donderdag 21 februari 2013

Review of: W R. Telford, The Theology of the Gospel of Mark (NTT), Cambridge University Press, 1999; in: Theology Today

W R. Telford, The Theology of the Gospel of Mark (NTT), Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Review in: Theology Today 2000 57: 280
Review door: Brian K. Blount
Gevonden op:

The Theology of the Gospel of Mark
By W R. Telford
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
275 pp. $59.95.
According to W. R. Telford, the Gospel of Mark represents a transitional phase in early Christian literature. The evangelist’s effort foreshadows the triumph of Pauline gentile Christianity over the Jesus movement’s earlier Jewish manifestations. Operating according to the tenets of a research methodology that he calls “form and redaction criticism, tempered by the insights of literary criticism,” he attempts to separate Mark’s theological agenda from the traditional Jewish material about Jesus that came to him. The Jewish Christian traditions were driven by an apocalyptic eschatology that saw Jesus as a Son of David kind of Messiah who would, also as Son of Man, appear at the end time and establish God’s kingdom. In fact, in the traditions, Jesus was primarily identified as the proclaimer of that future kingdom. In Mark, however, Jesus becomes the “Proclaimed One” in whose person and ministry that once future oriented kingdom is already present. The secret of the kingdom about which Mark is so concerned, then, is this: Jesus is the Son of God in a Hellenistic rather than a Jewish sense. His person, his ministry, his miracles are the epiphany of God’s kingdom power in the present. And he represents that power with the express purpose of saving humankind. Mark has qualified the presentation of Jesus as an eschatological figure by overlaying the Son of Man’s triumphant messianism with the divine necessity of his redemptive suffering and death. In other words, Mark has so thoroughly edited the traditions that he has shifted the emphasis from a Jewish apocalyptic eschatology to an epiphany christology and a cross soteriology. Just how Hellenistic is Mark’s Son of God Jesus? Jesus appears “to the Markan reader as one who no longer has Jewish roots, as one no longer to be seen through Jewish eyes, as one no longer to be accorded a Jewish identity.”

No wonder, then, that Telford sees Mark’s reformulation as anti-Semitic. Mark’s negative presentation of the Jewish leaders no longer represents an intra-Jewish clash of key Jewish players. It becomes instead an apology for a Hellenized Jesus whose christological identity and purpose operates against the Jewish leaders and people who refused to acknowledge it. It is also not surprising that Mark now looks like the precursor to Paul that Telford believes him to be. Agreeing with Martin Kiihler’s view of the Gospel as a passion narrative with an extended introduction, he sees the only real payoff of Jesus’ life coming at the end of it. His ministry hides the secret of his sonship until that crucial moment on the cross when the purpose of that sonship is revealed as the expiation of human sin. “It is this soteriological emphasis, then, this theology of the cross, the salviJc death of Jesus (Mk 10.45 and Rom. 3.23-5; 5.8-9, 18-19) and the universality of salvation engendered by it (Mk 13.10; 14:9 and Rom. 15.14-21), which bring Mark and Paul into the same theological orbit.”

Telford’s book, on the whole, is a very useful discussion tool for both the lay person and the academic. It is well-written and presents a great deal of helpful information about Markan theology and the history of its theological interpretation. One of the book’s greatest assets is that Telford conscientiously presents views that differ from his own. While I disagree with many of the conclusions he reached, I find it helpful that he did provide the key alternative arguments. In that regard, it is a rich and very readable source of information for anyone wanting to learn more about the key issues in Markan theology and the scholars who have stood on either side of them.

A major problem with the book is one that shadows every redactioncritical examination of Mark’s Gospel. Since there is no extant manuscript against which to gauge the alleged “edits” that Mark has made, researchers such as Telford must hypothesize from the language in Mark’s text, as well as from other hypothetical sources such as Q, to “determine” how Mark’s redaction actually works. It is, of course, this redactional “evidence” that allows Telford to build the somewhat dubious conclusion that Mark’s transformations of the Jesus traditions present us with a realized eschatology whose christology is singularly Hellenistic and whose soteriology is inescapably, one might even say, inevitably, Pauline.

Princeton Theological Seminary
Princeton, NJ
Zie ook:

Review of: D. Moody Smith Jr., John (ANTC), Abingdon Press, 1999; in: Interpretation

D. Moody Smith Jr., John (ANTC), Abingdon Press, 1999.

Review in: Interpretation 2004 58: 197
Review door: Robert Kysar
Gevonden op:

by D. Moody Smith, Jr.
Abingdon New Testament Commentary Series. Abingdon, Nashville, 1999.
428 pp. $28.00. ISBN 0-687-05812-0.

WITH A DISTINGUISHED CAREER THAT SPANS nearly forty years, D. Moody Smith is one of the patriarchs of contemporary Johannine studies in North America. His influence in critical studies is well-earned and deserved. In keeping with the series, Smith aims to interpret the Gospel of John in a manner that reflects the best of current scholarship yet remains accessible to leaders in the church.

The form of Smith's commentary follows the general pattern of most modern, critical works of this kind. He begins with a brief twenty-five page introduction that addresses the general questions of structure, genre, authorship, composition and source, setting, and audience, and concludes with a few pages on the theology and ethics of the Fourth Gospel. His approach to John rests on an assumption that at least three stages of the Johannine community are reflected in the text: the periods of Jesus' ministry, the conflict with the synagogue, and the church's life after the split from the synagogue. He cautiously suggests that Ephesus is a likely place for the composition of this gospel, some time between 90 and 110 CE.

After dealing with the first chapter of John, the commentary divides chs. 2 through 20 into two parts, as do many others: "The Revelation of the Glory Before the World" and "The Revelation of the Glory Before the Community." Smith treats ch. 21 as an epilogue whose function is to draw together loose-ends from the whole narrative (e.g., the relationship of the Beloved Disciple and Peter). Nearly every subdivision of the text (e.g., ch. 17) is first treated as a whole before the specific verses are addressed. This allows Smith to explore general and sometimes broader issues involved in the particular text before moving to its details.

Smith's characteristic theological study of the New Testament is evident as well as his contension that revelation is a central theme in John (as the titles of the two halves of the narrative indicate). He emphasizes that Jesus' death as narrated in the Fourth Gospel entails an unanticipated understanding of glory. Equally important to Smith is the theory that this gospel was composed amid conflict between the synagogue and the Jews who had become Christians. According to this hypothesis, the Johannine Christians were at some point expelled from the Jewish community. In this sense, Smith represents a widely accepted theory of the origin of the Johannine church.

Perhaps most striking about this commentary is Smith's treatment of passages in the Fourth Gospel in light of the synoptics. He does not argue that the Fourth Evangelist knew and used any of the first three gospels (although a later publication stresses the possibility of John's use of Mark at certain points). Generally, however, Smith practices a kind of intertextual criticism that supposes that the four gospels are interrelated and should be interpreted as such. For instance, he views 13:1-38 as a form of the Last Supper. After setting a passage in dialogue with the synoptics, Smith brings his discussion to a conclusion that gives the reader hooks by which to catch the meaning. This sort of interpretative approach builds upon our knowledge of the synoptic story of Jesus and prevents us from entirely isolating John from the other three gospels.

Smith proposes what we might call a "moderately sacramental" reading of John. He cannot imagine that ch. 6 could have been read in the first century as anything other than a reference to the Eucharist, but he holds together both a sacramental and incarnational understanding of the narrative and Jesus' words. In a similar manner, he points out that the blood and water from Jesus side (19:34) probably binds a eucharistie reference to the blood with an anti-docetic interpretation of the water (i.e., Jesus is really dead).

No matter how complete and competent, every commentary on John is vulnerable to criticism, and Smith's is no different. I sometimes wished that he had avoided a few qualifications and cautions in favor of more concise conclusions. For example, Smith does not suppose we can decide either that the Fourth Gospel actually represents the historical Jesus or that it does not. While he does not hold that the gospel's author was an eyewitness disciple of Jesus, he insists that we take the gospel's authority seriously. However, if that is a weakness in this commentary, it is due entirely to the admirable fact that Smith does not want us to pretend that we know more than we do. The result is a "middle-of-the-road" treatment of John. This sort of critical thought may not please those who wish for absolute certainty and crystal clarity, but it exemplifies an honest intellectual maturity.

This is not to say that Smith's commentary does not present a clear portrayal of the Fourth Gospel. Illustrative of the features of that portrait, Smith concludes his discussion of the death of Jesus in John with these words: "The God who reveals himself in this Jesus is a God of the depths, as well as the heights, of human existence. Precisely at the depths of human experience ... he glorifies God; God glories him (17:4-5)" (pp. 369-70).

The pastor or church leader will find no better guide through the sometimes strange land of the Gospel of John and its message for us today than Smith's commentary. Unlike many commentators who seem to remain neutral or uninterested in how a biblical text relates to the church today, Smith is a both an excellent scholar and a devout believer.

Robert Kysar, emeritus
Zie ook:

Review of: Linda McKinnish Bridges, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (SHBC), Smyth & Helwys, 2008; in: Interpretation

Linda McKinnish Bridges, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (SHBC), Smyth & Helwys, 2008.

Review in: Interpretation 2010 64: 90
Review door: Jeffrey A.D. Weima
Gevonden op:

1 & 2 Thessalonians
by Linda McKinnish Bridges
Smyth & Helwys, Macon, Ga., 2008.
293 pp. $45.00 (cloth). ISBN 978-1-57312-083-8.

BIBLICAL SCHOLARSHIP OVER the past twenty years has undergone a significant attitude shift with regard to presenting its findings in a more "user-friendly" format. Two decades ago, those few Old and New Testament studies that contained visual images and special-interest boxes ("sidebars") were not considered scholarly enough to be worthy of serious consideration. Not so any more. In recent years, we have seen a growing wave of published biblical scholarship specifically designed to bridge the gap between the insights of academicians and the demands of theological students and preachers.

The new commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians by Linda McKinnish Bridges illustrates this shift. Her volume is part of an ambitious series, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary, that covers both Old and New Testaments and whose stated goal is "to make available serious, credible biblical scholarship in an accessible and less intimidating format" (p. xv). A multimedia format is employed under the conviction that "a visual generation of believers deserves a commentary series that contains not only the all-important textual commentary on Scripture, but images, photographs, maps, works of fine art, and drawings that bring the text to light" (p. xv). Like the others in the series, this volume treats each major section of the biblical text in two main sections: Commentary and Connections. The first deals with matters typically found in an exegetical commentary: explanations of the Greek text, historical context and literary forms, as well as theological issues that the text raises. The Connections section deals with the application of the text, providing the pastor, teacher, and lay reader with specific ways in which these two ancient letters remain relevant for the church today.

Sidebars are located liberally throughout both sections. Each of these special-interest boxes has not only a descriptive heading but also an icon intended to provide a visual clue to the type of material found within. These sidebars are classified into four different types. The first, symbolized with an icon of the Greek letters, Alpha and Omega, deals with issues pertaining to the Greek text of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. The second, with an icon of an Ionic capital, covers the cultural context: how geographical, historical, political, or social information from the Greco-Roman world sheds light on Paul's words to the Thessalonian church. The third, with its icon of an open book, includes quotations from classic or contemporary literature that illuminate some aspect of the apostle's letter. The fourth, symbolized with a magnifying glass, provides the reader with a list of useful resources for further investigation.

A lot of effort has been put into producing a commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians that meets the series goal of making available serious scholarship in an accessible format, and that effort must be judged a success. This resulting volume presents its material in an inviting, visually rich format that will be appreciated not only by pastors, seminary students, and lay readers but also by academicians. In the midst of a plethora of commentary series currently on the market, the user-friendly format of this volume makes it stand out as an attractive option. Nevertheless, the discerning commentary buyer might worry that such a volume is, as the saying goes, "all style and no substance." We move, therefore, beyond the packaging of this volume to consider more carefully its contents.

The brief introduction (thirteen pages) presents four patterns of thought that have guided McKinnish Bridges' reading of 1 Thessalonians. First, she was surprised to discover from Paul's style of leadership that the apostle is not the arrogant, manipulative, and misogynist person she anticipated but "a softer Paul, accessible to all people, both male and female" (p. 6). Second, with regard to identifying the letter's literary genre, McKinnish Bridges chooses "not to confine Paul's words to any single genre or theory, ancient or modern" (p. 8), and refers to the letter more generally as a letter of friendship by which Paul encourages the Thessalonian church. Third, the congregation of Thessalonica is not based in the home of a wealthy patron but is an artisan church—a community shaped by manual laborers who meet in a workshop or tenement house. Fourth, the original members of thi^artisan community were primarily male and the resulting androcentric perspective encoded in the letter has implications for its interpretation: "If a feminine perspective is absent, either by force or ignorance, then the interpreter is faced with the challenge of creating new worlds of meaning that will be more inclusive and available to all of the readers. That is the purpose of this commentary" (p. 12).

The exegesis is competent and typically follows the positions of mainline Thessalonian scholarship. Objections could be raised about any commentary; space constraints allow me to raise just three. First, McKinnish Bridges follows the majority of contemporary scholars in rejecting the older view that sees an apologetic concern at work in the letter. Yet she misrepresents the older view, claiming that it holds that Paul was seeking "to defend his role as leader, a role that was being challenged by opponents in the congregation in Thessaloniki" (p. 19). This is incorrect, as defenders of the older view claim that Paul's opponents are outside the church (2:14, "fellow citizens") and that the attack on the apostle thus naturally concerned not his qualifications as leader (as in Galatians), but his integrity and moral character. Second, on the heavily debated textual question of whether Paul described himself and his coworkers as "gentle" (epiot) or "infants" (nepioi), McKinnish Bridges chooses what she admits on external evidence is the weaker reading, namely, "gentle." She does so on the grounds that this reading eliminates a mixed metaphor created by the image of a nursing mother mentioned later in the same verse. But the problem of the mixed metaphor is greatly minimized if not removed altogether with proper punctuation of the verse, so that the metaphor of infants concludes the point of 2:5-7, while the metaphor of a nursing mother introduces the new point of 2:7b-8 (as correctly punctuated in the TNIV). Third, one of McKinnish Bridges' more novel interpretations is that the word "laborers" in 5:12 ("those who labor among you in the Lord") refers not to spiritual leaders working in the church but simply to "people who produce goods for society" (p. 150). That Paul has in view, however, not regular laborers but spiritual leaders seems clear from the accompanying prepositional phrase that such folks are "in the Lord" and that the rest of the church should "esteem them most highly because of their work."

The Connection section for each major unit of the letter runs on average about two-thirds the length of the Commentary section and thus forms a significant part of the overall volume. McKinnish Bridges draws heavily in this section from her own past experiences and often speaks in the first-person voice, giving a very personal and almost autobiographical quality to this material. She grew up in a fundamentalist Baptist mountain church where end-time discussions played a heavy role, and many of her observations in this section involve reflections on how her past understanding of the Bible has been nuanced or changed by her later academic studies, life experiences, and reflection.

There is a separate and lengthier introduction (twenty pages) to 2 Thessalonians. McKinnish Bridges argues that this letter differs from 1 Thessalonians in its emotional tone, vocabulary, and syntactical structure, and thus was not written by Paul. She spends quite a bit of time discussing pseudepigraphical writing, arguing that "to forge a name on a piece of work did not signal dishonesty; rather, to place a name other than your own on the work was a way of honoring the past, of creating additional authority for the name and readers" (p. 200). Second Thessalonians, she argues, was written by a disciple of Paul to a Thessalonian church that is a little older, bolder, and more organized, but that needed doctrinal correction concerning the end times and admonishment concerning work.

To summarize, McKinnish Bridges has produced a commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians that fulfills well the series goal of providing solid scholarship in a nonthreatening, user-friendly format, and therefore will be especially appealing to those engaged in pastoral ministry. But while all will appreciate this volume's packaging, judgment about its contents will likely be more mixed, depending on whether one shares McKinnish Bridges' specific patterns of thought on how these two letters ought to be read.

Jeffrey A. D. Weima

Review of: Luke Timothy Johnson, Hebrews: A Commentary (NTL), Westminster John Knox, 2006; in: Interpretation

Luke Timothy Johnson, Hebrews: A Commentary (NTL), Westminster John Knox, 2006.

Review in: Interpretation 2008 62: 198
Review door: David A. deSilva
Gevonden op:
Hebrews: A Commentary
by Luke Timothy Johnson
New Testament Library. Westminster John Knox, Louisville, 2006.
430 pp. $49.95 (cloth). ISBN 0-664-22118-1.

IN THIS NEW VOLUME, the celebrated author of many commentaries on NT writings (Luke, Acts, James, 1 Timothy, and Titus) brings his considerable skills and winsome writing style to bear on one of the more elusive NT books. The form is that of a standard commentary. An introduction treats matters of historical setting, literary issues, prominent influences, and the like. The commentary itself divides the text into sections and proceeds in a linear fashion through the text (though, notably, in a more flowing fashion that the atomistic verse-by-verse format of many commentaries). Within each section, the reader finds the author's original translation with an able treatment of text-critical issues, discussion of key terms and phrases on the basis of parallels in Jewish and Greco-Roman literature, explorations of how older traditions (both biblical and extrabiblical) have informed the argument, and a close analysis of the argument itself.

Johnson approaches Hebrews first through the history of its reception and the ways in which it was valued and used within the Christian tradition of the first five centuries in both the East and West. This is one of the gifts that Johnson brings as a Roman Catholic biblical scholar, who values the witness of the tradition of the "fathers." This provides, in turn, a foundation and, indeed, justification for the historical-critical investigations and conclusions (e.g., concerning authorship) that follow, as well as for what Johnson will himself hold up as the primary contributions of Hebrews to Christian thought and practice.

This approach is well informed not only by historical- and literary-critical methods, but also by rhetorical criticism and cultural anthropological studies of Hebrews and the first-century environment. Notably, honor and reciprocity are highlighted as key values available to be harnessed rhetorically in the argument. Johnson presents Hebrews as a specimen of deliberative rhetoric that seeks to dissuade the audience from one course of action (giving up their Christian associations) in favor of another (persevering in the process of spiritual maturation that Christ pioneered and that they have begun). The introduction provides an orientation to what becomes a prominent feature of the entire commentary, namely Hebrews' location in regard to currents of thought in Greco-Roman, Jewish, and Christian culture, with appropriate balance in terms of analyzing both similarities and differences (e.g., in terms of Platonism or the form of Judaism associated with Qumran). What Hebrews shares with other early Christian teaching and practice is all too often overlooked in terms of "backgrounds," but proves especially fruitful for locating Hebrews, often viewed as "so distinctive" (p. 28), within the larger Christian landscape. Johnson is especially attentive, as one would expect, to issues surrounding the interpretation of the OT (the LXX, in particular) in Hebrews.

The discussion of setting is appropriately (and necessarily) honest about the limits of historical investigation of the situation of Hebrews and the identity of its author. Johnson develops a fairly full portrait of the rhetorical situation of the hearers. They are seasoned Christians, perhaps more likely of Jewish heritage than Gentile, who, in the face of society's shaming and marginalization, are faced constantly with the decision about whether or not to persist in their Christian confession, associations, and practice. He argues from a number of sensible angles that the composition predates the destruction of the second Temple, and may even stand among the earliest NT texts. Closing the gap between plausible and probable authorship, Johnson makes a spirited and suggestive case for Apollos as the author, although he frankly admits the difficulties of this claim.

Perhaps the most valuable feature of Johnson's commentary, however, is his commitment not to choose between a focus on historical study and contemporary application, but to pursue both with excellence and without apology. He does not pursue the latter in a facile manner, for he is astutely alert to the fundamental change in consciousness that separates many modern readers from the discourse of Hebrews with regard to cosmology (especially viewing the "invisible" world as more real, more true, and more valuable than the "visible" world and the dynamics of living within a materialist world view), view of Scripture (that is, as artifact to be excavated rather than as living voice of the living God), and the "slow erosion of Christian belief and practice itself" (p. 7) in the world of modern readers.

Perhaps precisely because it speaks from outside our world, Hebrews is able to challenge modern readers who have been shaped too much by that world. Johnson argues that the Christology of Hebrews gives sustained attention to both Christ's divinity and humanity, and makes the case that Christ's process of learning and being shaped through suffering was the means by which "the human Jesus grew progressively into the full stature of being God's Son" (p. 54). This Christology challenges contemporary models of discipleship that suggest freedom from pain and the enjoyment of temporal goods as the gifts God seeks to give Christ-followers, as well as the alternative vision of discipleship that focuses on socio-political transformation for the purpose of removing suffering without grasping the personal transformation that only suffering enables. Finally, Hebrews' rigorous demands upon the recipient of God's gifts challenge the contemporary Zeitgeist that makes "moral ambiguity and tolerance for wrongdoing the mark of maturity" (p. 2). The essence of Hebrews is captured in the image of discipleship as a pilgrimage, a journey through the process of maturation specifically by means of the challenges that produce emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical suffering.

The commentary is not as "critical" as several other recent volumes in terms of engaging secondary literature and weighing every major alternative interpretation. However, this also becomes a strength of this work, as the focus remains far more squarely on the interpretation of the text rather than the history of scholarship. The researcher who wishes to enter into the latter always has Attridge, Lane, and Koester to consult; the reader seeking to engage a coherent and focused interpretation of Hebrews now has Johnson. This commentary will also not provide much guidance for those seeking additional reading on particular questions, backgrounds, or passages, but ample resources in this vein already exist.

One could, of course, quibble here and there about exegetical details in the commentary and their pastoral application. For example, Johnson suggests that "entering God's rest" (when God has, in fact, kept working throughout all time), signals that human beings who become more and more open to the divine existence no longer work in order to fill some personal need, but out of "an outpouring of abundant love" (p. 130). This reading seems to violate the overall eschatological orientation of the passage (indeed, the book) that regards "the Sabbath rest" as an image of entering God's realm alongside other images such as arriving at the "abiding" city "that has foundations." The author's use of all such images impels the hearers forward in their pilgrimage, that isy to maintain their association with the Christian group. At the same time, however, one cannot deny that Johnson's pastoral sensitivity and spiritual acuity here capture a larger truth of the Scriptures—even if it is suspect on the basis of this passage—and that is also a gift of his location in the tradition of Catholic scholarship going back to Augustine. One might also wish for a more consistently precise analysis of the rhetorical argument. For example, it is not only the case that both the expository and hortatory sections of Hebrews manifest the same strategy of "lesser to greater" (p. 32). Rather, the expository sections establish the relationship of the "lesser" and the "greater" that becomes a premise supporting the primary hortatory enthymemes (e.g., 2:1-4; 10:26-31; 12:25-26).

But these minor reservations should not obscure Johnson's achievement: the creation of an insightful and reliable vade mecum to lead the pastor or teacher through the intricate arguments of Hebrews to contemporary application, from a teacher who is himself capable both as a scholar and a spiritual director.

David A. deSilva
Zie ook:

Review of: Klaus Haacker, The Theology of Paul's Letter to the Romans (NTT), Cambridge University Press, 2003; in: Interpretation

Klaus Haacker, The Theology of Paul's Letter to the Romans (NTT), Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Review in: Interpretation 2004 58: 313
Review door: Charles B. Cousar
Gevonden op:

The Theology of Paul's Letter to the Romans
by Klaus Haacker
New Testament Theology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003.
183 pp. $20.00. ISBN 0-521-43535-8.
THIS VOLUME ON Romans brings to a conclusion an extremely useful series on the theology of the various canonical witnesses, edited by James D. G. Dunn. Volumes by Richard Bauckham (on Revelation), Victor P. Furnish (on 1 Corinthians), Joel Green (on Luke), Ulrich Luz (on Matthew), Moody Smith (on John), and Frances Young (on the Pastoral Letters), among others, have provided timely explorations of theological themes and issues that are freed from the burdens of a commentary.

In one sense, Haacker follows in the same tradition. He quickly walks the reader through the introductory questions of date, authorship, purpose, and audience, in order to get at the questions of theology. The initial readership, for Haacker, is primarily Roman, with a minority of Christian Jews in the picture. Yet the inclusion of the Gentiles in the community of faith was still enough at stake that Paul had to devote considerable space and attention to "the vindication of the universalism of the Gospel" (p. 26).

What Haacker sees as the distinctive idea of Romans is "the notion of peace with God as the promise of the Gospel" (p. 45). Since peace was a rare commodity in the Roman world, its proclamation addresses the universal chaos and promises to establish an adequate relationship between human beings and their Creator.

As far as Israel is concerned, one day they will be saved, confirming God's faithfulness and election. "The voice of God's love which speaks so powerfully through the death of Christ for our sins is not quenched by periods of error and alienation on the side of his people" (p. 95).

The latter portion of the book is given over to a somewhat sketchy discussion of the relation of Romans to other canonical literature and to its impact on the later history of the church (from 1 Clement to Karl Barth in ten pages!). Frankly, I wished for a more serious struggle with the theology of Romans, with its apocalyptic force (not mentioned at all), and with its tension between the impartiality and faithfulness of God, instead of the necessarily brief and slight treatment of the letter's place in the canonical structure and in the life of the church.

Zie ook:

Review of: Victor Paul Furnish, The Theology of the First Letter to the Corinthians (NTT), Cambridge University Press, 1999; in: Theology Today

Victor Paul Furnish, The Theology of the First Letter to the Corinthians (NTT), Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Review in: Theology Today 2000 57: 402
Review door: Charles B. Cousar
Gevonden op:

The Theology of the First Letter to the Corinthians
By Victor Paul Furnish
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
167 pp. $49.95.

Of his generation Victor Furnish has come to be recognized as one of the most respected interpreters of the Pauline letters to Corinth. In addition to his many articles on the correspondence, he has written the magisterial commentary on 2 Corinthians in the Anchor Bible. Now he has added to the list with this fine study of the theology of 1 Corinthians in the Cambridge series “New Testament Theology.”

Furnish begins with a sketch of Paul’s relationship to the Christians at Corinth and a brief statement of the aims and structure of the letter. His conclusions follow those taken in his commentary. He then basically walks the reader through the letter and comments on its theology under four major categories: knowing God and belonging to Christ (1 Cor 14), belonging to Christ in an unbelieving society (1 Cor 5: 1-1 1 : l), belonging to Christ in a believing community (1 Cor 11:2-14:40), and hoping in God, the “all in all” (1 Cor 15). A concluding chapter raises the issue of the significance of 1 Corinthians for Christian thought, with a final page or two on its relevancy to the church today.

The advantage of Furnish’s method is a neat reading of the letter, one in which theology is highlighted above a mere survey of the problems facing the church. The reader is able to appreciate the fact that Paul in addressing the many pastoral and moral issues troubling the Corinthians does so by writing about the cross, or the nature of the eucharist, or the resurrection. One good example occurs in the warnings against porneia in 6:12-20. Furnish calls attention to the significance of the “body” as much more than the physical body that one has. It becomes the place “where the claim of the resurrected-crucified Lord is received and where his lordship is to be manifest.

Furnish isolates three “authentically theological discourses” in the letter (1:18-2:16; 12:12-13:13; 15:l-58) and in their place he gives special attention to each. He contends that they each reflect the basic soteriological, christological, eschatological, and ecclesiological thrusts of the letter. And yet in many ways the strongest chapter of Furnish’s book deals with the portion of 1 Corinthians that does not contain one of these theological discourses-5: 1-1 1 : 1. Seeing Paul at work as a pastor-theologian, drawing on the gospel in dealing with issues on living in a pagan environment but without long reflective sections, is remarkably instructive and provides a model for contemporary pastor-theologians.

Though Furnish tends to be very descriptive and not to say much about the contemporary church and what a modern reader might find theologically instructive in 1 Corinthians, he lays the groundwork time and again for such a possibility. In facing the problems of living in an unbelieving society, Paul appears preoccupied with drawing boundaries between the church and its social environment (for example, incidents of incest and taking one another to court). At times, believers even are beginning to resemble unbelievers in Corinth. And yet, as Furnish makes clear, the identity of the Christian community is given in and with the gospel: “Belonging to Christ is not mainly about drawing boundaries and keeping them inviolate, but about holding fast to the gospel (10:12; 15:l-2).” One cannot help but discover here a word for the mainline North American church and its struggle to find its identity in a secular society.

This is a thoughtful, carefully written book. I plan to have it on my reading list for next semester’s course on Paul.

Columbia Theological Seminary
Decatur. GA

Review of: R. Alan Culpepper, Mark (SHBC), Smyth & Helwys, 2007; in: interpretation

R. Alan Culpepper, Mark (SHBC), Smyth & Helwys, 2007.

Review in: Interpretation 2009 63: 188
Review door: Emerson B. Powery
Gevonden op:

by R. Alan Culpepper
Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary. Smyth & Helwys, Macon, Ga., 2007.
622 pp. $60.00 (cloth). ISBN 978-1-57312-077-7.

R. ALAN CULPEPPER, a premier Johannine scholar, turns his exegetical skills to the Gospel of Mark and produces a first-rate theological commentary on the first Gospel written in early Christianity. The Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is dedicated to providing sound, credible, and scholarly interpretation on the books of the Bible for serious contemporary Christians. The series' format includes multimedia art, photographs (including the author's own), maps, and a CD (which allows enhanced searches), in addition to a variety of sidebars with observations ancillary, but intriguingly relevant, to the main comments of the interpreter. Culpepper's offering is an excellent example of the intent of the series. In his words, "It is our hope that this commentary will foster biblical preaching, devotional reading, and moral decision-making for those who draw inspiration from Mark" (p. 3). Writers in this series complement the commentary sections with theological reflections ("Connections").

The layout of the volume aims to be user friendly and generally succeeds in this endeavor. Its sidebars, printed helpfully in an alternative color font, address linguistic, cultural, and interpretive issues, drawing on various sources, including theater and sociology. The sidebars also include a wide range of reflections. Chapter 1, for example, features reflections from Origen, Albert Schweitzer, Gerd Theissen/Annette Merz, Stephen Hawking, and Matthew Arnold. Other items in the sidebars include sermonic reflection on "Sabbath Resistance" by Barbara Brown Taylor, Josephus' alternative account of the death of lohn the Baptist, numerous references to patristic theologians, and a variety of cultural issues (e.g., "age in antiquity," "patrons, brokers, and clients," "rank and status" in the Dead Sea Scrolls, "children in antiquity" and "divorce among first-century Jews"). Culpepper's sidebars on "mystery religions" and "pesher interpretation," found on the same page (p. 138), demonstrate his sensitivity to both Greco-Roman and Jewish contexts for the narrative of Mark.

Culpepper's introduction to the commentary addresses many traditional concerns: the function of a commentary, five eras in Markan scholarship, Mark's leading themes, setting, date of composition, and authorship. There are few surprises here. The overview of the "five eras" concludes with a discussion of the "creative Mark" and the "natural" flow of redaction criticism into narrative studies. This "era," however, only leads us through the 1980s and early 1990s. It is probably too soon to say whether recent postcolonial scholarship on Mark and "empire" or the latest work in performance theory and Mark's oral environment will constitute another era, although Culpepper includes a few noteworthy contributions from these categories in his selective bibliography.

On traditional issues in Markan scholarship, Culpepper proposes little that is new and takes the following positions: he advocates for Rome rather than Galilee/Syria as the provenance of the Gospel; he dates the composition between 68-73 CE.; and claims, "there is no reason to doubt" the traditional authorship of John Mark, though "this traditional identification is only of limited value for reading the Gospel" (p. 31). This conclusion is not surprising for an interpreter whose scholarship has placed more attention on the narrative itself than on the world behind it.

Culpepper's decades-long approach to narrative studies informs much of this volume, although this methodology does not control all of his exegetical decisions. He carefully interprets later segments of the narrative in light of earlier passages, with a few forays into reader-response territory (e.g., Robert Fowler). Those familiar with Markan scholarship will find few surprises, but less informed readers will benefit greatly from Culpepper's discussion. Interpretive decisions he makes about Mark 1 provide a few examples. Following N. Clayton Croy's recent argument, Culpepper regards Mark 1:1 as a second-century scribal notation added as a superscription to an awkward beginning, which—like the Gospel's ending—may have been lost. However, he also argues that the title "Son of God" is original to Mark 1:1 and not a later addition, apparently nullifying the claim about the second century provenance of 1:1. Culpepper sees Mark 1:14-15 as an introduction to the first main section of the Gospel rather than as a "conclusion" to the preface. He also favors the more difficult text-critical reading of "moved with anger" (orgistheis) over "moved with pity" (splagchnistheis) in 1:41, envisioning a Jesus angry at the disease itself (p. 62). In 1:44, he prefers a "negative" rather than positive use of the dative, with the result that the cleansed leper is directed to show himself to the priest and offer for his cleansing what Moses commanded as a "testimony against them." Culpepper takes this to mean "either an indictment of the powerlessness of the cultic system in contrast to the power of Jesus or a condemnation of their unbelief" (p. 63). This is but a sampling of the exegetical insight in this volume.

Elsewhere, other interesting decisions will generate discussion and debate. Culpepper interprets the well-known crux of 4:10-12 regarding Jesus' teaching in parables in light of both the mysteries in Greco-Roman mystery religions and the revelation in pesher interpretation at Qumran. He concludes that Jesus is the "secret" and that his parables represent a "veiled kingdom" for outsiders (p. 139). Culpepper maintains that Jesus' encounter with the Syrophoenician woman "may have been a turning point" for his ministry (p. 242), forcing his attention away from Jewish settings as a result of this engagement with a Gentile (i.e., "Greek") woman who cleverly turned Jesus' offense into an advantage. Culpepper draws no clear conclusion on the meaning of Mark 9:1, but he helpfully recognizes the transfiguration passage as a parallel to the baptism scene—one that introduces the second half of the Gospel (just as the baptism, where a voice from heaven also speaks, commences the first half). In Mark 10, the Pharisees challenge Jesus on the issue of divorce in order to provoke him into speaking a word of criticism against Herod, so that he might share the fate of his predecessor, John the Baptist (p. 328). Culpepper is noncommital on the ending of Mark, though the "connections" he articulates presume the Gospel ends at 16:8.

Most of my criticisms are minor. The regular use of "A.D." for dates is inconsistent with the list on the abbreviation page. In my view, the "testing" of Jesus' disciples is only implicit, rather than thematic. There is nothing in Mark comparable to the Fourth Gospel's portrayal of Jesus' testing of Philip (John 6:6). Late medieval art dominates the art selections (Michelangelo's "Head of John the Baptist" and Gruenewald's "The Crucifixion of Christ" are outstanding examples), and very little contemporary art appears in the volume. Each reviewer has his or her own preferences and my own inclination would have been toward more engagement with feminist and postcolonial scholarship. Several places would lend themselves to such engagement, as Culpepper recognizes the role and influence of Rome throughout his commentary. It was heartening to see Jesse Jackson and Gustavo Gutierrez cited in the theological "connection" sections, but exegetical scholarship by minorities and women is increasingly available.

Overall, this is a useful and highly readable volume and valuable guide for a reading of the Gospel of Mark. It is also much more than a commentary on Mark. It is a teaching tool. Culpepper provides the busy pastor, the serious theological student, and the engaged contemporary Christian with insights from the cultural world surrounding early Christianity's first story about Jesus. They will also encounter the history of interpretation on Mark, contemporary theological reflections upon it, and artwork generated by Mark's story. In addition, Culpepper's "connections" provide engaging resources for contemporary exploration of the theological implications of this ancient Christian Gospel for contemporary followers of Jesus. For example, who would have thought that Mark 3:20-35 (and the issue of blasphemy) would have relevance for contemporary interreligious dialogue? Culpepper maintains that "for a Christian religious leader to say, 'Mohammed was a demon-possessed pedophile,' poses a serious hindrance to the reconciling, forgiving, and peace-making work of the Holy Spirit" (pp. 128-29). And how might Jesus' difficult teaching on divorce and remarriage (Mark 10:1-12) relate to contemporary struggles with women in ministry (in some circles) and the issue of homosexuality (in other ones)? The door has been opened for contemporary reflection. Scholars will find it a useful resource for the classroom setting, especially in the context of theological education.

Emerson B. Powery
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