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 1, part 2, volume 2 part 1).

Evans Volume 2

Eve-Marie Becker examines Pauline Allusions to a Narrative Jesus Tradition in 2 Corinthians 3:14, 18. 2 Corinthians 1–7 is characterized by theological remarks on the apostolic ministry prompted by misunderstandings. Becker argues this “lack of information” 3:14 is a reference “a narrative Jesus tradition that we also find in Mark 9:2–8” (123). After analyzing the Traditional-historical background of 2 Corinthians 3:4–18, Becker suggests Paul is using the transfiguration story from Mark alongside Exodus 34. Why would both Paul and Mark refer back to Exodus 34? Paul focuses on the visibility of God’s glory, while Mark alludes to the Sinai story in order to create a theophany. Usually Mark 9 is explained as Jesus as revealing the same glory as Moses experienced on Sinai. Becker suggests both 2 Corinthians 3 and Mark 9 are linked to each other “in a more complicated way that exceeds the usage of Exodus 24/34 as pre- or inter-texts” (128). This means Paul presupposes a pre-Markan transfiguration story in order to claim the age of “veil wearing” is over: God’s glory is clearly and fully revealed in Jesus. But Paul’s revelation of that glory makes him a participant in the transfiguration and there receives similar authority (131).

Bogdan G. Bucur studies representations of “the vision of Habakkuk” in Byzantine mosaics, icons, and manuscript illuminations have some peculiar features (“Vision, Exegesis, and Theology in the Reception History of Habakkuk 3:2 (LXX)”). These mosaics often depict a majestic Christ escorted by two angels, or Christ enthroned on a platform upheld by four creatures, or a vision of Christ shared by Habakkuk and Ezekiel. What is odd is the canonical Habakkuk has no such vision. The Scriptural basis for the vision of Habakkuk of Jesus between two angels is found in the Septuagint of Habakkuk 3:2, “Lord, I have heard report of you, and was afraid: I considered your works, and was amazed: you will be known between the two living creatures.” How this peculiar Greek reading of Habakkuk 3:2 developed is unclear, but it is clearly the basis for these icons. Bucur cites Origen use of Habakkuk in conjunction with the vision of God enthroned in Isaiah 6 (140), and then traces the development of this interpretation in various church fathers. Finally, he suggests this interpretation is an example of a chariot vision (merkavah) as found in the Babylonian Talmud, where the “vision of Habakkuk” and the vision of Ezekiel as set out as readings for Shavuot, the feast of the giving of the Giving of the Law” (143).

Karen H. Jobes examines “The Greek Minor Prophets in James” in order to understand how early Christian writers interpreted the Minor Prophets. If the letter of James was written by James the Just, then it is the earliest evidence of how early Christians used prophetic tradition of the Minor Prophets. After the usual warnings about parallel mania, Jobes offers a short overview of her intertextual method of “lexical clustering.: Despite the fact James is lacking verbal parallels with the text of the Minor Prophets long enough to be called quotations, Jobes suggests James worked from the LXX of the Minor Prophets and created lexical clusters of tradition. Following Jeffery Leonard, she define a lexical cluster as “the accumulation of shared language suggests a stronger connection than does a single shared term or phrase” (148). She provides a chart summarizing 26 key word in James as they are found in Hosea, Amos, Zechariah, and Malachi. As for the Greek text, James follows the LXX in Genesis Leviticus and Proverbs almost exactly, his alludes to the Twelve in less formally. Although Amos is usually recognized as James’s main influence, Jobes suggests Hosea is most influential on the letter. For example, in James 3:13 is very close to Hosea 14:9. James alludes to Malachi 3:5-6 in six verses scattered throughout the letter, as Jobes demonstrates in a convenient chart (156).

Michael D. Matlock traces “Innovations of Solomon’s Temple Prayer in Early Jewish Literature” by focusing primarily on the prayers of petition in 1 Kings 8:22–53 and the larger context of 1 Kings 8 and 9. Beginning with the MT, Matlock makes several observations about the structure and theology of Solomon’s prayer, and then compares the MT to the OG, concluding “the OG enhances Solomon’s position in virtually all variations between OG and MT” (167). For example, the LXX seems to reject pantheistic theology made popular by the Stoics (that God is inseparable from all matter and form). The Old Greek translator adds the words μετὰ ἀνθρώπων (“with men”) in v. 27 to avoid this confusion. Moreover, in v. 44, the OG strives to avoid the implication that Yhwh was bound to Jerusalem by rendering the phrase אל־יהוה דרך העיר (“to the Lord, toward the city”) adding ἐν ὀνόματι (“in the name of”). Matlock observes the translator takes every opportunity to enhance Solomon’s position, including enhancement of the fame of Jerusalem and the glory of Solomon’s kingdom. The translator avoids anthropomorphism and anthropopathism (169) and “diverts any pantheistic notion found in the MT and avoids the notion that God is not omnipresent” (170). By way of comparison, Matlock examines the same prayer as reported in Josephus, (Antiq. 8.107–8, 111–17). Josephus rewrites Solomon’s short two-verse prayer (1 Kgs 8:12–13) in two extended sections which represent “explicit ideas of Josephus’ theology and philosophy” (172), including a “kind of Stoic pantheism” (173). Josephus embeds his own Hellenistic philosophical thinking and rational theology into this prayer (174). Matlock argues Josephus presenting the finest ideas in the Greek culture as part of the Hebrew genius.  Solomon’s prayer is therefore Josephus’ vehicle to enhance pantheistic Stoic views of God and place them in the mouth of Solomon (184). Matlock then compares this to the version of Solomon’s Temple Prayer in Targum Jonathan. The structure and organization of Solomon’s prayer shows no significant alteration and anthropomorphic language is avoided. The targumist eliminates references which might indicate the existence of competing gods (184).

Finally, Elsie Stern offers a study of tannaitic prayers (“Praying Scripture: Rethinking the Role of Biblical Utterances in Early Jewish Liturgy”). Her goal is to re-examine tannaitic construction of kriʾat shema from the perspective as a recitation of scriptural passages (188). The highly innovative nature of kriʾat shema, as it is constructed in the tannaitic literature. The ritual is the first case in which adult Jewish men, regardless of their professional class or educational background, are required to recite large units of scripture verbatim. For example, in M.ber 2:4, the form of precise, verbatim repetition “resonates strongly with the practice of literate text-brokers” trained in memorization and faithful reproduction of orally transmitted materials (193). She concludes that while written torah was “public property” of both Jews and Christians, the oral torah was the “private patrimony of rabbinic Jews” who saw this form as superior and therefore a marker of theological superiority (199).

Conclusion. The essays in this collection cover a broad range of topics than the first volume (Volume 1, LNTS 469), combining John’s Gospel, Paul’s letters and James, but also how the LXX, Josephus, the rabbinic traditions as well as early church iconography understood Scripture. Both volumes speak the wide variety of approaches the Hebrew Bible by later Christian and Jewish readers. It would be impossible to create a general statement which fairly describes how all Christian readers read Scripture, let alone the LXX, Josephus and other Jewish voices. The strength of this volume is its breadth, but perhaps this is also the weakness. A collection of twelve essays could be produced on just John or Paul, although these sorts of collections do exist. More work could be done on the LXX in comparison to other Second Temple Jewish readings of Scripture. Matlock’s essay, for example, opens up some interesting lines of inquiry by comparing the LXX and Josephus. I would have like additional essays on other Second Temple literature (Jubliees as Scripture re-written, DSS exegesis, etc.), but these go beyond the scope of the series.

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