Matthias Henze and David Lincicum, eds. Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Writings

Henze, Matthias and David Lincicum, eds. Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Writings: The Use of the Old Testament in the New. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2023. xxvi+1140 pp. Hb; $79.00.  Link to Eerdmans

Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Writings collects forty-two essays on topics related to how early Christian writers used the Jewish scripture they inherited. As Henze and Lincicum explain in their introduction, the Scriptures of Israel “forms the cultural encyclopedia necessary to understand what Jesus and his earliest followers did and thought” (1). Not only did the writers of the New Testament interact extensively with Israel Scriptures, they “inherited strategies of scriptural interpretation from their Jewish predecessors” (1). This volume, therefore, expresses the state of the question and presses the field forward into new avenues of scholarship. In doing so, they stand on the shoulders of Krister Stendahl (School of Matthew, 1968) and Richard Hays (Echoes of Scripture in Paul, 1989). However, even though the authors of the New Testament are either “Jews or Judaphiles,” not all New Testament scriptural interpretations are easily illustrated in Jewish literature, nor can all types of scriptural interpretation in contemporary Judaism be illustrated in the New Testament.Israel's Scriptures in Early Christian Writings

In the introduction, the editors clarify the terminology used in the volume. A “marked citation” is an explicit quotation with an introductory formula (1 Cor 15:27, for example). An “unmarked citation” has a verbatim agreement with scripture but does not have an introductory formula (1 Cor 5:13, for example). A “verbal allusion” refers to a word or string of words from an earlier text without an explicit marker. In John 1:1, the author alludes to Genesis 1:1, even though there is an explicit indication that the author has that text in mind. What is missing here is any criteria for “hearing an echo,” ala Richard Hays. A “conceptual allusion” is a theme or a topic that refers to a scriptural precedent without an allusion to specific verses. In Romans 9:4-5, Paul obviously alludes to Israel’s Scripture but does not refer to specific verses. As with all studies on “the use of the Old Testament in the New,” the boundaries of these categories are fuzzy. Since this is an essay collection, each author approaches their section with their own understanding of the terms. However, this does not lead to inconsistencies in the book.

The first part of the collection collects seven essays setting the context. First, Edmon L. Gallagher defines what “Scriptures” were in the time of Jesus. He begins by observing that in his scribal debates with various teachers, “at no point does the conversation turn toward the identity of the scriptures of Israel” (23). Jesus never quoted a scripture the Pharisees would consider not scripture. All Jews accepted Torah as Scripture. Virtually all accepted the Prophets and most accepted what were later called the Writings. However, for some (Barclay, Sundberg), Torah was Scripture, and “prophets” referred to all other writings that were “not Torah.” Josephus is the first clear statement of “what counts” as Jewish Scripture (Against Apion, 1.37-43). Gallagher concludes that most Jews had a good idea what books were scripture and that most agreed with Josephus (42). There was room for doubt on a few canonical books (Esther or Ecclesiastes) and a few outside the traditional canon (Tobit, Sirach, or Wisdom). And most agreed that some books were clearly “not scripture.”

Second, Marc Zvi Brettler deals with how Jewish writers used Scripture in the Hebrew Bible. He collects examples of each kind of citation and Moses-typology in the Hebrew Bible. This kind of typology does not neatly fit into the usual categories outlined in the introduction. Third, Martin Karrer defines Israel’s Greek Scriptures as it is known in the Septuagint. The term Septuagint refers to Israel’s Greek Scripture received by early Christians, even though the borders of that collection were not fixed. Rabbinic Judaism focused on Hebrew Scriptures. Greek-speaking followers of Jesus “preferred the greater radius of the Greek Scripture.

Fourth. Grant Macaskill examines Israel’s Scriptures in the wider scope of Early Jewish Literature. He begins by observing that the largest proportion of what we call early Jewish literature was preserved in Christian circles (111; before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this literature was almost entirely preserved by Christians). This leads to a potential problem, Christian interpolations. Did non-biblical early Jewish writing influence New Testament writers? The obvious example is the book of Jude, which directly cites one Enoch. But there are other examples, such as Matthew 25: 31-46 and the parables of Enoch. Many scholars point out parallels between the Wisdom of Solomon in the book of Romans. For Macaskill, Early Jewish Literature bears witness to “a Judaism marked by a complex attitude to the Hellenistic world (he prefers “ambient cultural influence” (131). In addition, this literature challenges biblical theology strategies, which usually skip the Early Jewish Literature in favor of the Christian Old and New Testaments Canon.

Fifth, Susan Docherty defines “scriptures” in the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is a difficult issue that touches on both canon and authority. If extant copies of a book imply authority, then some non-canonical books are “more authoritative” than many canonical ones. But how often a book is quoted is also an indication of authority. She concludes the Dead Sea Scrolls prefer the Pentateuch, prophetic literature, and the Psalms because of the specific concerns of their community (141-42). But all the manuscripts preserved at Qumran are related to the “still-fluid but unquestionably authoritative collection of Israel’s Scriptures” (156). Sixth, Michael B. Cover examines Philo and interpretative strategies in the Alexandrian Jewish Tradition. After a brief summary, Cover compares Philo’s strategies to Paul (Gal 4:21-31), John, and Hebrews. He suggests these examples “only scratch the surface of the Alexandrian ‘s enormous potential to assist the contemporary New Testament exegete” (184).

The last essay in this section, Michael Avioz summarizes Josephus’s strategies for using Israel’s Scriptures in Antiquities. Josephus was free to omit some things elements of Israel’s Scripture, potentially embarrassing things (the golden calf incident), complex textual issues (David and Goliath), and repetitive or irrelevant to Josephus (long lists of names). He occasionally adds things to the stories which may reflect early rabbinic discussions (193).

In part two, Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament, scholars examine how individual writers used the Jewish Scripture. These sixteen essays cover the New Testament, with Paul’s letters receiving seven chapters (see the appendix to this review for the authors of each chapter). John’s Gospel is treated separately from John’s letters. Each chapter in this section includes a list of citations and allusions (based on the definitions in the introduction), usually in tabular form with some discussion of the details. Texts from the Septuagint and the Greek New Testament are printed in parallel when authors discuss potential allusions. One example: Paul Foster’s chapter on Ephesians and Colossians lists twenty-five suggested intertexts (comparing commentaries by Fee, Beale, and Beetham) and then concludes, “the use of Jewish Scripture on Colossians is minimal” (414).

Part three covers eight themes and topics from Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament: God, Messiah, Holy Spirit, Covenant, Law, Wisdom, Liturgy and Prayer, and Eschatology. Garrick V. Allen’s essay on eschatology points out the indebtedness of New Testament eschatology to the Jewish Scripture (744). The essay focuses on Isaiah 40, Daniel 7, and Zechariah, arguing that Matthew stands on Israel’s Scripture for the Baptist’s preaching and the Son of Man sayings. He follows a “winding path” from the prophets through Early Jewish Literature to the sayings of Jesus.

Part four examines how books from Israel’s Scriptures are used in the New Testament. These Four chapters discuss individual books (Deuteronomy, Isaiah, The Psalms, and Daniel), and a fifth chapter looks at figures from Israel’s history in the New Testament. Gert J. Steyn’s article on the use of Deuteronomy in the New Testament might surprise some readers who do not expect a Jewish law code to be so important for Christian Scripture.

Finally, part five goes beyond the New Testament to how early Christian writing used Israel’s Scriptures. The section includes apocryphal gospels and apocalypses. The adversus Judaeos tradition covers Barnabas, Justin Martyr, the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, and early Latin writers. Of interest in this section is Deiter Roth’s reconstruction of the views of three heretics: Marcion and his disciple Apelles, and Ptolemy’s Letter to Flora (preserved in Epiphanius). Following Judith Leiu, Roth points out that Marcion did not simply edit Israel’s Scripture, but he read and interpreted it (1014).

Each essay ends with a bibliography pointing interested readers to more detailed studies. Because of this book’s international team of scholars, these bibliographies often include many resources outside of the usual texts in English-speaking scholarship.

Conclusion. The second section of the collection of essays competes with Beale and Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Baker Academic 2007). Although that commentary is more detailed in some ways, the additional essays in this volume go beyond the scope of that work by examining themes and focusing on particular books from the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament (parts 3-4). The first section is almost a book on the canon of Israel’s Scripture alone! Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Writings is a major contribution to the study of how the New Testament read and interpreted the Scripture they inherited from Judaism.




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


Part I: Contexts
1. What Were the “Scriptures” in the Time of Jesus?, by Edmon L. Gallagher
2. Israel’s Scriptures in the Hebrew Bible, by Marc Zvi Brettler
3. Israel’s Greek Scriptures and Their Collection in the Septuagint, by Martin Karrer
4. Israel’s Scriptures in Early Jewish Literature, by Grant Macaskill
5. Israel’s Scriptures in the Dead Sea Scrolls, by Susan Docherty
6. Israel’s Scriptures in Philo and the Alexandrian Jewish Tradition, by Michael B. Cover
7. Israel’s Scriptures in Josephus, by Michael Avioz
Part II: Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament
A. The Gospels and Acts
8. Israel’s Scriptures in Matthew, by Matthias Konradt
9. Israel’s Scriptures in Mark, by Elizabeth Evans Shively
10.           Israel’s Scriptures in Luke, by Martin Bauspiess
11.           Israel’s Scriptures in John, by Jaime Clark-Soles
12.           Israel’s Scriptures in Acts, by Dietrich Rusam
B. The Apostle Paul
13.           Israel’s Scriptures in Romans, by Jens Schröter
14.           Israel’s Scriptures in 1 and 2 Corinthians, by Katja Kujanpää
15.           Israel’s Scriptures in Galatians, by A. Andrew Das
16.           Israel’s Scriptures in Ephesians and Colossians, by Paul Foster
17.           Israel’s Scriptures in Philippians and Philemon, by Angela Standhartinger
18.           Israel’s Scriptures in 1 and 2 Thessalonians, by Todd D. Still
19.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Pastoral Epistles, by Gerd Häfner
C. Hebrews and the Catholic Letters
20.           Israel’s Scriptures in Hebrews, by Gabriella Gelardini
21.           Israel’s Scriptures in James, by Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr
22.           Israel’s Scriptures in 1 Peter, Jude, and 2 Peter, by Jörg Frey
23.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Johannine Letters, by George Parsenios
D. The Book of Revelation
24.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Revelation of John, by Ian K. Boxall
Part III: Themes and Topics from Israel’s Scriptures in the New Testament
25.           God, by Archie T. Wright
26.           Messiah, by J. Thomas Hewitt
27.           Holy Spirit, by John R. Levison
28.           Covenant, by Richard J. Bautch
29.           Law, by Claudia Setzer
30.           Wisdom, by Benjamin Wold
31.           Liturgy and Prayer, by Rodney A. Werline
32.           Eschatology, by Garrick V. Allen
Part IV: Tracing Israel’s Scriptures
33.           Deuteronomy in the New Testament, by Gert J. Steyn
34.           Isaiah in the New Testament, by Benjamin E. Reynolds
35.           The Psalms in the New Testament, by Matthias Henze
36.           Daniel in the New Testament, by Alexandria Frisch and Jennie Grillo
37.           Figures of Ancient Israel in the New Testament, by Valérie Nicolet
Part V: Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christianity Outside the New Testament
38.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Apocryphal Gospels, by Tobias Nicklas
39.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Apocryphal Apocalypses, by Michael Karl-Heinz Sommer
40.           Israel’s Scriptures in the Adversus Judaeos Literature, by David Lincicum
41.           Israel’s Scriptures in Marcion and the Critical Tradition, by Dieter T. Roth
42.           Israel’s Scriptures in Early Christian Pictorial Art, by Robin M. Jensen


Acts 5 – Potential Background to Ananias and Sapphira

There are a wide variety of attempts to explain the very unusual story of Ananias and Sapphira. In his article on this chapter F. Scott Spencer lists a few of the many suggestions scholars have offered for “unlocking the mystery of this shocking episode” (63). I am taking Spencer’s list, rearranging it and adding a few comments.

For some scholars, the harsh judgment can be explained in the light of Greco-Roman rules for benefactors. This is often overlooked because New Testament scholars have been slow to read Greco Roman literature has a light on the early part of Acts. The community described in Acts is in many ways like a Greco-Roman family, so material wealth should be shared and to hold back one’s sharing would be shameful to the whole family. To promise to share and then not fulfill the promise would have been shameful. The problem is that this is a Jewish Christian community and Roman benefaction rules may not have influenced how gifts were given. Even if someone has shamed themselves, is “striking them dead” deal an option?

Ananias-FraudIt is possible to read the community of Acts 5 in the light of the community rules of Qumran. Again this is a tempting option since the Community Rule for the Essenes did require members to sell their property in order to support the group. This is the same thing that we see in the Christian community in the first part of the book of Acts. There are some very real differences however. Luke does not imply the sale of property was required. As needs arose, individuals voluntarily sold their property and donated it to the community. There is nothing in Acts that can be called an “entrance requirement.” Keener reports followers of Pythagoras also sold property when they joined the community, although if they failed to become full disciples they would receive a refund (Keener, 2:1187).

Occasionally commentators will point to parallels between Judas and Ananias. Both are prompted by Satan to betray the community, and both appear to be greedy/ Keener points out both stories involve real estate: Judas’ money purchases property, Ananias sold property (1:1185). These are interesting parallels, but I am not sure Luke makes much of them in Acts.

The most fruitful comparisons of this chapter come from the Old Testament. Some suggest Luke is making an intertextual allusion to an Old Testament story or perhaps even to his own work in the Gospel. For example, Luke may be retelling the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis. If the Christian community is a kind of New Age or a kingdom modeled after Eden. The story does concern a man who rebels against God (the Holy Spirit) at the prompting of Satan. Like Adam and Eve, the wife is complicit. There are however more differences than parallels, and Luke does not really make much of the parallel if it exists.

Another story from the Hebrew Bible which is potential background for Acts 5 is Aachen’s theft for the plunder of Jericho (Josh 6). As I mentioned in a previous post, Luke describes the “holding back” as an economic crime. If this Christian community is to be like a new Israel then any theft from the community would be akin to Aachen’s sin. As Keener says, “Sin can disrupt kononia (fellowship) even in the primitive, idyllic community” (2:1184).

This disruption of the ideal community is perhaps why scholars point to Eden, Joshua 6 and Jesus’ disciples as potential background for the story. In each case, there is an ideal community which is devastated by sin. In each case the result of that sin is death. Not all those who call on the name of Jesus are really committed to what God is doing through the Holy Spirit.

Are there other indications in this story of “cracks” in the community in Jerusalem? Maybe this is not an idyllic community after all.


Bibliography: F. Scott Spencer, “Scared to Death: The Rhetoric of Fear in the ‘Tragedy’ of Ananias and Sapphira.” Pages 63-80 in Reading Acts Today. London: T&T Clark, 2011.

Jesus the Bridegroom only $4.99 in the Logos Bible Software Library

I was quite surprised today with a tweet from a former student who bought my book, Jesus the Bridegroom for the Logos Bible Software for $4.99. This is part of the Wipf & Stock sale through Logos which (I assume) runs through the end of November 2018.

Jesus the Bridegroom has been reviewed in a couple of places. Marianne Blickenstaff reviewed the book for SBL’s Review of Biblical Literature (click here to read the review) and Peter Leithart reviewed the book at First Things a bit earlier. Don K. Preston reviewed the book at Amazon, saying he loves “the research that went into this. While Dr. Long’s emphasis is on ‘source’ and my focus is on theology, Nonetheless, I did find this book to be very helpful. I particularly appreciated the linguistic studies, showing the marital language that is used in some texts (e.g. especially Isaiah 4-5) that I had never seen before, and I truly appreciated it. His inter-textual notations were also fruitful. Long’s conclusion that Jesus drew together several strands of Jewish thought, and conflated those strands into a harmonious message, thus, suggesting that Jesus stood well within the framework of a Jewish prophet, is very good”

The book is also available through Amazon and the Wipf & Stock website (the retail price is $33 but there are discounted copies at Amazon and Wipf & Stock). The Kindle version is only $9.99 and claims to have real page numbers, but I cannot see them reading the book with the Kindle App on an iPad. Still, the book looks great in Kindle.

Obviously I would love for you to buy a copy, but I know that is not always possible. Here’s how you can help get the word out for me:

  • Buy the book while it is on sale at Logos, it is only $4.99!
  • Request that the book be added to your college, university, or seminary library.
  • Leave a review on I cannot stress this enough, it is very difficult to get people to leave a review on Amazon, but the sad fact is Amazon reviews count for something in today’s book buying world.

What is the book about? The full title of the book is Jesus the Bridegroom: The Origin of the Eschatological Feast as a Wedding Banquet in the Synoptic Gospels. The book is an edited version of my dissertation. As I was working on my dissertation, people would ask what I was writing on. I usually said “an intertextual study on messianic banquet imagery in the Synoptic Gospels.” After a moment of awkward silence, I clarified: “Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is like a Wedding Banquet – what’s up with that?”

The book attempts to study the marriage metaphor / motif in the teaching of Jesus. There are a few places in the Synoptic Gospels where Jesus describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a Wedding Banquet, Matt 22:1-14 and 25:1-13 are the most obvious texts. But there are a few places where Jesus describes himself as a bridegroom, and a marriage metaphor appears in a number of other places. My proposal is that Jesus combined the metaphor of an eschatological banquet with the common Old Testament marriage metaphor and described his ministry as an ongoing wedding banquet to which all Israel is now invited. The long period in the wilderness is over and it is time for Israel to return to her Bridegroom.

In order to make this case, I apply what might be called an intertextual method to traditions or set of metaphors. The “text” in this intertextual study is the Hebrew Bible, but that text was heard by Jesus’ original listeners rather than read. They knew the metaphors because they heard them taught in their homes and synagogues. Jesus used these metaphors because they were current, but by combining them to describe himself, he created a new image of the eschatological age as a wedding banquet.

I first examine the eschatological “victory banquet” motif in the Hebrew Bible, starting with Isa 25:6-8 (ch. 3), the use of the Wilderness Tradition in Isaiah 40-55 (ch. 4), and the Marriage Metaphor in Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah (ch. 5).  I trace the development of these three themes through the Second Temple Period in chapter 6, and finally apply that database to the sayings of Jesus in chapter 7.

There are a few things that you will not find in this book. First, I did not cover John’s gospel, although there is much there that can be described as “wedding motif.” My reason for this omission are simple-the dissertation was already too long to include another major section on John’s Gospel! Second, there is nothing in this book on the application of the Bridegroom metaphor to the church. I wanted a study of Jesus’ use of the metaphor, not the (much) later theological development of that metaphor. Again, the reason for this is simply that I was writing a New Testament dissertation, doing “biblical theology” rather than “systematic theology.” I wanted to focus on the teaching of Jesus and the origin of the wedding banquet metaphor.

I would really like to hear feedback from anyone who reads the book – feel free to send me an email to continue the discussion. Thanks!

Book Review: Andrew T. Le Peau, Mark through Old Testament Eyes

Le Peau, Andrew T. Mark through Old Testament Eyes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 2017. Pb. 352 pp. $28.99.   Link to Kregel

As Andrew Le Peau observes in the introduction to this new commentary series, the New Testament writers were Old Testament people. Although this seems like an obvious statement, the symbols and literary patterns of the Old Testament are often overlooked in popular preaching and teaching on New Testament books. Although scholarship has done a better job setting the documents of the New Testament into the context of the Old in recent years, there is still much to be done to develop the database of background material available to illuminate the New Testament. There have been a few recent contributions in this area, D. A. Carson and G. K. Beale edited a single-volume Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (IVP 2007) and the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary on the Old Testament and New Testament (2009 with many of the individual books available in separate volumes).  Although many commentaries include this sort of background material, there are few commentaries which focus exclusively on how the New Testament writers used the Old Testament.

Mark Through Old Testament EyesThis series of commentaries will provide a verse-by-verse commentary which integrates typical exegesis of the text with Old Testament background in order to help answer questions as they arise. With respect to the exposition of the text, Le Peau comments on key phrases with an eye to Old Testament parallels rather than the typical exegetical details found in most commentaries. For example, at Mark 9:43 “if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off,” Le Peau briefly discusses prohibitions on self-mutilation in the Law (Deut 14:1-3) as well as ancient  pagan practice (1 Kings 18:27-29). He also draws attention to the hand, foot and eye as a source of stumbling in Proverbs 6:16-10 and Job 31:1, 5, 7. In his commentary on Mark 3:37, Le Peau draws attention to the provision of abundant food as a “picture that looks ahead to Isaiah’s coming messianic kingdom” (123). He cites Isaiah 55:1-3 at length, but also notes the miraculous feeding in Numbers 11 and 2 Kings 4:42-44.

Throughout the commentary section, Greek and Hebrew words are used sparingly and always appear transliterated so those without language skills will have no trouble making use of the commentary. There is some interaction with contemporary scholarship, although this is light and all references appears in endnotes.

Throughout the commentary are a number of sidebars entitled “Through Old Testament Eyes.” These units focus on the big picture to show how a particular text picks up on themes and motifs from the Old Testament. For example, Le Peau offers a chart in his exposition of the feeding of the five thousand tracing parallels between Psalm 23 and Mark 6. I briefly commented on Psalm 23 as a messianic text and potential background for this miracle in Jesus the Bridegroom, so it is good to see the Psalm used to interpret a miracle often used to preach brotherly sharing rather than a miracle which reveals Jesus as the Messiah. Another example of this kind of sidebar is Le Peau’s short description of the suffering of the Messiah in the Psalms to illuminate Mark 14-15 (275-8).

A second type of sidebar in this commentary series is labeled “What the Structure Means.” These sections focus on literary devices such as metaphor, hyperbole, or other elements of story-telling. Often these take the form of an outline of a pericope with attention to chiasms or other features. In Mark 10:13-52 he lists four predictions and a prediction which frames the unit. In another place Le Peau offers a list of examples in Mark of sets of three events (272-3) and draws attention to this literary style in the Old Testament.

One problem with scholarly background studies is a failure to connect the context with the contemporary reader. This commentary hopes to avoid this my balancing the background element with an application section. These sections are labeled “Going Deeper” and intend to connect the text of a New Testament book with internal debates within the early church as well as draw out implications for contemporary church questions. For example, the “Going Deeper” section following Le Peau’s exposition of Mark 9:14-50 is a pastoral reflection on anger and quarrelsomeness (173-2). The section following Mark 13:12 deals with a non-eschatological understanding of “watching and being alert.” The focus is on understanding suffering as a part of the disciple’s calling. Although this application is quite preachable, I am not sure the application arises from the text of the Olivet Discourse. The actual text of the commentary does a good job with the Old Testament (Daniel 7) and Second Temple (1 Maccabees) backgrounds to Jesus’s words and even notices the shift in 13:27 from the Temple in A.D. 70 to the “end of the age.” It seems to me the natural application in that section ought to concern a warning against false predictions of the end in the light of the very real end which will eventually arrive.

I have a few minor problems with this commentary which probably fall into the category of “this is not the book I would have written.” First, Le Peau’s commentary on Mark does not deal with introductory issues in any depth. There are two pages under the heading “Who was Mark?” which deal with the few appearances of Mark in Acts and the epistles along with an ancient African tradition about Mark’s family. Since the purpose of the commentary to provide background to read the Gospel of Mark, perhaps more ought to be said about traditional authorship. For example, if the tradition Mark was Peter’s interpreter in Rome is accurate, what does his use of the Old Testament imply about the original audience and intention of the Gospel? What does the use of a New Exodus motif imply about the audience?

Second, there is a very short introduction to the use of the Old Testament in the Gospel. Most of this four page section involves an illustration drawn from contemporary movies. Although this analogy does explain how a writer might allude to an earlier work, it fails to explain why Mark would use the Old Testament in the way he does. Mark is not paying tribute to Isaiah for his contributions to prophetic writing; Mark is alluding to Isaiah’s New Exodus motif because he believes Jesus is really enacting the metanarrative of the whole Old Testament and placing himself in the center of that story. I realize Le Peau simply does not have space to write a fully argued methodology in the introduction to this commentary, but improving this introduction would pay dividends as readers use the commentary to read Mark.

Third, although this might be less interesting to evangelical readers, I think the commentary could be improved by occasionally tracing a motif through the literature of the Second Temple period. In my review of the text, I only noticed a few references to 1 Maccabees in the context of the abomination of desolation and there are no references to the Apocrypha or Pseudepigrapha in the Scripture index. Although this is not always possible, perhaps using the Dead Sea Scrolls as background for son of David sayings or the messianic banquet would set the Gospel of Mark into a more broadly Jewish context.

A final comment goes beyond the scope of the commentary, but I raise it since few scholars have asked the question. In the commentary, Le Peau understands allusions to the Old Testament are a product of Mark’s narration of the events. But to what extent did the historical Jesus shape traditions by alluding the Old Testament himself?  If Mark 4:11 fairly records the words of Jesus, then the allusion to Daniel 2 and 4 in the phrase “mystery of the kingdom” comes from Jesus rather than Mark. If this is the case, does it affect the exegesis of Mark 4?

Nevertheless, Le Peau contributes a good commentary on Mark which focuses on an often overlooked aspect of New Testament research.

This is the inaugural volume of a new series from Kregel Academic, with four other volumes planned at this time (David Capes on Matthew, Karen Jobes on John, Gary Burge on Galatians and Ephesians, and Tremper Longman on Revelation). My copy of this book has a number of strange spacing errors when the text is italicized, hopefully this can be corrected in future reprints of the commentary (p. 27, the word Spirit, p. 39, the phrase Kingdom of God; p. 49, the word quiet, p. 51, the word healed, etc.) This is a minor problem and does not detract from the value of the commentary.


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.

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.