Nov 21, 2009

Recent Research in Chronicles

Rodney K. Duke, “Recent Research in Chronicles,” Currents in Biblical Research 8 (2009): 10–50.

From the abstract:

“This article surveys trends in Chronicles scholarship from 1994 to 2007. Most of the trends established by 1993 have continued with more depth and focus, although with a few challenges. These trends include: refining the distinctions between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemia as coming from separate authors/editors; recognizing the integral role of the genealogies; and examining the literary artistry of the Chronicler. Newer trends include: pursuing the interplay between orality, on the one hand, and textuality and literacy, on the other; and bringing insights from an increasing sociological understanding of the Persian and Hellenistic periods in general. Recent years have also seen a wealth of new commentaries” (p. 10).

Duke, building on the earlier work of Kleinig, “Recent Research in Chronicles,” Currents in Research: Biblical Studies 2 (1994): 43–76, notes three trends which “have continued in the following years with increasing focus and breadth” (p. 41).

1. A shift from historical to literary analysis.

2. A shift from diachronic source and redactional analyses to more synchronic, canonical analyses.

3. A newly forming trend to move from thematic analyses to theological synthesis (pp. 68–69).

“As a result, numerous articles and monographs have been produced and major commentary series have been adding to, or even replacing, volumes on Chronicles. The significant newer tendencies have been to date Chronicles later, even down to Hellenistic times, and to try to place Chronicles better into its sociological and literary context as scholars gain a fuller understanding of the Persian and Hellenistic periods. Chronicles indeed has come into its own as a biblical book worthy of study” (p. 41).

Nov 20, 2009

Understanding Song of Songs as a Canonical Text

Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford asks and then answers: "How, then, do we understand the Song of Songs in its canonical text"?

"As a simple erotic love song built on the model of other erotic love songs from the ancient Near East? A love song that celebrates the sexual love of one human for another? YES.

"As an allegory for the love of God for humanity? As the love of God for Israel? As the love of Jesus for the Church? YES.

"As a glimpse of Eden redeemed? A place where the created good is celebrated? YES,
by all means, YES."

Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford, “An Introduction to the Song of Songs,” Review and Expositor 105 (2008): 399–400.

Witherington on Doing New Testament Theology

"At the end of the day, it is not helpful to arrange New Testament proof texts into pree
xistent systematic theology categories and then construct a Testament theology or ethics or analyze New Testament theology or ethics on that basis. This puts the ‘dog’ back in dogma, and that dog won’t hunt if we are talking about being fair to the focus and thrusts of the New Testament itself, which are christocentric and christological to the core.”

Ben Witherington III, The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament, Volume One: The Individual Witnesses (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2009), 54,

Nov 19, 2009

How Do You Measure Up?

"We're always being measured: God is measuring us, and people are measuring us. When it comes to measuring Christian service and servants, other people can make mistakes, and we can make mistakes. Most Christian workers are prone to think either more highly of themselves than they should (Rom 12:3) or less highly. If we think too highly of outselves, we'll get proud and start pushing our way into what we think is a more important place. If we think less highly, we'll get discouraged and want to quit. Both attitudes are wrong."

Warren W. Wiersbe, On Being a Servant of God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 59.

Theodicy and the New Testament

In the process of researching a topic I came upon this bit from Nils Dahl. I think that I understand the first reason, but I am not sure that I understand the second reason (I only see two reasons although the word “several” normally applies to more than two). Thoughts anyone?

“The New Testament writers pay remarkably little attention to the problem of theodicy or to other problems inherent in any theology that asserts that God is simultaneously omnipotent, just, and loving. There are several reasons for this: The general concept of God is more or less taken for granted; the writers do not deal with dogmatic theory but address some vital issue, if they do not present their ‘theology’ in narrative form; they expect that God will in the near future publicly vindicate both himself and his faithful servants. Yet the more profound reason why New Testament authors do not seem concerned about problems and inconsistencies in their ‘doctrine of God’ may be that all general and traditional attributes of God are predicated of ‘the Father of Jesus Christ,’ that is, the Son of Man, who was abandoned and subjected to violence, injustice, and hatred–and who is one with his Father.”

Nils A. Dahl, “The Neglected Factor of New Testament Theology,” in Jesus the Christ: The Historical Origins of Christological Doctrine, ed. Donald H. Juel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991), 160-1.

Nov 18, 2009

Archaeology in the Old Testament

Eugene Merrill writes the following in his article “Old Testament Archaeology: Its Promises and Pitfalls,”
Journal of Dispensational Theology (August 2009): 19.

“Archaeology in the abstract is neither friend nor foe of the Bible and the Christian faith. It is a silent witness to the past that has no independent authority and that cannot interpret itself. Therefore, it is useful only as it becomes a tool in the hands and minds of human interpreters. How it is used depends, of course, on the disposition of the user. Those who wish to bring it to the service of the written Word of God can find it to be an invaluable aid in understanding, defending, and proclaiming that Word. On the other hand, those who bring the Word to the service of archaeology will use and abuse the Word as they see fit to make it conform to the ‘assured results’ of modern criticism and infidelity.”

Nov 17, 2009

Witherington on Theological Ethics in James 1

"From the very first paragraph of the letter of James it becomes apparent how very wrong it is to suggest that this homily is simply an ethical miscellany. It would be better to call it ‘theological ethics,’ as it is grounded in a certain view of God and divine activity, as the opening paragraph makes apparent. God is the one who sends wisdom, gives every good gift, including perseverance, and is the model of rectitude—not a shadow of a doubt or of any behavior that could be called questionable. It becomes clear from the outset that by and large James is serving up not commonsense wisdom but rather revelatory wisdom, wisdom that comes by revelation and presupposes a particular view of God and the divine activity that enables human beings to be their best selves."

Ben Witherington III, The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament, Volume One: The Individual Witnesses (Downers Grove, IL, 2009), 299-30.

For a review of this book see here.

Nov 16, 2009

Kingdom of God in Matthew Paper and Response

Rod Decker has posted links to David Turner's paper "Matthew Among the Dispensationalists: A Progressive Dispensational Perspective on the Kingdom of God" and Mark Bailey's response"A Response to David Turner's 'Matthew Among the Dispensationalists." Both papers are scheduled to be delivered at this years national Evangelical Theological Society meeting. You can access the papers

Review of Ben Witherington's Indelible Image, Volume One

Thanks to Adrianna Wright at InterVarsity Press for this review copy.

Ben Witherington III, The Indelible Image: The Theological and Ethical Thought World of the New Testament, Volume One: The Individual Witnesses (Downers Grove, IL, 2009), 856 pp.

Ben Witherington III has just published the first of two volumes on New Testam
ent theology and ethics (which he sees as inseparably intertwined). The first volume, and the volume under review here, is analysis of the individual New Testament witnesses (i.e. Jesus and the NT authors). The second volume will apparently be a synthesis or a presentation of the collective witness of the New Testament. In a very real sense both volumes are or will be a culmination of sorts of Dr. Witherington’s prodigious literary output, including published commentaries on every book of the New Testament (p. 13). Witherington argues that a new comprehensive work on New Testament theology and ethics is needed for three reasons (p. 15). (1) The relationship between theology and ethics has not often been treated adequately. (2) Some key terms in the NT are both ethical and theological (e.g., love). (3) One unfortunate side effect of the Reformation was the subordination of ethics to theology. Whether one agrees with these three reasons are not, I suspect that these volumes will provide academic food for New Testament students to sample for years to come.

In general, The Indelible Image, is what one comes to expect from a book authored by Witherington. The book is academic and yet accessible; informative and yet interesting. Matter-of-fact assertions are juxtaposed with rhetorically effective and culturally current turns of phrases. As one might expect, there are echoes of Witherington’s earlier literary work (e.g. The Christology of Jesus, Paul’s Narrative Thought World, etc.). Furthermore, as I noted in a previous post (see here) I especially appreciated the equal time given to other, less well-known, voices in the New Testament (e.g., the General Epistles). Each chapter is concluded with a helpful “Short List” bibliography for those who need/want help for further study. The subject, name, and Scripture indexes in the back of the book appear to be thorough and complete. By the way, the reader may want to begin by reading the “Rewind” section (pp. 813-18) at the end of the book. This section deftly summarizes what the author has sought to argue in the volume as a whole and may help to provide helpful orientation for the reader.

Here is the table of contents for the book:


The Overture: The Grand story in Miniature
Prologue: Blueprints and Bylaws
1 Jesus: The Alpha and Omega of New Testament Thought
2 Paul the Paradigm Setter

3 The Kinsmen and Their Redeemer; Peter and His Principles

4 The Anonymous Famous Preacher

5 Beloved Theology and Ethics

6 One-Eyed Gospels
7 The End of All Things and the Beginning of the Canon

Paul: Minimalists and Maximalists

Concerning Paul's citation of Scripture in his epistles, Francis Watson in "Scripture in Pauline Theology: How Far Down Does it Go?" Journal of Theological Interpretation 2 (2008): 181-92, writes:

"Scholars who have reflected on these issues may be divided into two classes: there are maximalists, and there are minimalists. Maximalists think that scripture is profoundly important to Paul, minimalists think that it matters to him only superficially Maximalists tend to argue that Paul's texts are full of scriptural allusions, even where explicit citations are lacking. They believe that a citation of an individual text is intended to evoke the entire scriptural context from which it was taken. Minimalists believe that Paul is usually unconcerned about the contexts of the texts he cites. They argue that he often cites texts because he is forced to do so by opponents, not because he really wants to" (p. 182).

In the article Watson critiques the Minimalist position and argues for a version of the Maximalist position.

Nov 15, 2009

Dunn on Israel in the New Testament

"The fact that Israel remains a given for the NT is very striking, not least in view of the fact that by the end of the first century embryonic Christianity must already have been predominantly Gentile in composition. But fundamental it was. Jesus' message can be summed up in terms of a hope for the restoration of Israel. The first believers were all Jews, and the great majority of the NT writings were composed by Jews. The Paul of Acts sums up his mission by reference to ‘the hope of Israel’ (Acts 28:20), just as the Paul of Romans affirms the irrevocability of God’s calling of Israel and purpose for Israel (Rom 1 1:25–32). The chief term for Christian congregations, ‘church’ (ekklēsia), has been taken over from the LXX's translation of the qahal YHWH or the qahal lsrael (qahal = ‘assembly, congregation’).The assumption of the opening verses of James and 1 Peter is that the letters were addressed to (the twelve tribes[!] of) the Diaspora. And the seer of Revelation envisages salvation as embracing 144,000, 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev 74–8)."

James D. G. Dunn, New Testament Theology: An Introduction, Library of Biblical Theology, ed. James D. G. Dunn (Nashville: Abingdon, 2009), 978.