Category Archives: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

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.

A review copy arrived today.

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.

A review copy arrived today.

Das Reformationsjubiläum 2017: Umstrittenes Erinnern

Als die Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland 2008 eine Lutherdekade als Vorbereitung auf das große Reformationsjubiläum des Jahres 2017 ausrief, hatte Hartmut Lehmann sich bereits viele Jahre mit den Lutherjubiläen der vergangenen Jahrhunderte beschäftigt. So lag es nahe, dass er auch die von der EKD im Hinblick auf 2017 unternommenen Aktivitäten beobachtete und sich dazu an verschiedenen Stellen äußerte. Außerdem wurde er in den Jahren zwischen 2008 und 2017 immer wieder zu Vorträgen über das bevorstehende Jubiläum gebeten.

So entstanden eine Reihe von kritischen Kommentaren zum Reformationsfest 2017, von denen hier eine Auswahl vorliegt. Die Bilanz, die Hartmut Lehmann zieht, ist durchaus kritisch. Auf der einen Seite würdigt er zwar die Restaurationsarbeiten an den originalen Luthergedenkstätten, die großen nationalen Ausstellungen, die 2017 gezeigt wurden sowie einige neuere wissenschaftliche Arbeiten zu Luther und der Reformation.

Auf der anderen Seite ist ihm aber aufgefallen, dass die EKD die nichtdeutschen protestantischen Kirchen nicht angemessen in die Vorbereitungen einbezogen hat – deshalb entstand in den Niederlanden Refo500; dass es der EKD und der Katholischen Kirche erst in der letzten Phase der Lutherdekade gelang, sich gemeinsam zu Fortschritten in der Ökumene zu bekennen; dass der Plan der EKD, die Lutherdekade als „Dekade der Freiheit“ zu feiern, auf viel Widerstand stieß; dass die EKD sich erst viel zu spät dezidiert von den fatalen Judenschriften Luthers distanzierte und dass für das große Jubiläumsfest im Jahre 2017 kein überzeugendes, über das Jahr hinaus strahlendes Motto gefunden wurde.

Die Texte dieses Bandes entstanden zwischen 2008 und 2018. Sie machen deutlich, wie umstritten die Erinnerungsbemühungen an Martin Luther aus Anlass der 500jährigen Wiederkehr des Beginns der Reformation waren.

A review copy came in the mail today.  More soon.

Theodore Beza at 500

Theodore Beza (1519–1605) was a talented humanist, Protestant theologian, political agitator, and prominent minister of the reformed church in Geneva during the second-half of the 16th century. During his long career, Beza exercised strategic leadership in his efforts to preserve reformed Christianity in Geneva and his native France, as well as to defend the theological legacy of John Calvin throughout Europe. Beza’s diverse literary corpus of more than seventy works demonstrates that he was well-versed in classical literature, skilled in biblical exegesis, and adroit in theological controversy.

More than an ivory-tower theologian, Beza maintained contact with the leading political and religious figures of his day, including Henry IV of France and Elizabeth I of England, as well as John Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger, and Philipp Melanchthon. He also participated in some of the most important colloquies and controversies of his generation, such as the Colloquy of Poissy (1561), the National Synod of La Rochelle (1571), and the Colloquy of Montbéliard (1586). This roll call of eminent people and important events indicates the central role that Beza played in the explosive political and religious controversies that roiled Western Europe during this troubled century.

This edited volume explores neglected aspects of the history, theology, and literary contribution of Beza. The thirteen contributors to this volume are an accomplished group of scholars who specialize in the religious and social history of early modern Protestantism. Theodore Beza at 500 celebrates the 500th anniversary of the reformer’s birth by providing an original, insightful, and multifaceted study of one of the most important leaders of reformed Protestantism after John Calvin.

A review copy arrived today.  More anon.

Paulus und die christliche Gemeinde in Korinth: Historisch-kulturelle und theologische Aspekte

Die Beiträge im vorliegenden Band befassen sich mit dem kulturellen Kontext der christlichen Gemeinde in Korinth im 1. Jh. n. Chr. und mit der Reaktion des Paulus auf kontextuell bedingte Spannungen.

Benjamin Schliesser macht eine Fülle neuerer Untersuchungen über das antike Korinth fruchtbar für die Frage nach der soziokulturellen Situation der Gemeinde.

Harald Seubert macht plausibel, dass sich eine Reihe von polemischen Aussagen des Paulus in den Korintherbriefen auf Phänomene beziehen, welche enge Parallelen mit der Zweiten Sophistik aufweisen.

Jacob Thiessen legt dar, dass die von Paulus in 1. Korinther 14 kritisierte Art und Weise, wie die Korinther das „Zungenreden“ praktizieren, auffällige Parallelen zum Dionysoskult aufzeigt.

Christian Stettler zeigt auf, dass Paulus sich mit seiner Rede von der „Ohnmacht“ und “Torheit” Gottes gegen in Korinth gängige kulturelle Massstäbe wendet und diese mit der wahren Macht und Weisheit konterkariert.

Jörg Frey analysiert die Strategie, mit der Paulus in den Argumentationsgängen des 1. Korintherbriefs um die Einheit der korinthischen Gemeinde ringt, und leitet daraus Empfehlungen für analoge heutige Situationen in der Kirche ab.

North American folk can acquire the volume from V&R’s excellent distributor ISD.  The publisher has supplied a review copy.

Pauline studies have been ramping up for a few decades (when the fascination with the quest of the historical Jesus cooled) and they show no sign of slowing down.  The issue for historical Jesus studies, of course, was the absolute paucity of actual evidence which resulted in all manner of wild speculations eventually resulting in the insanity of the ‘Jesus Mythicists’, a cadre of persons (not scholars) who denied the very existence of Jesus himself.

The same, I fear, will be the case with Paul and pauline studies if scholars don’t come to a point where they reject all the wild speculation presently festooning the field and instead stick to the facts.

The contributions in the present volume seek to affirm and enunciate historical details about the Corinthian community.  So the essayists examine the identity of the Christians in Paul’s community, the Sophist’s philosophical school (since it played such a significant role in the Corinthian community), the cult of Dionysius and the ‘phenomenon of speaking in tongues’ in that city and among those Christians, God’s ‘powerlessness’ in the light of Auschwitz and the role of God’s powerlessness in Paul’s theology, and finally the Pauline community and the unity of the Corinthian church.  Five authors presenting five chapters on issues central to any authentic understanding of the Corinthian church and the letters they received from Paul.

To be sure, this is not a collection of essays centered on Paul the man.  These essays are centered on the city of Corinth and its inhabitants.  In particular, its Christian inhabitants.  The papers here gathered stemmed from a conference on the topic held in Basel in 2018 (on the 28th of April that year to be exact).

The forward of the collection summarizes each of the contributions, giving readers a sense of where each essay is headed and how it gets there.  Each essay is meticulously constructed with the as usual for the Germans and Swiss attention to detail and evidence for facts presented.  Readers may wish to discover speculative guesses concerning this or that notion, but such speculations are absent.  Facts, and facts alone, are followed.  Each contribution also includes a useful bibliography.

There are no indices.  There is, however, a list of contributors with a brief bio for each.  And as each chapter is thoroughly outlined in the table of contents, an index of scripture or subject really isn’t necessary at all.

Each essay is instructive, but for myself, the outstanding contribution is that of Jacob Thiessen.  He investigates the cult of Dionysius and those speaking in tongues in Corinth and his is a model of scholarly presentation.  Not only is the essay informative, it is utterly engaging.  I won’t ruin the surprise for potential readers of this volume, but Thiessen’s work is the best on the subject of ‘speaking in tongues’ in the Corinthian context I have yet seen.

My hope is that the trajectory modeled so well by this collection will be followed and adopted by continuing pauline studies.  Speculation is good for no one.  Especially for the pursuit of truth.  Facts, on the other hand, enlighten us all.

This is one enlightening book.

Martin Kählers biblische Theologie: Grundzüge seines theologischen Werkes

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

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

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

This monograph is a gem.   It was in its original incarnation a doctoral dissertation and has been revised for publication.

After a brief forward the work develops in six major divisions, the first of which is an introduction to the theology of MK.  The stage set, part two develops quite fully the biographical features of MK’s life and his beginnings in theological studies.  Part three, incredibly interesting, focuses the reader’s attention on the theologians who contributed to MK’s intellectual formation.  These include Roth, Tholuck, Beck, and others.

The fourth part of the work is the longest and most specific: concerning itself with various of MK’s works, essays, and lectures.  The wide ranging expertise of MK as demonstrated by the profoundly impressive array of topics he wrote concerning are here the central focus.

Part five summarizes MK’s theology and part six provides an overview of the character of MK’s theology.  Though these two chapters may seem at first glance to be about the same thing, they are quite specific in their orientation and quite precise in their development of their individual themes.

The seventh part is a triple bibliography, covering works by MK, about MK, and then wider secondary literature.

Finally, section 8, a lecture of MK’s on the notion of inspiration, brings the volume to a close.

Zimmermann is an exceptionally organized scholar and his work shows that fact quite clearly.  From the structure of the volume to the structure of individual sentences and paragraphs, everything is interlocked in a water-tight waterproof hermetically sealed way.  Were one segment left aside, the whole would be weakened.  In other words, this is the most tightly written dissertation I believe I’ve ever seen.  There is no wandering from the purpose and there are no unnecessary words.

Footnotes are present but not overabundant and appear only when absolutely necessary.

The most important aspect of this work, however, is its function of introducing the theology of MK to a new generation of researchers who may imagine that he can be relegated to the ash heap of history and scholarship.  Here MK is shown to be a vibrant contributor to the theological enterprise and one who surely deserves a reading audience today.

If this book provokes readers of it to search out Kähler’s various theological works, it will have achieved something important.

Something to Watch For

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.

Volkskirche

Die Arbeit liefert eine Begriffsgeschichte des wohl wichtigsten Identitätskonzepts für den deutschen Protestantismus im 20. Jahrhundert: die Volkskirche. Mit diesem Begriff nahmen die deutschen Protestanten Bestimmungen vor in ihrem Verhältnis zum jeweiligen Staat sowie zur sie umgebenden Gesellschaft. Zugleich bietet die Begriffsgeschichte tiefe Einblicke in die binnenkirchlichen Auseinandersetzungen über das »richtige« Verständnis vom Wesen der Kirche und ihrer Aufgaben. Der Untersuchungszeitraum nimmt seinen Anfang bei der deutschen Revolution von 1918/19 die in ihren Weichenstellungen von kaum zu überschätzender Bedeutung für den weiteren Verlauf der Untersuchung ist, die ihren Endpunkt in der anhebenden Kritik an den volkskirchlichen Strukturen um das Jahr 1960 hat. Nach der Gründung der beiden deutschen Staaten 1949 kann die Arbeit verdeutlichen, wie die unterschiedlichen historischen Rahmenbedingungen der Kirchen sich gerade auch an der Geschichte des Volkskirchenbegriffs ablesen lassen können. Die in der Arbeit untersuchten semantischen Entwicklungen führen zu einem vertieften Verständnis des historischen Orts des Protestantismus in der Geschichte Deutschlands im 20. Jahrhundert.

Benedikt Brunner’s doctoral dissertation must have been a behemoth, because the present volume is merely the first four chapters of that work, edited for publication as the present volume.  That dissertation carried treatment of the topic to the year 1991.  The present work, of course, ends at 1960.

The work is concerned with the development and expansion of the Volkskirche in Germany beginning in 1918.  Naturally there were non aligned (non-Lutheran) Churches in Germany well before 1918.  But the point of departure Brunner has chosen was that critically important year.  So, in chapter one, he describes his methodology and his sources as well as the state of research at the time of his work.  Then in chapter two the focus turns to the Volkskirche in the period of the Weimar Republic.

The third chapter was, for me, the most interesting of the volume, as it focused on a period of German history that has always been of interest to me (and many): to wit, the church in the era of National Socialism.  The harm done to the church in that period of history was immense.  Fortunately, however, the wound was not fatal.  Accordingly, the fourth chapter of this very engaging dissertation attends to the developments in the Church in the post-war era.

The volume concludes with a list of abbreviations, a list of sources, church newspapers, and of course a listing of secondary literature.  Finally, there is an index of persons.

One of the first things about this book that stands out is the breadth and depth of Brunner’s familiarity with both the issues and the materials.  Not since Klaus Scholder’s really magisterial and so far unsurpassed multi-volume ‘The Churches and the Third Reich’ has anyone come as near to Scholder’s mastery as Brunner now has.  The work is festooned with primary source quotations which bolster the line of Brunner’s argument and which serve as the foundation of that argument.

Brunner is, in fairness, it has to be said, an extraordinary historian.  And the volume he produced here is unimaginably engaging.  I wish the entire dissertation had been published.  Perhaps we can look forward to a time when the remainder of that volume too sees the light of day in a follow-up companion to the present work.

Concerning problems with the book, I would simply point out that though Barth features prominently, Theophil Wurm receives lesser attention.   It is important to note that Wurm, though not as ‘loud’ as Barth, was an extremely influential voice in the Confessing Church and that, surely, he is deserving of wider recognition.  His wisely exhibited personal opposition to the Nazi program in relation to the Church was one of the reasons that the Confessing Church was able to survive.

In sum, minor voices (in terms of the attention they receive and not in relation to the influence they had) should be, in scholarship, more and more heard.  We know enough about Barth.  Let’s hear about other influential people.

Still, in fairness to Brunner, his dissertation and its contents are thoroughly within his own control.  And the fact that he chose to emphasize what he did is perfectly within his rights as a scholar and a researcher.  My view is that the work could have been ‘deepened’ by a hearing of minor voices, not that it would be ‘improved upon’ by them.

I think this work deserves a wide hearing.  It’s my hope that you will be encouraged to read it for yourselves.  I guarantee, if you do, you will learn a great deal from it.

A Great and Remarkable Analogy: The Onto-Typology of Jonathan Edwards

Edwards proposed that natural types in all of creation served as a communication or language of God, pointing to the antitypes of divine truths. These types are shown to exist all the way down to the cellular and molecular levels of nature. We explore how natural types are not mere poetical assignments of Christian themes onto nature. Rather, these types are ontologically real, in that they eternally existed in the mind of God with intent to communicate divine things to the creature. Thus, we call these natural types onto-types to reflect their ontological significance theologically and spiritually. In Edwards’ scheme, this was an important part of God’s end in creating. Emerging out of Edwards’ comprehensive metaphysics of creation is a portrayal of God’s commitment to emanate knowledge of the divine Self into the creation.

God’s Being is not emanated, resulting in a creation, rather the knowledge and glory of God are emanated into the creation serving to communicate messages of the divine to the creature out of infinite love and faithfulness. Edwards expounded a two-fold method where revelation of this language of nature can be experienced by direct engagement with the beauty in nature and in the study of science and its mechanisms. God’s action in revealing takes the form of willing the creation into being, communicating analogically through onto-types in the physical world, and revealing such knowledge to the creature. In this way, all of nature is the triune God acting: the Father willing into being, Christ communicating, and the Spirit revealing. God’s Trinitarian beauty and magnificent glory are not merely displayed by what has been made, but is intimately shared and delighted in. This, in Edwards’ view, is God’s ultimate end in creating.

Scholars of American theology and Edwards in particular will find the work engaging.

(In)Visibility: Reflections upon Visibility and Transcendence in Theology, Philosophy and the Arts

The content of the book reconsiders the relation between visibility and transcendence. The focus is especially on the contribution to this issue from the theological tradition in protestant Europe between the 16th and the 21st Centuries. In the book a thematically broad field is covered embracing more than five centuries and a plurality of methods drawn from theology, philosophy, and the history and theory of art. The book is divided into five sub-themes: In the first and more fundamental part, ‘The phenomenology of in-visibility’, questions underlying the other four themes are sought defined or narrowed down.

Here the modes of appearing/revealing or hiding of phenomena are reflected. In the second section of the book dealing with ‘Language as a mode of revealing and hiding’ the specific role of verbal expressions understood in a very broad sense is at the core: What is the fundamental understanding and use of language, when speaking of the ineffable? The third section about ‘Human existence between visibility and invisibility’ focuses on theological anthropology: its features and norms.

The ambiguity of anthropological categories such as faith, rationality, imagination, memory and emotion play a prominent role in this context. The fourth section concerning ‘The manifestation of a ‘beyond’ in the arts’ investigates transcendence in the arts. What are the theological discourses behind the religious uses of the different artistic media (i.e. images, music, liturgical inventory, architecture)? Finally in the fifth section concerning ‘Visible community and invisible transcendence’ one finds contributions working with the idea of ‘vicarious representation’.

First off, please note that the link above takes you to a ‘sample’ (the Leseprobe tab) which has a ‘flip book’ with the volume’s front matter.  The work is primarily in English, so have no fear of stumbling into too many German and at times bewildering words.

The work is subdivided into Six major divisions (though these are not numbered) and each division offers readers explorations into the volume’s topics from the perspectives indicated by the division in which it sits.

Reading the front matter will give potential readers of this volume ample indication if it is a work which they would find engaging.  Take note, though, that those of a ‘philosophical’ bent (and there are plenty of that sort afoot these days) will find the book more useful than those with more historical interests.

To be fair, though, there are essays herein which will be instructive for historical theology.  For instance, George Pattison’s Language and the Revelation of Silence. Reflections on Mystical Theology is extremely interesting as is Antti Raunio’s Inner and Outer Man in Luther’s Thought.  Also very much worth perusing is Anna Vind’s Hoc est, tua iusticia non est visibilis, non est sensibilis. Glaube und christliches Leben bei Luther – mit einem kurzen Ausblick auf die lutherische Tradition in Dänemark.  I like big titles, and I cannot lie… to paraphrase Sir Mixalot.  And the contents of the essay match the largeness of its titling.

Loving Mozart as I do, I was intrigued what would be found in Nils Holger Petersen’s The Notion of an Imaginary Space in Music: Interpreting Mozart’s Requiem in Liturgical, Denominational, and Secular Contexts.  I was not in any way disappointed.

Also very useful are Harald Hegstad’s Invisible Church? An Ecclesiological Idea Reconsidered and  Karina Juhl Kande’s Die unsichtbare Kirche. Eine Hauptspur in der Ekklesiologie Dietrich Bonhoeffers?

In the last mentioned essay we find this insightful notice:

Der Glaube an das Wort Gottes ist der Schlüssel zur Einheit. Was optisch sichtbar in Erscheinung tritt, ist tatsächlich die wesentliche Kirche, so wie sie sich in der Geschichte verkörpert. Aber um wissen zu können, dass dem so ist, bedarf es des Glaubens. Ohne Glauben ist das, was wir erblicken – Kirchengebäude, Gemeinde, Rituale – nichts anderes als ein Gemenge soziologischer und kultureller Gebilde und Größen; eine religiöse Gemeinschaft, die sich von verschiedenen wissenschaftlichen Disziplinen beschreiben lässt.

On the whole, the volume, save for the first few essays and their completely philosophically oriented speculations, this work provides enough scope and usefulness that historical theologians on the whole and philosophical theologians (bless their hearts) will be able to make good use of it.

It’s well worth a read.

Kurze Grammatik des Biblischen Hebräisch

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

A review copy appeared in the mail last month. 

The preface and the table of contents are available at the link above under ‘Leseprobe’.  This being the 5th edition of this basic grammar, many may already be familiar with it.  For those who have not worked with earlier editions, the volume is a simple, direct, straightforward, unencumbered by non-necessities examination of the basics of the Hebrew language.

Each section is just a few pages long.  So, for instance, the discussion concerning the alphabet covers just 2 pages.  Vocalization is covered in one page.  Accents are described in one page and ketib and qere are handled in 1 page.

Once the basics are addressed in part one, part two works through thinks like the article, prepositions, negation, and like matters.

The third part of the book looks at the verbal system and the fourth part looks at the basics of the sentence.

This is a really fantastic book.  Anyone wishing to learn the Hebrew language would benefit greatly from making use of this little volume.  It is not as extensive as Weingreen and it certainly doesn’t approach matters as Seow does.  Nor, of course, is it as thorough as Gesenius, it works.  It teaches the basics.  It informs without overwhelming.

And therein lies its greatest strength.  Having taught Hebrew and Greek for a number of years now I have to say that many students are simply overwhelmed by the amount of details they are asked to learn in their first two semesters of language studies.  To be sure, all those things must be learned.  But a far better approach is, in my mind, to do the basics the first year and then go into more detail the second.  Elementary grammar should be just that, elementary.  Trying to do too much causes students to despair.

This volume, on the other hand, does not overwhelm.  It is the perfect size, like Goldilocks porridge; it is neither too cold nor too hot.  It is just right.

I heartily recommend it.

Ein Gott, der straft und tötet? Zwölf Fragen zum Gottesbild des Alten Testaments

This is fascinating.  The issue of Theodicy has been an interest of mine for a very long time, and this volume fits the bill perfectly in addressing it.

Das Buch ist so angelegt, dass das Thema in fünf Themenkreisen – Gericht und Vergeltung, Willkür und Gewalt, Zorn und Rache, Leiden und Sünde, Opfer und Sühne – sowie einem Einleitungs- und einem Schlusskapitel entfaltet wird. Es plädiert für ein umfassendes Reden von Gott jenseits der falschen Alternative »Lieber Gott« – »Böser Gott«. Ein Gott, der straft und tötet – und in dessen Namen Menschen strafen und töten? Ist das Alte Testament, das von einem solchen Gott spricht, nicht überholt und deswegen auch verzichtbar?

Während sich die einen ein Christentum ohne Altes Testament nicht vorstellen können, möchten die anderen es am liebsten aus der christlichen Bibel verbannen – vielleicht bis auf den Psalter, der zusammen mit dem Neuen Testament in vielen Hotelzimmern als Nachttischlektüre bereitliegt, um seinen Lesern innere Einkehr zu ermöglichen. Gerade die Psalmen sind aber ein Sammelbecken für schwierige Gottesbilder. Dieses Buch versucht anhand von zwölf besonders brisanten Fragen Antworten darauf zu geben, ob das Alte Testament für die Artikulation des christlichen Glaubens unentbehrlich oder nicht eher verzichtbar ist.

Es ist so angelegt, dass das Thema in fünf Themenkreisen

– Gericht und Vergeltung, Willkür und Gewalt, Zorn und Rache, Leiden und Sünde, Opfer und Sühne – sowie einem Einleitungs- und Schlusskapitel entfaltet wird. Im Blick auf die Frage des Eingangskapitels

– Ein anderer, »böser« Gott? – geht der Autor von einem klaren Nein aus: Der Gott des Alten Testaments ist kein anderer als der des Neuen Testaments! Und schon gar nicht spricht das Neue Testament vom »lieben« und das Alte Testament vom »bösen Gott«. Deshalb plädiert das Schlusskapitel

– Ein Gott, der straft und tötet? – für ein umfassenderes Reden von Gott, das jenseits des schlichten Duals »Lieber Gott« versus »Böser Gott« liegt. Jedoch scheint solche Einsicht gerade auch unter TheologInnen nicht mehr selbstverständlich zu sein. Diese Unselbstverständlichkeit ist der Anlass für das vorliegende Buch.

The book’s contents and front matter can be seen at the link above.  Do take a look before proceeding.  The author, no unknown in the realm of biblical studies, offers here to interested readers a book that …

… versucht auf die gestellten Fragen so zu antworten, dass die Schwierigkeiten ernst genommen werden, die weite Teile der Öffentlichkeit mit dem Alten Testament haben. Es bleibt aber nicht bei der Benennung dieser Schwierigkeiten stehen. Vielmehr wird der Versuch gemacht, anhand von zwölf besonders brisanten Fragen Antworten darauf zu geben, ob das Alte Testament für die Artikulation des christlichen Glaubens unentbehrlich oder nicht eher verzichtbar ist. Wie wir sehen werden, entscheiden nicht selten Fragen der Übersetzung über die angebliche Alltagstauglichkeit von schwierigen Gottesbildern.

There are no more problematic issues in the entire realm of theology than the questions raised by theodicy.  How can a good God allow what he allows or even cause what he causes?  How?  The Bible is filled with the questions which all people of faith have wondered about in their lifetime at some point or another, even if they never give voice to them.

It is not a new book, however.  It appeared in 2013 in its first edition.  The second edition appeared just a year later.  And now it has been republished again in 2018, in its third edition.  If you have read the first or second edition please be advised that the current volume has been corrected in terms of both minor errors and bibliographic material.

If you are among the many who did not read either the first or the second edition, I am very happy to introduce you to it in its new incarnation and I urge you in the strongest possible terms to give it a look.  Especially in an era when the world is a ‘mess’ and people are wondering why God has permitted it so to be.

The volume at hand is not only useful to we moderns in our troubled times.  It is that precisely because it is also an extraordinarily valuable investigation into texts of the Hebrew Bible that have raised eyebrows for centuries.

Is the God of the Old Testament an evil God?  Is God just?  Is God vengeful?  Is God powerful?   Is God horrible?  Is God satisfied by sacrifices?  These questions, again, not always spoken aloud but frequently in the minds of many thoughtful readers of the Bible, are asked and answered.

The introduction begins with this quotation of Bonhoeffer, and it sets the tone for the chapter in a wonderful way:

Man kann und darf das letzte Wort nicht vor dem vorletzten sprechen. Wir leben im Vorletzten und glauben das Letzte, ist es nicht so? … Warum wird im Alten Testament kräftig und oft zur Ehre Gottes gelogen, totgeschlagen, betrogen, geraubt, die Ehe geschieden, sogar gehurt, gezweifelt und gelästert und geflucht, während es im Neuen Testament dies alles nicht gibt? Religiöse ›Vorstufe‹? Das ist eine sehr naive Auskunft; es ist ja ein und derselbe Gott.

Each chapter begins with a quotation from a gifted mind.  And each quotation leads the reader into the conversation which the author wishes to engage in.  A conversation about God, good, and evil.

At the end of the volume there’s a collection of texts which readers are invited to contemplate:

Der Anhang enthält 30 Texte, die an verschiedenen Stellen des Buchs herangezogen oder in Ausschnitten zitiert werden. Auf sie wird jeweils mit dem Vermerk »s. Textanhang« hingewiesen. Auf diese Weise ist es möglich, sie im Zusammenhang nachzulesen.

The chapters are filled with citations from scripture as well as from theologians spanning the history of Christianity and Judaism and artistic illustrations when appropriate and helpful.  The textual analysis is intricate at times but this merely adds to the usefulness of the presentation.  This is a reader oriented thoughtful volume.  And, again, if you missed it when it came out 7 years ago, now is certainly the time to right that wrong.

This Week’s Meeter Center Conversation Features an Author Whose Book I’ve Reviewed

You can read my review of this volume here. It’s great to hear the author talk about the book herself.

Emder Synode 1571

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

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

Von Matthias Freudenberg und Aleida Siller.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Synod of Emden, there’s a good bit of historical detail in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.

The relevant point at present is that

… the first general synod of the Dutch Reformed Church was held at Emden on Oct 4-13, 1571. The president was Gaspar van der Heyden, preacher at Frankenthal; the vice-president, Jean Tan, pastor of the Walloon congregation at Heidelberg; and the secretary, Joannes Polyander, pastor of the Walloon congregation at Emden. The attendance was twenty-nine, five of whom were elders. This synod laid the foundations of the Dutch Reformed Church. The delegates were fully aware that they had been called to prepare binding regulations, and that they were the authorized representatives of their church. Besides adopting three of the Wesel articles (the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty first of the Emden articles), the synod utilized the French church order of 1559, the two often corresponding word for word. On the other hand, the Emden acts can not be considered a mere amplification of the French church order. The acts of this synod are distinctly Calvinistic, and the organization which they propose is presbyterial and synodal. The sole bond of union between churches is consensus in doctrine; fellowship is desired with the churches of other lands, provided they are Reformed in doctrine. The standards adopted were the Belgic Confession and the French; the Geneva Catechism was to be used in French congregations, and the Heidelberg Catechism in the Dutch, though churches employing any other corresponding catechism might retain it. The administration was to be conducted by consistories, classes, synods, and national synods. Of these, only the consistories were to be permanent, the members of the other bodies being chosen for each assembly. Each church or congregation was to have a consistory, consisting of preachers, elders, and deacons, and the consistory was to meet at least weekly. Every three or six months a classis ” of several neighboring churches ” was to meet; and synods were to be held annually of the congregations in Germany and East Frisia, of the English congregations, and of the Dutch congregations. About every two years a national synod ” of all the Belgic churches together ” was to be held. Each congregation, while independent, formed part of an organic whole, being subject successively to the classis, the synod, and the general synod, in each of which it was represented by delegates chosen either directly or indirectly. The synod arranged for classes in the various countries and prepared a number of regulations governing the internal administration of the Reformed congregations, as on the calling of pastors, the choice of elders and deacons, and the length of their terms, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, marriage, discipline, and the like.

Further information can be found in the extremely useful entry in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, ‘Emden, Synod of’ by James Tracy

Historically, then, the Synod of Emden was a watershed moment in the Reformation in the Low Countries.  As such, its importance can’t be overstated.  The present volume edited by Freudenberg and Siller dives into the historical background of the Synod and offers readers a fresh translation of the Acts of the Synod. Also provided are beautiful full color plates of some of the original texts from Emden.

This is a wonderfully useful fully engaging very informative less than 100 page tome. If the history of the Reformation is one of your interests, and in particular the Reformation in the Netherlands, this is a book you should read.

I highly recommend it.

The Synod of Dort: Historical, Theological, and Experiential Perspectives

This volume seeks to shed light on various aspects of the Synod of Dort in order to inform the contemporary reader of its proper historical and theological context and its experiential emphases. Some leading scholars of post-Reformation Reformed thought and the Synod have contributed essays to this work.

The present work, the contents of which, and the front matter of which are available at the link above, is a collection of papers commemorating the Synod of Dort, most of which were delivered at the ETS meeting in 2018 or at a conference at Westminster Seminary in California in 2019.  In that respect it is somewhat unique, as most volumes of this sort all stem from one event.

After the subject is introduced, the volume unfolds first with a series of essays which focus on both the French take on the problems Dort addressed and the aftermath of Dort in France.  The second section moves more widely to a consideration of the theological perspectives both present at Dort and refined in its wake afterwards.  The third section looks more precisely at specific issues stirred up from the theological seabed by the doings of the Synod.

The final chapter offers a portrayal of the abiding significance of Dort and its relevance for today.

The essays tend to be well written and expressive.   The most helpful were those by Donald Sinnema on Church and State relations at Dort, and Dolf te Velde’s very engaging treatment of the role of the Holy Spirit in the canons of Dort.

To get right to the heart of the matter: should you read this book? Will it be a good use of your time or will it waste several hours of your life?  My answer: yes, it is very much worth reading.

But not for everyone.  Rather, those with a particular interest in a particular block of Christian history will find it important.  That is, those who are interested in early 17th century theological trends and the history of the Church during that era in that place.   Those interested in the Church in Asia or the Roman Catholic Church in the early 17th century will not find it particularly relevant.

Or, in other words, those who have an interest in the topic will like this volume.  Those who don’t will not stick with it very long.

That, alas, is the fate of all books written for specific readerships.

The Theology of Heinrich Bullinger

W.P. Stephens’ last work before his untimely death was a volume on the theology of Heinrich Bullinger. This work was virtually fully completed save the chapter on the Lord’s Supper and has been edited by Joe Mock and Jim West at the wishes of the author and presents the theology of Bullinger following the same pattern of presentation as Stpehens utilized in his work on the Theology of Huldrych Zwingli. Each major theological topic is treated and fully described.

Get yourself a copy and get several for your friends.  Get everyone you know one!  It will be the best gift they ever get.

Martin Kählers biblische Theologie: Grundzüge seines theologischen Werkes

Die vorliegende Studie versteht sich im Anschluss an die ältere und jüngere Kählerforschung und greift die offene Frage nach einem Verständnis des Lehrganzen (Johannes Wirsching) der Theologie Martin Kählers auf. Hierfür lehnt sie sich an Gerhard Sauters Rede von der Dogmatik als einem lebendigen “Sprachkörper” an, deren eigentümlicher Charakter sich in einer “ständig wiederkehrende(n) Struktur von Wörtern und Objekten” (Zugänge zur Dogmatik) niederschlägt. Diesen Sprachkörper versucht die Studie durch die Analyse der späten Kreuzesschrift (1911) von Martin Kähler in einem ersten Arbeitsschritt zu erschließen. Das Resultat, nämlich die Grundbegriffe Bild, Wort, Geist und Geschichte werden dann im Folgenden gleichsam als Suchbegriffe auf repräsentative Schriften des sich über fünf Jahrzehnte erstreckenden Gesamtwerkes Kählers angewendet. Dabei wird u.a. deutlich, dass die wohl bekannteste Kählersche Schrift “Der sog. historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus” mit ihrem starken Bezug auf den Bild- und Geschichtsbegriff nicht nur ein Einzelstück des theologischen Denkens Martin Kählers darstellt, sondern inhaltlich eingebettet ist in das Gesamte seines theologischen Denkens. Vor dem Hintergrund der persönlich-biographischen Prägungen sowie der theologischen Prägungen verdichtet sich im Durchgang durch das theologische Werk Kählers das Bild von einer im Großen und Ganzen inhaltlich einheitlichen Theologie, die konsequent an Text und Sprache der Heiligen Schrift orientiert ist.

Creator and Creation according to Calvin on Genesis

In her work Rebekah Earnshaw provides an analysis of Creator and creation according to Calvin on Genesis. This offers a new theological reading of Calvin’s Genesis commentary and sermons, with an eye to systematic interests.

This analysis is presented in four chapters: The Creator, The Agent and Act of Creation, Creatures, and Providence. Calvin on Genesis gives unique insights into each of these. First, the Creator has priority in Calvin’s thought. The Creator is l’Eternal, who is infinitely distinct and abundantly for creatures in his virtues. Second, the agent of creation is triune and the act of creation is “from nothing” as well as in and with time. This is a purposeful beginning. Third, Calvin affirms creaturely goodness and order. The relation of humans and animals illustrates Calvin’s holistic view of creation as well as the impact of corruption and disorder. Providential sustenance and concursus are closely tied to the nature of creatures and the initial word. Fourth, fatherly governance for the church is presented separately and demonstrated by Calvin’s treatment of Abraham and Joseph.

Earlier presentations of Calvin on Creator and creation are incomplete, because of the lack of sustained attention to Calvin on Genesis. This analysis supplements works that concentrated on the Institutes and Calvin on Job, by bringing new material to bear. Further, throughout this analysis lies the implicit example of a biblical theologian, who pursues what is useful from scripture for the sake of piety in the church.

Insights from Calvin’s thought on Genesis provide a foundation for systematic work that reflects on this locus and the integrated practice of theology.

Rebekkah’s little book (just over 200 pages) aims to

… provide …  a theological analysis of Creator and creation according to Calvin on Genesis. This brings together three elements: a doctrinal locus, a man, and his exposition of a biblical book in commentary and sermon. Until now, this combination has not been thoroughly scrutinised. Therefore, the question at hand is what contribution do these texts make to our understanding of Calvin’s theology in this area and, hence, in what areas might contemporary theological research be furthered by heeding this new insight.

A simple enough thesis, right?  But filled with perilous paths and dangerous potential pitfalls.  For instance, which of Calvin’s materials to examine?  In what languages?  How extensively?  With what focus?  All of these dangers are seen in advance:

This investigation is prompted and shaped by four factors of increasing specificity: theological interest in Creation, the inclusion of exegesis of Genesis in previous theological work on Creation, publication and translation of Calvin’s Genesis sermons, and limited attention to Genesis in earlier treatments of Calvin on Creation. Each of these makes the present question significant and can be considered in turn.

As part of her survey of the material, E. remarks

This sweeping survey of treatments of Calvin on Creation cannot do justice to their scholarship. However, the purpose here is more modestly to identify that within these earlier works there has been some reference to Calvin’s treatment of Genesis, but there has been no study of its contribution as a whole in this area. The brief comments from the end of Book One of the Institutes remain the authoritative account despite more recent broadening of the horizons within Calvin studies to focus on other texts or diachronic analysis.

This volume remedies that.  Quite nicely and thoroughly.  As she notes later on

Throughout his work on Genesis Calvin promotes faith in the Creator that issues in piety; that is, his exegesis develops doctrine with pastoral outworking. This is not accidental, as Calvin happens to be a theologian who enters a pulpit. Rather, Calvin continually concerns himself with the use of Creation in accordance with scripture in the life of God’s church. His conclusion to his first Genesis sermon is typical in this regard.

That, then, is what we need to remember about these words of Moses, and we must, in short, apply ourselves to this endeavour and become acquainted with God our Creator in such a way that we pay him homage with our lives, acknowledging him also as our Redeemer and confessing that we are doubly obligated to him, so that we may dedicate ourselves completely to his service in all holiness, righteousness, and integrity.

Calvin may be outdated in terms of his scientific understanding of the ‘how’ of creation.  But he remains incredibly relevant when it comes to the theological ‘why’ of creation.  And this book, well written and well executed, helps we 21st century folk hear that ‘why’ with a certain clarity and forcefulness.

Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706): Text, Context, and Interpretation

Petrus van Mastricht (1630–1706): Text, Context, and Interpretation »is not just a statement of the state of the art on Mastricht studies. It also points the way forward for further exploration of Mastricht’s thought and the history of Reformed Orthodoxy in general« from the Preface by Carl R. Trueman.

This volume presents collected essays from scholars around the world on various aspects of Petrus van Mastricht (1630-1706) theology, philosophy, and reception in the context of the challenges of orthodoxy in his day. This book, then, locates Mastricht’s ideas in the context of the theological and philosophical currents of his day. The pre-Revolutionary status of theology and philosophy in the wake of the Enlightenment had many of the same problems we see in theology today as relating to the use and appropriation of classical theology in a 21st-century context. Ideas about the necessity of classical primary sources of Christianity in sustaining Reformed theology are once again becoming important, and Mastricht has many insights in this area. The last thirty years have witnessed a remarkable revolution in the study of Reformed Orthodoxy, that broad movement of theological consolidation which took place in the two centuries between the early breakthroughs of the Reformation and the reorganization of intellectual disciplines within the university world heralded by the arrival of the various intellectual and cultural developments known collectively as the Enlightenment. The old models which tended to prioritize one or two figures in the Reformation. In place of this older scholarship, we now have a growing number of studies which seek to place Reformed thinkers of the period in a much wider context. One of the results of this is that serious scholarly attention is now being directed at figures who were previously neglected, such as Petrus van Mastricht, a German-Dutch theologian, who has emerged as significant voices in shaping the Christianity of his day. He was the author of a major system of divinity. This work is in the process of being translated into English (two volumes are available at the time of writing). Mastricht is also the subject of a growing body of literature in English, of which this volume is a fine example. The essays contained in book work represent precisely the range of scholarly interests that the new approach to Reformed Orthodoxy has come to embody. Dealing specifically with the areas of theology, philosophy, and reception, this book points toward three critical areas of study.

The obvious benefit of this volume is that if presents readers a basic overview of the works of a once famous and now all but forgotten theologian.  Van Mastricht isn’t the usual topic of conversation at AAR and certainly not at SBL.  He doesn’t generate the interest of Barth or Calvin or Zwingli or Luther or even Brunner.  He wasn’t ‘flashy’ or ‘stupendous’ and he clearly did not leave such a legacy that children are named after him.

But in his day he was so very important.  And even today he deserves an audience.  And this book may serve a purpose if it causes people to think about the contributions of van Mastricht to Reformed theology.

To kick things off, Trueman offers as good an apologia for van Mastricht research as anyone could.  This is followed by Neele’s Preface which contains a short summary of the volume’s contents.

The body of the volume itself is comprised of a section on Theology, one on Philosophy, and one on Reception.  Important appendices provide readers with a chronology of his life and work, a bibliography of his publications, and a fairly extensive (if the fairly small body of secondary literature on an undeservedly obscure theologian can be called ‘extensive’) list of secondary materials.

The Theology section is the most interesting to me.  It provides essays on van Mastricht’s understanding of the twofold kingdom of Christ, the external and internal call, Christology of the Old Testament, and practical theology.  The Philosophy section and its three essays will appeal to those with a philosophical bent.  And the Reception section will appeal to those whose interests are more centered in historical theology.

The contributors are a relatively diverse group, including several Europeans, several Asians, and many Americans.  One is an entrepreneur, several are Professors, and one is a PhD student.  Their wide range of backgrounds means that this volume engages a range of perspectives.

In terms of the contents of the volume in relationship to scholarship and scholarly insight, it is very good indeed.  One essay was relatively weak but the remainder were really very well executed.

Petrus van Mastricht was a really very interesting person.  He could be a bit dry and a tad boring at times but that’s true of everyone who writes and especially is it true of theological works.  And that’s fine.  I much prefer someone who is a bit dull and yet remains relevant to someone who peppers their works with pop culture references that are outdated within a year or two of publication.  While trying to be witty and contemporary what they actually achieve is planned obsolescence.   Their jokes and puns and asides where reference is made to Spiderman or Captain Kirk may generate buzz, at the end of the day that’s all that’s generated.  They are all form and no substance.

And that’s an accusation that can never be made against those theologians whose works stand the test of time.  They are substance first and care nothing for the act of putting makeup on a pig.  They exalt substance over form, unlike the soon irrelevant form over substance crowd.

Petrus van Mastricht is all substance.  Whatever one thinks of his form.  And this little book is an ideal entry into his thought-world.  Give it a read.  You won’t regret it.  And there isn’t a pop-culture reference in the whole thing.  Thanks be to God.