Harvey, John D. Romans. Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2017. xxxiii + 429 pp.; Pb.; $29.99. Link to B&H Academic

John Harvey’s Exegetical Guide to Romans joins eight other volumes in the EGGNT series published since 2010. I have previously reviewed Greg Forbes on 1 Peter and have used Chris A. Vlachos’s volume on James (2013). These volumes provide exegetical insights based on the fifth edition of the Greek New Testament for students, teachers and pastors from a wide range of exegetical grammars and commentaries. Harvey contributed Interpreting the Pauline Letters in the Handbooks for New Testament Exegesis series (Kregel, 2012) as well as Listening to the Text: Oral Patterning in Paul’s Letters (ETS Studies 1; Baker, 1998).

In the short introduction to the book of Romans, Harvey lists six commentaries he uses throughout the guide: Cranfield (ICC, 1980); Dunn (WBC, 1988); Jewett (Hermenia, 2007); Moo (NICNT, 1996); Schreiner (BECNT, 1998), and Longenecker (NIGTC, 2017). Imagine having these six exegetical commentaries open on your desk at the same time and reading only the comments on grammar, syntax, and textual criticism. This is essentially what Harvey provides in this book. In addition to the commentaries, Harvey identifies various grammatical and syntactical elements of the text, citing advanced grammars such as Blass, Debrunner, Funk (BDF), Dan Wallace’s Greek Grammar beyond the Basics (GGBB) and A. T. Robertson.

Harvey’s outline of Romans appears in the introduction and a more detailed outline appears in the appendix. Each section begins with a short paragraph on the structure of the unit followed by a simple syntactical display of the Greek focusing on coordinating clauses. No syntactical or rhetorical features are noted on this display. The bulk of each section is a phrase by phrase analysis of key words, often citing the six commentaries. For example, in Romans 7:9 ἐγὼ δὲ ἔζων χωρὶς νόμου ποτέ (“I was once alive apart from the law,” ESV). Who is the ἐγὼ in this phrase? For Dunn, it is Adam, for Moo it is Israel, for Longenecker and Schreiner it is Paul himself. Harvey lists these three possibilities but does not indicate a preference. In this same phrase the imperfect verb ἔζων is identified as a progressive imperfect and ποτέ is an adverb of time.

As a second example, for the phrase τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν (“your reasonable service”) in Romans 12:1, Harvey points out this noun phrase in in apposition to the preceding infinitival phrase (citing Robertson, BDF and Moule), explains the use of the definite article and the placement of the adjective. He compares Cranfield’s view that λογικν means “consistent with a proper understanding of the truth of God revealed in Christ” with Schreiner’s “eminently reasonable,” Moo’s “true” and Longenecker’s “this is your proper act of worship as rational people.” Harvey comments of lexical issues as well, citing the third edition of Bauer by page and section (for example, BDAG 700c) but also all the major theological dictionaries such as TDNT and he occasionally cites a modern translation.

One of the most valuable contributions of this Exegetical Guide is the “for further study” section following a unit. In fact, these short bibliographies are worth the price of the book. They focus on a particular exegetical problem in the unit which have generated significant secondary literature. For example, after Romans 5:1-11 Harvey collects articles, book sections and monographs on peace (5:1), hope (5:2), and reconciliation (5:11). There is more than a page on the very difficult problem of the identity of “I” in Romans 7. These bibliographies are brief compared to the massive output of scholars over the years, and they are focused on exegetical topics rather than theology or history of interpretation. In all, there are ninety-six of these units, providing students with the basic bibliography for the major interpretative problems in Romans.

Each unit concludes with a few homiletical suggestions. For the most part these are brief outlines showing how the exegesis might be used in a sermon. Harvey’s homiletical suggests look very much like passage outlines.

It is possible someone might look at this books and wonder if they could not do all of this with good Bible Study Software (Logos, BibleWorks, Accordance). The short answer is: no. Since this book is not a reading guide, Greek verbs are only rarely parsed and no vocabulary is glossed. A student might create a reading guide with one of the Bible Software tools, or use a reading guide from another publisher. What Harvey provides is a summary of the exegetical issues for a given phrase, picking out the data from all of the major resources and gathering them into a single paragraph.

This exegetical guide is a valuable tool for doing exegesis in Romans. However, the book does not replace learning koine Greek. For example, in one of the examples above, Harvey identified a word as a “progressive imperfect.” Without taking an intermediate Greek grammar course or the equivalent, the student will not be able to make an interpretive point without knowing what a “progressive imperfect” is. But this common criticism of “reading guides” for the Greek New Testament does not apply here since Harvey’s exegetical guide requires much from the reader in order to fully use the wealth of detail he provides.

This book will be welcome for anyone studying the Greek text of Romans, especially for students working on exegetical papers. But for there is much in this book to help the pastor or Bible teacher to prepare to present the message of Romans to their congregations.

 

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

Starting this week I am teaching an undergrad class on the “Jewish Christian Literature.” Essentially, this is on Hebrews through Revelation. Sometimes this section of the New Testament is called the “catholic epistles” or the “general epistles” since they are perceived as being universal in appeal. James, 1 Peter and 1 John written as circular letters, but 2 and 3 John and Jude seem to be directed at specific congregations. While Hebrews more like a sermon than a letter, Revelation includes seven letters to churches struggling with real issues faced by those local congregations near the end of the first century.

But as I point out the first day of class, we could probably call these letters the “other letters” or the “Not Paul” collection. This is what is difficult about reading books like Hebrews and James. Christian Theology is almost always focused on Paul (and for good reasons). Yet this literature indicates there were other early church thinkers who attempted to explain Jesus to Jewish people rather than Gentiles. The results are compatible with Pauline theology, but also quite distinct. It is that distinctiveness I am interested.

I personally prefer to call these books the Jewish Christian Literature because most of the books are addressed to Jewish Christians in the Diaspora. I will work on the details later, for now I am only stating my conviction that (with the exception of 2 Peter) all the letters are “more Jewish” than the average Pauline letters. They appear to me to represent a stream of early Christianity which was ethnically Jewish and continued to practice some (all?) elements of their ancestral faith while believing Jesus was the Messiah, the fulfillment of prophecy from the Hebrew Bible.

But what does “Jewish Christian” mean? Paul was Jewish and Christian. It is not as though Paul writes “Gentile Christian” letters. In fact, it might be the case there are no true “Gentile Christian” letters in the New Testament since even Luke-Acts has a Pauline influence. By giving these letters the title “Jewish Christian” I want to highlight the fact they are all addressed to “more Jewish than not churches” and Christians who looked to James, Peter, and John as their authorities rather than Paul. In contrast, churches in Corinth, Thessalonica, Philippi, and Ephesus were “more Gentile than not” and looked to Paul as the authority (for the most part, anyway).

Is this a fair way to read Hebrews through Revelation? Is it possible to set Pauline Theology to one the side and read Hebrews (for example) without thinking in Pauline categories? Is that a healthy way to read these books?

Campbell, Douglas A. Campbell’s Paul: An Apostle’s Journey. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2017. 219 pp. $25, pb.  Link to Eerdmans

At slightly less than 200 pages of text, Campbell’s new introduction to the life and thought of the Apostle Paul is written with the layperson in mind. There are no long discussions of the New Perspective on Paul nor does Campbell engage in highly technical language in the book. Only rarely does he engage the Greek text. The book uses endnotes (fourteen pages) making for a smooth reading experience. Campbell includes a number of personal insights which draw the ancient text forward to contemporary issues. For example, he concludes his first chapter on Corinth with a section entitled “the take-home from Corinth.” Chapters conclude with a series of questions designed for group discussions or perhaps even short writing prompts for papers.

As he does in detail in Framing Paul (Eerdmans, 2014), Campbell tells the story of Paul’s life based on the Epistles first, and then uses the book of Acts. Since there are so many questions surrounding the authorship and genre of Acts, many scholars consider the story of Paul in Acts to be a hagiography written to support the unity of the early church and highlight the successes of the Pauline mission. For example, Campbell suggests Paul’s visit to Athens is intentionally modeled after Socrates, a wise man who was unjustly arrested and executed. Although Campbell things Acts is “99 percent accurate” (p. 5), he still argues a sound historical methodology should use the authentic letters of Paul to “frame” the contours of Paul’s life before turning to the book of Acts.

Framing Paul’s story with the Epistles rather than Acts results in two detailed periods in Paul’s life. First, the events around the time of his conversion are clear from the epistles, especially Galatians, from A.D. 31-41. Second, the events of A.D. 49-52 are very detailed based on the Corinthian letters and Paul’s anxious comments at the end of Romans concerning his plans to return to Jerusalem with the collection. Acts is the only source for Paul’s life after this time (his arrest in Jerusalem, house arrest in Caesarea, journey to Rome and house arrest in Rome). For the most part, this “last journey” (Acts 20-28) is the subject of the final chapter of the book.

But this book is more than the story of Paul’s missionary journeys. Campbell suggests Paul makes a theological journey as well. Clearly his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus changed his thinking considerably, but as he encountered new challenges as the apostle to the Gentiles Paul was forced to think and rethink how the Gospel challenges the culture of the first century. For example, Campbell has two chapters on the Corinthian church: “Culture Wars at Corinth” and “Navigating Sex and Gender.”

Both of these chapters concern how the Gospel ought to change the way Corinthian Gentiles think about common cultural practices. Campbell offers a list of fourteen problems in the Corinthian church which more or less form the outline to 1 Corinthians. The problems boil down to a basic failure of Christians to relate to one another with kindness, beginning with the leaders of the church who were engaged in bitter competition with one another. What is more, the Corinthian church struggle with what Campbell calls “Christian intellectualism” as well as “sexual intellectualism” (100, 104). He discusses the difficult “silencing of women” passage in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36 by suggesting the Corinthian women were loosening their hair and acting like devotees of Dionysus (110). Paul does not intend to silence all women in this passage, only those who are behaving inappropriately in the congregation.

The second part of the book covers several theological topics. Campbell deals with “enemies” of Paul, the covenant vs. contract, the status of Israel, and eschatology. The title of the chapter on Paul’s view of the future for Israel is entitled “God wins” and deals in part with the difficult text in Romans 11 that “all Israel will be saved.” He points out Paul’s argument is based on the Old Testament motif of the remnant, God never lets go of Israel.

What is more, God is a covenantal God who always faithful to his promises. Therefore, “all Israel will be saved” means just that. It is a kind of “Pauline universalism” based on the character of God. Campbell says “the covenant is unbreakable, and ultimately enwraps us all in the gracious purpose of God that was established with us through his son before the foundation of the world” (169). The following few paragraphs unpack tentatively a sort of universalism, “I expect everyone to be raised in glory, although some more shamefacedly than others.” In an end note, Campbell points out his view here is not far from C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce. Intriguing, but I suspect this controversial conclusion will draw attention away from the rest of the book.

Conclusion:  Campbell’s book is a pleasure to read. His presentation of the basic ideas of Paul’s thought are clear and he draws conclusions which will resonate with the contemporary reader. Perhaps the biggest drawback to the book is its brevity; some topics worthy of a chapter are dispatched in a few pages. This new introduction to Paul ought to serve well for both undergraduate and graduate level classes as well as any interested layperson who wants to understand the life and teaching of the Apostle Paul.

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

 

Glahn, Sandra, ed. Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2017, 303 pp. Hb; $22.99. Link to Kregel

There are quite a few books series and Bible studies on the so-called “bad girls” of the Bible. These are usually written for the layperson and emphasize grace and forgiveness as the main application of these kinds of stories. In the preface to this new collection of essays from Kregel Academic, editor Sandra Glahn indicates the motivation for this book is “to handle faithfully the biblical text” (13). This is in contrast to fanciful novels or popular Bible studies on female characters in the Bible, but it also is a challenge to popular preaching about these women. Glahn cites as examples blaming Eve for the guilt of the human race, or blaming Sarah for the political tensions in the modern Middle East. Popular preachers can make a great sermon by “maligning” Bathsheba as a “vixen” or the Samaritan women as an adulterer, or Mary Magdalene as a prostitute. Other women are marginalized. Glahn notes the omission of Deborah and Huldah from charts of the prophets in some study Bibles, or (I would add) the translation of “servant” in the ESV instead of “deacon” (NRSV) in Romans 16:1 as well as the always controversial status of Junia in Romans 16:7.

The essays in this collection hopes to correct popular misconceptions about some women in the Bible by paying careful attention to the cultural and social context as well as the literary form of the biblical text. Other than a generally conservative view of Scripture, there is nothing controversial about this method. What might be surprising to some readers is how often the portrayal of these women in popular preaching and teaching is skewed or just plain wrong. In his short methodology introduction to the book, Henry Rouse points out the essays in this collection seek to explain what the text actually says in order to understand the point the original author made. Yet there are “timeless truths” with are relevant to a contemporary discussion of gender (25-6). In each of the essays, the authors devote space to understanding the social and cultural factors which bear on their exegesis of the text and attempt understand the text as it might have been by an ancient audience.

These methodological values are found in each chapter, but I will focus on Sarah Bowler’s article on Bathsheba. She begins by listing several of the popular assumptions about the story: Bathsheba was bathing naked and caused the king to stumble, and she willingly entered into an affair with the king. In contrast, Bowler argues the text does not portray Bathsheba as enticing the king at all, rather, David abused his power as the king to bring her to into the palace where he raped Bathsheba. By describing the incident as an “affair” makes both David and Bathsheba responsible, but a close reading of the biblical text indicates Bathsheba is silent throughout the story and is a victim of rape by David. For some Bible readers, it is disturbing to describe the incident as a rape, but this is what the text says. Bowler supports this reading of the text with a series of exegetical observations from the text of the Hebrew Bible. She then draws several implications for ministry, especially for helping victims of sexual predators in the church (98-100).

The first section of this book treats the so-called “bad girls” in the Jesus’s genealogy (Luke 4). These women are involved in a sexually compromising story, or at least that is the common reading of these stories. . Yet, as the authors of each of the essays makes clear, the woman are far more moral than the men. For example, in Carolyn Custis James essay on Tamar, she describes her as “the righteous prostitute.” Few pastors would dare preach the story in Genesis 38, but James argues Tamar is a strong exemplary model who is vindicated by God (46) and is a startling example of a hero (48). Eva Bleeker argues Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho, is a “paragon of otherness” (50) who becomes the hero of the story when she confesses her faith in the Lord, the God of Israel (53). Marnie Legaspi discusses the potentially scandalous behavior of Ruth, a Moabite woman who seems to throw herself at the feet of the Boaz, a wealthy Bethlehemite. Legaspi rejects the overtly sexual interpretation of Ruth’s actions, suggesting Ruth is a model of “virtuous obedience” (73) as she “demonstrates astonishing courage in her obedience on the threshing floor” (79). Timothy Ralston’s essay on the Virgin Mary at least seems out of place in the volume since rarely would anyone dare to describe Mary as a “vixen.” But Ralston is interested in the marginalization of the biblical Mary by the overwhelming history of theological speculation about Mary. He has in mind the Immaculate Conception and bodily assumption of Mary as well as her role as co-redemptrix in Roman Catholic theology.

The second section of the book (ch. 6-11) surveys six women in the Old Testament. Glenn Kreider’s essay on Eve deals with non-biblical readings of Genesis 2-3 which paint Eve as the “mother of all seducers” and make Eve responsible for sin entering the human race. Although there are many examples of this in both Jewish and Christian history, Kreider cites popular preacher John Piper who described the “power of a sinful woman to control a sinful man” (133). Kreider rightly points out Eve is not blamed for sin in the New Testament, although he only touches on the very difficult problem text in 1 Tim 2:12-14. Eugene Merrill places the story of Sarah and Hagar in the proper ancient near eastern context in order to show her actions fit into that patriarchal culture. Tony Maalouf examines the other female character in Genesis 12-16, Hagar. Hagar is both a slave and a concubine, yet unlike Sarah she encounters God, receives a promise God that her son would also be a father of a great nation.  Ron Pierce discusses the only female judge, Deborah. As with most of the women discussed in this collection Deborah is a strong female character in contrast to weak male. Christa L. McKirland contributes an essay on the most obscure character in the book, Huldah the prophet. She is significant since she serves as a court prophet for King Josiah at a critical point in Judah’s history. Despite being one of the few female prophets in the Old Testament, she is rarely recognized as such by later church theologians. McKirland surveys a few major commentators in both Christian and Rabbinic history. Finally, Sharifa Stevens examines a minor character in Esther, Vashti. Vashti is a silent queen in the book of Esther who refuses the king’s command to “display her beauty” to the men at the royal banquet. Stevens surveys the suggestion Vashti is Amesteris in Herodotus and the rabbinic tradition she is Nebuchadnezzar’s granddaughter (although she does not clearly reject either view). Stevens sees Vashti as a courageous woman whose defiance of her husband is essential for God’s plan to save his people later in the book.

The final section of the book corrects some misconceptions about a few New Testament women. Lynn Cohick re-examines the evidence that the Samaritan woman in John 4 was an adulteress. This chapter appeared in Christianity Today and is quite brief compared to other chapters in the book. She observes the text does not tell us why she was at the well at noon, despite the well-worn claim that “proper women” went to the well in the morning rather than at noon, there is little evidence this was the case in the first century. It is also unlikely she was a serial divorcee, only a prominent and wealthy person could afford that many divorces! It is also unlikely she was sexually promiscuous since she has enough respect in her village to get them all to come out to hear Jesus. Cohick therefore suggests she is the victim of a series of unfortunate events: her husbands had died (although perhaps one of the marriages ended in divorce). There is less in the text implying she was a well-known adulterous woman in the Samaritan village. Similarly, Karla Zazueta deals with the popular portrayal of Mary Magdalene (some of the wildest suggests come from the Da Vinci Code and other conspiracy-laden fiction). Mary is introduced in Luke 8:2 as a woman healed of seven demons. Zazueta points out demon possession does not mean she was a prostitute. The distortion of Mary’s character seems to stem from Gregory the Great, the first to associate the woman in Luke 7:36-50 with Mary mentioned a few verses later. Zazueta argues there is nothing in the text of Luke which requires the unnamed woman in Luke 7 to be Mary. Rather than a former prostitute, Mary can be fairly described as a female follower of Jesus who is chosen to be the first witness of the resurrection. Finally in the New Testament section, Amy Peeler deals with the suggestion the Junia mentioned in Romans 16:7 is in fact a woman. Historically the name has been understood as a male since the verse implies Andronicus and Junia are apostles. If Junia was an apostle, many scholars assumed the name referred to a man (since only men could be apostles). Peeler also interacts with Richard Bauckham’s argument Junia refers to Joanna, one of the first witnesses of the resurrection (Luke 23:55-24:7.

Conclusion. This collection of essays aims to dispel popular misunderstandings of these “sexualized, vilified, and marginalized women of the Bible.” Each essay succeeds in dispelling bad but popular versions of these stories. This book is not driven by any feminist theological or political agenda nor is there any sustained argument for or against women in ministry in the modern church.

As is often the case, not every essay in this collection is of equal value. In every case, the authors attend to the details of the text and demonstrate the woman is not a “vixen.” However, I am not always convinced every character in the book is a misunderstood or marginalized woman. Is there really a sermon out there which marginalized Vashti? Are there that many popular preachers who sexualize Ruth’s actions? One other minor quibble: There is far more room in this volume for other New Testament women, Sapphira, Priscilla, and Lydia would have been worthy of a chapter and adding Phoebe to the chapter on Junia would have been welcome.

 

NB: Lynn Cohick’s chapter is excerpted on Kregel’s website and volume editor Sandra Glahn interviewed Carolyn James in December 2017 on the function of Tamar in the Joseph narrative.

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

 

 

 

 

I have a brand new copy of N. T. Wright’s Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013 (Fortress, 2013). This 620-page book is the companion volume to Paul and the Faithfulness of God and collects Wright’s most articles on Paul over the last 35 years. Several are previously unpublished exegetical essays on Paul’s theology. These thirty-three articles are essential reading for students of Paul whether you think Wright is a friend or a foe. Ben Witherington III blurbs the book:

“Pauline Perspectives gathers into one convenient place the multitudinous essays and lectures on Paul and his thought world that have come forth from the prolific pen of N. T. Wright during the course of the last 35 years. Here you can see the development of seminal ideas, major themes, and the relentless pursuit of understanding important trajectories in Paul’s thought, ranging from justification to the righteousness of God to atonement to much more. Reading a book like this is like going to a great feast put on by a master chef and discovering there were no ephemeral starters but all meat, and none of it half-baked either, but well worth chewing over and always nourishing. Bon appetit!”

The book is $70 retail (but who pays retail?) I ended up with two copies, so I will celebrate a new academic semester by sending this book to a randomly selected person who leaves a comment below with their name and and the name of their favorite Pauline Scholar.

I will pick the winner on January 23. Be sure to check back to see if the odds were in your favor. If no one wins, I will send the copy to Jim West since he is a huge N. T. Wright fan.

Missed the last giveaway? Follow me on twitter: @plong42

I offered an extra copy of Robert Gundry, Peter: False Disciple and Apostate back on January 3 and today I pick a winner. There were 20 comments (after I deleted some duplicates), so I pasted your names in a spreadsheet, sorted them randomly, then generated a random number at random.org. And the winner is…..

Charles

Congrats to Charles! I guess you are like Cher or Madonna, known only by a single name…Please contact me as soon as possible via email (plong42 at gmail .com) with your mailing address and I will drop the book in the mail ASAP. If you are disappointed, I will launch another giveaway today.

Sumney, Jerry L. Steward of God’s Mysteries: Paul and Early Church Tradition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016. 209 pp. Pb; $28.   Link to Eerdmans

In recent years a number of books have been published making the claim Paul “invented Christianity.” For example, Hyam Maccoby’s The Mythmaker (Harper & Row, 1987), Pamela Eisenbaum, Paul Was Not a Christian (2010), Robert Orlando, Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe (Cascade, 2014) or Barrie Wilson, How Jesus Became Christian (St. Martins, 2008). These books argue for a strong contrast between the Jesus of the Gospels and the Pauline Epistles, suggesting it is impossible Paul knew Jesus or his teachings. These claims are usually answered by examining theological connections between Jesus and Paul or answering the negative critiques directly. See, for example, Todd Still’s Jesus and Paul Reconnected (Eerdmans, 2007) or David Wenham’s Did St Paul Get Jesus Right? (Lion Hudson, 2011).

Jerry Sumney surveys this discussion in his first chapter (“Thinking about Paul’s Place in the Early Church”) and suggests a different method for connecting Paul to Jesus. Rather than finding connections between Jesus and Paul, his goal in this book is to “explore the relationship between the teachings of the earliest church and Paul’s thought” (15). Sumney defines “pre-Pauline tradition” as material which comes from “a time before Paul was influential in the church” (19). The book argues Paul “remained dependent on the theological ideas and developments that were in the church” (19). Paul was therefore not an independent voice creating doctrines no one in the church had ever considered before and he continued to stay connected to the wider church as he developed his theology. Yet there is some creativity in the way Paul developed the traditions he received.

To achieve this goal, Sumney will examine citations of “preformed tradition” in the undisputed Pauline letters. He recognizes the problems of confidently identifying preexisting tradition, so he proposes a fourteen-point criteria for identifying a particular text as pre-Pauline. These criteria and not unlike Hays’s famous seven criteria for detecting allusions to the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament and have the same strengths and weaknesses. Some of these are clear and should not be controversial. For example, the presence of an introductory formula explicitly identifying a tradition or terminology which is absent elsewhere in Paul’s letters may indicate the use of a preformed tradition. If Paul shifts from first person plural to second or third person, especially with verbs of confession or praise he may be alluding to a tradition.

Other criteria are more open to debate. For example, Sumney includes the use of relative pronouns and participial phrases as an important indication Paul is alluding to a tradition. However, the use of relative clauses may be due to Paul’s writing style rather than a preformed tradition. He also sees statements which are not “fully congruent with the author’s theology seen elsewhere” (18) or is an interruption of the flow of a text as an indication of the presence of a tradition. This assumes Paul could not himself compose a one-off saying that is different than what appears in the rest of Romans or Galatians. It also assumes we understand “congruency of Pauline Theology” the same way Paul did. Since the database of Pauline letters is so small, unusual sayings or interruptions are to be expected.

Even with these objections, Sumney’s criteria are important since they control parallelomania. Outside of a few places in which Paul directly claims to be handing along a tradition (1 Cor 15:3-5, for example), Sumney recognizes his argument for any given text as a pre-Pauline tradition is inductive. The fourteen criteria are listed in order of significance, so that “parallels in rhythm of lines” does not carry the same weight as “presence of a citation formula.”

He applies this method in a series of thematic chapters: the meaning of Christ’s death (ch. 2); the identity of Jesus (ch. 3); “understandings of salvation” (ch. 4); the “The Coming of the Lord” (ch. 5); the Lord’s Supper (ch. 6). In each chapter he offers few paragraphs on each of the clearest allusions to pre-Pauline material, often interacting with the major commentaries.

Sumney begins with one of the clearest examples of Paul’s use of a tradition handed down to him, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. This text is a “confessional piece” which demonstrates the earliest church interpreted the death and resurrection of Jesus through the lens of Scripture” (22). That Paul would consider Jesus as Lord (Phil 2:6-11) is certainly grounded in earliest Christian worship, since the church “had already assigned Jesus an exalted position as a messianic and eschatological figure” (55). This runs counter to some readings of Paul (James Tabor, for example). Sumney’s conclusions are in line with Richard Bauckham and Gordon Fee who also argue the phrase “Jesus is Lord” is akin to a creedal statement.

In his final chapter (“I Handed On to You . . . What I Received”), Sumney concludes that Paul was not the originator of the early church’s theology. “He seldom develops new assertions about Christ’s nature or word or other theological doctrine beyond what is found in the traditions he cites” (173).  If Paul cited (or alluded) to traditions, he expected his readers to recognize these statements For Sumney, Paul part of the mainstream of the early church (169) and he is the leading interpreter of the beliefs expressed in the church’s earliest traditions (174). Although it is clear Paul did often cite traditions handed down to him and likely used traditional language just as calling Jesus “Lord,” there is at least some evidence he stood outside the mainstream of the early church in some ways. A fair reading of Galatians 1-2 would indicate there was some tension between Paul and Peter, Barnabas, and the “men from James.”

Is it the case Paul always develops the traditions he received? Since his goal was to study the pre-Pauline material, Sumney does not attempt to examine the material which is unique in Paul. Despite the laudable goal of keeping Paul and Jesus as close as possible, there are theological points which do seem at odds with the rest of the earliest church. For example, Paul’s view of the role of the Law in the present age was controversial in the early church (Acts 15, Galatians). It is unlikely any Jewish Christian would have considered the guardianship of the Law was at an end “now that this faith has come” (Galatians 3:23-4:7). There are a few texts in which Paul claims to be speaking the words of the Lord as if he is a prophet (1 Cor 7:10 and perhaps 1 Thess 4:15). In proving Paul was not a “Lone Ranger” who was creating theology no one had ever considered before, is possible to flatten the distinctions and miss what is unique in Paul.

Nevertheless, Sumney succeeds in his goal of identifying many examples of Paul’s use of traditions which were in some sense handed down to him before he began to write his letters. By developing a clear method, Sumney is able to make a compelling case in nearly every example he offers in this book.

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

Barclay, John M. G. Pauline Churches and Diaspora Jews. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016. 454 pp. Pb; $48.   Link to Eerdmans

This collection of essays published between 1992 and 2011 was originally published by Mohr Siebeck. Chapter 1 was written as an introduction to that volume and chapters 18 and 19 appeared for the first time. The remaining sixteen essays appeared in various journals and Festschrifts. The Eerdmans edition is essentially the same, only a few typographical errors have been corrected. The volume concludes with a bibliography, Indices of Sources, Authors and Selected Topics.

In his introductory essay “Pauline Churches, Jewish Communities and the Roman Empire. Introducing the Issues” Barclay begins with a survey of contemporary social-historical research into the early Christ-movement. Beginning in the 1970s with the work of Malherbe, Thiessen and Meeks, biblical scholarship has benefited greatly from new research into the social world of the Roman Empire as well as a flood of new research into Diaspora Judaism. Barclay points out the evidence is occasionally rich, too often scattered and ambiguous (11).

First, how did Pauline churches compare to Diaspora Jewish communities in the Mediterranean world? Are Gentile Pauline converts in some sense “Jewish”? Are Jewish converts in some way renouncing their ethnicity? In the first collection of essays in this volume (ch. 2-8), Barclay observes the “relative fragility of the Pauling Churches in comparison with Diaspora synagogues”(12). Gentiles in Pauline churches were resocialized “in Christ” rather than in the Jewish communities. Barclay discusses the role of the Law in his second chapter (“Do We Undermine the Law?’: A Study of Romans 14.1—15.6”). This text offers a valuable insight into the “practical effects of Paul’s stance on the law” (37) even if the word does not appear in the section. The issue is sharing food (open commensality) between Jew and Gentile converts. For Paul, mutual toleration is the basic principle but the “stronger” ought to refrain in order not to offend the “weaker” with respect to food or Sabbath traditions. The “strong” are free to eat whatever they want and to not observe Sabbath. A result of this is a protection of Law-observing Jewish Christians but also an allowance for Gentile Christians to neglect the Law (54-55). Although Barclay does not address the other side of the issue, based on Galatians, Paul would not have permitted Gentile Christians to begin keeping the Law, and perhaps he did not recommend Jewish Christians to stop keeping the Law. He does think the long-term effect of Paul’s view of the Law in Romans 14-15 undermined the social and cultural integrity of Law-observant Christians in Rome (56).

The other major boundary marker in the early Christian movement was circumcision. Barclay compares Paul and Philo on circumcision (“Romans 2.25—29 in Social and Cultural Context,” ch. 3). The article interacts with Daniel Boyarin who argued in his A Radical Jew that Pauline religion was a “relgio-cultural formation contiguous with other Hellenistic Judaisms.” Barclay argues Boyarin has made an important observation but “subtly mistaken” (61-62). Paul’s redefinition of circumcision as a “hidden phenomenon ‘in the Spirit’ in Rom 2:25-29” is not an intellectual drive for a Hellenistic “universal human essence,” but rather  a radical commitment to live out  biblical categories in a new, multi-ethnic community. This cannot be fitted into a form of contemporary Judaism (79).

Chapters 6-7 both concern deviance and apostasy in early Christianity and Judaism. Beginning with Howard Becker’s Outsiders (1963), Barclay defines deviancy and compares the case of Philo’s nephew, Tiberius Julius Alexander. Alexander was a high ranking member of the Roman administration in Egypt and was Titus’s second-in-command during the siege of Jerusalem. Neither Philo nor Josephus consider him to be an apostate. He then compares Alexander to Paul, who was denounced and expelled from synagogues and was opposed by Christian Jews. Paul was therefore viewed by some Jews as an apostate. There are some situations in Paul’s churches in which a person is judged to be a deviant (1 Cor 5, or example). For Paul, the Corinthian believers are “too comfortable in their social integration” (137), perhaps they are (in Paul’s view), not deviant enough. Barclay also examines charges of apostasy in 3 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Philo, Josephus, and 4 Maccabees.

Second and third, to what degree was the social identity practiced in Pauline assemblies compatible with social expressions in Diaspora Jewish communities in the Mediterranean world? How did Pauline churches invent and maintain durable identity? What are distinct Christian practices?  The essays in the second major section of the collection address these issues (ch. 9-13). For example, Christian non-practice of idolatry had significant social impact for Gentile converts. Breaking with family gods would cause deep social offense and the early Christian movement would look like a dangerous superstition to outsiders. In addition, Christianity lacked the trappings of normal religion in the Roman world: there were no altars, sacrifices, or priesthood.

In his “Thessalonica and Corinth. Social Contrasts in Pauline Christianity” (ch. 9), Barclay suggests these dealt with social identity and interaction with outsiders differently because one church faced conflict and the other did not. At Thessalonica, the church has an apocalyptic outlook which encouraged them to embrace social alienation as normal” (186). At Corinth, on the other hand, the members of the church were integrated in Corinthian culture and never faced social ostracism experienced by the Thessalonians (199).

The following two essays in the collection examine elements of this thesis. The emphasis on speech in the early Christian communities is the subject of “πνευματικός in the Social Dialect of Pauline Christianity” (ch. 10). The term πνευματικός had “a degree of semantic indeterminacy” which allowed the early Christians to develop insider/outsider categories. In “‘That You May Not Grieve, Like the Rest Who Have No Hope’ (1 Thess 4.13): Death and Early Christian Identity” (ch. 11), Barclay argues Paul makes the first moves towards “Christianizing death.” Compared to Roman mourning rituals, the Christian sense of hope was so remarkable that Christians were distinct even in their death (235).

Fourth, how did Diaspora Jewish and Christian communities negotiate their relationship with Roman power and Roman Religion? The third major section of the book addresses Paul Josephus, and Rome (ch. 14-19). The issue of Paul’s attitude toward Rome has been a particularly controversial issue in recent years. Barclay’s approach is to read Josephus through the lens of postcolonial theory (30). Josephus is a good candidate for postcolonial reading since he wrote under Roman patronage while attempting to tell the story of Israel.

The first four essays in this section (ch. 14-17) are close readings of Josephus’s careful navigation of Roman power. Turning to Paul, Barclay sees different themes. Paul wrote under Roman rule, but he occasionally touches on the Roman Empire, and usually only in passing. Barclay argues Paul was neither apolitical nor covertly anti-imperial (“Paul, Roman Religion and the Emperor: Mapping the Point of Conflict,” ch. 18). His critique of Rome is not based on Roman ideology but rather the focus of worship. Any worship not directed at the “living God” through Christ is not acceptable. Rome is simply “this evil age” and stands condemned “on the apocalyptic stage newly configured in the Christ-event” (33).

Barclay therefore argues the Roman Empire was more or less insignificant to Paul (ch. 19). In the final essay of the collection, Barclay interacts with N. T. Wright’s view that Paul’s theology was directly opposed to the Roman Empire. After a short review of the state of the question in scholarship, Barclay summarizes Wright’s major points (scattered throughout several publications). Wright emphasizes the pervasiveness of the imperial cult and he many echoes of imperial language in the Pauline letters (savior, Lord, salvation, gospel, etc.) From this, Wright concludes Paul’s message “could not but be construe as deeply counter imperial, as subversive to the whole edifice of the Roman Empire” (369). Barclay responds by “reframing the issues.” For example, with respect to vocabulary, Barclay wonders if Paul’s use of terms like salvation create an antithetical relationship between Christian salvation and imperial salvation. Certainly they might have been heard as anti-imperial, but for Barclay, this is different than Wright’s “must have been heard” (378). For Barclay Paul does not recognize any empire as an autonomous political system, all are doomed to destruction by the God who establishes kingdoms (385). If Paul’s Gospel is subversive, it is because he does not oppose the empire on their own terms. He does not attack Augustus as the savior because Rome “nevr was and never would be a significant actor in the drama of history;” Rome is reduced to “bit-part players in a drama scripted by the cross and resurrection of Jesus” (386-7).

Conclusion. Volumes of collected essays are always welcome since the draw together articles from often obscure journals or expensive volumes. By making this collection available in a less expensive volume, Eerdmans has provided scholars with a rich collection of stimulating essays on how early Christianity interacted with the Roman world.

 

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

Gunrdy, PeterIt is time to give a few books way to celebrate the New Year. I happen to have an extra copy of Robert Gundry, Peter: False Disciple and Apostate according to Saint Matthew (Eerdmans 2015). The book is new, but the cover has some damage (possibly heat on rippled the finish). If you look at it in the right light, it looks perfect.

This short study by Robert Gundry makes the surprising claim that Matthew considered Peter to be a “false disciple and apostate.” In the introduction to the book Gundry makes his motivations clear: this is not an anti-Catholic book nor is he interested in subverting any traditions about Peter. He not particularly interested in the “historical Peter,” assuming a history of Peter’s life could be written. Gundry’s project is strictly limited to the presentation of Peter in Matthew’s gospel only.

In order to reach this conclusion, Gundry analyzes every appearance of Peter in the Gospel of Matthew using redaction criticism in order to show Matthew edited Mark’s narrative to present Peter as an example of a disciple who was very close to Jesus but ultimately failed to follow through on his commitment to Jesus. In the end, Peter is left “outside in the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Gundry’s use of redaction criticism is well-known from his commentaries on Matthew and Mark, therefore many will pre-judge some of his comments based on his method alone.

I reviewed the book in August 2015 and I cannot recall another book review which generated so many responses (both for and against Gundry’s thesis). So read the review, stay for the comments and then enter to win the book.

To have a chance to win the book, leave a comment on this post and I will pick a random winner Friday, January 12, 2018.

The first Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for 2018 is Todd Wilson’s Galatians: Gospel-rooted Living. This 2013 commentary is in the Preaching the Word series from Crossway Books. Todd Wilson is has a PhD from Cambridge University and serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois. Wilson recently edited Becoming a Pastor Theologian: New Possibilities for Church Leadership (IVP Academic 2016). I happened to attend his paper on Galatians at the 2017 ETS meeting in Providence and found it very stimulating, so I am looking forward to this commentary.

Michael Bird blurbed the book:

“Todd Wilson has written a deeply pastoral and theologically competent commentary on Galatians that is an exemplary effort at Biblical exposition. There are some doozy passages in Galatians, especially on the Law, and Wilson provides a plain explanation and then shows readers how these texts relate to modern Christian living. A wonderful synergy of homiletical energy and honest exegesis.”

For only $1.99 more, you can add Ray Ortlund Jr.’s Proverbs:Wisdom that Works (2012) in the same Preaching the Word series.  Graeme Goldsworthy said “The strength of Ray Ortlund’s study of Proverbs is its Christ-centeredness. The wisdom of Proverbs loses none of its practical value, but rather is given its ultimate fulfillment as an expression of the wisdom of Christ.”

Logos is also offering Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s Acts 1-8 for $9.99. The Lloyd-Jones commentary was originally in six volumes, so Logos will add six separate resources to your library; that works out to $1.67ish per volume.

The giveaway this month is the Crossway D.A. Carson Collection (7 vols.,  $105.99 value). There are several ways to get chances to win this collection, visit the Logos Free Book of the Month for details. The free books (and almost free) books are only available through January 2018.

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Christian Theology

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