McKnight, Scot. Colossians. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. lx+442 pp.; Hb.; $55.00. Link to Eerdmans   

McKnight begins this major commentary on Colossians with the observation that the letter is Paul’s “apostolic vision that sought to redesign the Roman Empire” (1). That “redesign” is based on Paul’s gospel of Jesus Christ and Paul’s gospel, McKnight says, can be reduced to the term “mystery,” Paul’s “term for in this letter for God’s plan to reconcile Gentiles with Jews, slaves with free, and all manner of social identities into one large family called the church” (4). According to the letter to the Colossians, this new family challenges the dark powers of the present age, whether they are Greco-Roman gods and emperors or the nationalism and imperialism of the modern age.

Scot McKnight, Colossians, CommentaryWith respect to the authorship and date of Colossians, McKnight begins with a critique of the method usually used in Pauline authorship discussions. He questions the validity of comparing Colossians to the other letters which are known to be authentically from Paul. The problem, says McKnight, is we really do not have proof Galatians (for example) was written by Paul. In fact, all ancient letters were mediated through a secretary, or perhaps even a series of scribes. Paul’s letters were often written along with others who worked with him, Timothy for example.

Although there are differences in vocabulary and style, McKnight lists several clear similarities between Colossians and the other so-called authentic letters: the authority of Paul, Christology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. In each case there are some unique elements and distinctive nuances, but each theological area does not contrast with the “pure Paul” of Romans and Galatians (16). The doctrine of justification and an emphasis on the Holy Spirit are missing from Colossians, but this is not part of the themes of the letter. He concludes his discussion of authorship with the curmudgeonly conclusion that Paul did not write any of his letters, but Paul is behind all his letters (18).

McKnight favors the view Paul was in Ephesus when he wrote Colossians (and Philemon) in the mid-50s, perhaps as late as 57. The traditional view Paul wrote from Rome sometime in the early 60s is problematic because of the travel notes in Colossians and Philemon. Of course the main weakness of an Ephesian origin for the letter is there is no explicit reference to an Ephesian imprisonment. Yet an origin in Ephesus allows the interpreter to hear echoes of the culture of Ephesus in the letter, especially the presences of exorcists and magicians from Acts 19:13-20 and (I would add), the “powers” from the letter to the Ephesians (39).

The other introductory issue unique to Colossians is the nature of the opponents against whom Paul writes. McKnight calls them “the Halakic Mystics of Colossae.” The matter is complicated by the fact we know very little about Colossae compared to other Greco-Roman cities such as Ephesus. McKnight interacts at length with Jerry Sumney’s Identifying Paul’s Opponents (Bloomsbury, 2015) and agrees with Sumney’s call for caution in the case of the opponents at Colossae, but he would allow for more evidence to be drawn from the ethical section of the book. McKnight agrees with Ian Smith’s Heavenly Perspective: A Study of the Apostle Paul’s Response to a Jewish Mystical Movement at Colossae (T&T Clark, 2006) and “riffs” on Smith’s major points (29). The opponents were operating with a Jewish set of ideas allied with the kind of dualism found both in Judaism and Hellenism. This dualism led to a “world-denying asceticism.” Although they tended to “entangle themselves” with the elemental powers of this world, it is doubtful they actually worship angels.

The final section of the introduction to the commentary is a sketch of Paul’s theology in the letter. In reviewing recent scholarly discussion of Paul’s theology, McKnight concludes it is necessary to construct a Pauline theology which “transcends the soteriological schemes of Western theology” (51). He has three recent theological contributions in mind when he makes this statement. First, he acknowledges the contributions of James Dunn’s Pauline Theology (Eerdmans, 1998) and N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Fortress, 2013), but also sees recent contributions by Louis Martyn and Douglas Campbell and the “apocalyptic Paul” to be on the right track and renders the old perspective versus the new perspective passé (46).

The second recent contribution to Pauline studies which bears on Pauline theology in Colossians in John Barclay’s Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans, 2015). Barclay’s rich description of Paul’s understanding of grace in the literature of the Second Temple Judaism ought to be required reading before any scholar attempts to sketch out Paul’s theology (or write a commentary on a Pauline letter). Third, McKnight considers recent series of monographs by of Michael Gorman “some of the finest articulations of a Pauline theology” (49). Gorman is sometimes cited as an example of participationist theology and balances all the emphases of modern Pauline studies (50). He does suggest a modification to Gorman’s term cruciformity, suggestion missional-Christoformity (a phrase appearing often in the commentary itself.

In his own fourteen page sketch of Pauline theology, McKnight attempts to “slightly reorient Dunn and Wright and Gorman” building on where “Wright ends his Paul and the Faithfulness of God and where Gorman lands: reconciliation and mission” (51). Perhaps it is time for McKnight to turn his attention to a fully developed Pauline theology textbook.

The body of the commentary proceeds through the outline of Colossians in smaller units. Each section begins a short orientation and translation of the text with numerous notes comparing the NIV and CEB. The commentary itself moves from phrase to phrase with technical details and Greek grammatical comments relegated to copious footnotes. When Greek words appear in the main body of the commentary they are transliterated so readings without Greek training will be able to follow the argument. Most interaction with scholarship primarily appears in the footnotes, making for a remarkably readable commentary. On occasion he must deal with technical details or theological problems (such as the meaning of baptism in 2:11). In these cases he provides material in the footnotes to point interested readers to more detailed article sand monographs.

Conclusion. McKnight’s prose is engaging and there are occasionally rhetorical flourishes intended to amuse the reader. Rarely does a technical commentary entertain as well as educate. But McKnight also demonstrates his pastoral heart, never straying from Paul’s pastoral purposes in the letter. This commentary will be useful for scholars, pastors, teachers, and interested laypersons who want to dig deep into the text of Colossians.

Usually commentaries on Colossians also include a section on Philemon. Scot McKnight’s commentary on Philemon in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series was originally intended to be included with this forthcoming Colossians commentary, Eerdmans decided to publish Philemon separately (see my review of his Philemon commentary here). McKnight also contributed a commentary on James in this series (Eerdmans, 2011).

 

NB: Thanks to Eerdmans for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Published on August 15, 2018 on Reading Acts.

Chou, Abner. The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers: Learning to Interpret Scripture from the Prophets and Apostles. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Academic, 2018. 251 pp. Pb. $23.99   Link to Kregel Academic

This new monograph from Aber Chou has its origins in an undergraduate class in hermeneutics taught by William Verner at The Master’s University where he is now associate professor of Bible. Chou’s task in this study is to describe what he calls the prophetic hermeneutic (chapters 3-4) and demonstrate the apostolic hermeneutic evidenced in the New Testament was essentially the same (chapters 5-6). With this biblical foundation, Chou then develops a Christian hermeneutical strategy (chapter 7) which he argues is faithful to how the Old Testament prophets read earlier Scripture and how the New Testament apostles read the prophets.

Abner Chou, Hermeneutics, IntertextualityChou claims “Old Testament intertextuality demonstrates the prophets were exegetes and theologians” (93), they were “scholars of Scripture (47). In the New Testament the “apostles used the Old Testament contextually” (121) and were “remarkably consistent with each other in how they interpret and apply the Scriptures” (196). For Chou, the “Christian hermeneutic follows the prophets and apostles, and is thereby a hermeneutic of obedience” (23). In order to demonstrate the first two points, he marshals evidence of inner-biblical exegesis (to use Michael Fishbane’s term). Chou begins with clear examples drawn from the prophets using earlier texts and demonstrates there are trajectories from earlier texts to later ones. For example, the prophets use the Exodus events to describe a future “new Exodus.” This is new revelation, but the later prophetic writer did not find a hidden meaning in the earlier text nor did the later writer change the meaning of the original text. As Chou says, the later writer draws out certain consequences from the earlier revelation (91).

In his second chapter he states three presuppositions. First, a reader ought to seek the author’s original intent. The task of hermeneutics is to trace the author’s logic and clearly understand what the author intended his readers to understand from a text. Second, there is a difference between meaning and significance. The task of exegesis is to understand the meaning of the text, but Scripture has significance for the lives of contemporary Christians. The meaning of the text has ramifications for Christ-followers in other contexts. Third, intertextuality is found throughout Scripture. Later in the book he argues every Old Testament book alludes to every other book (53). For the most part these presuppositions are not problematic for conservative scholars or evangelical in general.

Since Chou uses the term intertextuality throughout the book, he ought to carefully define what he means by this often used word. Unfortunately, he does not contrast his view of intertextuality with reader-response criticism or other more radical uses of the term. One common problem in intertextual studies is demonstrating an allusion to another text exists. By way of methodology, Chou briefly endorses a modified form of Richard Hays’s now standard set of criteria (39-40). In practice, Chou has a conservative view of intertextuality (not surprising given his evangelical commitments). The examples given throughout the book lean toward quotations and clear allusions and rarely fall into Hays’s category of an “echo of Scripture.”

Chou uses intertextuality (as he defines it) to map redemptive history and to read Scripture in light of previous revelation. This raises the issue of “going beyond the Bible” or what Chou calls “Trajectory Hermeneutics.” He is clear his method is not the same as William Webb in his Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals (226-7). Chou finds this method problematic since it misconstrues the redemptive historical trajectory with “movement in redemptive history” (228). He is concerned the trajectory some writers trace in Scripture result in a non-biblical conclusion. Given his interaction with Webb and others who use a trajectory method to support a more egalitarian view of the role of women in ministry, it may be the case in that particular issue Chou disagrees with the end point of the post-biblical trajectory rather than the method itself.

Since the prophets “intentionally positioned their writings for later writers to use” (119) The New Testament use of Old Testament texts underscores the continuity between the testaments. Chou focuses on quotations and clear allusions to Old Testament texts to demonstrate his point that the New Testament stands out the exegetical foundation of the Old Testament prophets in both the “big picture” of the Old Testament narrative as well as the details of individual texts. This is true for the Gospel writers as well as Paul, James, Peter and John. Chou gives examples for each demonstrating how the author reflects both the redemptive history of the Old Testament as well as citing (or alluding) to specific texts to make their theological points.

Chou makes his case that later writers built on earlier texts and interpreted them within a redemptive biblical theology. The broad examples he uses in the book are designed to support his thesis, although for any given example someone might raise objections. For example, within the canon of the Old Testament there is always the question of precedence. For example, did Joel use Isaiah, or was Joel written before Isaiah? Arguments can be made for either direction of inner-biblical exegesis in this case, or even for a common source. A second problem for Chou is oral tradition as opposed to textual tradition. Intertextual studies by definition focus on the exegesis of a text, but it is quite likely that Isaiah 40-55 is using Exodus and wilderness traditions rather than citing verses from a physical copy of the Book of Exodus as we know it today. Even in the New Testament texts were more often heard than read. If Jesus alludes to a text in his teaching, his audience would quite literally “hear the echo” of Scripture. But modern readers only have the report of the allusion as recorded by a Gospel writer. This adds a second layer of possible inner-biblical exegesis.

Despite these reservations (which in many ways go beyond the scope of the book), Chou’s The Hermeneutics of the Biblical Writers is a good introduction to the complexity of the intertextual nature of both the Old and New Testament.

 

NB: Thanks to Kregel for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

 

Blackwell, Ben C., John K. Goodrich and Jason Maston. Reading Mark in Context: Jesus and Second Temple Judaism. Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan, 2018. 286 pp. Pb; $24.99. Link to Zondervan

This new volume of essays joins Reading Romans in Context (Zondervan, 2015), also edited by Blackwell, Goodrich and Matson. The book works its way through the Gospel of Mark by comparing a section of the gospel to a particular text from the literature of the Second Temple Period. The chapters are brief and written by experts in the study of the Gospels. But they are also written to appeal to people outside of the insular world of scholarly academics.

Blackwell, Goodrich and Maston, Reading Mark in ContextOne of the important ramifications of E. P. Sanders’s book Paul and Palestinian Judaism is the importance of Second Temple literature for reading the New Testament in a Jewish context. Sanders challenged scholars to actually read Jewish literature rather than rely on well-worn anachronistic descriptions drawn from secondary literature. Despite the reservations of John Piper and others on the value of using Second Temple literature to illuminate the Bible, most New Testament scholarship post-Sanders recognizes the value of the Second Temple period for setting the context for Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament writers.

Each of the book’s thirty chapters begins by setting the section into the context of Mark’s gospel followed by a brief introduction to the non-canonical book used in the chapter. The author of the chapter then offers a short commentary on the text of Mark using the lens of the Second Temple text selected for that chapter. The chapter concludes with three sections entitled “for further reading.” First, the author offers examples of other Second Temple texts which may shed light on the particular section of Mark examined in the chapter. The second section lists English translations and critical editions for the Second Temple text used in the chapter. Third is a list of secondary literature bearing on the theology of the particular section of Mark.

There is no need to summarize every chapter of this book, two or three examples will be sufficient (see the end of this review for the table of contents). Elizabeth Shively reads Mark 3:7-35 through the lens of the Testament of the Twelve, focusing specifically on the binding of Beliar in the Testament of Zebuon 9:8 and the Testament of Levi in 18:12. This background sheds light on Jesus’s exorcisms and the saying “no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house” (Mark 3:27). Her secondary literature section seven items, three on Jesus as an exorcist and two on Jewish eschatology and two on the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs.

Timothy Gombis discusses the Triumphal Entry (Mark 11:1-11) as a “subversion of triumphalism” by reading the text alongside the “triumphal entry” of Simon in 1 Maccabees 13. Mark presents Jesus as a faithful Davidic ruler while the crowds of disciples want to make him a conquering military hero like Simon (178). Gombis points interested readers to Psalm of Solomon 17 as additional background to the triumphal entry along with relevant parallel material in Second Maccabees and Josephus.

Jonathan Pennington compares the Parables of Enoch (1 Enoch 37-71) and the coming of the Son of Man in Mark 13:1-37. Pennington focuses on two key elements from the Parables of Enoch, its apocalyptic worldview and the use of the phrase “son of man.” This chapter is very good as it is, but also frustrating because there is so much in these thirty-seven verses which need to be set in the context of the Second Temple period. Not only is the biblical section too large for a short chapter, the parables of Enoch is a large unit which is difficult to summarize in a few pages. There is about a page of text from 1 Enoch reproduced in this chapter, I would have liked less fully-quoted passages from 1 Enoch and more commentary on how 1 Enoch and Jesus share a similar “stock apocalyptic imagery” (215).

Conclusion. Reading Mark in Context is not a traditional commentary. The authors of each section focus on a single theological issue from the world of Second Temple Period Judaism. In some cases, the teaching or actions of Jesus are quite similar his Jewish contemporaries, but often Jesus subtly subverts what a Jewish listener might have expected to hear from a Jewish rabbi. For any given section of Mark covered in the book there are many other topics and texts which could have been the subject of the chapter. The book focuses only on Jewish literature for the background to the Mark, it would also be possible to write a similar book focusing on Greco-Roman material which illuminates the text. But to paraphrase the conclusion to the Gospel of John, these texts were chosen so that the reader might understand Jesus in a Second Temple Jewish context.

This book will be an excellent introduction for many readers to the literature of the Second Temple period and the application of that background material to the Gospel of Mark. The authors provide enough additional bibliographical material to assist students in finding in-depth studies of this literature.

 

NB: Thanks to Zondervan for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Table of Contents:

  1. Rule of the Community and Mark 1:1—13: Preparing the Way in the Wilderness (RIKK WATTS)
  2. The Parables of Enoch and Mark 1:14—2:12: The Authoritative Son of Man (KRISTIAN A. BENDORAITIS)
  3. Josephus and Mark 2:13—3:62 Controversies with the Scribes and Pharisees (MARY MARSHALL)
  4. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and Mark 3:7—35: Apocalyptic and the Kingdom (ELIZABETH E. SHIVELY)
  5. 4 Ezra and Mark 421—34: Parables on Seeds, Sowing, and Fruit (KLYNE SNODGRASS)
  6. The Testament of Solomon and Mark 521—20: Exorcism and Power over Evil Spirits (MICHAEL F. BIRD)
  7. Mishnah Zabirn and Mark 5:21—6:6a: The Rules on Purity (DAVID E. GARLAND)
  8. Josephus and Mark 6:6b—29: Herod Antipas’s Execution of John the Baptist (MORTEN HORNING JENSEN)
  9. 4QConsolations and Mark 6:30-56: Images of a New Exodus V (HOLLY BEERS)
  10. The Letter of Aristeas and Mark 7:1—23: Developing Ideas of Defilement (SARAH WHITTLE)
  11. Jubilees and Mark 7:24—37: Crossing Ethnic Boundaries (KELLY R. IVERSON)
  12. The Damascus Document and Mark 8:1—26: Blindness and Sight on “the Way” (SUZANNE WATTS HENDERSON)
  13. Sirach and Mark 8:27—9:13: Elijah and the Eschaton (SIGURD GRINDHEIM)
  14. Tobit and Mark 9:14—29: Imperfect Faith (JEANETTE HAGEN PIPER)
  15. Rule of the Community and Mark 9:30—50: Discipleship Reordered (JEFFREY W. AERNIE)
  16. Mishnah Gittin and Mark 10:1——12: Marriage and Divorce (DAVID INSTONE-BREWER)
  17. Eschatological Admonition and Mark 10:13—31: Riches, Poverty, and the Faithful (MARK D. MATHEWS)
  18. Rule of the Congregation and Mark 10:32—52: Glory and Greatness in Eschatological Israel (JOHN K. GOODRICH)
  19. 1 Maccabees and Mark 11:1—11: A Subversive Entry into Jerusalem (TIMOTHY GOMBIS)
  20. Psalms of Solomon and Mark 11:12—25: The Great Priestly Showdown at the Temple (NICOLAS PERRIN)
  21. The Animal Apocalypse and Mark 11:27—12:12: The Rejection of the Prophets and the Destruction of the Temple (DAVID L. TURNER)
  22. Josephus and Mark 12:13—27: The Sadducees, Resurrection, and the Law (JASON MATSON)
  23. Psalms of Solomon and Mark 12:28—44: The Messiah’s Surprising Identity and Role (MARK L. STRAUSS)
  24. The Parables of Enoch and Mark 1321—37: Apocalyptic Eschatology and the Coming Son of Man (JONATHAN PENNINGTOM)
  25. Mishnah Pesahim and Mark 1421—25: The Passover Tradition (AMY PEELER)
  26. The Babylonian Talmud and Mark 14:26—52: Abba, Father! (NIJAY GUPTA)
  27. The Parables of Enoch and Mark 14:53—73: Blasphemy and Exaltation (DARRELL BOCK)
  28. Philo of Alexandria and Mark 15:1—15a: Pontius Pilate, a Spineless Governor? (HELEN BOND)
  29. 11QTemplea and Mark 15:15b—47: Burying the Crucified (CRAIG A. EVANS)
  30. 2 Maccabees and Mark 16:1—8: Resurrection as Hope for the Present (BEN C. BLACKWELL)

Psalm of Solomon 17 is by far the most significant section of the collection. The Psalm describes a Davidic, messianic figure who will purge Jerusalem of Gentiles, gather the exiles and lead them in righteousness and shepherd the Lord’s flock in righteousness. This lengthy Psalm draws on the canonical Psalm 72 and is witness to fervent messianic hopes among some strands of early Judaism. The belief a messiah would soon appear and liberate Jerusalem from their Roman oppressors ultimately culminates in the first Jewish Revolt and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. See also my post on Messianic Hopes and the Jewish Revolt.

Popmey's Seige of Jerusalem, Painting by Jean FouquetPsalm of Solomon 17 describes the activities of a “lawless one who lays to waste our land” (17:11). From the vivid imagery of verses 11-20 it is difficult to say this person is a Gentile, although he does things in Jerusalem that “gentiles do for their gods in their cities” (v. 14). He drives de devout ones from Jerusalem and they take refuge in the wilderness (v 17). The most common view is this lawless one is Pompey and the psalm represents the messianic expectations of the Pharisees. Julius Wellhausen suggested the psalm reflects the political unrest at the time of Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II.

Although it seems clear enough that Psalm of Solomon 2 refers to Pompey as one who defiled the sanctuary (Ps.Sol 2:1-2), the identity of the lawless one is less obvious in Psalm 17. Kenneth Atkinson challenged the consensus view that Pompey is the lawless one by arguing the Psalm refers to Herod the Great. After he was appointed king of Judea Herod was forced to attack Jerusalem in order to secure his territory (37 B.C.) He was assisted by the Romans According to Josephus (Ant. 14.16.2, §475-81), “they were murdered continually in the narrow streets and in the houses by crowds, and as they were flying to the temple for shelter, and there was no pity taken of either infants or the aged, nor did they spare so much as the weaker sex; nay, although the king sent about, and besought them to spare the people, yet nobody restrained their hand from slaughter, but as if they were a company of madmen, they fell upon persons of all ages, without distinction.” Herod’s siege of the city took place in a sabbatical year which led to a famine and increased the suffering of the people. After securing Jerusalem Herod murdered the last of the Hasmonean dynasty (Antigonus II, Aristobulus III, and Hyrcanus II). Atkinson therefore dates Psalm of Solomon 17 sometime between 37 and 30 B.C.

The defenders of Jerusalem considered Herod a foreign invader, and the capture of the city must have appeared as an apocalyptic invasion anticipated by the Hebrew prophets. Josephus says “Now the Jews that were enclosed within the walls of the city fought against Herod with great alacrity and zeal (for the whole nation was gathered together); they also gave out many prophecies about the temple, and many things agreeable to the people, as if God would deliver them out of the dangers they were in” (Ant. 14.16.1, §470). There are two important items in this description. First, the whole nation was gathered and fought against Herod with zeal. Allowing for obvious exaggeration, this zealous gathering to resist the foreign invader, Psalm of Solomon indicates the son of David who is coming will smash the arrogant sinners (17:22-24) and gather “a holy people” (17:26).

Second, the zealous ones in Jerusalem “gave out many prophecies about the temple.” Although written after these events, Psalm of Solomon 17 contains the sorts of prophecies one might expect when the lawless gentiles are slaughtering people in the streets of Jerusalem. The description of the coming son of David in verses 21-25 is a collection of allusions to messianic texts in the Hebrew Bible. Atkinson compared several texts from Qumran which indicate the Qumran community also expected a Davidic king (4Q161; 4Q285; 4Q252; 4Q174) who would be a warrior (4Q161; 4Q285; 4Q252; 4Q174) and a righteous ruler (4Q252; 4Q174) (Atkinson 458). Atkinson observes that the authors of Psalm of Solomon 17, the Qumran texts, and the book of Revelation are usually regarded as pacifist, but they all looked forward with “apparent eagerness to great bloodshed and annihilation of their enemies” (460).

I would suggest Josephus’s description of the final defenders of the temple in 37 B.C. as “zealous” may indicate they were not as pacifistic as commonly thought. Although there was an expectation of a Davidic warrior king who would smash Jerusalem’s enemies, the zealous ones in 37 B.C. (or A.D. 70) were willing to join Phineas, Elijah and Judas Maccabees and defend the land against foreign invaders.

Whether this Psalm reflects the siege of Jerusalem at the time of Pompey or Herod, I agree with Atkinson’s conclusion to his article: the actions of Jesus at the triumphal entry and his “rampage in the temple” (as he puts it), as well as Jesus’s prediction of the destruction of the Temple would have resonated with the hope for a Davidic warrior messiah. Jesus’s intention to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) was a shock even to his closest followers.

 

Bibliography: Kenneth Atkinson, “On the Herodian Origin of Militant Davidic Messianism at Qumran: New Light from Psalm of Solomon 17,” JBL 118 (1999): 435-460.

Psalm of Solomon is another example of two-ways theology. There is a sharp contrast between the righteous (δίκαιος) and the sinner (ἁμαρτωλός). In this psalm, the difference between these two types of people is that the Lord has mercy on the righteous, devout person who fear him (13:12). The title of this psalm is a comfort or encouragement (παράκλησις) for the righteous. By properly understanding suffering the righteous person acknowledges they have been protected by the mercy of the Lord.

Two roads, two ways to liveThe first four verses of this psalm reflect the experience of the righteous. Although they suffer calamity, “the right hand of the Lord” covered them and they were spared. The right hand is βραχίων, literally the arm of the Lord. This is the regular expression for the Lord’s power in the Hebrew Bible. In Exodus 15:16, for example, the mighty arm of the Lord protected Israel as they came up out of Egypt. LXX Psalm 76:16 [ET 15] uses the word to describe the redemption of Israel: “You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph.”

The writer says the Lord protected the righteous from sword, hunger, death and “wicked beasts.” This list sounds like the typical description of the dangers for the Jewish people in exile (Ezek 14:13-23, for example), but these also resonate with Paul’s famous line in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?” or the suffering listed in 2 Corinthians 11:19-32. In 1 Corinthians 15:32 Paul says he “fought wild beasts” in Ephesus. Commentators usually take this as a metaphor for some sort of persecution. Both the psalmist and Paul agree suffering is not something to fear since the Lord protects the righteous. The difference is the psalmist says the Lord protected him from even meeting these things (v. 4) while Paul saw suffering as his participation in the suffering of Christ.

In fact, the righteous may suffer, but that suffering is discipline rather than judgment (13:7-10). The psalmist understands suffering as punishment for sin done in ignorance (v. 7). God is admonishing the righteous like a beloved child (v. 9). Verse 7 calls this suffering the “discipline of the righteous” (ἡ παιδεία τῶν δικαίων). In Psalm of Solomon 8:29 Israel’s suffering is described as discipline, calling to mind the common metaphor of Israel as an unruly child who needs to be disciplined (Hosea 11, for example).

The psalmist may be thinking of a text like Proverbs 3:11-12, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline (παιδεία) or be weary of his reproof, the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Hebrews 12 also cites this verse from Proverbs to encourage Jewish readers to endure suffering as discipline from the Lord. But again there is a difference, the writer of Hebrews does not suggest his readers are being punished for sin when they face hostility on account of their faith in Jesus as Messiah.

The psalm concludes by repeating the contrast between the righteous person and the sinner. The righteous will go on forever but the sinner will be taken away for destruction (ἀπώλεια, 13:11-12). This is common to two-ways texts like Psalm 1, but it is a regular feature of Jesus’s parables as well. At the harvest (the final judgement), the righteous are like wheat gathered up and stored in the barn, the unrighteous are like weeds thrown into a fire and destroyed (Matt 13:24-30). When the messiah comes he will separate the nations like sheep from goats. The sheep are welcomed into the kingdom of God and eternal life (Matt 25:34, 46) but the goats are cursed and sent “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” to eternal punishment (Matt 25:41, 46).

According to this psalm, although the righteous may suffer discipline in this life, the Lord’s mercy is on the devout person who fears the Lord (13:12).

Joshua Commentary by Gordon McConville and Stephen Williams, Two Horizons Commentary The Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for August 2018 is the Joshua volume in the Two Horizons Commentary by Gordon McConville and Stephen Williams (Eerdmans, 2010).

The Two Horizons series is an good example of the methods of theological interpretation of Scripture. In this case, McConville (Professor of Old Testament Theology in the University of Gloucestershire) provides exegesis and Williams (professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological College, Belfast) provides the theological reflection. McConville has contributed a commentary on Deuteronomy (AOT; IVP Academic, 2002) and was an editor for the Dictionary of Old Testament: Prophets (IVP Academic, 2012). Stephen Williams’s The Shadow of the Antichrist: Nietzsche’s Critique of Christianity won a Christianity Today Book Award in 2006.

After the exegesis section of the commentary, Williams contributes several sections under the heading of “Theology of Joshua.” Here he comments on The Question of the Land; The Question of Genocide; Idolatry; Covenant, and God of Miracle and Mystery. He also has a section entitled “Reading Joshua Today” which includes The Question of History, The God of Joshua, God as Personal, God of Power, The Character of God, and Divine Lordship. McConville offers his own section on “Joshua and Biblical Theology.” Although he deals with the problem violence in the book, his section reads more like a traditional biblical theology, setting Joshua into a canonical context. What is unique in this Two Horizons commentary (as far as I can recall) is two sections of response by each co-author. This reflects the scholarly discussions between the two authors during the production of the commentary.

I have reviewed several volumes of the Two Horizons series, and have two more reviews in preparation. For comments on the style of these commentaries, see any of the following reviews:

Logos usually offers two more “almost free” books in the same series as the free book of the month. During the month of August you can also add Joel Green’s 1 Peter commentary in the THCNT (Eerdmans, 2007) series for $1.99. For another $4.99, add Robin Parry’s commentary on Lamentations (Eerdmans, 2010). I can recommend all three volumes as worthy additions to your Logos library, especially for a mere $7.  These books will be available on any Logos platform you are using. I find the the iOS Logos app in the iPad is the best reading app available (real footnotes, note-takeing tools which sync with the desktop version, etc.)

Logos is also running a giveaway during the month of August, and it is a good one this time. They are giving away the a set of fifteen volumes in the Pillar New Testament Commentary from Eerdmans ($529 value). There are several ways to enter the giveaway,

So head over to the Logos Free Book of the Month page, grab the free (and almost free) books for your Logos Library before the end of March.

 

Carnival MaskKaren R. Keen (@Keen_KR) has posted the Biblical Studies Carnival for July 2018. She has done an excellent job collecting a wide range of links to biblical and theological topics posted last month. This is Karen’s first time hosting the Biblical Studies Carnival, and she says “there is far more material churned out on a regular basis than I realized. Some folk even manage to put out a post almost every day (profs procrastinating on fall course prep??).” That may be the case, or some professors turn are using posts to work out lecture points for the fall. Not every professor of biblical or theological studies spends their summer lounging at the beach.

Stick around until the end, this carnival has two bonus features. First, Karen has a list of announcements (tributes to scholars who recently passed away, book notices, etc.) Second, she has a list of women scholars who blog. As she admits, this is not a complete list, so Karen asks for links to overlooked blogs to be added to the comments. Another thing you can do is visit these blogs and offer some encouragement to post more often. Several of the blogs Karen lists have not been updated in months.

Next month Kevin Turner at Monday Morning Theologian is hosting the Biblical Studies carnival (August 2018, Due September 1) and veteran carnival host Jim West has the September 2018 carnival (Due October 1).  If you would like to host a Biblical Studies Carnival, now is the time to volunteer.

I am borderline desperate for the rest of the year!  Please contact me via email (plong42@gmail.com), twitter direct message (@plong42) or comment here in this carnival. Whether you are a relatively new blogger or you have hosted a carnival in the past, do not hesitate to contact me. October, November and December are open as of July 1. It is not too early to volunteer for a 2019 carnival.

If you use FlipBoard to read blogs, consider following my Biblical Studies magazine. The Web-based version is good, but FlipBoard is an essential app for your iOS device. I use it on my iPad for news and other special interests (including biblioblogs). If you are looking for a more wild biblical studies experience, stop in at r/AcademicBiblical or  r/AskBibleScholars at Reddit. Reddit can be a scary place, but these two subreddits are often quite good for academic discussions (trolls are quickly moderated out of existence).  If you are into twitter, follow me @plong42. I promise I am not a Russian tweet-bot trying to fluoridate your water.

This psalm stands in the Jewish wisdom tradition by condemning the lawless and slandering tongue. The writer uses the adjective παράνομος, a word appearing in the LXX some 73 times, most often in wisdom literature. In Proverbs 3:32, for example, every lawbreaker is impure before the Lord. The writers of the Psalms of Solomon use the word eleven times (see 4:19 for example, may “the bones of the lawless before the sun in dishonor,” a phrase repeated in 12:4). This is not some breach of a pharisaical tradition. The only appearance of the word in the Septuagint translation of the Torah is Deuteronomy 13:14, the lawless who entice people to commit idolatry. In Judges 20:13 it describes the men who raped and killed the Levite’s concubine. It is the kind of rebellion which must be uprooted and cut off from the land (Prov 2:22).

In this psalm, the lawless are known by the way they speak (12:2-3). Their words are “in diversity of twisting” (Lexham LXX). A visit from the lawless one will fill a home with a false tongue. The speech of this person is like a fire which scorches beauty. With glee the lawless one will burn down your house through their lies.

The tongue is often compared to fire in wisdom literature (Ps. 120:3; Prov. 16:27; 26:21; Isaiah 30:27; Sirach 28:12-26).

Psalm 120:3 (ESV) What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue?

Proverbs 16:27 (ESV)  A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.

Sirach 28:12–12 (NRSV) If you blow on a spark, it will glow; if you spit on it, it will be put out; yet both come out of your mouth. Curse the gossips and the double-tongued, for they destroy the peace of many.

Like James 3:5-6, the tongue is compared to a fire which “scorches beauty” (PsSol 12:2). James and Psalms of Solomon both use the verb φλογίζω. This verb is rare in the LXX, but it has the sense of intentionally setting a fire to destroy something. For example, in 1 Maccabees 3:5, Judas searched out people who broke the Law and “he burned those who troubled his people.” Although most Americans know about how a careless fire can burn thousands of acres, James may have in mind a pyre, wood stacked to make burn quickly (the NEB has “a huge stack of timber” (see Sophie Laws, James, 147).

Rolling Stones TongueAlthough the psalmist began by calling on God to save him from these lawless people, in verses 4-6 he turns to cursing the slanderous and blessing the “quiet person who hates injustice.” He prays that the bones of the lawless be scattered far from those who fear the Lord. Denying someone a proper burial is the ultimate dishonor. He asks God to destroy the slanderous tongue in “flaming fire far from the devout.”  The phrase flaming fire (πυρὶ φλογὸς) appears in 2 Thessalonians 1:8: when the Lord returns with his mighty angels he will inflict vengeance on the ones who do not obey the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with “flaming fire.”

Once again, this is not far from James 3. James says the tongue starts a fire that sets the course of one’s life. Like a bit or a rudder, misuse of one’s words steers a life one direction or another. Think of a “white like” which requires increasingly more complex lies to cover the first lie. Many political scandals are a series of cover-ups of an initial lie. For James, the person to starts out speaking foolishly will have their live altered by that lie in ways that cannot image. In fact, the tongue can start a fire that is stoked by the fires of Hell. That new trajectory for one’s life leads to Gehenna! Like Psalm of Solomon 12:4, the slanderous speech of the lawless one will result in “flaming fire.”

But the psalmist blesses the quiet person who lives peacefully at home. Paul also describes the ideal Christian life as living quiet, peaceful lives in 1 Thessalonians 5:13-14, 2 Thessalonians 3 and 1 Timothy 2:3-4. James 3:17–18 includes peacemaking among seven virtues which characterize the righteous. For the psalmist, the righteous are those who “hate injustice (12:5), similar to Psalm of Solomon 5. When I commented on that Psalm I drew the analogy to the sort of “religion God accepts” based on James 1:27. James and Paul both stand within the same stream of Second Temple Jewish wisdom literature as Psalms of Solomon 12 by contrasting a life of wisdom (quiet, peaceful, respectful) with the slanderous unthinking speech of the lawless ones.

R. B. Wright points out this psalm resonates with Baruch 4:36–5:9 and has clear allusions to Isaiah 40-55. Since the author seems to know Sirach, Baruch cannot be dated any earlier than 180 B. C., but it could very well be written any time before A.D. 135. Doran Mendals concludes “At the present stage of research, the question of dating must remain open” (ABD 1:620). It is likely both Psalms of Solomon 11 and Baruch use material from Isaiah 40-55 in similar ways to look forward to the return of the scattered exiles to Zion.

The Psalm begins with the command to “Sound in Zion the signal trumpet of the sanctuary” (11:1). To sound a signal trumpet can call Israel to mourn over the state of the Temple. For example, when the temple was liberated the army assembled on Mount Zion and when they say the temple was desolate and the altar profaned, they “mourned with great lamentation” and fell to the ground, “when the signal was given with the trumpets, they cried out to Heaven” (1 Macc 4:36-40).

But in this case the metaphor is positive. In Psalm of Solomon 11:1 a voice is announcing the good news of the return of the exiles to Zion. This announcement of good news is a possible allusion to Isaiah 52:7. There a watchman lifts up his voice as he sees the returning captives coming back to Zion. The good news in Isaiah and Psalm of Solomon 11 is the end of the exile. The phrase “good news” appears in the New Testament as well, especially in Luke. The angel Gabriel came to announce good news to Zechariah (Luke 1:18) and Mary (2:10); John the Baptist preached good news to the people (Luke 3:18) and Jesus’s preaching is good news to the poor (4:18; 4:43; 7:22; 8:1; 16:16). Some New Testament scholars have seen a Roman background to “good news” (εὐαγγέλιον) since an announcement concerning the emperor may be described as “good news.” But it possible to read Luke’s use of good news within the world of Second Temple Judaism, the “good news” announced by the Gabriel, John and Jesus is the end of the exile.

Old Compass showing East and WestThis is the case for the few likes of Psalm of Solomon 11. Verse 2 compares the return of captives is compared to children coming from the north, east, west and “far distant islands.”  Like Isaiah 40:4, the Lord will make their paths level and Israel will be supervised by the Lord himself (verse 6). Like Isaiah 40:18-20 and Baruch 5:7-8, the Lord will make the desert bloom like a forest so that their journey will be easy and pleasant.

In Matthew 8:11 Jesus says “many will come from the east and west to recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” The identity of those who enter the kingdom in Matthew 8:11-12 is a matter of discussion in recent scholarship. Since Jeremias, the majority opinion is that the included “many” are believing Gentiles and that the excluded “sons of the kingdom” are unbelieving Jews (Jesus’ Promise to the Nations, 51). However, Dale Allison challenged this consensus opinion by arguing that the “many from the east and the west” are Jews from the Diaspora rather than Gentiles replacing Jews at the eschatological feast (“Who Will Come from East and West? Observations on Matt 8.11-12 /Luke 13.28-29,” IBS 11 (1989): 158-70). Allison points out that there is no text in the Hebrew Bible or the Second Temple Period which describes Gentiles as coming from the east and west. Isaiah 59:19 describes a pilgrimage from the east and west when the Redeemer comes to Zion for those in Jacob who have turned from transgression.  Psalm 107:3 describes Israel coming from the east, west, north and south.  Philo (Spec. Leg. 1.69) uses this language (”from the east and west”) to describe the return of Diaspora Jews from Alexandria and Babylon to Jerusalem for festival days.

While agreeing with many of Allison’s points, M. Bird nevertheless maintains that the consensus view is essentially correct (“Who Comes from the East and the West? Luke 13.28-29/Matt 8.11-12 and the Historical Jesus,” NTS 52 (2006): 441-57). Bird points out that the book of Isaiah has both a “pilgrimage of the Gentiles” (Isa 2:2-4) and an eschatological banquet (Isa 25:6-8).  Allison does not think that Jesus’ audience would have read the two texts together since there is no pilgrimage and conversion of the nations in the eschatological feast.

Psalm of Solomon 11 seems to be solid evidence that a biblically literate Second Temple Jewish listener would hear echoes of Isaiah 40-55. This is a call to Jewish captives in far distant lands to return to Zion at the end of the Exile. Although it cannot be said Jesus is using Psalm of Solomon 11, he certainly stands within the same traditional as this psalmist as he interprets Isaiah 40-55 (and his messianic role as the one calling Israel to gather around himself).

The writer reflects on the first destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion which followed (9:1-3). The title of the psalm is εἰς ἔλεγχον, translated as “For Proof” by Wright (OTP 2:660) but as “For Rebuke” in the Lexham LXX. The noun can have the sense of proving something to be true (in contrast to faith in Hebrews 11:1), but it is also an expression of strong disapproval, reproof or correction (BDAG; 2 Tim 3:16).

The psalmist acknowledges Israel was scattered among all the nations as a result of the righteous judgment of God. Israel had “neglected the Lord” (an articular infinitive, ἐν τῷ ἀποστῆναι). The verb can refer to a revolt (Acts 5:37) and the related noun (ἀποστασία) is often translated as a religious falling away, an apostasy. This is the sense of the word in the LXX (Deut 32:15; Jer 3:14). The writer is therefore acknowledging Israel’s guilt when they were sent into exile in 722 B.C. and 586 B.C. In Jeremiah 16:13 the Lord declared “I will hurl you out of this land into a land that neither you nor your fathers have known.” The writer of this Psalm is on the other side of that long exile and confesses the Lord to be righteous, and Israel to be lawless (ἀνομία, v. 2).

Jerusalem Jewish People going into exileThis is a significant admission from the author of this Psalm. Although it is impossible to be certain of the date of composition, the writer likely lives under Roman rule, sometime between 63 B.C. and A. D. 70. The first three verses of this Psalm are therefore evidence Jews living around the first century thought of themselves as living in a continuing state of exile. Daniel 9 expresses the idea that the exile would last not seventy years, but “seven times seventy years” (Daniel 9:20-27). N. T. Wright has promoted this idea in many of his writings and it has almost become the consensus opinion in New Testament scholarship (although see the essays in Exile: A Conversation with N. T. Wright edited by James M. Scott). Unlike Psalms of Solomon 17, there is no hint of Jewish nationalism in this particular Psalm.

It is only the Lord who can cleanse the soul from sin (9:4-7). This section of the Psalm is important for understanding the use of righteousness (δικαιοσύνη) in the first century, especially in Romans and Galatians. Psalm of Solomon 9:5 says the one who does righteousness stores up life for himself with the Lord (ὁ ποιῶν δικαιοσύνην θησαυρίζει ζωὴν αὑτῷ παρὰ κυρίῳ), and the one who unrighteousness (ἀδικία) causes his own life to be destroyed. Daniel Falk observes this verse is often cited as the “clearest example of God’s mercy earned by conduct” and he cites Mark Siefrid, “the destiny of the individual can be said to be contingent on behavior” (Justification and Variegated Nomism, 1:41).

Falk however argues Psalms of Solomon 9 intends just the opposite, only the repentant sinner will receive mercy from God. In the very next verse the psalmist describes the repentant sinner calling on God and being cleansed and restored. Verse 7 specifically states “your goodness is upon those that sin, when they repent.” The first three verses acknowledges the rebellion of Israel resulted in the exile. For the writer of this Psalm, the only solution at the present time is to pursue righteousness while recognizing even the righteous still sin and need to call upon their Lord.

Therefore the Israel of the psalmist’s day ought to recognize they are still God’s people and put their hope in God’s covenant which he made with their ancestors (9:8-11). The writer grounds this in God’s character (he is both faithful and compassionate). Israel was chosen as God’s people and God has put his name on them.

The writer does not consider the possibility God has finally rejected his people since he is confident that even after the dispersion of 586 B.C. Israel is still God’s people. Assuming the Psalm was written after Israel came under Roman power in 63 B.C., the Psalm encourages people living under yet another foreign oppressor that they are still God’s people even if they are still living in the exile.

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