Biblical Studies Carnival

Well, here it is—the Biblical Studies Carnival for August 2017! This is my first time to host the revered BSC, so I hope you enjoy yourself so immensely that you’ll sign up to host your yourself. If you’d like to host a carnival, you can email Phil Long at plong42@gmail.com or send him a DM on Twitter @plong42. No one has signed up thus far, so prime real estate is still available! I’m pretty sure if you sign up, you’ll receive something invaluable, such as the esteem and praise of your peers, a boost in blog traffic, maybe even a puppy, or if you’re Jim West, a cat.

Upcoming Biblical Studies Carnivals

If you have links you’d like to see included in future carnvivals, send the links to the hosts below.

Hebrew Bible/Hebrew
Carly Crouch writes about the ethics of war in ancient Israel and Assyria here.

In light of the 2017 solar eclipse, Claude Mariottini writes about solar eclipses in the OT here.

LXX
William Ross shares some recently discovered correspondence from H. B. Swete here.

LXX scholar Anneli Aejmelaeus shares her experience of being a female scholar in a male-dominant field.

Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha
Phil Long continues his series on apocrypha and pseudepigrapha with posts on Jubilees (why Jubilees was written, the law in Jubilees, story in expansions), The Life of Adam and Eve, The Apocalypse of Adam and Eve, and Joseph and Aseneth (including how Joseph got his wife).

New Testament/Greek
James Tauber continues his jaunt through Greek morphology with part 10 here. Parts 11, 12, 13, 14, . He also has a Greek vocab site that you might enjoy. Check it out here.

Listen to Chris Heilig’s interview with N. T. Wright here.

Read Charles Isbell’s article on Paul and Judaism here.

Should you read Revelation? Of course! And Ian Paul provides a few reasons why here.

Check out the slides from Rachel and Mike Aubrey’s presentation for the Tyndale House Greek Prepositions Workshop here.

James Snapp points out a few “cracks” in the NA28 here and here.

Everyone’s favorite Aussie Mike Bird shares his 12 theses (=major themes) of the catholic epistles here and does so without damaging any church doors.

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has recently digitized ten Gospels manuscripts from the National Library of Greece. Read about it here.

Brant Pitre discusses the problem of the Lord’s Supper here.

Larry Hurtado discusses the issue of Galatians and the Jerusalem collection here.

Michael Heiser briefly discusses geography and hell here.

Listen to an interview with Doug Campbell here.

Craig Keener briefly discusses the difficult Matt 23:38–39 here.

Brian small adds more articles to his ever-expanding pool of Hebrews studies.

Phil Long discusses Paul’s Jewish heritage here.

Academia
Read the interesting series of articles over at Mosaic concerning the alleged corruption of the discipline of biblical studies. Joshua Berman begins the conversation and, in turn, Jon Levensen, David Carr, Craig Bartholomew, and Benjamin Sommer offer responses. Marc Brettler weighs in as does Michael Kok here and here. Joshua Berman offers the final word.

Eerdmans authors share their tips on writing here.

PhD students face many hardships in the course of their studies, one of which is maintaining good mental health.

Bruce J. Malina passed away on August 17. May he rest in peace.

Archaeology
In case you’re still wondering about those lead codices, read a comprehensive report here.

Read about the discovery of Hittite bullae here.

Miscellany
Read John Meade’s thoughts on the relationship of manuscripts and the canonization of texts here.

Practice your academic German by reading an excerpt of text with translation of Torsten Jantsch’s Jesus, der Retter: Die Soteriologie des lukanischen Doppelwerks here.

Keep up your Latin with daily lessons at LatinPerDiem!

Jim West alerts us to Bultmann’s proclivities for correspondence here!

James Tauber has a visualization of Greek letter bigram frequencies here.

Book Reviews and Reflections/Thoughts
The ever-erudite Mike Aubrey provides readers with a supplement to his three-part review of Stan Porter’s Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament: Studies in Tools, Methods, and Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015). For some context, read parts 1, 2, and 3.

Larry Hurtado offers some thoughts on Paul Fredriksen’s new book Paul: The Pagans’ Apostle here.

Pete Enns reflects on Marten Hengel’s classic Crucifixion here.

Books

Jim West lets us know about a series of OT study guides from Bloomsbury here.

Some guy wants to trade a book here.

Check out the forthcoming Complete Hebrew-Greek Bible from Hendrickson.

Will Brown reviews The Routledge Encyclopedia of Ancient Mediterranean Religions here.

Phil Long reviews Jon Laansma and Randall Gauthier’s The Handy Guide to Difficult and Irregular Greek Verbs here.

Get a free e-book from de Gruyter here. It’s Writing Matters: Presenting and Perceiving Monumental Inscriptions in Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. by Berti, Irene / Bolle, Katharina / Opdenhoff, Fanny / Stroth, Fabian.

August Releases

Technology
Mahlon Smith writes about the SBL GNT app (for Android) here.

Get Die Bible—Einheitsübersetzung 2017 for your iPhone here.

If you’re an academic and/or student, get the Logos 7 engine for free here.

Well, I hope you enjoyed your jaunt through this month’s carnival. Hopefully, everyone was kind to you and you found something that made the stop worthwhile. Blessings to you!

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Book Review—Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook

9780825427619

Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature: An Exegetical Handbook
by Richard A. Taylor
Kregel | Amazon | CBD

In recent years, perhaps decades, there has been a burgeoning interest in apocalyptic. Of course, this fascination has played out in different ways for various sectors of society—I’m thinking of end-times-obsessed preachers/authors of more extreme conservative segments of Christianity—as well as in popular literature and cinema. However, perhaps part of what has spurred the interest and proliferation of scholarly attention to “apocalyptic” has been to offer a corrective to the often wrongly appropriated elements of apocalyptic into these various media ventures, eschatological schemes, etc. Even so, it seems as though scholarship’s attention to apocalyptic has been more of a hermeneutical venture than anything. This has been an endeavor not only to discover what exactly constitutes “apocalyptic,” perhaps the most difficult question to answer adequately, but also to better understand how it figures into various portions of Scripture. As such, the market has been flooded with many fine volumes that seek to answer these questions—and more—and Taylor’s contribution to the discussion is certainly worth your investment, provided you’re not already a seasoned expert.

Predictably, Taylor begins his book by asking the question “What is apocalyptic”? Because this volume assumes the reader is perhaps only somewhat familiar with apocalyptic, this chapter is a natural starting point. Once he walks through a brief history of apocalyptic in scholarship, Taylor turns his attention to a discussion of apocalyptic proper (if such can even be said)—first, the problem of definitions, and second, the unique literary features that give apocalyptic its particular flavor (23–40).[1] Taylor states early in this chapter that the focus of the book will be primarily on apocalyptic as it is found in the OT (26), which may disappoint some readers; however, there is sufficient discussion of non-canonical texts that will inform the reader of the relationship between the two.[2] This chapter is a concise and helpful guide through some of the thornier questions swirling about apocalyptic, e.g., separating “apocalyptic” from its cognates—apocalypticism, apocalyptic eschatology, etc. If I had any criticisms of this opening chapter, it would be this minor quibble. The discussion of apocalyptic as situated in communities that were in some sense marginalized is only given a couple of pages. This, I think, is an important element in understanding the genesis of apocalyptic literature and wish there had been a bit more on this element, though this can be a complex issue and I know authors must be judicious in their use of page space when discussing issues in an introductory capacity.

Chapter two focuses on Major Themes in Apocalyptic Literature and this is the heart of the discussion. Again, because Taylor’s focus in on apocalyptic as found in the OT, attention is given primarily to Jewish apocalyptic texts, the first to be discussed being the book of Daniel. The section on Daniel is a bit longer than the other texts treated in this chapter, which doesn’t surprise me since I know that Taylor has long had an interest in the book of Daniel.[3] For Daniel, Taylor looks at specific components—message, purpose, major themes, and structure. Initially, I suspected this section would be focused so much on these individual elements that the actual apocalyptic elements of Daniel would be somewhat sidelined; however, Taylor does tie these elements together to show how apocalyptic is ingrained in Daniel.  The remaining canonical works discussed here receive more attention on specific apocalyptic emphases, e.g., Isaiah’s “Little Apocalypse” (Isa 24–27), Ezekiel’s windstorm in 1:4–9 (and other elements), Zechariah’s visions, Joel’s vision of the outpouring of the Spirit (Joel 2:28–32), and Malachi’s divine epiphany in Mal 4:1–3. Again, the discussion of these texts is not to be in any measure exhaustive, but simply to highlight various apocalyptic motifs and/elements present in OT texts. Taylor devotes the next section of this chapter to extrabiblical Jewish apocalyptic texts, e.g., the Book of Enoch (with discussion of its major sections), 2 Enoch, Jubilees, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, Apocalypse of Abraham, Testament of Levi, Testament of Abraham, Apocalypse of Zephaniah, and the Testament of Moses. Taylor also brings the Qumran community (Dead Sea Scrolls) into the conversation—to leave them out, of course, would be criminal! For those familiarizing themselves with Jewish apocalyptic, this is an excellent sampling with which to begin. Having introduced these representative texts, the chapter concludes with a helpful discussion of what makes apocalyptic—its literary features. Though these disincentives have come in varying degrees in the previous section, there are here elucidated with more detail and this is a fitting conclusion for this chapter.

Those familiar with this series will know that these volumes are not meant simply to introduce a particular literary corpus, but rather to help its readers know how to better interpret said corpora, and this becomes the focus of the remainder of the book, beginning here at chapter three. Entitled Preparing for Interpretation of Apocalyptic Literature, Taylor guides the reader through what is perhaps the most difficult aspect of encountering apocalyptic—how does one interpret it? Again, not surprisingly, Taylor uses Daniel as his example and provides five areas that will help readers prepare: (1) comprehending figurative language, (2) learning from reception history, (3) evaluating issues of textual transmission, (4) working with the original languages, and (5) benefiting from previous studies (88). Naturally, this section deals with some more technical aspects of interpretation, particularly concerning apocalyptic, but Taylor navigates with aplomb, though it bears repeating that this is introductory in nature and thus should serve only as a springboard into more detailed analyses.[4]

If chapter three addressed the preparatory work of interpretation, chapter four—Interpreting Apocalyptic Literature—puts spade to soil and informs the reader how to go about this task. Tools in hand, Taylor leads the ambitious reader through the rocky and resistant ground that is apocalyptic literature in such a way that they have a handle on how to make their way through these often-bewildering texts and derive a sensible understanding from them. While the foundational material is a critical component of any working thesis/argument, this section begins the real heart of the book. Taylor begins with step one—interpreting grammatically and historically, or what is often referred to as the “grammatical-historical method” of interpreting texts. This means that to best approach any ancient writing is to situate a text within the contexts of its original language and its original historical context, an approach that is well within the mainstream. While I think Taylor’s articulations here are solid and agreeable, I do have pause over one particular point. Using Daniel as his example, he states that the interpreter doesn’t need to be an expert, but needs to have “a working knowledge of the morphology of both Hebrew and Aramaic” (119). I worry that such statements are too generalized and vague and, consequently, may lead some readers to assume that even a basic knowledge of biblical languages is sufficient for competent translation, exegesis, and interpretation. I know Taylor personally and have studied under him and certainly don’t think that he believes this level of knowledge is sufficient, but as stated, I fear it could be interpreted that way by some readers.

The next factor to consider is the matter of genre, where apocalyptic proves to be quite tricky. While Taylor reiterates the various features of apocalyptic, e.g., figurative language, there is less “how-to” as far as interpretive practice and more general caution to be attentive to these matters. Thankfully, the following sections concerning interpretive clues and macrostructure are more helpful and practical. Also of great benefit to less-experienced handlers of apocalyptic are the final two sections of this chapter—respecting the silence of the text and pitfalls of interpretation. On the first point, Taylor rightly admonishes readers to limit their exegesis to what the text affirms—“[w]here the text is silent, we must learn to be silent” (127). On the various pitfalls of interpretation, Taylor also rightly indicates that apocalyptic more than just about any other portion of the OT “presents an opportunity for readers to respond in various ways that are not productive” (127).[5]

Chapter five—Proclaiming Apocalyptic Literature—is geared towards those who will ultimately fashion their exegesis into a sermon and/or bible study lesson. Taylor here provides sounds principles for transition from exegesis to dissemination of the text and its meaning. The last chapter—Sample Texts from Apocalyptic Literature—provides a walkthrough of sorts of two OT passages in which apocalyptic is present: Daniel 8:1–27 and Joel 2:28–32. Taylor chose these passages because they show “two different stages in the use of apocalyptic themes and language in the Old Testament” (153).  Joel, argues Taylor, “is illustrative of a transition from traditional Israelite prophecy to an emerging apocalypticism,” whereas Daniel 8 “is illustrative of a fully developed apocalypticism” (153). Overall, this final chapter provides a helpful rubber-meets-road demonstration of how one should approach apocalyptic literature, at least as it is found in the OT.

The book contains one appendix and I am glad this was included—Antecedents of Apocalyptic Literature. Here Taylor briefly surveys the precursors to apocalyptic in the OT. Just as it is important to know how to approach the apocalypticism in the OT, it is also of great benefit to understand the historical development of apocalyptic in general. The best way to start that endeavor is to study other cultures for whom apocalyptic literature, or at least apocalyptic elements, formed part of their cultural matrix. Taylor touches on Canaanite mythology, Akkadian prophecy, Mesopotamian traditions,[6] Egyptian apocalypticism, Wisdom literature, and temple theology, Hellenistic syncretism, Persian religion (e.g., the dualism of Zoroastrian literature), and prophetic literature more generally.[7]

In sum, I think Taylor has provided a very useful volume, particularly those who are new to apocalyptic. Others who are better versed in apocalyptic will still find some benefit in this work, but substantially less than one would find in more specialized works. While there are some minor shortcomings, Taylor’s work is well written and accessible to students, pastors, teachers, and others who experience the virtually-requisite intimidation resulting in staring down apocalyptic texts in the OT. While I would probably recommend other works that more generally and comprehensively introduce apocalyptic literature,[8] for those hoping to know how to better interpret apocalyptic, especially with the end goal of preaching said texts, this would definitely be a worthwhile recommendation.

[1] I appreciate the analogy of Dorothy’s arrival in Oz from The Wizard of Oz to the experience many readers have when first encountering apocalyptic literature—it’s quite fitting!

[2] For those who are interested in further reading about apocalyptic beyond the confines of the Hebrew Bible, Taylor provides plenty of footnotes and bibliographic entries.

[3] Once in a seminar, he was discussing bibliographies and his on Daniel I want to say surpassed 2,000 entries.

[4] Interestingly, Taylor’s discussion of working with the original languages is actually an annotated bibliography of various tools available to assist in working with languages—it does not discuss linguistics, grammar, etc.—the how of working with/in languages.

[5] These various pitfalls are unnecessary ignorance, misplaced certainty, manipulation of details, and creation of arbitrary timetables.

[6] What exactly constitutes “Mesopotamian traditions” is somewhat vague, so readers will have to consult works in the footnotes to obtain a clearer understanding of what these are.

[7] Here Taylor highlights a facet of apocalyptic that has hitherto fore been neglected—apocalyptic as resistance literature. While brief, I am pleased to see this faced of apocalyptic introduced to the reader.

[8] Cf. John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016); Frederick J. Murphy, Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World: A Comprehensive Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012).

 

Book Review—Discovering the Septuagint by Karen H. Jobes

9780825443428Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader
by Karen H. Jobes
Kregel | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Kregel for this review copy! I received this book free of charge in exchange for an unbiased review.

Karen Jobes has established herself as a bit of an anomaly in the field of LXX studies—not only is she a woman, but she teaches at an evangelical college (Wheaton), two characteristics not possessed by LXX scholars. If you’ve read her other volumes on the LXX, then you’ll know this is an area about which Jobes is quite learned and passionate and that shows in this volume.

I remember when Kregel first published A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, I was glad to see a new iteration of such a volume. When the Reader’s Lexicon of the Apostolic Fathers was published, the first thought I had was whether or not they would publish a volume on the LXX—imagine my delight when I found out it was so!

This volume obviously provides much of the same kind of information as its kindred volumes from Kregel, yet is much more selective due to the sheer amount of text that comprises the LXX. This volume, then, includes 600+ verses from nine different books (9). The choice of texts stemmed from Jobes’ desire to expose readers to various genres, “distinctive Septuagintal elements,” and a sampling of texts used by the writers of the NT (9). Included are texts from Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Ruth, additions to Greek Esther, Psalms, Hosea, Jonah, Malachi, and Isaiah, all taken from the Rahlfs-Hanhart Greek text. Naturally, some may be a little disappointed in which books were selected, but remember this is an introduction, so the selections, I think, work pretty well for such a text.

After a brief introduction to the LXX and the expected perfunctory front matter, the reader arrives at the heart of the book—the text of the LXX. Each selection includes an introduction to the book (e.g., Genesis, not the reader itself), the readings from that book, and a selected bibliography (just a few entries). As for the text selection itself, each passage is handled one verse at a time, thus enabling a less intimidating foray into the LXX. For example, Genesis begins (not surprisingly) with 1:1–23. Each verse in that passage is reproduced for the reader and is followed with mostly grammatical notes on significant words and/or phrases in that verse (grammatical terms are defined in the glossary in the back). For Gen 1:1, Jobes discusses the phrase ἐν ἀρχῇ, and for Gen 1:2, a number of other words and phrases are analyzed—ἀόρατος καὶ ἀκατασκεύαστος, ἀόρατος, ἀκατασκεύαστος, ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου, πνεῦμα θεοῦ, and ἐπεφέρετο. For words that are listed by themselves, e.g., ἀόρατος, its part of speech and lexical information are provided as well as a gloss—ἀόρατος | Fem sg nom adj, invisible. Some isolated terms, such as ἀκατασκεύαστος, are parsed and also explained grammatically if there is some significance, as in this case when it is coupled with the noun ἀόρατος. Other phrases, such as ἐπάνω τῆς ἀβύσσου, are provided not only with lexical data, but also a brief tidbit concerning the backgrounds (ancient cosmology in this instance).

Readers will discover that only some of the words/phrases are parsed. Jobes states that words that are left untranslated and/or parsed are those which do not occur in Metzger’s Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, which assumes a vocabulary roughly correlative to three years of study in the Greek NT (9). Readers will also find that at the end of each textual unit is a translation of the text taken from A New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS) as well as notation if any of the verses in the passage occur in the NT.

There are plenty of volumes out there that introduce the LXX (see Tim McClay’s The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research and Timothy Michael Law’s When God Spoke Greek for excellent intros to the LXX and its role in the NT; I might also suggest Jobes’ own LXX intro, though I’ve not read it), but this volume introduces the practice of reading the LXX—a very different aim than those titles just mentioned. For those wishing to expand their knowledge of Greek, reading the LXX is a great way to do it and Jobes’ volume is a perfect primer for the task. Though the scope and selection of texts is quite limited in this volume, it nevertheless serves as a suitable guide for entering the textual world of the LXX.

Αυτω η δοξα

Read a sample here.

Book Review: BHS – A Reader’s Edition

BHSBiblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition

Hendrickson | Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft | Amazon | CBD

Several years ago (like with the Greek New Testament) I bought Zondervan’s A Reader’s Hebrew Bible (hereafter RHB) and have used it quite a bit. It’s a handy volume and I haven’t really looked to replace it; however, now that I’ve got a copy of the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: A Reader’s Edition (hereafter BHS-RE), I will likely default to it (the BHS) over the other (RHB). Let me first say that the Zondervan edition is not necessarily inferior—it’s quite a nice volume. My preference for the BHS-RE is based on a couple of elements, both of which I’ll discuss briefly in the review.

First, concerning the more superficial element, by which I mean the aesthetics, the BHS-RE is slightly larger and thus a bit bulkier than the RHB. BHS-RE clocks in at 1,765 pages, whereas the RHB comes in slightly lower—1,652. While some may think this difference amounts to significant size difference, it’s actually a negligible amount. Once you’re dealing with a book whose pages number into four-digit territory, 113 pages really isn’t that much. No matter which you choose, they’re both big and bulky. The RHB is duo tone and has held up well over the years. The BHS-RE is hardcover (though it’s also available in black flexisoft) and time will tell whether or not it is durable. My impression thus far is that it should be able to withstand ordinary use for many years. Other aesthetic elements of note in this volume are the font and the paper. The font, which looks a lot like (and may be) SBL Hebrew, is preferable to the RHB’s HebraicaII font. This is a matter of personal preference and every reader will have their own likes as far as the font is concerned. For me, this font looks better on the page. Speaking of the page, the paper used in the BHS-RE is not the typical paper used in bibles. It’s a more of a sepia tone and is thicker, thus it prevents ghosting more so than the RHB. The BHS-RE’s particular paper/font combo is much easier on my eye’s than that of the RHB and is one of the reason’s I prefer it over the RHB.

Now, on to the more important elements—the text and features. The text is the complete text of the BHS and has been checked against the Leningrad Codex (which will differ slightly from the text of the RHB). As for the vocabulary, which can make or break one’s ability to read any language, BHS-RE includes glosses for all words that occur fewer than seventy times and these glosses are defined contextually, thus obviating unnecessary potential meanings that would be out of place in a given section. For those who might need to look up a word that’s not included in the lexical notes, there is a glossary in the back that includes all words that occur seventy times or more, even proper nouns. So, all words used in the Hebrew Bible are glossed in this volume.

One element that will take some readers time to adjust to is the parsing scheme (you can get a “schematic” or operation manual for parsing here). BHS-RE has gone to great lengths to provide ample parsing information for the reader, but it will take a little practice to figure out the system. In the RHB, verbs are not fully parsed; rather, the lemma is provided and all other information for a given verb is not listed. For example, the first verb listed in the footnotes for Exod 25:2 is יִדְּבֶ֣נּוּ. It appears in the footnotes as “נדב Qal: impel, stir; incite”. Looking at the same verb in the BHS-RE, we have “נדב. bG25. So the question becomes, “How do I know how that verb is parsed?” The system devised for this task goes like this (for this particular verb): G=German Grundstamm (or “base stem”), 25=3 masculine plural. The “G” can indicate both prefixes and suffixes. Other stems are noted as

  • N = Niphal (reflexive or middle)
  • H = Hiphil (causative)
  • D = Piel (factitive; “D” is for the doubled middle radical)
  • p = all passive stems (following the uppercase stem label)
  • Gp = Qal passive
  • Hp = Hophal
  • Dp = Pual or Polal
  • tD = Hithpolel
  • (there are others not listed here)

I’ll leave the indicators of person, gender, and number for you to read should you get a copy—it’s a little more tedious to reproduce here. To describe it briefly, it’s basically a numerical system, where different elements of the verb are represented by variations of tens and ones. Obad 1:4 begins with אִם־תַּגְבִּ֣יהַּ and is parsed in the footnotes as H22 גבהּ go high, soar. The H22 then indicates this verb is a Hiphil imperfect 2ms—H = Hiphil, 22=2ms. Another example is 1:7, where we find שִׁלְּח֗וּךָ, which is parsed as D15s2. Broken down, this indicates the verb is a Piel perfect 3 common plural with a 2ms suffix. It’s a bit complicated at first, but after a bit of practice it probably works as a more efficient way to read through sometimes-cumbersome verb details.

In sum, this is a very nice volume. The intent behind it, as made obvious from the subtitle, is to foster regular reading of the Hebrew Bible and that end is made quite possible thanks to the hard work put into this text. Once you can get a handle on the parsing system, you’ll be able to read the Hebrew Bible with new efficiency and joy.

Αυτω η δοξα

Read a sample chapter here.

Book Review: The Good Shepherd

Review---The-Good-ShepherdThe Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament

by Kenneth E. Bailey

IVP | Amazon | CBD

Many thanks to the always-generous folks at IVP for this review copy.

The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament by Kenneth E. Bailey

When I took the OT backgrounds seminar a couple of years ago, one of the most interesting discussions concerned shepherds in ancient Israel. Our prof was not only well versed in the Hebrew Bible’s language and story, but also in raising farm animals, particularly sheep. I remember being completely enthralled by his lecture—it brought psalm 23 to life like I’ve never experienced before. When I cracked open Bailey’s book on the good shepherd motif in the Bible, I had high hopes. Because the bar had already been set fairly high, I was quite hopeful that Bailey’s experiences in the Middle East would bring the texts to life the same way that happened in my OT seminar. I am pleased to say that while Bailey’s book did not necessarily exceed my expectations, he sufficiently met them.

As the subtitle indicates, Bailey traces the theme of “the good shepherd” from its most prominent and popular occurrence, in Psalm 23, to the NT book of 1 Peter. What’s interesting about Bailey’s discussion of these passages is the way he shows the connection between Psalm 23 and the other texts in which the good shepherd motif is used. The connections are not always plainly obvious, but through his careful exegesis, Bailey demonstrates that the twenty-third psalm, at least thematically speaking, was prevalent throughout the history of Israel, particularly during times of hardship. Bailey does not present Psalm 23 as paradigmatic necessarily so that all subsequent references to Yahweh (and later Jesus) as the good shepherd are stringently dependent on it, but again, that the psalm portrayed Yahweh in such a way that later voices employed its themes to speak words of comfort to different contexts.

While the whole of the book is enriching and informative, by far the most enjoyable parts (for me) were the preliminary sections—the preface, intro, and first chapter. It’s here that Bailey digs down into the well of his own experiences as well as that of others who have spent part/most/all of their lives tending to sheep in the Middle East. The first-hand accounts of shepherds who lived where biblical figures lived (or in proximity) was fascinating, not unlike the seminar I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Having read through some of Bailey’s work on 1 Corinthians, I knew what to expect and what I expected I got—a well written and highly informative work, one that I would recommend to anyone who treasures the twenty-third psalm and the passages where one can hear its echoes.

Αυτω η δοξα

 

 

Book Review: A Commentary on Exodus

A Commentary on Exodus by Duane A. Garrett

Kregel | Amazon | CBD

Many thanks to the kind folks at Kregel for this review copy!

I received this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Virtually any commentary on the books of the Pentateuch that has been produced in my lifetime (and well before) invariably address the so-called “documentary hypothesis” and Garrett here is no exception. Perhaps not surprisingly, Garrett eschews the usefulness of the theory, claiming (among other things) that even scholars who espouse some form of the hypothesis as a window into understanding the sources and composition of the Pentateuch “themselves continue to use the terms P and J while no longer holding to anything that may be meaningfully called a consensus” (17). However, an elusive consensus does not itself preclude the validity or veracity of a particular theory. Nevertheless, I resonate somewhat with Garrett in that I’ve long had my reservations about this theory and though Garrett only briefly broaches the subject, he notes some common objections and boldly declares that the discussion of the theory should not remain in the 19th century—“that path is dead” (19). More sardonically, Garrett states “[c]ontinually flogging the dead horse of the documentary hypothesis is pointless” (20).  On the matter of authorship, Garrett notes the book’s anonymity, though suggests that Moses certainly could have had a hand in editing it (20). Also, the book is a unity despite not knowing the process by which it came to be (20).

The bulk of the introductory material is focused on the cultural and historical background of Egypt. Here Garrett shines by dispensing a wealth of information (pp. 24–135!) on the various cultural components that figure into rightly understanding the story of the exodus against its Egyptian backdrop. Matters concerning geography, chronology and history, and language all receive a few pages of attention, with the lion’s share of this section devoted to questions concerning the date and historicity of the exodus from Egypt (56–92). Garrett suggests that Exodus is in some ways more foundational for OT theology than is Genesis—“For the people of Israel, their founding event was not the call of Abraham; it was the exodus” (137). This would explain in part Garrett’s lengthy discussion of the exodus event.

As for the commentary proper, Garrett shows a deft hand both exegetically and theologically when dealing with the text. He does this all the while keeping a keen eye on the Egyptian background. Garrett’s strength is obviously his knowledge of the Hebrew text and the culture it reflects, but his ability to accessibly convey that information clearly and concisely enhances this particular volume’s usefulness.

Perhaps the one drawback that some will find with this commentary is that Garrett, at points, can come off a little sharp when discussing the exodus event. As noted previously, Garrett sees the exodus as a defining event in the life and history of Israel and goes to great lengths to argue for its historicity. For those who believe it to be a fictional addition to the story of Israel will no doubt be at odds here, though Garrett’s arguments can’t be summarily dismissed. One might even say there is an apologetic bent to his discussion, the merit of which each interpreter will have to decide.

In sum, Garrett’s contribution to the study and interpretation of Exodus is a fine one and should serve well those looking to better understand the book and interpret its text.

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Book Review: A Survey of the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 10.26.00 AMA Survey of the Old Testament by Andrew Hill and John H. Walton

Zondervan | Amazon | CBD

Thanks to the kind folks at Zondervan for this review copy!

This book is now five years old, and though I’ve not had it quite that long, this review has been in the works for a while.

From the outset, Walton and Hill (hereafter W/H unless otherwise indicated) make it clear that their work reflects their convictions—they are evangelicals. For those for whom “evangelical” essentially amounts to insular theological positions and a reticence in gleaning from the fruits of higher criticism, let it be said that Walton and Hill do not quite fit that mold. They do believe that the OT is “God’s self-revelation” (21) and it is an authoritative work (26), yet those familiar with Walton’s work (I can’t speak for Hill) know that he does not toe the typical conservative line when it comes to interpreting the text. In Appendix A, W/H claim that “Evangelical is a term in vogue to describe those who acknowledge the authority of the Bible” and that it is a bit more precise, perhaps, than the label “conservative” (753). W/H also rightly notes that both “liberals” and “conservatives” employ the same critical methodologies, the primary difference between them ultimately coming down to presuppositions and how they interpret the evidence. So, as evangelicals, W/H will certainly interpret texts differently than would those who do not make “supernaturalistic claims,” yet to dismiss their work on these grounds would be most unfortunate.

As far as the content of the book, W/H cover a tremendous amount of ground, which is virtually impossible to avoid if one is going to survey the vast landscape that is the OT. Concerning their readership, those on both sides of the aisle (read conservative and liberal) will find parts with which they can wholeheartedly agree and strongly disagree. For those in the evangelical camp, a number of things will likely dishearten them. For one, W/H do not hold to Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch (79, 104, 165). Walton notes that there is good evidence for Moses as the editor/compiler, but it is lacking for Moses as author. Concerning the book of Deuteronomy, Walton suggests “Moses can be affirmed as the dominant, principal, and determinative voice in the book, and he is credited with at least some of the writing” (165). Authorship is a prickly issue anyway as those in the ancient world did not write books in the same way that moderns think about it, so W/H are simply following the evidence where it leads them. In sum, W/H have no issue with ascribing Mosaic authorship to sections of the Pentateuch, but not to the final form. Additionally, Walton’s take on the primeval history certainly differs from the opinion of many of his evangelical brethren. Walton has fleshed this out in much more detail in more recent works, so his treatment here is necessarily brief, though it remains informative. On the other hand, the evangelical audience will likely appreciate W/H’s take on other accounts, such as the Exodus.

Perhaps the most notable update in this volume is the amount of visuals included—they are found on nearly every other page! In addition to the numerous charts and excurses an abundance of photographs have been included. While some of them are rather run of the mill, the majority are quite stunning! As someone who benefits greatly from visual representation of data, photography is always welcome. Naturally such embellishments are not always suitable, but for a volume such as this they are and enhance the reading experience by providing visualization of the content matter. Another minor detail that I found helpful is indication of which author wrote which section, though a couple were unidentified.

My criticisms of the book are mostly due to editorial restrictions. For example, the opening section on geography is quite helpful, considering that the physical landscape is important throughout the Hebrew Scriptures; yet, there is a rather brief discussion of the land as a significant element of Jewish theology. Similarly, other sections of the book suffer a bit from comparatively shorter discussions than books/sections that are themselves shorter. For example, the sections on the major prophets are hardly longer than the sections dealing with each of the 12 individually. Again, I understand that there are restrictions on space—this book clocks in just shy of 800 pages—and authors have to be selective. I do wish that some of the sections were a bit longer and that others were a bit briefer.

There really is no comparison between the second and this newer third edition—it’s practically a complete overhaul. This updated volume is reminiscent of other visually-appealing books in Zondervan’s catalog. Expanded content and stunning visuals set this volume apart not only from its predecessors, but also from many other OT introductions available. While Walton and Hill may not win over everyone (primarily outside of more conservative circles), this work is certainly worthy of consideration and could easily be one of the more sought after OT introductions, especially for students just beginning the journey of study beyond an English translation.

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