Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quote of the Day: Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson is one of my favorite writers and thinkers. Here is a symposium (2007 Writers Symposium by the Sea), where he is asked by the moderator what he meant by his statement, "Most of what we have learned about God is wrong."

Eventually, he brings out the point that we are all sinners and "we don't have a sanctified imagination to receive things pure" (22:48-54 on clip).

This video is definitely worth watching in full. Check it out!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Forthcoming Galatians Commentary

Martinus C. De Boer's Galatians commentary apparently is ready to see the light of day! The release date is for early August, and weighs in at 488 pages with a $50.00 price tag.

Here's the brief description:

This new commentary in the New Testament Library series is not a systematic study of Pauline theology; rather, the aim of this study is to trace Paul's theology as it unfolds in his letter to the church at Galatia, and to attempt to illuminate, as far as possible, how the Galatians likely comprehended it, at the time they received it. The author asks readers to imagine themselves as silent witnesses to Paul's dictation of the letter and to observe, through a historical perspective, how the Galatian Christians might have understood Paul's words.

I have been looking forward to this for some time. Now, if Doug Moo's contribution would just come out!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, & Writings: A Brief Review II

I just finished reading the entry, "Book of Sirach" (720-728) by Michael Phua, in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry, & Writings, and once again, I am duly impressed with the content of this entry. Rather than interact with the various sections of Phua's entry, I would rather discuss some of the highlights for me as the reader.

T-S 12.864 (= ms A), containing Ben Sira 5:10–7:29 and 11:34–14:11

First, I was mildly surprised that in Phua's words that the textual history of Sirach is "notoriously complex" (720). I did know that a Hebrew version existed alongside a Greek version (LXX), but I was not aware that there are at least two forms of Sirach in the Greek version (G I and G II), no fewer than nine Hebrew manuscripts, along with two Hebrew versions (H I and H II). This does not include several manuscripts in Syriac version along with an Old Latin translation. Second, I really liked Phua's description of Ben Sira as a "transitional sage" (721). Phua writes:

 He is, on the one hand, a traditional wisdom teacher, and on the other hand, an interpreter of the Scriptures. As a transitional figure, he was doing more than what the traditional wisdom teachers were doing. He interpreted Scriptures, making it part of the subject of his inquiry (721).

Third, I was happy to see Phua's treatment of the section of Sirach that is traditionally deemed the Praise of the Fathers (Sir 44-49), as rewritten Bible. Phua notes that certain characteristics of the figures in this section are not found in the OT (e.g. Abraham's observance of the law [Sir 44:20], Aaron receiving more attention than Moses [45:6-22; cf. 45:1-5]; 724). Fourth, Phua explains that Ben Sira is the first in Jewish tradition to explicitly correlate the wisdom and Torah (e.g. Sir 24:23). Fifth, and perhaps most strikingly, as Phua points out, is the figure of Solomon, considered the wise king par excellence, is considered anything but wise according to Ben Sira (e.g. Sir 47:13, 14, 19; 726).

Lastly, Phua has a helpful section labeled "Sirach and the New Testament" (726-727). Here he points to similar saying of Jesus in the Gospels with some of Ben Sira's, along with some notable differences as well as the Epistle of James. Phua includes 36 authors in his bibliography along with 38 separate works.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings: A Brief Review

As promised beforehand, I have been able to sample some essays in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings edited by Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns.

One important article for me, entitled "Wisdom and Biblical Theology" (853-58), authored by Daniel J. Estes, had me once again pondering the value of Biblical theology as opposed to just OT Theology and NT Theology. Estes demarcates his essay into five sections: 1) Emphases on OT Wisdom; 2) Neglect of Wisdom in Biblical Theology; 3) Connections between Wisdom and other OT Texts; 4) Place of Wisdom in OT Theology; and 5) Place of Wisdom in Biblical Theology. Regarding the first section of this well-written article, Estes observes that "wisdom functions within the same theistic worldview that permeates the rest of the OT" (854). Estes notes that wisdom is inductive in nature, looking at patterns of cause and effect, and eventually arriving at lessons that can be applied to other situations (e.g. Prov 6.6-11). Wisdom emphases include, a) The art of skillful living (e.g. Prov 9.10) connected of course with the 'Fear of YHWH'; b) Retribution theology which looks to a person's acts and their subsequent consequences (e.g. Prov 26.28), while simultaneously realizing that retribution should not be an overly-rigid thought category(i.e. Job; cf. Prov 20.24) due to its failure in explaining the mysteries of God; and c) Character formation is at the heart of true wisdom.

Next, Estes addresses the neglect of wisdom in Biblical Theology (henceforth, BT). Estes observes that Eichrodt, with his stress on covenant and Von Rad with his focus on salvation history ignored theology in their treatments. Two factors on the opposite end of the scholarly spectrum have relegated wisdom to the sidelines in these treatments. One, is the similarity OT Wisdom texts show to their Ancient Near East (ANE) neighbors writings. Therefore, Wisdom texts in the OT are often labeled as 'pagan'. Secondly, the Prophets and their emphasis on 'special revelation' has trumped the 'general revelation' of the sages in the minds of interpreters.

Following this section, Estes explores the connections between Wisdom texts with the remainder of the OT. First, he notes that a) The OT Wisdom texts are monotheistic, pointing to the dissimilarities with ANE texts. Estes remarks that the God found in the Wisdom texts shares the same attributes with the prophets and psalmists; and b) citing Overland, Estes states that Prov 3.1-12 is rooted on the Shema of Deut 6.4-9  as an example of  "sapiential rendition of classic covenantal piety "(855). Following this section, Estes addresses the place of Wisdom in OT Theology, demonstrating that Wisdom texts are best at answering ethical questions, such as "What has value?"; "What can be known and how can it be known?"

Finally, for me the most important section is the final one, where Estes addresses the big question, namely, 'what is the place of Wisdom in Biblical Theology?'  Estes, wisely, (I know, pardon the pun!) that the OT narrates a story that finds its completion in the NT, "where the creation that has been marred by sin early in the OT finds its restoration only at the end of the NT." Estes continues, "The Two Testaments fit together like a two-volume novel or a two-reel film, with the OT anticipating the NT, and the NT referring back to the OT. Therefore, it seems misguided to read the OT in isolation and to construe its meaning as though it were a complete story in itself " (858; emphasis mine). Continuing this train of thought Estes remarks and I quote in full:
It may well be that the various attempts by OT theologians to ascertain the center of the OT have failed at this very point. Just as an exclusive focus on covenant, salvation history or the mighty acts of Yahweh has obscured the contributions of wisdom to OT theology, so too viewing the OT in isolation from the NT could well lead to theological distortions. J. Barr correctly champions the agenda of biblical theology, and he rightfully urges that in this effort NT texts be seriously engaged rather than treated superficially (858; Emphases mine).

Estes concludes the article by mentioning the contribution of OT wisdom books to biblical theology is only in its inception and much more needs to be said and done regarding its effect on the NT especially.

Some final thoughts are in order here, as Estes, I believe, has hit upon something that I believe to be true, although, I would qualify from the other direction as well! OT and NT theologies (of which, admittedly, I am a fan!) are at times, artificial, and I am now very happy to see works, such as James Hamilton's biblical theology and Greg Beale's forthcoming work , who both seem to realize the necessity of a holistic approach to theological interpretation of the Canon, not just the tidy bifurcation of  theologies for each of the Testaments. As Estes notes, finding a center in OT Theology to the exclusion of the NT is at best a 'distortion', and I would dare to say the reverse is true, namely, finding a 'center' for NT Theology at the expense of the OT also distorts the biblical evidence.

Estes has written an excellent and thought-provoking essay, that is both informative and challenging. I hope that the sage advice he offers in this article, will be 'wisdom' for present and future interpreters of the Bible.

Does Marcion still Haunt the Church?

Marcion of Sinope (ca. AD 85-160), considered a heretic by the early church, namely, for denying that the Creator God of Judaism is the same being as the Father of Jesus. For Marcion, YHWH was a cruel, tribal deity of Judaism that could not be placated, but the god of Jesus on the other hand was one of compassion, mercy, and love. Therefore, Marcion, when he worked out his own theological system, relegated the OT to inferior status.

Some might argue that some form of Marcionism is still prevelant in the Church today. It is not so much that the church has explicitly renderred the Old Testament as inferior, but the lack of teaching and preaching on 60% of the Canon leaves something to be desired. I don't want to speculate on why this is except to say that like, Marcion, the Church does not know what to do with the God of the Old Testament, especially with regards to violence. How do we reconcile the suffering, crucified, savior, Jesus Christ, with what seems to be the wrathful, vengeful God of the Old Testament?

Bartolomeo Passarotti, Italian 1529-1592: God the Father; pen and brown ink. Ackland Fund. 99.3

Some are endeavoring to take up this challenge. Paul Copan, author of  Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God, takes up the challenge of the 'new athiests' such as Richard Dawkins and others who deem YHWH as a boorish monster. I have read just a bit of this so far, and Copan seems to do an admirable job of dealing with this and other objections. On the horizon, IVP Academic  is scheduled to publish God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? by David T. Lamb, who seeks to give a more comprehensive view of God in the OT without minimizing the difficult parts. Another book that deals with this problem is one written by Eric Seibert entitled Disturbing Divine Behavior: Troubling Old Testament Images of God, where the goal of the author is for an "engaged  and discerning reading of the Old Testament that distinguishes the particular literary and theological goals achieved through narrative characterizations of God from the rich understanding of the divine to which the Old Testament as a whole points." Again, the point seems to be in a word, "balance." Another volume, and one that is forthcoming (Sept. 2011; Baker Academic), authored by John Goldingay, Key Questions about Biblical Interpretation: Old Testament Answers,  also aims for the Church's partcipation, as the description reads in part, "In this volume he (Goldingay) explores twenty-three questions related to biblical interpretation, articulating creative, provocative explanations for today's church. The book is divided into four parts: concerning Scripture as a whole; concerning narrative; concerning the Old Testament as a whole; and concerning the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings." Apparently, Greg Boyd also will be writing a volume entitled Jesus Verses Jehovah: Wresting With the Genocidal God of the Old Testament in Light of the Crucified God of the New. The publisher at last note was pending and the release date was for 2010. Here reads Greg's abstract: "How could the God revealed in Christ who gave his life out of love for all people be the same God who commanded his people to engage in genocide against the Canaanites? For all who believe our understanding of God and our lifestyle should be exclusively based on Jesus, this is the most important, and the most difficult, theological question we face. I’ve probably read close to a thousand books and articles on this topic, but I know of no work that contains all the elements needed to adequately address this issue and that is written at a lay person’s level. This book intends to fill that void."

I pray that these volumes and others like them, will return the Church to the God of grace, mercy, and love found in both the Old and New Testaments.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Worthwhile Project: The Lexham Bible Dictionary

Recently, I was afforded the opportunity to contribute a couple of entries, "Theophany" and "Shepherd" to a new Bible dictionary, The Lexham Bible Dictionary from the good folks at Logos. I had never written dictionary styled entries before, so it was quite the learning experience. The learning will be ongoing, I'm sure, once I hear back from the editors!

This project is exciting and should rival the size and scope of the ABD and the NIBD, but is at least wholly unique in one major way. The dictionary will be online, and folks will be able to subscribe to it. Hyperlinks to references within the entries will connect the reader to other materials that will flesh out the entries more fully.

Hopefully, this project will be released in the summer of this year. For more on this exciting project click here   .

Off The Grid: Gary Moore (April 4, 1952 – February 6, 2011)

A couple of years ago, I happened to stumble upon the music of Irish, blues guitarist, Gary Moore. Along with the late, Rory Gallagher, Moore is in the pantheon of the great, Irish blues guitarists of all time. To qualify Moore this way, though, was to do him and his legacy a complete disservice. Throw away the qualifier, 'Irish'. Moore, who began his musical fame with the band, Thin Lizzy, was simply one of the very best blues guitarists of the past quarter century.

Therefore, I was shocked to find out that while on vacation in Spain recently, Moore died of a massive heart attack in his sleep. Moore's legacy will always have a secure place in blues music as he has influenced the likes of Joe Bonamassa, Randy Rhoads, Kirk Hammett, and others; not to mention the wide range of musicians with whom he collaborated: B.B. King, George Harrison, Albert Collins, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, the Beach Boys, Albert King, and Ozzy Osbourne, to name a few. From a personal standpoint, Moore has been on my iPod for the last two years and has helped me through many long nights at work, with his searing guitar riffs, and his unique, raw, voice. I'm sad for his passing, and for missing out on the music he was about to work on, but grateful for his playlist that will help me through a few more long nights. Below, is a video of Gary playing Roy Buchanan's The Messiah Will Come Again at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1990. Enjoy:

Looking Forward: Baker Academic Fall Releases

Every fall, with the combination of the annual academic conferences and Christmas, book publishers put their best foot forward in offering some genuinely exciting resources. At the top of the heap, in my estimation, is Baker Academic. Below, I have highlighted some of the selections I believe people will be talking about for some time.

Fall Releases:

James W. Thompson; Moral Formation According to Paul: The Context and Cherence of Pauline Ethics; Nov. 2011; 272 pp.; $24.99

This fresh treatment of Paul's ethics addresses this question: how, according to Paul, can Christian communities know how God wants them to live? Leading biblical scholar James Thompson explains that Paul offers a coherent moral vision based not only on the story of Christ but also on the norms of the law. Paul did not live with a sharp dichotomy of law and gospel and recognized the continuing importance of the law. Thompson makes a distinctive contribution by locating the roots of Paul's concrete ethical thought in Hellenistic Judaism rather than Hellenistic moral philosophy. Students of New Testament ethics and Pauline theology will value this work.

Eds. Joel B. Green and Jacqueline E. Lapsley and Rebekah Miles and Allen Verhey, Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics; Nov. 2011; 896 pp.; $59.99.

This one-stop reference book on the vital relationship between Scripture and ethics offers needed orientation and perspective for students, pastors, and scholars. Written to respond to the movement among biblical scholars and ethicists to recover the Bible for moral formation, it is the best reference work available on the intersection of these two fields. The volume shows how Christian Scripture and Christian ethics are necessarily intertwined and offers up-to-date treatment of five hundred biblical, traditional, and contemporary topics, ranging from adultery, bioethics, and Colossians to vegetarianism, work, and Zephaniah. The stellar ecumenical list of contributors consists of more than two hundred leading scholars from the fields of biblical studies and ethics, including Darrell Bock, David Gushee, Amy Laura Hall, Daniel Harrington, Dennis Olson, Christine Pohl, Glen Stassen, and Max Stackhouse.

Victor P. Hamilton;  Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary; Nov. 2011; 832 pp.; $54.99.
Victor Hamilton, a highly regarded Old Testament scholar with over thirty years' experience in the classroom, offers a comprehensive exegesis of the book of Exodus. Written in a clear and accessible style, this major, up-to-date, evangelical, exegetical commentary opens up the riches of the book of Exodus. Hamilton relates Exodus to the rest of Scripture and includes his own translation of the text. This commentary will be valued by professors and students of the Old Testament as well as pastors.

Eds. Chris Keith and Larry W. Hurtado; Jesus among Friends and Enemies: A Historical and Literary Introduction to Jesus in the Gospels; Nov. 2011; 352 pp.; $26.99.

This engaging text offers a fresh alternative to standard introductions to Jesus. Combining literary and sociohistorical approaches and offering a tightly integrated treatment, a team of highly respected scholars examines how Jesus's friends and enemies respond to him in the Gospel narratives. It is the first book to introduce readers to the rich portraits of Jesus in the Gospels by surveying the characters who surround him in those texts--from John the Baptist, the disciples, and the family of Jesus to Satan, Pontius Pilate, and Judas Iscariot (among others). Contributors include Richard J. Bauckham, Warren Carter, and Edith M. Humphrey.

Craig S. Keener; Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts; Nov. 2011; 928 pp.; $54.99.

Are the New Testament reports of miracles credible? Modern readers often stumble over miracle accounts in the Gospels and Acts, assuming that miracles cannot occur and that reliable eyewitnesses do not claim they happen. In this wide-ranging and meticulously researched study, highly respected New Testament scholar Craig Keener presents the most thorough current defense of the plausibility of biblical miracles. Drawing on reports from a range of global cultures and taking a multidisciplinary approach to the topic, Keener argues that many miracle accounts throughout church history, in the Bible, and today are best explained as genuine divine acts.

G. K. Beale; New Testament Biblical Theology, A: The Transformation of the Old Testament in the New; Dec. 2011; 992 pp.; $54.99.

This comprehensive exposition is the first major New Testament biblical theology to appear in English in fifty years. G. K. Beale, coeditor of the award-winning Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, examines how the New Testament storyline relates to and develops the Old Testament storyline. Beale argues that every major concept of the New Testament is a development of a concept from the Old and is to be understood as a facet of the inauguration of the latter-day new creation and kingdom. Offering extensive interaction between the two testaments, this volume helps readers see the unifying conceptual threads of the Old Testament and how those threads are woven together in Christ. This major work by a leading New Testament scholar will be valued by students of the New Testament and pastors alike.