Book Review: Grant Osborne, Luke: Verse by Verse

Osborne, Grant R.  Luke: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2019. 647 pp.; Pb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press

This commentary by the late Grant Osborne on Luke completes the first additions to the series from Lexham Press. The series has been published simultaneously in both print and electronic Logos Library editions.  For reviews of previous volumes, see John, Acts, Romans, Galatians, 1-2 Thessalonians, Prison Epistles, James, and Revelation.

Osborne Verse-by-Verse Commentary LikeIn the twenty-one page introduction to the commentary Osborne expresses traditional and conservative views with respect to authorship and date of the book. The author is Paul’s companion Luke the physician and he wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. After briefly surveying the options Osborne proposes the gospel was written from Rome A.D. 60-62. He also mentions briefly he will argue for a mid 50s A.D. date for the Gospel of Mark in a forthcoming commentary in this series. The dating is important because Osborne accepts the consensus “four-source hypothesis” for Luke’s sources. Even though he does not think there is evidence the sayings source Q was a written document, he thins the common material between Matthew and Luke represents an oral tradition. Respect to the purpose of the Gospel of Luke, Osborne argues the gospel was written to encourage believers to know they are part of a divine movement that is bringing God’s reign into this world. In addition, Luke wanted to convince unbelievers that Christ is truly the Lord and Savior of this world.

Osborne then offers a few brief comments on the major theological themes of the book. With perspective salvation, Jesus is saving purpose is evident from the very beginning of the gospel in the birth narratives. This theme of salvation is summed up in Luke 24:47, “repentance for forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all the nations.” In the Gospel of Luke Jesus is the son of the most high God and he will inherit David’s throne. For this reason, Luke emphasizes the Lordship of Jesus. As most commentaries on Luke point out, and emphasis on the Holy Spirit connects the Gospel to the Book of Acts. In addition to these theological themes,

Osborne includes a brief section on Luke’s view of the marginalized. In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus reads from the scroll of Isaiah 61 to show the Spirit anointed Jesus to “proclaim good news to the poor” and liberate the oppressed. For Osborne statement sets up a “pattern of social concern for the entire gospel” (19). Osborne returns to this theme when commenting on Luke’s beatitudes (6:20-23). He explains the eschatological reversal in these sayings concerning the rich and the poor. However, he is also quick to say that Luke does not condemn all of the rich. There are in fact wealthy followers of Jesus like Zacchaeus and Joseph of Arimathea. Osborne suggests that they understand their wealth is a gift from God and they use that wealth to serve God (171).

Osborne includes Luke’s well-known emphasis on women as part of his emphasis on the marginalized. This is illustrated in the story of the woman washing Jesus’s feet and wiping them with her hair (Luke 7:36-50). Husband points out that she is the example of God’s grace and acceptance, not the male religious leader the Pharisee (210). He comments that “the women had a deep involvement in the ministry and mission team. As patrons they would have had some kind of leadership role, for patrons were at the core of the Roman socioeconomic system” (214). Later in the commentary he suggests that the women who were the first witnesses of the resurrection were among the women who followed him in Galilee (541).

With respect to the Olivet discourse, Osborne sees Luke’s version slightly differently than Matthew 24 and Mark 13. In those chapters, Osborne believes that the destruction of Jerusalem is in anticipation of the return of Christ and the great tribulation. “Luke however centers entirely on the former” (485). For Osborne, the apocalyptic discourse in 21:5-38 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Whatever, this is not to say that Osborne does not believe in the return of Jesus. He takes 21:25-28 as referring to the second coming of Jesus.

As with the other commentaries in this series, the commentary is based on the English text, with occasional comments on the underlying Greek. Osborne does not include any footnotes to other commentaries or contemporary literature, and he only rarely enters into exegetical debates with other literature. That is not the purpose of this commentary series. Osborne’s intention in the Verse-by-Verse Commentary series is to serve pastors and teachers who are preparing sermons and Bible Studies on Gospel of Luke. Even though this commentary is over 600 pages, most scholars will find it too brief. Most Bible readers will find this commentary to be an excellent guide as they read Luke’s Gospel.

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

Book Review: John Frame, Nature’s Case for God

Frame, John M. Nature’s Case for God: A Brief Biblical Argument. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2018. 124 pp.; Pb.  $12.99  Link to Lexham Press

Frame says his goal in the book is to show forth the glory of God in the world God has made (13). The biblical foundation for the argument of this book is Psalm 8:3-6 and Romans 1-3, but Frame also refers to Paul’s preaching in Acts 14:15-18 and 17:22-31 as additional examples of natural theology. For Frame, natural theology is finding out about God in the world he has made (17), although in the book itself he does not provide a philosophical argument God exists from nature in the tradition of the teleological argument  

This book is divided into two sections. First, Frame argues for the existence of God from the “witness of the created world.” Based on Romans 1:18-20, he argues we can know some of God’s character from creation, his greatness, oneness, wisdom, goodness, and presence. This is not a traditional quest for the attributes of God in nature, Frame focuses only on the presence of one good, wise God as revealed in creation. He does not actually point out elements of creation which might point to the existence of God, rather he argues this view of God is rational.  

Second, Frame considers evidence drawn from “the witness of human nature.” Here Frame is interested in “four states of conscience.” First, the seared conscience is essentially the sin nature. Second, the accusing conscience refers to the human tendency to know something is right or wrong. Third, the awakened conscience refers to the practice of godliness once someone has become a Christian. Fourth, by the good conscience Frame refers to the evaluation of conduct and the Christian response with actions which please God. When I began to read the second section of the book, I expected something along the lines of C. S. Lewis’s moral argument for God’s existence. This seems to be what Frame has in mind, but two of his four states of conscience refer to post-conversion experience.

Like Frame’s Christianity Considered (Lexham, 2018), this is a very short book and clearly not a full philosophical argument for God’s existence. As a result, more advanced readers will find it frustratingly brief. Frame recognizes this and includes an appendix interacting with David VanDrunen’s A Biblical Case for Natural Law (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Acton Institute, 2008).

Chapters begin with the key Scripture and the book often prints key texts in the body of the chapter. Each chapter concludes with a few discussion questions and a bibliography “for further reading” (often to Frame’s larger works). The book has at least twenty-five pages dividing chapters and sections, so the body of the book is less than 100 pages of text. Some chapters are only a few pages, chapter 9 is barely a page.

However, for the layperson this book may answer some questions about how God has revealed himself in his creation. Frame presents some very difficult philosophical issues in a friendly and accessible manner.

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

 

Logos Free Book of the Month for November 2019 – R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark (The New International Greek Testament Commentary)

During the month of November, Logos Bible Software is giving away a volume in of the best commentaries series available, R. T. France’s excellent commentary on Mark in the New International Greek Text Commentary (Eerdmans,2002).I have been tracking these “free book of the month” promotions for several years and this is by far the best one yet.  Logos users who do not already own these resources should get them immediately!

When I did a top five commentaries on Mark post a few years ago, France’s NIGTC was first on my list.

As with all the writers in the NIGTC series, France is an expert on the Greek text of Mark. The commentary has less background material that Evans, but is rich in exegetical detail. That is not to say that France is ignorant of the Hebrew Bible or other Second Temple Period literature, but only that his main interest is the Greek words in the context of Mark.

For $4.99 you can add James Dunn’s Colossians and Philemon in the NIGTC. In my Top Five Commentaries on Colossians I said:

Based on the theology of the book, Dunn thinks that the book was not written by Paul, even if it is “Pauline.” The issue of authorship is not as critical an issue as for other books, Dunn refers to the writer as Paul despite expressing doubts that he was the actual author. He is warm to the possibility that the book was written from a hypothetical Ephesian imprisonment, but cannot state this (or any alternative view) with certainty. The opponents addressed by the letter are from the local Jewish synagogue. As Dunn says, to call this a “heresy” is “quite inappropriate” since the “competing philosophy” does not come from within the church. The body of the commentary is based wholly on the Greek text, with detailed lexical and syntactical comments. Dunn is well-versed in Second Temple Period Jewish literature as well as Greco-Roman works and integrates this material into his commentary well. In particular, material from the Dead Sea Scrolls is used to illustrate the “Jewishness” of Paul’s opponents.

For $9.99 add Anthony Thiselton’s excellent commentary on 1 Corinthians in the same series. This volume was my first choice for my Top Five Commentaries on 1 Corinthians:

Like most of the NIGTC series, Thiselton’s commentary is magisterial. At over 1400 pages, the commentary contains highly detailed exegesis and theological interest. Thiselton also includes what he calls a “posthistory reception” of the text. He draws on the apostolic fathers, patristic, medieval, Reformation, and modern eras and briefly summarizes how each age has read the text of 1 Corinthians. These are interesting, although they go beyond what is typically included in a commentary.  Eerdmans also published A Shorter Exegetical and Pastoral Commentary version of this commentary which should be sufficient for most pastors.

These three commentaries would cost over $200 in hardback and are rarely available used. But Logos is offering them for a mere $15. Although I prefer a real book, reading the commentaries in Logos is extremely convenient since all of the tools of the Logos Bible Software are available. This includes searching within the book, clicking Greek and Hebrew words to open your preferred lexicons, hovering over abbreviations for a definition, clicking on cited resources to open in Logos, and advanced highlighting and note-taking tools Logos books come with real page numbers, any text you copy/paste into Word will appear with a proper citation in your style preference (Chicago, MLA, APA, etc.)

As usual, Logos has a giveaway at the bottom of the free book page. This month hey are giving away a set of ten volumes in the Socio-Rhetorical Commentary Series. This includes Ben Witherington’s Acts commentary, one of my favorite commentaries ever. There are several ways to enter the contest, so enter early and enter often.

These valuable resources are only free (or almost free) through November 30, 2019.

Book Review: Grant Osborne, James: Verse by Verse

Osborne, Grant R.  James: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2019. 204 pp.; Pb.  $19.99  Link to Lexham Press    Link to Logos Version

The latest addition to the series of verse-by-verse commentaries by the late Grant Osborne is the Book of Acts. Lexham Press publishes this series simultaneously in both print and electronic Logos Library editions. Eleven commentaries are now published or announced: Luke, John, Romans, Acts, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, Philippians, 1-2 Thessalonians and  Revelation.

James is an unusual book in the New Testament. Although it is one of the most popular book for personal and group Bible Studies, it has not always enjoyed this status. For most Christians today the letter is very clear and practical. But as is well known, Luther called the letter an “epistle of straw” since it lacked a clear Christology and seemed to contradict Paul.

For Osborne, James is the earliest letter in the New Testament, dating to the mid-40s. In the twenty-page introduction to the commentary he argues in favor of the common tradition that James the brother of Jesus wrote the letter. Although James is an example of early Jewish Christianity, James is not a Judaizer nor is there any conflict with Paul’s gospel as presented in Galatians and Romans. By dating the letter so early, Osborne is able to argue James wrote before the Pauline mission to the Gentiles began. It is therefore impossible for him to be addressing a perversion of the Pauline Gospel.

Osborne takes the address of the letter literally, the twelve tribes in diaspora refers to Jewish Christian who are facing oppression from “ungodly land owners.” Some commentaries on James suggest the oppressors are (early) zealots in Galilee, but Osborne does not detect any hint of the rebellion against Rome in the book. He suggests James sent the letter to Jewish Christian synagogues in Syrian Antioch or Asia Minor.

With respect to genre, the book is similar to both wisdom literature and a homily (paraenesis, like a synagogue sermon). He does not spend much time on genre and ultimately does not settle on one form for the book. Writes such as Martin Dibelius argue the book was a loose collection of isolated ethical meditations, others have developed an outline which reflects several topics (suffering, poverty and wealth, speech). These themes are introduced in James 1:2-11 and cycle through the book. Osborne sees the book structured like Matthew, in a series of triads (10). In his short summary of the theology of the letter, Osborne comments on God as the central theme, but also trials, eschatology (future judgment), wealth and poverty, wisdom and practical Christianity, speech and Law and Grace.

This last point is one of the main issues commentators on James must address. Does James’s statement “faith without works is dead” assume Paul’s gospel of salvation apart from the works of the Law? In his comments on James 2:1-17 Osborne dismisses the possibility James is responding to Paul (or as he says, some perversion of Paul’s gospel) primarily on the basis of his argument the letter was written in the mid-40s, before Paul’s mission to the Gentiles began. This assumes Paul did not preach a law-free gospel before Acts 13-14 (the first time Luke describes his gentile mission). However, it is entirely possible Paul did preach to gentiles prior to the late 40s, and it is likely he gentiles the same thing he would later teach the gentiles in Galatia. In addition, James’s words are so close to the later Pauline formulation it is hard to imagine he does not have a Pauline theology in mind. Although I agree with Osborne, the letter of James written before the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, it is more likely he has some report of Paul’s law-free Gospel in mind in James 2:14-17. Like most evangelicals who offer a solution to this problem, Osborne suggests James and Paul are looking at two sides of justification: Paul addresses regeneration and James addresses “the Christian life and professing faith” (84).

Although the letter has little Christology, Osborne points out many examples of the use of a Jesus tradition. For example, commenting on James 1:12, Osborne alludes to the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. Commenting on promised rewards in 1:12, he alludes to the Sermon on the Mount, especially the “meek shall inherit the earth” (39). The teaching of Jesus is assumed in the letter, even if it is not directly cited as the teaching of Jesus. He frequently draws parallels to the teaching of Jesus in the body of the commentary although there is no discussion of what James’s sources were.

Like other commentaries in this series, Osborne’s exposition is based on the English text with rare comments on specific Greek words when necessary. As the title suggests, he comments on each verse by offering light explanations of the text. He does not interact with other commentaries and scholarly literature, although he is clearly informed by them. This make for a distraction-free the commentary which is enjoyable to read.

Conclusion. As Osborne suggests, “if you can’t preach James, you can’t preach” (20). The same is true for writing a Bible-study oriented commentary on James. This Verse-by-Verse Commentary will serve pastors and teachers as they prepare sermons on the text of the Bible, but will also be a guide for laypeople as they read through James.

 

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

Book Review: Heath A. Thomas, Habakkuk (Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary)

Thomas, Heath A. Habakkuk. Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 243 pp. Pb; $25.   Link to Eerdmans

Following the methodology expressed in his Manifesto for Theological Interpretation (written with Craig Bartholomew, Baker 2016), Thomas attempts to use academically rigorous exegetical, historical, sociological and literary dimensions of the text in order to draw out theological implications for contemporary readers. In other words, this is “biblical criticism recalibrated within the larger aim of hearing God’s address through the prophetic book” (4). Later in the introduction to the commentary, Thomas calls this a dialectic between systematic and biblical theology which he considers a “hard-won ‘thick’ analysis of a biblical text” (34).

Heath Thomas, Habakkuk CommentaryIn his 55 page introduction Thomas observes the obscure prophetic of Habakkuk is sometimes dismissed as too “hellfire and brimstone.” Rather than a “ragbag collection of unintelligible material,” Thomas suggests the book is theologically rich and “extraordinarily pertinent” to contemporary church life and culture (3).

Thomas reviews the “drama of Scripture” in order to introduce the historical context of the prophet. The commentary assumes the context claimed by the book: Habakkuk is living in the final years of the kingdom of Judah, specifically during the reign of Jehoiakim just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BCE (26). Thomas considers an earlier context in the reign of Manasseh or just after the death of Josiah. That the book mentions the Chaldeans and the imminent threat of exile favors a date around 587 BCE. He therefore understands the wicked and righteous in Habakkuk 1:2-4 are wicked Judeans oppressing the righteous.

Theologically, Thomas says, this context “pits the faithful prophet against his own people and culture” (27). A major theological point made by Habakkuk is that wicked nations will be swallowed up in their wickedness and “Yahweh will but them to rights. This is true…whether that nation is Judah, Babylon, or the United States” (30). Thomas revisits this interest in applying the words of the sixth century BCE prophet living through the final years of the kingdom of Judah to contemporary experience throughout the commentary. These asides are usually vague, allowing the reader to draw out the implications for their own time and cultural context. Habakkuk’s critique of evil in the leadership of Judah or Babylon is universal and speaks to every political climate in history.

The introduction concludes with a section on Habakkuk and the church. Here Thomas offers short surveys of the use of Habakkuk in the apostolic era (Romans and Galatians), patristic, Medieval, Reformation and modern periods, concluding with “Habakkuk today.” This final section includes one or two international commentaries, but this section could have been more robust. Although this would not fit into the Christian theology of the Two Horizons commentary series, the reception of Habakkuk in Judaism would have been a helpful addition especially given the interest in Habakkuk at Qumran.

The body of the commentary devotes one chapter to each of Habakkuk’s three chapters, Thomas sub-divides the material into several paragraphs in order to treat individual issues in the text. He comments on the Hebrew text and all Hebrew appears in transliteration. For the most part he only lightly touches on lexical and syntactical issues, although occasionally he draws on cognate languages for obscure vocabulary (Ugaritic, for example).

Two excurses appear in the body of the commentary, one on power of silence and the second on the power of memory. I comment only on the first excursus. Drawing on Habakkuk 2:20, “be silent, all the earth, before him,” Thomas offers a short reflection on “The Power of Silence (135-38). He suggests Habakkuk 2:20 is a “call for his people to recognize God’s power to vindicate the righteous and judge the wicked” (136). He moves quickly from this observation to the importance of contemplation as a spiritual discipline, “contemplation centers the church within God’s life so that she might live authentically as the body of Christ, rather than be conformed to the idolatrous patterns of this present word” (137). This is quite true and there is much to be said for the practice of silence as a spiritual discipline, especially in the context of suffering and injustice. However, in the context of Habakkuk 2:20, the climax of God’s judgment on the nations, perhaps this silence is “An overt eschatological hope is formulated whereby “the wicked are silenced in darkness” because “the LORD will judge the ends of the earth” (1 Sam. 2:9–10)” (G. K. Beale, Revelation [NIGTC; Eerdmans, 1999], 446). Rather than “be still and know I am God,” this text seems to say, “stand in silence before the Lord who judges from his holy temple.” Thomas’s interest in drawing theological implications from Habakkuk may go beyond the meaning of the text.

The final third of the book collects three essays on the theological horizons of Habakkuk. The first is somewhat typical of a biblical theology in that Thomas sets out the main theological themes of the book of Habakkuk: the destructive power of sin, waiting on the Lord, righteous suffering and God, Israel and the Nations. This unit also includes the New Testament use of Habakkuk, including a short interaction with Richard Hays’s view that Paul has an apocalyptic reading of Habakkuk 2:4b which makes the “righteous one” a messianic title. Thomas disagrees, arguing (briefly) Habakkuk 2:4b is not a prediction of a messiah but rather a pointer to the incarnation of God’s faithfulness in this present age. For Thomas, Habakkuk focuses on “faith in the faithfulness of God” (164). By this phrase he wants to draw attention to God’s faithfulness as the one who both judges the wicked and vindicates the righteous. With this emphasis “Habakkuk presses toward and eschatological hope” (168).

The second theological essay, “Centering Shalom: Habakkuk and Prayer” is in large part re-telling of the “drama of scripture common to the theological interpretation of Scripture. The bulk of the chapter describes shalom as the orderliness of creation, then shows how sin has destroyed the shalom of the original created order. Habakkuk’s laments are desperate cries to a Holy God in a world full of injustice because sin remains powerful. Yet “Habakkuk’s prayers do not shake an angry fist at God in the fashion of a petulant teenager moaning about the injustice of having to carry out the rubbish to the bin at the parent’s request. As Christian Polke rightly says, ‘To lament is not to whine’” (188).

In his third essay “Dead Ends and Doorways: Habakkuk and Spiritual Formation” Thomas addresses two common issues which prevent people from spiritual formation or even coming to faith in the first place. For many, the violence of God on display in a book like Habakkuk leaves no room for faith, and the silence of God in the face of great suffering in this world is the biggest stumbling-block to faith. Thomas argues that the book of Habakkuk addresses both of these issues by leading the reader to an overlooked form of worship, the lament. Although common in the Old Testament, lament is rarely practiced in the modern church. Thomas believes if the church slowed down and worshiped God through the form of lament it would avoid both “blissful naiveté” and “sterile ambivalence” (209).  By following Habakkuk’s lead in lament as worship, the church will see suffering through the cross and be open to a divine response.

Thomas’s Two Horizons commentary on Habakkuk is a model for the method of theological interpretation of Scripture. He does serious exegesis and pays attention to the historical and cultural context of this obscure prophet and is able to draw out implications for how the lives and breathes in contemporary culture.

 

 

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

 

Book Review: James Edwards, Between the Swastika and the Sickle: The Life, Disappearance, and Execution of Ernst Lohmeyer

Edwards, James R. Between the Swastika and the Sickle: The Life, Disappearance, and Execution of Ernst Lohmeyer. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2019. 341 pp. Hb; $30.   Link to Eerdmans

James Edwards is a New Testament scholar with major commentaries on the Gospels of Mark (2001) and Luke (2015) in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series and Romans in the New International Biblical Commentary (1992). Between the Swastika and the Sickle recounts Edwards’s fascination with a “baffling reference” in the introduction to Lohmeyer’s German commentary on Mark in the Meyer Commentary (first published in 1936). Edwards read the 1967 edition which included a fifty page Ergänzungsheft (a short supplement updating the original commentary) written by Gerhard Sass in 1950. Sass enigmatically says Lohmeyer was not able to update the commentary himself because “a higher power carried him off to a still-unresolved fate” (p. 8). Edwards could find nothing on this “unresolved fate” but remained fascinated with the mystery after he completed his PhD and began his first teaching assignment in North Dakota. In the late 1970s he became active in a ministry which supported believers in East Germany and found himself in Greifswald where he learned Lohmeyer was executed by the communists as an enemy of the state. Over the next twenty years Edwards continued to research Lohmeyer’s life, resulting in a 1996 article on Lohmeyer in the journal Evangelische Theologie and this new book, Between the Swastika and the Sickle.

Who was Ernst Lohmeyer? Lohmeyer (1890-1946) was a prominent German New Testament scholar who resisted the Nazis before World War II. Edward’s description of Lohmeyer’s academic output before and during World War I is impressive. Unfortunately, very little of Lohmeyer’s work has been translated into English. Had his life not been cut short, his scholarly reputation may have risen to the level of other German scholars such as Rudolf Bultmann.

Edwards traces Lohmeyer’s life as a scholar and pastor, focusing especially on his years at the University of Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland). Edwards does include many of the details one expects in a biography, but he is more interested in Lohmeyer’s intellectual development. He briefly summarizes Lohmeyer’s many publications and tracks his relationship with other intellectual movements in Germany between the wars.

Lohmeyer’s opposition to Nazism and anti-Semitism is the important element of the book. While at Breslau Lohmeyer publically clashed with both university administration and students over the treatment of Jewish professors and the developing Ungeist (antispirit) of National Socialism. Lohmeyer wrote to Martin Buber in 1933 that “the Christian faith is only Christian as long as it retains in its heart the Jewish faith”

In 1933 Gustav Walz, a “staunch National Socialist” according to Edwards, was appointed president of the university. After several clashes with the administration, Walz wrote to the minister of science, art and public education demanding the unconditional dismissal of Lohmeyer. The student body also demanded his immediate termination. As a result of his anti-Nazi activity, Lohmeyer lost his professorship at Breslau and was transferred to University of Greifswald. Although far less prestigious, than Breslau Lohmeyer continued to opposed Nazism while producing solid academic work.

During World War II Lohmeyer served in the Wehrmacht as an officer on the German East front 1939 to 1943. As Edwards narrates this period of his life, Lohmeyer was put into an impossible situation. He was German officer on the Eastern front, but also a Christian opposed to the war and the government which waged the war. He had to balance being a commander and helping those who were deeply affected by the ravages of war. By Edwards accounting, Lohmeyer was not guilty of any war crimes even if he was haunted by his participation in the war.

After the war Lohmeyer was selected as president of University of Greifswald now in the communist German Democratic Republic. He worked tirelessly to re-open the university after the war and thought he was relatively safe since he supported the city of Greifswald’s capitulation to the Russians at the end of the war. To his great shock, he was arrested on the eve of the re-opening of the university and executed on September 19, 1946 after several months in Soviet custody. Although his death was not confirmed by the Soviets until 1957 and his case was not rehabilitated by the Russian government until 1996.

Edwards’s account of the mystery of Lohmeyer’s death in a compelling and engaging fashion. He includes several personal stories and reflections on his own journey tracking down the truth about Lohmeyer. Lohmeyer’s stand against Nazism and anti-Semitism is an important challenge in the present climate of Western Christianity. Christian theologians and biblical scholars must stand up against anti-biblical trends in the culture even though it costs them prestige. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the struggle of faithful Christians against National socialism and the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. Sadly, this book is still relevant in the early twenty-first century.

Book Review: Eckhard J. Schnabel, Jesus in Jerusalem: The Last Days

Schnabel, Eckhard J. Jesus in Jerusalem: The Last Days. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2018. 680 pp. Hb; $60.   Link to Eerdmans

Eckhard Schnabel contributed a commentary on Acts in the Zondervan Exegetical New Testament Commentary (2011), Mark in the Tyndale Series (IVP Academic, 2017) and Romans in the Historical Theological Interpretation series (in German; Wuppertal: SCM & R. Brockhaus). With David W. Chapman, Schnabel published The Trial and Crucifixion of Jesus: Texts and Commentary (WUNT/2 344; Tubingen: Mohr Mohr Siebeck, 2015; Hendrickson, 2019 forthcoming). Jesus in Jerusalem: The Last Days is similar to his Early Christian Mission (2 vol., IVP Academic 2004) in that Schnabel collects detailed notes on the people and places mentioned in the four Passion narratives. Essentially, Schnabel is interested in identifying who did what, where they did it and when it happened.

In the introduction to the book Schnabel argues this simple outline is an essential approach to help readers understand texts like the Passion Narratives. He rejects form criticism and more recent historical Jesus methods which employ the criteria of authenticity. Further, he wants to avoid the postmodern view that all history is subjective. He observes the fact very few practicing historians are impressed by philosophical objections to the possibility of truth in history (p. 4).

More positively, he reads the Gospels as similar to the Greek bios. The Gospels are expressions of faith, but they also provide examples from Jesus’s life and teaching which preserve the memory of Jesus. Here Schnabel builds on the work of Richard Bauckham and others who have focused on the significance of eyewitnesses for the transmission and preservation of the words and deeds of Jesus. To a large extent, many of the persons surveyed in chapter two of this book were eye-witnesses to the events of Jesus’s last week, and the earliest traditions concerning the authorship of the Gospels claimed Matthew and John were eyewitnesses. Schnabel believes this method of reading the “canonical Gospels as historical biographies of the life of Jesus that are based on the testimony of eyewitnesses and treating them as good historical sources is neither gullible nor uncritical” (p. 7).

Remarkably, Schnabel uses data from all four Gospels. For some this might not be a surprise, but in New Testament studies John’s Gospel is often dismissed as lacking historical details. For Schnabel, John’s chronological details are important (“six days before the Passover” in John 12:1, for example, p. 153). He includes John’s unique contributions to the Passion Narrative such as Jesus washing the disciple’s feet (John 13) and the farewell discourse (John 15:1-17:26).

Since he includes data from all four Gospels, the book can be read as a “harmony of the gospels.” An unfortunate result of this method is the flattening of the four gospels into one story so that the individual theological emphases of the writers are lost. But since this is a historical study of the last week of Jesus’s life not a biblical theology of any one of the Gospel writers, this observation is does not detract from the value of Schnabel’s work.

The first three chapters of the book can be read like a Bible Dictionary since they identify the people and places associated with Jesus’s final week in Jerusalem. The first chapter briefly identifies seventy-two people one encounters when reading the four versions of the passion stories in the Gospels. Some are named individuals like Annas, Caiaphas, Barabbas or Simon of Cyrene. Others sections treat groups of people, Pharisees, Sadducees, or experts in the Law. A few are rather generic, such as the gentiles, pilgrims, crowds, or the blind and lame. Schnabel includes brief units on the “rich people” in contrast to the widow who donates two coins (Mark 12:41). There are even brief paragraphs on obscure persons like the man with the water jar (Mark 14:13) or the soldier with the sponge (Mark 15:36).

Chapter two describes seventeen places, including larger areas such as the city Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives. Schnabel usually includes some discussion of the modern identification of locations such as Gethsemane, Golgotha and Jesus’s tomb. There are units on the residences of Annas, Caiaphas, and Herod and the location of the Sanhedrin building. These are important for reconstructing the trials of Jesus and his movements after his arrest. Throughout this section Schnabel uses detailed historical data to describe the locations mentioned in the Passion narrative.

In his brief third chapter Schnabel lays out his timeline for the events of Jesus’s final week in Jerusalem. He dates the crucifixion to A.D. 30 (Nisan 14, April 7-8) rather that A.D. 33 (Nisan April 3). He then offers a short description of what happened on each day, concluding with Sunday, Nisan 16 (April 9-10). He includes suggested hours of the day as well.

Chapter four traces the events of Jesus’s final days in Jerusalem from the anointing at Bethany to his resurrection appearances to the disciples. This is by far the longest chapter of the book, covering twenty-four topics in 223 pages. Since the topics are arranged chronologically, this chapter can be read sequentially as a commentary on the events of the Passion Week. Since the burden of the book is historical research rather than exegesis, there is little textual work in this chapter other than identifying Greek words. Schnabel sets important events like the Temple action into an Old Testament context. He states the symbolic action on the Temple Mount “was not anti-temple or anti-sacrifice. It was an action intended to announce the beginning of the messianic era” (p. 164).

He often refers to Second Temple literature in order to illustrate the events. When discussing the trial of Jesus he compares the accusations against Jesus as a mesit and maddiakah (a “seducer”) by comparing Deut 13:5-11 and the Temple Scroll (11Q Temple LIV, 8-LV, 10). When discussing the possibility the messiah was described as “Son of God” Schnabel cites 1Q28, 4Q174, and 4Q246 at length (p. 257-58). He interacts with Greco-Roman literature when necessary, such as Seneca’s description of crucifixion (Ep. 101.14, p. 315).

The final chapter of the book is a short theological essay on the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Schnabel concludes that Jesus exercised messianic, royal authority in his final week, a fact recognized by Pilate when he ordered “King of the Jews” to be written as the charge against Jesus (p. 377).  With respect to the theological meaning of Jesus’s death, Schnabel begins by reflecting on the suffering of God on the cross and concludes the deal was a sacrificial death “for sinners,” a substitutionary death which turned away the wrath of God (Romans 3:24-25; 5:1-2; 8:1). Using the sermons in the book of Acts, Schnabel argues in the earliest Christian preaching the resurrection did not supersede Jesus’s crucifixion (p. 390). Finally, Schnabel reflects on Jesus’s mission and the mission of his followers. Similar to his Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies and Methods (IVP Academic, 2008), Schnabel points to Luke’s commission of the disciples to go out from Jerusalem as witnesses “to the end of the world” (Acts 1:8). Similarly, Matthew concludes his gospel with a command to go, “making disciples” (Matt 28:18-20).

In addition, Schnabel includes thirteen excurses on details of the Passion Week which do not fit his people places and events scheme. For example, he has short notes on the Cursing of the Fig Tree and Peter’s Denials of Jesus. Some discuss historical details, such as Historicity of Annas’s Interrogation of Jesus or the Hour of Jesus’ crucifixion. Several of these sections concern the Greco-Roman context of the Passion Narrative, such as Crimes against the Emperor, The Passover Pardon and Roman Legal Precedent, Carrying the Crossbeam in Greco-Roman Sources, and Jesus’ Shout in Greco-Roman Perspective. He has a brief note on the ending of Mark, although it explains the shorter ending rather than a discussion of how the longer ending developed nor is there anything on the textual history of the longer ending.

The book includes occasional photographs, diagrams, and tables. Schnabel provides extensive endnotes (179 pages). For example, in chapter one there are 652 endnotes for only 90 pages. Although I prefer footnotes, endnotes make this book easy to consult on some detail of the Passion Narrative, further details are found in the notes. The book also includes a detailed bibliography (49 pages) and indices of authors, subjects, Scripture and other ancient writings references (51 pages). This means the body of the book is only 399 pages.

Conclusion. Schnabel’s Jesus in Jerusalem is a major contribution to the study of the final chapters of the four Gospels. The detail provide is staggering, yet the layout of the book is uncomplicated and comfortable for the non-expert.

 

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