Category Archives: Book Review

Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible

For more than three centuries, Matthew Henry’s work has been consulted and quoted by teachers and students the world over. Now you can have his insights available alongside the trusted New King James version of the Bible in the Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible.

Featuring 366 devotions, the Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible will help you gain greater understanding and appreciation of Scripture and encounter God’s heart every day. Drawn from Henry’s enormously popular commentary, his insights paired with Scripture will guide you into a deeper relationship with the Father as you find comfort, knowledge, and wisdom from God’s Word.

A free copy for review has arrived via the good folk at the Bible Gateway ( #bgbg2) (as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid #BibleGatewayPartner).  More anon.

Freiheit, Gott und das Böse: Zur strukturellen Rolle des Bösen im christlichen Wirklichkeitsverständnis

This volume investigates to which extent evil is constitutive of the system identity of the Christian perspective on reality. Based on a model analysis of the role played by evil in the works of six authors, a model synthetic reconstruction shows that evil is not a constitutive but an inevitable and – transformed – also a permanent relatum in the Christian understanding of reality.

Readers are encouraged to visit the link above and click on the contents tab for the materials which can be found in the volume.  Be sure, as well, to read the foreword and the preface, as they contain helpful information about the work which will help you to decide if it’s something you’d like to read.

I think you will want to read this book if your interests tend towards the philosophical, but your own proclivities are unknown to me, so only you will really know.  If your interests are more on the theological end of things, you’ll find the beginning alone (where the theology of Augustine is treated).  More on all that momentarily.

As is very common these days, the volume at hand is a revised doctoral dissertation.  Its author remarks

Die vorliegende Untersuchung stellt eine leicht überarbeitete Version meiner Dissertation dar, die im Wintersemester 2019/2020 von der Evangelisch-theologischen Fakultät der Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen angenommen wurde.

So, written a few years back, this work appears just in time to be, one hopes, highly relevant as it seeks to examine the role that the notion of evil has played in Christian theology.  Unfortunately hopes are dashed.

Beginning with the methodological issues and an examination of the sorts of linguistic nuance that delight academics (and the sort of discussions that set the parameters for the analyses which always follow), M. turns to what he titles ‘Modelanalyse’.  First, the early Augustine is his target and how the young Augustine viewed things such as the fall and evil and the origin of sin and then he next moves on to discuss the later and late Augustine on those issues.

And then M. does something both unique, and odd:  he jumps forward in time right to Leibniz and that philosopher’s understanding of the same issues of importance to Augustine.  And this is where I lost hope.

For the remainder of the book is less an examination of theological matters and more an examination of philosophical notions.  But what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?  Philosophical theology is neither theology nor philosophy.  It is a strange blending of two things which are incompatible.  It is a bastardization of theology and an improper wedding of philosophy to the ‘Queen of the Sciences’.

M. continues down the road to Athens, however, stopping along the way to listen to the meanderings of Schelling, Hegel, and Boyd.  After which he strives to blend it all together in a soup of philosophical speculation given the false description of theological analysis.  He concludes the work with analyses of, in turn, Freedom, God, and Evil.  All of which are so tainted by philosophy that authentic theological exposition (exegetically based Scriptural interpretation) is no where to be found.  Theology’s voice is herein drowned out by the screechings of the philosophers.

It isn’t very often that I have not really enjoyed a volume from DeGruyter.  But honesty demands that I speak forthrightly my own views (because that’s what reviews are- one’s own views on a volume):  This volume has little to commend it.

You may, in fairness, feel otherwise.  You may be different.  And that’s ok.  If we were all the same the world would be a horribly boring place.

I, for my part, though, find the whole suggestion or supposition that philosophy has something of value to say to theology laughable.  I find myself, once again, thinking of Tertullian’s rightly formulated quip:  ‘Philosophers are the patriarchs of heretics‘.  And I know he’s right.

Read this book if you like philosophy.  Read the first bit only if you like theology.

Es werde liecht

Die Froschauerbibel von 1531 ist ein reformations-, kultur- und sprachgeschichtliches Schlüsseldokument der Reformationszeit. Doch das ungewohnte Schriftbild macht diese Zürcher Bibel in der originalen Ausgabe schwer lesbar. Niklaus Ulrich hat sie deshalb vollständig transkribiert. Nachdem in dieser Transkription bereits das Neue Testament und die Psalmen publiziert worden sind («Jch bin das brot des läbens», 2018), erscheint nun auch das Alte Testament transkribiert. Damit sind auch diese durch Zwingli und weitere Übersetzer aus dem Urtext ins Deutsche übertragenen Texte erstmals als normale Buchausgabe erhältlich.

Zum besseren Verständnis der einstigen, schweizerdeutsch anmutenden Sprache Zwinglis ist der Bibeltext von 2007 synoptisch beigegeben. Dem Bibeltext vorangestellt ist die kommentierte Übersetzung des aufschlussreichen Vorworts, in dem Ulrich Zwingli und Leo Jud ihre reformatorisch inspirierte Motivation zur Übersetzungstätigkeit darlegen.

Sounds fantastic!  A review copy of the two volumes has arrived.  More after I work through the massive work.

The Apostle and the Empire: Paul’s Implicit and Explicit Criticism of Rome

A book by the excellent Christoph Heilig:

Was Paul silent on the injustices of the Roman Empire? Or have his letters just been misread?

The existence of anti-imperial rhetoric in the writing of the apostle Paul has come under greater scrutiny in recent years. Pressing questions about just how much Paul actually addressed Rome in his letters and how publicly critical he could have afforded to be have led to high-profile debates—most notably between N. T. Wright and John M. G. Barclay.

After having entered the conversation in 2015 with his book Hidden Criticism?, Christoph Heilig contributes further insight and new research in The Apostle and the Empire to argue that the case for Paul hiding his criticism of Rome in the subtext of his letters has more merit than previously claimed by scholars like Barclay. Moreover, he argues that there are also passages that contain more open denouncements of the Roman Empire that scholars have previously overlooked—for instance, in the mention of a “triumphal procession” in 2 Corinthians, which Heilig discusses in great detail by drawing on a variety of archaeological data.

Heilig’s groundbreaking work constitutes a must-read for Pauline scholars but also for anyone interested in the intersection of Christianity and empire and how one of the Christian tradition’s most important teachers communicated his unease with the global superpower of his day. Furthermore, Heilig takes on larger issues of theory and methodology in biblical studies, raising significant questions about how interpreters can move beyond outdated methods of reading the New Testament toward more robust understandings of the ways ancient texts convey meaning.

A review copy has arrived from the good folk at Eerdmans.  More in due course.

Die griechische Bibel in Alexandrien

The translation of the Torah into Greek in Alexandria is an intriguing puzzle. Why was it undertaken at all? Was it a need of the Alexandrian Jews? Or did the Jewish wisdom intrigue the Egyptian ruler? Is the legend of the miraculous creation of the Septuagint a manifesto of cultural assimilation into the Hellenic culture? Does the Alexandrian Greek biblical exegesis, especially that of Philo, aim to break with the Hebrew tradition? According to this book, Philo, although not fluent in Hebrew himself, moves in the same shared Hebrew-Greek Torah universe that a closer look on the Septuagint legend reveals as well.

A review copy has been provided.

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

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

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

I reviewed it for The English Historical Review.

It’s a fantastic book, and, I confess, much better than I expected it to be. It wasn’t at all dry or dull.  Lynch is a fine writer, capable of constructing sentences and paragraphs that are informative and thought provoking.  I think most visitors here would enjoy it.

Heavenly Providence: A Historical Exploration of the Development of Calvin’s Biblical Doctrine of Divine Providence

Suk Yu Chan provides a revisit of John Calvin’s interpretation of the doctrine of divine providence and builds upon a vast repository of quality research conducted by previous Reformation scholars. The author adopts a historical approach to explore Calvin’s works from 1534–1559, and argues that from 1534–1541, Calvin used the image of the fountain to portray God as the source of everything, who has power to preserve and give life to all creatures on earth. Between the Latin edition of the Institutes in 1539 and the French translation of that work in 1541, Calvin was indecisive about the definition of special providence, articulating a fitful relationship between providence and soteriology in these two texts. In 1552, Calvin gradually ceased using the image of the fountain to portray God as the source of everything, and he also delivered three definitions of divine providence: general providence, special providence, and the very presence of God. Based on the theological understanding of divine providence which he had developed from 1534–1552, Calvin presented his exegesis on the Book of Job and the Book of Psalms through his sermons and commentaries. Furthermore, Calvin also discussed the importance of the human role in God’s providence. While Calvin’s theological understanding of God’s providence was inherited by his successor, Theodore Beza, Beza applied it differently in his exegesis on the Book of Job. From 1534–1559, Calvin formulated his biblical doctrine of divine providence, articulating that divine providence is heavenly providence which is comprised of eternal predestination and divine preservation.

The publisher has sent along a copy to be reviewed.

Ben Sira in Conversation with Traditions: A Festschrift for Prof. Núria Calduch-Benages on the Occasion of Her 65th Birthday

This volume of essays on Ben Sira is a Festschrift on the occasion of the 65th birthday of Prof. Nuria Calduch-Benages. The volume gathers the latest studies on Ben Sira’s relationship with other Jewish traditions. With a variety of methods and approaches, the volume explores Ben Sira’s interpretation of received traditions, his views on the prevailing issues of his time, and the subsequent reception of his work.

This excellent collection of essays celebrates a gifted scholar in a superb way.  The table of contents, preface, and frontmatter are available here.  There, potential readers of this volume will see a veritable who’s who of Ben Sira scholars.  The editors write

Núria’s colleagues hold her in high esteem and her students love her. The
editors and contributors of this Festschrift wish Núria strength and health for
many more years of productive scholarship and join with the sage in stating,
“Praise will come forth from the mouth of the wise and by her will proverbs be
studied” (Sir 15:10). We may appropriately conclude by repeating the praise offered
by Núria’s Doktorvater: “That lady is fascinating, joyful, dynamic, enterprising
and a hard worker.”

The volume at hand can be described in the same way: fascinating, joyful, dynamic, enterprising.  It is a truly fitting tribute.

All collections of essays are volumes which have points of attraction and interest that differ from person to person.  So, for example, some will be very interested in Ben Sira and Ezekiel while others are not.  They may, instead, be very interested in “Yet, No One Remembered that Poor Man”: Qoheleth and Ben Sira on the Wisdom of the Poor.  Each reader will be drawn like bees to flowers to the essays which connect to their own particular interests.

My own proclivities led me to enjoy most the contributions found in part 5- Later Authors in Conversation with the Book of Ben Sira.  Here there are works titled The Book of Ben Sira From a Reception-Historical Perspective: Hubert Frankemölle’s Commentary on the Letter of James; and Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, and Slow to Anger (Jas 1:19 and Sir 5:11); and Reliability and Gentleness: Moses, Jesus, and the Disciple; and “Useful for Instruction”: The Popularity of Sirach in Christian Egypt.

Having, many decades ago, presented a paper at a conference titled ‘The Wisdom of James‘ in which I argued that James should be classified as ‘wisdom literature’ (broadly speaking), I was particularly fascinated by the essays in this part which explored that very issue.  Indeed, I was excited by them.  Excited!

Wischmeyer’s The Book of Ben Sira From a Reception-Historical Perspective: Hubert Frankemölle’s Commentary on the Letter of James; and Lopez’s Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak, and Slow to Anger (Jas 1:19 and Sir 5:11) were pure delights to read and to think about.  That’s not to suggest that the other essays in the collection were uninteresting, because they were the furthest thing possible from that!  The entire volume engages topics and issues that will be as exciting to others as these materials on James and Sirach are to me.

Wischmeyer’s contribution carefully rehearses the state of the topic in research and then delves more carefully into the connections between James and Sirach, showing with certainty that James 3 is based on Sirach 28.

In terms of motifs, Jas 3 is obviously dependent on Sir 28: strife, fire, tongue, Hades, … death: these motifs form a cluster of their own to which James refers.

I realize that scholars tend to dislike words like obviously and clearly and, generally, they should be shied away from.  But here, here in this instance, obviously is perfectly fitting.

When considering volumes to recommend to your University or College or Seminary library, you should certainly include this one.  It is a fairly costly book, so it may be outside the budget of independent scholars or students.  But it absolutely belongs in your library. It will be used, referenced, enjoyed, and most importantly, checked out more than one time by that one guy who checks out books just so he can have his name in a book somewhere.

Summa Summarum: Get your librarian to order a copy of this book and when it comes in, read it.  It will not disappoint, no matter what facet of Ben Sira studies is your own.  Obviously and clearly.

Tell Her Story: How Women Led, Taught, and Ministered in the Early Church

For centuries, discussions of early Christianity have focused on male leaders in the church. But there is ample evidence right in the New Testament that women were actively involved in ministry, at the frontier of the gospel mission, and as respected leaders.

Nijay Gupta calls us to bring these women out of the shadows by shining light on their many inspiring contributions to the planting, growth, and health of the first Christian churches. He sets the context by exploring the lives of first-century women and addressing common misconceptions, then focuses on the women leaders of the early churches as revealed in Paul’s writings. 

A copy for review has appeared.  More anon.

The Hope of Life After Death: A Biblical Theology of Resurrection

Jeff Brannon explores how the hope of life after death is woven throughout Scripture—even in unexpected places. In the biblical narrative, the themes of life, death, and resurrection correspond with the biblical-theological categories of creation, fall, and redemption. As we follow these themes, Brannon shows, we gain a fuller understanding of the doctrine of resurrection and what it means for Christian faith and discipleship. Jesus’ resurrection and the future resurrection of his followers truly changes everything.

I’ll be reviewing this.  Stay tuned.

The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary

In this introduction and commentary to both letters, Osvaldo Padilla sets them in their distinct context of Paul’s later ministry and draws out their pastoral wisdom. With thoughtful exposition he shows how the lessons Paul imparts to Timothy and Titus are still relevant to us today and how we can learn from them in our own walk with Christ.

A review copy is on the desk.

The Necessity of Christ’s Satisfaction: A Study of the Reformed Scholastic Theologians William Twisse (1578–1646) and John Owen (1616–1683)

The seventeenth century Reformed Orthodox discussions of the work of Christ and its various doctrinal constitutive elements were rich and multifaceted, ranging across biblical and exegetical, historical, philosophical, and theological fields of inquiry. Among the most contested questions in these discussions was the question of the necessity of Christ’s satisfaction. This study sets that “great controverted point,” as Richard Baxter called it, in its historical and traditionary contexts and provides a philosophical and theological analysis of the arguments offered by two representative Reformed scholastic theologians, William Twisse and John Owen.

At first blush it may seem that this volume is just another in a long line of works that only particular, indeed very particular specialists will enjoy or even care to read.  But this time that is not the case.  This book asks and examines one of the most important debates in the history of Christian thought, and its presentation actually does concern every Christian theologian and layperson whose interests extend to one basic question for all of us:

Why did Jesus have to die?  Or did he even have to die?  For sins.

That, of course, is a simplification of the issue.  More fully, was it a necessity that Jesus die for the sins of the world or could God have taken another route had he chosen to, and brought redemption in some other way?  It’s a fascinating question if you think about it for a moment.  And not a new one at all.

Scholastic theology since Anselm of Canterbury struggled with the issue.  Debated it. Wondered about it.  Examined it in excruciating detail.  Many did afterwards as well.  The Reformers touched on it and their followers focused like lasers on it.

Enter the present volume where one gets to decide if one is #TeamOwen or #TeamTwisse.  John Owen held the essential view that the death of Jesus was ‘necessary’ for salvation and William Twisse disagreed.  God, he basically argued, could have done something else if he wanted to.

And off they go, to debate.

The book at hand is a thorough examination of the history of the question leading up to Owen and Twisse, a very fulsome presentation of the views of both men, and a summary of the debate.  It is, in short, a brilliant and helpful tour de force of historical theological scholarship.  A thoroughly enjoyable and very informative thing on the whole.

I highlighted a lot of the material in the book so I could access it quickly when I make my way back to it in coming years.  Because there’s a lot to highlight.  It’s just that good.  It’s just that engaging.

For instance:

According to Owen, then, the proper formulation of the question is not whether God could save fallen humanity by some other means than the satisfaction of Christ, but whether punitive justice is an essential attribute of God, and whether, if so, it is necessarily exercised toward sinners.


… with respect to God’s external acts, none of them may be considered an absolute necessity, for they are all conditional upon the free act of God’s creation from nothing, in the first instance, and most other external acts are contingent upon several further conditions as well.


According to Twisse, if God on account of iustitia divina must punish sin, then he must punish it immediately and completely. This, further, would leave no room for the place of a vicarious satisfaction, by which, on the Reformed understanding of Christ’s passion, God through Christ reconciles fallen humans to himself. Owen counters that his own arguments imply no such conclusions. The argument for the necessary Lordship of God, grounded in the egresses of the universal rectitude of the divine nature, only establishes the necessity of “punishment in general”. It is “punishment itself” that is necessary, so that “nothing hinders but that God should freely appoint the mode and degree of it” in accordance with divine wisdom.

And Owen again

It is against the backdrop of the divine requirement to punish sin that the work of Christ on behalf of sinful humanity is revealed as a gracious and good and loving act. If divine justice does not require that God redeem fallen humanity by the passion of Christ, no such account of God’s goodness in that external act could be given.

And eventually Schendel opines

… the Reformed scholastic disputes concerning the necessity of Christ’s satisfaction, as seen in the representatives Twisse and Owen, represent one line of continuity between the Reformed orthodox and their medieval predecessors.

And with complete accuracy

For the Reformed scholastics, the theological import of the question of the necessity of Christ’s work has to do primarily with the doctrine of God.

A bibliography and the usual end stuff follows.  A visit to the link above will show the full contents, etc.

As I’ve hinted, this book is a fantastic work which you ought to read if you’ve ever wondered, or if anyone has ever asked you ‘why did Jesus have to die for sins? Why couldn’t God just forgive people?’  Answers are given.


Autobiographische Argumentation und Selbstdarstellung im Galaterbrief

Ist der autobiographische Abschnitt Gal 1,11-2,21 apologetisch motiviert? Diese forschungsgeschichtliche Mehrheitsmeinung wurde seit den 1980er Jahren zwar mehrfach, aber bislang nicht nachhaltig hinterfragt, daes bisherigen Studien an einer überzeugenden Gesamtschau auf Gal 1,11-2,21 mangelte.

Diese Studie will die Abfassungsmotivation des autobiographischen Abschnitts durch eine detaillierte exegetische Gesamtschau auf Gal 1,11-2,21 sowie den ganzen Brief neu beleuchten. Eine umfangreiche epistolographische Analyse des gesamten Galaterbriefes liefert zunächst keine Spuren einer apologetischen Abfassungsmotivation. Die Untersuchung der Verknüpfung von Gal 1,11-2,21 mit der Briefcorpuseröffnung Gal 1,6-10 zeigt auf, dass Paulus in der Eingangsthese des autobiographischen Abschnitts Gal 1,11-12 das εὐαγγέλιον-Motiv argumentativ aufnimmt.

In einer stringenten exegetischen Untersuchung von Gal 1,11-2,21 zeigt sich, dass Paulus mit Gal 1,13-2,21 in der Hauptsache eine autobiographische Argumentation zur Bestätigung der Eingangsthese Gal 1,11-2,21 führt, womit er die göttliche Herkunft seiner Evangeliumsverkündigung bestätigt. Gleichzeitig ermöglicht diese Argumentation ihm, sein eigenes Ethos gegenüber den Briefadressaten zu stärken.

A copy for review has arrived.  As always, without strings and only the expectation of an honest review.

Bundestheologie bei Hosea? Eine Spurensuche

Where can we find the origins of biblical covenant theology? Perhaps in the Book of Hosea, where the word ברית appears five times? In interdisciplinary dialogue with Roman legal history, development and social psychology, literary studies, and ancient Near East studies, this edited volume sets off on an exciting and inspiring search for clues, with the goal of “ploughing new ground” (Hos 10:12).

A copy for review has arrived.  As always, without strings and only the expectation of an honest review.

Five Views on the New Testament Canon

Each contributor addresses historical, theological, and hermeneutical questions related to the New Testament canon, such as what factors precipitated the establishment and recognition of the New Testament canon; the basis of any authority the New Testament has; and what the canon means for reading and interpreting the New Testament. Contributors also include a chapter each responding to the other views presented in the volume. The result is a lively exchange suitable for both undergraduate and graduate students seeking to grasp the best canon scholarship in biblical studies.

Five views.  2 simply wrong.  1 simply sort of right.  1 ‘meh’.  And 1 gloriously correct.  The five views presented are from the perspective of a conservative Evangelical; a progressive Evangelical; A liberal Protestant; a Roman Catholic; and an Orthodox perspective.

The whole presentation is followed by a rejoinder by each of the other contributors, so that Lockett takes his turn responding to Nienhuis, BeDuhn, Boxall, and Parsenios and then each of the others do the same.  It’s easy to imagine how this all happened.  Each wrote their piece, distributed it to the others, and then the others wrote up their sometimes brief, sometimes longer response to the presentation.

The editors bring the whole to a conclusion with some thoughts of their own.  There is no ‘final word’ (as one would expect from a work of scholarship).  No ‘everyone agrees with this viewpoint’ because that day will never come.  The work also has a name index and an index of Scripture and other ancient texts.

The writers all do a very, very good job of presenting their viewpoint, without equivocation.  And that is highly appreciated.  They do their work precisely and helpfully even if, at the end of it, you are left shaking your head or thinking ‘really?’  And each reader of the volume will find in it something to shake their head sideways about and something to shake their head up and down about.

As hinted at above, most of the contributors leave me without agreement with their positions.  I simply cannot follow Lockett’s idea that the writers of Scripture knew they were writing Scripture.  That, historically, is simply an impossibility.  It also fails to take seriously Scripture itself- where Paul remarks, importantly, ‘Not the Lord, but I.’

Nor can I take Nienhuis’ view as my own.  Indeed, BeDuhn expresses nicely my own feelings as I read through each of the contributions:

“… all the other positions represented in this volume downplay or deny the political dimension of authority in Christian history.”

That is, they decontextualize the historical moorings in which the New Testament was composed.

Boxall does so by appealing to the Vulgate as the authoritative text of the Catholic Church since the Council of Trent.  Sure, ad fontes is useful, but at the end of the day it’s the Vulgate that provides the nourishment for the Christian soul.  This, I cannot accept.  The Vulgate is a translation and no translation carries the weight of the earliest Hebrew and Greek texts.

BeDuhn is correct too when he notes that another issue raised by the other contributions is their tendency to want to harmonize the whole of Scripture.  To flatten it and make it speak univocally.  As Beduhn so rightly notes

“The richness of the Bible rests in these differences.”

Besides, he remarks, the Bible never asked for this help anyway.

All of the contributors would know this if they had simply read Caird’s New Testament theology.  In that absolutely genius work, Caird shows that the New Testament writings should be seen as an inter-Christian colloquium where each of the theologians at the table are presenting their findings.  And each should be heard for themselves and not allow Paul or John to drown them out.

By now you have probably discerned that BeDuhn’s view is the one closest to my own.  Boxall would come second (save for his devotion to the Vulgate), and the others well behind.  (The view of the Orthodox Parsenios is, sadly I suppose, the one least of interest to me.  There’s just nothing in Orthodox Christianity that appeals to me.  It is mysticism).

BeDuhn is right that the tools of historical-criticism need to be applied to canonical studies.  He is right that the formation of the Canon needs to be viewed from a historical lens (and not theological a priori or prejudices; cf. the view of Boxall).  He is right that various canons (like the Peshitta and other early collections which differ from our own) should be viewed in their own historical situations.  And he is correct to assert that the basis of the canon’s authority is both historical and theological.

And that is the glory of this volume.  My views align primarily with BeDuhn’s (though not always) while yours may align with Parsenios and someone else’s may align with Boxall’s and someone else’s might even align with Lockett’s (though I can’t image that in anyone but a classical Fundamentalist).  Each of us hears echoes of our understanding.

But even more importantly, we are given an opportunity to understand the views of others and to spring from that understanding to dialogue and maybe from dialogue to some places of agreement and then from there to acceptance, understanding, and a willingness to at least hear from others without judging their views in advance.  That simple deed; open listening, even if full agreement isn’t possible, is greatly needed in our time.  Not only theologically, but politically as well.

This book is worth your time.  Even if you only come away from it with a better understanding of your own viewpoint.  But you won’t come away from it with only that.  You’ll also leave it back on your shelf with a better and deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, the views of others.

Tolle, lege!

The 200th Biblical Studies Carnival Extravaganza!!!!!!!!!!!!

Welcome to the 200th Biblical Studies Carnival!  Here you’ll find all the best posts from October, 2022 from all your favorite biblical studies bloggers and tweeters and youtubers and the rest of social media.

And yes, I’ve stepped outside of the usual carnival parameters and included stuff that isn’t on blogs alone.  This because just as biblical studies changes over time, so have the means by which biblical studied discussions are promulgated.  Blogs are supplemented by videos and tweets and facebooks and tiktoks and other methods and all serve the grand purpose of getting the word out concerning the field we love.

The Carnival is divided into sections so that you can quickly locate your field of interest and then move on to the other parts.  Links are ‘curated’ (people love that word these days don’t they.  Even sandwiches are curated now…) with appropriate (and sometimes inappropriate) commentary by your host.  Me. Enjoy!  And if you have complaints, do see the management.  Me.  Your complaint will be filed immediately.


An international conference on Otto Dibelius was held in October.  There will doubtless be a conference volume forthcoming.

Wido van Peursen shared his thoughts in a post titled Impressions of the Tenth Meeting of the International Organization for Targumic Studies. A good time was had by all.

SBL is looking for a new Executive Director.  It could be you!  Or it could be Michael Kok, who here divulges moment by moment his SBL 2022 plans.  I hope he plans to eat a couple of times.

David Stark wants you to use Unicode when you type Hebrew or Greek (and honestly, he couldn’t be more right).  I like David.  He seems like a nice kid.

One of the original bibliobloggers, Torrey Seland, offered his readers a snippet of info on three Philo related essays.

100 years of excavations at Ur will be the topic of a 2 day conference in November.  All the details and how to sign up (it’s online) can be found here.

The Katz Center is sponsoring a series of lectures on messianism and the one on Nov 1 is titled Jewish Messianism in the Time of Early Christianity.  Go sign up now.  It’s at noon!

On 9 Nov at 13.30 GMT @CamDivinity is pleased to host a pubic debate between Simon Gathercole (Cambridge) and Francis Watson (Durham) from their recent books on canonical and noncanonical gospels, discussing ‘What’s the Difference?’ You can tweet the tweeter directly for the link.

Roberta Mazza had a genius discussion of the sale of the Colker manuscript collection.  Do not skip it.  She brings her usual brilliance to the task.

James Crossley will be chatting about Jesus in November.  It’s a live, in person event, so if you want to attend, you’ll have to registerExplainers talks return this November with a new topic- The Historical Jesus. Speaker: CenSAMM Academic co-Director James Crossley. The talk begins at 1.30pm in the Chapel, in the museum Gardens.

Brent Niedergall reviewed Logos 10.  The main takeaway for me of his review is- it’s faster than Logos 9.  But there’s a lot more to the review, so give it a read.  Brian Davidson reviewed it too.  So did one J. David Stark.  Doubtless others did as well as Logos seems to have carpet-bombed the interweb with review copies (dotting all the t’s and crossing all the i’s I reckon).

Do you like the Bible?  Do you like violence?  Well then this project on the Bible and violence may be just the thing to make you happy.

And speaking of violence, Steve Wiggins runs a blog with the title ‘sects and violence in the ancient near east’.  He posts a lot about horror and stuff mostly, but every now and again, on a blue moon, he’ll have something related to biblical studies.  I mention it merely because it’s a good one to drop in once a month or so to see if he’s produced a text with a theme we care about.  (His blogroll, though, is sadly nearly totally out of date.  Most of the links are dead or deactivated or haven’t produced anything for years).

Nijay Gupta has some advice if you want to be a writer.  My advice if you want to be a writer?  Be yourself and find your own process by discovering what works for you.  Everyone is different and one size definitely does NOT fit all

Peter Gurry had a nifty post (from May) on the strangulation and burning of William Tyndale, which anniversary took place on 6 October (which is why it is appearing in this Carnival).  He also points out that the last thing Tyndale requested were several Hebrew volumes so he could continue his work on translating the OT.  See, that’s scholarship.  No video games for Tyndale. He worked till they choked the life out of him.  Go be like Tyndale!

A-J Levine, one of my absolute favorites, discussed her latest book at this video link Join Dr. Amy-Jill Levine as she discusses with writer Rob Simbeck her new study, Signs and Wonders: A Beginner’s Guide to the Miracles of Jesus.  Do it!

The awful news that John P. Meier died on October 18th saddened all who knew him.  His work on the historical Jesus is unsurpassed (and sadly, even at 5 big volumes, incomplete).  He was a fixture at CBA and the funniest guy to talk to.  What a quick wit.  He will be sorely missed.  The CBA remembered him here.  Jona Lendering remembered him here.  He also was remembered by Jose Ayrton, Avvenire, MSN, some Spanish ‘Skepticism‘ site, Religion News Service, The University of Notre Dame, and Church Leaders.  Doubtless others have as well.  As is but right.  All should.

October also was the month during which Gordon Fee died.  (On October 25).  This is a sad loss for all who have been helped by his insightful work.  Peter Gurry shared his own feelings on the news.  So did Nijay Gupta.

Tweetings of Note

One of the benefits of twitter is that you can hear about books coming out long before they have a web presence on the publisher’s site.  To wit-

@alexichantz After a few big submissions yesterday, I decided to have a down day and read Martin Sanfridson’s PhD dissertation on gentile cults in 1 Cor 8 and 10 (@MattThiessenNT’s recent student). I’m really enjoying it! Congrats to Martin for his great work. Can’t wait to see it in print.

Another tweet about a book forthcoming-

@RowlandsJonny — So excited to see this arrive in the post today! My upcoming book, The Metaphysics of Historical Jesus Research, is now available to pre-order at 20% off! Release date 4th November.  

I know what you’re thinking:  ‘what, another historical Jesus quest????’  But who knows, this one may not end in participants gazing lovingly down a well where they see just what they’re looking for- themselves.  [Narrator: it won’t end with the historical Jesus].

And still another book was revealed.  This time it’s a commentary on Colossians.  It was tweeted by every Bible nerd’s best friend and every Bible nerd spouse’s worst enemy- @theologuide.

James Crossley tweeted this little gem-  @JGCrossley Replying to @bormann_lukas I still think Theissen and the Stegemanns were superior to Malina and his circle.  So say we all.

Joseph Scales tweeted this notice about his essay on Saul and ghosts.  On October 31.  So sort of appropriate.

In Sheffield

Sheffield’s Department of Biblical Studies along with Sheffield Phoenix Press are having a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Bibs Studs Dept. at SBL in a few weeks.  You can still sign up to join in.

A tweeter worth following is this chap- he’s an Italian biblical scholar in the making. He tweets at @BenattiJonathan and remarks “I submitted a proposal for my thesis at the Waldensian Faculty. I would like to explore the theme of the “suffering God in a groaning world” and how the Old Testament informed the theology of the New Testament on this topic. Let us see if it makes sense.” Yes, lets!

@jnsbstn — Wonderful news, the Qumran Dictionary of the Göttingen team is online in alpha version. A huge thanks to Annette Steudel, Ingo Kottsieper and Reinhardt Kratz. This is the result of many years of incredible work. Thank you.   How completely cool is that?

T&T Clark tweeted Andrew M. Mbuvi destabilises dominant white Euro-American approaches to biblical studies, positing the need for biblical interpretation that is anti-colonial and anti-racist.

One of the best twitter threads that appeared in October is by Nick Posegay of Cambridge-  So there’s this box in the Genizah Research Unit at @theUL. It’s labelled “Worman Archive.” It’s supposed to be full of stuff associated with Ernest James Worman, a librarian who catalogued the #Genizah collection 120 years ago. Yesterday I found out that’s not all true.  Read the whole.  Nick also posted a great thread on a letter of Solomon Schechter on the discovery of the Hebrew text of Ben Sira.

Here is some really important news via the twitter-

@AbernethyOTProf — Check this out. I’m super grateful for the work of Every Voice, led by @drandrewmking, @charlie_trimm, @brittanydkim. They’ve created a database for bibliographies on works by Black and Arab OT Scholars…Asian and Latino/a are to come.


Here’s something you need to keep an eye out for:  @HDayfani Proofs time! This will be out shortly and be available in #OpenAccess– (click to enlarge)

This is a bit of fantastic news for the Oxyranchus Papyrus project:  @Papyrus_Stories — The Oxyrhynchus papyri have a new online database! Images of papyri are included with links to other databases that provide further info. Hopefully one day translations of the material can be added to increase accessibility beyond non-Greek papyrologists.

And again, something noteworthy-  @WillKynes Proofs from a forthcoming chapter in Fifty Years of Wisdom: Gerhard von Rad and the Study of the Wisdom Literature (ed. Timothy Sandoval & Bernd Schipper; @SBLsite Press). I argue von Rad’s interpretation of Job was ahead of its time.

I absolutely enjoy the snippets posted by this tweeting account on New Testament manuscripts.  Always fascinating historical tidbits.  Most definitely worth following is @greekntestament.

Jeremiah Coogan has a new book coming out on Eusebius that will probably be of interest to students of the era.  We learn about it in the tweetings of @jstscu.

SBL/AAR meets in November and because there are so many boozy beer swillers who attend, there’s a craft beer get together.  You’re urged to bring along your favorite sort of Satan’s urine and enjoy an evening of swilling it with like minded swillers.  See, you thought twitter was pointless…

Twitter can truly be crap sometimes, but sometimes it’s also the source of very good things. You just have to claw through the manure to find the gold.

Books People Liked

Emily Gathergood recommends Grant Macaskill’s new volume on the New Testament and something called intellectual humility.  Wut?

Deane Galbraith enjoyed James Crossley and the Marxist radical Robert Myles’ new book on Jesus.  Which, I’m disgusted to say, isn’t even available here in the gulag of America until March of 2023.  What insanity.  I’m very keen to read it.

UPDATE on the previous paragraph:  Deane was kind enough to send a for sale copy of the Crossley / Myles book and I’ve been spending time reading it.  Enjoyable time.  It’s a great little book.  There’s good chunks that biblical scholars will be familiar with but there’s also lots to learn about seeing Jesus through their particular lens.  I recommend it.  (I didn’t review it because I paid for it; but I did make Robert sad by annoying him with a ‘why you should have sent a copy’ post).

The inestimable John Barton has a new book coming out (in November in the UK and not till May in the US… ugh….)  Nuff said really.  John is incapable of producing anything that isn’t superb.  He is the greatest scholar of our day working in Hebrew Bible.

Phil Long reviewed John Goldingay’s commentary on Jeremiah.  Few better exegetes than Goldingay presently exist and there just aren’t any books of the Bible better than Jeremiah.  Put the two together (with a generally skillful reviewer) and you’re bound to have a delight.

Heather Thiessen likes several books which she, thankfully, shares her thoughts concerning here.  I.e., the three volumes of A People and a Land (Vol. I The End of the Beginning; Vol. II The Road to Kingship; Vol. III The Land and Its Kings; 2019 & 2020, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company).   Give it a look.

Torrey Seland has a new book out on Peder Borgen.  Not sure who that is?  Well that’s a good reason to read the book isn’t it!

Very exciting news- a new volume on the fantastic work of Gerhard von Rad is out.

I reviewed a book about Julius Wellhausen’s dissertation that I want to make sure you hear about if you already haven’t.  The book is AMAZINGLY good.  I also reviewed a very differently organized volume titled Conversations on Canaanite and Biblical Themes.  You’ll have to see it to believe it.  Finally, I also reviewed Kenosis.  A genuinely great book with an assemblage of great essays (with the exception of one, which was rather weak because its author tried far too hard to be clever rather than helpful.  Consequently, the essay was only clever by half).

Candida Moss liked Jeremiah Coogan’s book on Eusebius (even if the headline is a tad click-baity).  The Daily Beast gotta get eyes on essays somehow.  The book itself sounds engaging enough.  Pity people can’t be urged to read things just because they merit reading and instead these days have to be ‘bribed’ to do it by excessively overstated headlines.  Candida also talked with the Jesuits about hell and death and demons and other fun stuff.  Excellently too.  She’s such a talented thinker.  Grateful for her every contribution.

Rachel Wilkowski is on a podcast thing talking about Children’s Bibles.  She’s a PhD student at Trinity College, Dublin, so she has to be smart.  Give it a listen.

A forthcoming volume that will be of interest to a large number of people titled Misusing Scripture: What Are Evangelicals Doing with the Bible?  I’ll tell you what they are doing: misrepresenting it.

Also forthcoming are two books by Konrad Schmid.  One on the Priestly writings and another a collection of his essays on numerous things.  Both from SBL Press.

Siebenthal’s Greek Grammar is now available, for free, to download in PDF and other e-formats.  (I bought a print copy last year.  I really like it).

Someone called Dean Flemming has a new book on Revelation titled Foretaste of the Future: Reading Revelation in Light of God’s Mission which he describes on Nijay Gupta’s blog.  Here.

Eric Van Den Eykel has a new volume on the Magi (it’s a reception history of the Magi since there isn’t enough material in the New Testament itself to actually write a book length treatment of a few guys who show up in a few verses).  A friend of his is thrilled to announce it here.  If you like wise guys, it looks like a book you’ll love.

Jennifer Guo reviewed a book titled A Spiritual Economy: Gift Exchange in the Letters of Paul of Tarsus.  It must be a real barn burner because she read it in two days!  What better endorsement could there be for a book than that it was literally unputdownable!

New Testament Stuff

I have a confession to make:  of all the posts I read in October this one by Elijah Hixson was my favorite.  It’s on the misrepresentation of Dan Wallace’s remarks in the preface to a fairly recent book on, you guessed it, Textual Criticism.  It is a carefully constructed very erudite and yet perfectly clear blogging.  Elijah is quite the explainer / investigator / clarifier / and misprision destroyer.  You simply must read it.  It is both art and science.  It is a thing of beauty.

Dan McClellan has some thoughts to share on a TikTok video about an Icthys Wheel.  Not sure what that is?  He’ll tell you.

Michael Barber continues to blog at The Sacred Page where he generally provides essays concerning the RCL each week.  Mike is an old time blogger like Tilling and Goodacre and Seland and Davila and yours truly.

If the issue of hapax in NT texts is an interest of yours, you’ll enjoy this: Death by a Thousand Cuts: Examining Biblical Hapax Legomena One Word at a Time.

Nice work over at ETC on the missing verses in the KJV.  Peter Gurry is a good and competent explainer.  And Peter Head is miffed at a problem with a manuscript of Mark 10:45.  And Elijah Hixson wants you to know that scribal scribbles in margins can find their way into the text itself.

Mike Bird talks about the Didache.  For 20 or so minutes. If you like Australian accents, this may be right up your alley.

Craig Evans wasted time spent some time debating the Jesus Mythicists on the Associates for Biblical Research site.  It illustrates perfectly why the entire ‘apologetic’ enterprise is a Sackgasse.  Barth was right about a lot of stuff (though not as right as Brunner); but his view of ‘apologetics’ as the defense of the faith against atheists and agnostics was spot on.  God doesn’t need people to defend him, and it’s hubris to think he does. Besides, Maurice Casey (may he rest in peace) obliterated once and for all the entire Jesus Myth rubbish.  PS- no one changes their mind because of such things.  On either side.

Lauren Larkin posted a sermon she preached on Luke 17:11ff.  Give it a listen if you are so inclined.  And she posted one she preached on Psalms.  Because she isn’t a Marcionite.  Ok, fine, it was on Luke too.  But she cited Psalms.  So she isn’t a Marcionite.

Stephen Carlson had good things to say about an unread uncited dissertation on the Majority Text that he thinks should get more notice.  It’s for the text crit people.

Ken Schenck talks about Acts 10.  Did you know that there are things about the passage you may not know?!?!?!  Ken says you don’t.  So he wants to fix that.

Someone named Will on twitter mentioned one of those podcast things.  This one’s about Paul using clay to make people or something.  I don’t listen to podcasts but you might.  The pod people weird me out, so I avoid all of them.  Rambling on like loonies in the bin to invisible ‘friends’.  So weird.

Another podcast On Early Christian Magic showed up in October.  Sounds like it was an intriguing discussion.  You may want to check it out.  It’s an interview with Shaily Patel.

Oh, speaking of podcasts… @CSNTM noted Our founder Dr. Daniel B. Wallace spoke with @PrestonSprinkle on his @RawTheology podcast. Check out their conversation on your favorite podcast platform!

And if you have a favorite podcast platform, repent!

The text and canon people took a look at the place Revelation found itself in in various manuscripts of the New Testament.  You’ll enjoy it (as much as one can enjoy anything by Clark Bates).

How did Jesus pronounce his own name?  Did he go with Yeshua, or did he deviate from the norm and use Yehoshua?  Well there’s a post that appeared at the end of September but which I didn’t hear about until it was tweeted in early October.  So since it showed up (for me) in October, here it is.  It’s super.

Hebrew Bible Stuff

The always gracious ever learned Claude Marriottini has a brief but cogent and useful introduction to the book of Joel on his blog this month.  Give it a look.  He also had a very interesting look at Job and his BFF Bildad.

Cynthia Schafer Elliott wrote a gem of a piece on the literary context of the Hebrew Bible on the ‘Bible for Normal People’ blog ( which is usually festooned with Peter Enns’ stuff but this time it’s an excellent post!)  Excellent!

Jim Davila had some thoughts on the implementation of the latest archaeological craze- paleomagnetic archaeology.  Who doesn’t like magnets?  They’re cool!  And if they help us learn that the Bible is a newspaper report of ancient doings in Israel, who are we to be skeptical?

Do you like illustrated manuscripts?  Do you like the Psalter?  Well then you’ll love both as they are discussed hereAmong the treasures housed in the British Library is the Luttrell Psalter. It is a lavishly illustrated early 14th century manuscript commissioned by Sir Geoffrey Luttrell.

Like witches?  Like Old Testament witches?  Like Old Testament witches who are nameless and are only known because they come from Endor?  Well Bible Odyssey posted a thing on the Witch of Endor you’ll enjoy.

Peter Williams directs your attention to a neat little video on the you tube discussing how Hebrew pronunciation has changed over time.

Yonatan Adler wondered when Jews started observing Torah.  Hint, it wasn’t under Moses…

The planet is mad at you!  Justifiably really.  To find out why, read this great piece titled Qoheleth: The Earth Versus Humanity.

Logan Williams is leading a reading group looking at unpointed Hebrew texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls.  Particularly, at the Damascus Document.  You can sign up and sit in on zoom., but it’s also in person if you’re in Exeter.

Yonatan Adler’s new book on the origins of Judaism has now been published.  He makes the announcement here.

Emily Gathergood announced the good news that the Nottingham Biblical Research Seminar was returning.  It kicked off mid October with a session on reading Jonah’s song intertextually, but more sessions are coming.  Sign up info is at the link.  You still have time.

There’s a new site called the Armstrong Institute of Biblical ArchaeologyAIBA’s mission is to showcase Israel’s biblical archaeology and to make it available to the largest audience possible, most especially to the people of Israel.

AWOL posted news of a new Open Access resource called Abgadiyat: Journal of Ancient, Modern and Digital Scripts and Inscriptions.  Surely something that will be useful to many.  PS- AWOL is one of the old guard blogs.  One of the few still operating (along with Jim Davila’s and my own.   Goodacre seems to have sadly moved away from it, having only posted in June of this year and way back in 2020 before that.  And Tilling too seems to have withered among the stones.  Both a great loss really.  They made academia a much better place).


The End of the Matter…

Apparently no one posted Carnival 199 in October so I did by posting a previous Classic Carnival.  So I’m still counting this as number 200 because it is and should have been and should still be.  Phil writes

I still need a volunteer for November 2022 (Due December 1), and December 2022 (Due January 1).  Or, if you are into long term planning, any month in 2023.

If you have thought about hosting, now is the time to step up and contact me via email, or DM on twitter (plong42) to discuss hosting a Biblical Studies carnival. If you are a new BiblioBlogger, this is a good way to get your blog some recognition. And, to quote Jim West, “They are fun to do!”

And, as an added bonus, if you do one, it makes it unlikely that I will!


NB– Zwingli was butchered on October 11, 1531 by the papists at Kappel-am-Albis.  And since this carnival covers the month of October, I am duty bound to make mention of it.  Sure, it’s not ‘biblical studies’ per se, but daggnabbit it’s my carnival.  When you do your Carnival, you can include lesser persons.

#ICYMI- “The Unreformed Martin Luther: A Serious (and Not So Serious) Look at the Man Behind the Myths”

After five hundred years of examining the life of the “father of the Reformation,” we must surely know all there is to know about Martin Luther. But is that true?

  • Did he really nail his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door?
  • Did he throw an inkpot at the devil?
  • Did he plant an apple tree?
  • Did his wife escape her convent in a herring barrel?

German radio and television journalist Andreas Malessa looks at the actual history of Luther and concludes that many of the tales we know best are nothing but nonsense.

Diving gleefully into the research, Malessa investigates many of the falsehoods and fallacies surrounding the reformer, rejecting them in favor of equally incredible facts. Full of humor and irony, this book educates and entertains while demonstrating a profound respect for Luther’s life and mission.

If you’re looking for the truth of the man behind the theses, come discover his faith and influence–with the myths stripped away.

Kregel have provided a review copy.   It is an English edition of this little and thoroughly fantastic book.  If the English rendition is as good as the German original, this book belongs in every person’s hands.

Kenosis: The Self-Emptying of Christ in Scripture and Theology

Seventeen distinguished scholars from the fields of biblical studies, historical theology, and systematic theology engage with the past and present significance of the doctrine of kenosis—Paul’s extraordinary claim in Philippians 2 that Jesus Christ emptied and humbled himself in obedience on his way to death upon the cross.

In the “Christ-hymn” of Philippians 2, the apostle Paul makes a startling claim: that Jesus “emptied himself” in order to fulfill God’s will by dying on the cross. The self-emptying of Christ—theologically explored in the doctrine of kenosis—is a locus within Christology and factors significantly into understandings of the Trinity, anthropology, creation, providence, the church, and even ethics. As such, it has been debated and reflected upon for centuries.

The present volume draws together some of the finest contemporary scholars from across the ecumenical spectrum to expound the doctrine of kenosis—its biblical roots, its historical elaborations, and its contemporary implications. With original essays from John Barclay, Beverly Roberts Gaventa, David Fergusson, Katherine Sonderegger, Thomas Joseph White, and more, this indispensable resource offers an extensive overview of this essential affirmation of Christian faith.


John M. G. Barclay, Matthew J. Aragon Bruce, David Fergusson, Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Kevin W. Hector, Keith L. Johnson, Cambria Kaltwasser, Han-luen Kantzer Komline, Grant Macaskill, John A. McGuckin, Paul T. Nimmo, Georg Pfleiderer, Rinse H. Reeling Brouwer, Hanna Reichel, Christoph Schwöbel, Katherine Sonderegger, and Thomas Joseph White.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Canvas of Kenosis (Paul T. Nimmo and Keith L. Johnson)
1. Kenosis and the Drama of Salvation in Philippians 2 (John M. G. Barclay)
2. Power and Kenosis in Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Beverly Roberts Gaventa)
3. The Vocation of the Son in Colossians and Hebrews (Grant Macaskill)
4. The Divine Name as a Form of Kenosis in Both Biblical Testaments (Rinse H. Reeling Brouwer)
5. Origen of Alexandria on the Kenosis of the Lord (John A. McGuckin)
6. Augustine, Kenosis, and the Person of Christ (Han-luen Kantzer Komline)
7. Cyril of Alexandria and the Sacrifice of Gethsemane (Katherine Sonderegger)
8. Divine Perfection and the Kenosis of the Son (Thomas Joseph White, OP)
9. Kenosis as Condescension in the Theology of Martin Luther (Matthew J. Aragon Bruce)
10. The Revisioning of Kenosis after the Critique of Schleiermacher (Paul T. Nimmo)
11. Kenosis and the Humility of God (David Fergusson)
12. Is There a Kenotic Ethics in the Work of Karl Barth? (Georg Pfleiderer)
13. Kenosis and the Mutuality of God (Cambria Kaltwasser)
14. Kenosis and Divine Continuity (Keith L. Johnson)
15. The Generosity of the Triune God and the Humility of the Son (Christoph Schwöbel)
16. The End of Humanity and the Beginning of Kenosis (Hanna Reichel)
Epilogue: Kenosis as a Spiritual Practice (Kevin W. Hector)
List of Contributors

Since the very beginning of the Christian Church pastors and theologians have struggled to understand just how it is that Jesus is both God and man.  Central to this quest for the divine human Jesus is Philippians 2.  And central to Philippians 2 is the ‘Hymn’ of vv. 5ff-

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:5-11)

In Greek-

Τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, ἀλλ᾽ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος· καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. διὸ καὶ ὁ θεὸς αὐτὸν ὑπερύψωσεν καὶ ἐχαρίσατο αὐτῷ τὸ ὄνομα τὸ ὑπὲρ πᾶν ὄνομα, ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός.

And central to the ‘Hymn’ (if it even is a hymn) is the simple little word ἐκένωσεν.  And so we come to the title of the present book: Kenosis.

What can it possibly mean to say that Jesus ‘ἐκένωσεν’ himself?  And what does it tell us of the central question of Christian theology: how can Jesus be both divine and human?  A lot of ink has been spilled over time in quest of the answer for that question.  I did a quick ‘dirty’ search of the word ‘Kenosis’ at our University library and found 503 articles, 89 book chapters, 177 books, 4 conference proceedings, 1 Journal, and 9 newspaper articles which used that word.  I’m fairly confident that that is merely a drop in the ocean.

All of which is to say, the topic at hand is massive.  That Nimmo and Johnson took it upon themselves to attempt to cover the wide range of theological attempts to examine the notion of Kenosis is itself a quite bold move.  That they did so, brilliantly thanks to their many gifted and wise contributors, is a tribute to their acumen and to their network of scholarly friends.  They asked the right people to write the right essays to come up at the end of the process with a book that is nothing short of an encyclopedia of Kenosis.

A glance at the contents above shows how carefully they chose their authors and how perceptively they laid out their volume.  Beginning with the text in question and the astonishingly intelligent John Barclay, the book sets off to help readers comprehend one of theology’s most complex and important doctrines.  Had they chosen to set their sights on the Doctrine of the Trinity they could not have set themselves a tougher task.

Essays 2-4 look into the notion of Kenosis (if not the word itself) in other New Testament texts and indeed, in essay 4, the whole of the Bible.

Beginning in essay 5 we take a tour of the notion of Kenosis in the Church Fathers, beginning with Origen and working through Augustine, and ending with Cyril of Alexandria.

Then the volume takes a turn, leading readers into a more theologically themed series of investigations.  Here in essays 8 through 16, we are instructed in how the notion of kenosis is played out in such things as divine perfection, the humility of God, the mutuality of God, divine continuity, and humanity.  Along the way essays are interspersed which examine kenosis in major theologians like Scheleirmacher, Luther, and Barth.

The contributors come from a wide range of perspectives and traditions, and there are males and females in the ranks.

Most of the essays are brilliantly written and some are very good (if not exactly brilliant).  Among the most stellar are the work of John Barclay (who as an exegete is simply unsurpassed), Rinse H. Reeling Brouwer, David Fergusson (which for the present reviewer was the best of the entire lot- his is a true tour de force of theological brilliance, and I will return to it momentarily), and Hanna Reichel (who is probably the most gifted writer [qua writer] of the bunch).

Regarding Fergusson’s essay, he asks the right questions in the right way so that readers think along with him.  He provides something akin to a history of the topic in the 19th century and since and sets it within the narrower context of Anglican theology.  Then he moves forward in time to describe the kenotic views of people like Barth and Temple.  And having done that he invites readers to ponder the issue a bit differently:

My intention in this essay … is to underscore the real gains that are made by emphasizing kenosis in terms of divine humility.

And so next he discusses the ‘Homeliness and Courtesy of God’.  Both terms have precise meanings in theological contexts and he does a very fine job of explaining them.  And their implications.  After doing so thoroughly he opines

Here we can discern something about the power of God in the foolishness of the cross, together with the reasons why Jesus pronounced the blessedness of the poor, the meek, the bereaved, and those who hunger for justice.  The energizing force of this faith permeates the New Testament, standing as a permanent challenge to a wearied church that regards its best days as past.  The presence of God when determined by the particularity of the life and work of Christ becomes a power manifested in weakness.  Any account that we offer of an incarnation or indwelling of God in the created order takes its bearing from this unsubstitutable narrative of the gospel story.

And finally

The kenosis of God is the outpouring of a divine love, yet in this entering into weakness it manifests a strange new power.

And I will let you read the bit after that for yourself (pp. 210f), because it is genius and I don’t want to spoil your chance to have goosebumps pop up on your arms and the hair stand up on the back of your neck.

The volume concludes with an epilogue and the usual end matter stuff.  But it’s not a book that you finish.  It’s a book that you continue to think about even after you’ve set it aside and moved on to the next volume occupying your unread book shelf (or pile, if you’re one of those awful people who piles books on desks).

If you open this book, you will be challenged.  From the first page to the last, you will be driven to deeper thinking of a deeply provocative and deeply important theological theme.

Do it.

Demons in Early Judaism and Christianity: Characters and Characteristics

For Jews and Christians in Antiquity beliefs about demons were integral to their reflections on fundamental theological questions, but what kind of ‘being’ did they consider demons to be? To what extent were they thought to be embodied? Were demons thought of as physical entities or merely as metaphors for social and psychological realities? What is the relation between demons and the hypostatization of abstract concepts (fear, impurity, etc) and baleful phenomenon such as disease? These are some of the questions that this volume addresses by focussing on the nature and characteristics of demons — what one might call ‘demonic ontology’.

Hector M. Patmore and Josef Lössl

Demonic Exegesis
Hector M. Patmore

Δαίμονες and Demons in Hellenistic Judaism: Continuities and Transformations
Anna Angelini

The Demon Asmodeus in the Tobit Tradition: His Nature and Character
Beate Ego

Paul’s Suprahumanizing Exegesis: Rewriting the Defeat of God’s Enemies in 1 Corinthians, Romans, and Ephesians
John K. Goodrich

Courting Daimons in Corinth: Daimonic Partnerships, Cosmic Hierarchies and Divine Jealousy in 1 Corinthians 8–10
Matthew Sharp

Demons and Vices in Early Christianity
Tom de Bruin

The ‘Demonogony’ of Tatian’s Oratio ad Graecos: Jewish and Greek Influences
Josef Lössl

St. Jerome, Demons, and Jewish Tradition
C. T. R. Hayward

Demonic “Tollhouses” and Visions of the Afterlife in Pseudo-Cyril of Alexandria’s Homily: De exitu animi
Emmanouela Grypeou

10 The Naked Demon: Alternative Interpretations of the Alexamenos Graffito
Hagit Amirav and Peter-Ben Smit

11 Negotiating Danger: Demonic Manipulations in Jewish Babylonia
Alexander W. Marcus

12 Demons and Scatology: Cursed Toilets and Haunted Baths in Late Antique Judaism
Ilaria Briata

13 The King of Demons in the Universe of the Rabbis
Reuven Kiperwasser

14 The Gender and Sexuality of Demons in the Art of the Aramaic Incantation Bowls
Naama Vilozny

This is a gloriously informative collection of essays that

… developed out of the research project, Demonic Exegesis: The Role of Biblical Interpretation and Exegetical Encounter in the Shaping of Jewish and Christian Demonologies, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.  … Some of the papers gathered in this volume were presented at specially convened sessions at the SBL Annual Meeting, the EABS Annual Conference, and the International Conference on Patristic Studies.

Each of the essays contributes to our understanding of things demonic or at least how various writers of antiquity understood things demonic.  For instance in the Introduction we discover that

… in an ironic twist, demons came to function as a rhetorical device to reinforce collective identities and provide clearly defined community boundaries.  The Christians of fourth century Antioch, for example, were accustomed to consulting Jewish magicians who they found to be effective at alleviating afflictions caused by demons; John Chrysostom felt that Christian identity was sufficiently threatened by this that he attempted to dissuade his congregants from this practice by preaching a series of notorious anti-Jewish homilies, in which he condemned the synagogue as a dwelling-place of demons (e.g., Adv. Jud. 1.3).

In chapter One we read

… the books of the Hebrew Bible contain scant references to demons, perhaps even none at all. As Jewish, and then Christian demonology developed, readers of the Hebrew Bible increasingly found demons in texts that did not originally refer to demons. ‘Demonic exegesis’ is the name I give to this phenomenon.

Chapter Six insists

Throughout Hermas there is a conceptualization of vices as supernatural beings, which is unique among the Apostolic Fathers. Francis Gokey, analyzing Satan and evil spirits in the Apostolic Fathers, concludes that this is “one of the most typical and distinctive traits” of Hermas.

And, for the final example, in Chapter Twelve (one of the most enjoyable of all these enjoyable essays) the author asserts that

“Some rabbis say” is not simply an orientalist reference. Tractate Sanhedrin of the Babylonian Talmud (64a) recounts in fact the story of a certain Jew, Sabta of Eles, who hires out his donkey to a gentile woman. When she chooses to stop by a temple dedicated to Baal Peor, he entered, reached the altar, defecated, and wiped his rear on the nose of the idol. “No one had ever seen such devotion,” said the acolytes! Not a demon (yet), in this cultural phase Baal Peor is still a false god—and the carnivalesque narrative can be understood in the perspective of a theological shitstorm.

What is to be made of all this material?  Readers are given a rare gift by the authors of these essays: understanding.  Readers come to a fuller, better, clearer understanding of the issues presented and they do so by being informed in the clearest and in many cases the most humorous of ways.

These essays are not simply dry history or dull scholarship.  They are delightful works of prose.  Demons may be dark but their presentation in the present work is anything but.

Reading this wonderful volume, I am reminded of something J.D. Salinger wrote –  “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

I wish the essayists who contributed to this volume were folk I could call on the phone and chat with about the things they’ve written.  I’d like to hear more from them.  I think you will feel the same when you’ve read it too.  This is the sort of book Sir Francis Bacon had in mind when he remarked once “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”

This work is the latter.

Tolle, lege!

The “Exodus” in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31)

This book addresses the dearth of study in Lukan scholarship on the transfiguration account and provides a model of new exodus based on the Song of the Sea (Exod 15) beyond the two major—Deuteronomi(sti)c and Isaianic—models. The proposed Exodus 15 pattern explicates the enigmatic phrase “his ‘exodus’ in Jerusalem” in the transfiguration account. It also elucidates how the seemingly discordant motifs of Moses and David are conjoined within a larger drama of the (new) exodus and the subsequent establishment of Israel’s (eschatological) worship space. This shows how Luke deals with the issues of temple (Acts 7), circumcision (Acts 15), and the ambivalent nature of Jerusalem.

Shin exhibits a good deal of exegetical skill and mastery of the secondary literature in this revised doctoral dissertation.  He believes that “… the Lukan transfiguration contains many features that not only deserve more attention on their own but are also critical to understanding the entire two-volume work of Luke-Acts” and he sets about in this work to address that oversight.

His book assembles all the right material, analyzes all the right data, and provides students and scholars with a reasoned, measured, articulate argument.  This is a classic dissertation.  It checks all the boxes and does all of the right things.

And it will be of interest to a very narrow audience.

The very nature of doctoral dissertations is to show a committee of professors that the hopeful graduate has done all the reading, studied all the material, thought long and hard about the particulars, and distilled it all into a digestible (not too awfully long) whole.  Dissertations demonstrate knowledge and an ability to communicate.  That’s what this one does too.

But dissertations are not meant to be widely consumed.  They are specialist literature for specialists alone.  They are never made into movies and they never gain fame for their authors.  No doctoral dissertation has ever made the New York Times best seller list.  This one won’t either.

But they do achieve, when well constructed, something far more valuable than merely attracting the passing attention of the pop culture fixated common hoard.  They teach.  They instruct.  They advance our understanding of the topic they address.  They make their readers better informed and smarter and more knowledgeable.   They do something that none of the fictional books by Tolkein or Lewis or J.K. Rowling ever can and ever would:  they enlighten.

Well done dissertations add value to cultures.  They each, in their own particular way, contribute their cup of knowledge to the vast ocean of human knowing.  And for that reason alone they are justified.  And they should be read.

They should be taken in hand by more than just their author, the author’s family (who probably are glad to have a copy of a book written by their loved one which they’ll nonetheless never read nor understand), and their author’s committee (who probably read it more carefully than anyone else ever will).  They should be read by those preparing their own dissertations so as to see how things can be done.  They should be read by professors who are in the process of course preparation so that the latest, most cutting edge material will be made use of.  They should be read by scholars of the field the topic represents.

They deserve to be read.  This dissertation deserves to be read for those and other reasons.

Shin remarks that he will provide in it, among other things, “… a preliminary exegesis of the Lukan transfiguration account, [because] the Lukan account repeatedly bears on the issue of Israel’s restoration hope and demands a systematic investigation into Israel’s scriptural traditions.”

So, when all is said and done, does Shin do what he promises to do?   He does, and more.  For he as he concludes he points forward to further work which needs to be done on the subject.

Indeed, he writes, as his final assertion, that “Given the importance of the exodus pattern proposed in the present study, these correspondences inquire anew the relationship between the Gospel of John and the Synoptic Gospels, particularly concerning whether these are an indication that the Johannine tradition may have been among Luke’s sources or that the early Christian authors somehow shared common interpretive practices, in which major scriptural substory forms played a key role in understanding the meaning of what had happened to Jesus.”

Perhaps that will be his next work.  While we await it, read this one.