Category Archives: Books

Books That Matter, on #WorldBookDay

Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace.  I saw the dead, great and small alike, standing in front of his throne while the books lay open. And another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged from what was written in the books, as their deeds deserved. (Rev. 20:11-12)

Writing Books… On #WorldBookDay

You must realise that writing books involves endless hard work, and that much study wearies the body.– (Eccl. 12:12)

Boy that’s the truth.


Today!  Read a book.

Grundinformation Neues Testament: Eine bibelkundlich-theologische Einführung

Das Arbeitsbuch stellt die Schriften des Neuen Testaments allgemeinverständlich in der Reihenfolge des Kanons dar. Der Zugang erfolgt über eine bibelkundliche Erschließung. Exegetische Hinweise dienen der Einordnung der behandelten Schrift und der Erhellung ihrer Entstehung. Anschließend werden theologische Schwerpunkte dargestellt und Hinweise zu Wirkungsgeschichte und gegenwärtiger Bedeutung gegeben – im Kirchenjahr, in der Kunst oder auch im »säkularen« Alltag. Durch vorangestellte Thesen, eingefügte Übersichten sowie zusätzliche Informationen in einer Randspalte wird der Text didaktisch erschlossen. Mit einem Verzeichnis der wichtigsten Studienliteratur, Glossar und biblischem Personenverzeichnis.

Given that this is the fifth edition of a well known standard textbook my observations will be fairly limited.  To wit, I want to talk for a minute about why this book is in many respects more useful than the plethora of ‘introductions to the New Testament’ that are out there.

First of all, it’s quite up to date.  The bibliographic entries are fresh and thorough.  The details provided by the various authors are cutting edge New Testament scholarship.  And the writing is bold, vivid, and crisp.

Unlike many introductions, this one has not one author but many.  Experts in Pauline studies address pauline texts.  Experts in the early history of Christianity address that era.  Experts in the synoptics share their expertise with readers.  Indeed, expertise abounds in this book, and for that, in these dilettantish days, we can all be grateful.

Texts are treated not only as historical documents, but as theological as well.  Thus, this isn’t simply an intro to the New Testament, it is, as its title suggests, a volume that provides readers with all the basic information concerning the collection of documents that we call the New Testament that one needs in order to comprehend that collection.

Each section features a bibliography, naturally, as well as little sidebars which indicate the main topic of the subsection.  There are also the usual indices and a very useful glossary so that students and lay-readers who are not familiar with the jargon of scholars can find terms defined.

In a world filled with introductions to the New Testament, this one stands out both because of its thoroughness but also because of its clarity.  Multiple contributors make this volume even more useful, as readers are getting not simply one person’s viewpoint, but many.

Do read it.

De Gruyter Has Some New Volumes of Interest

Geschichte Israels und Judas im Altertum

This new volume will be of interest to many-

The authors develop a new viewpoint on the ancient history of Israel and Judah by examining social and economic conditions, contemporary inscriptions, and archeological and iconographic sources as a basis for biblical exegesis and theology. In this way, the authors uncover the backdrop for the great biblical narrative, created as a collective memory since Persian period in Jerusalem, Babylonia, and the sanctuary on Mount Gerizim.

Ernst Axel Knauf, University of Bern, Switzerland and Hermann Michael Niemann, University of Rostock, Germany.

Most histories of Israel end up being nothing more than a paraphrase of the biblical text.  This is certainly the case of the histories written by the Albright/ Bright school of historical studies.  It was not until the history of Mario Liverani that a distinction was made between the history of Israel as paraphrase of scripture and the history of Israel as historical discipline that the two were clearly separated (although the so called minimalists had been trending in that direction for several decades).

Truth be told, what we know about the history of ancient Israel and Judah is slim to none.  Like the historical Jesus, there simply are not a lot of resources for reconstruction aside from the Bible, which naturally means that there’s very little, historically, that we can say.

The present book tries to integrate what can be known from extra-biblical history with biblical materials as supplemental.  To say that another way, for the present authors, the biblical text is a secondary source and the archaeological and textual evidence from outside the bible set the agenda.

The volume, accordingly, begins with a clear description of the authors’ methodology.  The pre-history of Israel is next up, and that pre-history begins not with Abraham or Moses or those folk but with the states of Israel and Judah.  The history of Israel, historically, begins not with the patriarchs, but with the States.

Next treated is the Egyptian province of Canaan and the end of the bronze age.  Chapter three examines the tribal system of ancient Israel and its appearance in the land.  Chapter four looks into the beginnings of the State under Saul and David with an Excursus on Solomon.   Chapter five looks more closely at the Omride State and the dynasties of the Northern Kingdom.  Chapter six naturally next considers the history of Judah.

In chapter seven, Judah’s existence under Babylonian control is investigated and in chapter eight we read further details about both Babylonia and Persia.

Chapter nine brings us to the return to Palestine of the ‘exiles’ and the rise of Torah as guiding light for Judean culture.  In chapter ten, the era called by many the intertestamental period is next taken up and in chapter eleven the Hellenistic era is the topic.  Finally, in chapter twelve, we come to the period of time in which Rome controlled Palestine and we end with the rebellion of Bar Kochba.

This very thorough look at the history of the people called Israelites, Judahites, Judeans, and Jews is the ideal blending of extra-biblical and scriptural details allowing for what can fairly be called a good and accurate depiction of that people’s story.

Six appendices on various historical details like the lists of kings and the dates of the exile and return among others round out the volume and it concludes with indices of scripture, names and persons, and places.  The text also includes sidebars and maps. There are also lots of bibliographic details included in each chapter.

This is a tremendous resource and does what so far most have failed to do: i.e., not privilege the biblical text in its historical reconstruction.  Until one of our Minimalist friends writes a thorough history of Israel, this will be the next best thing.  I enjoyed reading it, and you will too.

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.

Review forthcoming.


“A little library, growing larger every year, is an honorable part of a man’s history. It is a man’s duty to have books. A little library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.” — Henry Ward Beecher.

Cultural Shifts and Ritual Transformations in Reformation Europe

This volume honors the work of a scholar who has been active in the field of early modern history for over four decades. In that time, Susan Karant-Nunn’s work challenged established orthodoxies, pushed the envelope of historical genres, and opened up new avenues of research and understanding, which came to define the contours of the field itself. Like this rich career, the chapters in this volume cover a broad range of historical genres from social, cultural and art history, to the history of gender, masculinity, and emotion, and range geographically from the Holy Roman Empire, France, and the Netherlands, to Geneva and Austria. Based on a vast array of archival and secondary sources, the contributions open up new horizons of research and commentary on all aspects of early modern life.

Contributors: James Blakeley, Robert J. Christman, Victoria Christman, Amy Nelson Burnett, Pia Cuneo, Ute Lotz-Heumann, Amy Newhouse, Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer, Helmut Puff, Lyndal Roper, Karen E. Spierling, James D. Tracy, Mara R. Wade, David Whitford, and Charles Zika.

Festschriften (I just can’t drag myself to say ‘Festschrifts’) tend to be quite technically oriented.  They are written by colleagues of the honoree and reflect, generally, the interests of said honoree.  Given that they are by scholars for scholars, it is utterly unsurprising that they are not ‘popular’ and are not intended for a general reading public.

This volume is no different in that respect.  It aims to please its recipient, and, given her glowing appreciation expressed at a recent conference I think that it well achieved it’s aim.

Naturally this suggests that while she may have found it extremely good, other readers may not have the same reaction, since the essays are not written in appreciation of them, but of her.  Yet that suggestion would be wrong, because this is a collection that will be of great interest to all scholars of the Reformation.  These essays are astonishingly engaging, even when their titles may hint at a bit of dust.

  • Luther and Gender
  • High Noon on the Road to Damascus: A Reformation Showdown and the Role of Horses in Lucas Cranach the Younger’s Conversion of Paul (1549)
  • How to Make a Holy Well: Local Practices and Official Responses in Early Modern Germany
  • Advice from a Lutheran Politique: Ambassador David Ungnad’s Circular Letter to the Austrian Estates, 1576
  • Above the Skin: Cloth and the Body’s Boundary in Early Modern Nuremberg
  • Masculinities in Sixteenth-Century Imagery: A Contribution to Early Modern Gender History

These and the other essays in this book may have somewhat unconventional sounding titles (for Reformation studies) and they may seem to be super-specific (and they are), but potential readers ought not let that ‘scare them off’.  These contributions are festooned with incredibly interesting historical facts.  And, as the foreword reminds us

Despite the fact that the editors of this volume have divided its articles neatly into sections that reflect the progression of Karant-Nunn’s intellectual journey, the perceptive reader will quickly recognize the influence and inspiration of the entire spectrum of her oeuvre across each of the sections. That that influence reflects many of the broader trends in the study of the Reformation should come as no surprise: to a significant degree, such developments have Karant-Nunn to thank.

A book organized according to the intellectual journey of its honoree is not only a very good way to do things, but a very good way to allow others to investigate topics of interest to themselves and interact with the views of the honoree.  But the volume also includes, aside from brilliant text, a fairly extensive number of color and black and white illustrations that are sharp, crisp, and detailed.  These add immensely to the usefulness of the volume.

A sample worth sharing is from, in my opinion, the best of the essays in the volume- that of Amy Nelson Burnett, who writes in her Streitkultur Meets the Culture of Persuasion: The Flensburg Disputation of 1529

In April 1529 a public disputation was held in Flensburg, located in the duchy of Schleswig near the Danish border, that pitted the furrier and lay preacher Melchior Hoffman against the Lutheran clergy of the region. Because of Hoffman’s later career as an Anabaptist leader, it might be thought that the disputation concerned the issue of infant baptism, but in fact the disputation centered on the substantial presence of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. Held six months before the more famous Marburg colloquy between Martin Luther and the Swiss reformers, the Flensburg disputation was the first public disputation devoted specifically to the Lord’s Supper. Susan Karant-Nunn was one of the first historians to consider the Protestant Lord’s Supper from the perspective of social and cultural history rather than theology.

Reformation scholars, persons interested in gender studies, and those inclined to the investigation of the minutest details of early modern European history will all enjoy making their way through this collection.  I think you will enjoy it.  And so I recommend it to you.

Postmortem Opportunity: A Biblical and Theological Assessment of Salvation After Death

One of Jesus’ most basic commands to his disciples was to tell the world about the good news of his life, death, and resurrection. From the earliest days of the church, Christians have embraced this calling.

But for those Christians who emphasize the need for an active response to the gospel in order to be saved, this raises some difficult questions: What about those who did not hear the gospel before death? Or what about those who heard an incorrect or incomplete version of the gospel? Or what about those who were too young or who were otherwise unable to respond?

In light of these challenging questions, theologian James Beilby offers a careful consideration of the possibility for salvation after death. After examining the biblical evidence and assessing the theological implications, he argues that there is indeed hope for faith—even beyond death.

Einführung in das Neue Testament: Bibelkunde des Neuen Testaments- Geschichte und Religion des Urchristentums

A reprint edition of this classic has been published.  

Normally reprint’s aren’t considered grist for the review mill but sometimes a glance back at a real classic is beneficial for a new generation of biblical scholars.  Many may not be familiar at first hand with Lietzmann’s work and they would benefit, greatly, by being introduced to it.

First published in 1933 by Knopf, and thoroughly revised and reworked by Lietzmann, the fifth edition appeared in 1949.  Thus, the work first appeared on the cusp of the Second World War and went through four editions until reaching its final incarnation in 1949, just a few years after the war ended.  Incredibly, given those historical facts, the presence of an absolutely astonishingly fair representation of Judaism in the NT era is noteworthy on its own.  Add to that the remarkable thoroughness and the abiding relevance of many of the details, and this book is seen to be what it truly is: a wonder.

The book begins with a relatively brief overview of the language of the New Testament.  Next follows a very thorough examination of the textual witnesses available for study of the New Testament, including a survey of text critical methods, a description of the most ancient texts, the earliest witnesses in translation, the citations available in the Church Fathers, and the history of the printed text.  Finally, there is discussion of the contemporary (at the time) textual theories of Westcott and Hort.

Immediately following the text critical orientation of the volume, the early Christian literature is described.  Paul’s letters, the deutero-paulines, the letters of the Apostolic Fathers (!), the gospels, the apocryphal gospels (!), Acts, the Apocalypse, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, 2 Clement, and the Apologists all receive analysis.

The canon of the New Testament is next investigated.  Following this, the New Testament era is treated as a discreet topic, and this includes an examination of the Judaism of the New Testament period.  Hellenistic culture is next up to bat.

The sixth part of the volume is devoted to the beginnings of Christianity and guides readers into a clearer understanding of Jesus and his preaching, the apostolic age, Paul and his mission to the Gentiles, and developments from Jesus to Paul.

Next up is a look at the church from around 70 AD till 150 AD.

As easily seen, this is a very complete work in terms of its focus on introducing readers to the texts, literature, and world of the early Church.    All of it is based on one simple premise as brilliantly stated by the author:

Der Theolog steht in der Nachfolge der Apostel und ist Erbe ihres Amtes, Gottes Dolmetsch zu sein.

Never has a finer brief definition of the expositional task been written.

This book may be nearly 100 years old, but it is well worth reading right now.  It has much that is valuable in it.  It teaches much.  It is a genuinely important book.

Who Created Christianity?: Fresh Approaches to the Relationship between Paul and Jesus

Who Created Christianity? is a collection of essays by top international Christian scholars who desire to reinforce the relationship that Paul had with Jesus and Christianity.

There is a general sense today among Christians in certain circles that Paul’s teachings to the early Christian church are thought to be “rogue,” even clashing at times with Jesus’ words. Yet these essays set out to prove that the tradition that Paul passes on is one received from Jesus, not separate from it.

The essays in this volume come from a diverse and international group of scholars. They offer up-to-date studies of the teachings of Paul and how the specific teachings directly relate to the earlier teachings of Jesus. This volume explores with even greater focus than ever before the tradition from which Paul emerges and the specific teachings that are part of this tradition. This collection of essays proposes a complementary work to the work of David Wenham and his thesis that Paul was indeed not the founder of Christianity or the creator of Christian dogma; instead, he was a faithful disciple and a conveyer of a prior Christian tradition.

The essayists who contributed to this volume bring a collective several centuries of scholarship to bear and the fruits of that experience glisten on every page.  Stanley Porter, Graham Twelftree, Rainer Riesner, Joan Taylor, Alister McGrath, Craig Evans, Sarah Harris, Mike Bird, Steve Walton, Greg Beale, and Holly Beers among other lesser known and nonetheless finely gifted academics have seen to it that critical issues facing New Testament scholarship are brilliantly addressed.

Jesus and Paul are the two most important persons in the history of Christianity.  How significant is well known but WHY is a question seldom enough asked.  This collection asks, and answers.

The volume is comprised of six parts (personally I would have gone for seven) and in those parts the discussion is framed, Gospel origins are looked into, the oral tradition and its connection to Jesus and Paul is examined, the main themes of research concerning Jesus and Paul are discussed, women according to Jesus and Paul are investigated, Paul’s relationship to the Gospels and Jesus in the letters of Paul are also grist for the academic mill.

The best essays, in my view, are those by Twelftree, Riesner, Taylor, Bird, and Walton.  They are incredibly informative and have the merit of not repeating what are well known details.

The honoree of this Festschrift, David Wenham, is both deserving of the honor and honored by the high quality of scholarship on display in this work.  And while there are more than enough books on Paul out and about these days and plenty on the historical Jesus, few bring the two together and none do it as brilliantly as is done here.

In his foreword Wenham concludes

My hope is that this book, for which I am very grateful. will encourage ongoing sane and fruitful study of the Paul and Jesus question.

From his lips to God’s ears, as we say down here.  With the abundance of insane monographs ranging from the lunacy of the Jesus mythicists to the virtual worshipers of Paul, it is refreshing to read a volume that actually takes us forward in quest of answers to serious issues.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this work.  If you only have time to read a few of the contributions, do read the five I note above.  But if you can make time for the whole work, you will not regret it.  Indeed, you will ‘redeem the time’ and it will be a far better use of your limited lifespan than hopping on the game machine to play the fortnite (or whatever time wasting frolic is popular these days).

Tolle, lege!

An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Historical, Global, and Interreligious Perspectives

This volume arrived some weeks ago for review.

Ecclesiology—the doctrine of the church—has risen to the center of theological interest in recent decades. In this text, theologian Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen provides a wide-ranging survey of the rich field of ecclesiology in the midst of rapid developments and new horizons. Drawing on Kärkkäinen’s international experience and comprehensive research on the church, this revised and expanded edition is thoroughly updated to incorporate recent literature and trends. This unique primer not only orients readers to biblical, historical, and contemporary ecclesiologies but also highlights contextual and global perspectives and includes an entirely new section on interfaith comparative theology. An Introduction to Ecclesiology surveys

  • major theological traditions, including Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Reformed, and Pentecostal
  • ecclesiological insights from Latin American, Africa, and Asia
  • distinct perspectives from women, African Americans, and recent trends in the United States
  • key elements of the church such as mission, governance, worship, and sacraments
  • interreligious comparison with Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist communities

As the church today encounters challenges and opportunities related to rapid growth in the Majority World, new congregational forms, ecumenical movements, interfaith relations, and more, Christians need a robust ecclesiology that makes room for both unity and diversity. In An Introduction to Ecclesiology students, pastors, and laypeople will find an essential resource for understanding how the church can live out its calling as Christ’s community on earth.

This extremely important contribution to ecclesiology is the very best book published on the topic since Emil Brunner’s ‘The Misunderstanding of the Church’.

The grotesque lack of understanding of ecclesiology so common among American Christians, pastors, and academics calls for correction, and V-MK’s work achieves precisely that.

He begins by outlining the chief ecclesiological traditions of Christianity, including Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Free Church, and Pentecostal/Charismatic.  Completing the task of highlighting those forms of being Church, he next moves to a very fine description of Ecclesiology as found in Africa, South America, and Asia and he includes treatments of the church as envisioned by women, and in America.

The next portion of the volume focuses on the mission of the Church: it’s tasks, governance, liturgy, ordinances, and interdependency with other denominations.

The volume concludes with what is unique among ecclesiologies:  a look at the Church in relationship with the Synagogue, the Islamic Ummah, Hiduism, and Buddhism.

This, as a quick glance at its themes demonstrates, is a full and fulsome volume whose task of informing readers of a proper ecclesiology is magisterially achieved.

In an epilogue, V-MK looks towards the future, asking where Ecclesiology is headed in the 3rd Millennium.  An author index and a subject index round out the volume.

Readers may be familiar with the earlier edition of this work.  It first appeared in 2002.  If so, the work in hand is a different book altogether.  It was rewritten, expanded, restructured, and thoroughly updated.  There are footnotes, but not so many as to be bothersome.

This important work needs to be read.  By everyone involved in thinking about the Church and its mission.  The author has done all the hard work by cultivating the ground, planting the seed, and harvesting the growth.  Now you have the opportunity of enjoying the feast.  Take, eat… this has to do with Christ’s body.  And that matters, or at least should matter, to every Christian.

Die Briefe des Petrus und des Judas: Die Botschaft des Neuen Testaments

Kein anderer biblischer Text ist im Vergleich zu seiner Länge so häufig und ausführlich unter den offiziellen Predigttexten vertreten, wie der erste Petrusbrief. Trotzdem gehört der erste Petrusbrief eher zu den unbekannten Größen des Neuen Testamentes.

Kein anderer Text des NT blieb derart unverstanden wie der Judasbrief. Gleichzeitig sind nur wenige biblische Schriften auch nur annähernd so gehaltvoll, wie die wenigen Verse des Judasbriefes.

Wohl kein anderer Autor des NT wurde ähnlich verkannt, wie der des zweiten Petrusbriefes. Würde der zweite Petrusbrief unter den biblischen Texten fehlen, nur wenige würden ihn vermissen. Doch gerade der Autor des zweiten Petrusbriefes kann heute als Vorbild für einen aufgeklärten Umgang mit der Botschaft des NT fungieren.

Der neue Kommentar ist bestrebt, sowohl den drei Schriften in ihrer jeweiligen Eigenart als auch ihren Autoren Gerechtigkeit widerfahren zu lassen. Er möchte Verständnis erwecken und für die Beschäftigung mit ihnen begeistern.

The present commentary, like others in the series in which it appears (and which I have reviewed previously) is an incredibly helpful and useful resource for those who wish to ‘study to show themselves approved workers, rightly exegeting the word of truth’.  These two biblical texts, fairly unappreciated and certainly not studied in the same depth as the Gospels or Paul’s letters, here receive their due.

The author introduces the work thusly:

Drei Briefe von drei Autoren für drei Gemeinden aus unterschiedlichen Phasen der Entstehungszeit des Christentums. Miteinander verbunden sind die drei Briefe durch den zweiten Petrusbrief. Sein Autor stellt seinen Brief auf der einen Seite ausdrücklich in die Nachfolge des ersten Petrusbriefes (2Petr 3,1). Auf der anderen Seite bezieht er sich so offenkundig auf Motive des Judasbriefes, dass sich eine ausdrückliche Bezugnahme für ihn erübrigt.

Three texts stemming from the early Church which allow us to learn a great deal about the views, practices, and interpretive methodologies of that community.

Each book is introduced as to time and place and author and each exegeted according to the outline proper to each.  Excurses are provided where necessary.  And. perhaps most importantly, each concludes with a theological summary of the book’s contents.  The series title ‘the Message of the New Testament’ is also the title of the concluding segment; i.e., ‘the message of First Peter’, etc.  So, for example, regarding the message of 2 Peter, we find

I) Vorbemerkung
II) Die Autorität des Autors
III) Die Warnung vor den Extremen
IV) Warnung und Trost – Gericht und Rettung
V) Die Endzeit
VI) Das Leben vor dem Ende und zwischen den Extremen
VII) Resümee

Each pericope is translated, thoroughly explained and the volume ends with a decent bibliography, abbreviation list, and a subject index.

Finally, I think it appropriate to reproduce a snippet of the exegesis, so that potential readers have an idea of what the author is trying to do, and how he does it.  The segment is from the exposition of 1 Peter 3:1-4.  Following the text, and the commentary proper, we find this:

Die Unterordnung der Ehefrau bezeichnet der Autor als den wahren Schmuck der Frau (4). Ein solches Verhalten gilt als gottgewollt, ihm wird ewiger Bestand (4b) attestiert und es erscheint selbst als eine Art von Gottesdienst (4c). Die Anweisungen haben ihren Ort in der konkreten Situation einer im Aufbau befindlichen und angefeindeten christlichen Gemeinde. Jeder Anschein von Störung der Ordnung durch Nichtanpassung war zu vermeiden. Mit dem im ersten Petrusbrief vertretenen Ehe- und Familienbild sollten Vorurteile gegen die neue Gruppierung abgewehrt werden. Die hier propagierten Rollenbilder haben bis in die Gegenwart die Gesellschaft geprägt. Heutige christliche Leserinnen und Leser des ersten Petrusbriefes müssen sich mit den damals vertretenen und religiös aufgeladenen Idealen auseinandersetzen. Zu bedenken ist, dass die idealtypische Ehefrau zu Beginn des dritten Kapitels des ersten Petrusbriefes parallel zu dem typischen Haussklaven am Ende des zweiten Kapitels steht. Wer das eine in seiner Gottgewolltheit relativiert und nicht mehr als angemessen erachtet, wird auch das andere auf seine Zeitgemäßheit hin befragen.

I admit, that’s a rather long excerpt, but I think that when one is considering a commentary, having some idea of its contents is an extremely important bit of information to possess.

This volume, like the others in the series, is a welcome addition to the library of students, pastors, scholars, and interested lay folk who want to understand the Scriptures in as thorough and full a way as possible.  The author, Karl-Heinrich Ostmeyer, deserves our appreciation for his fantastic efforts and even more, he deserves for his work to be read.

Tolle, lege! 

Two Out of Three: Emil Brunner’s Dogmatics Online

brunner83The first two volumes of Emil Brunner’s Christian Dogmatics are online-

Unfortunately volume three isn’t.  But maybe it will be soon.  Or you could just buy the print edition.  It’s very much worth it.

Barth’s Last Word to Brunner

brunner5“Barth’s letter arrived on the morning of 5 April. Vogelsanger cycled to the clinic at Zollikerberg, and informed Brunner that “Karl Barth sends his greetings!” He then read Brunner this letter by his bedside. Brunner smiled, pressed his hand, and shortly afterwards lapsed into an uncon­sciousness from which he never reawakened. He died at noon on Wednesday, 6 April 1966 at the Neumünsterspital at Zollikerberg, near Zurich. His funeral at the Fraumünster in Zurich on 12 April 1966 was led by Vogelsanger. ” – Alister McGrath

Die Botschaft des Neuen Testaments: Eine kurz gefasste neutestamentliche Theologie

Diese “kurzgefasste neutestamentliche Theologie” beginnt mit der Entstehung des Kanons und ihren theologischen Aspekten und beschreibt dann die Grundlagen der Botschaft im Erbe Israels und im Wirken und in der Verkündigung Jesu. Es folgt die Darstellung der Botschaft der einzelnen Evangelien und Briefe und jeweils ein Überblick über die gemeinsame Botschaft der Evangelien, des Paulus und seiner Schule und der katholischen Briefe. Im Schlussteil wird dann das Neue Testament als Ganzes in Blick genommen.

Inhaltlich zeigt sich bei den verschiedenen Themen eine große Vielfalt, aber auch eine weitreichende Übereinstimmung in den Grundfragen von Glauben und Leben: Gott hat in Jesus Christus Heil für eine Welt geschaffen, die sonst verloren wäre. Weil dieses Heil aber in der erneuerten Gemeinschaft mit Gott besteht, werden die Menschen nach ihrer Antwort auf Gottes Zusage gefragt. Ziel ist ein Leben in der Liebe zu Gott und zum Nächsten.

Diese Botschaft passt nicht in allem zu den Erwartungen, die wir an ein Wort für unsere Zeit haben. Und doch bleibt sie höchst aktuell auch für uns.

With the plethora of NT theologies out and about these days the question will naturally arise, ‘why another’.  The aim of the present book answers that important question:

Wir werden uns in diesem Buch auf die Aufgabe beschränken, die Botschaft des Neuen Testaments zu erkunden. Aber das Alte Testament wird nie ganz aus dem Blick geraten. Seine Botschaft durchdringt die des Neuen Testaments auf vielfältige Weise. Aber im Detail werden wir nur die Schriften des Neuen Testaments behandeln.

The basis of any good NT theology is an understanding of the importance of the OT.  No authentic theology of the New Testament can operate without one eye constantly on the text of the Hebrew Bible/ LXX.

K. looks at the gospels and delineates the chief emphasis of each of their authors and then he takes on the letters of Paul, in chronological order.  First the seven authentic letters are treated and then the deutero-paulines are looked into.  There’s even an important excursus:

Exkurs: Ein Wort zur Pseudepigraphie

But K. doesn’t simply look at the books themselves; he offers instruction in the significance of those books and the genres they represent.  For example, after his treatment of the letters of Paul and the deutero-paulines and the Book of Hebrews, he presents a chapter titled

Theologie in Briefform – reflektierte Kommunikation des Evangeliums.

Once the examination of the theology of the books of the New Testament is concluded, K. turns to a thematic description of the theology of the New Testament. This segment of the book is extremely instructive.

The volume concludes with a bibliography, a list of abbreviations, and the usual indices.

Any student wishing to get an excellent overview of the contents of the New Testament will have just that here in this volume. And any student wishing to familiarize her or himself with the message of the New Testament will also find that here.

The New Testament is a collection of theological texts. K. allows them to remain discreet and individual voices and doesn’t try to flatten them or homogenize them or transform them into one overarching message. The rich fulness of the NT is on display here, and it is a glorious thing to behold.

Dreams, Visions, Imaginations: Jewish, Christian and Gnostic Views of the World to Come

The contributions in this volume are focused on the historical origins, religious provenance, and social function of ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature, including so-called ‘Gnostic’ writings. Although it is disputed whether there was a genre of ‘apocalyptic literature,’ it is obvious that numerous texts from ancient Judaism, early Christianity, and other religious milieus share a specific view of history and the world to come.

Many of these writings are presented in form of a heavenly (divine) revelation, mediated through an otherworldly figure (like an angel) to an elected human being who discloses this revelation to his recipients in written form. In different strands of early Judaism, ancient Christianity as well as in Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and Islam, apocalyptic writings played an important role from early on and were produced also in later centuries. One of the most characteristic features of these texts is their specific interpretation of history, based on the knowledge about the upper, divine realm and the world to come.

Against this background the volume deals with a wide range of apocalyptic texts from different periods and various religious backgrounds.

A review copy was provided by the publisher, with no requirements concerning the review’s outcome.
It contains the following essays:

  1. Where Should We Look for the Roots of Jewish Apocalypticism?, John J. Collins
  2. Apocalyptic Literature and Experiences of Contact with the Other-World in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity, Luca Arcari
  3. Time and History in Ancient Jewish and Christian Apocalyptic Writings, Lorenzo DiTommaso
  4. Apocalyptic Writings in Qumran and the Community’s Idea of History, Jörg Frey
  5. This Age and the Age to Come in 2 Baruch, Matthias Henze
  6. Jesus and Jewish Apocalyptic, Armand Puig i Tàrrech
  7. Time and History: The Use of the Past and the Present in the Book of Revelation, Adela Yarbro Collins
  8. Dreams, Visions and the World-to-Come according to the Shepherd of Hermas, Joseph Verheyden
  9. Ezra and his Visions: From Jewish Apocalypse to Medieval Tour of Hell, Jens Schröter
  10. Views of the World to Come in the Jewish-Christian Sibylline Oracles, Olivia Stewart Lester
  11. Defying the Divine: Jannes and Jambres in Apocalyptic Perspective, Marcos Aceituno Donoso
  12. Between Jewish and Egyptian Thinking: The Apocalypse of Sophonias as a Bridge between Two Worlds?, Michael Sommer
  13. From the ‘Gnostic Dialogues’ to the ‘Apostolic Memoirs’: Literary and Historical Settings of the Nag Hammadi Apocalypses, Dylan M. Burns
  14. What is ‘Gnostic’ within Gnostic Apocalypses?, Jean-Daniel Dubois
  15. Being in corpore/carne and extra corpus: some interrelations within the Apocalypsis Pauli/Visio Pauli, Thomas J. Kraus
  16. From Historical Apocalypses to Apocalyptic History: Late Antique Historians and Apocalyptic Writings, Tobias Nicklas
  17. Qur’anic Eschatology in its Biblical and Late Ancient Matrix, Stephen J. Shoemaker
  18. The Book of Revelation and Visual Culture, Lourdes García Ureña

I have taken the liberty of marking in bold print the essays which are particularly helpful and provocative.  These essays, as a whole, advance knowledge related to their particular topics.  Readers will note that while the themes covered here are fairly broad, the one unifying concept is apocalyptic.  And not since D.S. Russell’s monograph on apocalyptic has the subject been addressed so thoroughly.

Canonical texts and non-canonical come into view and none are privileged.  The status of texts within their respective communities of faith are left aside and the texts themselves, without the usual baggage attached, are faithfully and carefully looked into.

The indices are a great help in locating materials of particular interest to particular readers.  The subject index is itself very thorough and extremely useful.  Each essay also provides a quite up to date bibliography.  The essays are all in English but the editors have provided a very nice abstract at the beginning of each, in German.  And naturally, this being an academic work, there are plenty of footnotes which will inform and delight those thirsting for more information.

This is a quite good resource and persons desirous of learning about the long tentacles of apocalyptic thought and their entanglements in Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic texts from antiquity will benefit from it.

Four Kingdom Motifs before and beyond the Book of Daniel

Edited by : Andrew Perrin and Loren T. Stuckenbruck.

The four kingdoms motif enabled writers of various cultures, times, and places, to periodize history as the staged succession of empires barrelling towards an utopian age. The motif provided order to lived experiences under empire (the present), in view of ancestral traditions and cultural heritage (the past), and inspired outlooks assuring hope, deliverance, and restoration (the future).Four Kingdom Motifs before and beyond the Book of Daniel includes thirteen essays that explore the reach and redeployment of the motif in classical and ancient Near Eastern writings, Jewish and Christian scriptures, texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, depictions in European architecture and cartography, as well as patristic, rabbinic, Islamic, and African writings from antiquity through the Mediaeval eras.

The book is open access and thus free to download in PDF.

Prophets, Priests, and Promises: Essays on the Deuteronomistic History, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah

This collection of essays has now been published-

Shortly before his untimely death Gary Knoppers prepared a number of articles on the historical books in the Hebrew Bible for this volume. Many had not previously been published and the others were heavily revised. They combine a fine attention to historical method with sensitivity for literary-critical analysis, constructive use of classical as well as other sources for comparative evidence, and wide-ranging attention to economic, social, religious, and political circumstances relating in particular to the Persian and early Hellenistic periods. Knoppers advances many new suggestions about significant themes in these texts, about how they relate one to another, and about the light they shed on the various communities’ self-consciousness at a time when new religious identities were being forged.

Professor Knoppers died suddenly on December 22, 2018.  That afternoon Jack Sasson wrote

I am extremely saddened to write today with the awful news that Gary Knoppers, John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, died suddenly this morning.

The essays here collected, the full list of which you can read at the link above under ‘table of contents’, are the gathered works of one of this generation’s most gifted minds.  Ranging from the topics of ancient history and historiography, to scribal practices and mimesis, to David, the Law, the Temple, to the exile and the exilic period, Knoppers knew it all.  He was, in terms of biblical scholarship, a man who knew all the ins and outs of the whens and hows and whys.

Aside from knowing all the major (and minor) issues related to the scholarship of the Hebrew Bible, Knoppers was an excellent communicator, a writer with the ability to describe clearly and purposefully the subject at hand.

For many years I’ve been of the opinion that only people who really understand something are able to explain it clearly enough for someone generally educated to comprehend it.  The more complex the issue, the more an expert must understand it in order to be able to explain it.  Gary was that sort of person.  He was able to take the most complex issues in biblical studies and explain them so that students, colleagues, and even opponents could understand them clearly.

Each of the essays in the present volume is a tribute to its author.  Eight of them are newly published here for the first time, with the remaining seven extensively revised and updated before inclusion.  To put it another way, none of the essays in their present form have ever appeared anywhere else.

Each essay is fully documented, and there are plenty of materials pointed to for those interested in further investigation of any of the subjects covered.

People familiar with Knoppers’ work will know him to be a trustworthy friend in scholarship.  Those unfamiliar with him will find here what I hope will be an introduction to his thoroughness, thought, and writing style.  So informed, I sincerely hope they move on to read his commentaries and other works.

A worthy scholar deserves readers.  Gary Knoppers was among the worthiest.