Category Archives: Books

Get Yourself a Commentary on the Entire Bible

Which one?  Well I’m glad you asked.  You can get the PDF edition of the entire series for a shockingly low  $75.  The books are all available by clicking my PayPal Link.  When you send your payment include your email address please and the books will be sent along quite quickly.  It’s a very good series if I do say so.  Aimed at layfolk and general readers, it is the only modern commentary on the entire Bible by a single author.

***

Endorsement

The best commentaries.  – Kevin Wilkinson, Singapore

The Carnival is Coming

I’m hosting the January 2021 Biblical Studies Carnival (posting 1 February).

Here are the categories I’ll fill out (with your kind assistance):

Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament- The Bible of Jesus and the Early Church

New Testament- With Scant Mention of Paul Because He Gets Too Much Mention as it Is

Archaeology and Such Things

Books- Because Little Else Matters

Miscellaneous- Or, Stuff That Doesn’t Really Fit in The Main Categories

So if you see something, say something!  And thanks in advance.

Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans

For the Puritans, prayer was neither casual nor dull. Their prayers were passionate affairs, from earnestly pleading for mercy to joyful praise. These rich expressions of deep Christian faith are a shining example of holy living.

The Puritan combination of warm piety and careful intellect have fueled a renaissance of interest in their movement. This combination is on display in Piercing Heaven, a collection of carefully selected prayers from leading Puritans. The language in these prayers has been slightly updated for a modern audience while retaining the elevated tone of the Puritans. With prayers from Richard Baxter, Thomas Brooks, John Owen, and many more, each entry reminds us that heartfelt prayer is central to the Christian life.

What a timely volume.  It is filled with meaningful examples of prayer.  Very much worth a reading.

Free: A New Book Edited by Avraham Faust

Faust, A. (ed.), 2020, Archaeology and Ancient Israelite Religion, Basel: MDPI (260 pp.).

This is a book version of a special issue of Religions. The e-book can be downloaded for free using the following link: https://www.mdpi.com/books/pdfview/book/2835 (where the printed version can be purchased).

  • Yosef Garfinkel and Madelein Mumcuoglu, The Temple of Solomon in Iron Age Context
  • Avraham Faust, Israelite Temples: Where Was Israelite Cult Not Practiced, and Why
  • William G. Dever, Archaeology and Folk or Family Religion in Ancient Israel
  • Beth Alpert Nakhai, Women in Israelite Religion: The State of Research Is All New Research
  • Jonathan S. Greer, The Zooarchaeology of Israelite Religion: Methods and Practice
  • Zev Farber, Israelite Festivals: From Cyclical Time Celebrations to Linear Time Commemorations
  • Jeremy Smoak and William Schniedewind, Religion at Kuntillet ʿAjrud
  • Irit Ziffer, Moon, Rain, Womb, Mercy The Imagery of the Shrine Model from Tell el-Far‛ah North—(Biblical Tirzah)
  • Aaron Greener, Archaeology and Religion in Late Bronze Age Canaan
  • David Ben-Shlomo, Philistine Cult and Religion According to Archaeological Evidence
  • Margreet L. Steiner, Iron Age Cultic Sites in Transjordan
  • Craig W. Tyson, The Religion of the Ammonites: A Specimen of Levantine Religion from the Iron Age II (ca. 1000–500 BCE)

Jesus and the Manuscripts: What We Can Learn from the Oldest Texts

Jesus and the Manuscripts, by popular author and Bible scholar Craig A. Evans, introduces readers to the diversity and complexity of the ancient literature that records the words and deeds of Jesus. This diverse literature includes the familiar Gospels of the New Testament, the much less familiar literature of the Rabbis and of the Qur’ān, and the extracanonical narratives and brief snippets of material found in fragments and inscriptions.

This book critically analyzes important texts and quotations in their original languages and engages the current scholarly discussion. Evans argues that the Gospel of Thomas is not early or independent of the New Testament Gospels but that it should be dated to the late second century. He also argues that Secret Mark, like the recently published Gospel of Jesus’ Wife, is probably a modern forgery.

Of special interest is the question of how long the autographs of New Testament writings remained in circulation. Evans argues that the evidence suggests that most of these autographs remained available for copying and study for more than one hundred years and thus stabilized the text.

Ad Fontes!  That was the Reformers cry and that was the cry taken up by biblical scholars for the centuries afterward.  That is, until recently.  Recently, too many pastors and biblical scholars have turned from primary sources and adopted the absurd notion that reading biblical texts in translation is sufficient for preaching and teaching.

This has resulted in incredible damage being done to both theology and scripture studies and that damage has manifested itself in the wider society such that many who have zero ability or understanding of the Bible have been viewed by people as persons to be trusted and heeded.

And things will only get worse until the biblical languages regain their rightful place as the ONLY sufficient foundation for bible study.

Enter Evans’ book.  Comprised of 12 chapters, the present volume seeks to introduce readers to primary texts related to the Gospels and Acts and their importance for the most basic of all biblical studies tasks: textual criticism.  The chapters are

  1. How Old and How Many? The Oldest Witnesses to Jesus
  2. The Autographic Jesus: How Long Were Antique Books in Use?
  3. Jesus in the Jewish Gospels
  4. Jesus and Doubting Thomas: On the Genesis and Age of a Syrian Gospel (Part 1)
  5. Jesus and Doubting Thomas: On the Genesis and Age of a Syrian Gospel (Part 2)
  6. Cross Purposes: From Matthew to the Gospel of Peter
  7. Jesus and Judas: Making Sense of the Gospel of Judas
  8. The Sexual Jesus: Straight, Gay, or Married?
  9. Panther, Prophet, or Problem Child?
  10. Jesus in Small Texts
  11. Jesus and the Beginnings of the Christian Canon of Scripture
  12. Jesus in Print: Erasmus and the Beginnings of Textual Fundamentalism

There are also a bibliography, and indices of modern authors and ancient sources as well as a list of figures.

In his foreword to the volume, J.K. Elliott makes it abundantly clear that he has little patience for the latest fads of New Testament textual criticism.  He is particularly unimpressed by the ‘most recent fad to greet us’, the Coherence Based Genealogical Method.  And that’s just one of the several delights readers encounter as the book opens.

Many of the chapters have been published in different formats but here are thoroughly revised and rendered into a coherent whole.  The purpose of the work, as described by the author, is threefold: to introduce readers to ancient literature, to survey scholarship on those texts, and to asses the use and misuse of those texts.

The volume is dense and demanding.  It is littered with footnotes and readers without Greek will not be able to fully access what Evans writes.  There are no cheats, no transliterations.  Readers are expected to be able to read Greek (as all who work in textual criticism and New Testament studies should be).

Hebrew also appears, and it too is not transliterated.  Scholars of the material are demanded to be able to read the sources which they use in their work.  The really absurd thing about much modern scholarship is that such a notion has to be stated and simply can no longer be assumed as understood and known and embraced.

Evans has produced an incredibly impressive work and he deserves our appreciation for doing so.

Textual criticism matters.  Sources matter.  Reading sources matters.  When those things no longer matter, then New Testament scholarship dies.  Evans is trying to keep the foundation of New Testament studies alive.

He’s fighting a massive tide of laziness and academic indifference; but he will be victorious.  Along with all those wise enough to see the importance of such disciplines for wider academic pursuits and even for the well being of Church and society.

Häuslich – persönlich – innerlich. Bild und Frömmigkeitspraxis im Umfeld der Reformation

In the world of the Protestant Reformation, laypersons became the bearers of new practices and forms of personal appropriation and internalization of faith. Particularly in Protestantism, images played a central but hitherto neglected role in this process. As they address this theme, the multidisciplinary authors of this lavishly illustrated compilation repeatedly chart new territory.

With contributions of Berndt Hamm, Jörg Jochen Berns, Susanne Wegmann, Maria Deiters, Andreas Gormans, Ruth Slenczka, Volker Leppin, Christine Sauer, Ulrike Heinrichs, Sabine Hiebsch, Walter Melion, Wim François, Lee Palmer Wandel, Birgit Ulrike Münch, Christoph Brachmann, Grażyna Jurkowlaniec, Kai Wenzel.

You can read about this new volume here.

A Forthcoming Book that Will be of Interest to Many, Edited by Francesca Stavrakopoulou

*Life and Death: Social Perspectives on Biblical Bodies *explores some of the social, material, and ideological dynamics shaping life and death in both the Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel and Judah. Analysing topics ranging from the bodily realities of gestation, subsistence, and death, and embodied performances of gender, power, and status, to the imagined realities of post-mortem and divine existence, the essays in this volume offer exciting new trajectories in our understanding of the ways in which embodiment played out in the societies in which the texts of the Hebrew Bible emerged.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Figures
Notes on Contributors
Editor’s Note
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: The Materiality of Life and the Sociality of Death – Francesca Stavrakopoulou, University of Exeter, UK
Part One: Praxis and Materiality
  1. Blood and Hair: Body Management and Practice – Susan Niditch, Amherst College, USA
  2. Wherever the Corpse is, There the Vultures will Gather – Matthew J. Suriano, University of Maryland, USA
  3. ‘Know Well the Faces of Your Sheep’: Animal Bodies and Human Bodies – Rebekah Welton, University Exeter, UK

Part Two: Value, Status and Power

  1. Birthing New Life: Israelite and Mesopotamian Values and Visions of the Pre-born Child – Shawn W. Flynn, University of Alberta, Canada
  2. Persons with Disabilities, Unprotected Parties and Israelite Household Structures – Jeremy Schipper, Temple University, USA
  3. Modifying Manly Bodies: Mourning and Masculinities in Ezra 9-10 – Elisabeth Cook, Latin American Biblical University, Costa Rica
  4. The Wisdom of Ageing – Hugh Pyper, University of Sheffield, UK
Part Three: Extended Sociality
  1. Immortality and the Rise of Resurrection – Nicolas Wyatt, University of Edinburgh, UK
  2. Forming Divine Bodies in the Hebrew Bible – Daniel O. McClellan, University of Exeter, UK
Bibliography
Index

Today’s Durham New Testament Seminar Conference

Focused on Wendy North’s book ‘What John Knew and what John Wrote’ with responses by Elizabeth Corsar and Andy Byers.  It was a good presentation and discussion.

These online meetings may not be ideal, but they do allow much wider participation.

Quote of the Day: Understanding Scholars

In addition to diaries and correspondence, a scholar’s private library provides valuable clues about his interests and his spiritual universe as well as revealing the texts which influenced him. Hence, investigating someone’s private library is just as crucial in tracing his spiritual life and intellectual conflicts, as is the scrutiny of other personal documents. – Urs Leu

You show me your library, and I’ll show you who you are. Your library is a window into your soul.

Rudolf Bultmann / Hans Jonas Briefwechsel 1928–1976

Hans Jonas’ thinking cannot be understood without regard to the special intellectual and biographical formation he underwent in Marburg during the 1920s. Besides Martin Heidegger, the Protestant theologian Rudolf Bultmann is particularly worthy of mention in this context. The correspondence between Jonas and Bultmann is the principal source of insight into their personal and intellectual relationship. Apart from a few intervals, their communication spanned almost half a century, from 1928 until 1976. It is an exceptionally impressive record of a scholarly friendship and at the same time testimony to a momentous philosophical-theological dialogue: about questions of gnosis, about myth and »demythologizing«, and – last but not least – about Heidegger and his relation to theology.

Hans Jonas’ work on gnosticism, though now of course quite dated, was remarkably influential in his day and he was no mean scholar and no man of small importance.  And of course Bultmann’s significance needn’t be discussed since all who know anything about New Testament and Early Christianity know of him.

This book offers readers a window on their interactions.  The volume is comprised firstly of a foreword, where the editors speak directly to readers about the work.  This is followed by a more in depth introduction to the work by those same editors.

The body of the volume is comprised of the correspondence between Hans Jonas and Rudolf Bultmann.  The first letter dates to 21.4.1928 and was sent by Jonas to Bultmann.  In it he briefly describes his present situation and his upcoming travel plans and scholarly activities.  It’s a paragraph in length.

The second letter, dated 13.7.1929 from Jonas to Bultmann, is extraordinarily long and is far more an essay than a piece of correspondence.

I mention these first two letters to give readers a sense of the comprehensive nature of the correspondence between these two scholars and do so in order to stress the importance of this correspondence.  These letters invite us into the world shared by two very important thinkers.  They lay bare the inner workings of their minds and the outer circumstances of their lives.  They allow us in, in a way that academic works, essays, lectures, and monographs never can.  They make these scholars ‘real’ friends and companions on the journey of life.

The first letter in the collection from Bultmann to Jonas is dated 15 January, 1953.  Either materials have been lost (which seems likely, since Bultmann was very keen to respond to letters when he received them) of for some reason never sent (which, again, seems very unlikely given Bultmann’s very German personality).

The last two letters date from late 1975 to early 1976.  The last from Jonas included the funeral oration delivered at Hannah Arendt’s funeral in New York on December 8, 1975 which Jonas delivered, in English.  The last from Bultmann, dated 12 February, 1976, and Bultmann laments that he has not heard from Jonas since he sent the funeral oration.  He also mentions his advanced age and the death of his beloved wife and the joy that has been his with the company of his daughter.  5 Months later, on July 30, 1976, Bultmann would himself die.

There are really lovely photographs interspersed between these letters and there are also 9 appendices featuring materials like Bultmann’s foreword to Jonas’ Studies in Gnosticism and Jonas’ memorial lecture at Marburg after Bultmann had died among other things.

Finally, the work concludes with a bibliography, a list of image sources, and indices of places, persons, and subjects.

I cannot stress, again, how incredibly important this volume, and volumes like it, where correspondence between important scholars is made available, are.  We are allowed and indeed invited to sit down and read over the shoulders of the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.  Seeing their private (oftentimes) thoughts and watching at first hand the development of ideas we will find later more fully developed in their books and lectures.

This book is more than commendable.  In a very serious way, it is indispensable if we wish to comprehend the work of Jonas and the work of Bultmann.

Tolle, lege!

The Meeter Center Reflects on a Year of Books and their Publishers

A New Year reflection on books…and publishers

One of the joys of working in the Meeter Center is the day-to-day contact with books: old books, new books, rare books, monographs, multi-volume series…we have them all. Each one represents a real investment of time – definitely by the author, but also by the publisher, and all those involved in the process of getting a book from manuscript to published copy.

I’ve been thinking recently about publishers and the key role they play after I learned of the passing of William B. Eerdmans Jr., who died on November 13, 2020, at the age of 97. Those of us in Reformation and early modern studies cannot help but recognize the name – Eerdmans is known for its quality publications, primarily in theology and religious studies. The Eerdmans list in Reformation studies includes works by Heiko Oberman, John Thompson, Herman Selderhuis, Julie Canlis, Bob Kingdon, and more.

As an independent and family-owned business, Eerdmans stands out in a publishing world increasingly caught between by large publishing houses and the growing self-published market, and Bill Eerdmans stood out too. Taking over from his father at the helm of the company in 1963, and stepping down only in 2014, he deeply enjoyed building personal relations with authors and with other publishers both in North America and worldwide. He was a man of few words, deep faith, and profound enthusiasm, whose approach to business hearkened back to an older age, when a new project could be launched on the strength of a few notes jotted down and a handshake.

As we start a new year with various research and writing projects underway, it is good to take a moment to appreciate the key role of publishers, publishing houses, and presses in helping to disseminate our work. Tune in next time for my reflections on the important role played by librarians…

Karin Maag

The Devil and the Victorians: Supernatural Evil in Nineteenth-Century English Culture

In recent decades, there has been a growing recognition of the significance of the supernatural in a Victorian context. Studies of nineteenth-century spiritualism, occultism, magic, and folklore have highlighted that Victorian England was ridden with spectres and learned magicians. Despite this growing body of scholarship, little historiographical work has addressed the Devil. This book demonstrates the significance of the Devil in a Victorian context, emphasising his pervasiveness and diversity. Drawing on a rich array of primary material, including theological and folkloric works, fiction, newspapers and periodicals, and broadsides and other ephemera, it uses the diabolic to explore the Victorians’ complex and ambivalent relationship with the supernatural. Both the Devil and hell were theologically contested during the nineteenth century, with an increasing number of both clergymen and laypeople being discomfited by the thought of eternal hellfire. Nevertheless, the Devil continued to play a role in the majority of English denominations, as well as in folklore, spiritualism, occultism, popular culture, literature, and theatre. The Devil and the Victorians will appeal to readers interested in nineteenth-century English cultural and religious history, as well as the darker side of the supernatural.

Sounds so fun!

Synagogues in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods Archaeological Finds: New Methods, New Theories

The study of ancient Judaism has enjoyed a steep rise in interest and publications in recent decades, although the focus has often been on the ideas and beliefs represented in ancient Jewish texts rather than on the daily lives and the material culture of Jews/Judaeans and their communities. The nascent institution of the synagogue formed an increasingly important venue for communal gathering and daily or weekly practice. This collection of essays brings together a broad spectrum of new archaeological and textual data with various emergent theories and interpretative methods in order to address the need to understand the place of the synagogue in the daily and weekly procedures, community frameworks, and theological structures in which Judaeans, Galileans, and Jewish people in the Diaspora lived and gathered. The interdisciplinary studies will be of great significance for anyone studying ancient Jewish belief, practice, and community formation.

Worshiping with the Reformers

Worship of the triune God has always stood at the center of the Christian life. That was certainly the case during the sixteenth-century Reformation as well. Yet in the midst of tremendous social and theological upheaval, the church had to renew its understanding of what it means to worship God.

In this volume, which serves as a companion to IVP Academic’s Reformation Commentary on Scripture series, Reformation scholar Karin Maag takes readers inside the worshiping life of the church during this era. Drawing from sources across theological traditions, she explores several aspects of the church’s worship, including what it was like to attend church, reforms in preaching, the function of prayer, how Christians experienced the sacraments, and the roles of both visual art and music in worship.

With Maag as your guide, you can go to church—with the Reformers.

Karin is a super scholar.  You’ll learn a lot from her.

Mighty Baal: Essays in Honor of Mark S. Smith

And very much deserved indeed!

Mighty Baal: Essays in Honor of Mark S. Smith is the first edited collection devoted to the study of the ancient Near Eastern god Baal. Although the Bible depicts Baal as powerless, the combined archaeological, iconographic, and literary evidence makes it clear that Baal was worshipped throughout the Levant as a god whose powers rivalled any deity. Mighty Baal brings together eleven essays written by scholars working in North America, Europe, and Israel. Essays in part one focus on the main collection of Ugaritic tablets describing Baal’s exploits, the Baal Cycle. Essays in part two treat Baal’s relationships to other deities. Together, the essays offer a rich portrait of Baal and his cult from a variety of methodological perspectives.

Mark is the go to guy for all things Baal, and one of the nicest people you will ever meet at SBL or CBA.

Congratulations, Mark.  I can’t think of anyone more deserving.

A review copy arrived today.

Martin Kählers biblische Theologie: Grundzüge seines theologischen Werkes

Die vorliegende Studie versteht sich im Anschluss an die ältere und jüngere Kählerforschung und greift die offene Frage nach einem Verständnis des Lehrganzen (Johannes Wirsching) der Theologie Martin Kählers auf. Hierfür lehnt sie sich an Gerhard Sauters Rede von der Dogmatik als einem lebendigen “Sprachkörper” an, deren eigentümlicher Charakter sich in einer “ständig wiederkehrende(n) Struktur von Wörtern und Objekten” (Zugänge zur Dogmatik) niederschlägt. Diesen Sprachkörper versucht die Studie durch die Analyse der späten Kreuzesschrift (1911) von Martin Kähler in einem ersten Arbeitsschritt zu erschließen.

Das Resultat, nämlich die Grundbegriffe Bild, Wort, Geist und Geschichte werden dann im Folgenden gleichsam als Suchbegriffe auf repräsentative Schriften des sich über fünf Jahrzehnte erstreckenden Gesamtwerkes Kählers angewendet. Dabei wird u.a. deutlich, dass die wohl bekannteste Kählersche Schrift “Der sog. historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus” mit ihrem starken Bezug auf den Bild- und Geschichtsbegriff nicht nur ein Einzelstück des theologischen Denkens Martin Kählers darstellt, sondern inhaltlich eingebettet ist in das Gesamte seines theologischen Denkens.

Vor dem Hintergrund der persönlich-biographischen Prägungen sowie der theologischen Prägungen verdichtet sich im Durchgang durch das theologische Werk Kählers das Bild von einer im Großen und Ganzen inhaltlich einheitlichen Theologie, die konsequent an Text und Sprache der Heiligen Schrift orientiert ist.

V&R sent along a review copy today, for which I thank them.  More anon.

The Problem of the Old Testament: Hermeneutical, Schematic, and Theological Approaches

For Christians, the Old Testament often presents a conundrum. We revere it as God’s Word, but we don’t always comprehend it. It has great truths beautifully expressed, but it also has lengthy lists of names that we cannot pronounce, detailed rules for religious rites that we never observe, and grim stories that we never tell our children. Theologians and laypeople throughout church history have struggled to define it, interpret it, and reconcile it with the New Testament.

In The Problem of the Old Testament, Duane A. Garrett takes on this conundrum and lays a foundation for constructive study of the Old Testament. He surveys three primary methods Christians have used to handle the Old Testament, from the church fathers to today: hermeneutical, schematic, and conceptual. Garrett also explores major interpretive topics such as the nature of the law, the function of election and covenants, and how prophecy works, boldly offering a way forward that is faithful to the text and to the Christian faith.

As much as I am loathe to say something negative about a book (given my natural inclination to peacemaking and encouraging), I really, really disliked this one.  I mean I really disliked it.  I disliked it almost as much as I disliked A Discourse Analysis of Ruth.  Almost.  Though to be fair that book on Ruth still ranks as the worst book I have ever read.  This is the second worst.

Given my disdain for the volume it’s only fair that I offer my reasons why.  After all, just saying a book is horrible isn’t very helpful, is it.  Even if it’s the truth and one feels as though one is spending time that could be better spent on doing something else that would be more productive than ever thinking about the horrible thing again.  But here we are.

First, and most importantly, this book doesn’t see the Hebrew Bible for what it is: a pre-Christian text that has meaning and significance apart from any attachment to the New Testament.  It only sees it as a forerunner for the New Testament.

The opening sentence says as much:

In this book, I argue that the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and that it is authoritative and edifying for Christians.

Id est, the Old Testament is ‘filled’ with meaning only if interpreted Christocentrically.   To be sure, there is no doubt that many and even most Christians do see the Old Testament as nothing more than the forerunner to the New.  But is that what the Hebrew Bible really is?  Just a trunk that needs legs and arms and a head in order to be meaningful.  Hardly.  Indeed, the proper and only honest evaluation of the Hebrew Bible that should be taught to Christians is that the Hebrew Bible is self-sufficient and it is in fact the New Testament that is the appendage.

Luther’s falsehood, that ‘the Old Testament is the cradle in which the Christ child lay’ was wrong when he said it and it has been wrong ever since.  Only sloppy exegesis can make such a claim.  Sloppy, careless, and erroneous.

Which leads to my second reason for being filled with the same sort of disdain for this book as I am when I eat food that’s been in the fridge too long:  the exegesis is dreadful and sour and has the taste of just formed bacteria.

Readers of pp 234 ff where Garrett attempts to discuss what he calls ‘the four functions of the law’ lay bare the eisegetical nature of Garrett’s work.  And esiegetical is the kindest thing that can be said of it.  It is worse than mere eisegesis.  It is rubbish.

He writes

The laws of Torah come to their full realization in Jesus.

To this eisegetical nugget he attaches several sentences citing not texts from the Hebrew Bible but from the New Testament.

On page after page Garrett is trying to convince readers that without the New Testament, the Old is meaningless, truncated, inadequate.  This is not a book that cares about the Hebrew Bible.  It is a book that wants you to believe that the Hebrew Bible just doesn’t measure up until you plop Jesus onto its every page and then, and only then, does it have any real meaning.  That’s why the title of the book is ‘The Problem of the Old Testament’.  For Garrett the problem is that Jesus wasn’t in it so he must be forced in, no matter what.  And that, in his view, solves the ‘problem’.

The truth, though, is that Garrett’s reading of the Hebrew Bible is the real problem.

There are countless examples of poor exegesis throughout the volume but Garrett puts pen to paper and makes his intention clearest is his little treatment of Isaiah 7:14.  He starts out sounding as though he actually wants to comprehend what Isaiah says, but what he really wants to do is get readers away from Isaiah so he can mention Jesus, again.  Here’s how he ends the book:

Matthew did not give us an exhaustive treatment of Isaiah 7:14, but his claim that it was ‘fulfilled’ in the virginal birth of Jesus is legitimate.

Matthew did indeed cite Isaiah; but his understanding of the passage is far more nuanced that Garrett seems to realize.

And that brings us to the final reason why I dislike this book as much as I disliked Netflix’s ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ (a trash film if ever there were one):  Garrett lacks the one thing that interpreters of the Hebrew Bible require (aside of course from a very thorough grasp of Hebrew and Aramaic)- a sense of how ancient texts work and the nuances of which they are capable.

Garrett is a flat reader.  He has decided to see Jesus under every rock and behind every tree and so he does.  Even when Jesus isn’t there (and he isn’t there, in the Hebrew Bible, anywhere).  And that makes for extremely poor scholarship and a book that is both useless and frustrating.

May I be clear?  Take a pass if someone offers you the opportunity to read this book.  Go read something else instead.  Anything else really (except for A Discourse Analysis of Ruth, that book is worse).  You will regret very much taking this book in hand.  Even in pandemic isolation.

Majority World Theology: Christian Doctrine in Global Context

More Christians now live in the Majority World than in Europe and North America. Yet most theological literature does not reflect the rising tide of Christian reflection coming from these regions. If we take seriously the Spirit’s movement around the world, we must consider how the rich textures of Christianity in the Majority World can enliven, inform, and challenge all who are invested in the ongoing work of theology.

Majority World Theology offers an unprecedented opportunity to enter conversations on the core Christian doctrines with leading scholars from around the globe. Seeking to bring together the strongest theological resources from past and present, East and West, the volume editors have assembled a diverse team of contributors to develop insights informed by questions from particular geographic and cultural contexts.

For as long as I have been studying scripture and theology, and that has been since my college days in the early 80’s, and for centuries before that, those subject fields have been dominated by the viewpoint of Europeans and their descendants in North America (including one Canadian).  This Eurocentricism has been counteracted in recent recent years as Majority World theology comes to wider appreciation and dissemination and the current volume is an excellent addition to that blossoming discipline.

This extensive volume is over 700 pages long and includes treatments of most of the major heads of Christian Doctrine, though it lacks a discussion of the Doctrine of Scripture.  This is due in part to the aim of the volume which is to introduce the major dogmas of the faith from the point of view of the inhabitants of the Majority World and it is due in part to the progress of the various international meetings where the issues of this volume were discussed and promulgated first.

Its contents are

Part One: The Trinity Among the Nations: The Doctrine of God in the Majority World
Introduction to Part One: Trinity 101: Kaleidoscopic Views of God in the Majority World, K. K. Yeo
1. One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity, Gerald Bray
2. Beyond Homoiousios and Homoousios: Exploring North American Indigenous Concepts of the Shalom Community of God, Randy S. Woodley
3. The Trinity in Africa: Trends and Trajectories, Samuel Waje Kunhiyop
4. The Trinity as Gospel, Antonio González
5. Learning to See Jesus with the Eyes of the Spirit: The Unlikely Prophets of God’s Reign, C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell
6. Asian Reformulations of the Trinity: An Evaluation, Natee Tanchanpongs
7. Motherliness of God: A Search for Maternal Aspects in Paul’s Theology, Atsuhiro Asano
8. How to Understand a Biblical God in Chinese: Toward a Crosscultural Biblical Hermeneutics, Zi Wang

Part Two: Jesus Without Borders: Christology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Two: An Invitation to Discuss Christology with the Global Church, Stephen T. Pardue
9. Christology in the West: Conversations in Europe and North America, Kevin J. Vanhoozer
10. Jesus as God’s Communicative and Hermeneutical Act: African Christians on the Person and Significance of Jesus Christ, Victor I. Ezigbo
11. Christologies in Asia: Trends and Reflections, Timoteo D. Gener
12. ¿Quién Vive? ¡Cristo! Christology in Latin American Perspectives, Jules A. Martínez-Olivieri
13. Reading the Gospel of John through Palestinian Eyes, Yohanna Katanacho
14. From Artemis to Mary: Misplaced Veneration Versus True Worship of Jesus in the Latino/a Context, Aída Besançon Spencer
15. Christology and Cultus in 1 Peter: An African (Kenyan) Appraisal, Andrew M. Mbuvi
16. Biblical Christologies of the Global Church: Beyond Chalcedon? Toward a Fully Christian and Fully Cultural Theology, K. K. Yeo

Part Three: The Spirit over the Earth: Pneumatology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Three: Pneumatology in the Majority World, Gene L. Green
17. I Believe in the Holy Spirit: From the Ends of the Earth to the Ends of Time, Amos Yong
18. The Spirit Blows Where It Wills: The Holy Spirit’s Personhood in Indian Christian Thought, Ivan Satyavrata
19. Redefining Relationships: The Role of the Spirit in Romans and Its Significance in the Multiethnic Context of India, Zakali Shohe
20. Pauline Pneumatology and the Chinese Rites: Spirit and Culture in the Holy See’s Missionary Strategy, Wei Hua
21. Pneumatology: Its Implications for the African Context, Samuel M. Ngewa
22. Who Is the Holy Spirit in Contemporary African Christianity?, David Tonghou Ngong
23. In Search of Indigenous Pneumatologies in the Americas, Oscar García-Johnson
24. The Holy Spirit: Power for Life and Hope, C. René Padilla

Part Four: So Great a Salvation: Soteriology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Four: Soteriology in the Majority World, K. K. Yeo
25. The New Covenant and New Creation: Western Soteriologies and the Fullness of the Gospel, Daniel J. Treier
26. Telling Our Stories: Salvation in the African Context, Emily J. Choge Kerama
27. Luke 4:18-19 and Salvation: Marginalization of Women in the Pentecostal Church in Botswana, Rosinah Mmannana Gabaitse
28. Con Las Venas Abiertas: The Hope of Life and Salvation in Latin American Theologies, Jules A. Martínez-Olivieri
29. From What Do We Need to Be Saved? Reflections on God’s Justice and Material Salvation, Milton Acosta
30. An Indigenous Reinterpretation of Repentance: A Step on the Journey to Reconciliation, Ray Aldred
31. Salvation as Reconciliation: Toward a Theology of Reconciliation in the Division of the Korean Peninsula, Sung Wook Chung
32. Qohelet’s Gospel in Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; 7:15-22; and 11:1-6, Elaine W. F. Goh

Part Five: The Church from Every Tribe and Tongue: Ecclesiology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Five: God’s Community in Majority World Theology, Gene L. Green
33. Ecclesiology and the Church in Christian Tradition and Western Theology, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen
34. Church, Power, and Transformation in Latin America: A Different Citizenship Is Possible, Ruth Padilla DeBorst
35. Two Tales of Emerging Ecclesiology in Asia: An Inquiry into Theological Shaping, Wonsuk Ma
36. Ecclesiology in Africa: Apprentices on a Mission, Stephanie A. Lowery
37. Ecclesiology in Latin America: A Biblical Perspective, Carlos Sosa Siliezar
38. The Community as Union with Christ in the Midst of Conflict: An Ecclesiology of the Pauline Letters from a Chinese Perspective, Xiaxia E. Xue
39. The Church as an Assembly on Mount Zion: An Ecclesiology from Hebrews for African Christianity, Peter Nyende
40. Ecclesiology and the Theology of the Land: A Palestinian Christian Perspective, Munther Isaac

Part Six: All Things New: Eschatology in the Majority World
Introduction to Part Six: Eschatology in the Majority World, Stephen T. Pardue
41. Eschatology, Apocalyptic, Ethics, and Political Theology, D. Stephen Long
42. The Past, the Present, and the Future of African Christianity: An Eschatological Vision for African Christianity, James Henry Owino Kombo
43. Revelation 21:1-4 from an African Perspective, John D. K. Ekem
44. From Dispensationalism to Theology of Hope: Latin American Perspectives on Eschatology, Alberto F. Roldán
45. The Kingdom of God: Latin American Biblical Reflections on Eschatology, Nelson R. Morales Fredes
46. Asia and God’s Cruciform Eschatological Reign, Aldrin Peñamora
47. From Judeophilia to Ta-Tung in Taiwanese Eschatology, Shirley S. Ho

The editors and contributors of the volume met and discussed issues for six years and each year focused on one of the six loci herein described.  Then came the fruit of those labors in each of the essays written for that major loci.  The representations from the various parts of the Majority World are what make this work so exciting and so useful.  There are Latin-x, African, Asian and even a few European and American contributors. The only Continent not represented is Antarctica.  For obvious reasons (i.e., penguins can’t write very well and aren’t well acquainted with theology).

This encyclopedic work is excellent throughout, but there are particular essays which deserve special attention, and praise.  These are

8. How to Understand a Biblical God in Chinese: Toward a Crosscultural Biblical Hermeneutics, Zi Wang

16. Biblical Christologies of the Global Church: Beyond Chalcedon? Toward a Fully Christian and Fully Cultural Theology, K. K. Yeo

32. Qohelet’s Gospel in Ecclesiastes: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15; 7:15-22; and 11:1-6, Elaine W. F. Goh

38. The Community as Union with Christ in the Midst of Conflict: An Ecclesiology of the Pauline Letters from a Chinese Perspective, Xiaxia E. Xue

43. Revelation 21:1-4 from an African Perspective, John D. K. Ekem

And of those 5 especially engaging contributions, that of Xue on the Community as Union with Christ in the Midst of Conflict is one of the most amazing, insightful, and useful theological treatments I have read in a good while.  In that essay, Xue describes the situation in Hong Kong and how Christians of very different viewpoints are navigating the at times tense circumstances.  It’s an extraordinary piece of work.

Each chapter also offers a list of bibliographic materials which will further one’s learning.  I was pleased, as a matter of fact, to see that my colleague at Ming Hua Theological College, Dr. Philip Wickeri, has several works cited in the bibliography.

The subtitle of this book is ‘Christian Doctrine in Global Context’ and it delivers splendidly just that.

In a day of rising nationalism and sectarianism; when people are more and more narrowly defining community and even Church and Christianity, a volume like the present one, which so helpfully opens numerous windows on how other believers view the core tenets of the Christian faith is not only useful, it is indispensable and even necessary.

If you are genuinely interested in Christian Theology, you should broaden your horizons and read this book.  It will take some time, but you will not only benefit by it, you will benefit those you teach or preach to as well.

Many of you will be receiving a stimulus check from the Government shortly.  Might I recommend that you use a small portion of it to obtain this book.  It will be the best investment you make with that stimulus money.  I promise you.

Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: Emil Brunner

9781619707368oWhen I was but a lowly undergrad at Carson-Newman College (now University) I took a class on Systematic theology taught by Paul Brewer.  Our textbook was Hanson and Hanson’s Theology but among the supplemental texts we could choose from was Emil Brunner’s ‘Man in Revolt’ and ‘Divine Imperative’.  I was hooked.  Since then (back in the early 80’s) I’ve gotten hold of everything I could written by Brunner and not once been disappointed or annoyed by either his form or content.  He was, in my view, the greatest 20th century theologian of them all.  He was a clearer thinker than Barth and a better Churchman too.

The finest introduction to Brunner’s thought was written less than a decade after his death, in 1972, by Bob Patterson, for the series then published by Fortress called ‘Makers of the Modern Theological Mind’.  It was, and remains, the best volume on Brunner’s thinking yet written.  It was a tragedy that Fortress allowed the series to lapse out of print and it is a spectacular joy that Hendrickson brought it back and starting with the volume on Brunner itself, with Bultmann following next (which really is the best procedure).

If you’ve never read Patterson’s work, do so.  In the volume at hand he carefully charts the major outlines of Brunner’s theology, beginning with the need for theological prolegomenon and proceeding through treatments of his doctrines of revelation, God, man, Christ, the church, faith, and eternal hope.  Readers familiar with Brunner’s justifiably famous 3 volume Church Dogmatics will recognize immediately the outline of that work reflected in Patterson’s analysis.  But Patterson doesn’t simply cite those books; he draws, at first hand, from all Brunner’s oeuvre.

There is no finer overview of Brunner’s thought in English.  Nothing even comes close.  Thank you, Hendrickson, for bringing it back for a new generation of theologians and theological students.

Don McKim Talks About his Book, ‘Everyday Prayer With the Reformers’

Give it a listen.

On today’s Equipping You in Grace show, Dave and Donald McKim discuss how the Reformers’ writings can impact our lives, the importance of praying the Word, the Psalms, and developing our prayer lives, along with his book, Everyday Prayer with the Reformers (P&R, 2020).