donderdag 31 januari 2013

Review of: Richard S. Hess, Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (TOTC), InterVarsity, 1996

Richard S. Hess, Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary (TOTC), InterVarsity, 1996
Review in: JETS 42/2
Review door: J. Robert Vannoy

Joshua: An Introduction and Commentary. By Richard S. Hess. TOTC. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1996, 320 pp., $11.99 paper.

In this most recent addition to the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series, Richard Hess gives us what is certainly the best, currently available, and up-to-date commentary on Joshua written from an evangelical perspective. Hess is thoroughly familiar with the whole range of contemporary Joshua studies including its literary, historical, archaeological and theological dimensions. He provides competent overviews and assessments of current discussions on all these matters along with his own conclusions. He provides abundant evidence that many features of the book (he discusses nine of these on pp. 26–31) can best be explained by tracing their origin to the 2d millennium BC, although he comments that this “commentary will not attempt to ‘prove’ the historicity of any part of Joshua . . . it will accept the work as preserving authentic and ancient sources that attest to events in the late second millennium BC” (p. 31).

In a very useful discussion of the theology of the book (pp. 42–53), Hess calls attention to four theological themes: “Holy war and the ban;” “the inheritance of the land”; “God’s covenant with Israel”; and “the holy and redeeming God.” Hess regards the holy war concept as something not unique to Israel, but rather as an ancient Near Eastern political ideology that Israel shared with other nations of that time (e.g. Mari, Moab, Egypt). What he does see as unique to Israel is that “God did not approve of all wars” (cf. e.g. Ali [p. 43]). In developing his discussion of the holy war theme, Hess traces the theme on into the NT and sees Christ as “the victim of the holy war that God wages against sin (2 Cor 5:21). The earthly army that Christ leads introduces the other focus of holy war: the engagement of Christians in a lifelong spiritual struggle against the powers of sin and evil (2 Cor 10:3–5; Eph 6:10–18) This war also requires the total extermination of the enemy. It allows for no involvement with sin, but demands a complete separation from it” (p. 46).

Hess places the boundary lists of chaps. 13–21 in a covenantal context. He notes that this important section of the book is not only placed between the covenant ceremonies of Joshua 8 and 24, but it also corresponds in placement with the legal stipulations of other Biblical covenants and serves the function of defining the fulfillment of promises made to the nation’s ancestors (see pp. 40, 47, 59). The land is clearly presented as a divine gift with ownership remaining with God. The use and enjoyment of the land and the life it sustained were gifts from God for which he is to be worshipped and praised. Here too Hess traces this theme into the NT and suggests that the tension in the book of Joshua between the land as something already given in its entirety and yet as also something which Israel must still occupy is the way in which God still works with his people. He comments: “For Christians, the promise of victory over sin and death has been accomplished through Christ. However, this must be claimed through a life of faith in Christ’s work and of faithfulness to him (Rom 3–8). The theme of the inheritance of the land thus provides a model for the Christian life” (p. 47).

Interspersed throughout the commentary proper are seven “Additional Notes” addressing specific issues arising in the book of Joshua that have provoked extended discussion, but little agreement on conclusions. These provide good brief surveys of each of the issues along with nuanced assessments of the available evidence. The topics addressed are: (1) etiologies, (2) the archaeology of Jericho, (3) the date of the entrance into Canaan, (4) the archaeology of Ai, (5) Joshua’s altar on Mount Ebal, (6) the location of Heshbon, and (7) a partial or complete conquest. At the end of the book there are 9 maps, for the most part dealing with various tribal allotments. In the commentary proper Hess gives particular notice to literary techniques and close readings of the Hebrew text. All in all, this commentary is a very welcome and useful addition to the TOTC series.
J. Robert Vannoy
Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield, PA

Review of: Richard D. Nelson, Joshua: A Commentary (OTL), Westminster John Knox, 1997

Richard D. Nelson, Joshua: A Commentary (OTL), Westminster John Knox, 1997

Review door: Richard S. Hess

Joshua: A Commentary. By Richard D. Nelson. OTL. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997, xviii + 310 pp., n.p.

In 1972 J. Alberto Soggin published his commentary on Joshua for the Old Testament Library series. Its learned summary and discussion of a wide range of continental scholarship on the book made it a valuable addition to commentaries on Joshua at that time. Furthermore, it balanced the more historical and archaeological emphasis of the work of Boling and Wright with a contribution of classic liberal Protestantism.

A quarter century later a new commentary in the same series reflects the need to keep up with the changes that have taken place in Joshua studies and the Deuteronomistic history, as well as the need to provide an up-to-date English language commentary on a book marked by the absence of such commentaries. This is evident from the bibliography, which lists eleven commentaries on Joshua. Only two have appeared within the last fifteen years and these are both German (Fritz and Görg). Nelson omits my own 1996 contribution to the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary series.

Three major areas of positive contribution should be noted. (1) Nelson continues the approach of Soggin by interacting with a variety of published authors who support his critical approach. Although more focused on English-language and especially American studies, the review of scholarship is helpful. (2) Nelson’s own previous work on the Deuteronomistic history enables him to clarify the text of Joshua in the light of this literary-critical theory. Nelson again and again confidently distinguishes pre‑Deuteronomistic sources from those that are Deuteronomistic. Indeed, so assured is the discussion of this view that here (and in many other writers who subscribe to Deuteronomistic redaction[s]) the evidence for such distinctions is often assumed rather than presented. (3) Nelson has provided a systematic comparison of the Old Greek version of Joshua with the Masoretic Text. This is invaluable. With the long-awaited publication of the final part of Margolis’ The Book of Joshua in Greek, it is now possible to compare these two ancient traditions. While often favoring the Old Greek, Nelson nevertheless provides a consistent comparison of the pluses and minuses of these two textual traditions, although he does so only in English translation. Nevertheless, this is probably the single most valuable contribution of Nelson’s commentary and one that will allow it to be profitably consulted by all who wish to study the book according to its earliest manuscript traditions.

The weakness of this commentary is its pervasive refusal to interact with alternative opinions or methods of interpretation. This is especially a matter of concern when Nelson addresses questions of historical and archaeological significance. The following examples of this problem will illustrate the concern. (1) Nelson asserts, regarding the appearance of hundreds of small settlements in the Israelite hill country ca. 1200 BC and usually identified with Israel, “there is no reason to see these pioneers as infiltrators or invaders from somewhere outside Palestine” (p. 3). However, this ignores substantial contrary opinion by archaeologists and historians such as L.E. Stager, who asks where so many people come from (too many to be explained by the sedentarization of nomads local to the hill country or their neighbors in the lowlands), and A. F. Rainey who notes that the Jordan River was no boundary to nomadic groups who crossed back and forth right up to the present century. (2) Nelson asserts that the large mounds of Jericho, Ai and Hazor attracted conquest traditions to explain their presence and that “The original social location of these stories in a peasant society may be indicated by how often ‘kings’ serve as antagonists” (p. 10). This etiological approach fails to address the fact that these and other settlements in Palestine were ruled by “kings” throughout the second millennium BC, whether the king of Hazor (logogram, LUGAL) in the fourteenth century BC. Amarna letters, or the kings mentioned in the earlier execration texts and the Tell er-Rumeideh tablet. These kings constantly served as antagonists according to the picture portrayed by the Amarna correspondence.

Nelson’s discussion of the boundary descriptions and town lists (pp. 11–12, 185–186) ignores the appearance of these forms in treaty documents and administrative lists from the second-millennium BC West Semitic world (see especially those at Ugarit and Alalakh, but also the recently discovered administrative text from Hazor.) His own attempt to assign them to artificial scribal compositions and student exercises is remarkable, since there are no extant examples of boundary descriptions or town lists used for this purpose (even though many examples of student exercises and scribal compositions do exist).

Examples could be multiplied but they would only reinforce the point that in terms of exegesis this commentary must be used with caution. It does not demonstrate an acquaintance with the broader range of ancient and modern literature that lies outside its own method of analysis.

Richard S. Hess
Denver Seminary, Denver, CO

dinsdag 29 januari 2013

Review of: Mary Ann Beavis, Mark (PAIDEIA), Baker Academic, 2011

Mary Ann Beavis, Mark (PAIDEIA), Baker Academic, 2011

Review in: The Expository Times 2012 124: 88
Review door: Paul Foster
Gevonden op:

Paideia Commentary on Mark
Mary Ann Beavis, Mark – Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011. $27.99. pp. xvii + 302. ISBN: 978-0-8010-3437-4).

Mary Ann Beavis has established herself as a leading scholar on Mark’s gospel. It is, therefore, with some expectation that one looks forward to her commentary on the gospel. Expectations are not disappointed. Beavis is fully aware of the aims of the Paideia series and writes consciously and elegantly with those expectations in mind. The commentary is shaped by pedagogical concerns, and a desire to focus upon the text in its ‘current form’ (p.28). The approach taken is multi-faceted with the exegesis informed by insights from ‘source, form, redaction, reader/audience response, rhetorical, social scientific, feminist’ criticism. In the introduction the standard questions are addressed, with the gospel seen to be written by a certain Mark (although not necessarily the John Mark known elsewhere in the NT), Rome is seen as the most likely place for composition – although Galilee or nearby southern Syria are seen as viable alternatives, and the content of the gospel ‘points to a date near the Roman defeat of Jerusalem’ (p. 12). Other topics treated in the introduction relate to genre, literary features, major themes, and the structure of the gospel.

The major exegetical sections of the commentary are divided into ‘introductory matters’, ‘tracing the narrative flow’, and ‘theological issues’. Mark 1.1-13 is treated as the prologue, Mark 1.14-15 as a transitional summary statement. In some ways this attempts to break the scholarly impasse of whether vv. 14-15 belong to the prologue or to the body of the gospel. Thereafter, Beavis structures the gospel into five acts, each followed by a teaching interlude, and concluded with the epilogue of the women at the tomb. There is no attempt to treat any of the ‘endings’ of Mark which follow on from Mark 16.8. Given that the commentary states that it is treating the ‘current form’ of the text, maybe this should have been glossed to explain that statement presumably means the earliest recoverable form of the text, or the text form as printed in major critical editions of the Greek NT. The exegesis is sure-footed throughout, and the additional use of text boxes, diagrams, and pictures, adds much to this commentary as a pedagogical tool. That comment is not meant to imply that this commentary has nothing of value for the seasoned scholar. There is much here that is worthwhile, and deserving of reflection and study.

Beavis has produced an incisive and instructive commentary. It will be highly prized by students, and regularly consulted by scholars. This is a welcome addition to the impressive Paideia series.

School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh


Review of: Jo-Ann A. Brant, John (PAIDEIA), Baker Academic, 2011

Jo-Ann A. Brant, John (PAIDEIA), Baker Academic, 2011

Review in: The Expository Times 2012 123: 606
Review door: Paul Foster
Gevonden op:

Jo-Ann A. Brant, John – Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011. $29.99. pp. xxii + 330. ISBN: 978-0-8010-3454-1).

Although commentaries on John abound, both the Paideia series in general and Brant’s commentary in particular add something fresh to the study of John’s Gospel in terms of the packaging of material and the content of the volume. Topics covered in the brief introduction provide a sense of the flavour of Brant’s approach with its mix of older and more recent methodologies. The first set of issues she tackles are the standard introductory debates con­cerning date, authorship and provenance. It is argued that John was written ‘a decade or so after AD 70’. The issue of authorship is problematised by recourse to narratological insights: ‘The author composed for a lector … John’s first-person narra­tor belongs to the world of the audience’ (p. 7). The question of provenance is left equally open, observ­ing only that the language suggests an author work­ing with Greek as a second language, yet nothing is inferred from this concerning location. Then Brant turns to the perennial question of the relationship between John and the Synoptics. She concludes that ‘the hypothesis that John knew one or more of the Synoptic Gospels remains viable’ (p. 10). The remaining three topics covered in the introduction are: ‘Johannine Narrative Art, Structure, and Interpretation’ (pp. 12-14); ‘Hermeneutics and Method’ (pp. 14-17); and, ‘Place in the Canon’ (pp. 17-20).

As is typical of the Paideia series, the commen­tary section has a strong pedagogical purpose. Taking the section on John 6:1-71 as an example, the section opens by covering ‘introductory matters’ (pp. 113-115). Issues such as the degree of repeti­tion, the place of ‘signs’ in the fourth gospel, and parallels with classical drama are all discussed. Next Brant turns to ‘tracing the narrative flow’. This is the major component in this section (pp. 115- 126), and dividing the narrative into four scenes Brant works through the text sequentially. This sec­tion is helpfully supplemented with a range of rel­evant pictures and carefully designed tabulated data. The final component is the treatment of ‘theo­logical issues’ (pp. 126-130), such as Eucharistic theology, the relationship between manna and the bread of life, and wider issues that emerge such as predestination, providence and free will.

Brant’s commentary admirable fits the aims of the series to be accessible as a teaching tool, to draw upon relevant background materials, to inform the understanding of the text with newer methodological approaches, and above all to engage readers in the closer study of the New Testament text. In each of these areas Brant suc­ceeds, and in the process makes a valuable contri­bution to Johannine scholarship.

School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

Review of: Mickeal C. Parsons, Acts (PAIDEIA), Baker Academic, 2008

Mickeal C. Parsons, Acts (PAIDEIA), Baker Academic, 2008

Review in: The Expository Times 2009 121: 96
Review door: Paul Foster
Gevonden op:

Mickeal C. Parsons, Acts (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008. $27.99. pp. xxv + 438. ISBN 9780801031885).

Parson has contributed the volume on Acts to the recently commenced Paideia series. His approach depends heavily on the insights of rhetorical criticism, and throughout he seeks to bridge the knowledge gap for those unfamiliar with the terminology and methods of this approach. Apart from discussion of ancient literary conventions, Parsons also seeks to integrate insights from the social sciences as a means of elucidating the themes and narrative of Acts. This work compliments Parsons’ co-authored (with Martin Culy) treatment of the Greek text of Acts (Acts: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Waco: Baylor, 2003)).

In his introduction Parsons provides a brief summary of the trends in scholarship dealing with Acts over the last twenty to thirty years. He discusses the author of this work in relation to his ethnic identity, his function as a theologian and historian, and the way in which he demonstrates his adeptness in practicing the rhetorical craft. The unique issue that attend the variant textual forms of Acts are briefly discussed, but Parsons’ clearly articulates that this treatment will focus primarily on the Alexandrian tradition. Parsons’ carefully explains the difficulties in dating Acts, and tentatively suggests placing ‘the date of the publication of Acts at about ad 110’ (p. 17).The introduction also discusses the intended audience and the structure of Acts.

Parsons’ approach in the commentary section can be illustrated by looking closely at the treatment of  Acts 3:14:31 as representative. This section is headed ‘The Healing of a Lame Man’. Under introductory matters the focus falls on three issues. First, there is a brief statement concerning ‘questions of historicity’. Parsons appreciates that opinion is shaped by the worldview of a particular commentator, but helpfully represents the sceptical view of Lüdemann, Hemer’s defence of the historicity of miracles and Talbert’s mediating position. Next there is a discussion of the purported medical terminology employed. Thirdly, the literary structure of this section is discussed and also illustrated with a series of diagrammatic representations. The  actual exegesis of the passage is the focus of this section (pp. 5567). Throughout there are diagrams and highlighted boxes discussing the narrative flow, the rhetorical features such as commutation and expolitio (refining), a structural outline, Bede’s interpretation of the healing, and the place of smaller sub-sections in the wider narrative flow. After this detailed exegesis, the focus shifts to theological issues – here the issue of covenant is the central concern (pp. 6771).

This volume is a very helpful and rich treatment of the texts of Acts. It advances the aims of the Paideia series and should be of great benefit to students and scholars alike.

School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

Reviews of: Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (NICNT), Eerdmans, 1995

Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (NICNT), Eerdmans, 1995

Korte reviews in: The Expository Times 107 en 119
Door: Tod Still in 2008
Gevonden op:
Door: de Editor in 1996
Gevonden op:

Tod Still in 2008:
In my view, the other ‘must have’ commentary for serious students of the letter is that of G. D. Fee. Fee’s 1995 work, published by Eerdmans in The New International Commentary on the New Testament series, is similar in scope and detail to O’Brien (497 pages). Page after page and passage after passage, Fee offers clear and oftentimes compelling commentary on a letter and a letter-writer that he clearly admires. His technically skilled and spiritually sensitive interpretation of Philippians leaves all who labour over the letter with his aid in his debt.

De Editor in 1996:
Fee, who also contributed the volume on 1 Corinthians, takes NIV as his text (occasionally modified to avoid ’gender-specific language’, and sometimes questioned in the exegesis), but provides detailed textual and grammatical notes on the Greek, so that his commentary will be valuable for students of the original as well as the ’parish minister and teacher of Scripture’ for whom he primarily writes. He describes the work as a  hortatory letter of friendship’, and holds that Philippians was written by Paul from Rome in the early 60s to his ’friends and compatriots’ in Philippi, and is a unity. On the crux 2:6-11 he says that whether it is a ’hymn’ which had a pre-Pauline existence is  impossible to determine, but even if it had, by including it Paul has made it his own. He accepts it as an integral part of the letter, takes ’this’ (v. 5) as referring to vv. 2-4 (’This mindset (i.e., that which I have just described) have among yourselves which [was] also in Christ Jesus’), and argues that the passage refers to Christ’s pre-existence (’As God he emptied himself). This is a good, solid, conservative commentary, which takes full account of the work of other scholars, as the lengthy footnotes show.

Review of: François Bovon, Luke 1: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1-9:50 (Hermeneia), Fortress Press, 2002

François Bovon, Luke 1: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1-9:50 (Hermeneia), Fortress Press, 2002

Review in: The Expository Times 2003 114: 132
Review door: I. Howard Marshall
Gevonden op:

The dustcover of François Bovon, Luke I: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1-9:50 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002. $49-50. pp. xxxvi + 441. ISBN 0-8006-6004-7) leads off with the statement: ’In terms of its immense and wide learning, fullness of comment, and depth of insight, I reckon that this commentary is without rivals.’ I wrote that comment in a review of the original German publication of this commentary in the Evangelisch-Katholischer Kommentar series (1989), and I now repeat it. The editors of the Hermeneia series are to be congratulated on their wisdom in adopting this commentary for English translation (and likewise the work in the same series by U. Luz on Matthew). It has been excellently translated by Christine M. Thomas who has ensured that all words and phrases in other languages are supplied with English equivalents and, where appropriate, references given to the English translations of German books. No attempt has been made to update the volume beyond some bibliographical additions: the author is still occupied with writing the fourth volume of the German edition. In its present form this is destined to be the major work on Luke for some time to come. It is written out of encyclopaedic knowledge of the relevant material, carefully analysed and lucidly presented. A particular feature of the German series is the attention given to ’History of Interpretation’ (Wirkungsgeschichte, which really means history of the effect that the text has had rather than how people have interpreted it); there is not a lot of this in this first volume of the commentary, but the subsequent volumes will treat it much more extensively. Otherwise, Bovon tackles all aspects of the text and is particularly concerned with the theology of the Gospel. He writes both as a scholar and as a confessed Christian seeking to help Christian readers, and the result is a work that will aid preachers as well as students.

University of Aberdeen

Review of: Richard I. Pervo, Acts (Hermeneia), Fortress, 2009

Richard I. Pervo, Acts (Hermeneia), Fortress, 2009

Review in: The Expository Times 2009 120: Number 12 Pages 594–595
Review door: Paul Foster
Gevonden op:

Book of the Month: Hermeneia Commentary on Acts
Richard I. Pervo, Acts (Hermeneia; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2009. $85.00. pp. xxxvi + 812. ISBN 9780800660451).

The appearance of any Hermeneia commentary is always somewhat of an ‘event’ in biblical scholarship. Over the last few years there has been a fairly rapid sequence of New Testament volumes: Bovon, Luke 1:1–9:50 (2002); Luz, Matthew 21–28 (2005); Jewett, Romans (2007); and Collins, Mark (2007). Now Pervo’s volume on Acts has appeared, effectively serving as a replacement for Conzelmann’s Acts of the Apostles (Hermeneia, 1987) which was itself a translation of the German original (1963). In the intervening five decades, research on Acts has made significant headway and new methods for reading the text have come to the fore. Pervo’s new volume is fully cognizant of these developments, and integrates them into this new commentary in a thoughtful and stimulating manner.

The introduction is surprisingly compressed (pp. 126); no doubt this is to create more space for the actual commentary and many of the critical issues are discussed there rather than in the introductory matter. The introduction is broken into eleven sections: (1) The Earliest Witnesses to Acts and Its Canonical History; (2) The Text; (3) The Date and Place of Composition; the Author; (4) Language and Style; (5) Sources; (6) Genre; (7) The Unity/ies of Luke/Acts; (8) Structure; (9) General Purpose; (10) Theology; (11) Bibliography and History of Research. From this list it is immediately apparent that alongside traditional introductory questions, Pervo is also concerned to address issues of reception history, literary-critical perspectives and questions of genre and style. Although the earliest explicit reference to the text is traced to Irenaeus (A.H. 3.13.3), it is suggested that there is a possible citation in Polycarp’s Philippians (1.2) dating to around 130 ce. Acknowledged as more speculative, the possibility that Acts was known to the author of the Pastorals is also entertained (p. 1). The textual problems surrounding Acts are summarized by Pervo. He refers to the so-called Western Text in relation to Acts as ‘the D-Text of Acts’, and argues that there ‘is sufficient material with consistent qualities to label the D-Text of Acts as an “edition”’ (p. 3). It is suggested that this ‘edition’ came into existence around 150 ce and that its production may be compared ‘with that of a pedantic copy editor, in this case a careful reader (or a series of readers) mindful of error or inconsistency and eager to correct it’ (p. 4). The original composition of Acts is dated to about 115 ce. Pervo does not provide here detailed arguments for this judgement, but rather refers readers to his earlier work, Dating Acts: Between the Evangelists and the Apologists (2006). Furthermore, it is suggested that the provenance of the text is to be found in Ephesus: ‘[i]f detail suggests focus, volume goes a long way toward confirming it [Ephesian provenance]. Seventy verses, c. 7 per cent of the text, take place in or are related to the Asian metropolis’ (p. 6).

In relation to style and literary features, Pervo describes the level of writing as ‘middlebrow Koine Greek’ (p. 7) with an author possessing the ability to imitate the LXX. The rhetorical and narratival conventions employed by the author are also discussed. The contested issue of genre is given more space than most of the other issues. Pervo notes that Acts is history, but gains its comparison with biblical historiography. Nonetheless this description is not seen as describing the genre, instead it refers ‘to narrating history found in LXX’ (p. 15). Pervo refrains from proposing a single generic description. He notes that ‘Acts is a “popular” work. Unrestrained by the conventions governing elite literature, popular writers were able to blend genres and create new ones’ (p. 18).

The commentary section occupies the majority of the volume and focuses on text-critical, structural and hermeneutical issues. The translation of each section of text is accompanied by selective notes documenting the major textual issues with particular focus on the alternative readings of the D-text. In each section there is then a section entitled ‘analysis’ where Pervo discusses narrative and structural issues as well as addressing questions pertaining to the sources employed and the historicity of the material. In this section the intention, purpose and theological orientation being promoted by the author is explored. In relation to Acts 1:1526: ‘Replenishing the Apostolic College’, it is suggested that ‘[a]postleship centres upon, but cannot be mechanically reduced to, witness to the resurrection’ (p. 49). The need for a replacement apostle is seen as Luke’s attempt ‘to supply a historical and institutional basis for the witness of the Spirit, thereby to block unbridled “enthusiasm”’ (p. 49). In relation to Acts 15 (and also at other places in the commentary) Pervo prints the D-text alongside what he labels as the ‘conventional text’, at a number of points of significant discrepancy. The label ‘conventional text’, although perhaps not as biased as the Westcott-Hort description of a ‘neutral text’, still perhaps is not the most useful term and an actual listing of the textual witnesses may have been more appropriate. Here the analysis section devotes space to the somewhat intractable historical problems that beset this account. Pervo states that ‘The place of chap. 15 in the structure of Acts is difficult to determine. Historical knowledge exacerbates the  question, since commentators know that, subsequent to the sequel of this meeting, Paul began his career as an independent gentile missionary’ (p. 367). It is stated that Acts 15 is a brilliant example of Luke’s handling of traditions, theology and ecclesial concerns. Pervo suggests that this ‘portrait does not reflect a patina of legend, nor does it depend on the best reconstruction Luke could make with his limited knowledge. The author of Acts knew better, and, although the Jesus movement had become a new and largely gentile religion, its legitimacy was still open to question in certain circles, and both Paul and his opponents remained controversial figures’ (p. 370).

Towards the end of the volume there are many helpful features. The excursus on the ending of Acts makes a number of helpful observations. ‘No amount of sophisticated literary criticism and theological reflection – good and useful as most of it is – can persuade readers that something is not wrong’ (p. 688). The possible desire of the author to conclude with an upbeat finale is seen as a motivation for the end-point. ‘The close of Acts is “fictitious” in that it chooses to abandon its principal story line on a high note rather than follow it into failure and abandonment’ (p. 688). According to Pervo, this also allows the author to construe an open-ended story where the completion of the story lies in a future to be determined by God. The volume also contains five helpful appendices of primary sources that elucidate, by literary parallel, the narrative intentions that may have shaped Luke’s thinking.

In comparison to its predecessor in the Hermeneia series, Pervo is able to address a wider range of critical and exegetical issues. Some of his critical positions suggested in the introduction will undoubtedly be questioned, but this is perhaps more a reflection of the limited nature of the evidence and the differing presuppositions that are brought to the text. The ‘analysis’ sections in each unit of commentary are particularly helpful and clearly present the major issues that confront interpreters of this fascinating text. Pervo has provided a highly readable, detailed and engaging treatment of Acts.

School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh


Review of: John F. McHugh, John 1–4 (ICC),T&T Clark, 2009

John F. McHugh, John 1–4 (ICC),T&T Clark, 2009

Korte review in: The Expository Times 2009 120: 488
Korte review door: Paul Foster
Gevonden op:

John F. McHugh, John 1–4, ICC (London: T&T Clark – a Continuum imprint, 2009. £55.00. pp. xl + 324. ISBN 978–0–567–03158–7).

The appearance of a new ICC volume is usually an event of significance in biblical scholarship. Unfortunately, the publication of McHugh’s commentary on John 1-4 is a damp squib due to its incomplete nature. This volume does allow some insight into the thought of McHugh, and some of his exegetical notes are valuable and offer new slants on familiar text. However, his untimely death has resulted in a fragmentary work with no great coherence. Readers are only left with a sense of what might have been. Although the editors have done an excellent job in making the material presentable, the truth is that this volume does not warrant the price of £55. The book will probably be seen by later generations as a curiosity rather than an abiding contribution to scholarship.

School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh

Review of: D.I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25-48 (NICOT), Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998

D.I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25-48 (NICOT), Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998

Review in: The Expository Times 1999 110: 259
Review door: Robert P. Carroll
Gevonden op:

I reviewed the first volume of Daniel I. Block’s massive NICOT commentary on Ezekiel in The Expository Times 109 (1997/98), 309; the ink was hardly dry on that review when the second volume The Book of Ezekiel: Chapters 25-48 (NICOT; Eerdmans, 1998, £32.99, pp. xxiii + 826, ISBN 0-8028-2536-2) landed on my desk. It is a massive work and its 1750 pages make it longer even than Walther Zimmerli’s magisterial commentary on Ezekiel in the BKAT/Hermeneia series - it is an arguable point because the Hermeneia series uses double columns of print, but my sense of the matter is that Block is bigger if not better than Zimmerli. As a completed commentary I would want to add to the critical remarks made in my review of the first volume a rider to the effect that the commentary is itself a magnificent achievement, full of information and exegetical insights, well worth reading and pondering by fellow exegetes, whatever their theological hue or ideological commitment. I still find the overt Christianizing of Ezekiel’s message difficult to swallow, especially at the end of this century which has seen so many of the old supersessionist chickens come home to roost in the destruction of the European Jews. I also find that Block’s reading of chapters 40-48 as having ’theological implications for the modem reader’ which are ’compelling’, representing ’a profound theology of land’ somewhat naive, even disingenuous, when today Israeli and Palestinian communities are locked in a  struggle for land in the Middle East. Surely the continued say of scripture needs desperately to be updated, criticized and challenged by the further light afforded by modernity and the long reception-history transformations of scripture. I think I would want to recommend this twovolume work to contemporary readers as a good long read, but with a caveat about the need for taking the text more seriously and less seriously than Daniel Block does - if you get my meaning!


Review of: Christine Roy Yoder, Proverbs (AOTC) Abingdon Press, 2009

Christine Roy Yoder, Proverbs (AOTC) Abingdon Press, 2009

Review in: The Expository Times 2010 121: 571
Review door: Katharine J. Dell
Gevonden op:

Christine Roy Yoder, Proverbs, AOTC, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2009. £25.99. pp. 315, ISBN: 978-1-426-70001-9).

The Abingdon commentary series caters for preachers and teachers in a fairly slim volume with an accessible approach to each text. This commentary on Proverbs follows the series format, with introduction, literary analysis, exegetical analysis and theological/ethical analysis for each major unit with reference to the Hebrew original where pertinent. One of the problems with writing on Proverbs is the piecemeal nature of the material, especially after chapter 10, but Yoder copes with this by treating larger units, as well as each proverb individually. She is not a fan of the view that sees highly purposeful arrangement in these chapters, rather she sees lack of arrangement being its keynote. However that does not mean that the book of Proverbs is without editorial arrangement – each section emphasizes different genres or themes and a significant frame is that of the two women (woman wisdom and the strange woman) in Proverbs 1-9 and the ‘woman of substance’ of Proverbs 31:10-31. She writes, “The implied reader begins as a silent youth urged to pursue and love wisdom, to accept the invitation to her household (chs. 1-9), and ends as an esteemed adult who resides in wisdom’s household (31:10-31)” (p. xxviii). Yoder is particularly interested in the way techniques of repetition (and yet subtle variation) and contradiction work in Proverbs and this emphasis comes out in her commentary. She gives an interesting analysis of how humans are portrayed in Proverbs – in relationship, embodied (note many references to the human body and mind in Proverbs), having choices and responsibility for the consequences of those  choices; and as creations of God who should ‘fear the Lord’ as a first priority. She presents a balanced view of passages in the book and of wider issues such as date, social context and development over time. The bibliography points to further reading for those wishing to pursue points further. A useful addition to the corpus, even if not rivetingly novel in its approach.

University of Cambridge