Book Review: Edward Klink III and Darian R. Lockett, Understanding Biblical Theology

Klink III, Edward W. and Darian R. Lockett. Understanding Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich. Zondervan, 2012. 193 pp. pb; $17.99. Link.

Defining biblical theology has always been a difficult problem. First, everyone who works with the Bible seems to think that their theology is “biblical” in one way or another. Almost everyone who writes a systematic theology necessarily uses the Bible and cannot read texts without doing some sort of exegesis on the text. Separating biblical from systematic theology is therefore no easy task. Second, there is occasionally some animosity between biblical and systematic theology. For many, biblical theology is the “real work” of interpreting the Bible, as opposed to systematic theology, which forces the Bible into categories in the service of dogmatic statements intended to serve denominational interests. Third, because biblical theology is often used to describe the theology of a narrow segment of the New Testament (Pauline Theology vs. Johannine Theology), the overall “plot” of the Bible was ignored.

Understanding Biblical TheologyKlink and Lockett (both Ph.D from St. Andrews, both associate professors of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University) provide a structure for thinking about how scholars are doing biblical theology today. This necessarily involves asking questions about the relationship between the Testaments as sources for theology. How does a “New Testament Church” create theology using the Hebrew Bible? What is the relationship between the God’s people in the Old Testament and the present church? Is there a unifying theology that tells the whole story of the Bible?

The format of the book is simple. For each of the five points on their continuum, Klink and Lockett offer a chapter defining the view then a chapter examining a particular scholar as an example of how that method is worked out in practice. These approaches are set up in the book from left to right on a scale and they are roughly chronological rather “liberal to conservative.” While surveying the work of the writer, Klink and Lockett provide a short evaluation. The book concludes with a summary chart explaining how each of the five views would answer the five basic questions posed in the introduction.

Historical Description – James Barr. This view of biblical theology intentionally ignores contemporary meaning either for application or theology. As Klink and Lockett describe it, the interest of biblical theology is in “what it meant” not “what it means.” This approach will potentially result in a “theology of Paul” that is in fact different than a “theology of John.” But that is not a problem since it is not the task of biblical theology to synthesize these two authors into some sort of dogmatic theology. Klink and Lockett state that those scholars who take this approach see no relationship between the Old Testament and the New, they are “separate religions” and there is no legitimate reason to find a link between the two. This is certainly true for Barr, but I am not convinced that is always the case, especially in the light of the influence of the New Perspective on Paul and recent advances in Historical Jesus studies. These areas of study certainly qualify for this category, but they also forge a kind of continuity between the “religion of the Old Testament” and Christian theology by emphasizing the continuity between Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity.

History of Redemption – D. A. Carson.  The second and third categories are very similar. The history of Redemption view recognizes that there is a plotline that runs through the whole of scripture. While the Bible is history, it is a “special history” that tells the story of God’s work to fulfil his promise to redeem the world. In this method, certain themes are traced through the Bible (covenant, kingdom, redemption) with special attention to how those themes are developed over the history of the Bible.

Worldview-Story – N. T. Wright. While similar to the History of Redemption, Wright has placed more stress on the interconnected narrative of scripture. Since the category of “narrative” is used to describe the connection between the Testaments, more interest is paid to literary and philosophical issues and uses both historical and theological methods. It seems to me that the second and third views might have been combined since they are similar. Both are interested in the overarching plot of the Bible and drawing the Old Testament and New together into a unified theology. Klink and Lockett do make several distinctions between the two, especially with respect to the use of history and philosophy to get “behind” the story (in Wright’s method).

Canonical Approach – Brevard Childs. While Canon Criticism is growing in favor among some (younger?) scholars, Brevard Childs began working with the whole canon in the 1970s. Rather than focus on the individual units or pre-history of a text, Childs stressed the “final form” of the Canon. The placement of various traditions and how the last writer used a tradition is itself a theology that must be recognized. This method therefore recognizes that the church has a role in biblical theology since the way that textual traditions have been received can point the way forward to how those traditions ought to be developed in new contexts.

Theological Construction – Francis Watson. In this method, the Bible belongs to the confessing church and not the academy. The question of “what it meant back then” is not as important as “what it means now.” Unlike the first view (which only looks behind the text), this approach looks “in front of the text.”  While there must be exegetical and hermeneutical decisions, the interpretation of the text is concerned only with theology.

Evaluation. Klink and Lockett contribute a readable introduction to a sometimes bewildering topic. Books on method are not usually very interesting, but the use of the five scholars as examples makes the material manageable. As with any rubric of this sort, there are going to be omissions and oversights. I would have liked to see a “for further study” section for each category, perhaps in the form of an annotated bibliography so the student can find other scholars doing biblical theology using a similar method.

Nevertheless, this text serves well as a basic primer for students of the Bible who want to understand what is happening in biblical theology. It is an ideal textbook for a hermeneutics or exegesis class, but also will be a good guide for pastors and laymen who want to develop their skills as readers of the Bible.

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

Book Review: Jason DeRouchie, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About

DeRouchie, Jason S., editor. What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2013. 496 pp. Hb; $45.99. Link to Kregel.

This new classroom textbook takes its place alongside the New Testament companion volume edited by Kenneth Berding and Matt Williams (Kregel in 2008). Jason DeRouchie (Ph.D., The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Associate Professor of Old Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary) edited What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About as a basic introduction to the Old Testament and a worthy competitor to Baker’s Encountering the Old Testament (Second Edition, 2008), Telling God’s Story by Vang and Carter (Broadman and Holman, 2013), or Old Testament Today by Walton and Hill (Zondervan, 2004). Of the four mentioned here, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About is the most conservative.

2591 cvr 14.inddLike most textbooks, there are a number of pedagogical features to help the student understand each unit. Each chapter begins with a few key verses from the chapter and a summary of three or four key themes for the book. Chapters are less than 20 pages and include numerous charts and illustrations. Each chapter concludes with a list of “key words and concepts” for the student to review and a short list of resources for further study. In almost every case these are commentaries from evangelical scholars and there are no journal articles or monographs. Color photographs appear throughout the book, but they do not dominate the text. A major criticism I have of many of the newer “classroom” style textbooks is that there is not all that much text in each chapter because there are so many photographs, charts and sidebars. The text also includes some 160 sidebars connecting the Old Testament to the New. This is a well-designed and printed book, using a glossy paper that reproduces colors photographs and charts well.

DeRouchie explains in his introductory overview that the Old Testament is “authoritative kingdom instruction for God’s people” (p. 28). Since Jesus never read the New Testament, when he spoke of God’s word he meant the Old Testament. Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom, therefore, is predicated on a proper understanding of the Old Testament. With this in mind, DeRouchie constructs a kind of rubric to describe the “progress of covenants” in the Old Testament that climax in Christ (p. 30). This seven period chart uses the word KINGDOM: Kickoff and rebellion (creation fall flood), Instrument of blessing (Patriarchs), Nation (Exodus, Sinai, wilderness), Government in the Promised Land (conquest and kingdoms), Dispersion and return (exile and initial restoration), Overlap of the ages (Christ and the church age), and Mission Accomplished (Christ’s return and kingdom consummated). DeRouchie does provide of more familiar covenant structure (Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New covenants) of the “grand narrative” of Scripture as well as the now-standard “already/not yet” presentation of the ages.

There are several useful appendices. In the section of “expanded charts” there is  a list of the genre of every psalm with additional comments by Larry Crutchfield, a chart summarizing the general content of the Old Testament Law by DeRouchie, and a handy one-page chart of key people in the Old Testament (more or less a time-line). Appendix two is a single page chart collecting all of the “key chapters” of the books of the Old Testament and appendix four is a KINGDOM Bible reading plan. Appendix 4 collects all of the single line “taglines” for the books in a single chart, while appendix 5 collects all of the themes from each book into a single list.

What sets this introductory text apart from other similar books is that each chapter is written by a different scholar, providing a range of voices on the books of the Old Testament. A total of seventeen authors contribute to the volume, including Preston Sprinkle (Ezekiel), Andrew Schmutzer (Numbers), Gary V. Smith (Isaiah, Esther) Stephen Dempster (Genesis, the Twelve), and John Crutchfield (Psalms).  DeRouchie contributes Leviticus (with Jeffery Mooney), Deuteronomy, 1-2 Kings (with Donald Fowler), Nehemiah (with Daryl Aaron), and a number of additional essays and the introduction page for each chapter.

One twist in this textbook is that the books are arranged in the canonical order of the Hebrew Bible. I personally appreciate this, since that is the way I have taught Old Testament intro for the last few years and it is difficult to find a textbook that follows the “canonical order.” I am not sure that I would have used the canonical order from Baba Bathra 14b (p.45), since that canonical list the Major Prophets as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the Twelve. By using that order, students will be confused, especially since there is no real explanation for why the order is different from even modern printed Hebrew Bibles.

Evaluation. This book is targeted to conservative, evangelical students. There is a high view of scripture and only rarely touches on higher critical issues. For example, in the introduction to Genesis written by DeRouchie, Moses wrote Genesis using source material, but there is no hint that other theories of authorship exist. In the chapter on Genesis there is a comparison of the biblical story with Mesopotamian creation myths and the Gilgamesh Epic appears in comparison to the Flood narrative, but only briefly. But this is no knee-jerk conservatism; there is nothing at all on the age of the earth.

The book does not deal with alternative views in other classic Old Testament debates. Chronological notes only appear in Exodus where DeRouchie favors an earlier date for the Exodus. In Isaiah there is no indication that some scholars separate 40-55 and 56 -66 as a “second” and “third” Isaiah. Likewise, the short chapter on Daniel does not deal with challenges to the early date for the book. In my view, it is better to address the issues at least in a side-bar format so that students are aware that alternative views are out there on these issues and that there are conservative answers for them.  Other OT introductions marketed to conservative classrooms do acknowledge these alternatives and attempt to give some sort of a response. To ignore them seems to set the student up for a shock the first time the read a commentary that talks about Second Isaiah or encounters the JEDP theory.

Nevertheless, the book does meet its goal of providing a readable, Christian, faith-affirming introduction to the Old Testament. My criticism is something like, “this is not the book I would have written.”

Conclusion. It is written at a fairly easy reading level so that non-seminary students should be able to use the book without difficulty. I could see this book being a good textbook at an advanced high school level or Bible college as well. I am not aware of any additional features (online images, quiz banks, etc.) that might help a college professor teach a course based on this text, Kregel should consider that as a possible “added value” to their academic customers.

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

Ephesians 4-6 and Colossians 3-4: An Apostolic Didache?

It can be argued that the material in Ephesians 4-6 and Colossians 3-4 reflect an early form of apostolic teaching or catechism material. The terms kerygma and didache are used to distinguish between two types of apostolic message.  Kerygma is the “preaching” material of the gospel for sinners (Christ’s death and resurrection), while didache is the teaching material aimed at the person that has already accepted this message and is concerned with the living out of that message in terms of ethical behavior.

didache-largeThis may imply some pre-existing documents that eventually are used in the production of the New Testament books, although these types of materials also circulated orally.  The kerygma material, for example, may include 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 or Phil 2:5-11.  But this is not to say that there was any single document called “kerygma” – the word simply refers to the material that was used in evangelism by various preachers in the early church.

The same applies to the term didache.  There would have been a core of teaching that Paul used in establishing churches and training leaders.  That material would have been generally the same in every church (i.e. qualifications for elders and deacons) but flexible enough to adapt to a slightly different cultural situation (the difference between the qualifications list in 1 Timothy and Titus, for example, show some adaptation for the situation on Crete where Titus was to appoint elders). By the end of the first century a short book of church practice known as Didache did circulate, although the contents are not quite the same as this collection of material.

This core of teaching is found as early as Acts 2:42, where we are told that the new converts were devoted to the daily instruction of the apostles. Since all of these converts in the early part of Acts are Jews, and likely observant Jews in Acts 2, the need for ethical instruction would have been less of a priority than instruction in the teachings of Jesus (i.e. doctrine – Christology (who was Jesus, what did he teach) and Eschatology (the Christ is returning very soon).  It is not unlikely that at this stage that the stories of Jesus’ acts and his teachings began to be passed from the Apostles to their disciples.

What are the implications that Paul might have used and adapted a kind of “standard teaching” in these two letters? Does this “early Christian standard” of ethics help us understand how the Church was teaching ethics in the first century?

Some bibliography: E.  G.  Selwyn, The First Epistle of St.  Peter, 363-466; Philip Carrington, The Primitive Christian Catechism; A. M. Hunter, Paul and his Predecessors; C. H. Dodd,  The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments;  Everett F.  Harrison, “Some Patterns of the New Testament Didache” BSac V119 #474 (Apr 62) 118-129; V. P. Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul, 68-111.

Why Not Ephesians?

Ephesians is one of the books in the Pauline collection which is frequently assumed to be pseudonymous.  Despite the fact that Paul refers to himself four times in the letter (1:1, 3:1, 4:1, and 6:19-22), the majority of scholarship in the last 150 years denies the authenticity of the letter. Rather than written by the “historical Paul,” the letter was created in the late first century, perhaps as a companion to the book of Acts.

P49 Verso

While there are many variations on this argument, many introductions to Paul reject the letter as authentic on the basis of vocabulary, style, and theology.  For many, the letter does not sound enough like Romans, Galatians, or 1-2 Corinthians to be accepted as authentic.  Usually the letter of Ephesians is thought to be a post-Pauline compendium of Paul’s theology.  It was written by a disciple of Paul (“Paul’s best disciple,” Brown, 620).  Sometimes the reconstruction of the circumstances are quite complex. For example, Goodspeed suggested that Onesimus returned to Philemon, was released from his slavery and eventually became the bishop of Ephesus. After Acts was published, there was a great deal of interest in Paul, so Onesimus gathered all the various letters Paul sent to the churches of Ephesus as an introduction to Paul’s theology.  As Brown says, this is interesting but “totally a guess.”

There are some differences between Ephesians and the other Pauline letters.  For example, the common Pauline term brethren is missing (except 6:23), and the letter never calls the Jewish people “Jews” in the epistle, even though the Jews are an important part of his argument.  More surprising is the fact that the verb “to justify” is not used, even though while it is common in Galatians and Romans and might have been useful in the argument of 2:11-22.

Does it matter if Paul did not write the letter himself?  If the letter contains the actual “voice of Paul” then the letter can be considered Pauline.  By way of analogy, in the study of the Gospels there is a great deal of discussion over the words of Jesus.  When I read the words of Jesus in my ESV Bible, can I know that these are the real words of the historical Jesus?  The answer which satisfies me is that the words of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels are true “voice of Jesus,” even though they are not the actual words Jesus’ words were originally spoken in Aramaic, translated to Greek and then to English for me to read!

In the same way, even if Ephesians was not written by Paul, the true “voice of Paul” can be found in the letter.  As it happens I think Paul did write Ephesians, albeit much later in his life during his Roman house arrest.  The letter was intended to go to all the house churches in Ephesus and there is no burning problem which Paul has to address (as in Galatians or Corinthians).  This explains why the letter is generic in terms of theology and practice.

Considering Ephesians to be an authentic Pauline letter may change the way we envision Paul’s  theology.  While Romans and Galatians are concerning with justification and the struggle to define the Church as something different than Judaism, Ephesians is a witness to the universal church which includes Jews and Gentiles in “one body.”  Unity of the church seems to be Paul’s main theme in the letter.  Rather than drawing lines, Paul is arguing for unity among those who are “in Christ.”

How might taking Ephesians seriously change the way we think about various elements of Pauline Theology?

Ephesians and Anti-Imperialism

I read an article by Denny Burk in JETS a few years ago which was a decent summary of anti-Imperial readings of Paul, although I think that he has lumped N. T. Wright along with Richard Horsely and Hal Taussig. To me, Wright is not doing the same sort of work as Horsely, even though there are some similarities.  Both make the same sorts of observations concerning Paul’s alleged use of imperial language, but Horsely and Taussig take the issue much further than Wright by applying Paul’s anti-Imperialism to the imperialism of the United States.

Pepper Spray BeatlesFirst I will lay out the basics of anti-Imperial readings of Paul and then I will make a few observations about why this is an important issue for reading Ephesians.

The increased interest in the impact of the Imperial cult in Asia Minor in the first century has driven anti-imperial readings of Paul.  In the first century, Caesar was described as Lord (κύριος) and god in art and coinage.  Since he was the one who brought peace (εἰρήνη) into the world, the emperor should be thought of as the savior (σωτήρ)  of the world.  News of the Emperor was announced as “good news” (εὐαγγέλιον).  This imperial propaganda was pervasive and could not be avoided, although most people in the first century would have simply accepted the equation of “Caesar as God” and moved on with life.

Paul preached the good news that Jesus was the Lord and savior of the world, the one who brings peace.  For those of us with Christian ears, these words are all quite familiar .  But to anyone who heard them in the first century Roman world they were just as familiar, but applied to Caesar, not Jesus!  By calling Jesus Lord, it is argued, Paul is setting up an implicit anti-Roman narrative.  Once words like gospel, Lord, savior, and peace are taken as anti-imperial, then other less common Pauline concepts are seen through this lens, such as the language used for the return of Christ in 1 Thess 4:13-18.

For the most part, the implications of these anti-Imperial readings of Paul for reading Ephesians is to confirm the non-Pauline nature of the book.  It is thought that Ephesians lacks the anti-Imperialism of Romans or other certain Pauline letters, This is evidence of a later, more pro-imperial writer.  This is a major factor for Crossan and Reed in their In Search of Paul.  Ephesians is not considered to be Pauline because of the reversal of the egalitarianism evident in Romans and Galatians.

But as Wright says early on in his Paul: A Fresh Perspective, “The argument recently advanced (in North America particularly) that Ephesians and Colossians are secondary because they move away from confrontation with the Empire to collaboration with it is frankly absurd.”  The reason for this “absurdity” is that Ephesians is just as anti-Imperial (according to Wright) as Romans 13 or any other certain Pauline text.  In fact, if there is actually an anti-empire subtext in the choice of terms Paul uses to describe Jesus and his mission, the Ephesians ought to be considered right at the heart of Pauline anti-Imperialism.   I suspect the section on submission of wives drives Ephesians out of the Pauline corpus for most of the anti-Imperialist scholars.

What elements of Ephesians might be considered “anti-imperialist”?   What benefit is there in reading Ephesians 1-2 in this way?

Bibliography:  

Burk, Denny.  “Is Paul’s Gospel Counterimperial? Evaluating The Prospects Of The Fresh Perspective” For Evangelical Theology,” JETS 51 (2009): 309-338.

National ETS 2013 in Baltimore

I am heading for Baltimore this afternoon to attend the National meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. I always enjoy ETS, even though it is smaller than the SBL/AAR meetings later in the week.  I am not giving a paper this year, but I am a “moderator” for a Gospels/Acts parallel session tomorrow morning.

9780310331360Because I am serving as a moderator, I will not be able to attend what promises to be one of the main events of the conference. November 19 there will be a panel discussion featuring Albert Mohler, Kevin Vanhoozer, Michael Bird, Peter Enns, and John R. Franke onthe topic of Inerrancy. These five scholars are the contributors to Zondervan’s Five Views on Inerrancywhich is due be released December 10. This will likely be a heavily attended session, given the topic and participants.

The Bible Gateway is going to live-blog and live-Tweet (@biblegateway) the event from from 8:30-11:40 AM EST. If you are not in Baltimore for the meetings, be sure to  check out the Bible Gateway blog.

If you are in Baltimore, have a great time and enjoy the crab-cakes.

Call for Biblical Studies Carnival Links for November 2013

LinkIt is mid November and time for a reminder that the November 2013 Biblical Studies Carnival will be hosted by Mitch Chase over Soli Deo Gloria. This is a “call for links” to blogs of interest published in November 2013. If you are reading a paper at the national meetings and post an abstract (or the whole paper), let Mitch know (mitchchase2005 at gmail dot com). November is usually a great time for BiblioBlogs because of the national meetings in Baltimore next week.  Bloggers are either reporting on papers they have given or commenting on quality presentations. (Or complaining that the papers are not as good as their own, etc.)

I am also looking for more volunteers for the 2014 BiblioBlog Carnivals. I have the next three months covered:

Please email me (plong42 at gmail.com) and pick your month! Carnivals are a great way to attract attention to your site if you are new blogger, but more importantly it gives you a chance to highlight the best and the brightest in the world of bibliblogs.