Category Archives: Books

Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: Rudolf Bultmann

9781619708136oDecades ago Morris Ashcraft wrote the definitive exposition of the theology of Rudolf Bultmann.  It also went out of print decades ago and became a classic in the meanwhile.

Hendrickson has, thankfully, republished this masterpiece in paperback and made it once more easily available.

How can modern scientific humanity understand the strange religious language of the Bible? This is one of the questions Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) spent his life answering. As a devout Lutheran committed to the Christian faith, Bultmann’s concern was how to make Christianity intelligible in the twentieth century. His concept of demythologizing was part of his lifelong attempt to help people “hear” the Christian gospel and respond to it authentically. All of this originated out of a genuine pastoral concern to highlight the nature of New Testament faith. As Morris Ashcraft writes, “He stands alongside Karl Barth as a man who changed the direction of theology significantly and perhaps permanently.”

In this book, along with a brief biographical sketch, Morris Ashcraft provides a concise and reliable guide to Bultmann’s system of thought and his continuing influence.

Dean Ashcraft was at Southeastern Seminary while I was there doing an MDiv and a ThM and a finer scholar and Christian you’ve never met.  His book on Bultmann remains the finest of the genre.  Students of the New Testament should all be required to read it.

The Good Old Days…

When the herd weren’t allowed to distort the Scriptures-

The Invention of Papal History

How was the history of post-classical Rome and of the Church written in the Catholic Reformation? Historical texts composed in Rome at this time have been considered secondary to the city’s significance for the history of art. The Invention of Papal History corrects this distorting emphasis and shows how historical writing became part of a comprehensive formation of the image and self-perception of the papacy. By presenting and fully contextualising the path-breaking works of the Augustinian historian Onofrio Panvinio (1530-1568), Stefan Bauer shows what type of historical research was possible in the late Renaissance and the Catholic Reformation.

Crucial questions were, for example: How were the pontiffs elected? How many popes had been puppets of emperors? Could any of the past machinations, schisms, and disorder in the history of the Church be admitted to the reading public? Historiography in this period by no means consisted entirely of commissioned works written for patrons; rather, a creative interplay existed between, on the one hand, the endeavours of authors to explore the past and, on the other hand, the constraints of ideology and censorship placed on them.

The Invention of Papal History sheds new light on the changing priorities, mentalities, and cultural standards that flourished in the transition from the Renaissance to the Catholic Reformation.

A review copy arrived today and it will appear in Reviews in Religion and Theology in due course.

Paulus: Ein Grundriss seiner Theologie

This trusty volume has now appeared in a third edition.

Dieses Buch bietet eine Gesamtdarstellung der Theologie des Apostels Paulus. Es beschreibt die Architektur, den Zusammenhang und die innere Einheit des paulinischen Denkens, das in den einzelnen Briefen in wechselnden historischen Situationen und in wechselnder Gestalt seinen Ausdruck findet.

Die Darstellung versteht die paulinische Theologie als eine Theologie der Mission und Bekehrung, die der theologischen Interpretation des von Paulus verkündigten Evangeliums in wechselnden historischen Situationen dient. Als Zentrum der paulinischen Theologie gilt der Glaube bzw. die Gewissheit, dass in Jesus Christus und seinem Geschick das Heil Gottes für alle Menschen zugänglich ist.

Nach einer Darstellung des Wegs, der Paulus zum Verkündiger des Evangeliums von Jesus Christus geführt hat, werden in elf Kapiteln – beginnend mit der paulinischen Theologie des Evangeliums und endend mit der Frage nach dem Geschick Israels – nicht nur alle wesentlichen Elemente der paulinischen Theologie, sondern auch alle zentralen Paulustexte vorgestellt und ausführlich diskutiert.

The publisher has sent along a review copy.  More anon.

The Samaritan Pentateuch: Volume 1, Genesis

A critical edition of the Samaritan Pentateuch is one of the most urgent desiderata of Hebrew Bible research. The present volume on Genesis is the second out of a series of five meant to fill this gap. It provides a diplomatic edition of the five books of the Samaritan Torah, based on the oldest preserved Samaritan manuscripts.

Throughout the entire work, the Samaritan Hebrew text as gathered from 30 different manuscripts is compared with further Samaritan witnesses (esp. the Samaritan Targum, the Samaritan Arabic translation, and the oral Samaritan reading tradition) as well as with non-Samaritan witnesses of the Pentateuch, especially the Masoretic text, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Septuagint, creating an indispensable resource and tool not only for those working with the Samaritan Pentateuch, but for any scholar interested in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible in general, and particularly the Pentateuch.

This amazingly important volume, produced by Stefan Schorch and a multitude of specialists in Hebrew transcription, Samaritan Arabic transcription, textual critics of the DSS and the Septuagint, and targumists and Peshitta-ists is a wonder.

First, a preface and an introduction in German are provided.  Then, the same in English.  There is also a Hebrew introduction (on the other end of the volume, where the text of the Samaritan Pentateuch of Genesis commences).

The introduction covers such matters as previous editions of the SamPent, and provides a full description of the present editio maior of the text.  The base manuscript of this diplomatic edition is D1, MS Dublin, 751 (1225).  There are six full manuscripts and 15 well preserved partial manuscripts as well as 2 fragmentary manuscripts that are consulted and which are the stuff of the textual apparatus.

Here’s a photo of the page layout, which, frankly, it is simply easier to show than describe:


Each symbol and segment as well as all of the manuscript evidence as presented is fully defined in the introduction to the volume. As is immediately apparent, the text itself takes up but a third of the page whilst the remainder is devoted to the textual evidence and apparatus. This is the case throughout the edition.

A thorough table of abbreviations is provided as is a table of the symbols which festoon the work. Those not quite familiar with the Samaritan alphabet are given a table containing it and its Hebrew equivalent:

Next, a very complete bibliography is provided. Each portion of text is carefully analyzed and the textual evidence is as thorough as practical. Indeed, it is as complete as any edition of the Bible can be.

What Schorch et al have here accomplished is a marvel of scholarly competence and thoroughness. The font is clear and legible and the apparatus is fantastic. The choice of the Hebrew font for the biblical text is based on the practicality of the scholarly endeavor. As the editor puts it

The Samaritan Hebrew texts, on which the edition is based, are not reproduced in Samaritan but in Hebrew square script. This decision is purely pragmatic as the latter is much more familiar in general scholarship (p. xi).

Textual critics, scholars of the Hebrew Bible, scholars of the Samaritan Bible, and scholars of the Samaritan faith will be delighted by the appearance of this volume and will hunger and thirst for the remainder of the Samaritan Pentateuch to appear in the same series. This tool will stand the test of time and will come to be the most important critical edition of the biblical text produced in many generations (alongside BHQ).

Aramaic: A History of the First World Language

In this volume—the first complete history of Aramaic from its origins to the present day—Holger Gzella provides an accessible overview of the language perhaps most well known for being spoken by Jesus of Nazareth. Gzella, one of the world’s foremost Aramaicists, begins with the earliest evidence of Aramaic in inscriptions from the beginning of the first millennium BCE, then traces its emergence as the first world language when it became the administrative tongue of the great ancient Near Eastern empires. He also pays due diligence to the sacred role of Aramaic within Judaism, its place in the Islamic world, and its contact with other regional languages, before concluding with a glimpse into modern uses of Aramaic.

Although Aramaic never had a unified political or cultural context in which to gain traction, it nevertheless flourished in the Middle East for an extensive period, allowing for widespread cultural exchange between diverse groups of people. In tracing the historical thread of the Aramaic language, readers can also gain a stronger understanding of the rise and fall of civilizations, religions, and cultures in that region over the course of three millennia.

Aramaic: A History of the First World Language is visually supplemented by maps, charts, and other images for an immersive reading experience, providing scholars and casual readers alike with an engaging overview of one of the most consequential world languages in history.

The volume here under consideration is comprised of the following:

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. The Oldest Aramaic and Its Cultural Context
3. Aramaic as a World Language
4. Aramaic in the Bible and Early Judaism
5. Aramaic between the Classical and Parthian Worlds
6. Syriac and the End of Paganism
7. The Second Sacred Language: Aramaic in Rabbinic Judaism
8. Not Just Jews and Christians: Samaritans, Mandeans, and Others
9. Aramaic in Arabia and the Islamic World
10. Modern Aramaic from a Historical Perspective

This book first appeared in Dutch in 2017.  Thankfully, it has now been translated and thus made available to a much wider audience.

Those of us of a certain age learned the importance of Aramaic by reading the (now dated) works of Joachim Jeremias, one of the most significant scholars of the New Testament of his or any day.  At Jeremias’ feet we discovered the amazing world of Jesus’ own mother tongue and the language in which he taught and prayed.  Yet there was then no academic treatment of Aramaic AS a language.

Gzella has remedied that situation with his present study.  Here he leads us to a deeper understanding of this critically important language, not only for reading various texts in the Old Testament, but for reading the New Testament in the proper light and the history of the earliest Church in its own words.  First, he does so by describing the importance of Aramaic and the history of its study.  He next turns to a description of the oldest Aramaic and its context in Syria-Palestine and its rise to international language in Babylon and Persia (as well as that slice of land we call Palestine).

Next, the Old Testament and the New and the influence of Aramaic therein are treated.  We are then taken down the path where we discover in more detail the language among the Parthians, and then the rise of Syriac and its importance for early Christianity.

Aramaic in Rabbinic Judaism and the varieties in which it occurs in Judaism are the subject of examination next and Aramaic bibles come to the fore.  The spread of Aramaic among Christians and Jews as well as Mandeans and Samaritans also comes up for detailed analysis.

In the final chapters G. illustrates the abiding significance of Aramaic and shows how it remains a minority language in parts of the world.  For 3000 years Aramaic has existed, and there’s no reason to believe that it will cease to be any time soon.

The volume concludes with an ‘Essential Bibliography’, a glossary of linguistic terms, and an index.

This fascinating work is a detailed historical study of a language.  I mention that again because readers should be alerted to expect lots of linguistic discussions.  It is not merely a book about Aramaic and the Bible.  It is far more than that, though of course it is that too.  Readers interested in the particular field of biblical studies could benefit from a reading of chapter 4 even if the time to read the other chapters escaped them.  And for persons interested primarily in Church history, chapters 6 and 8 would do the trick.

But if you are interested in the history of a language from beginning to present, then naturally the entire volume needs to be read, digested, and engaged.

Curiously enough, our friend Jeremias makes nary an appearance except in a footnote where his name is the title of a volume.  His work is ignored, eclipsed, as it were, by more thorough and accurate undertakings.  Gustav Dalman too is absent.

Scholarship rolls forward in time, crushing those in its path who cannot keep up (even though unable to because of their untimely departure from this life).  In time, Gzella’s work too will be eclipsed and his name will not appear in so much as a footnote.  But it will be a very long time until that happens, because scholarship can’t supersede one’s work until it catches up to it.  And no one is near to catching up to Gzella’s work on Aramaic.

This is a book worth reading for linguists, biblical scholars, and historians of Christianity.  If you are a member of those sacred throngs, this book should be read by you.

John Calvin and the Righteousness of Works

John Calvin’s understanding of works-righteousness is more complex than is often recognized. While he denounces it in some instances, he affirms it in others. This study shows that Calvin affirms works-righteousness within the context where faith-righteousness is already established, and that he even teaches a form of justification by works. Calvin ascribes not only a positive role to good works in relation to divine acceptance, but also soteriological value to believers’ good works. This study demonstrates such by exploring Calvin’s theological anthropology, his understanding of divine-human activity, his teaching on the nature of good works, and his understanding of divine grace and benevolence. It also addresses current debates in Calvin scholarship by exploring topics such as union with Christ, the relation between justification and sanctification, the relation between good works and divine acceptance, the role of good works in the Christian life, and the content of good works.

Weltgestaltender Calvinismus: Studien zur Rezeption Abraham Kuypers

Dieser Band versammelt acht Beiträge eines Studientages, der im Vorfeld des 100. Todestages Abraham Kuypers (1837-1920) in Göttingen stattfand. In Auseinandersetzungen mit dem „Modernismus” beanspruchte Kuyper, den Calvinismus als ein der Freiheit besonders verpflichtetes Format des christlichen Glaubens zu reformulieren, das eine enorme Kraft zur Weltgestaltung freisetzt.

Vier deutsche Autor:innen, drei Autor:innen aus den Niederlanden und eine Autorin aus der Schweiz mit profanhistorischen, kirchengeschichtlichen und systematisch-theologischen Fokussierungen gehen der gemeinsamen Frage nach, ob ein neuer Blick auf diese niederländische Jahrhundertgestalt unabgegoltene Einsichten und überraschende Perspektiven für die gegenwärtigen Herausforderungen in Kirche, Theologie und Gesellschaft eröffnen kann. Ausgewiesene Kuyper-Kenner:innen kommen ins Gespräch mit dezidierten Kritiker:innen. Dieser Band bietet in seiner vielstimmigen Beschäftigung mit Kuyper neue Anstöße und Anregungen.

Buch der Reformation: Quellen und Zeugnisse zum frühen Reformationsgeschehen im deutschen Sprachraum

Das Buch mit knapp 200 Quellen aus der Vorgeschichte und Frühzeit der Reformation stellt eine völlige Neubearbeitung des 1917 von Karl Kaulfuß-Diesch herausgegebenen Werkes: “Das Buch der Reformation” sowie weiterer Neuauflagen dar. Die frühere Quellenauswahl wurde einer kritischen Revision unterzogen, ergänzt und teilweise erweitert. Alle Texte werden durch einen knappen Einleitungstext erläutert und mit weiterführenden Literaturangaben versehen. Es entsteht ein Kaleidoskop verschiedenster Zugänge zu den kirchlichen und politischen Reformforderungen des ausgehenden Mittelalters und deren konzentrierter Zuspitzung in den programmatischen Äußerungen der deutschsprachigen, vor allem lutherischen Reformation. Zugleich berücksichtigt der Band durch die Aufnahme älterer Quellenbearbeitungen einen vorläufigen Überblick zur nachhaltigen Wirkungsgeschichte der Zeugnisse reformatorischer Initiativen und des durch sie provozierten Widerspruchs.

This source book of primary materials is one of the most delightful works I’ve read in a good while precisely because it is a source book of primary materials. To be more precise, it is a book containing 191 documents stemming from the the Reformation in German lands.

The layout of the book follows a chronological order, beginning with materials setting the stage for the Reformation from the renaissance and from humanism, and moving through popular poems and criticisms of the Church and then moving into the early days of the Reformation itself. Texts by Karlstadt and Luther and Aurifaber and everyone imaginable really are the core and center of the volume. Documents continue through the Augsburg Conference and the death of Luther. The penultimate text is a letter describing Luther’s death.

An index of names and an index of places are included.

Each document is prefaced by a brief historical introduction and at each text’s conclusion there is a list of sources and a bibliography of related studies. Each text, then, is fully documented and further research is handily facilitated.

Rather, at this point, though, than simply describing the way the volume works, here are photos of the pages related to one of the entries:

This is a wonderfully full volume and no one interested in the Reformation can ignore it. Not safely anyway.

Die Theologie Calvins im Rahmen der europäischen Reformation

Der Versuch einer Gesamtdarstellung des theologischen Werkes Calvins ist seit der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts nicht mehr unternommen worden. Das Jubeljahr 2009 hat eine Fülle ausgezeichneter Einzel- studien und Sammelwerke besonders auf dem Gebiet der biographischen und historischen, zum Teil auch der systematischen Forschung hervorgebracht. Doch die Interessen der älteren Forschung ließen sich damit nicht befriedigen.

Damals fragte man: Gibt es eine “Mitte”, eine Art Gravitationszentrum seiner Theologie, vergleichbar der Rechtfertigungslehre im Luthertum, um das sich die Themen und Perspektiven seiner Theologie gruppieren ließen? Von der Abendmahlslehre lässt sich das nicht sagen. Auch die Suche nach einem “Central-dogma” (Alexander Schweizer), einer Art “Materialprinzip”, hat sich als ein Irrweg erwiesen. Der Schluss liegt nahe, dass schon die Frage nach einem solchen einheitstiftenden Prinzip oder Schlüssel falsch gestellt sein könnte, sich jedenfalls nicht mit der Angabe eines inhaltlichen Elementes oder Problems seiner Theologie beantworten lässt. An dieser Erwartung jedenfalls sollte man Calvin nicht länger messen. Auf sehr viel sichererem Boden steht man, wenn man sich, auch systematisch fragend, an die von ihm selbst aus seinen exegetischen Arbeiten hervorgegangenen Gliederungsgesichtspunkte der Institutio hält. Da ist zweimal pointiert von der Erkenntnis Gottes (aus der Natur und aus der Schrift) die Rede, sodann von der subjektiven Aneignung dieser Erkenntnisse im christlichen Leben und schließlich, gleichsam als Konvergenzpunkt des Ganzen, von der schriftgemäßen Verfassung der Kirche, die der Ort der Bewährung jener Erkenntnisse sein sollte.

Von diesem Zielpunkt aus und auf ihn bezogen steht das Erkenntnisproblem – konkret:die möglichst genaue Textinterpretation – im Zentrum der vorliegenden Arbeit. Dabei meint Erkenntnis nicht das theoretische Verhalten des modernen Zuschauers, sondern setzt dessen Einbezogensein, sein “Mitspielen”, also seine verantwortliche Teilnahme an der Schöpfung, an dem Prozess der Versöhnung und am Weg der Kirche voraus. Denn die biblische Voraussetzung, dass er, der Mensch, es in jeder Lebenslage mit dem lebendigen Gott zu tun hat und von ihm auf den Weg gesetzt wird, ist der eigentliche Lebensnerv des calvinischen Unterrichts.

#ICYMI- An Interview with James R. Edwards- Author of ‘Between the Swastika and the Sickle: The Life, Execution, and Disappearance of Ernst Lohmeyer’

Originally posted July 16, 2019-

Q. Your book is a fantastic example of the biographical genre. What is it about biographies, in your estimation that are so engaging?

A. Yes, biographies have a special power! I think they are engaging because peoples’ lives are generally more interesting than are ideas alone. But for me personally there is something more. I almost never act on something, even if I believe it is true and right, unless I see someone else act on it. That’s the advantage and power of a biography—we see the virtue in action, and that changes lives.

Q. There are several instances in your book where you mention biographical details from your own life. What led you to make the decision to do this?

A. Very perceptive question. Ernst Lohmeyer was a German who died seventy-five years ago, and he spoke no English and never came to America. That separates him from an American reading audience big time. I nevertheless believe that his life is worthy of being remembered, and that his witness has special relevance for us today, even in America. I tried to share some of my own story, especially as it intersected with the quest to solve the mystery of his disappearance and death, to provide a bridge for readers into Lohmeyer’s story.

Q. Your autobiographical remarks are extremely interesting. Do you have plans to write an autobiography?

A. Well, I have not thought of my life as having autobiographical significance. I would have to think more about that.

Q. We have a connection with Professor Eduard Schweizer in common, who lectured in our New Testament Seminar at Southeastern Seminary. I found him amazingly engaging. He made a remark that has stayed with me all these years: American scholars are afraid, oftentimes, to offer original ideas. Instead they feel obliged to argue on the basis of what is already known. But this hardly moves scholarship forward, which is why cutting-edge Biblical scholarship is European. Would you agree with that sentiment?

A. Great to hear of your contact with Eduard Schweizer. He is indeed engaging—a first-class New Testament scholar and theologian, committed to the church, and genuinely interpersonal and affable. I have two responses about his comment that American scholars are afraid to offer original ideas, choosing rather to stay on more beaten academic paths. First, American scholars have certainly pioneered the social context of the Bible, and especially the New Testament, and this is a significant contribution (although much of this contribution has taken place since Schweizer wrote). But there is some truth to his comment. It must be remembered that Germans had a two-century head-start in Biblical studies over American scholars, so it is not surprising that Americans have been playing “catch-up” for much of the 20th century. But there is another and more serious reason why his comment is important. American scholars have not been trained as rigorously in ancient languages—Hebrew, Greek, Latin—as have German scholars. Even today in Germany, scholars in the humanities hand out Latin texts untranslated, assuming students’ proficiency in reading the original. When I studied in Zürich and later in Tübingen, students in both Old and New Testament courses would open their Biblia Hebraica or Nestle-Aland New Testament (and this was before Readers Editions that define infrequently occurring words at the bottom of the page!) and cite-read from the original Hebrew and Greek in class. It is rare to find comparable proficiency in ancient languages in American theology students, even in doctoral students. Weakness in ancient language proficiency keeps one a step removed from ancient texts, and that distance from original texts reduces the ability to be ground-breaking. The same distance almost inevitably increases one’s dependence on secondary literature, and preoccupation with secondary literature is more likely to be redundant than original.

Q. Schweizer wrote a series of commentaries on the Gospels. How would you rate his treatment of Mark compared to Lohmeyer’s?

A. Good question. Very briefly, Lohmeyer was more independent in his scholarship, insisting on seeing Gospels as “wholes” rather than dismembered into fragments as form and redaction critics saw them. Schweizer was a student of Bultmann, and he was influenced by Bultmann’s form criticism and historical skepticism. Some of Schweizer’s comments about the text can strike American students as dismissive. Nevertheless, Schweizer regularly makes comments that are both simple and brilliant, stimulating readers, and especially preachers and teachers, with marvelous insights into the text.

Q. Prof. Lohmeyer is known in America, I think, only among a generation of older New Testament specialists. What provoked you to seek to make him known to a far wider public?

A. Yes, Lohmeyer is known only to a shrinking circle of American New Testament scholars. I doubt my book will rekindle the reading of his books, at least in America—for with only two exceptions all Lohmeyer’s books remain in German—but I hope it will awaken an interest in the significance of his life and thought. Lohmeyer’s work, especially in the Gospels, has weathered far better than that of most of his contemporaries, including Bultmann. The reason for this is that Lohmeyer gave preference to original texts over secondary literature, and this gave his work freshness and insight that has endured. Another scholar of the era who did the same was Adolf Schlatter, and his works, too, continue today to be read with profit. Regarding the significance of Lohmeyer’s life, his personal integrity in resisting Nazism and Soviet communism, and paying for the latter with his life, makes him more than a great scholar. It makes him a modern martyr, in my mind, whose example and witness is increasingly relevant in the world today.

Q. Tell us about Lohmeyer’s marriage to his wife Melie.

A. Lohmeyer and Melie met, and they prospered in marriage, because of the strong meeting of their minds. They loved the medium of words in their relationship. They wrote literally thousands of letters to each other in the course of their lifetimes. They even wrote letters when they weren’t apart. They were almost like the two lobes, right and left, of one brain. This description of marriage is quite foreign today for those of us who think of marriage primarily in terms of emotions and feelings rather than thoughts and words. The challenge for us moderns is in cultivating marriages of substance and character; the challenge for Lohmeyer and Melie was not to allow their love to grow cold.

Q. As far as I know, there is only one German biography of Lohmeyer. What do you think is the reasons for this?

A. Yes, there has been only one major biography before mine. And there is a reason for this. When the Soviets arrested and executed Ernst Lohmeyer, they put a blackout on his name, his works, and his memory in communist East Germany. The Soviet Union did not fall until 1990, which means that the blackout on Ernst Lohmeyer lasted nearly a whole generation, from 1946-1990. In 1979 I mentioned Lohmeyer’s name in a public meeting in Greifswald, East Germany, the city where he was arrested and executed, and my doing so sparked something of a minor crisis. Lohmeyer was executed as “enemy of the state,” and anyone who tried to find out about him became an “enemy of the state” as well. That quashed the possibility of a genuine biography until the 1990. By then people may have thought that it would be impossible to resuscitate him from such long obscurity.

Q. I couldn’t help but think of contemporary issues as I read through your narrative. The rise of nationalism, xenophobia, hate speech, etc. all have very current parallels. Do you see parallels between German in the 1930s and America today?

A. Yes, unfortunately. The world we have known is changing greatly. Think of it: the EU and NATO that have brought seventy-years of peace and prosperity to Europe never seen before are being dismantled in favor of nationalism and isolation. We see an upsurge of fear of immigrants, promotion of self over the common good, rise of meanness and malice, loss of charity and compassion, sacrifice of personal virtue for the goals of wealth and power, and the favoring of autocracy over democracy. When I went to Germany in the fall of 2016 to write my biography of Lohmeyer, I thought I was producing a work of history. But as I pondered the above changes it stuck me that Lohmeyer’s story was not just historical. It is prophetic!

Q. Lohmeyer suffered horrible mistreatment by both Nazis and communists. Why do you think the Russians, especially, were bent on destroying him?

A. Totalitarianisms are cruel, and both Nazism and Soviet communism vented their cruelty on Lohmeyer. Totalitarianism depends on one thing above all else: fear. If tyrants can make people fear them, they can control them. Most people are vulnerable to fear, and that contributes to the success of totalitarianisms. Lohmeyer was also vulnerable to fear, of course, but he chose not to succumb to fear, and hence he was unable to be controlled by communist threats. He was a person of moral conviction and courage, intellectual independence, and indomitable faith. When the Soviets saw that he was unintimidated by their terror and might, they had no choice but to arrest him on false charges, convict him on false charges, and execute him. He lived a hard life. But it is important to remember the most important thing about his life: the future always lies with virtue, not with vice. Virtue empowers life; vice warps life. Today, there are streets and squares in Germany named for those resisted Nazi and communist oppressions, streets named for Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Sophie and Hans Scholl, Martin Niemoeller, and yes, Ernst Lohmeyer. There are no streets named for Adolf Hitler or Heinrich Himmler. People won’t even name their dogs Adolf.

Q. What are you currently working on?

A. I am currently writing a book on how the Jesus movement in the Gospels became what we know as the Christian church. It’s entitled, From Christ to Christianity. How the Jesus Movement Became the Christian Church in One Lifetime (Baker). When we read the Gospels, we see a Jesus movement that was Palestinian, rural, Jewish, Hebrew- and Aramaic-speaking, associated with synagogues, worshipped on sabbath, staffed with apostles, and so forth. Only seventy-five years later, Ignatius of Antioch witnesses to a vastly different Christian movement that was pulsating throughout the Roman Empire, urban, Gentile, Greek-speaking, worshiping in churches on Sunday rather than Saturday, overseen by bishops and elders, and so on. In the space of one lifetime the forms of the Jesus movement changed more than they have in the 2,000 years since the death of Jesus. And yet, the DNA of the movement, its essence in the salvation brought in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ remains unchanged. Pretty exciting! That’s worth a book.

JW– I look forward to reading it! Thank you, Professor, for your time. And thank you most especially for a book that I think is one of the most interesting written in recent years.

3 McKim Titles on Sale

Take a look.  Get a copy of each.

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.



This commentary set is written and designed exactly for the average person. The person who hasn’t spent years in book learning and writing papers. Rather, it’s for a person who feels a yearning to know a bit more so they can grow spiritually and intellectually in the faith. The average person might not know where to start on the journey. This set does it beautifully. – Doug Iverson

Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Letters and Revelation

Written by scholars with extensive experience teaching in colleges and universities, the Exploring the Bible series has for decades equipped students to study Scripture for themselves.  Exploring the New Testament, Volume Two provides an accessible introduction to the Letters and Revelation. It’s filled with classroom-friendly features such as discussion questions, charts, theological summary sidebars, essay questions, and further reading lists.

I earlier reviewed the companion volume of this work, ‘Exploring the New Testament: A Guide to the Gospels and Acts.’  As was true of that work, this one too has appeared in previous editions (this is the third).

As such, it will be familiar to some already and to others it is worth introducing.

It consists of

A. Setting the Scene
1. The World of First-Century Christians

B. Paul and His Letters
2. Letters in the New Testament
3. Paul, His Letters and His Life
4. The Letter to the Galatians
5. The Letters to the Thessalonians
6. The ‘First’ Letter to the Corinthians
7. The ‘Second’ Letter to the Corinthians
8. The Letter to the Romans
9. The Letter to the Philippians
10. The Letter to Philemon
11. The Letter to the Colossians
12. The Letter to the Ephesians
13. The Letters to Timothy and Titus
14. Paul—the Missionary Theologian
15. New Testament Letters—Interpretation and Authorship

C. Letters by Other Church Leaders
16. The Letter to the Hebrews
17. The Letter of James
18. The First Letter of Peter
19. The Second Letter of Peter and the Letter of Jude
20. The Letters of John

D. Apocalyptic Literature
21. The Revelation to John

The book isn’t a commentary and it really isn’t an ‘introduction’ in the classical sense of the word in New Testament scholarship, rather it’s a very nice ‘overview’ or ‘reader’s guide’ which helps persons looking at these biblical texts get an overarching idea of what each is about, why it was written, by whom, and when. There are numerous sidebars which aim to invite readers to engage with the text and think further about what it is that they are reading.

The font is a friendly size and the text is laid out in two columns (like a lot of bibles, which I suspect is intentional).  As was the case of its companion volume, there are bibliographies that are too heavily weighted towards the NT Wright school on thought.  The resource could have been much better if a broader spectrum of scholars had been reflected, at least in the bibliography.  Instead, readers will find essentially the same ideas found in the small circle of authors here included.  There is, after all, not much daylight between NT Wright and Scot McKnight and they are referred to frequently.  The general theological Tendenz is what I would call Witherington-ian.

It also can tend towards the ‘folksy’.  I.e., during the discussion of Hebrews and its audience, we find

As in the case of Jerusalem, we have here a collection of circumstantial evidence rather than a knock-down argument.

It’s a rather odd turn of phrase really, especially in an academic work intended for use as a classroom text.  At any rate, isn’t the phrase ‘knock-out’?

Aside from the relatively conservative nature of the work, as frankly one would expect from its publisher, the book is really a very fine addition to the plethora of ‘guides for readers’ that exist for biblical scholarship.  And, in the spirit of fairness, I think it’s fair to repeat here what I said in the review of this work’s companion:

But, as I remember every time I review a book, it’s far too easy to want authors to do what we want instead of appreciating what they did and honoring the decisions that they have made.  If I want a book that suits me in every respect, I need to write it myself.  Otherwise I fall under Kierkegaard’s condemnation of the critic:

Critics are like Eunuchs.  They know what must be done, but they cannot manage to do it themselves.

However, I would nonetheless maintain that if one is looking for an ‘Introduction to the New Testament’ with more critical acumen, then Ray Brown’s ‘An Introduction to the New Testament’ is still the best one can do.  It is unsurpassed both for its thoroughness and its fairness.

Until you have it, this work will do.

Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News

Whenever we reach for our phones or scan a newspaper to get “caught up,” we are being not merely informed but also formed. News consumption can shape our sense of belonging, how we judge the value of our lives, and even how our brains function. Christians mustn’t let the news replace prayer as Hegel envisioned, but neither should we simply discard the daily feed. We need a better understanding of what the news is for and how to read it well.

Jeffrey Bilbro invites readers to take a step back and gain some theological and historical perspective on the nature and very purpose of news. In Reading the Times he reflects on how we pay attention, how we discern the nature of time and history, and how we form communities through what we read and discuss. Drawing on writers from Thoreau and Dante to Merton and Berry, along with activist-journalists such as Frederick Douglass and Dorothy Day, Bilbro offers an alternative vision of the rhythms of life, one in which we understand our times in light of what is timeless. Throughout, he suggests practices to counteract common maladies tied to media consumption in order to cultivate healthier ways of reading and being.

When the news sets itself up as the light of the world, it usurps the role of the living Word. But when it helps us attend together to the work of Christ—down through history and within our daily contexts—it can play a vital part in enabling us to love our neighbors. Reading the Times is a refreshing and humane call to put the news in its place.

Bilbro’s book is a very much needed reminder that the role the ‘news’ plays in our lives may be exaggerated and that as Christians and as consumers of the media, we need to be very aware of the detrimental effect that media can have if we fail to see it as it is, in its proper theological light.

Bilbro walks us through the importance of the things we pay attention to and how those things can distort our perception of reality if we are not careful. He then helpfully reminds us of the differences between kairos and chronos and what happens when we forget those distinctions. Furthermore, he helpfully reminds us that, though this shouldn’t need to be said, it needs to be said; we Christians should use our time wisely. That is, social media, news consumption, and consumption of media in general needs to be properly prioritized. And in the final part of the volume, we are reminded that we are a part of a larger whole; a community.

The work includes a bibliography, a general index, and a scripture index.

This is a book that’s not only enjoyable but helpful, in an authentic way, as a gentle yet pointed re-centering of priorities in this information age of ours. Anyone who uses social media, or consumes cable or network news, or who reads newspapers should take a look at it. Once you pick it up, you’ll not put it down. And at less than two hundred pages, you’ll have it done in a restful weekend.

Mary Beard Has a New Book Coming Out.

Here or at your local bookshop.

“Wordplay” in Ancient Near Eastern Texts – By Scott B. Noegel

This book from Scott B. Noegel offers a comparative, in-depth study of “wordplay” in ancient Near Eastern texts. Noegel establishes comprehensive taxonomies for the many kinds of devices that scholars label as wordplay and for their proposed functions. The consistent terminology Noegel proposes offers students and scholars of Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, Ugaritic, Hebrew, and Aramaic a useful template for documenting and understanding the devices they discover. The book concludes by suggesting potential avenues for future research.

Free to download!

#ICYMI- Studien zur Septuaginta und zum hellenistischen Judentum

This volume presents selected studies by Robert Hanhart, Professor Emeritus and former director of the Septuaginta-Unternehmen der Göttinger Akademie der Wissenschaft. These studies deal with the origin, history and the translation technique of the Septuagint in the context of Hellenistic Judaism. Robert Hanhart finds in the Greek translation of the Hebrew text an interpretation and updating of the Scriptures, which is at the same time an act of Jewish self-definition in the Hellenistic Age. Other essays focus on the history of research, especially on the Göttinger Septuaginta-Unternehmen and P. de Lagarde.

It was published in 1999, but I’m drawing your attention to it now because it’s the anniversary of Robert Hanhart’s birth (born 6 July, 1925) and sometimes the stuff that’s older is the stuff that’s better.

The volume, in fact, appeared about the same time that a conference of Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls scholars was taking place at the University of Pennsylvania:

[back row] 1=Bruce Metzger 2=Neville Birdsall 3=David Talshir 4=Robert Hanhart 5=Emanuel Tov
[middle row] 1=David Stec 2=?m 3=Eugene Ulrich 4=Nina Collins
[front row] 1=Bilhah Nitzan 2=Richard Doidge 3=Anthony Hanson 4=Barnabas Lindars

Robert Kraft took that photo.  You can see Robert Hanhart on the back row, second from our right, next to Tov.  That was some incredible assemblage, you will doubtless agree.  Top notch scholars produce top notch studies- and that’s what this volume contains: the product of a life of over 40 years of intensive scholarship by one of the best Septuagintalists to ever inhabit the planet.

The volume is divided into major segments each of which deals with a subtopic of that segment.

  • The Origin and History of the Septuagint
  • The Essence of the Septuagint
  • The ‘Reception History’ of the Septuagint (as we would now call it) In Two Parts
  • Bibliography of Robert Hanhart

The essays appeared previously in various publications, and the editor made only minor corrections and adjustments to them.  The work is Hanhart’s.  The complete table of contents is this:

If you have not had a chance to make use of this still important volume, do so.  It is incredible.  And what better day to do it than the author’s birthday?

A Free Book by Joan Taylor

Joan doth tweet-

Free for download now on the PEF site, the still-relevant book I wrote with Shimon Gibson: Beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulchre: The Archaeology and Early History of Traditional Golgotha (snappy title). Enjoy! Thank you.

Click to access Gibson-Taylor-Beneath-the-Church-of-the-Holy-Sepulchre.pdf

#ICYMI- The Early Karl Barth: Historical Contexts and Intellectual Formation 1905–1935

Paul Silas Peterson presents Karl Barth (1886–1968) in his sociopolitical, cultural, ecclesial and theological contexts from 1905 to 1935. The time period begins in 1905, as Barth began to prepare for a speech on the “social question” (which he held in 1906). It ends in 1935, the year he returned to Switzerland from Germany. In the foreground of Peterson’s inquiry is Barth’s relation to the features of his time, especially radical socialist ideology, WWI, an intellectual trend that would later be called the Conservative Revolution, the German Christians, the Young Reformation Movement, and National Socialism. Barth’s view of and interaction with the Jews is also analyzed along with other issues, such as radical thinking, anti-liberalism, alterity, anti- or trans-historicism, Expressionism, and New Objectivity. The author also addresses specific questions disputed in the secondary literature, such as Barth’s theological development, the place of WWI in his intellectual development, his role in the Dehn Case, his reaction to the rise of fascism in Europe, his relationship to 19 thcentury modern liberal Protestantism, his relationship to the Leonhard Ragaz-wing of the Religious Socialists, and his relationship to the Weimar Republic.

Mohr have provided a copy for review.

This volume lands like a bombshell on the playground of the Barthians, fragmenting preconceptions and blowing apart the facade of Barth the zealous anti-Nazi Confessing Church hero.  Peterson’s work will change scholarship.

… in 1935 Barth moved to Switzerland and became more critical of National Socialism.  Before this, he was not publicly opposed to it.  For over two years in National Socialist Germany, Barth never spoke out against it (p.2).


Even for his time, Barth was propagating disturbing racist ideas.  He taught young people in his confirmation courses that people with African backgrounds, the “Neger” (‘niggers,’ ‘negroes’ or ‘blackamoors’), are ‘little intelligent’ and that they ‘live on a lower level’ and are even ‘inferior to the Europeans’ (p.2).


In the early 1930’s, Barth did virtually nothing for the Jews- and this even after some Jews called on him to act.  He went so far to claim that he would lose his Professorship if he did do anything.  Barth also put the Jews in a negative light on many occasions. … In National Socialist Germany, Barth argued that the ‘Jew question’ did not belong in the pulpit (p. 4).

That’s just material from the Introduction.  Peterson goes on to make his case, point by point, line by line, jot by jot and tittle by tittle that the early Barth is not the man so many perceive him to be as they view him (wrongly) through the lens of the later Barth.

Peterson’s work is a revised version of his Habilitationsschrift accepted by the Protestant Theology Faculty at the University of Tübingen.  Following the foreword and the list of abbreviations Peterson launches right into his deconstruction of the early Barth.

The Introduction concerns itself with a biographical overview and then a socio-political historical study which places Barth squarely in his Weimar-ian context.

The first chapter, ‘Socialism, Marburg and WWI (1905-1919)’ is a stellar examination of Barth’s early socialist thinking and the impact that the first world war had on him.

Chapter two, ‘Romans, Overbeck, Harnack and Ethics (1919-1931)’ is a bit longer and more detailed than the first chapter as it takes Peterson a bit of space to explain the intertwinings of Barth’s teachers and the politics of the day.

The third chapter is fairly brief but focuses entirely on ‘The Dehn Case (1931-32).’  This case is pivotal and critical for a proper understanding of the early Barth and Peterson here makes that crystal clear.

Chapter four, ‘National Socialism and Theological Existence Today! (1932-1935)’.  Peterson here takes readers through the forest of the Altona Confession and the Young Reformed Movement along with, of course, the key materials published in Theological Existence Today! which addressed the current church-political situation and then Peterson offers readers a very compelling discussion of the Barmen Declaration in juxtaposition with Barth’s response to the loyalty oath to Hitler!

The oath runs thusly:

I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to the leader of the German Reich and Volk, Adolf Hitler, observe the law, and conscientiously fulfill my official duties, so help me God (pp. 328-329).

Peterson observes

On the 7th of September, 1934, Barth wrote to Niesel about the Hitler Oath.  He expresses concerns about it but also entertains ways of interpreting it which would allow one to sign it, for example, with a ‘reservatio mentalis’ (p. 329).

The notion that Barth was staunchly anti-Nazi and rabidly anti-Hitler in the early period is simply wrong.

The fifth chapter then widens the focus to a discussion of Barth and dialectical theology and National Socialism and the Jews and Authoritarianism.  It is superb.

In his concluding chapter Peterson asks a series of questions:  Is Barth best understood through the theological lens alone?  Was he in continuity or discontinuity with 19th century liberal theology?  Was he apolitical in the Weimar Republic?  And did Barth contribute to the toxic forces that led to the downfall of the Weimar Republic?

The work closes with a bibliography, a listing of Barth’s works, other literature, and an index of names.

Many volumes have been written on Barth but few have been as engaging or important as this one.  The light shed on Barth, from his own writings (which are seldom consulted or read with anything but from a backward glance through the late Barth) on his early development is immense.  I can only heartily recommend this volume.  The Barthians will hate it, but the rest of us learn so much from it that our perceptions of Barth are forever changed.