Book Review: Craig A. Evans and H. Daniel Zacharias, eds., “What Does the Scripture Say?” (LNTS 470) – Part 2.1

Evans Craig A. and H. Daniel Zacharias, eds., “What Does the Scripture Say?”: Studies in the Function of Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity: Volume 2: The Letters and Liturgical Traditions. LNTS 470; Studies in Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013. Hb $130;  Pb $34.99; Logos $31.99. Link to Bloomsbury T&T Clark  Link to Logos

Craig A. Evans and H. Daniel Zacharias edited this two-volume collection of essays on the function of Scripture presented at the Society of Biblical Literature’s Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity program unit in 2008 and 2009. Volume one collects essays on the Gospels, the second volume includes epistles and other liturgical tradition.

Due to the length of this review, I will break each volume into two posts (Volume 1, part 1, volume 2, part 2, volume 2 part 1, volume 2, part 2).

Evans Volume 2Alicia D. Myers examines the use of synkrsis in John’s Gospel to portray Jesus as a new Moses (“The One of Whom Moses Wrote”: The Characterization of Jesus through Old Testament Moses Traditions in the Gospel of John”). Synkrisis is “language setting the better or the worse side by side” by Theon (Prog. 112).  She illustrate this method with Chariton’s romantic novel Chaereas and Callirhoe and Plutarch’s Life of Alcibiades. John repeatedly uses synkrisis and synkritic language to emphasize that the relationship between Jesus and Moses is complementary instead of competitive (2). After an introduction to synkrisis, characterization, and intertextually in the ancient world, Myers examines the passages in John (3:13–15; 6:1–59; the combined passages of 1:45 and 5:39–47) to show that John used synkrisis characterize Jesus as “the one of whom Moses wrote” in contrast to the Pharisees. John uses allusions and quotations of explicit Old Testament Moses traditions . . . in order to supplement the characterization of Jesus (12) and this method is much like he common rhetorical device synkrisis. With the exception of Dedication, the festivals were initiated by Moses. Passover is especially important since John makes the connection between Jesus and the Passover Lamb more clear than the Synoptic Gospels. But this is not to say the Gospel makes Jesus superior to Moses, by attending to the rhetorical form, we see a Jesus who is not in competition with Moses, Moses is the greatest witness to Jesus.

Bryan A. Stewart examines “Text, Context, and Logical Analysis: A Reexamination of the Use of Psalm 82 in John 10:31–39.”  Stewart is not interested in solutions to the exegetical problems to the very difficult problems found in this passage, but rather the “Johannine use of Ps 82 by merging a broader contextual examination with an exercise in logical analysis” (21). Surveying previous scholarship and relevant rabbinic texts, Stewart argues the gods of Ps 82:6 (θεοί) are human judges as opposed to angels or the nation of Israel. Jesus began in chapter 10 by declaring he is the good shepherd anticipated in Ezekiel 34, a text which was about the poor leadership of the nation. The Pharisees were questioning Jesus’ identity as the good shepherd and preparing to be both judges and executioners. “You are gods” is part of a traditional rabbinic qal wahomer argument, if scripture called those people (to whom the Word of God came) gods, how much more should one who is greater than them be called “Son of God.” Human judges were appointed by humans, Jesus was appointed by God; human judges received the word of God, but Jesus is the word of God coming to the people; humans were delegated to render justice, Jesus is himself the judge, although it is not clear if this is a divine or eschatological judge.  “To call Jesus “son of God” is, for the Fourth Gospel, to ascribe to Jesus an equality with the divine and an authority to grant eternal life.”

Steve Moyise asks “Does Paul Respect the Context of His Quotations? Hosea as Test Case.” It is well known that Paul sometimes makes minor changes in order to make his point, something which modern readers describe as not respecting the text. While this is impossible to prove and an anachronistic question Moyise examines several citations of Hosea in Paul in order to argue Paul does not respect the context of his quotations from Hosea, but he is aware of the overall message of Hosea and uses that context appropriately. Moyise argues we should distinguish Paul’s thought process (which we do not have access to) and Paul’s conclusions (which is all we have access to). As Moyise puts it, modern readers tend to hear Paul’s audaciousness rather than his conformity (50). Paul’s use of Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:54 is less a quotation than a blending of Hosea with Isa 25:8 based on the common word “victory.” Paul does respect the overall context of Hosea since the original context is judgment. Paul turns it into a statement of victory, but this is also what Hosea does eventually, in 14:4-7.  It would therefore be unfair to say Paul did not respected “the message of Hosea” (42).  To say Paul does not respect his sources makes him sound like a superficial writer who has no interest in the meaning of the text which he cites. Paul does not explain the exegetical process by which he went Hosea’s oracle of judgment to an assertion of victory over death.

David Lincicum compares “Paul and the Temple Scroll” as shared engagement of the book of Deuteronomy. Paul is usually described as the “law free” apostle, while the Temple Scroll can be fairly described as extending the Law for the Qumran community. By contrasting the two approaches to Deuteronomy, Lincicum argues that while “Paul’s reading may be “historically outrageous” in terms of a modern historical-critical perspective,” there are analogies in the Temple Scroll. Paul’s use of scripture is not strange or unique from the perspective of other Second Temple writers (61). By examine what Paul does with Deuteronomy, “Our purpose here is simply to point to the possible light shed on Paul’s practical concern with Deuteronomy when viewed against a document like the Temple Scroll, and to suggest that Paul’s ethics are not as “law-free” as sometimes alleged” (64). “Both Paul and the Temple Scroll are concerned with the contemporization of Deuteronomy” (69). Paul and the Temple Scroll are on opposite ends of the spectrum with respect to rewriting the Law, yet both are concerned with the application of Deuteronomy to the present situation. Paul did not know the Temple Scroll and the Qumran could not have known Paul, yet they are in dialogue in the sense that both have a great deal to say about the Law and use Deuteronomy extensively. Despite his critique of the Law and his Gentile mission, “Paul does not seem to have devoted less attention to Deuteronomy than his Jewish peers” (52).  The Temple Scroll can be understood as an extension of the Law at the very least, “Whether the Scroll means to displace the original form of those commandments which it reprises in modified form is more difficult to say” (58).

Kyle B. Wells also examines Paul’s use of Deuteronomy (“The Vindication of Agents, Divine and Human: Paul’s Reading of Deuteronomy 30:1–14 in Romans”). Wells wonders how a text like Deuteronomy 30 might have shaped Paul’s understanding of grace and agency. Briefly summarizing Francis Watson and J. L. Martyn, Wells concludes “Deut 30, because of its optimistic evaluation of human nature, could not have been understood by Paul as a positive witness to the gospel” (71). On the other hand, Deuteronomy 30 is ambiguous and open to differing perceptions with respect to Israel’s agency. These verses can be read as prioritizing human agency (Israel repents) or divine sovereignty (Yahweh returns to Israel). While the first is the consensus view, Wells suggests there is enough syntactical ambiguity to allow for the text to be read as an interplay between God’s action (circumcising the heart) and Israel’s turning to God (repentance). This is how Deuteronomy 30 was read at Qumran, at least in lines 1-2 in the Words of the Luminaries: “some at Qumran attribute heart-circumcision to divine initiative and agency and expect obedience to be the result”(85). Turning to Paul, Wells hears “reverberations of Deut 29–30 in Rom 2:17–29.” In reading Romans this way, Wells argues the Jew in Romans 2:17 represents all Jews and that by not believing in Jesus, they remain in exile and risk eschatological judgment rather that eschatological life (88). Just as in Deut 30, obedience is required for life, but what does Paul understands heart-circumcision as God’s restoration of a believer to the status of moral agent so that they can respond properly.

David Luckensmeyer examines an overlooked connection between Obadiah and 1 Thessalonians (“Intertextuality between Obadiah and First Thessalonians.”) The motif of the “day of the Lord” (ἡμέρα κυρίου) and the description of that day coming “as a thief,” ὡς κλέπτης appear independently in Obadiah, in vv. 15 and 5. But Luckensmeyer could only really find thematic parallels between Paul and Obadiah, and the no plausible sitz im leben could be suggested for Paul’s use of Obadiah in this case. In fact he admits “This whole exercise might be viewed as nothing more than an attempt to squeeze another publication out of a recently published revision of a Ph.D. dissertation” (119).  Luckensmeyer therefore follows a suggestion by Aichele, Miscall, and Walsh in a 2007 JBL article on postmodern interpretations of Scripture: “Meaning is not located in the single text, planted there perhaps by an originating author, but instead meaning is only found between texts” (99). Luckensmeyer therefore intends to reinterpret 1 Thessalonians in terms of a “reader-created intertextuality between it and Obadiah” (100).

According this kind of intertextual reading, Paul has slipped into a prophetic role and (perhaps) unconsciously mimicked Obadiah’s style. In order to achieve this goal, Luckensmeyer lists verbal and thematic parallels between LXX Obadiah and 1 Thessalonians. He admits from a historical-critical perspective, some or all of these parallels are coincidental and may be part of a wider biblical tradition. Day of the Lord, for example, is so common it is impossible to state with any certainty at all Paul had a give text in mind. But reading the two texts in dialogue does create some new insights. For example, the “the awake/asleep” language may reflect Paul’s view of election and the biblical struggle between Jacob and Esau. Less convincing is Luckensmeyer suggestion that Paul uses polemical language against the Jews” similar to Obadiah’s polemic against Edom. There is, however, some warrant for reading Edom as a type or Rome (Philo, for example), so that the day of the Lord will catch a sleeping Rome unaware, like a thief. Another possible conclusion Luckensmeyer suggests divergences between the Hebrew and Greek texts of Obadiah may shed light on Paul’s emphasis on those “who live, who remain” (οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι, 1 Thess 4:15, 17).  The Hebrew of Obad 14 and 18 has “survivors” (שׂריד), which is translated as “the escaping ones” (τοὺς φεύγοντας) and as “fire bearer” (πυροφόρος), respectively, the intertextual connection between “escaping” and “survival” to be quite relevant for interpretations of 1 Thess 4:15, 17.

Part two of the review is here.


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