Book Review: L. Michael Morales, Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?

Morales, L. Michael. Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus. New Studies in Biblical Theology 37. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2015. 190 pgs., Pb.; $22.00 Link to IVP

In this contribution to the NSBT series, L. Michael Morales examines the theology of the often overlooked book of Leviticus as the center of the Pentateuch. Morales begins by describing the placement of the Lampstand and the Table of the Presence in the Tabernacle. The Lampstand appears to have been intentionally placed to shine light on the bread arranged on the table in order to visually portray God’s intention that his people should live continually in his presence. The book of Leviticus is about “dwelling with God in the house of God” (20). In the first chapter of the book Morales argues the Pentateuch is “shaped as a journey led by YHWH to himself at Mount Sinai” (37) where Israel is given the house of the Lord, the Tabernacle. Leviticus stands at the center of the Pentateuch in order to instruct God’s people how they may “ascend the mountain of the Lord” and live in the presence of the glory of their God.

Morales, Who may ascend the moountain of God?Humans are unable to live in the presence of God because of the rebellion of Eden. In the second chapter of the book Morales describes this “longing for Eden” as the foreground for reading Leviticus as the center of the Pentateuch. God created Eden as a mountain temple in which humans were placed to worship God and Genesis itself provides a “cultic cosmology” as humans move away from life within the order of Creation to death and chaos (49). Adam becomes an exile from God’s presence and wanders east, prevent from returning to the presence of God by cherubim. Because of their rebellion, humans are exiled from the presence of God in Eden and cannot return to God’s presence.

Israel has an opportunity to “Return to Eden” in the book of Exodus (Chapter 3). The narrative context of Leviticus stands on the foundation of the redeemed people of God passing through the through the waters of chaos as they are led to the mountain of God. The goal of Israel’s redemption from Egypt was worship at the house of God (82) at another mountain of God, Sinai (86). There is a crisis at this point since no one is able to ascend the Mountain of the Lord. Only Moses is permitted to go up Sinai in his role as mediator. For Morales, the mountain represents approaching God in worship (89).

The Tabernacle is introduced after the covenant in Exodus (Exod 25-40). The Tabernacle is the way back to the living in the presence of God, but the book of Exodus ends with a another crisis: no one is able to enter the Tabernacle because it is filled with the Glory of God (Exod 40:35).

This crisis is answered by the book of Leviticus. In chapters 4-6 Morales demonstrates that the overall structure of Leviticus is a way of dealing with the uncleanliness which separates man from God, with the Day of Atonement at the center of not only Leviticus, but the whole Petnateuch. Leviticus 1-8 describe the sacrificial cult as a journey back to the presence of God, yet there is another crisis in Leviticus 9-10. At the very moment Israel experiences the presence of God and the priest begin their sacrificial ministry, Nadab and Abihu make unauthorized sacrifices and fall under God’s judgment (Lev 10). Morales suggests Nadab and Abihu may have drunkenly attempted to go past the veil which separates the glory of God from the people (149). They were unfit to be in God’s presence, so Leviticus 11-15 represents a “cleansing the house of God.”

For many Bible readers, the laws on clean and unclean in Leviticus 11-15 seem random and focused on matters which are not related to real spirituality. But as Morales points out, these chapters describe what it means to be clean, or “fit for the Presence of God” and what it means to be holy, or “belonging to God.” Things that are profane cause uncleanliness and therefore separate humans from God. They can be made clean, and clean things can be sanctified so they are fit for God’s presence. The Tabernacle is therefore a “sacred bubble . . . set within a sea of uncleanliness” (161). The most important demonstration of this concept is the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16. On this day, an Adam-like priest approaches the presence of God with blood of atonement and the way back to the Lord is opened. This is a reversal of Adam’s expulsion to the east as the priest walks past the cherubim guarding the way back to Eden, For Morales, this is a “liturgical drama” (176). But there is also a sacred geography present on the Day of Atonement as well: the scapegoat carries sin into the wilderness, back to the chaos of non-creation (179).

This reentry into the divine presence is the key to understanding Israel’s call to holiness in Leviticus 17-22. Returning to the symbolism of the lampstand and bread of the Presence, Israel is to continually live in the light of God. The purpose of the lengthy “holiness code” is to deal with the crisis of uncleanliness which might prevent Israel from experiencing the presence of God. The goal in this unit is always communion and fellowship with God.

Having described Leviticus as the center of the Pentateuch, Morales traces the movement from Sinai and the tabernacle to Zion and Solomon’s Temple (chapter 7). Zion will be the mountain of God when Israel finally enters the land, but Morales sees the place of Abraham’s sacrifice (Moriah) as pointing ahead to Zion. Unlike Sinai, Zion will be the permanent place of God’s habitation (227), even though Israel’s unfaithfulness results in another “exile to the east.” After the exile Israel will return to Zion as a new Eden, citing Isaiah 51:3 (237). The prophets also look forward to a future when God’s presence will return to a “new Zion” (255).

This prophetic expectation leads Morales to conclude the book with an intra-canonical reading of his “drama of Leviticus,” from the earthly Zion to the heavenly Mount Zion. For the Gospel of John, the incarnation is the means by which God dwells once again with his people (260) and the sacrifice of Jesus at Passover deals with the ultimate uncleanliness separating humans from the glory of God. This is perhaps the weakest point in Morales’s typology, since in Leviticus it was the Day of Atonement which opened access to God, not the Passover. This is of course a problem for any attempt to create a typology between the Law and Jesus. But Morales is able to make the connection because the original the Passover provided redemption for Israel and brought then to Sinai; the new Passover initiates a new exodus in the Resurrection (277). Ultimately the eschaton will be the decent of the messianic kingdom to earth (299). Revelation 20-21 include a great deal of Eden language, including the Tree of Life.

Conclusion. Morales has contributed a very readable book on the theology of Leviticus. He places Leviticus in its immediately canonical context as the center of the Pentateuch. Although he does not develop his thesis for Numbers and Deuteronomy in as much detail as for Genesis and Exodus, it is clear the book of Leviticus is designed around the Day of Atonement as the means by which access to God is opened for Israel.

Since he attempts to read the theme of “ascending the mountain of God” across the canon, I would have expected Isaiah 2 and 25:6-8 to be more important to the argument of the book. Both texts refer to gathering of all the nations to the mountain of God in the eschatological age to worship in the presence of God. This shortcoming is a result of a limited section on the prophets, so it is understandable that he is unable to cover all of the reference to mountains in the prophets.

I have one minor problem with the book, and that is the overuse of the word “drama” as a metaphor for the book of Leviticus and the plotline of the Pentateuch. I understand this is a popular way to describe the movement of a book in biblical studies, but it has become an overused metaphor.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book not only for those interested in Leviticus, but also for the theology of the Pentateuch.

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

Book Review: Capes, Reeves and Richards, Rediscovering Jesus

Capes, David B., Rodney Reeves and E. Randolph Richards. Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Christ. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2015. 272 pp. Hb; $30.00.   Link to IVP

In Mark 2:6 Jesus tells a young man hoping to be healed that his sins are forgiven. Since only God has the authority to forgive sins, some of the teachers of the Law wonder just who Jesus thinks he is. This is exactly Jesus’ question to Peter at the turning point of the Gospel, “who do people say that I am?” (Mark 8:27-30). Peter’s response is mostly correct, “You are the Messiah.” He understands Jesus as Messiah, but as the rest of Mark makes clear, he did not understand what the Messiah intended to do in Jerusalem.

Capes, Rediscovering JesusEach chapter of Rediscovering Jesus attempts to answer Jesus’ question “who do people say that I am?” Rather than limited the answer to only the four Gospels or the New Testament itself, the authors include four post-biblical views of Jesus (the Gnostic Jesus, the Muslim Jesus, the Historical Jesus, and the Mormon Jesus) as well as two contemporary views of Jesus (American Jesus and Cinematic Jesus). For each of these views, the authors hope to demonstrate the unique understanding of Jesus but also to ask the important question, “what if this was our only view of Jesus?”

The book includes a series of text boxes entitled “What’s More…” which expand on some of the details of the chapter. For example, “Is Matthew Anti-Semitic” or “Was Jesus Married?” In addition, there are boxes labeled “So What?” in each chapter which attempt to draw out some implications of the image of Jesus described in the chapter. For example, under the heading of “I’m Saved. Now What?” there is a short challenge to the reading to think more deeply about the implications of Paul’s view of salvation. Chapters conclude with a brief additional reading section and a series of discussion questions.

A short introductory introduces the reader to a serious problem for people who study Jesus: creating a Jesus who looks exactly like the reader. This has always been a problem for the Church and one that Albert Schweitzer pointed out in his Quest for the Historical Jesus more than a hundred years ago. Rediscovering Jesus recognizes this as unavoidable, everyone who seriously studies Jesus will see something different, therefore the book presents various images of Jesus.

The first major section of the book concerns Jesus in the Bible, beginning with four chapters surveying each gospel writer’s understanding of Jesus. Beginning with the Gospel of Mark, the authors point out Mark’s Jesus is not a warm and fuzzy person. Rather, he is “driven by the Spirit” to fulfill his messianic calling. He is a miracle worker more than a teacher. Matthew’s Jesus, on the other hand, is the “consummate teacher, a prophet like Moses” who was deeply committed to the Old Testament (52). Luke’s Jesus is the king from very beginning of the Gospel. His birth announcement is royal and he is God’s son and Lord. Although the chapter mentions Acts briefly, the authors do not focus on a unique picture of Jesus in Acts (and there is no chapter dedicated to Acts). As is often observed, John’s Jesus is very different. The authors point to John’s view of the kingdom as “not of this world” and consider John’s gospel less interested in the ethical demands found in Matthew (86).

In their conclusion to the chapter on Paul’s Jesus, the authors are struck by his lack of interest in the life and teaching of Jesus. Paul, they say, is “obsessed with things that we think really do not matter” (105), yet Paul’s interpretation of the cross is the “greatest contribution to our understanding of Christ (101). For Paul, Jesus is the crucified one, whom God raised from the dead and exalted to the highest place (Phil 2:6-11). They speculate that if Paul were our only view of Jesus, we would focus more on the return of Christ and perhaps even care less about social justice, thinking it would all be sorted out when Jesus returns. This is in fact a real danger for readers of the New Testament who lack a clear view of the canonical context when reading only Paul’s letters.

In “The Priestly Jesus” (chapter 6) the authors describe Jesus according to the book of Hebrews. Hebrews is the only book describing Jesus as a priest, so the obvious focus on this chapter is the book’s comparison of the Old Testament sacrificial system and the sacrifice of Jesus. The following chapter (“The Jesus of Exiles”) covers the letters of James, Peter and Jude (The epistles of John appear to be included in the Gospel of John chapter).  This chapter understands the language of exile in 1 Peter and James as a metaphor for the church akin to Paul’s “body of Christ” (131). I would rather take these references as more or less literal references to Diaspora Jews and read 1 Peter and James as a Jewish Christian interpretation of Jesus. Although I agree Lordship of Jesus is a key issue in these letters, I think an opportunity to describe a Jesus more agreeable with Second Temple period Judaism is lost by forcing “exile” into a metaphor for the (later) Gentile church. Finally, According to the book of Revelation, the work of Jesus is an accomplished fact and an irreversible force (145).

CEO Jesus

CEO Jesus

Part two of Rediscovering Jesus concerns “Jesus Outside the Bible.” Following a chronological pattern in an attempt to describe how some have attempted to explain who Jesus was from an often radically different perspective from the New Testament. They begin with the “Gnostic Jesus.” This very basic introduction to Gnosticism dispels any “conspiracy theories” about the suppression of Gnosticism and shows Gnostic Jesus as revealer of hidden mysteries. The Muslim Jesus (chapter 10) a kind of “patron saint” of asceticism (184) and prophet who was not the son of God nor divine, and was not crucified. In the “Historical Jesus” (chapter 11) the authors survey various rationalist attempts to explain Jesus in the nineteenth century as a teacher, but not a miracle worker. Since reason proves there can be no miracles, many interpreters of Jesus sought to strip the husk of legend from the Gospels to discover the “real Jesus.” Next the authors describe the sometimes perplexing view of Jesus held by the Mormon Church. Although this Jesus sometimes sounds like the Jesus of the Gospels, there are significant differences in both the nature of Jesus (he is a separate God, not part of a Trinity) and in terms of his post-resurrection appearances.

Redneck Jesus

Redneck Jesus

The final two chapters of the book are fascinating since they are not typically included on academic textbooks on Jesus. In “The American Jesus” the authors suggest several ways American Christians get Jesus wrong: he is a politically correct Jesus who offends no one, or a politicized Jesus supporting your favorite candidate, or a pragmatic, CEO Jesus who coaches you to greater (financial) success, or even a subversive radical hippie freak (queue the Larry Norman song, “The Outlaw”!)

The last chapter looks at Jesus as portrayed in films, “The Cinematic Jesus.” A sidebar lists about twenty films about Jesus since 1905, and there are many more than these. From The Greatest Story Ever Told to Jesus Christ Superstar, from the Passion of the Christ to The Life of Brian, filmmakers have interpreted Jesus as almost everything covered in this book.  Ultimately, the authors suggest the Cinematic Jesus is akin to the Gnostic Jesus, a pious religious man revealing some mystery about life, the universe and everything.

Conclusion:  My main criticism of the book is the speculation at the end of each chapter, “what if this was our only view of Jesus?” Perhaps this is a rhetorical device intended to provoke the reader into reading the canon of Scripture holistically, but this approach seems to read the way Paul or John are described as fairly negative. It is almost as if they are saying, “Paul did not get it quite right, you need Matthew you really understand Jesus.” I do not think it is the case the authors of the New Testament ever “got Jesus wrong,” although the encouragement to take all of the biblical pictures of Jesus seriously is an important encouragement.

One other small concern is the last of interest in the historical development of Christology.  With the exception of flipping the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, the book moves through the New Testament more or less in canonical order. This gives the impression the Gospels pre-date the Pauline letters or even the Book of Hebrews. Since the book is examining the Gospel writers are witnesses to Jesus, their perspective is later than Paul or Hebrews. It might be helpful to recognize this and perhaps use the chronological development to tease out yet another perspective on who Jesus is.

Nevertheless, this book would serve well as a textbook for a college or seminary classroom, especially as a way to confront the tendency to recreate Jesus in our own image. The book is written for a non-academic audience, so it could be used as a small group Bible Study or for personal enrichment.

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

Book Review: Christopher J. H. Wright, The Message of Lamentations

Wright, Christopher J. H. The Message of Lamentations. The Bible Speaks Today; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2015. 166 pp. Pb; $16.00.   Link to IVP

Wright has already written the volumes on Jeremiah and Ezekiel for The Bible Speaks Today series as well as the excellent Old Testament Ethics for the People of God (Intervarsity, 2011) and The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Intervarsity, 2006). His brief commentary on Lamentations is a welcome contribution to the study of this obscure book. Often commentaries on Lamentations are something of an appendix to Jeremiah (with the exception of the strange paring of Lamentations and Song of Songs in the Word Biblical Commentary series). Recently, however, several commentaries Lamentations have appeared: Adele Berlin’s commentary in the OTL series (Fortress, 2002), Dobbs-Allsopp in the Interpretation series (WJK, 2002), and Robin Parry’s commentary in the Two Horizons series (Eerdmans, 2010).

Wright LamentationsWright’s thirty-five page introduction to the book of argues “Lamentations is a book for today” (21). This is true despite the fact the book is rarely the subject of preaching and few Christians would think to “lament” as part of Christian worship. Yet there is a great deal which is worthy of lament in the modern world, horrors which are in many ways resonant with the context of Lamentations.

Wright begins by setting lamentations in the context of the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., “unquestionably the most traumatic moment in the whole history of the Old Testament” (25). With respect to authorship, there is nothing in the book that could not be written by Jeremiah and the book “sounds like Jeremiah” (27). Yet the author has chosen to remain anonymous, so Wright simply calls him “the poet” throughout the book. Wright offers a short introduction to the poetry of the book, including the acrostic structure and the form of dirge/lament.

Perhaps the most valuable section of the introduction to the book is Wright’s view how a lament functions. In some ways it is a memorial to the horrors of the fall of Jerusalem, but a memorial gives voice to those who have suffered and cannot cry out for themselves. But there is something more in this lament. Jerusalem suffered greatly because of their sin, but was God’s wrath on this people just? Lamentations can be read as a struggle to find the justice of God in the face of extreme suffering. In this sense, it is a protest against what God has done—but it is a protest that ultimately accepts both God’s sovereignty and his righteous wrath (39). Meditating on Psalm 56:8, Wright suggests Lamentations is something of a bottle for the tears of God’s people. The book is a place where outrage and sorrow can be honestly and safely expressed.

The final two sections of the introduction offers a reading of Lamentations as part of the whole canon of Scripture. In order to connect this book to the rest of the canon, Wright briefly explores the silence of God in Lamentations and the rest of Scripture. But how does a book like Lamentations “fit” into the overall drama of Scripture? He suggests reading Lamentations is like “hitting the pause button, freezing the action of the drama, memorializing that moment in the story when it did indeed seem like the drama was coming to an end” (47). He cites numerous verbal connections between Lamentations and Isaiah 40-55 to suggest the Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is at least theologically linked to Lamentations. But this reading does mean we “jump straight to Jesus” and make Lamentations all about the Cross (52). There is a sense in which God’ is silent in both cases, but his silence in the crucifixion anticipates resurrection and salvation.

The commentary itself proceeds by paragraph, commenting on the English text of the book of Lamentations. Since The Bible Speaks Today series is intentionally brief and aimed at the layperson, there is no Hebrew in the text or notes. The style used for the commentary is very readable and at times convicting. While Wright is offering an accurate exposition of the text, he also wants to challenge his readers with the content of this disturbing book. For example, while discussing the horrors of children dying in the streets of Jerusalem (Lam 2:11-19), he refers to a report from the United Nations Relief and Work Agency which detailed the aftermath of the July 2014 shelling of Gaza by the Israeli Defense Force. The spokesperson for the Agency wanted to show there is a human being with a heart behind the people killed. Likewise, Lamentations seeks to “humanizes the statistics” of Jerusalem’s disaster by graphically describing the death of children in the street. This juxtaposition of current events and the distant history of Lamentations brings the text alive for the modern reader.

This commentary is very friendly toward the non-professional reader. It is not an exegetical commentary nor does it intend to deal with all of the complex issues the book of Lamentations raises. While Wright occasionally interacts with other significant commentaries, the bulk of this is relegated to the notes so a layperson will have no trouble reading this book. Each chapter ends with a few “reflections” on the text. These are questions to prompt further discussion, perhaps as a part of a small group or Bible study.

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

Published on September 5, 2015 on Reading Acts.

Book Review: John Goldingay, Do We Need the New Testament? (Part 2)

Goldingay, John. Do We Need the New Testament? Letting the Old Testament Speak for Itself. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2015. 184 pp. Pb; $22.00.   Link to IVP

NB: This is the second part of my review of Do We Need the New Testament?, the first part appears here. Although the book does not divide itself into two parts, chapters 5-9 cover topics which are in some ways controversial in scholarship.

GoldingayIn chapter 5 Goldingay deals with one of the more difficult books of the New Testament with respect to understanding the First Testament. This provocatively titled chapter (“How People Have Mis(?)read Hebrews) attempts to correct the common Christians misconception that the First Testament presents sacrifices as the “way Israelites got right with God” (91). There is little in the First Testament to link sacrifice and forgiveness of sin: sacrifices were a religious practice common in the ancient world. But Hebrews is often used to create a typology, or foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Jesus. Christian theology is used to look back on the sacrifices and interpret them through the lens of Jesus. This is problematic when applied to the stories of the First Testament, especially when preaching Hebrews 11. The individuals in the chapter, Goldingay argues, were not designed to be examples of faith for people to follow today (95). Although Hebrews says Enoch pleased God, Genesis does not. The First Testament never says, “Be holy like Abraham,” but God often commands his people “be holy like me” (Lev 19:1). Goldingay warns against using Hebrews as a hermeneutical guide: “the hermeneutical guidance that the New Testament offers us is that we should not be looking to it for hermeneutical guidance” (97).

In a frustratingly short chapter Goldingay describes the “Costly Loss of First Testament Spirituality” (chapter 6). His focus here is on the Psalms as a response to God. He argues here the Psalms could correct “the emaciated nature of what counts as worship” in our culture. The problem for Goldingay is culture has shifted the focus of worship to how we feel and away from the biblical focus on God. “We have devised a religion ti enable us to give expression to our individual sad selves and we hope it will make us feel better, but it does not really do so” (107). Using the sacrifices as an example, worship for an Israelite was costly; modern worship costs us nothing and we usually leave with just that! This chapter on biblical worship is significant enough to merit a book-length treatment, especially given Goldingay’s expertise in the Psalms.

Chapter 7 (“Memory and Israel’s Faith, Hope, and Life”) is an essay on a trendy topic in scholarship, memory studies. His interest in the chapter is to contrast “history” in the modern sense of the word from “memory,” especially collective memory as it relates to faith in the First Testament. Goldingay points out the frequency of the command to remember in Deuteronomy and shows the command to remember is different from “hard facts.” If you want the facts, go to the annals of the Kings, memories are both less and more than history because they interpret the facts. This interpretation involves forgetting some things as well as remembering competing facts. Israel was happy to affirm conflicting memories, Goldingay says, “because the all contained truth” (125). Some evangelicals will balk at this, especially when he says “much of the account of in Chronicles of David is imaginary,” but that does not make it untrue as an interpretation of the past, especially since the interpretation intends to remind people of how what happened shapes them now. He draws parallels to several recent American films and points out how these films are based on fact, but are intended to tell Americans something about themselves. So too the First Testament remembers truth and presents it in a way to shape both current and future communities of believers.

In chapter 8 Goldingay discusses how Jesus reads the Torah, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. Occasionally Christians think Jesus taught love of neighbors in contrast to the First Testament. But this is not the case, Jesus often “is bringing out the meaning of the Torah and the Prophets” (141). It is not as though the First Testament says “hate your enemies” and Jesus reverses this to “love your enemies.” But Matt 5:43-44 implies someone was teaching “you’re your enemies” and there is a great deal of destruction of enemies in the First Testament. For Goldingay, Jesus invites his followers to use love of God and neighbor as a filter for all commands: how can a particular command be fulfilled by loving God or loving a neighbor? There are other problems, however, in reading the First Testament in the present age. Goldingay therefore briefly discusses divorce (it is not ideal) and slavery (it is reformed).

In his final chapter, Goldingay treats another trendy topic in recent biblical scholarship, Theological Interpretation. Goldingay is not against much of what passes for theological interpretation of Scripture, and he is perplexed anyone should have to argue for in the first place. But he is concerned at reading the First Testament only through the lens of theology of the New Testament. By “theological interpretation of Scripture” Goldingay means confessional or canonical readings of the Bible which focus on the larger narrative of the whole Bible (perhaps in response to the atomizing historical-critical method).

Like most of the titles in the book the chapter is provocative. First, he says “Don’t Be Christ-Centered.” As Goldingay observes, any book on theological interpretation begins with the principle of Christocentric theology (citing Francis Watson and Robert Wall as examples). This is not correct, says Goldingay, theology ought to be Theocentric. “Jesus did not reveal something new about God” (163) and Scripture comes to us “with Jesus” not “from Jesus.” Goldingay therefore rejects a “filtered First Testament” that sorts out all of the Christocentric theology and ignores the rest. It is not the case, for example, “that what was hidden in the Old was revealed in the New” (164).

Secondly in this chapter, Goldingay encourages theology, but warns the interpreter to “not be Trinitarian.” This focus on Trinitarian theology is common in theological interpretation handbooks and is really a result of a Christocentric hermeneutic. This is more than simply hearing “trinity” every time the Spirit of God is mentioned. God’s fatherhood in the First Testament are not to be taken as “first person of the Trinity.” What Goldingay is arguing for in this chapter is to let theology come out of the First Testament naturally, without imposing New Testament ideas on to a text where they are not present.

Goldingay’s third warning is to not be constrained by the “Rule of Faith.” This is another foundational element of theological interpretation and was developed from way some of the church fathers read Scripture. Citing Joel Green, Goldingay describes this Rule of Faith method as a dialogue between Scripture and theological discourse. There is a “mutual influence” as theologians read Scripture. But as Goldingay points out, the First Testament was not receive as Scripture because it was coherent with the theology of the New Testament. In fact, as this book demonstrates, there are many times the New Testament has to work very hard to make sense of the First Testament! While the Rule of Faith “provides a horizon from within which we may come to understand the Scriptures,” it should not determine what is “allowed to be there” (173). Goldingay points out the people who employ this method are often “systematic theologians who want to be more biblical” and resist the method are “biblical scholars who want to be theological” (174).

Conclusion. Since most of the book began as papers, it reads like a collection of essays. The topics are representative of the problem proposed by the title rather than a systematic treatment of the topic. Individual chapters stand alone and there is no overall argument being advanced other than to consistently show the importance of the First Testament for a proper reading of the New Testament and development Christian Theology.  I find most of this book a refreshing correction to popular Christian preaching and his critique of theological interpretation is on the mark in my view. But I consider myself a biblical scholar who champions the historical-critical method as opposed to a Christocentric Rule of Faith.

Although Goldingay does refer to Paul and his letters throughout the book, there is no chapter dedicated to Paul’s reading of the First Testament. This seems a critical omission since Paul extensively uses the First Testament in his letters. He also has the most to say about the application of the Torah in the present age. Certainly Goldingay recognizes Paul’s contribution to the “Grand Narrative,” but there is less in this volume than expected on Paul’s use (or abuse) of the Old Testament.

These criticisms do not detract from the overall usefulness of the book. Goldingay challenges Christians to read the First Testament and fully integrate into their theology and practice.

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

Book Review: Aaron Chalmers, Interpreting the Prophets

Chalmers, Aaron. Interpreting the Prophets: Reading, Understanding and Preaching from the Worlds of the Prophets. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2015. 173 pp. Pb; $20.00.   Link to IVP

Aaron Chalmers is head of the School of Ministry, Theology and Culture at Tabor Adelaide and wrote Exploring the Religion of Ancient Israel for Intervarsity’s Exploring Topics in Christianity Series (2012). In this new work on the prophets, he introduces students to the “world” of the prophets.

Chalmers, ProphetsIn chapter 1 Chalmers explains defines biblical “prophet” in contrast to modern definitions of prophecy. I too have found my students think biblical prophecy is more or less like Harry Potter meets Left Behind. They seem a bit surprised that my Old Testament Prophets course starts with a lengthy section of social ethics and covenant faithfulness! Chalmers also offers a sketch of how a prophetic book is formed, moving from oral presentation to a written document or collection of documents. He does not shy away from describing some of the prophetic books the results of an editorial process and briefly discusses the “locus of inspiration,” indicating that God;s hand is at work in the whole process, whatever that process might be. He concludes “at the end of the day there is still much we do not know about the composition of the prophetic books,” but this is not really a problem because Chalmers is interested in exegeting the final form of the text (31).

In chapter two Chalmers describes “The Historical World of the Prophets.” The first half of the chapter is a basic sketch of Old Testament history from the eighth century through the return from exile. He sets each prophet into the history, although he discusses the historical context of Jonah and Daniel in a sidebar, suggesting the “historical context” is not necessarily the same as the final form of the literary works bearing their names. He presents Second Isaiah in a separate historical context than Isaiah 1-39 and only deals with the division of the book briefly in a footnote. He dates Joel to the post-exilic period as well as Trito-Isaiah (“if its presence is accepted,” 60). This chapter includes a short primer on exegeting the Prophets, warning against substituting historical research for exegesis and overgeneralizing about ancient cultures (not all ancient people thought exactly alike!)

Chapter 3 is devoted to “The Theological World of the Prophets.” Here Chalmers primarily discusses two mountains, Sinai and Zion. Sinai represents the Lord’s covenant with his people Israel and Zion represents the Lord’s covenant with David. The first half of the chapter describes the Covenant as it was given on Sinai and shows how this covenant resonates through the prophetic literature. With respect to David and Zion, Chalmers argues the Lord rules through the Davidic kings as a regent, ruling from Zion. This Zion theology becomes the basis of messianic expectations after 586 B.C. Although Chalmers does recognize this development, it is perhaps beyond the scope of his book to tease out those developments in much detail.

In “The Rhetorical World of the Prophets” (Chapter 4) Chalmers discusses the unique rhetorical features of the prophets, beginning with the structure of prophetic speech. Included in this chapter is a survey of “prophetic forms” (judgment, salvation, disputation, lawsuit, vision report and action report). The chapter includes some introduction to parallelism as a feature of Hebrew Poetry, but more important for Chalmers is the function of prophetic imagery. Since these features are “easy to over-exegete” (113), Chalmers suggests we read imagery with the context of the prophetic book: what is the point the prophet was making with a metaphor or simile.

“From Prophecy to Apocalyptic” (chapter 5) focuses on this particular form of prophetic speech found in Daniel, Zechariah and other parts of the later Old Testament. Chalmers describes apocalyptic as a visionary mode of revelation often mediated through a third person (an angel, for example), set in a narrative framework. These texts tend to focus on the “end of history: in order to encourage the reader during a time of crisis. Using an impressionistic painting by Claude Monet as an example, Chalmers urges would-be interpreters of Apocalyptic to focus on the ‘big picture” not the details. With respect to the “big picture,” we can be fairly confident of the meaning of apocalyptic, but less certain when examining the details. This is not far from Brent Sandy’s Plowshares to Pruning Hooks, another IVP book Chalmers cites several times.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter is the last, “Guidelines for Preaching from the Prophets.” Along with the conclusions to several chapters, this guide to preaching these difficult books will be welcomed by pastors struggling with presenting the prophets to their congregations. Despite observing the prophets receive “minimal air time” in the three-year ecumenical lectionary (147), Chalmers suggests it is not necessarily wise to preach through a prophetic book using the “verse-by-verse” method some expository preachers prefer. It is in fact difficult to develop appropriate analogies for application since the books themselves are focused on their own theological agenda. As a potential avenue of application, Chalmers suggests observing the witness of the New Testament and the fulfillment of the prophets in the person and work of Jesus, although he warns against leaning too heavily on the “promise fulfillment” method found in popular preaching (158).

With respect to “future fulfillment,” Chalmers devotes several pages debunking the widely influential (and very outdated) approach of Hal Lindsey. This over-literal interpretation of prophecy tends to read Ezekiel through the lens of current events in the Middle East and completely miss the rich meaning found in the actual text of the Bible. I wholeheartedly agree with the point of this section, however I do think there are parts of the prophetic books which really do concern a future eschatological restoration of God’s people and a messianic kingdom. This is not to say I would read Ezekiel as referring to the Gulf War, but some of the promises of restoration in Jeremiah or Ezekiel are not fully exhausted in the work of Jesus. Chalmers does not appear to deny this, but it is also not really the focus of his book.

The book includes frequent insets and sidebars, illustrations and charts. Some of these are labeled “going deeper” and provide a few lines of extra consideration on some particular aspect of the text. Sidebars labeled “have you considered?” intend to provoke thought or introduce a controversial issue, such as “prophetic plagiarism” (28-9). There are several “archaeological insides” in which texts such as the Cyrus Cylinder and other Mesopotamian parallels appear. Chalmers includes a number of tables offering chronological and historical information. Finally, there are a number of illustrations including maps and line drawings of archaeological items. Each chapter concludes with a “for further reading section.” There are no questions based on the text which could be utilized by a teacher in the classroom that these would not be difficult to add to the text.

Chalmers OpenWhile all of these various features are valuable, sometimes there are too many on a page. Pages 42-3, for example, contains two photographs with 9 lines caption, two sidebars filling more than half a page, and only 6 lines of actual text.  Page 75 is perhaps the worst example since the only actual text appearing on the page is a section heading wedged between a photograph and sidebar. One “sidebar” runs from page 137 to 139, and the rest of 139 contains a Gustav Dore engraving of Leviathan. The contents of this sidebar is good enough to be a part of the main text, setting it off in a gray box does not help the reader at all. In fact, the readability of the text would be greatly improved if the sidebars were more balanced, or the photographs were all gathered to the center of the book. I understand the motivation for placing an illustration near the text it pertains to, but this editorial decision distracts from the overall presentation. It is not a criticism of Chalmers as the author of an otherwise excellent text; an editor ought to have caught some of these issues.

Conclusion. Like Chalmers, I have struggled to find a good introductory textbook on the prophets. Since the prophetic books are such a large section of the Hebrew Bible, most introductions try to cover all the books in individual chapters and miss the overall themes of the collection. This book is rich in illustrations of prophetic language from other Ancient Near Eastern cultures, something often missing from basic introductions to the prophets. Chalmers’s approach is refreshing. By focusing on the historical, theological and rhetorical worlds of the prophets he provides the framework for reading the prophets intelligently.

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

Book Review: Oren R. Martin, Bound for the Promised Land

Martin, Oren R. Bound for the Promised Land: The Land Promise in God’s Redemptive Plan. NSBT 34; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2015. 208 pp. Pb; $20.00.   Link to IVP

This new addition to New Studies in Biblical Theology is a detailed study of the Promised Land as a canonical link from Eden to Kingdom. The land theme is important because it connects various biblical covenants into a developing story of typological fulfillment of God’s plan to redeem humankind.

Oren Martin Bound for the Promised LandAs is often observed, the kingdom described in Revelation is very much like the Garden of Eden. Martin shows how the beginning and the end are connected through the entire grand narrative of Scripture. Quoting Jon Levenson, Martin quips “eschatology is like proctology;” the beginning corresponds to the end (56).  But each successive stage in God’s redemptive plan escalates the typology so that the end of the story is not just a restored Eden on earth, but an entirely new Heaven and Earth.

In the first two chapters Martin develops his view that the Promised Land is a typology found throughout the canon. Beginning with the creation story, he traces the development of God’s redemptive plan, arguing Eden is the ideal kingdom ruled by God. Humans rebel against the king in the Fall and the effects of sin separate humans from God. The rest of the Bible is therefore the story of God’s plan of redemption. God is “reestablishing his kingdom through covenant” (42). These covenants (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenant) are something like stages in God’s plan to restore Eden in the eschatological Kingdom of God. With respect to the New Covenant, Martin point to Jesus’ preaching of the presence of the Kingdom in his ministry as an “already established” restoration of Eden in the church. Yet he sees a still future new creation and kingdom coming in the eschatological age.

Having offered something of a sketch of the whole canon in chapter 2, Martin then provides the details of this developing typology on in chapters 3-9. For much of the Old Testament the promise of restoration is a future hope. While it is true Abraham does dwell in the Promised Land and the Israelites eventually return to the Eden-like Promised Land, the glorious return of Eden remains a tantalizing hope for a future restoration from exile. The promised restoration of God’s rule is in some ways “already” fulfilled, but in other important aspects, “not yet” fulfilled.

The hoped-for restoration from the Exile was inaugurated in the person and work of Christ. While it is difficult to trace Promised Land themes in the teaching of Jesus (117), Martin suggests Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom was an inauguration of the Kingdom and the promise of the land finds its fulfillment in Jesus. This is not a radically new suggestion, although it is critical for some of the theological reflections later in the book.

Martin attempts to find this same sort fulfillment in the epistles as well. There is, however, little in the Epistles that could possibly be taken as typology of the Land Promise. I found the brief material on Paul to be unrelated to a typology of Land, but Hebrews clearly uses a typological method and describes Jesus as a fulfillment of the whole Old Testament, including the rest Israel experienced when they entered the Land. Canaan is functioning typologically in Heb 3:7-4:13, for example, and there is a shift in chapters 12-13 from Sinai to Zion. More work is needed here since it is not clear from Hebrews that the fulfillment of the Land Promise to Abraham is wholly exhausted in the person and work of Jesus. The book would have been better served to omit everything except the material on Hebrews.

Martin describes the fulfillment of the promise in the book of Revelation, the shortest chapter in the book despite the fact Revelation has strong typological ties to the restoration of the Promised Land to God’s people. Martin’s focus in this chapter is almost entirely on the New Jerusalem and new creation as a restoration of the Edenic Temple. While this critique falls under the category “I would have written this part differently,” I do think Martin has missed a great deal which could support his overall thesis by limiting his brief comments in this way. For example, there is a great deal of “new exodus” language in Revelation, especially in the sequence of seven trumpets. The call to leave Babylon in Rev 17-18 could be understood as an allusion to the call to return from exile and return to the Land in Isaiah 40-66.

In the final chapter, Martin makes a series of theological reflections on the Promised Land. The thrust of his chapter seems to be to distance this study from Dispensationalism. In fact, as I was reading the book, I thought at many points Martin was a dispensationalist, or at least speaking in ways which resonate with the more academic dispensational theology usually described as “progressive dispensationalism.”

Dispensationalists maintain a distinction between Israel and the Church even in the present age and argue the Abrahamic covenant was unconditional and not wholly fulfilled in either the Old Testament nor in the Church. They look forward to a real fulfillment of the “land promise” in a future, literal kingdom of God. Since Martin’s study argues the Land Promise is fulfilled typologically in the work of Christ, the Church becomes God’s new covenant people. Yet Martin does say “all God’s promises find their ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Christ as the culmination of God’s revelation and redemptive plan” (170), so there is still a future new creation which will continue (conclude?) the typological pattern of Eden. To my mind, this is an arbitrary limit placed Martin’s principle of typology expressed early in the book. If each successive use of a typology escalates, then the final restoration after the Parousia ought to be the most complete fulfillment possible. Dispensationalists include a restoration of Israel as God’s people in this ultimate fulfillment of the promise, Martin does not.

Conclusion. Martin has certainly delivered on his promise to create a biblical theology of the Promised Land. This book argues for the Land as a typological link throughout the various covenants of the Old Testament, covenants that find their fulfillment in the person of Jesus. Martin has contributed to the discussion of the over-arching plot of the whole Bible by pointing to the restoration of Eden as a possible controlling typology.

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

Book Review: James M. Hamilton, With the Clouds of Heaven

Hamilton, James M. With the Clouds of Heaven: The Book of Daniel in Biblical Theology. NSBT 32; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2014. 272 pp. Pb; $20. Link to IVP

James Hamilton, associate professor of biblical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as preaching pastor at Kenwood Baptist Church, is well-qualified to write a biblical theology of Daniel. His commentary on Revelation was published in the Preaching the Word commentary series. Hamilton contributed a short introduction to Biblical Theology (What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns, Crossway, 2014). The New Studies in Biblical Theology series has contributed many studies on both the Old and New Testament seeking to study particular elements of Biblical Theology from a canonical or theological perspective. Perhaps what is unique about this volume is the focus is primarily on the book of Daniel. There are a number of elements of Hamilton’s book attempt to trace broader themes of Biblical theology. For example Hamilton seeks to read the typologies from the book of Daniel through the Second Temple Period and the New Testament, especially the book of Revelation.

With the Clouds of Heaven - James M HamiltonChapter 1 discusses methodological issues necessary for understanding Biblical Theology within the Canon in Scripture. Hamilton is clear he is an Evangelical who holds to a very high view of scripture including inerrancy. This will result in some rather traditional views concerning the book of Daniel. Chapter 2 places Daniel in the overall structure of salvation history in the Old Testament. Hamilton argues Daniel’s main contribution to salvation history concerns the latter days when “the little horn makes great boasts” in persecutes God’s people in the end times.

In Chapter 3 Hamilton suggests a literary structure for the book of Daniel. Outlining the book of Daniel is notoriously difficult: should the change on language from Hebrew to Aramaic be used as a structural clue? Perhaps the content is more important, narrative versus apocalyptic. Hamilton argues the book of Daniel is framed with the beginning of the exile (ch. 1) and the return from exile (ch. 10-12). The four kingdoms vision in Daniel 2 is paralleled by four kingdoms visions in chapters 7-9. In the center of the structure are two chapters on humbling the proud kings, first Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 4) and Belshazzar (ch. 5). This analysis is intriguing especially since the two humbling passages are central to the theological interests of Daniel. I am not convinced the “four kingdoms” vision ought to include chapters 7-9, however. It is better, in my view, to structure the book using Aramaic portions of the book, with the two visions of four kings (chs. 2 and 7). In chapters 3 and 6 the four young men demonstrate strength in persecution. The two chapters on humbling kings are still central in this scheme.

Chapter 4 examines the four kingdoms in Daniel 2 and 7, as well as the Ram and Goat vision in Daniel 8. Hamilton also includes the rather difficult vision of the kings of the north and south in Daniel 10-12 in this section. Hamilton follows a traditional scheme in which the first kingdom is Babylon followed by Medo-Persia, Greece and a final unnamed kingdom. This final kingdom has characteristics corresponding to Rome in many ways, although he falls short in claiming the fourth kingdom is actually Rome. As the book progresses, Hamilton argues the last kingdom is typological for the final evil empire of the last days.

Chapter 5 discusses the 70 weeks prophecy, suggesting the 70 weeks is symbolic of a tenfold Jubilee and corresponds to the long exile of Israel. The first 69 weeks conclude with the cutting off of the Messiah, the crucifixion of Jesus for Hamilton. After discussion various suggestions for exact end of the 69 weeks, he concludes the number is a general time period rather like the 70 years of exile. Both numbers are approximately the time of the exile and one should not expect them to be precisely exact.

HamiltonChapter 6 surveys all the heavenly beings in the book of Daniel and offers a rather Christological interpretation of the Son of Man in Daniel 7. The son of man is distinct from all of the other angelic beings in the book. Hamilton argues he is both a human king in the line of David but also a preexistent heavenly being and member of God’s heavenly Court.

Chapter 7-9 traces the history of interpretation of Daniel through the Second Temple Period literature, the New Testament, and finally the book of Revelation. Beginning with Tobit, Hamilton argues the author of Tobit understood Daniel typologically as a model of a faithful Jewish person living in the Exile. At Qumran, however the book of Daniel was interpreted eschatologically, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. First Maccabees, on the other hand, thinks of Daniel as a historical figure who models faithfulness in persecution. 1 Enoch describes a “son of man” as the Davidic King, a deliverer, and an agent of God’s judgment. This view is supported also by 4 Ezra, at the end of the first century. Hamilton therefore finds a diverse use of Daniel in the Second Temple Period, not exclusively eschatological. I thought there ought to be a section on the Story of Ahikar since this legend is not unlike Daniel in that he becomes a government official in the Assyrian empire.

Turning to the New Testament, Hamilton examines a handful of quotations of Daniel and Matthew 13. Here he sees a reversal of human wickedness sitting things right. In Daniel Nebuchadnezzar commanded people to commit idolatry, in the Gospels Jesus commands true worship. Those who refuse to worship God will be gathered and “thrown into the fiery furnace” (Matt 13:42, 50). I am ultimately not convinced by Hamilton’s description of how Daniel is used in Matthew’s parables of the kingdom. However, I am also not sure why Matthew uses language from the fiery furnace in the way that he does. This particular text needs further study.

Hamilton spends most of the section examining how Matt 24 and Mark 13 used Daniel. In fact he says that the Olivet Discourse is a kind of “commentary on Daniel” and is therefore a window into how Jesus understood Daniel as referring to the end of the age. Like Daniel, there will be Great Tribulation such as not been seen since the beginning of time (Dan 12). There will be deceptive false christs and false prophets and ultimately a gathering of the elect from the four corners of the world. Here. Hamilton very clearly rejects pre-tribulation rapture, stating that “there is no indication Jesus will rapture out his followers prior to the tribulation” (188). Faithful followers of Christ will, like Daniel, endure to the end.

Finally in the Gospels, Hamilton sees an allusion to Daniel 6:17 in the sealed two (Matt 27:66). When Daniel is sealed in the Lion’s den he is as good as dead, yet in the morning he is found to be alive. Daniel therefore constitutes a “type of Christ” who was also is sealed in a tomb and discovered three days later to be alive. Hamilton gives a number of other parallels between Daniel 6 in Matt 27. For example, in Daniel, Darius the king attempts to release Daniel, in Matthew Pilate tries to release Jesus.

Hamilton also includes 2 Thess 2:4 (Jude 16) as an allusion to Daniel. Paul uses the language of rebellion and abomination, perhaps drawn from Daniel’s “abomination that causes desolation.” There are a number of thematic fulfillments Daniel’s view of salvation history , including the appearing of the Lord Jesus at “just the right time” and his is reign as an everlasting dominion which will never end.

It is obvious the book of Daniel is highly influential on the book of Revelation, therefore Hamilton devotes a chapter to Revelation’s view of Daniel. Since the literature on this topic is vast, Hamilton limits himself to places where John reuses Daniel’s language (102). Many of his examples are very close lexically, although at times I wonder if there is direct dependence since the phrases are generic. For example the phrase “God of heaven” is used in Daniel and Revelation, but the phrase is common enough that is cannot be used to prove dependence.

There are other places however where Hamilton makes some excellent connections. For example in Revelation chapter to the city of Smyrna faces a 10 day time of testing the same amount of time Daniel and his friends were tested (Dan 1). Another apocalyptic motif is a heavenly being who reveals so much information that the seer is overwhelmed and collapses. The heavenly being then revives and strengthens the recipient of the vision. The “man clothed in linen” in Dan 10 is likely the background for John’s description of Christ in Rev 1.

Hamilton makes great deal out of the parallels between his understanding of the overall structure of Daniel and Revelation. In both cases he finds a chiastic structure and in both cases the books center on the coming kingdom of God. However, the structure of Daniel is not as settled as Hamilton claims, and the parallels he suggests between the two books are not always clear. To be fair, he does refer to these as “broad correspondences” (207), but they are far too broad for my taste. More useful to me is Hamilton’s collection of examples John citing Daniel’s prophecy as fulfilled. For example, the “one coming on the clouds of heaven” in Dan 7 is fulfilled in Revelation in Jesus. There are a number of typological fulfillments as well.

Hamilton offers a number of examples in which John clarifies Daniel’s visions. He argues the way John interprets Daniel’s Seventieth week will give us insight into the original meaning of Daniel’s vision (212). This assumes that John’s interpretation of Daniel is in fact inspired and inerrant. It is possible, for example, John is re-interpreting Daniel in order make the Seventieth week fit a new and different context. Why did the kingdom not arrive after the messiah was cut off? If John is writing fifty or sixty years after the crucifixion, he may be trying to answer the problem of the non-return of the Messiah. This re-interpretation may be different than Daniel’s original intention and equally inspired and inerrant, but not helpful for understanding the original prophecy. I think Hamilton is right, but I am less confident that the New Testament ought to guide exegesis of the Old. With respect to the fourth kingdom from Daniel, I agree this kingdom is in some ways Rome, but also typological of the final kingdom prior to the eschatological age.

Finally Hamilton suggests that Daniel creates some typical logical patterns for biblical theology (ch. 9). He describes a “promised shaped paradigm” beginning with Abraham which he traces through the Psalms. This typology helps to understand the relationship between Joseph and Daniel, but for Hamilton, there are other similar typologies: Jehoiachin, Esther and Nehemiah all live out their lives in the Exile, like Daniel. This chapter probably should have limited itself parallels between Joseph and Daniel has types of Christ since there are clear examples and parallels. Hamilton in fact lists a page and a half of parallels between Joseph and Daniel many of which can be seen as types of Christ. I have always found typology something of a dark heart so I find I am less than impressed with typologies with Esther, Mordecai, and Nehemiah and other things he describes as a “broad pattern.” But the Joseph Daniel Jesus typology seems to be clear.

Conclusion. I found Hamilton’s book to be challenging and stimulating. It is good to seen conservative Evangelical scholars working in Daniel and Apocalyptic literature and defending their views well. Those who date Daniel to the Maccabean period or take the fourth kingdom as Greece will still find value in much of this book. I appreciate the fact Hamilton attempts to fit Daniel into an overall biblical theology, even if I am resistant to some of his use of typology. His material on Daniel’s interpretation in the Second Temple Period is excellent, although the topic is worthy of a monograph. I find many of his arguments persuasive. However, it is always difficult to put too much weight on the structure of the book like Daniel or Revelation as he does in the later chapters of this book.

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