschatology; and b) bored with theology, but they have to write something so why not write about what someone else has written about about what someone else has written about…  Anyway, the pandemic is dragging me down man…. it’s just dragging me down….]

Calvinus frater in Domino: Papers of the Twelfth International Congress on Calvin Research

The 16th century Reformer John Calvin is an outstanding personality. That’s why the international Calvin Congress convenes every four years to share insights in the theology and context of his person. Whether it is about the relation between Christianity and politics, Calvin’s interpretation of biblical texts or if it’s about Calvin, the systematic theologian whose concepts build a cornerstone for nowadays schemes – the papers collected in this volume will help for a better understanding of his significant person and thoughts.

It was a fantastic conference!  And the papers were super.  If you missed the gathering, you should take advantage of this collection.

The six plenary papers included in this volume all examine various aspects of Calvin’s understanding of the Bible’s impact on politics and freedom. The editors also received numerous submissions of revised short papers for inclusion in this volume. Unfortunately we were not able to include all the offerings. The range of topics and approaches testifies to the ongoing health of the field of Calvin studies both in North America and worldwide.

The table of contents is available here.  Looking there will make potential readers aware that the volume is primarily consumed by the short papers which made up the bulk of the sessions; and the plenary papers had the largest attendance.  Attendees all had the opportunity to attend the plenary’s since these were held without any competitors for audience attention whilst the short papers were offered in simultaneous sessions and participants had to choose those papers of the greatest personal interest.

These stood out to me, both in terms of engaging content and brilliance of presentation:

Elsie McKee – Praying for the Dead or for the King? Prayers of Intercession in the Roman Catholic and Reformed Traditions

Olivier Millet – A Comparison of Calvin and Other Exegetes on 1 Samuel 8

Ariane Albisser – The Significance of Pneumatology for the Consensus Tigurinus [A paper which I really, really loved]

Pierrick Hildebrand – Civil Order and Covenant. Heinrich Bullinger and John Calvin compared [Another paper that I enjoyed tremendously]

Kirk Summers– Theodore Beza’s “Bare-Breasted Religion.” Liturgical Mystery and the English Vestments Controversy

I presented a paper on Zwingli (that I’m happy to say was standing room only and very well received) but since the focus of the Conference, as well as the Conference volume, was Calvin that paper was not included in the collection of papers.

Below are a few excerpts from Ariane’s essay:

Although it is important to understand the distinct influence of Bullinger and Calvin on the Consensus Tigurinus, it is also helpful to take seriously the Consensus itself. Taking it seriously as a compromise between Bullinger and Calvin, between Zurich and Geneva, means to acknowledge the Consensus first and foremost as a document of unity. So, even if the way to the consensus might be understood as a battlefield of theological arguments, the result is a compromise on which both sides, Bullinger and Calvin agreed freely.

And then further on

It is a central element of the compromise in the Consensus to establish the correct Reformed and biblically faithful understanding of the sacraments. In an intense discussion (Calvin’s “Propositiones”, Bullinger’s “Annotationes”, Calvin’s “Responsio” and Bullinger’s “Annotata”) Bullinger and Calvin tried to clear up misunderstandings on the sacraments and especially misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Lord’s Supper. In this essay, I will not consider all the different ways to describe the sacraments – like for example the discussion whether they can even be called “sacramenta” – and focus instead on one concrete element of their eucharistic terminology, namely how the sacraments are used and given by the Holy Spirit.

The whole essay is worth reading.  As are the contents of this wonderful volume.

The next Calvin Conference will take place August, 22–25, 2022 at MacKenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and I am very much looking forward to it.

I may offer a paper titled ‘Zwingli: Calvin’s Better’. Or I may be Servetus-ized.

In all seriousness, do take this volume in hand and spend a week or so with it. You’ll come away with both a new appreciation for Calvin and a deeper understanding of his work.

Renaissance und Bibelhumanismus

Als im Jahr 1516 die neue Ausgabe des Neuen Testaments, das Novum Instrumentum des Erasmus von Rotterdam erschien, war dies ein herausragendes Ereignis mit weitreichenden Konsequenzen und Wirkungen. Sowohl die Reformation des 16. Jahrhunderts mit ihrer zentralen Stellung der biblischen Schriften und ihrer Exegese als auch die Entwicklung der in die Moderne weisenden biblischen Textkritik lassen sich ohne die Arbeiten des Erasmus kaum denken. Dennoch ist auch Erasmus in einem breiteren Zusammenhang der mannigfachen Bibel- und Text-orientierten Reformbewegung des Spätmittelalters, der Renaissance und des Humanismus zu sehen. Dies verdeutlichen die einzelnen Beiträge des vorliegenden Bandes.

This conference volume, the contents of which are discoverable at the link above…

… hatte sich die internationale Konferenz „Renaissance-Humanismus. Bibel und Reformbewegungen des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts und ihre Bedeutung für das Werden der Reformation“ der Johannes a Lasco Bibliothek Emden zur Aufgabe gemacht.

It was held several years back, 14.–16. September 2016 in Emden.  The essays contained herein run the gamut of humanistic / theological enquiry and as a consequence there’s something of interest to all comers (readers).  So, for example, the essay titled Hebraism and Humanism asks the very important question- was Christian Hebraism a consequence of Renaissance Humanism?  And the answer?

The principal focus of medieval Hebraism is biblical exegesis as a tool for battling the Jews on their own ground.

Reading the Scriptures During the Early Reformation is another example of the broad-spectrum approach of the editors and their choices.  Its conclusion is that

Reading the Bible according to the liturgical reading schedule was a persistent phenomenon in both Catholic and Lutheran milieus, notwithstanding the publications of numerous complete Bibles.

Readers in the early Reformation era appear, then, to have been creatures of habit who stuck fairly closely to what they knew: the lectionary, preferring it to Scripture itself.

Included as well is the paper titled The ‘Golden Age’ of Catholic Biblical Scholarship.  This essay is extraordinarily interesting, asserting as it does that…

The aim of this contribution is to fill the notable gap regarding ‘Golden Age’ scholarship by offering an overview essay, based upon the most recent studies in the field, and contribute to a conversation about this lacuna in the history of Catholic biblical scholarship.

And it achieves its aim.  Notable passages like this populate the essay:

In many ways the ‘Golden Age’ came to a close in France just as it peaked. For although historical-critical questions had already been asked by figures such as Masius, Pereira, Bonfrère and Morin, it was only in the second half of the seventeenth century that scientific accuracy and the questioning of dogmatic decrees would enter the mainstream of biblical interpretation. Skepticism toward Mosaic authorship dominated this early current of historical criticism and the subsequent dissection of the Pentateuch was done with a much different attitude than that employed by Catholic scholars from the ‘Golden Age’ who combined biblical humanism with the Church’s tradition to strengthen Catholic faith and morals (as was comparable to the case in other Christian confessions).

All in all, this is a very enjoyable collection of essays which were first delivered at what must surely have been a very enjoyable conference.  But, like all conference volumes, it lacks that essential element of conference attendance; interaction.  We cannot question the presenters and that is why, although conference volumes will always remain invaluable, they can never really replace ‘being there.’

Beautiful and Terrible Things: A Christian Struggle with Suffering, Grief, and Hope

Bible scholar Christian Brady, an expert on Old Testament lament, was as prepared as a person could be for the death of a child—which is to say, not nearly well enough. When his eight-year-old son died suddenly from a fast-moving blood infection, Brady heard the typical platitudes about accepting God’s will and knew that quiet acceptance was not the only godly way to grieve.

With deep faith, knowledge of Scripture, and the wisdom that comes only from experience, Brady guides readers grieving losses and setbacks of all kinds in voicing their lament to God, reflecting on the nature of human existence, and persevering in hope. Brady finds that rather than an image of God managing every event and action in our lives, the biblical account describes the very real world in which we all live, a world full of hardship and calamity that often comes unbidden and unmerited. Yet, it also is a world into which God lovingly intrudes to bring comfort, peace, and grace.

I think in the spirit of full disclosure I will confess to having known Christian Brady for many, many years.  Even decades.  As a colleague at SBL and as a friend.  I’ve had the extraordinary privilege of meeting his family and they are as genuine as he is.

That said, what I say in the lines to follow I would say if I had never met the author of this important book or not.

This book is the story of the author’s graceful and gracious response to the untimely and terribly sudden death of his little boy, Mack.  How does one manage to maintain sanity much less faith when the worst thing imaginable happens to his family?  How does one lose a child?  One’s own child?  A little boy both lively and beautiful who with his little smile illuminated rooms and brought joy to his mom and dad and big sis.  A little boy filled to overflowing with the gift of life itself.  How, in the name of God, does one survive that kind of trauma?

This book tells us how.  And in consequence of that telling, everyone who has ever experienced the misery of the deepest grief will find in the pages of this little book help like no other book (besides the Bible) can offer.

The book is made up of the following chapters:

Introduction: My God
1. Letting It Out
2. Here Is the World
3. The Why of Suffering
4. The Remainder
5. One Step
6. Walking in Grace
7. Living in the Moment
8. Raised Imperishable
9. The Already and the Not Yet
10. Hope
Prayers of Comfort and Thanksgiving

Each brings the reader further along the path from abject heartache to a deepened and ‘profound-ed’ faith (in the sense that the reader’s faith will become more profound with the turning of every page).

That Christian and his family are emerging day by day (I think it may be too much to say that they have emerged from the trauma caused by Mack’s death; after all, does anyone ever fully return to their life before such an event?) through the nightmare is a tribute to their faith in God and God’s love for them. It is that love that oozes from every page.

I want to show you what I mean rather than simply telling you, so below I’ve selected some excerpts that, I think, will give you a good sense of what’s achieved here:

When our son died, my mom reflected upon something her doctor had told her when my grandfather died. Mom was grieving deeply for her father, and the doctor commented that it was a shame we no longer wear black armbands as people did in the past. Then, at least, people would know that we were mourning, that our life was not, at this moment, what it had been before. When my father died, my sister-in-law, Jenni, made a black wreath with a yellow rose (my father was very proud of his Texas heritage) and placed it on the door of my parents’ home. Mom had suggested this as a way of letting the neighbors know that Dad had died without having to speak to each one, something she just wasn’t quite ready for. It was a great solution to that painful problem and had the added benefit of providing Jenni with a way to show her love and act in her grief.

These are the outward marks of the trauma we bear. But what about the wounds that never appear on the flesh? Anyone who enters and survives battle leaves changed, altered internally if not externally. The truth is that we all have seen battles, we all carry our wounds. Some of us are graced with a time of, well, grace—a few years or perhaps even decades when our conflicts and struggles are not more than puberty and a few personal rejections. But most of us carry deep hurts. Most people in this world, even in such an affluent country as the United States, experience hunger, poverty, prejudice, and losses that wound and maim. And once that happens to us, we never will be the same.

And

As we continue to live, we continue to celebrate our loved one. For example, it is proper and prayerful to commemorate their birthday and the anniversary of their death. We have no English term for the latter, but I often borrow the Yiddish term Jahrzeit. It simply means “anniversary” but is now used exclusively to refer to the anniversary of the death of a close member of the family (parent, sibling, or spouse) for whom the mourner would say the Kaddish, the prayer for the deceased on the anniversary of their death. Consider finding the right way for you and your family to celebrate such occasions. For example, my brother-in-law and his wife give each of their children a LEGO set on Mack’s birthday (and they send us a picture). I regularly light a candle as I give thanks to God and remember Mack and my father and the brightness of their light in our lives.

There are, at the conclusion of each chapter, ‘questions for reflection’, making this book more than suitable for small groups suffering grief and for counselors aiming to genuinely help those whom they counsel who are experiencing loss.

There have been a lot of books written on the problem of theodicy.  It’s a question that has haunted people of faith for millennia: how can God, who loves, allow horrors like the deaths of our children when their lives have scarcely begun?  This book is the best treatment of the topic, theologically, yet written.

I don’t wish to simply recommend this book.  Instead, I urge your reading of it.  And your sharing of it with those in your world, your circle of friends, your family, who have been or are suffering loss.  And keep a box of kleenex close at hand while you read it yourself.  You’ll need it.  I did.

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Die Botschaft des Neuen Testaments

V&R have announced a new series of volumes on the New Testament that you may be interested in:

Die Auslegungen der Reihe „Die Botschaft des Neuen Testaments“ sind auf dem heutigen Stand der Exegese, die Autor/innen kommentieren die neutestamentlichen Bücher aber allgemein verständlich. Die historische Situation der Texte wird erklärt, vor allem aber ihre Botschaft herausgearbeitet und nach ihrer Bedeutung für heute gefragt. Die Auslegungen haben interessierte Bibelleser im Blick, die keine theologischen Vorkenntnisse haben, sind aber durch die Verbindung von wissenschaftlicher Exegese und aktuellen Fragen auch für Pfarrer/innen, Religionslehrer/innen und Theologiestudierende hilfreich.

There’s an interview with the series editor here.  Review copies of Romans, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-3 John, and Revelation arrived in early May and I’ll be posting reviews of each volume in reverse canonical order.

First- Revelation.  It will post tomorrow.

Septuaginta. Band 3,1 Numeri (2nd Ed.)

A review copy of this newly published work arrived some months back and having made use of it I can offer the following remarks concerning the edition.

First, the earlier edition of the LXX book of Numbers was published in 1982 and the present 2nd edition was published this year (2020).

The first edition was 443 pages and the second edition is, likewise, 443 pages.

In the first edition this is the text which appears on page 47:

1:1 Και ἐλάλησεν κύριος προς Μωυσῆν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τῇ Σινά, ἐν τῇ σκηνῇ τοῦ μαρτυρίου, ἐν μιᾷ τοῦ μηνος τοῦ δευτέρου ἔτους δευτέρου ἐξελθόντων αὐτῶν ἐκ γῆς Αἰγύπτου, λέγων 2 Λάβετε ἀρχην πάσης συναγωγῆς υἱῶν Ἰσραηλ κατα συγγενείας αὐτῶν, κατʼ οἴκους πατριῶν

And here is the text on page 47 in the second edition:

In the first edition, on page 293, the poetic structure is visually supported:

ἀνατελεῖ ἄστρον ἐξ Ἰακώβ,
και ἀναστήσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐξ Ἰσραήλ,
και θραύσει τους ἀρχηγους Μωάβ,
και προνομεύσει πάντας υἱους Σήθ.
18 και ἔσται Ἐδωμ κληρονομία,
και ἔσται κληρονομία Ἠσαυ ὁ ἐχθρος αὐτοῦ·
και Ἰσραηλ ἐποίησεν ἐν ἰσχύι.
19 και ἐξεγερθήσεται ἐξ Ἰακώβ,
και ἀπολεῖ σῳζόμενον ἐκ πόλεως.
20 και ἰδων τον Ἀμαληκ και ἀναλαβων την παραβολην αὐτοῦ εἶπεν

And likewise in the second edition:

The second edition of the Göttingen Septuagint is a republication of the first edition.  I have been unable to find, in any case, any differences either in the introductory material, the text, or the apparatus.  There may be, and I have simply missed them.  But I was unable to discover any.

What, then, is the up side of obtaining the new edition?  First, it has a better cover than the first edition.  And second, it has long been out of print.  And, given the way publishing is today, the present edition may not remain in print very long, so if you have wanted to grab a copy or if your library lacks a stellar copy of the LXX, this may be the best possible time to acquire one.  The textual apparatus is dozens and dozens of times fuller and more useful than the more widely used Rahlfs/ Hanhart edition as well.

No one who is serious about the study of the Old Testament can ignore the LXX.  No one serious about the study of the New Testament can either. As was noted long ago, during a class he was teaching on the Septuagint, Ferdinand Hitzig said to his students

“Gentlemen, have you a Septuagint? If not, sell all you have, and buy a Septuagint.”

I would advise you to do the same.  Though these days it won’t cost you everything that you have.

Der Fall Servet und die Kontroverse um die ­Freiheit des Glaubens und Gewissens

This new book arrived today and I’m very excited about it.  My review will appear, in due course, in Zwingliana.  When it’s published I’ll point it out.

Der Fall Servet markiert einen Wendepunkt im humanistischen Denken der Neuzeit: Die Verurteilung und Verbrennung des spanischen Humanisten Miguel Servet am 27. Oktober 1553 auf Veranlassung des Genfer Reformators Johannes Calvin löste unter vielen der um ihres Glaubens willen vor der katholischen Inquisition Geflüchteten Empörung und Entsetzen aus. Darf man einen Menschen töten, nur weil er anders denkt, als es die jeweils herrschende Lehre verlangt?

Der Fall Servet wurde damit zum Prüfstein und Menetekel der Reformation. Für Calvin und seine Anhänger galt er als abschreckendes Exempel dafür, wie mit Menschen umzugehen sei, die den Geltungsanspruch einer einmal beschlossenen und für verbindlich erklärten Lehre in Frage stellen. Für Castellio und den kleinen, aber einflussreichen Kreis christlich liberaler Denker in Basel galt er als Exempel eines mörderischen Verrats an den durch Christus gelehrten und vorgelebten Prinzipien christlicher Nächstenliebe, Duldsamkeit und Barmherzigkeit. »Was«, so fragte Castellio, »bliebe dem Satan noch zu tun übrig, sollte Christus all dies befohlen haben?«

Der Fall Servet und die durch ihn ausgelöste Toleranzkontroverse bilden das Zentrum des vorliegenden Bandes von Uwe Plath. Die 1974 erstmals als Basler Dissertation vorgelegte Arbeit gilt bis heute als die maßgebliche Untersuchung der Ereignisse der Jahre 1552–1556, die für die Geschichte der Reformation und des humanistischen Denkens der Neuzeit von grundlegender Bedeutung wurden. Zugleich gibt sie einen tiefen Einblick in die Streitkultur der damaligen Zeit, in der sich ein neues Bild vom Menschen herauszubilden begann: das eines durch Christus zur Freiheit berufenen und seinem Gewissen und seiner Mitwelt gegenüber in Liebe verantwortlichen Menschen.