#ICYMI- Luther at Leipzig

On the five-hundredth anniversary of the 1519 debate between Martin Luther and John Eck at Leipzig, Luther at Leipzig offers an extensive treatment of this pivotal Reformation event in its historical and theological context. The Leipzig Debate not only revealed growing differences between Luther and his opponents, but also resulted in further splintering among the Reformation parties, which continues to the present day. The essays in this volume provide an essential background to the complex theological, political, ecclesiastical, and intellectual issues precipitating the debate. They also sketch out the relevance of the Leipzig Debate for the course of the Reformation, the interpretation and development of Luther, and the ongoing divisions between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

Brill have graciously provided a review copy.  This collection of informative essays begins with the setting of the Leipzig debate in its historical context.  Essays present readers with the opportunity to ‘delve deeply’ into the events concurrent with and important to one of the most important debates in the history of the Reformation. Accordingly, in Part One we find

  • The Leipzig Debate: a Reformation Turning Point, By: Volker Leppin and Mickey L. Mattox
  • Defending Wittenberg: Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt and the Pre-history of the Leipzig Debate, By: Alyssa Lehr Evans
  • Wittenberg’s Disputation Culture and the Leipzig Debate between Luther and Eck, By: Henning Bühmann
  • The Papacy’s Aversion to Councils in the Time of Leo X: Leipzig in the Context of Conciliarism, By: Thomas M. Izbicki
  • The Leipzig Disputation: Masters of the Sacred Page and the Authority of Scripture, By: Ian Christopher Levy
  • Frigidissima Decreta: Canon Law, Ecclesiology, and Luther’s Proposition 13, By: Richard J. Serina Jr.

Having set the stage, this work next looks in detail at the implications of the debate. Essays here include

  • Philip Melanchthon and the Earliest Report on the Leipzig Debates, By: Timothy J. Wengert
  • Papalism at Stake in the Leipzig Debate, By: Bernward Schmidt
  • A Genealogy of Dissent: Luther, Hus, and Leipzig, By: Phillip Haberkern
  • Councils after Leipzig: Luther’s Interpretation of Nicaea from the Leipzig Disputation to On the Councils and the Church (1539), By: Paul Robinson
  • Luther’s Later Ecclesiology and the Leipzig Debate, By: Jonathan Mumme
  • The Catholic Reception of the Leipzig Disputation, By: Michael Root
  • The Disputation between John Eck and Martin Luther (1519): A Select Translation, By: Carl D. Roth and Richard J. Serina Jr.

This collection serves to provide more important facts and details surrounding and relevant to the Leipzig Debate yet collected under one cover.  Leppin, Izbicki, Wengert, Mumme, and Roth in particular have written exceptional essays.

For instance, Leppin observes:

Perhaps the most elusive question regarding the debate, however, pertains to the character and motivations of the two primary actors: Luther and Eck. What impelled them to debate these complex issues in public? Both men were relatively young, ambitious, and anxious to promote and defend the church’s faith as they understood it. Eck had already made a name for himself as a debater, engaging in public disputations outside Ingolstadt, in Vienna and Bologna. Luther, for his part, seems to have been trying to accomplish something similar in 1517 when he published the Ninety-Five Theses, asking for public debate. Friends who knew them both recognized common concerns and interests that might well have united the two in a common cause. The jurist Christoph Scheurl, for example, clearly thought that Luther and Eck would want to know one another. For his part, Luther initially showed respect for Eck and avoided a public confrontation with him.

And Izbicki-

When John Eck raised the question of papal power in the Leipzig Debate in the summer of 1519, he cannot have been unaware that Rome was sensitive to any threat to its preeminence. His description of a monarchy founded by Christ on Peter must have been music to papal and curial ears. Eck made direct reference to Pope Leo X as Peter’s successor. Eck dismissed dissent from papal primacy as sharing the condemned errors of the Waldensians and Marsilius of Padua. It is less clear how he thought appeal to the authority of the Council of Constance, and even that of the Council of Basel, in his attack on Luther as a “Hussite” would play out in papal circles. Eck’s argument for divine guidance of councils by the Spirit might also have played out badly in Rome. Eck was on safer ground when he referred to the temporary ecclesiastical union achieved at the Council of Florence (1438–1445) in the argument over whether the Greeks were schismatics and heretics. He said that the Greek delegates simulated agreeing to union when present at Florence, for fear of the Turks, but that they abandoned their commitment upon returning home. The Eck who debated at Leipzig represented a strand of pro-papal, post-conciliar ecclesiology commonly held in the Rome of the early sixteenth century.

And finally, Wengert writes

If “Brand Luther,” to use Andrew Pettegree’s apt phrase, began with the publication of the wildly popular Sermon von Ablaß und Gnade of March 1518, the first real test of Luther’s popularity, especially among his fellow humanists, occurred in the aftermath of the Leipzig Debates. Here Luther had the assistance of Philip Melanchthon, an experienced fighter in such matters, as his editing of letters in support of Johannes Reuchlin five years earlier proved. Melanchthon had already played an important role in the run up to the debates, appealing directly to Erasmus of Rotterdam, then in Louvain, to be one of the judges.  Then, at the debate itself he helped Luther by handing him notes with some salient patristic citations.

These excerpts allow potential readers of the volume to get a scant sense of the material herein.  Said readers will simply have to take my word for it that the volume as a whole is incredibly interesting.  Because, 1), it is and 2), I would say otherwise if the case were otherwise.

Does the  volume have its gaps?  Not that I was able to spot.  Does it have weaknesses?  Again, not that I was able to discover.  The essays are, on the whole, tightly argued.  The work also includes a Scripture index and a general index.  Persons, accordingly, who wish to look up the work’s discussion of, for instance, Jerome Emser, are able to do so quickly.

I commend this volume to your attention, urge you to read it if you are at all interested in the History of the Reformation, and advise your University, Seminary, or College library to obtain a copy for their collection.

Back to Reason: Minimalism in Biblical Studies

Forthcoming from Niels Peter Lemche:

Twenty years ago some biblical scholars at the University of Copenhagen were denounced as being nihilists and a threat to western civilization. What was their crime? They had exposed the fallacies of traditional historical-critical biblical scholarship, which was neither historical nor critical. Although the historical-critical interpretation of the Bible had developed over a period of more than a hundred years, it had ended up, with the help of a rationalistic paraphrase of the stories of the Old Testament, creating a society out of this world called biblical Israel. Israel was like no other society in the ancient world, and scarcely a real historic society at all. It was structured like a house of cards. Therefore, when some scholars began to question the historical content of the construction of ancient Israel, as it was usually called, the edifice broke down, first in bits and then totally.

This study addresses the development of ‘Minimalism’ from its roots in the historical-critical paradigm and outlines an alternative theory which exposes and explains the intention behind the fallacy of using a story found in the Old Testament to simply invent the biblical concept of Israel.

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.



The best commentaries.  – Kevin Wilkinson, Singapore

The Origins of New Testament Theology

A Dialogue with Hans Dieter Betz
Edited by Rainer Hirsch-Luipold and Robert Matthew Calhoun

In contrast to studies of New Testament theology that ask or assume what it is, this volume investigates where it comes from. In a dialogue with Hans Dieter Betz, the contributors ask about the origins and preconditions of New Testament theology. How did it begin, both in terms of its historical stimuli and in terms of its earliest literary expressions? To what extent, if at all, did early Christians think of themselves as »doing theology«? How did early Christians come to understand their faith as an object of knowledge, and thus as theology? And, how did early Christians participate in and contribute to wider philosophical conversations about religion and what can be known about the divine in Roman antiquity?

  • Rainer Hirsch-Luipold/Robert Matthew Calhoun: Introduction
  • Hans Dieter Betz: New Testament Theology: The Origins of a Concept
  • Gerd Van Riel: Theology and Religiosity in the Greek Pagan Tradition
  • Johan C. Thom: Theology and Popular Philosophy
  • Rainer Hirsch-Luipold: Theo-logy in John and in Early Imperial Platonism
  • Ulrich Luz † Die biblische Tradition als Wurzelgrund neutestamentlicher Theologie: Eine Skizze
  • Harold W. Attridge: The Beginnings of Christian Theology
  • Samuel Vollenweider: Paläste und ihre Baupläne: Auf der Suche nach der Theologie des Neuen Testaments
  • Hans Dieter Betz: The Reasons for Romans: Why Did Paul Write His Letter to the Romans?

Living under the Evil Pope

In Living under the Evil Pope, Martina Mampieri presents the Hebrew Chronicle of Pope Paul IV, written in the second half of the sixteenth century by the Italian Jewish moneylender Benjamin Neḥemiah ben Elnathan (alias Guglielmo di Diodato) from Civitanova Marche. The text remained in manuscript for about four centuries until the Galician scholar Isaiah Sonne (1887-1960) published a Hebrew annotated edition of the chronicle in the 1930s. This remarkable source offers an account of the events of the Papal States during Paul IV’s pontificate (1555-59). Making use of broad archival materials, Martina Mampieri reflects on the nature of this work, its historical background, and contents, providing a revised edition of the Hebrew text as well as the first unabridged English translation and commentary.

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

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.

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

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

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

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

A review copy of this arrived a couple of months ago.

The premise of the book is simple: there are texts that some readers find confusing or hard to understand.  So the author strives to answer them.

Accordingly, adopting a method arranged by canonical order, Harris addresses issues in the Gospels, and the Epistles and Revelation.

These two major divisions are preceded by a little Preface and an Acknowledgement and they are followed by a list of sources for the biblical texts cited.

66 difficult texts are addressed, each in just a few pages.  The include such questions as the perpetual virginity of Mary, Peter and the Rock, the unpardonable sin, the Trinity, sexual sin, does Abba mean Daddy?, not by faith alone, and others.  Curiously, 666 is bypassed and but two texts from Revelation are deemed tough texts.

The author, Murray Harris, is eminently qualified to author a little book like this.  He is a well respected New Testament scholar with decades of experience in teaching the Bible.  Doubtless he was asked about the various texts here included many times over the course of his teaching career and he must have decided that a book would be welcomed by readers of the Scripture who doubtless had questions of their own about these very texts.

But, as would be true of any book like this; a book which has to do the difficult work of deciding which texts to include and which to exclude, this book includes some I would leave aside and leaves aside some I would include.

Were I to write such a book the same would doubtless be said of me.

The long and short of it is that this book is a very good example of the ‘bible difficulties’ genre.  It is well executed, though not perfectly so.

However, when Murray is on his game, the answers he provides make up for the absence of texts readers may wish he had addressed.  His treatment of ‘abba’ in paragraph 32 is simply superb.  He is both on the mark and absolutely correct in his handling of both the biblical and extra-biblical material.

Should we translate ‘abba’ with father?  No.  and after looking at the word rather broadly, he writes

There are four further reasons it is inappropriate to translate abba by ‘daddy’.

And then he gives them.  I’ll let you read them for yourself.

This book is a gem.  A gem that should have looked at a few more texts and more deeply at a few that it did examine.  Not only because 66 texts is a rather odd numeration (I would have gone for 70), but also because there are explanations that I want to hear more about.  Paragraph 39, for instance, deserved a lot more space than it got, dealing with the very, very important issue of the meaning of ‘believing’ and ‘believing in’.

Would I recommend this book?  Absolutely.  Should Prof Harris write another where other texts are given the same treatment?  Absolutely.

I hope he will.

Why Read the Bible in the Original Languages?

This sounds fun!

A comparison of multiple translations of the Bible in any language shows that they differ at hundreds of places, pointing to the continuing disagreement among Bible scholars and translators in their analysis and understanding of those places. To learn Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, the original languages of the Bible, is admittedly not everybody’s cup of tea. Knowledge of them does not necessarily provide a solution to these difficulties. However, there are not a few things in the biblical text which can be missed out if it is read only in translation. A range of linguistic issues touching on the three original languages are discussed in the light of actual examples. Matters of culture and rhetoric are also taken up. A special chapter is devoted to the Septuagint as a bridge between the two Testaments. The book is written in a non-technical style, hence easily readable by non-specialists, but specialists may also find things of interest. No Hebrew or Greek alphabet is used.

And my answer to that question?  Because reading the Bible in translation is like kissing your spouse through a sheet.

Happily, a review copy has arrived via the distributor, ISD.  So more anon.

Inscriptions from the World of the Bible : A Reader and Introduction to Old Northwest Semitic

Inscriptions from the World of the Bible guides readers through the most significant Northwest Semitic inscriptions from the early first millennium BCE. These texts—most of which are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, or Moabite—are contemporary with the period of the Israelite and Judean monarchies and provide valuable historical and literary context for the Hebrew Bible.

The book begins with an overview of the Northwest Semitic languages, an explanation of the methods of historical linguistics, and a brief comparative grammar. The explanations are geared toward readers with some prior knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, and special emphasis is placed on historical Hebrew grammar. The text selections are grouped by language, and each section includes a brief overview of the distinctive features of the language as well as a glossary. Texts are presented in a “reader” format with commentary on significant lexical, grammatical, and literary features.

Did You Grow Up in A Home With Books?

Eisenbrauns posted a thing on the facebook about books in homes… and it provoked me to respond.  And that provoked me to wonder about other folks and their childhoods and the books in their homes back then.

In my home my parents spent all their money, which wasn’t much anyway, on cigarettes, bowling, and pet food.  So we didn’t have more than half a dozen books in the house and a very old set of Britannica’s that my mother was given by her brother (my uncle).

Half a dozen books was the family library of my childhood.  I guess that’s why I have more.

So, how many books did you have in your childhood home?

Kurze Grammatik des Biblischen Hebräisch

Diese kurze Grammatik führt systematisch in die Schrift- und Lautlehre sowie die Formen- und Satzlehre des Biblischen Hebräisch ein. Zahlreiche Schautafeln und Paradigmen erschließen die hebräische Sprache des Alten Testaments übersichtlich. Merksätze helfen, auch das scheinbar Komplizierte zu verstehen und zu behalten. Die Grammatik will als Referenzgrammatik und Nachschlagewerk beim Hebräischstudium an Schule oder Hochschule dienen, ebenso bei der Repetition und Erarbeitung hebräischer Texte.

A review copy appeared in the mail today. More anon.

Emder Synode 1571

Eine ausführliche Einführung informiert über Vorgeschichte, Verlauf und Wirkungen dieser Zusammenkunft niederländischer Flüchtlingsgemeinden und benennt die wichtigsten dort angesprochenen Themen. Damals erwies sich die Hafenstadt Emden als günstig gelegener Versammlungsort. Die dort gefassten Beschlüsse waren eine Antwort auf die herausfordernde Frage, wie sich die Gemeinden organisieren und zur gegenseitigen Unterstützung miteinander in Verbindung stehen konnten. Das Prinzip der synodalen Verbundenheit, ohne dass eine Gemeinde über die andere herrscht, und die Ausbildung der Pastoren haben fortan weit über die Flüchtlingsgemeinden hinaus die evangelischen Kirchen geprägt. Wo immer es in der Moderne auch außerhalb der Kirchen um Partizipation und Subsidiarität ging, zeigt sich die Emder Synode als eine wichtige Impulsgeberin.

Das Buch richtet sich an Studierende, Lehrende, Pastores, Gemeinde- und Kirchenleitende, Mitglieder von Presbyterien und Synoden sowie an historisch und politisch Interessierte.

Von Matthias Freudenberg und Aleida Siller.

When Did Eve Sin? The Fall and Biblical Historiography

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

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

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

A review copy arrived some weeks back and I’ve genuinely enjoyed working through this very fine little volume.

Beginning with the issue of historiography, and thus setting the stage for a deeply and profoundly theological exposition of the story of ‘The Fall’ and Eve’s part in it, Niehaus takes readers into one of the Bible’s most important stories- indeed- one that has set the stage for the way that women have been viewed both in Judaism and Christianity for as long as they have existed.

Niehaus next asks readers a question- What is sin, and when did Eve do it?  His answer to that question is simply delightful.  It rivals, in terms of the beauty of its telling, Kierkegaard’s retelling of the Binding of Isaac.

To dig more deeply into the Eve story, the next two chapters look at how the story of the Fall has been treated in Jewish, Early Christian, and Reformation scholarship.  This is historical theology at its finest.

In Chapter Four, Niehaus connects the story to its larger biblical context and examines other biblical accounts relevant to it.  He also asks Paul and Luke for their take on the issue in Chapter Five.

The result, naturally, is a sort of mini biblical-theology (without all the freight of that now long benighted enterprise).  Niehaus asked a question in the first chapter which he diligently and carefully answers in the pages that follow.  And in the Epilogue he asks another question:  What next?  In two short pages he asks us to think about what all of this means for our own relationships to one another.

The volume concludes with a theological postscript and a bibliography.  And that bibliography spans the centuries and provides an authentically helpful ‘reading list’ for all those whose appetites have been whet by this delightful and gripping work.

This is a fantastic book.  It is wise and insightful and helpful and everyone interested in the story of Eve really owe it to themselves to read it.  It is the product of a mind more than competent in Hebrew and historical exegesis.  And that’s a rare combination in these days of super-specialization, when scholars may know absolutely everything there is to know about the Hebrew word הבש but not know who John Calvin or Martin Luther are.

Go obtain a copy of this book.  Buy it, borrow it, beg for it.  Just be sure to read it no matter how you come to have it.

#ICYMI- An Interview with Amy Jill-Levine and Marc Z. Brettler About “The Bible With and Without Jesus”

JW – What is it that drew you to this project? What is its genesis? What provoked you to write such a book?

AJL, MZB – This project is in many ways a continuation of The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011, 2017), which we edited together. We enjoyed working together – even our disagreements turned out to be enjoyable learning experiences – but the format of that volume, with short glosses, was very constraining, and we realized that we had a lot more to say. We both have had experience in the classroom and in synagogues and churches of finding that Jews and Christians had very different interpretations of the same texts, whether from Genesis or Isaiah, Jonah or the Psalms. In some cases, members of one group would tell us that the other group’s reading was wrong. Since the Bible has always been open to multiple interpretations, since ignorance helps no one and intolerance harms many, and since we want to show that, in biblical interpretation, there can be multiple and even mutually exclusive correct answers, we thought this book – showing respect for each tradition – would be both timely and helpful: timely because it rejects the cancel culture that is becoming so prominent, and helpful because we can only move forward if we listen respectfully to other positions.

JW – Do you think that inter-religious dialogue has ‘taken a hit’ in recent years?

AJL, MZB – Civility has taken a hit, and any sort of dialogue suffers because of it, especially in a political atmosphere that gives priority to one particular form of religious affiliation.

JW – After all this time, why do Christians and Jews still find themselves at odds concerning so many things?

AJL, MZB – Not only are we ignorant of each other’s history, we are not as familiar as we should be with our own, and that includes biblical interpretation. Sometimes we are afraid to ask questions for fear of sounding foolish or, worse, bigoted. Sometimes we rely on incorrect information, often conveyed to us as children by well-meaning but uninformed teachers or clergy. Sometimes we understand a tradition by the worst exemplars of its practitioners rather than by the best. And much too often we define ourselves through negative identity—we are what the other is not. This inevitably leads to misrepresenting the other, and often demonizing them.

JW – Your book is wonderfully organized. Did that happen ‘genetically’ or did you rearrange chapters until you hit upon the present arrangement?

AJL, MZB – Thank you; this was not easy, and we went back and forth several times on the order of the chapters. We tried to follow canonical order, more or less, but that was impossible, since the Jewish Tanakh and the Christian Old Testament are not in the same order. Beginning with creation made sense, and from the beginning we knew we wanted to end with Jeremiah 31, the promise of the New Covenant, a promise that, in our view, remains unfulfilled.

JW – How did you settle on the subtopics in each chapter? There are loads of texts you could have addressed. How did you ‘narrow it down’?

AJL, MZB – This happened pretty organically. The texts that we found the most fascinating turned out, for the most part, to be the texts we have been asked most about by Jews and Christians.

JW – The discussion of ‘prophecy’ is particularly interesting to me. Do you think that the Prophetic literature is the bit of the Hebrew Bible that Jews and Christians see most differently?

AJL, MZB – Yes—and this is a very important point. Even when Jews and Christians share the “same” texts, they often read them differently or evaluate them differently. Select prophetic texts, such as the Emanuel material in Isaiah 7-9 and the so-called “suffering servant” passages have substantially different reception histories—they are crucial to Christians from their earliest history, but of no particular significance within Judaism. The interpretation of Jonah is also quite different within the two traditions.

JW – The discussion of the sacrifice in chapter seven is one of the clearest and most profoundly important treatments of the topic I have seen in a good while. How did you balance the Christian and Jewish views so delicately? I guess what I’m wondering is, how were you able to examine the issues involved so judiciously and theologically? (Biblical scholars aren’t usually known for their theological sensitivity).

AJL, MZB – Ah, now, Jim, surely you are not indicting the entire field. Working on editing the Jewish Annotated New Testament, we had a number of occasions when we asked our contributors to rephrase, precisely because we are aware that words can take on different, sometimes offensive, connotations, depending on the ears that are listening. We insist in our writing and our teaching on being as gracious to others as possible, and therefore on being theologically sensitive. (Contrary to Marcion, being gracious is a good Jewish, and Hebrew Bible value!) One does not need, we think, to agree or to believe in a particular viewpoint to express it in a clear, sympathetic, and straightforward manner. We tried hard to do this throughout, and we appreciate that you recognized our ability to do so. In at least one case, we suspect we’ll get some pushback, and that is in our conclusion that the Epistle to the Hebrews is supersessionist. At the same time, however, we also note that the rabbinic reading of Melchizedek and Psalm 110 can be taken as arguing against Christian readings.

JW – I don’t want to appear to be one of those terrible people who tells authors what they should have written instead of discussing what they did write. But I was stricken by the fact that your treatment of ‘The Son of Man’ made no reference to Mogens Müller’s -“The Expression ‘son of Man’ and the Development of Christology: A History of Interpretation”. Did you simply find it irrelevant?

AJL, MZB – Not at all – it’s an extremely helpful volume and – in retrospect – you’re right; we should have included it. This is one of the many books that primarily traces Christian readings that did not find its way into the bibliography. Our focus for this chapter was primarily the use of this expression in the Tanakh and then in rabbinic literature—since that was less well known.

JW – In chapter 13, ‘In the Interim’, you write

“In the twenty-first century, we are finally at the point where Jews and Christians can read their shared texts differently, and learn from each other. We all can, and must, even read those texts unique to the other’s tradition. Jews do well to read the New Testament and then to share these readings with Christians, and Christians do well to look at nonbiblical Jewish sources and then share them with Jews. We are finally at the point where we can interpret the Bible, whatever its content, not as a zero-sum problem, but as an opportunity to correct certain older readings based in polemic, creating newer ones based on the possibility of mutual respect if not in complete agreement.”

JW – I hope that’s true. Of course, in many places it is. In some it is not. So my final question is, how hopeful are you that Jews and Christians all can do exactly what you describe in that paragraph?

AJL, MZB – We are not naïve enough to believe that “all” Jews and Christians will read this book, and that “all” will instantly adopt the tolerant attitude that we are suggesting. To use a Hebrew Bible phrase—mi yitten—if that were only so! But we have already seen progress made on both sides in this type of mutual understanding, and we have been invited by both Jewish and Christian groups to have conversations about the book (doing this on zoom rather than in person is not as much fun, but it is infinitely easier to schedule). If we can help just a few people be able to see that biblical studies is neither a blood sport nor a zero-sum game, that there is often beauty and inspiration in another’s tradition, and that the nastiness we have found in most of the reception history on both sides serves only to harm, then we will have succeeded.

JW – What’s next? What are you working on now that we can look forward to reading in the near future?

AJL, MZB – Have you any suggestions?

JW – Thank you for your time! And THANK YOU for this wonderfully crafted brilliantly executed book. Please do more of this. Perhaps a commentary on Hebrews from a Jewish and Christian perspective.

AJL, MZB – Given what we’ve said above, that would be a real challenge. It might however be fun to tackle more of the New Testament readings, perhaps of characters in the biblical tradition. We’ve looked at Adam and Eve in this book, but we can envision chapters about Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah and Hagar; the four women in Matthew’s genealogy (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba), Moses, David, Solomon, Elijah, Jezebel, and of course, the Hebrew Bible’s main character: God.

JW– Whatever you do, we know it will be worth reading.

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

A-J has a new book out that is fantastic.

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

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

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

First, the table of contents:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:  The book has been published and a print copy arrived today, for which I thank A-J.

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

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

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