When Was the Book of Revelation Written?

Perhaps more than any other New Testament book, the date for the writing of Revelation is important for interpreting the book. If the book was written in the 90s, then the immediate background for the book is persecution of Christians under Domitian. But if the book was written before A.D. 70, then the persecution in the background of the book is Nero’s backlash against Christians after the fire of Rome.

Fall of Jerusalem (David Roberts, 1850)

Fall of Jerusalem (David Roberts, 1850)

Another factor is the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It is fairly obvious the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the Temple are somehow related to the images in the book. For a preterist like Ken Gentry, the book of Revelation is revealing “what will happen soon,” and the soon-event is the destruction of Jerusalem. (See his Before Jerusalem Fell, for example.) For other preterists who do not feel the need to preserve Revelation as a book of prophecy, the fall of Jerusalem is in the background as a past event that provides a set of metaphors.

The majority of the early church assumed that it was under Domitian’s persecution that the book was written. Irenaues said that John wrote “nearly in our generation,” at the end of the reign of Domitian. All of the secular evidence for persecution under Domitian comes from after his reign. Pliny the Younger wrote a tribute to Emperor Trajan:

He [Domitian] was a madman, blind to the true meaning of his position, who used the arena for collecting charges of high treason, who felt himself slighted and scorned if we failed to pay homage to his gladiators, taking any criticism of them to himself and seeing insults to his own godhead and divinity; who deemed himself the equal of the gods yet raised his gladiators to his equal.

In 1 Clement 1:1, written in A.D. 96, alludes to “the sudden and repeated calamities and reverses that have befallen us.” 1 Clement 4-7 contains several references which might be taken as either referring to the martyrdom of Peter and Paul or the present persecutions under Domitian.

Since all of the sources describing Domitian as a megalomaniac who demanded worship as a god date from after his reign, some argue the later sources are painting the old emperor in a negative light (perhaps to paint Trajan in a good light). DeSilva disagrees, arguing instead that “Domitian valued cultic language as an expression of social and political relationships.” This language would have been imposed on the lower levels of society as a method of declaring loyalty to the state (“The ‘Image of the Beast’” TrinJ 12 [1991], 199).

I am personally inclined to retain the late date for the book and see the imperial cult as the potential background for many things in the book. I am not opposed to the destruction of Jerusalem as a possible background, but (for me) it does not have to be predictive of the event. There is no problem for John to be using a past event like Rome’s obliteration of the city of Jerusalem to talk about other, still future judgments.

What difference might it make to reading Revelation if the book is early (pre A.D. 70) as opposed to in the 90s?

Book Review: Craig A. Evans and H. Daniel Zacharias, eds., “What Does the Scripture Say?” (LNTS 470) – Part 2.2

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.

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.

 

Book Review: Craig A. Evans and H. Daniel Zacharias, eds., “What Does the Scripture Say?” (LNTS 469) – Part 1.2

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 1, The Synoptic Gospels. LNTS 469; Studies in Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013. Hb; Pb; Logos $31.99  Link to Bloomsbury T&T Clark    Link to Logos

[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, volume 2, part 2].

Evans LNTS 469Jens Herzer suggests a solution to the “The Riddle of the Holy Ones in Matthew 27:51b–53: A New Proposal for a Crux Interpretum.” In this difficult passage many holy ones are raised to life at the time of Jesus resurrection and go into the Holy City. Herzer suggests Matthew has expanded on the well-known story of Jesus; death with “signs that seem to underline the apocalyptic character of Jesus’ death.” (143). For Herzer, the significance of Matt 27:51b–53 cannot be understood “an eschatological-apocalyptic interpretation based on traditional motifs or parallels, but only by an interpretation from the context of Matthew’s Gospel and its Christological and martyrological concept” (144). He surveys suggestions for parallel sources for this event (Ezek 37:12; Zech 14:4-5; Dan 12:2), but none are convincing. Nor are any parallels to Greco-Roman or Jewish literature. Following Joachim Gnilka, Herzer suggests the Holy ones in Matthew 27 should be understood in the light of the prophets and righteous ones Jesus refers to in Matt 23:29. These holy ones suffered and were killed, but now have been released from death by the death of Jesus and bear witness to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (152). The resurrection of the saints is therefore not a foreshadowing of the eschatological resurrection but an allusion to the actual tombs of the prophets, their resurrection underscores the mission of Jesus to Israel and the meaning of his death and resurrection.

Jocelyn McWhirter discusses “Messianic Exegesis in Mark 1:2–3,” Following the lead of Donald Juel, McWhirter suggests the three texts cited in Mark 1 (Exod 23:20; Mal 3:1; Isa 40:3) are applied to John and Jesus because Mark “interprets them as messianic prophecies on the basis of shared vocabulary with acknowledged messianic texts” (159).The rest of Mark’s Gospel makes it clear these three texts are to be understood as messianic prophecies (161). She describes the “messianic exegesis” suggests all of Mark’s messianic interpretation are based on Psalms 89, 110 and 118. He is using messianic exegesis to argue Jesus is the one expected in the Psalm. Messianic exegesis is using any verse to shed light on another if there is shared vocabulary (166). “Mark seems to have inherited the rabbis’ method, but not their conclusion (170).” She challenges a near consensus that the New Exodus is sufficient to explain this combination of biblical allusions in Mark 1. Mark’s quotation of Isa 40:3 and other allusions to Second Isaiah would likely not be enough to evoke the “new Exodus” for the original audience. There is no direct evidence that anyone really used phrases like “new exodus” or “suffering servant” in the wan modern New Testament scholars do.

Jamal-Dominique Hopkins studies the “Levitical Purification in the New Testament Gospels” especially as the related to Jesus’ activity among marginalized people. The fact that Jesus appears to relax purity regulations for marginalized people is demonstrated in the “especially curious in the way impure persons are declared clean by Jesus” (180).  Judaism in the late Second Temple period frequently associated outward bodily state with consecrated status (181). Hopkins examines several purity issues, such as hand washing, corpse contamination, leprous contamination and  concludes there are “specific individuals who, prior to Jesus’ liberating pronouncements, were socially and religiously regarded as unclean under Jewish Levitical law.” These liberating acts suggest the “force and nature of Levitical purity was understood variantly during the late Second Temple period” (190). Hopkins concludes the followers of had less rigid attitudes with regard to Jewish legal stipulations and these attitudes compare to Pauline, Gentile congregations. For Hopkins, the Jesus movement is “moving from the observance of common ritual procedures to a more spiritualized ideology” (190).

Amanda C. Miller contributes an article on victory songs in the Second Temple period as background for reading the Magnificat (“A Different Kind of Victory: 4Q427 7 i–ii and the Magnificat as Later Developments of the Hebrew Victory Song”). Similarities between Hannah’s song (1 Sam 2) and Mary’s song indicate the poetic expressions is part of a larger tradition which celebrates God’s dramatic action on behalf of the “least of these” (193). Miller first introduces the hodayah in 4Q427 7 i–ii since it less familiar than the Magnificat and then proceed to examine the genre “victory hymn” in the Hebrew Bible (Song of Deborah and Hannah) and literature of the Second Temple period (Judith and The War Scroll).  She then offers a detailed comparison of the Magnificat and 4Q427 7 i–ii in four areas: theology, anthropology, status reversals, and eschatology. All of the songs she examines make use of military and divine warrior language, and she concludes the “Magnificat and the hodayah in 4Q427 7 i–ii are at home in the tradition of the victory hymn, but they are at the far end of the continuum” (204). If Miller is correct, then why would Luke use the genre of victory hymn for Mary’s prayer?  Miller suggests “early Judaism and early Christianity were both struggling with the problems of domination by Jerusalem elites, illegitimate client rulers, and ultimately the Roman Empire” (211). Luke’s gospel indicates Christianity was subtly opposing Rome and needed to hide subversive language in the voice of a marginalized character like Mary.

Adam Gregerman examines “Biblical Prophecy and the Fate of the Nations in Early Jewish and Christian Interpretations of Isaiah.” He investigates how a study of exegesis of Isaiah’s phrase “light for/to the nations/peoples” (42:6; 49:6; 51:4) and how this relates to early Christian mission to the Gentiles. As Gregerman observes, the idea Judaism was a “missionary religion” has been question by recent scholarship. Little evidence exists for missionary activity and much of the literature formally described as “missionary tracts” may not have been written for that purpose. In addition, it is not clear why Jews would attempt to convert Gentiles to a religion which was difficult and potentially dangerous for them. There is simply no evidence for intentional efforts at missionary outreach in the Second Temple period (218). Turning to the use of Isaiah 42:6, Late Second Temple period Jewish texts numerous interpretations of this phrase “light to the Gentiles” is never cited as support for missionary activity. Although the Septuagint “ratchets up hope for the Gentiles” by translating vague Hebrew phrases more explicitly, God’s blessings on the nature of the eschatological ingathering of the Gentiles remains unchanged. The same is true for Tobit 13:11, Testament of Levi 14:4, Wisdom of Solomon 18:4, and 1 Enoch 48:4. Allusions to Isaiah appear in several key texts on Luke/Acts (Like 2:32, Acts 1:8, 13:47, 26:18, 23). In each case, Gregerman sees the use of Isaiah as a justification for missionary activity among the Gentiles, on contrast to the use of the passage in contemporary Judaism. For Luke, “there is nothing accidental about the gentile mission, this was God’s will all along” (215).

Conclusion. This collection stands as a contribution to our understanding of how the writers of the New Testament used the Hebrew Bible in creative and sometimes unexpected ways as they sought to explain how Jesus related to earlier Scripture. It is clear from these essays that the Gospel writers used Scripture in ways which are consistent with the Second Temple Period even if they are only interested in Jesus and his ministry.

 

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.

Book Review: Craig A. Evans and H. Daniel Zacharias, eds., “What Does the Scripture Say?” (LNTS 469) – Part 1.1

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 1, The Synoptic Gospels. LNTS 469; Studies in Scripture in Early Judaism and Christianity. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013. Hb; Pb; Logos $31.99  Link to Bloomsbury T&T Clark    Link to Logos

[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, volume 2, part 2].

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 Synoptic Gospels, the second volume will includes the Gospel of John, the epistles and liturgical tradition. For the most part, the papers in this collection deal with specific examples of “the use of the Old Testament in the New,” although many also use the literature of the Second Temple Period. These essays could also be described as intertextual studies and some of the authors make use of this language despite the imprecision of the word.

Evans LNTS 469In “’Fasting’ and ‘Forty Nights’: The Matthean Temptation Narrative (4:1–11) and Moses Typology” Daniel M. Gurtner argues Matthew has used a Moses-motif to connect Jesus’ fasting for “forty days and forty nights.” The primary question raised here why “fasting” was expanded to include “and forty nights”? Commentators have suggested Matthew was influenced by Exod 34:28 or Deut 9:9, but Gurtner argues Matthew has drawn from Moses texts in which he is presented not as the “Law-giver” but as the “Law-receiver” or mediator (4). After surveying the fasting passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy along with the Second Temple literature, Gurtner concludes Matthew intended to draw attention to Moses as a mediator since the Gospel presents Jesus as the mediator of the Law.

Christopher N. Chandler explores the use of Leviticus 19:18 in the New Testament and Second Temple period (“Love Your Neighbour as Yourself” (Leviticus 19:18b) in Early Jewish-Christian Exegetical Practice and Missional Formulation”).  Chandler suggests the common view of God among Pharisees, Essenes, Zealots, etc. was that God is a God of judgment punishes Israel’s enemies. Jesus, on the other hand, teaches his disciples to love one’s (Roman) enemies (cf. Matt 5:43–48/Luke 6:27–36). Chandler suggests Jesus was aware of the way the “love your neighbor” saying was applied to the judiciary. Jesus applied the command to his advocacy of “Israel’s mission to include Gentiles in the kingdom.” The missional nature of Matt 5:43–44 is often overlooked, but if Chandler is right and the “enemy” to be loved specifically to Gentiles, then there are some implications for both for understanding the teaching of the historical Jesus as well as for Matthew’s theme of mission to the Gentiles (27).  He examines Matt 5:43–44 and the prodigal son parable in Luke 15 and concludes both express love for the enemy, the Gentile, even the Roman occupation.

In “Rest, Eschatology and Sabbath in Matthew 11:28–30: An Investigation of Jesus’ Offer of Rest in the Light on the Septuagint’s Use of Anapausis,” Elizabeth Talbot surveys the uses of the anapausis word group in the LXX and suggests three potential groundings for the call to rest in Matt 11. In Sirach wisdom is personified and invites people to draw near (ἐγγίσατε πρός με in Sir 51:23; “Come to me” (προσέλθετε πρός με) in Sir 24:19). This observation should highlight Jesus as a wisdom teacher, but Sirach present the invitation in the first person as Jesus does. A second potential grounding of the saying is Exod 33:14. In response to Moses’s prayer is that he may know the Lord (Exod 33:12, 13) God promises Moses that “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exod 33:14). A third potential grounding of the saying is the strong eschatological context based on the promise of rest from enemies in 2 Samuel 7:11 (cf. 1 Chr 22:9; Ezek 34:15). Combined with an allusion to Jer 6:16, this eschatological rest includes purification. Her conclusion is that “Jesus can be seen as the embodiment and fulfillment of the eschatological Messianic rest typified by the Sabbath and proclaimed by Wisdom” (69).

Alicia D. Myers examines “Isaiah 42 and the Characterization of Jesus in Matthew 12:17–21.” Scholarship usually assumed the use of Isaiah 41 in Matthew 12 reflected a “suffering servant theme,” although this has been abandoned recently. Myers neither avoids servant imagery in Matthew 12 nor does she attempt to force it into a “Son of God” Christology. This is not an either/or question for Myers, the citation of Isaiah “reinforces Matthew’s overarching characterization of Jesus as God’s divinely appointed ideal king who was sent to vivify God’s will on earth” (72).  Scholars almost universally interpret the “bruised reed” alongside the “smoldering wick” as the marginalized people in Jesus’ ministry who receive compassion and healing (12:15–16), but Myers argues these metaphors refer to Herod as “an impotent ruler—a useless ‘bruised reed’ and ‘smoldering wick’” (84). Herod is not the one who is in power, but rather Jesus is the spirit-filled servant who will crush “faltering and impotent kings” like Herod in order to establish God’s justice on earth. Matthew’s use of Isaiah 42 therefore reinforces an eschatological view of Jesus.

In “Blood and Secrets: The Re-telling of Genesis 1–6 in 1 Enoch 6–11 and Its Echoes in Susanna and the Gospel of Matthew,” Catherine Sider Hamilton compares several Second Temple texts to Matthew in order to offer a solution to the problematic declaration “let his blood be on our heads” (Matthew 27:25). Sider argues Matthew created a narrative in which innocent blood forms “an ancient and constant progression” beginning with the blood of Abel and looking forward to a final judgment and restoration. “It is a narrative to which the problem of blood poured out upon the land” (139). Pilate’s words echo Daniel at the climax of Susanna. By reading the motif of “innocent blood” in Matthew within the world of this Jewish literature, “stark divisions implied in such categories as ‘anti-Jewish’ lose their heuristic value” (92). Sider argues Matthew alludes to Susanna when Pilate saw a riot was beginning and he washed his hands before the crowd saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this man” (ἀθῷός εἰμι ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος τούτου, Matt 27:24). In Susanna’s trial, when she is condemned to death, Daniel says “I am innocent of the blood of this woman” (καθαρὸς ἐγὼ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος ταύτης, Sus θ 46). Most note the allusion without comment, but Sider observes that after Daniel’s protest against shedding of Susanna’s innocent blood, “the whole people turns to him in dismay” (125). The shedding of innocent blood is also a major theme in 1 Enoch 9 “five of the seven words in this phrase in Matthew and in 1 Enoch are the same: αἷμα ἐκχυννόμενον ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς and Matthew is closer to 1 Enoch than Q. In addition, Both Matthew and 1 Enoch link this blood poured out to the blood of Abel” (133). Sider provides detailed argument that the Book of the Watchers is thoroughly immersed in Gen 1-4. 1 Enoch and Susanna are therefore both meditations on the creation story and both focus on the motif shedding of innocent blood. This innocent blood corrupts the world and results in a cleansing judgment. She argues the intellectual tradition represented by 1 Enoch 6–11 is a way of understanding the world through the lens of creation, corruption and purification.

Part two of the review.

Book Review: Bruce Waltke, The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary

Waltke, Bruce K., James M. Houston, Erika Moore. The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2014. 328 pp., Pb., $28.00.  Link to Eerdmans

This book is a follow-up to The Psalms as Christian Worship (Eerdmans, 2010). Like the previous volume, the goal of The Psalms as Christian Lament is to provide an “informed historical-theological-pastoral insights into ten lament psalms” in which the others who provide a basis for a “theology of lament.” In order to achieve this goal, each chapter begins with a short history of interpretation before turning to an exegetical study of the Psalm. Sometimes this historical study includes a single scholar, other times there are several are included.

Psalms as LamentWhy study these particular Psalms? As the authors point out in their introduction, Christians often struggle with the idea of lament. Our worship tends to be positive and uplifting, only rarely does a congregation offer a lament to the Lord as a form of worship. Yet the Psalter includes many worship songs in which the psalmist cries out before the Lord, lamenting their suffering and oppression. According to the introduction, there are forty-two individual laments and another sixteen corporate laments. This means lament is one of the dominating genres in the Psalter.

The book studies ten lament psalms, including six of the seven traditional penitential psalms (Psalm 51 appears in the previous volume). Each chapter begins by listening to the “voice of the church.” This section James Houston selects one or more ancient commentary on the Psalm as an example of how the Psalm was read at various points in church history. By examining the range of ancient and medieval writers on the following list, it seems clear the examples were chose to provide various kinds of commentary on the Psalms. There is both chronological and theological diversity in the chosen commentators. Houston does not quote the historical commentaries at length, so in this sense the book is not the same sort of tool as the Ancient Christian Commentaries (InterVarsity Press). After introducing the writer and placing him in historical context, Houston focus on how the individual writer drew theological implications from the Psalm under examination.

  • Psalm 5 and Jerome.
  • Psalm 6 and Gregory of Nyssa.
  • Psalm 7 and Chrysostom, Charlemagne, Alcuin and Alfred the Great.
  • Psalm 32 and Augustine.
  • Psalm 38 and Ambrose, Augustine, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cassiodorus and several medieval penitential commentaries.
  • Psalm 39 and Erasmus.
  • Psalm 44 and Origin, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin.
  • Psalm 102 and Catholic vs. Reformed/Evangelical repentance.
  • Psalm 130 and Hilary of Poiters and John Owen.
  • Psalm 143 and Augustine, a few medieval penitential commentaries and John Calvin.

After this historical section, for nine of the chapters Bruce Waltke provides a new translation of the psalm with textual notes on syntax and textual variants. Erika Moore provides the translation and exegesis for Psalm 39. After his translation, Waltke sets the literary context of the Psalm by observing canonical links to nearby Psalms. For example, Psalm 32 has a number of lexical and thematic links to Psalm 31, implying the two Psalms could be read together. This juxtaposition in the canon of the Psalter can provide some insights for interpretation. In addition to literary context, Waltke comments briefly on Form Critical approaches to the Psalm. For the most part this is a short note explaining why the Psalm is a lament or penitential Psalm. Waltke also briefly comments on “Rhetorical Criticism,” by which he means the structure of the Psalm (stanza, strophe, etc.) Sometimes these are summed up into a single section on “form and structure;” the headings are inconsistent in the book. In the final section before the commentary he provides a very short summary, the “message of the Psalm.”

In the body of the commentary Waltke proceeds more or less verse-by-verse based on the structure of the Psalm outlined in his Rhetorical Criticism section. This is a technical, exegetical commentary and Hebrew appears in the body of the commentary often untransliterated. I noticed Moore’s commentary on Psalm 32 Hebrew always transliterated. The body of the commentary runs ten-twelve pages on average, a few are longer. Since commentaries on the Psalms are usually sparse in exegetical detail and nuance, I am very pleased with Waltke’s exegesis of the Hebrew Bible.

Conclusion. Like the previous volume, The Psalms as Christian Lament: A Historical Commentary will appeal to many Christians who want to read the Hebrew Bible through the lens of some of the greatest exegete of the Church. Although it does not provide access to the original commentaries of these ancient writers, the summaries will give most readers a sense of how Christians have approached Psalms of laments at various times in history.

However, I think the organization of the chapters could be improved. I would have preferred to have the historical material after the exegetical section. To my way of thinking, I prefer to have a solid idea of what the Hebrew text actually says before encountering how it was understood later in Church history. Placing the historical section first cannot help by color the reading of the Psalm, perhaps obscuring the meaning of the text as it appears in the Hebrew Bible. To be fair, the book is subtitled A Historical Commentary; any reader who shares my suspicion of Reception Criticism can simply read the sections in reverse order.

Reading how a particular Psalm was understood by the later church is important and I appreciate these sections (especially since church history is not my specialty). This project makes me wonder of a similar book could be written which focuses on the Psalms as Jewish Scripture. I would be very interested in reading a commentary which has the same level of exegetical rigor but traces the reception of selected Psalms through the Second Temple Period (including the New Testament), then beyond the Second Temple Period into medieval Jewish exegesis. I know bits and pieces of this exist, but I know of nothing like this single readable volume for Jewish exegesis.

The Psalms as Christian Lament is an excellent contribution to the study of the Psalms if only for Waltke’s exegetical comments. That the Christian history of interpretation is included is a bonus.

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: Walter Kaiser, Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament

Kaiser, Walter. Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2015. 176 pp. Pb; $16.99.   Link to Kregel

First-time readers of the Old Testament are often shocked by the grittiness of some of the stories, especially those in which God commands actions which seem ungodly. The most obvious example of this is the command to destroy Jericho and kill every man, woman and child in the city. This “holy war” is difficult for Christians to understand since Jesus blessed the peacemakers and Paul command his readers to not seek revenge on one’s enemies. The “Angry God” passages in the Old Testament are especially problematic use of similar language in modern fundamentalist Islam. Is a difference between the language of Deuteronomy 7 and 20 and the rhetoric of ISIS when they call for jihad against the west? How are we to handle these difficult texts?

Tough QuestionsWalter Kaiser offers some suggestions for this kind of question in his Tough Questions about God and His Actions in the Old Testament. Kaiser wrote Towards an Old Testament Ethic (Zondervan, 1991) and contributed to Hard Sayings of the Bible (IVP, 1996). This new book is an update and expansion on these earlier works.

The two chapters of the book concern the problem of God’s wrath and the command to destroy the Canaanites. Kaiser points out the Old Testament describes God as both gracious and wrathful. These two sets of attributes are not contradictory: God is neither a god of love nor a god of hate. The Old Testament describes God as “slow to anger” and not as a capricious, vicious, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser (alluding to Richard Dawkins’s famous description). Kaiser says one of the greatest comforting facts about God is that he really does care about creation and his people. Because of his great love and compassion, his equally great wrath is sometimes necessary (p. 24).

He covers several other apparent contradictory teachings in the Old Testament. For example, God seems to permit polygamy while commanding monogamy?  While it was never God’s intention, polygamy does appear in the Old Testament. It is not endorsed or encouraged, and the New Testament makes monogamy quite clear. A second potential contradiction reflects a New Testament reading of the Old, “Is God a God of Grace or a God of Law?” Here Kaiser describes the principles of the law as good and the God-centered ethic of the Old Testament as a model for “personal holiness” (p. 85-6). Although he references both Dispensational and Covenant theology, I find his description dated (citing Ryrie, The Grace of God [1963] and Scofield) rather than more recent dispensationalists Kaiser knows very well having responded to papers collected in a progressive dispensational text.

One issue covered in the book is the extent of God’s knowledge. There some things in the Old Testament which make it appear as if God does not know the future. Here he is interacting with Open Theism, the idea God does not know the future because it has not happened yet. Kaiser affirms God’s omniscience by examining the typical evidence offered by Open Theists. Occasionally God expresses his knowledge using “perhaps” and occasionally he does not follow through on prophetically announced judgments because people repent (Jonah, for example). Kaiser argues these conditional prophecies do not “count against” God’s knowledge since the possibility of repentance was embedded in the prophecy in the first place.

Another very difficult issue for the modern reader is whether God elevates or devalues women. This particular chapter appeared in the Priscilla Paper (2005). He deals with two key verses in Genesis (2:18, 3:16) and shows these statements are far from devaluing for women if properly understood. He also points out the Old Testament allowed woman to serve in the Tabernacle and Temple (Exod 38:8, 1 Sam 2:22, although to be fair the women in 1 Sam 2:22 are not models of holiness!) From this basis he reads 1 Tim 2:8-15 as an affirmation that woman can lead in public prayers after they have been taught. For Kaiser, Paul’s “let a woman learn” was the real cultural bombshell in the Jewish or Roman world of the first century (p. 147).

Conclusion. This is a very readable introduction to difficult questions about the Old Testament and is aimed at a popular audience. Although there are few footnotes, there is a bibliography which will provide the interested reader with further resources on the major topics of the book. I do not find anything groundbreaking or new in the book. Kaiser’s goal seems to be to provide an update of his earlier (more academic) work in a popular format.

These short chapters are thoughtful, evangelical responses to very difficult questions Christian readers have when they read the Old Testament. Since each chapter ends with a few discussion questions this book would make a good resource for a ten-week Bible study or Sunday School Class. In fact, I would highly recommend this book for a serious Old Testament Bible study in conservative and evangelical churches.

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