Category Archives: Book Review

Christian Origins and the Establishment of the Early Jesus Movement

Christian Origins and the Establishment of the Early Jesus Movement explores the events, people, and writings surrounding the founding of the early Jesus movement in the mid to late first century. The essays are divided into four parts, focused upon the movement’s formation, the production of its early Gospels, description of the Jesus movement itself, and the Jewish mission and its literature. This collection of essays includes chapters by a global cast of scholars from a variety of methodological and critical viewpoints, and continues the important Early Christianity in its Hellenistic Context series.

Christoph Heilig has an essay in it.

The table of contents is available on the publisher’s website.  In what follows, rather than attempting to persuade you to either read this volume or ignore this volume, I will simply provide a few excerpts from this volume.  And then you can decide for yourself, after seeing the table of contents, whether or not it is something that interests you and fits your research needs.

I will say that if you’re a student of the early church, this is a very valuable and helpful work.  But, again, I think you should inevitably decide for yourself.  Here are some of the things suggested herein:

Hezser

  • This study will focus on literary and tradition historical aspects of the Gospels’ presentation of Jesus’s disciples. Which strategies, models, and motifs are recognizable and from which cultural contexts are they derived?   (p. 71)
  • An important aspect of the Gospels’ representation of the disciples is the emphasis on their inferiority to their master. (p. 79)
  • In comparison to the relatively small circles of students associated with rabbis, twelve disciples would have constituted a crowd. In rabbinic narratives usually only two or three students are mentioned by name, despite the fact that some general statements refer to the “many disciples” of R. Aqiva or other prominent rabbis.  (p. 83)
  • Sociologists have pointed to the significance of the “perceived popularity” of an individual: the more popular a person is considered to be, the more friends and adherents that person can gain in the course of time. (p. 84)

Richards

  • New Testament scholars often accept as a given the assertion well stated by the Jesus Seminar: “The concept of plagiarism was unknown in the ancient world. Authors freely copied from predecessors without acknowledgment.”  When looking at our Gospels, this assertion seems prima facie true, perhaps lending to its common acceptance. If however plagiarism was known (and condemned) in antiquity, then we are justified in asking if the Gospel of Matthew, for example, is guilty of plagiarizing the Gospel of Mark, i.e., Was Matthew a plagiarist?  (p. 108)

Keown

  • An Imminent Parousia and Christian Mission: Did the New Testament Writers Really Expect Jesus’s Imminent Return?  (p. 242)
  • This essay will explore this claim from the perspective of Mark and Paul. (p. 242)

Heilig

  • This essay will discuss the question of how recent trends in Pauline studies—the emergence of the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” (in the following: NPP)—have influenced the perception of the two foundational figures of Paul and Peter in relation to the historical question of how it came to be that Gentiles became an important part of the early Christian movement.  (p. 459)
  • In what follows, we will thus have to pay close attention to both how Wright’s and Dunn’s shared assumptions influence their interpretation of Paul and Peter regarding the “Gentile problem” and how they differ in their assessment due to specifics of their individual interpretive frameworks.  (p. 463)
  • On the one hand, there is no indication that Peter had ever changed his view on a Gentile mission since his encounter with Cornelius. There is in particular no reason to assume that a real change of mind occurred after the meeting in Jerusalem.  (p. 483)

Naturally there are a whole array of other essays which could be excerpted but these four scholars have written the, to me, most interesting of the contributions to the volume.  Hezser’s in particular is really a fascinating work, laced with amazing facts and details.  Richards’ is perhaps the most groundbreaking (and potentially the most relevant for modern academia).  Keown’s may be the most well written.  And Heilig’s is, I think, the most learned and erudite.

The other essays in the work all participate in a mixture of fascinating, groundbreaking, well written and erudite.  The whole is worth reading. The four above are worth reading most of all.

This Applies to So Many Books These Days…

So if you’re attending #SBLAAR18 a word of advice- buy wisely my friends. Buy wisely.

review

Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition

Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition offers the complete text of the Greek Old Testament as it appears in the Rahlfs-Hanhart revised Septuaginta, laid out in a clear and readable format. All deuterocanonical books are included, as well as all double-texts, which are presented on facing pages for easy textual comparison. In order to facilitate natural and seamless reading of the text, every word occurring 100 times or fewer in the Rahlfs-Hanhart text (excluding proper names)—as well as every word that occurs more than 100 times in the Rahlfs-Hanhart text but fewer than 30 times in the Greek New Testament—is accompanied by a footnote that provides a contextual gloss for the word and (for verbs only) full parsing. Additionally, an appendix provides a complete alphabetized list of common vocabulary (namely, all the words that are not accompanied by a footnote), with glosses and (as applicable) comparison of a word’s usage in the Septuagint to its usage in the New Testament.

All of these combined features will make Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition an indispensable resource for biblical scholars and an excellent tool for improving one’s comprehension of the Greek language. In addition, each volume will include two ribbon markers.

Hendrickson has sent along a review exemplar.  I first heard of the project from William Ross at SBL a few years ago (in San Antonio over breakfast with my best friend Jim Aitken)(Jim will judiciously deny that little friend fact of course but it’s true) and was so excited then that I hounded the poor boy mercilessly about it.  I’m so pleased to see all their hard work come to fruition.

The opening sections of each volume (there are two) include the same information:

  1. About Septuaginta: A Reader’s Edition
  2. How to Use this Edition
  3. Advanced Information on Septuagint Studies
  4. Select Bibliography
  5. Acknowledgments

The most extensive description is reserved for the second section.  In it, the editors discuss the text they have chosen to utilize, the chapter and verse system used, The vocabulary apparatus, headings, text divisions, and poetic formatting, and the glossary.

Aesthetically, the volumes are really quite lovely.  The edition in hand is the blue hardcover whose feel is very akin to the Septuagint of Rahlfs (the blue lovely thing that came out decades ago with a cloth feel).  The font is sharp and the binding is sturdy.  Each volume also offers two ribbon bookmarks sewn into the binding.  Unlike other DBG volumes there is no pull-out card including textual data.

The choice of Rahlfs-Hanhart as the base text was a good decision by the editors and I suppose the most practical since, although a reader’s edition based on the Göttingen Septuagint would be brilliant the fact that that edition is not yet complete makes it, as base-text, impossible.  Perhaps one day…

The difficulty with any reader’s edition of the biblical text always comes down to the choice of words used to define the Greek (or Hebrew) text being read.  Words, after all, have usage, not meaning; and how a word is used here or there is thoroughly determined by the context in which it finds itself.  So, for instance, σιωπαω may well suggest ‘keep silence’ at Deut 27:9 it can suggest ‘stop speaking’ (as an interruption of the act of speaking as it occurs) elsewhere.

Every translation, accordingly, is also an interpretation and every translational gloss is an interpretational move.  To be sure, sense and context go hand in hand and most translators have the sense to realize this.  A nonsensical rendering will immediately provoke offense in the mind of the intelligent reader.  Nonetheless, the very choice of gloss is itself a decision of interpretation.  And it’s worth reminding ourselves, and readers of this excellent volume, that this is the case.

The second thing that we need to remind readers of, and the editors do a great job of this, but it bears repeating, is that the glosses provided are merely a rough indicator of the possible range of usages for any word provided.  Taking with absolute seriousness the ‘Reader’s’ part in the title of the volumes, these volumes have as their singular purpose the provision of bare bones lexical data for those who are reading through the Septuagint.  Reading is the aim here, not in depth lexical study.  That task must still be pursued in the lexica and grammars and textual studies.

The volumes at hand, then, are intended to be books that are read.  Read with haste.  Read with vigor.  Read with the purpose of reading and reading along and reading alone and gaining first hand familiarity with the biblical text of the Old Testament in its Greek incarnation.  And they accomplish that aim admirably.

Were I to quibble (and I’m not really given to quibbling) I would have preferred to see fewer repetitions of the same glosses on the same page.  It seems that the same gloss could easily be indicated by the same number.  I.e., every occurrence of βλεπω needn’t have a separate gloss number when 1 or 4 or whatever would achieve the same goal.  And, allow me to hasten to add, I realize that there are computational restraints about which I know nothing.  I’m just mentioning my preferences.

Last century a wise theologian remarked to his students:  “Gentlemen, have you a Septuagint? If not, sell all you have, and buy a Septuagint.” ~Ferdinand Hitzig

You won’t need to sell everything you have to buy this edition of the Septuagint, you’ll just have to skip your daily trip to Starbucks for a few weeks.  Do it.

Righteous Gentiles: Religion, Identity, and Myth in John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel

In Righteous Gentiles: Religion, Identity, and Myth in John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, Sean Durbin offers a critical analysis of America’s largest Pro-Israel organization, Christians United for Israel, along with its critics and collaborators. Although many observers focus Christian Zionism’s influence on American foreign policy, or whether or not Christian Zionism is ‘truly’ religious, Righteous Gentiles takes a different approach.

Through his creative and critical analysis of Christian Zionists’ rhetoric and mythmaking strategies, Durbin demonstrates how they represent their identities and political activities as authentically religious. At the same time, Durbin examines the role that Jews and the state of Israel have as vehicles or empty signifiers through which Christian Zionist truth claims are represented as manifestly real.

This volume is not your father’s ‘take down’ of Christian Zionism and its lust to bring about the end of the world by Armageddon.  Instead, it is a reasoned, and nearly sympathetic (though not quite) examination of exactly what it is that makes Christian Zionism in general and the Christian Zionism of John Hagee in particular tick.

The table of Contents are available for your perusal here.

This book originated as a PhD thesis, which I began in late 2009 at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia (p. viii).

Furthermore, segments of chapters 3-7 have all appeared in various form in a variety of journals.

The author describes the theory at work thusly:

I use the term Christian Zionism in a way that firstly emphasizes the contingent, historical, and human origins of self-identified Christians’ support for Israel. Second, what makes this form of Zionism ‘Christian’ is the way that material or symbolic support for Israel is then coupled with rhetoric that claims transcendence and thus shifts its origins from the human or historical, toward providence as a representation of ‘true’ or authentic Christianity. As a result, Christian Zionism is represented as ‘authentically Christian’ for insiders, therefore elevating their claims to the realm of piety and making support for Israel and an affinity for ‘the Jewish people’ as much a part of these Christians’ identity as something as routine as baptism or being ‘born-again,’ while also encouraging others to share this view (p. 5).

Accordingly, the investigation involves deeply thinking about the structure and substance of Christian Zionism.  So rather than viewing it as simply a tool of Israeli society intending to co-opt American citizens, it is examined more profoundly.  To wit-

… rather than thinking about how Falwell and others might have been ‘used,’ it would be more fruitful, in my estimation, to consider what it is that made Falwell, and even more so Christian Zionists today, actively engaged and willing participants in all matters dealing with Israel.  A sceptic could similarly latch on the origin stories of cufi that attribute Netanyahu’s request to Hagee to establish cufi as another episode of Israeli government officials ‘using’ Christians for their own ends. While this may be true, it is also worth asking why it is important for cufi officials to cite Netanyahu’s request when discussing the formation of cufi  (p. 64).

Indeed, later on we read

It is not so much about ‘hastening Armageddon’ or the end times, precisely because, at least for the Christian leaders of cufi, those times are upon us. Rather it is about acting as God’s instruments and blocking activities that might impede God’s plans for the world. And this is the way that we might consider how apocalyptic beliefs relate to political action (p. 115).

And the core of the volume is this observation:

By representing themselves as the bearers of privileged knowledge about this enemy that is out to destroy Christians, Jews, and Western civilization, Christian Zionists’ discourse empties militant expressions of Islam of any history or nuance and instead transforms their characterizations of it as simply what it is by its very nature. One of the effects of these representations is that it renders the conflicts in the Middle East and around the world, and especially the issue of Israel’s borders, as cosmological; they become part of the realm of religion, and thus ahistorical, rather than disparate, contingent events that are the products of different historical and political circumstances (p. 138).

Furthermore

American support for and protection of Israel is rhetorically equated with the protection and flourishing of America, and in this sense their critique can be understood as a modern jeremiad (p. 174).

Christian Zionism is, at its barest, Americanism.  Israel serves, at the end of the day, to provide an opportunity for American Christians to gain favor with God – with the aim of protecting and expanding American power.  Israel is a means to an end; not to Armageddon or the end, but the expansion of American power.  This is the takeaway the present reader obtains from a careful reading of this book.

Or, to put it as the author does-

In this discursive construction, without Israel, America cannot survive. Yet it seems, at the same time, without America, nor can Israel, because in the eyes of many Christian Zionists, to be an American is to be an Israeli (p. 201).

And again

What struck me about these assertions, and others like them, was their attribution of the unequivocal return of personal ‘blessings’ that individuals are said to receive in return for blessing Israel (p. 203).

Christian Zionism is self serving.  And that is why it is popular among Hagee and other proponents of the prosperity Gospel (because, at least it seems to me, Christian Zionism and the prosperity gospel are planted firmly in the same people).

Zionism is, thus, fetishized by the Christian Zionists:

Through a logic that can be characterized as divine trickle-down economics, this claim is another example of the way Israel and its Jewish inhabitants are ascribed a fetishized mediating capacity, endowed with the ability to provide the conditions for all peoples to receive the blessings that Christian Zionists claim flow through them (p. 238).

Christian Zionism, as described in the present volume, is a phenomenon which betrays deeply disturbing political roots intermingled with dispensationalist theology and pseudo-Christian personal prosperity.

Read this book.  It is superb and supremely fair.

The First Testament

IVP Academic have published this new translation of the Old Testament by John Goldingay.

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

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

Individual’s who translate the Bible make me nervous.  And so does their work.  NT Wright’s rendering of the New Testament was more interpretation than translation and David Bentley Hart appears not to know three words of Greek, given his extraordinarily pale and limpid attempt to render the New Testament into modern English.

Most translations of the Bible are rightly done by a team of scholars who check and recheck one another and their work has gone through more peer review than any essay or journal entry could ever hope to suffer in their most hellish nightmare.  Reviewer 2… that embodiment of the Antichrist, that always anonymous sniper shooting down from safe cover every idea and thought not her own, looks up to team translations the way a small child looks up at its mother’s hand when there’s a giant ice cream cone in it.

So I approached Goldingay’s work with more than the normal trepidation.

First, it has to be noted that this one volume translation of the Old Testament is the translation Goldingay did for his multi-volume commentary titled ‘The Old Testament for Everyone.’   If you have that series, you have this translation.

And second, even if you have that series, you should get hold of this volume because it’s easier to read through a one volume work than it is to haul around multiple volumes so you can read through the Old Testament.

Several have seen fit to review this work.  Notably, Phil Long.  And though I can’t think of many times when I have referenced another review in one of my own, this time I think it appropriate.  Because Phil has hit all the right points.  He even has a line or two to say (though a bit too blandly) about the issues involved in individual’s doing a translation for a Testament.  So if I might, I would say that I agree with Phil as much as I can.

I would only add that the translation is a joy to read.  Especially for people who have read the Bible more than once.  Is it as good as the Revised English Bible?  No.  But is it better than the New International Version or the Contemporary English Version or the New King James Version?  Oh yes.  Yes it is.  By leaps and bounds it is.

Read it.  You won’t regret it like you did when you read Wright’s and Hart’s bastardizations of the New Testament.

Biblical Theology of the New Testament

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

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

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

Professor Stuhlmacher completed his two volume theology in 1999 and published it that year.  That’s, for all intents and purposes, two decades ago now.  The English rendering now appearing is based on revised editions coming along in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century.

The volume is introduced, and summarized to an extent, by G.K. Beale and also set in its historical context by the same.  The author and the translator also have some things to say about the translation and the process through which it went to arrive in its present incarnation.  Beale’s introduction is really remarkably helpful and the author and translator segments are also very informative.

It may be the habit of some to skip such frontmatter and dive directly in to the text at hand, but readers of this work really should start at the very first page and work through it consecutively.  The argument of the work is progressive and cumulative.

The volume proper begins with a chapter titled ‘Foundations’.  Here Stuhlmacher discusses the task of New Testament theology.  Here he outlines his methodology.

‘Book One’ follows, containing six Parts.  These are

  1. The Proclamation of Jesus
  2. The Proclamation of the Early Church
  3. The Proclamation of Paul
  4. The Proclamation in the Period after Paul
  5. The Proclamation of the Synoptic Gospels
  6. The Proclamation of John and His School

‘Book Two’ is comprised of but one topic: The Problem of the Canon and the Center of Scripture.

The translator affixes a chapter he calls “Biblical and Greco-Roman Uses of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25 and 4 Maccabees 17:22 (Codex S)”.  Then follows an index of subjects, index of modern authors, and an index of Scripture and other ancient sources.

Stuhlmacher’s approach is very engaging.  And a bit unique.  For instead of talking about the problem of the Canon and the ‘center’ of the New Testament at the outset, he leaves that off until he has presented the various theological leanings of the New Testament’s various writers; and then, and only then, does he offer what he perceives to be their unifying or at least common thought.

Put another way, the volume asks what it is that Jesus proclaims, the early church proclaims, Paul proclaims, Paul’s followers proclaim, the Synoptics proclaim, and John proclaims.  What are they after?  What is their central belief?

To answer these questions, Stuhlmacher provides both what we in America would call an ‘Introduction to the Writings of the New Testament’ alongside and combined with a ‘Theology of the New Testament.’  That is, there are two volumes in one.  Additionally, his work is also something of a ‘Reception History’ of New Testament studies, providing, as it does, analysis of Stuhlmacher’s predecessors works.  There is, it’s fair to say, a lot going on between the covers.

A closer look at the various Parts of Stuhlmacher’s investigation will provide an open window to his approach.  So, for instance, Part Two, The Proclamation of the Early Church, is made up of three chapters (chapters 13-15):

  • Jesus’s Resurrection from the Dead
  • The Development of the Confession of Christ
  • The Formation, Structure, and Mission of the First Churches

Part Six, The Proclamation of John and his School, is comprised of five chapters (35-39):

  • The Tradition of the Johannine School
  • Johannine Christology
  • Life in Faith and Love
  • The Johannine View of the Church
  • The Significance of the Tradition of the Johannine School

Stuhlmacher’s writing style is engaging whilst managing also not to be plodding or boring.

The three concepts of the gospel, justification, and faith – ευαγγελιον, δικαιωσις, and πιστις – designate the heart of Paul’s mission theology.  Together these three constitute the salvation that he has to preach (p. 346).

Stuhlmacher also provides more detailed exposition in sections of smaller font print (think the sections of Barth’s Dogmatics where he uses larger print for the main argument and smaller print for exposition and analysis:  Stuhlmacher does the same).

The translator also provides not only Stuhlmacher’s original bibliography but after each chapter’s bibliography he also provides a section titled ‘Further Reading’.

Readers can always tell a lot about a scholar by the sources he or she cites and with whom he or she interacts.  Stuhlmacher’s impressive work is actually part of a larger dialogue within German theological circles about central concerns of the discipline.  He interacts herein, then, with the ideas of Bultmann, Gese, Jeremias, Käsemann, and Wilckens, along with scores of other lesser luminaries.

This is an encylclopedic volume of over 900 pages in total.  It is superbly argued, brilliantly translated, incredibly faithful to its Urtext, and virtually a graduate level year long seminar on New Testament theology.  Indeed, it is well suited as a textbook for a course on New Testament which could easily span two semesters of upper level Seminary work.

I enjoyed the first edition German version; I love the English version based on revisions.  To say that I recommend it highly is the understatement of the century.  I recommend it utterly and unreservedly.  It is the sort of volume that those who read it will know more than those who don’t could ever hope to know.   It is an education in itself and a thorough one at that on the subject of the theology of the New Testament.

Get it.  Get it today.  Read it. Use it for coursework.  Assign it to your students.  Require it.  And if they don’t read it, fail them.

Can We Trust the Gospels?

The Gospels―Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John―tell the story of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ while he was on earth. But how do Christians know if they are true? What evidence is there that the events actually happened? This accessible introduction to the historical and theological reliability of the four Gospels, written by New Testament scholar Peter J. Williams, presents evidence from a variety of non-Christian sources, assesses how accurately the 4 accounts reflect the cultural context of their time, compares different accounts of crucial events, and considers how these texts were handed down throughout the centuries. Written for the skeptic, the scholar, and everyone in between, this book answers common objections raised against the historicity of the Gospels in order to foster trust in God’s Word.

The book is arranged thusly:

  • 1 What Do Non-Christian Sources Say?
  • 2 What Are the Four Gospels?
  • 3 Did the Gospel Authors Know Their Stuff?
  • 4 Undesigned Coincidences
  • 5 Do We Have Jesus’s Actual Words?
  • 6 Has the Text Changed?
  • 7 What about Contradictions?
  • 8 Who Would Make All This Up?

Each chapter save the 4th asks and answers questions relevant to the issue of the volume: can the Gospels be trusted to deliver accurate information about Jesus of Nazareth and his historical existence.  Bit by bit, chapter by chapter, Williams answers in the affirmative.

The question, of course, is – is he right?  Are the Gospels historical sources?  Williams begin by stating his reason for pursuing this question:

I have long felt the need for a short book explaining to a general audience some of the vast amount of evidence for the trustworthiness of the four Gospels. There are various great treatments of this topic, and each book has its own focus. This one seeks to present a case for the reliability of the Gospels to those who are thinking about the subject for the first time. I could have made the book far longer by giving more examples and references or by considering objections, but for the sake of brevity I have cut out everything unnecessary. I have sought to give enough information for interested readers to check the evidence, but I have generally avoided referring to the literally millions of pages of New Testament scholarship, of which I have read only the tiniest part.

A sensible enterprise and one, it has to be admitted, which occupies rather a lot of people’s minds.  But the question remains to be answered and so Williams launches into his exploration.  Assembling his evidence, he first concludes that folk like Tacitus and Pliny and Josephus lend credence to the basic outlines of the Gospels.  This leads him next to a discussion of what exactly a Gospel is.  Williams accepts a fairly early date for each of the four Gospels and assumes as well that the authors were first generation Christians and thus very close to the events which they narrate in a Bauckham-esque fashion.

These virtually contemporaneous texts, Williams goes on to argue in the next chapter, leads to the notion that they knew what they were talking about when they described events and deeds from Jesus’s life.  Marshaling linguistic and geographical evidence from the Gospels, Williams insists that such material could only come from folk very familiar with the actual landscape and customs of 1st century Jewish Palestine.

Next Williams argues

The Gospels show particular signs of authenticity that have been labeled undesigned coincidences. The Cambridge theology professor John James Blunt (1794–1855) crystallized a form of this argument, and the same argument has been developed more recently by Lydia McGrew. There is not space here to repeat these arguments, which can be read elsewhere, so I will content myself with just a few examples. In an undesigned coincidence, writers show agreement of a kind that it is hard to imagine as deliberately contrived by either author to make the story look authentic.

If that sounds a tad like circular reasoning it may be because it is a tad like circular reasoning.  But Williams has his reasons for following this line of thought and he more than adequately explains it (though he may not persuade many to his view).

The ‘very words of Jesus’ are the topic on the next chapter, the next brick in Williams’ wall of evidence for historicity.  The voice of Joachim Jeremias can be heard if one listens carefully enough.  And to be honest there’s nothing here to argue with.  Williams is completely right to opine

The fact that the Gospels do not have verbatim agreement is not on its own a concern when we consider that the modern rules of bounded quotation did not exist at the time of the Gospels. The view that some, much, most, or even all of Jesus’s teaching was done in Aramaic and is only recorded in a translated form in the Greek Gospels is not on its own a sufficient reason to doubt that we have a reliable record of what Jesus said.

That is completely true.  But the question of the very words of Jesus naturally lead into the question of the reliability of the text of the Gospels itself.  And this is the text critical question and this is certainly something with which Williams is thoroughly familiar.

In returning, then, to the question of the trustworthiness of the Gospel text, it is rational to have a high degree of confidence in the text of the Gospels as it appears in modern editions. These editions themselves indicate where uncertainties lie.

And again, that cannot be gainsaid.

The last two chapters bring the argument to its conclusion- contradictions and imaginations.  Are there contradictions in the Gospels?  And who would make any of the stuff in the Gospels up?  Here Williams is probably on the thinnest ice in terms of his overall argument.  Some will see contradictions where there are merely theological focuses which differ. Some will think the whole Gospel story is made up because they are unhinged Jesus mythicists and no amount of evidence will ever change their befuddled and confused minds.  But in all likelihood Williams has argued well enough to convince people who believe the Gospels can be trusted historically that they aren’t simply operating on wishful thinking.

Nearing his conclusion, Williams observes

Returning to the title of this book, Can We Trust the Gospels?, I would argue that it is rational to do so. Trusting both the message and the history of the Gospels provides a satisfying choice both intellectually and in wider ways.

For my part, I can easily and heartily say that the Gospels are theologically trustworthy.  They can be trusted to do what they are intended to do: share a theological message.

Whether or not we have ‘veritas’ in them concerning ‘historia’ I’ll leave to the decision of you, dear reader.  Get Pete’s book and give it a charitable read.  It deserves such.

Lukas Bormann’s New Testament Theology

V&R have it

Lukas Bormann arbeitet in Auseinandersetzung mit herausragenden Beiträgen der internationalen Forschung die Grundlinien der Theologie des Neuen Testaments heraus. 

Die Theologie des Neuen Testaments hat die Aufgabe, die Gedanken, Begriffe und überzeugungen, die in den neutestamentlichen Schriften ausgedrückt werden, in ihrem sachlichen und historischen Zusammenhang darzustellen. Im 21. Jahrhundert hat ein solches Vorhaben eine Vielfalt von Fragestellungen und Forschungsperspektiven zu berücksichtigen. Der Gegenstand einer Theologie des Neuen Testaments kann nicht mehr allein als die systematische Verhältnisbestimmung von Gott, Welt und Mensch definiert werden. Bormann berücksichtigt in seiner Darstellung daher vielfältige Impulse zum religiösen Symbolsystem des frühen Christentums.

The table of contents won’t be repeated here because it is available in full at the ‘leseprobe’ tab at the link above.  There readers will also discover various other materials from the book’s opening and you are encouraged to look there before continuing below.

The author follows a sensible procedure when he decides to adopt a chronologically sensitive outline for his volume.  That is to say, he describes the various theologies contained within the New Testament in the order in which they appeared in the history of the early church.  Thus, Paul comes before the Synoptics and the Synoptics come before the deutero-Paulines and the deutero-Paulines come before Revelation.

Not only is the author’s methodological inclination sensible, his prose is precise and thorough at the same time.  For instance of Paul he notes:

Die Verkündigung Jesu von Nazareth war an die Welt des jüdischen Dorfes gerichtet, Paulus von Tarsus aber brachte das Evangelium in die hellenistisch-römische Stadt (p. 118).

Like Bultmann, Bormann rightly sees the preaching of Jesus as the presupposition for the later preaching of the Church and thus integral to the development of the theology of the Christian community.

Bormann also recognizes the ‘reception history’ of the theology of Paul (and the other New Testament writers.  Observing, for example, that

Die paulinische Theologie gilt der Exegese in reformatorischer Tradition als die Theologie des Neuen Testaments schlechthin. Kein anderer neutestamentlicher Autor stellt so differenziert und reflektiert, aber auch spannungsvoll und polemisch dar, in welcher Beziehung Gott, Welt und Mensch zueinander stehen (p. 118).

The importance of Paul as probably the most important of the New Testament’s authors is also recognized by Bormann.  This can be demonstrated by the following example:

Die Theologie des Paulus bringt die Überzeugung der ersten Christen angesichts der römischen Herrschaftspropaganda, der hellenistischen Popularphilosophie und der pharisäischen Auffassung vom Judentum zum Ausdruck: Der gekreuzigte Jesus von Nazareth ist der von Gott aus den Toten auferweckte Sohn Gottes. Paulus verkündigt diese Botschaft als Evangelium für die nichtjüdischen Völker und hält dabei daran fest, dass genau dieses Evangelium von der Schrift aus Gesetz und Propheten angekündigt ist und dem Schöpferwillen des Gottes Israels entspricht (p. 121).

Bormann’s discussion of the Synoptics includes explanations of imagery used throughout the history of the Church.  So, for instance, whilst describing the Gospel of Mark he notes

Die Alte Kirche hat den vier Evangelisten in Anlehnung an die viergesichtigen Cheruben des Thronwagens Gottes im Ezechielbuch (Ez 1,10; 10,14) und an die Himmelsgestalten der Thronvision der Johannesoffenbarung (Apk 4,7) als Erkennungszeichen Löwe, Stier, Mensch und Adler zugeordnet (p. 230).

To his credit, Bormann treats materials together which belong together.  So not only does he talk about Paul’s letters in chronological sequence, he also discusses Luke / Acts  together, and I for one am glad that he does.  Too many treat Luke with the Synoptics without ever really taking seriously the Acts of the Apostles, yet these two works clearly belong together.

Lukasevangelium und Apostelgeschichte (p. 293).

Also worth noting is the fact that Bormann also takes seriously the Catholic Epistles and the letter to the Hebrews.  These materials, often, if we are honest with ourselves, tend to receive short schrift in both textbooks and courses on New Testament introduction and theology.  Bormann corrects that error by treating these materials both fairly and fully.

Of Hebrews he remarks

Da Theologie immer auch an eine Kommunikationssituation gebunden ist, in der sich das theologizing/Theologie treiben entfaltet, ist mit der Vielfalt der Adressaten auch darauf hingewiesen, dass sich die Aussagen dieser Schriften nicht zu einer einzigen Theologie der katholischen Briefe zusammenfassen lassen (p. 361).

And

Über den Verfasser ist nichts bekannt (p. 362).

Accuracy and sensibility are the chief pillars of this work.  It is certainly worth a read and more than that it is worth adoption as a course textbook.  Upper level students in American graduate programs in Biblical studies and theology ought to be assigned the volume for two reasons:  it’s very good and its German is fairly simple and understandable.  Students are thus not only provided with a first rate theological work, they are also enabled to further their study of German as a scholarly source for theological work.

And it should be assigned for upper level theological courses in German speaking lands.  For what are to me obvious reasons:

  • students will be able to increase their basic theological knowledge and improve their theological comprehension.
  • students will be equipped by means of the very up to date bibliographic entries to further their study of areas of personal interest.

Following the body of the volume the usual indices provide readers with quick access to sections of the book concerning which they may have specific questions.

This is a tremendously useful volume.  I recommend it without hesitation.

I’m Reading Lincoln Harvey’s Book…

I shall be informing you about my feelings towards it in the not too awfully distant future.

I just hope it’s better than some stuff is on the topic.

“Introducing the Old Testament”

In this up-to-date, student-friendly text, Robert Hubbard and J. Andrew Dearman bring decades of scholarly study and classroom experience to bear as they introduce readers to the context, composition, and message of the Old Testament.

Each chapter orients readers to the Old Testament book or books under consideration, outlining historical and cultural back­ground, literary features, main characters, and structure. Throughout these discussions—of the Torah, the historical books, the prophets, and the poetry—Hubbard and Dearman also identify and trace key theological themes.

Replete with maps, illustrations, sidebars, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading, Introducing the Old Testament will equip students to read, wrestle with, and personally engage these ancient sacred texts.

Read the Eerdword blog post “10 Reasons You Need Introducing the Old Testament in Your Classroom”

Thanks to Eerdmans for the review copy.

The volume is comprised of 6 parts: Getting Started; The Torah; The Historical Books; The Prophets; The Poetry; Conclusion.  It also contains a glossary, table of Hebrew transliterations, subject index, and a Scripture and other ancient sources index.  Festooning the chapters are additional tables, diagrams, maps, and timelines.  In sum, it is a textbook.  A textbook suited for undergrad courses on the Old Testament and graduate courses as one of several texts that should be assigned reading.  To say that another way, if you are teaching a college intro course on OT, you should consider using it as the primary text (along with the Bible, of course).  But if you are teaching a graduate course on the Old Testament you should use it in conjunction with other textbooks (along with the Bible, of course).

I say that because the present volume is very accessible and though it covers everything, it doesn’t cover anything in depth.  And to be fair to it, it doesn’t intend to.  Graduate courses, on the other hand, should be more intensive and more thorough than undergrad courses.  There is, it seems to me, no point in making graduate courses too simple.  Students at the graduate level should be challenged and they should be reading a lot of material.  A lot.

With that said, this is a wonderfully written and illustrated textbook.  It discusses all the key questions and offers instructors specific questions to ask their students at the end of each chapter.  Bibliographies too are very up to date.

I do have to ‘brag’ a bit about Chapter 20.  Here our authors discuss the very complex subject of Hebrew Poetry and they do it in a sensible and clear way.  It is, I have to suggest, the best brief coverage of the topic I’ve yet read.  From asking ‘what is poetry’ to discussing the differences between English and Hebrew poetry, to a description of parallelism and on to the use of Poetry in the Hebrew Bible, our authors are precise and genuinely instructive.  This chapter is a model of handling the subject.

When it comes to historical discussions the authors come out on the relatively conservative side of things; but they are clearly not fundamentalists.  They make use of the likes of Finkelstein and Grabbe and Knauf but they also make use of the likes of Kitchen and Provan and Ussher (!).  This will displease both Minimalists and Maximalists.

The book will hold the attention of students and it will introduce them to the subject in a fair and helpful way.  I can happily recommend it.  And I will be using it in my own Intro course when next I teach it.

Chalamet Reviews ‘The Early Karl Barth’

Over at ‘Reading Religion‘.  Give it a read.   My own review is posted here.

The Magdalene in the Reformation

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

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

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

Reading Religion sent along a pre-publication proof back in August and I’ve mailed off my review today, so when they post it over there I’ll link here and update the timestamp.

Der »Kritisch-exegetische Kommentar« in seiner Geschichte

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

This volume is available in North America from ISD.

I love this book. I love everything about it. I love the introductory section, with its important and engaging biography of Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, the founder and grand designer of the commentary series which is here celebrated in a glorious historical survey. I love the chapter by Arndt Ruprecht, of the famous V&R publishing house, and his description of how this series came to life and the Publisher’s part in that process.

The second segment of the book, the largest part, is a historical survey of the various volumes which have appeared in KEK NT edited by Meyer.

The third segment of the volume is an ‘appendix’ – though much more than merely that – which provides readers with what can best be characterized as a Reception-History of the series and its manifestation in both German and English editions.

The final segment of the ‘appendix’ is a series of plates which feature both leading persons and facsimiles of pages from the various commentaries which have appeared in the series. Two of those plates are especially noteworthy:

So much for the format of the volume- but what of the substance of the work? It is a historical study as implied above. Moreover, it is a historical examination of one of the most important commentaries in the history of New Testament exegesis.

Allow me to illustrate the method of the volume by making reference to the Romans Commentary. Michael Theobold is the scholar assigned the task of surveying the various incarnations and editions of the examination of Paul’s letter to the Romans. To do so he surveys the chief viewpoints of the Commentary’s authors, he surveys the various interpretations of the ‘Gattung und Aufbau, Veranlassung und Zweck’ of the letter to the Romans as those are made plain in the various editions. And then he turns to how the various editions have dealt with the more difficult questions raised by crux passages in Romans and the interpretation of Romans through the decades of the commentary’s life. And finally, he looks forward to potential issues that future editions will need to address.

Mind you, however, that this approach is not applied ‘cookie cutter’ style to each of the New Testament commentaries discussed in this volume. Rather, the subject matter and issues of each volume are the starting point for the historical analysis of each work.

The chief accomplishment, then, of this book is that it provides in one handy place a well reasoned ‘history of New Testament scholarship’ or how New Testament scholars have addressed different issues that have arisen in the examination and exposition of the New Testament texts since the beginning of critical scholarship.

I love this book not only because it’s interesting, but because it’s informative. It is well written. It is glorious. It is, as a consequence, highly recommended.

The Book of Jeremiah: Composition, Reception, and Interpretation

New from Brill, and sent for review:

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

The link above allows potential readers to access the front matter of the volume.  Having done so, readers will see straightaway that the volume is occupied by some of the leading scholars of the Book of Jeremiah have taken part.  Of note are the contributions of  Wing So, Lundbom (all of his), Lange, and Fretheim.  Shead’s on the text of Jeremiah in the LXX is quite a brave work since the topic he chose is so incredibly difficult.  Especially to discuss in so narrow a format as difficult a subject.

But the best contribution of the lot is that of Leuchter, which with the volume commences.  He starts out

In 1970, James Muilenburg penned an influential article entitled “Baruch the Scribe.”  In that article, Muilenburg emphasized the paramount role played by Baruch b. Neriah in the production of the book of Jeremiah, noting that Baruch lived in what he termed a “scribal age.”  That is, the book of Jeremiah (and Baruch’s great contribution to it) emerged from an era when scribes had emerged as figures of tremendous prestige and numinous power. To refer to the late seventh–mid sixth centuries BCE as a “scribal age,” however, is somewhat misleading. Surely it was, but so too was every era among the centers of power in the ancient near east from roughly the mid-third millennium BCE down to the rise of Hellenism in the fourth century BCE and beyond.  Archaeology enables the scholar to recover some sense of an ancient society’s economy, population density, and even their ritual world to some degree, but is only through the written artifacts of scribes surviving from these periods that we are privy to the intricacies of their intellectual and social worlds, value systems, religious beliefs, concepts of history, and other traditions enshrined in the textual record. We know what we know of these ages because they were all, in a way, scribal ages.

After setting the stage for his argument to follow, as one must do in such times, Leuchter closely and carefully examines a few relevant texts from the Book of Jeremiah and comes to the conclusion that

The book of Jeremiah itself therefore transforms the scribal artifacts it preserves by reproducing them and calling attention to their place within its own textual boundaries. A scroll submerged in the Euphrates river is also submerged within the text through the process of redaction; the colophon to a transaction document-turned prophetic sign itself becomes a portent for written prophecy; and the Urrolle read in the ears of the scribes and the king in Jerusalem is reproduced within the rhetorical expanse of the written Jeremiah tradition (e.g., the דברי ירמיהו of Jer 1:1/51:64b that must have opened and closed an early version of the book similar to the MT).

And then

While there is little doubt that a robust oral tradition persisted during the era of the Babylonian exile, textual works like the book of Jeremiah became the only material objects that Jewish audiences in exile could approach to encounter the sort of writings that were once so vital to Israelite sanctuary spaces. Entering sacred sanctuary space was replaced by an entry into the texts, where the sources once used by priests to empower their own revelatory proclamations were now embedded in texts that modelled how revelation could be facilitated in the absence of temple structures and faculties.

The book as a whole is technical and demanding, as one would expect from an academically aimed collection of essays.  But it is not so technical that graduate students and their Professors will find it incomprehensible.  With a little effort, the volume can be absorbed and digested (much like Ezekiel’s famous scroll) but rather than being tasty in the mouth and bitter in the gut, this volume is satisfying throughout.  Your research library should obtain a copy for its reference section.

Tigurinerchronik (3 Volumes)

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

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

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

A review copy was graciously sent in July and I’ve now made my way through the work.

The three volumes in this set are comprised of the famous historical survey composed by Bullinger towards the end of his life titled the Tigurinerchronik (hereafter TC).  The Zurich Chronicles.  This work is not to be confused with the 3 volumes of Bullinger written on the history of the Reformation- his Reformationsgeschichte.  The two works differ in scope and in focus.

TVZ’s new critical edition of the TC is comprised of three volumes.  The first two are the work itself and the third is a tremendously important supplemental volume the contents of which I will describe shortly.

Volume 1 contains books 1-8 of the TC and is prefaced by a foreword, an introduction to the work, and a word of appreciation for the work’s many important supporters.  More precisely, Peter Opitz and Martin Rüsch take a couple of pages to set the stage for the work that follows.  The introduction, written by Hans Urs Bächtold, discusses Bullinger as historian, the TC’s development and history, the chief manuscripts incorporated into the present critical edition, and printed forerunners of the work.

The critical edition of the TC is offered exactly as presented in the oldest manuscripts, including morphologically and textually.  Readers will experience what the first readers experienced in every respect save the font utilized.  Modern Times Roman-esque print in used instead of the Fraktur-esque font of the first printed copies.  References to the original works are found in the margins so that interested researchers can find the source pages without any difficulty at all.  Sentences are also numbered so that locating a particular piece of information from the index is very simple.  Copious footnotes are also provided and these contain historical and linguistic/ textual information.  Also contained in the margins are subject indicators, so that readers can find matters of interest and follow the argument of the work at a glance.  These, naturally, originate with the first printed editions and are here faithfully reproduced.

The language is, naturally, the German of Bullinger’s Zurich.  Readers will need to have that language well in hand or at the very least be willing to look up uncertain words in the lexicon provided in the third volume.  There are also swaths of Latin.

Volume two of the massive work covers books 9 through 14 of the TC.  Appendices are included as well which include three supplemental historical documents:

  • Stiftsgeschichte
  • Schulsatzungen 1559
  • Großes Mandat 1550

Pages in the two volumes are numbered consecutively, so that volume two does not begin with page 1, but carries on where volume one left off.  This makes finding items referenced in the Index quite simple.

Concerning the Index, it is found in the third volume of the work and it too is very much a work to be consulted.  It begins with an overview, chapter by chapter, of the contents of the TC.  Second, readers will discover the very useful lexicon or glossary of unfamiliar terms.  Bullinger’s German, like Zwingli’s, was particular and at times idiosyncratic.  So a glossary is provided for terms that, while common in Zurich in 1575, are not so common any longer.

Third, a listing of printed sources is provided.  Fourth, hand written sources are listed.  Fifth, a modern bibliography is provided.  Next, an index of persons and places.  And finally, a series of photographic plates of Bullinger’s original hand written work.

This work is encyclopedic.  And it is brilliantly executed.  Besides simply reading through it as a narrative work (which readers certainly should do), it is also immensely useful for tracking down various persons and their doings from the perspective of Bullinger’s point of view.  So, for instance, one of the more interesting person (who nonetheless is hardly known outside of specialist circles) is one Conrad Hoffmann.  Hoffmann despised Zwingli and the entire time Zwingli and Hoffmann were in Zurich together (from 1519 till 1524 when Hoffmann left) (Hoffmann died in 1525), Hoffmann was Zwingli’s constant foe.

Making use of the index of persons, one can easily discover the places in the Chronicle where Hoffmann is mentioned:  380:28 (that is, page 320, line 28), 399:13, 1184:24, 1222:20, and 1229:16.   Reading through those passages one discovers that Bullinger is thoroughly capable of objectivity and rationality unimpinged by personal sentiments.  Bullinger, in other words, is an excellent historian.

And that, I suspect, is the key to the work.  That is, readers can take Bullinger seriously and they can take his historical reconstruction as unbiased and accurate.  The critical edition of the work opens it up to modern readers and by doing so opens up the history of Zurich in a way that contemporary history simply cannot do.  Accordingly, this work is indispensable for students of the Reformation.  Indispensable.  It cannot, and should not, be ignored.  Rather, it should be consulted and made use of.

Further, it belongs on the shelves of researchers and libraries around the globe.  If other acquisitions need to be set aside for budgetary reasons, this one should be obtained.  Tell your librarian, your spouse, your church, your neighbors, your family, and anyone who may have a little spare cash to pitch in and get it.

Now, if we can just get a critical edition of The Reformationsgeschichte!

Die Septuaginta- Geschichte, Wirkung, Relevanz

Newly published by Mohr Siebeck.

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

The collection is massive.  Here are the contents:

Geschichte
Martin Meiser: Die Septuaginta innerhalb der Literatur des antiken Judentums: Theo-logische Termini, Motive, Themen – Michaela Geiger/Knut Usener/Martin Karrer: Hiobs anderes Ende – Michaela Geiger: Ambiguität und Ironie in Hi 40,26–32MT – Knut Usener: Hiob 40 LXXals theologische Interpretation der hebräischen Vorlage – Martin Karrer: Job, der Gerechte: Beobachtungen zum Hiobbuch der Septuaginta – Markus Witte: Gelebte und reflektierte Religion in der Sapientia Salomonis – Wolfgang Kraus: Zur Rezeption von Ps 40(39 LXX),7–9 in Hebr 10,5–10 – Siegfried Kreuzer: Zur Relevanz editorischer Prinzipien – Theo A.W. van der Louw: The Evolution of the Genesis Translator – Eberhard Bons: »The Lord is the One Who Crushes Wars.« A Fresh Look at the Septuagint Translation of Exod 15:3 – Christian Lustig: Moses eigenes Zelt. Zur Unterscheidung zweier Zeltkonzeptionen im griechischen Exodusbuch – Emanuel Tov: The Septuagint of Numbers as a Harmonizing Text – Hans Ausloos: One to three … Some Aspects of the Numeruswechsel within the LXX of Deuteronomy – Kristin De Troyer: Commands and Executions. Cases from Joshua 1–6 – Kristin De Troyer: »Man nahm die Leiche von dem Baum ab und warf sie vor das Tor der Stadt« (Jos 8,29): kleine Probleme, große Textgeschichte! – José Manuel Cañas Reíllo: LXX-Judges: The Value of Secondary Translations for Its Textual History – Andrés Piquer Otero: The Secondary Versions of Kings. Variants and Renderings Between Vorlagen and Ideology – Bonifatia Gesche: The Versions of the Vetus Latina and their Relation to the Versions of the Septuagint in 1 Kings – Andrés Piquer Otero: The ‘Miscellanies’ of 3 Kgdms 2 – Frank Ueberschaer: 1Kön 11,26–40: Die verschiedenen Septuagintatraditionen im Zusammenspiel mit weiteren Textüberlieferungen in einem nicht-kaige Abschnitt – Jan Joosten: New Light on Proto-Theodotion. The Psalms of Solomon and the Milieu of the Kaige Recension – Folker Siegert: Die Koinē als gesprochene Sprache. Akustisches zur Septuaginta

Wirkung
Christian Eberhart: Opferterminologie im Sirachbuch – Cameron Boyd-Taylor: Faithful Scribes and Phantom Texts: Jewish Transmission of the Septuagint Prior to the Amoraic Period – William A. Ross:The Septuagint as a Catalyst for Language Change in the Koine: A Usage-Based Approach – Maria Jurovitskaya: The Meaning of ἀνατολή in the Septuagint and the Papyri – Antonella Bellantuono:Does the Word Group ἀπιστ- Have a Religious Connotation in Non-Jewish Greek Literature? – Mikhail G. Seleznev: Anti-anthropomorphisms in the Septuagint: Statistical Testing of a Hypothesis – Michaël N. van der Meer: The Reception History of Joshua in the Septuagint and Contemporary Documents – Gert Jacobus Steyn: Psalm Quotations by Philo of Alexandria. Some Observations – Felix Albrecht:Zur Wirkungsgeschichte des Septuagintapsalters im ägyptischen Christentum: Die griechisch-koptischen Bilinguen – Nathalie Siffer: La citation de Habaquq 1,5 en Actes 13,41 – Elena Belenkaja:βραχύ τι – qualitative, temporale und räumliche Aspekte. Zur Rezeption von Ps 8,5–7LXX in Hebr 2,5–9 – Marcus Sigismund: ἀρχὴ καὶ τέλος. Textform und Funktion der Pentateuchzitate in der Apokalypseauslegung des Arethas von Caesarea

Relevanz
Ekaterina Matusova: The Origins of Translation Theory: The LXX among Jewish Greek Writers – Matthieu Richelle: The Relevance of the Septuagint for Reconstructing the History of Ancient Israel – Alma Brodersen: The Septuagint’s Relevance for the End of the Psalter – Johann Cook: Theological Perspectives in LXX Proverbs – Marieke Dhont: The Cultural Outlook of Old Greek Job: A Reassessment of the Notion of Hellenization – Christoph Kugelmeier: Ἰσοδυναμία und »Authentizität«. Reflexe der Auseinandersetzung um die »Worttreue« in den antiken Versionen des Buches Sirach – Zoltan Oláh: »…werden sie bezahlen« (Jes LXX9,4). Erfahrungen von Fremdherrschaft als Aktualisierung – Arie van der Kooij: The Old Greek of Isaiah and Book III of the Sibylline Oracles: Related Pieces of Jewish Literature in Ptolemaic Egypt – Johanna Erzberger: Nebuchadnezzar, Judah, and the Nations: Shifting Frames of Reference in Jer 25 – Anna Angelini: Demonic agents in the Greek Bible. Evaluating the Role of the Septuagint in Creating a Hellenistic Demonology – Barbara Schmitz: Concepts of Kingship in Aristeas, Xenophon’s Cyropaedia and Isocrates’ Speeches – Mogens Müller: Die Bedeutung der Septuaginta für die Entfaltung neutestamentlicher Theologie – Ralph Brucker: Berauscht von Gott. Ps 22,5LXX im Licht von Eph 5,18 und verwandten Texten – Riemer Roukema: Philological Observations, Syntax, and Delimitation in the Septuagint Version of Micah According to Patristic Commentaries – Barbara Villani: Bibelzitate in Cyrill von Alexandriens Werken zum Alten Testament. Einige Beobachtungen zu den Unterschieden zwischen dem Dialog De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate und den Kommentaren – Christoph Schubert: Form und Funktion der Bibelzitate bei Tertullian, Adversus Iudaeos – Stefan Freund: Librum legerunt in Hebraicis litteris scriptum. Bewusstsein und Reflexion der Originalsprachlichkeit alttestamentlicher Zitate bei den frühchristlichen lateinischen Autoren – Hedwig Schmalzgruber: Beobachtungen zu Form und Funktion alttestamentlicher Bibelzitate in Ambrosius’ Exaemeron – Victoria Zimmerl-Panagl: … ad Libanum … ad boream …? Zu Numeri 10,1–10 in Ambrosius, De excessu fratris Satyri 2,107 – Dorothea Weber: Überlegungen zu Wortlaut und Autorität von Zitaten am Beispiel der Auseinandersetzung zwischen Augustinus und Julian von Aeclanum – Bruno Bureau: Biblical Quotations and Allusions in Two Latin Epics, Sedulius’ Carmen Paschale and Arator’s Historia Apostolica.

The tripartite division programmatically divulges the central purpose of the collection: to examine the Septuagint from three points of view- its history, its effects, and its abiding relevance.

The essays collected under the first heading invite specialists (this is a book for specialists) to consider important historical issues related to the texts of the LXX, their translation, and their interpretation.

The second section of the book is the shortest and, from the perspective of the present reviewer, the most interesting.  Worthy of particular mention are

  • Christian Eberhart: Opferterminologie im Sirachbuch
  • William A. Ross: The Septuagint as a Catalyst for Language Change in the Koine: A Usage-Based Approach
  • Felix Albrecht: Zur Wirkungsgeschichte des Septuagintapsalters im ägyptischen Christentum: Die griechisch-koptischen Bilinguen

Each of these makes what I believe are important and substantial contributions to our understanding of the materials they treat.  Ross especially shows how important the LXX is for our understanding of the Greek language and, consequently, our understanding of the texts central to Christianity.  His essay, I suggest, is the most important work on the topic in many years and should be consulted, surely, by biblical scholars from all areas.

From the third section, the essays of which urge readers towards an appreciation for the abiding relevance of the LXX to its users in the early history of Christianity, the following are especially good:

  • Mogens Müller: Die Bedeutung der Septuaginta für die Entfaltung neutestamentlicher Theologie
  • Ralph Brucker: Berauscht von Gott. Ps 22,5LXX im Licht von Eph 5,18 und verwandten Texten

There is a lot to absorb here.  Perhaps there is too much.  Indeed, if the volume has a weakness it isn’t the highly specialized nature of its contents nor is it the expertise necessary for its contents to be appreciated.  Rather, it is that the volume does too much, presents too much, offers too much, overwhelms.

This is an overwhelming collection.  Readers are deluged by a sea of details, many of which take considerable effort to assimilate.  Perhaps if the work had been divided into three volumes- one for each section- it would be less mentally taxing.  Or, perhaps reading it straight through is a bad idea.  Perhaps readers should chop it into smaller bites and take a longer period of time than 5 weeks to work through it.

And that, in sum, is my suggestion to readers of this important work: take it rather slowly.  Read an essay a week.  Or perhaps two.  And allow them to ferment in your mind a bit before moving on to the next.  Take a year to read the collection.  You’ll be well rewarded, intellectually stimulated, and academically challenged.

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

George Brooke is the author of this little work.  If you click the ‘look inside’ box it will give you all the details you need.

In this slight but sprite and bright little volume, George Brooke, a world renowned expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls and related things, tells the story, in 26 pages, of an English scholar’s thoughts of German scholarship on Hebrew and Aramaic documents from antiquity.

The volume opens with a preface, or really a greeting, in German, to attendees of the conference where these lectures were first delivered and to readers of the series in which this little volume belongs.  This is followed by an introduction, in German, of George, who offers the lectures here enclosed.

Then Brooke launches into the lectures (in English) which honor the memory of the great Julius Wellhausen.  In the pages that follow, Brooke traces the legacy of German scholarship on the Scrolls.  After describing Joerg Frey’s historical survey, Brooke describes the Post-War era and the German scholars who first did serious work on the Scrolls.

Brooke then moves to describe German contributions to the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls after German reunification.  Chief among these contributions are manuscript reconstruction.  Here the Germans, and their meticulousness, excelled.  Brooke opines

Hartmut Stegemann’s method for the reconstruction of manuscripts is a magisterial contribution to the understanding of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the point of view of their material culture.  Here is a facet of the technical excellence of German scholarship at its best… (p. 12).

The follows Brooke’s effusive look into the implications of the Scrolls for study of the Old Testament and the German aid lent to that enterprise.

Finally, in the closing pages, Brooke talks about the outlook of Scrolls scholarship in the future.

It is clear that the German contribution to Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship in the years to come will continue to be very considerable (p. 24).

Doubtless.

The little volume closes with a bibliography.  And though small, it is weighty and worthwhile.   And therefore highly recommended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Footsteps of King David

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