R.W.L. Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism, Overtures to Biblical Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), xvi + 224 pps [repr. by Wipf & Stock, 2001, 240 pps.]. My pagination will refer to the original Fortress Press edition.

Readers of this blog will not need to be told of my bias for this book. Moberly is going to be my doctoral advisor at Durham, so obviously I think very highly of him and his scholarship. But don’t let my bias dissuade you, this really is a wonderful book.

Moberly’s stated purpose in this book is to explore the question of what it means to do biblical theology. The chosen topic for this exercise is the importance of the giving of the divine name in Ex. 3 and 6 and the relationship to the patriarchal narratives that went before, and the Mosaic Yahwism that followed. He begins in ch. 1, by establishing two things: 1) that in the texts of Ex. 3 and 6 “God was revealed to Moses, on behalf of Israel, as having the name YHWH,” 2) Moses and Israel did not previously know that name and 3) the one revealed as YHWH is the same God as the God of their ancestors (p. 35). This chapter is quite exegetical and a brief review cannot do it justice. Let us just say that Moberly is a very careful reader of Scripture and his exegesis is always worth reading.

Moberly follows the conclusion of the first chapter by asking the logical question: (more…)

 

Eddy and Boyd’s defense of the historicity of the Synoptic tradition is essentially a dialogue with a group of scholars who hold to what Eddy and Boyd call the “Jesus legend” thesis. They group in this definition any scholar who holds that the Jesus of the gospels is a “fictional legend” to any degree (13). They argue that most of these scholars come to the gospels with their own presuppositions and allow their presuppositions to rule their decisions. Eddy and Boyd admit their own presuppositions up front, they are largely within the evangelical camp. But they argue that if we follow their model which they call an “open historical-critical model” we will be able to conclude that “the Synoptic portrait of Jesus is quite historically plausible–in fact, that it is the most historically probable representation of the actual Jesus of history” (14).

Eddy and Boyd begin by defending their methodology which they refer to as an “open historical-critical” method. This is their way of reacting against the extreme skepticism that has dominated much of NT studies. They argue that the extreme skepticism of ‘miracles’ or supernatural events is actually a worldview that is limited to Western academia. for, they argue, “present human experience on a global scale is saturated with reported experiences of the supernatural” (67). The extreme critical view which unquestionably denies any possibility of the supernatural has “not been critical enough” (78) for it is not critical of its own presuppositions. Once we move beyond this extreme skepticism, and allow for the possibility of the supernatural we are at a much more appropriate place to study the NT.

In the second chapter the authors examine the often held claim that the high christology of the NT only develops as the early church “syncretistically mixed with Hellenistic philosophical and/or religious ideas” (92). After surveying the options both for and against, Eddy and Boyd find that “there is no compelling reason to suppose that first-century Jews as a whole–including Gallilean Jews–were open to a revision of their basic religious convictions via pagan ideas” (131). They thus conclude (more…)

 

Lawrence Schiffman, From Text to Tradition: A History of Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism (Ktav Publishing, 1991), 299pp + Glossary.

Lawrence Schiffman has provided a readable and brief treatment of Jewish history, starting from the Biblical period through the Second Temple period and into the Rabbinic period, a span of over 1,000 years. Any history of this scope intended as an introductory level history must be necessarily brief and Schiffman’s book is no exception. This does not, however, keep it from being a useful and informative tool.

The author begins by stating that his method will be ‘historical’ but that his main focus is not ‘to tell the story of people, but rather to tell the story of ideas’ (2). His focus is therefore to trace the development of the Jewish religion from biblical to Rabbinic times against the backdrop of the historical realities in which it developed.

The second chapter contains a brief sketch of the the biblical heritage, summarizing the content and import of the biblical text. This chapter is really to set the scene for the following developments. He then turns to Judaism in the Persian period, which is a period of overlap between biblical Judaism and non-biblical Second Temple Judaism. Though his work is chronologically organized, in this chapter we see Schiffman’s strategy of treating each broad historical section topically. Thus, he begins by (more…)

D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, second edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), 142 pp. + indeces.

D.A. Carson’s wonderful little book, Exegetical Fallacies, is a brief survey of some of the most common interpretive fallacies that exegetes face when they look at scriptural texts. While the subject matter of the book may make it seem negative, if one takes it for what it is, it is a very useful survey. 

Carson organizes his survey into four categories of fallacies: 1) word-study fallacies, 2) grammatical fallacies, 3) logical fallacies, and 4) presuppositional and historical fallacies. 

The first category is probably the most prevalent and the one that this author is the most guilty of. Carson recognizes the need for context and usage as the most important factor for determining meaning of a word rather than etymology. This section is a great introduction to biblical semantics if one has not read the more substantial works of Barr, Caird and Silva.

The second category recognizes the possible fluidity of grammar in actual usage and cautions against making too much of grammatical constructions. Thus for example, though the aorist tense in Greek is usually described as a point verb emphasizing that an event happened once it is a stretch to suggest, as commentators have, that the use of the aorist in 1 Cor. 5:7 (‘for Christ our passover lamb was sacrificed‘) means that his sacrifice was a ‘once for all’ kind of deal. While, theologically, this might be true, it cannot be argued on the basis of grammar.

In surveying logical fallacies, Carson recognizes the tendency to demand an either/or solution where a complementary view might be better suited.

The final category deals with historical and presuppositional fallacies. While it is here that the book reaches its highest ‘evangelical peak’ in that it is critical of views that do not accept the historicity of the Bible or who hold their presuppositions as above the Bible. It is also very helpful in that it recognizes the usefulness of the postmodern critique of the modern arrogance of interpretation. The recognition that we all bring our own presuppositions to the text can help us to make allowances for them an be even more true to the text.

All in all, there is nothing truly groundbreaking or profound in Carson’s book. But it is a very helpful introduction to the most common fallacies interpreters face.

Ronald J. Williams, Williams’ Hebrew Syntax, Third Edition Revised and Expanded by John C. Beckman (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), xvi + 211pp. + Appendices.

Having already been forced to buy the second edition of Williams’ Hebrew Syntax in my undergraduate studies I was of course reticent to fork out the money for the third edition. My professor, thankfully, was insistent that this version was well worth owning. So, despite my wallet’s protestations I purchased this third edition expanded by John C. Beckman.

In my opinion, Beckman has taken, what was already an excellent resource and made it into an invaluable resource. I have always found Williams’ presentation of Hebrew Syntax to be succinct ant helpful in its categorizations, especially for such a brief treatment. Beckman, however, has taken this resource to the next level of usefulness. I will briefly lay out how this third edition has improved on the first then make some final comments on the work as a whole.

The first noticable change in this third edition is (more…)

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 235 + Appendices and Indices. 

In preparation for my ‘Messiah in the Old Testament’ class this summer I read Kaiser’s take on the subject. Having read Fitzmyer’s work, I found this one to be an entirely different take. Kaiser is only concerned with the biblical texts themselves, paying little attention to how they have interpreted historically (though he does touch on this at points).

Kaiser organizes his book diachronically based on a very conservative dating of texts. Thus, after an introduction, he looks at 1) messianic passages in the Pentateuch, 2) before an during the monarchy, 3) in the psalms, 4) in the ninth and eighth century prophets, 5) in Isaiah, 6) in seventh and sixth century prophets, and 7) in the post-exilic prophets.

Kaiser begins by citing what he believes is the usual definition of the term ‘messianic,’ namely, “everything in the OT that refers to the hope of a glorious future” (15). He is aware that this is problematic since many passages that speak of a glorious future speak of the Lord’s actions rather than the Messiah’s but he also claims that there are significant overlap between the actions of the Lord and the actions of His Messiah. 

From the start, as Kaiser surveys the various texts, he sees Messiah in almost every passage traditionally thought of as messianic. He argues that the ‘edenic promise’ is a messianic promise, even though he is aware it is only the beginning of a progressive revelation of the messianic message. Throughout his book he tends to make arguments (some very good, some less so) for Messiah in all the traditional passages. 

One major weakness of Kaiser’s book is that it reads like an insiders discussion amongst evangelicals. He interacts most often with James Smith, What the Bible teaches about the Promised Messiah; Charles Briggs, Messianic Prophecy; the commentaries of Keil and Delitzsch, and Kaiser’s own previous works. Almost no mention is made of classic texts such as Mowinckel’s. 

Despite that drawback, Kaiser’s work, though written at a semi-popular level is also capable of making fairly detailed arguments. For example, he argues that Jeremiah 23:5-6 should be understood as “the LORD our righteousness” (as opposed to “the LORD is righteousness”) based on the accent marks of the Masoretic Text (and not just the atnac or zaqef…)

It took me a while to get into this book but in the end I enjoyed it. If you are looking for a good defense of a conservative reading of messianic prophecies than this a good choice. If Fitzmyer is overly minimalistic in his views, Kaiser may be overly maximalistic. Hopefully, somewhere between them is a good view of the messianic passages of Scripture. It would be a great exercise to compare the arguments of Kaiser and Fitzmyer of some specific passages but that is fodder for another post, or series of posts.

Invitation to the Septuagint

Karen H. Jobes and Moises Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids:  Baker Academic, 2000).

The first thing a reader should note about Jobes and Silva’s Invitation to the Septuagint is the scope and importance of such a project. In the past fifty years when scholars could lament that Swete’s Introduction “was never brought up to date nor replaced,”[1] Jobes and Silva’s contribution attempts to do just that. While how affective they are in accomplishing that goal can be debated but no one can debate the importance and need of a clear introduction to Septuagint studies. The authors break down their book into three basic parts, and we will look at each one to see how well they accomplished their task

 

Part 1: History of the Septuagint

            In the first chapter of this section the authors begin by defining the term Septuagint (LXX). They note that equating the LXX with Rahlfs edition is naïve and they caution the reader that (more…)

ANE Thought John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 334 pp. + Appendix.

This book was my introduction to Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) thought. As such, I do not have a great depth of knowledge of this subject, but I do have the unique opportunity to review this book as the audience it was intended for. As an introduction to the conceptual world of the Old Testament, I am the target audience.

As an introduction, this book functioned very well. There is a great amount of information in this book but not in such a way that a lay reader cannot keep up. The main thrust of this book is to paint a picture of the worldview of the ANE. It is not primarily about the Old Testament, though the author, through a series of ‘call outs,’ does interact with the similarities and differences between the worldview of the ANE and the worldview of ancient Israel. Furthermore, as an introduction to worldview, this book is not a history of the ANE. It is arranged topically, rather than chronologically or geographically, though within topics the author does differentiate between different areas.

Walton divides this book into 5 parts: 1) and introduction to Comparative Studies, 2) Literature of the ANE, 3) Religion, 4) Cosmos, and 5) People.

The first part introduces the discipline of comparative studies and what we could seek to gain from it. The main reason for doing comparative studies is (more…)

The One Who Is to ComeJoseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., The One Who Is to Come (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 2007), xvi + 183 pp. + Indices.

 For Christians, the subject of Messiah and Messianic prophecies is a very important one. Too often, however, in our ‘christocentric’ hermeneutic we read the Old Testament and see Christ everywhere. In this new book, Fitzmyer tries to stay that tendency by studying the messianic concept as a developing concept throughout Israel’s history.

Fitzmyer defines the technical use of Messiah as “an eschatological figure, an anointedhuman agent of God, who was to be sent by Him as a deliverer and was awaited in the endtime” (1). With this technical concept of Messiah in mind Fitzmyer begins a study of the messianic concept in two parts. First, he examines the messianic concept in the Old Testament (chs. 2-5), then examines it in (roughly chronological order) in other sources: the Septuagint (ch. 6), 2nd Temple Jewish Literature (ch.7), the NT (ch. 8 ) and Mishnah, Targums and other Rabbinic writings (ch.9).

 Because of Fitzmyer’s ‘narrow’ understanding of the technical use of Messiah (Heb.: msh) he can survey its uses and claim that (more…)

Peter Enns, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005), 173pp. + glossary and index.

 We will now finish our review of Enns’ book by looking at the third major section (ch. 4): The Old Testament and its Interpretation in the New Testament. In this section Enns addresses the difficult question of how the NT authors handle the OT. He begins this chapter with the observation that the NT authors’ “notions of what constitutes a proper handling of the Old Testament do not always square with our own instincts” (114).

Enns states his beliefs upfront. He believes:

  1. The New Testament authors were not engaging the Old Testament in an effort to remain consistent with the original context and intention of the Old Testament author.
  2. They were indeed commenting on what the text meant.
  3. The hermeneutical attitude they embodied should be embraced and followed by the church today. (115-16)

Many will disagree with some, if not all, of Enns conclusions. In my opinion, this is the most controversial section of Enns book.

Enns begins by trying to put the NT authors in context by examining the hermeneutical principles of the world they lived in. He begins by looking at places where the OT interprets other passages of the OT. Most notably (more…)