Saturday, November 3, 2012

Getting To Know Mickey Klink

 Quite some time ago when I started this blog I introduced a series of posts called "Getting to Know..." which featured up and coming New Testament scholars, asking them about their work and ministries. After a nearly five-year hiatus, I have decided to bring the series back.

I am delighted that Mickey Klink, Associated Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Biola University is jump-starting this new addition of "Getting to Know..."

1.        Tell us a bit about your background, family, etc.

I was born in northern Illinois, in the city of Rockford, raised by a wonderful single mom, and actively involved in an EFCA church. I met my wife in college and we married in 1999. We have three kids, two boys (ages 7 and 5) and a girl (age 1), and are living as aliens and strangers (Mid-westerners) in southern California. We are actively involved in our local church, our local public school, and at the University at which I teach.

2.      Could you share a bit about your educational journey beginning at Trinity International and culminating at St. Andrews where you studied under Richard Bauckham?

I went to Trinity (undergrad) because I was recruited to play football there by Leslie Frazier, the current head coach for the Minnesota Vikings. The university does not have the academic strength of my current university, but for me and my situation in life it was a wonderful place. I was introduced to the study of the Bible by some loving professors, and was cared for pastorally by several wonderful men.

I left Trinity for two years to study at Dallas Theological Seminary, but returned to finish my MDiv at Trinity (TEDS). I loved DTS, but felt the pull to go back to Trinity for both academic and personal reasons. Toward the end of my MDiv I was sensing that academic work might become a possibility for me, so I stayed on to do a ThM in New Testament – an excellent decision. My ThM coursework and thesis allowed me to more fully establish my general knowledge of NT studies, as well as the skills needed for doctoral work. I also began my work in the Gospel of John at that time; a work I have not yet completed.

As I was considering PhD studies I asked one of my professors, D. A. Carson, who he would recommend for me to study the Gospel of John under. He mentioned three people, one of whom was Richard Bauckham. I spent three years in St. Andrews, Scotland, studying under Richard and had a wonderful learning experience. And it was not just the influence of Richard, but also a rich a vibrant learning community, which included a seminar called “Scripture and Theology,” led by Chris Seitz and Mark Elliott, that became formative on my thinking of hermeneutics, theology, and the Bible. From beginning to end I have seen God’s providence in my educational journey, for which I am very thankful.

3.       Speaking of your time at St. Andrews, discuss some of the factors that lead to your choice of dissertation topics, which eventually was published as The Sheep of the Fold: A Critical Assessment of the Audience and Origin of the Gospel of John Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 141 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007; paperback 2010)?

My thesis (dissertation) developed quite simply out of my growing interest in seminary in the gospels, especially how the gospels were (and are!) intended to be read and interpreted. My eventual monograph was more deconstructive than constructive, but a necessary start for my own journey. In the process I learned how the gospels were (and are) being read and, more specifically, what is going on in Johannine studies. I also developed my own sensibilities regarding the gospels, especially the Fourth Gospel, leading to the constructive work I am directly involved in now.

4.      You are a recognized scholar of John’s Gospel. Discuss some of the projects that you are working on now, including the commentary on John for ZECNT.

Since my published thesis I have written several articles and essays on the Fourth Gospel. John’s rich historical nature and powerful theological presentation continues to be my area of research, as well as a more general interest in how to read the gospels, specifically the combination of history and theology. I was invited to contribute the John commentary for ZECNT in early 2010, and have spent most of my time focusing on that massive project. While all commentaries have different agendas, I like what ZECNT is trying to do and hoping to provide its readers, both the academy and the church. This commentary has allowed me to develop as an exegete, as well as to wrestle with my own constructive approach to the intersection between historical exegesis and theological exegesis, both of which I am utilizing. In many ways my approach to John will fit well within an evangelical and confessional approach to the gospel; at the same time, I think I am bringing several different perspectives to certain texts, as well as a few different exegetical emphases that I hope will be helpful and well received. I am currently in chapter 11 of John (over half way!) and plan (and am on schedule) to be finished with the commentary by the end of summer 2014.  

5.      You have also co-written a book with friend and colleague, Darian Lockett, entitled Understanding Biblical Theology (Zondervan, 2012). Share some of the aims of this volume and how it unpacks the various schools of Biblical Theology.

Our book UnderstandingBiblical Theology, which just came out, finds its origin all the way back in St. Andrews, Scotland, in the Scripture and Theology seminar that Lockett and I participated in as doctoral students. You have already given a helpful overview of the book on your blog, so my summary can be brief. In short, this book tries to explain the different expressions of the “theology of the Bible” that spring from the history-theology tension spreading across biblical studies and theology. It is merely a descriptive book; we make no argument for a pure definition but offer a mere map for others to find their way – no matter which direction they may want to travel. The book began over numerous conversations between fellow professors and friends and will continue, we hope, to find life over fresh conversations.

6.      You serve as an associate pastor at Calvary Community Church (Brea, California). How has your pastoral ministry informed your scholarship and vice-versa?

I began studying theology because of my commitment to Christ and in light of a calling to the church, and I believe my current work, even if done primarily in the academy, is a service to the church. I do not believe my calling to the church has changed, I just think it is multifaceted. My service in the church serves as a constant reminder that theology is about life, not books or tests, and that people are the end goal. I have to admit I still wrestle with tension between the local church and the academy. As I write my John commentary I am thankful to be in the academy, for I do not see how I could get it done in this period of time without the freedom of university teaching. Yet I would not be surprised if the Lord moved me to the church at some time – a move I would be more than willing to make. I conceive of myself as a pastor-scholar, even if I am described on paper as a professor.

7.      For those of us who would like to continue our education at the PhD level, what advice would you give?

In light of my own story I would encourage the potential PhD student to base their decisions and motivations on their calling by the Lord, and not merely their perceived gifting or professional aspirations. I would also encourage them to consider topics of study or specialties that might meet specific needs in this generation. For example, while I am thankful for the amount of people and time spent discussing method, especially in light of recent theological readings, etc., I think it is time for an equal amount of time to be spent on interpreting texts. Finally, I would also ask them to consider if they would be able and willing to take their completed PhD not only into an academic post, but also into a church pulpit. My own participation in the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology ( is a reflection of my growing concern that exegesis and theology be a comfortable principle and practice in the church, and not just the academy.

Thanks for your time, Mickey!

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Review of the Gospel According to Isaiah 53

(The fine folks at Kregel Academic sent me this review copy. Having said this, I have done my best to offer an objective review of the volume's contents.)

Bock, Darrell L. and Mitch Glaser (eds), The Gospel According to Isaiah 53: Encountering the Suffering Servant in Jewish and Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 2012).

This volume is unique in many ways. First, it has an evangelistic focus in that Chosen People Ministries and Mitch Glaser has envisioned this project to “reach Jewish people with the message of Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, as he is described and extolled in Isaiah 53 (22).” Thus, it should be no surprise that evangelical scholars such as Darrell Bock, Walter Kaiser, Robert Chisholm and a host of others teamed up to organize and recruit the other contributors to this volume. The volume is divided into three parts: Interpretation of Isaiah 53, Isaiah 53 in Biblical Theology, and Isaiah 53 in Practical Theology. The first part is kicked off by Richard Averbeck, Director of the PhD Program in Theological Studies and Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Averbeck kicks off the volume by examining Isaiah 53 by examining Christian interpretations of Isa 52.13-53.12. Averbeck, using Franz Delitzsch’s three-level pyramid on interpretive choices on Isaiah 53, helpfully lays much of the groundwork for his essay, as he looks at options such as the servant denoting a broad reference to Israel as an elect nation, a remnant within Israel, and a single servant who suffers vicariously on behalf of Israel. Overall, I found agreement with Averbeck’s position that Jesus takes up the role of the latter in a representative role on behalf of Israel.

 Next, Michael L. Brown looks at Jewish rabbinic interpretations of the servant in Isaiah 53. While he notes that most of the rabbi’s view the Servant as Israel, he does note some exceptions that narrow this figure to an individual. In section two, Walter Kaiser kicks off the proceedings with a chapter that examines the identity and mission of the Servant of the Lord. Like most things I have read by Kaiser, I found myself a bit perplexed at the exegetical gymnastics that he performs to argue his point. For example, Kaiser, in this reader’s opinion, undermines the first-person plural pronouns in Isaiah 53, which represents Israel, by stating that the Holy Spirit may have deliberately left the identity of the speaker vague “so that anyone could read these verses and put themselves in the same confession” (100).

Following Brown, Michael Wilkins contributes an essay that examines the role of Isaiah 53 in the Gospels with a special focus on Matthew, where most of the allusions occur. I had no major quibbles with Wilkins work, as I too share his opinion that Jesus’ self-identification is to be found in the role of the suffering servant of Isa 53. After Wilkins, Darrell Bock contributes an interesting essay on the ways in which the MT and the LXX of Isaiah 53 may have impacted Acts 8. This may be the most technical essay of the entire volume but it pays a careful reading.

 Next, Craig Evans contributes a chapter that looks at the remainder of the NT and also provides an interesting survey of the ways Isaiah 53 has impacted the theologies of Peter, both in Acts and his letters, Paul, and lastly, John. For Evans, the Suffering Servant Hymn laid at the heart of early evangelism aimed at the synagogue. David Allen’s contribution, despite repetition with the others in this work, lies in his reading of Leviticus 5-7, 16 as atonement, thus comparing Isaiah 53 role of the Servant to this conclusion allows him to see Jesus’ sacrifice as one of atonement for the nation of Israel.

 Robert Chisholm concludes this section by looking at the themes of forgiveness and salvation in Isaiah 53. Language such as “lifting up” and “taking away” are examined here. Chisholm concludes that the Servant’s redemptive work entails release from exile and restoration to the Promised Land, while making forgiveness of sins and covenant renewal possible. Part III, an area of the volume that I did not read thoroughly has contributions from John Feinberg on Post-Modern Themes in Isaiah 53, Mitch Glaser in using Isaiah 53 in Jewish Evangelism, Donald Sunukjian on Preaching Isaiah 53, and a conclusion by Darrell Bock which attempts to draw the disparate essays together in the end.

Conclusion: Like many volumes, essays can tend to be uneven in terms of the level of writing, scholarship, etc. The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 is no exception. However, there is some real gems in this volume, Bock’s and Evans’ essays immediately spring to mind. That being said, this book is forthrightly evangelical. The contributors of this volume make no apologies for this, but one needs to be aware that this is the presuppositional starting point. This may grate on some nerves when approaching this volume, as it tends to take on apologetic overtones, see especially the contribution by Kaiser. Overall, The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 makes a fine contribution to the ongoing discussions as to the identity of the Servant, but will probably not be the final or definitive word on this hotly contested topic.