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abernety-isaiahToday is the day I pick a winner for a copy of Andrew Abernethy’s Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom. There were 28 people signed up (I allowed only one entry per person). I took each of your names, sorted randomly and then pasted them into Excel. Random.org gave me a number between 1-28, and the winner is…..

Abraham Ndungu

If Abraham can contact me privately (plong42@gmail.com) I will make arrangements to ship the book out as soon as possible. Thanks to everyone for signing up, I will have another book giveaway to announce this afternoon.

 

abernety-isaiahIt is the beginning of a new year, and to celebrate I am offering a brand new copy of Andrew Abernathy’s The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom: A Thematic-Theological Approach (NSBT 40; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2016).

I reviewed the book at the end of the year, follow the link and read what I said then, here is the teaser:

This new contribution to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series focuses on the theme of Kingdom in the book of Isaiah. The topic of kingdom in the whole canon of Scripture is too large for a short monograph, but by limiting the discussion to Isaiah Abernethy is able to provide a reasonable foundation for understanding the book of Isaiah and its foundational role in a Christian understanding of Jesus. Abernethy’s previous book on Isaiah focused on the theme of food in Isaiah (Eating in Isaiah: Approaching the Role of Food and Drink in Isaiah’s Structure and Message. Leiden: Brill 2014, reviewed here).

You can enter by leaving a comment telling me your favorite passage in Isaiah. Only one chance per person. If you leave more than one comment, I will only count one comment per person for the contest.

On Monday January 9 I will randomly select one comment and ship the book out to the lucky winner.  Check back then to see if you are the winner, and I will announce another giveaway on January 9. You can also follow me on twitter @plong42 to keep up with these announcements.

Good Luck!

 

Abernethy, Andrew T. The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom: A Thematic-Theological Approach. NSBT 40; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2016. 245 pp. Pb; $25.  Link to IVP

This new contribution to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series focuses on the theme of Kingdom in the book of Isaiah. The topic of kingdom in the whole canon of Scripture is too large for a short monograph, but by limiting the discussion to Isaiah Abernethy is able to provide a reasonable foundation for understanding the book of Isaiah and its foundational role in a Christian understanding of Jesus. Abernethy’s previous book on Isaiah focused on the theme of food in Isaiah (Eating in Isaiah: Approaching the Role of Food and Drink in Isaiah’s Structure and Message. Leiden: Brill 2014, reviewed here).

abernety-isaiahIn his introduction, Abernethy describes his approach in this book as synchronic since he is interpreting the book of Isaiah as a literary whole without being concerned about the historical formation of the book. This approach recognizes the coherence of the whole book of Isaiah through a network of intentional literary associations in each of the major sections of the book. Be he is quick to point out that although questions of historical process for the formation of the book are set aside, history is important for interpreting the book of Isaiah. He will divide this large book into the standard three sections commonly used by scholars so that Isaiah 1-39 are rooted in the Assyrian era, Isaiah 40-55 are rooted in the Babylonian era (with 44-45 in the Persian era). Isaiah 55-66 represent the struggles of the post-exilic period in the light of the eschaton. This “metahistory” is derived from the final form of the book regardless of how the book was formed.

The whole book of Isaiah “endeavours to orient the allegiance of its readers around a king, namely YHWH” (13). The first three chapters survey what Isaiah says about God in the three major units of Isaiah. After commenting on a unit in Isaiah, Abernethy offers a few paragraphs on the unit in the canon of Scripture, specifically on how the unit “bears witness to Christ: (29). These brief reflections are intended to be more than sterile “Old Testament in the New” lists. Isaiah 1-39, especially since some of the texts Abernethy uses are not directly cited in the New Testament. For example, there is no direct citation of Isaiah 25:6-8 in the New Testament, but Abernethy finds intertextual allusions or echoes in the Last Supper (cf. Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Last Supper, 448-58 or my Jesus the Bridegroom, 202-4). Other canonical reflections seem strained For example, Abernethy relates Isaiah 36-37 to kingdom language in Matthew, especially the interactions between Jesus and Pilate. This particular example falls well below even a nebulous allusion, although the point may be more clear if this were a monograph on a biblical theology of Kingdom in Matthew.

Chapter 1 reviews the presentation of God as the “king now and to come” (Isaiah 1-39). Abernethy begins with Isaiah’s throne vision to argue that God is the only king and that he is about to render “purifying judgment” on his people (20). In fact, the theme of Isaiah 1-39 can be fairly described as “who is the real king?” The king in Jerusalem is dead, and despite his boasts, Sennacherib is not the true king. The throne vision therefore stands in the center of Isaiah 1-12 in order to throw light on the narrative of Isaiah 1-5 and 7-12 by focusing on the thrice-holy enthroned king. This king will judge the nations and rule from Zion (24:21-23) where he will host a feast for all people, destroying the ultimate enemy, death (25:6-8). This king will reign in beauty, and the eyes of the people will see him (Isaiah 33:17). Abernethy points out this is particularly stirring when read in the light of Isaiah 6. Isaiah sees God and is filled with dread; in Isaiah 33 seeing God is a “vision of hope” (43-4).

In the chapter 2, Abernethy examines Isaiah 40-55 and describes God as the only saving king. Much has happened between Isaiah 39 and 40; Israel has been sent back out into the wilderness and they are to prepare for God’s return. Although it is possible the wilderness is a positive image recalling Israel’s early, pure relationship with God, for Abernethy the wilderness “symbolizes Zion’s destruction” (57). God’s kingly presence will manifest itself as a shepherd king who leads his people out of the dangerous wilderness and back to the good land. Abernethy draws parallels between Isaiah 40:1-11 and 52:7-10, arguing these texts function “to orient our hopes, our desires for comfort, our longings for vindication around the prophetic declarations that God himself is promising to come as king” (65).

In his third chapter, God is “the warrior, international, and compassionate king” (Isaiah 56-66). These chapters are concerned with “eschatological judgment as a collar to salvation” (83), looking forward to a time when God will function as warrior king who will pacify the nations. In order to demonstrate this, Abernethy lays out a chiastic arrangement of 56-66 which sets Isaiah 60-62 in the center. This chapter examines the fourth level of the chiasm, the anticipation of God’s coming salvation (59:15-21) and the final expression of that salvation (63:1-6). The warrior king appears but only sees injustice (59:15a-16), therefore delaying his vindication of his people. When he finally arrives, it is a day of fury and vengeance (63:4-6). Here Abernethy draws a canonical refection to two images of Jesus in the New Testament, first initiating redemption (Luke 1:51) and rendering final judgment (Rev 14:9-11; 19:15-16).

As a conclusion to the first three chapters, Abernethy offers a short theology of kingship in Isaiah (112-17). The recurring themes in Isaiah are seeing the glory of the king, the international king enthroned in Zion; the coordination of judgment and salvation; history and eschatology. These themes are tied to the historical situation of the book (Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian eras) but by the end of the book Isaiah “directs our attention to the eschatological future” (117).

Having surveyed what Isaiah says about the kingship of God, Abernethy devotes chapter 4 to the “lead agents” of the king in each subsection of the book. First, by “lead agent” Abernethy means the character through whom God acts to accomplish salvation and judgment. Although the obvious term to use is “messiah” Abernethy prefers “lead agent” in order to avoid confusion about how Isaiah presents the agent of salvation in each unit of the book. He finds a different lead agent for each of the three units of the book. For Isaiah 1-39, the lead agent is a Davidic ruler who establishes righteousness and justice in the land. In Isaiah 40-55 the lead agent is the Servant who also brings justice to the nations by providing atonement. In Isaiah 56-66 it is the “messenger” of Isaiah 61 who declares God’s salvation at the very beginning of the eschaton.  As Abernethy concedes, most Christian evangelical readers will see all three of these figures as the Messiah, Jesus (169). However, each lead figure functions in their own historical context and are distinct characters from the perspective of the book of Isaiah. The claim of the New Testament is that Jesus takes on all three distinct roles.

Abernethy is content to allow some ambiguity in Isaiah with respect to how these lead agents function as messianic figures. I would suggest the ambiguity explains the variety of messianic expectations in the Second Temple period. If Abernethy is correct and there are at least three lead agents of the eschaton in Isaiah, Second Temple readers of Isaiah seem to have developed one aspect of the coming messiah (such as a Davidic king) and downplayed or missed the others (such as the suffering servant). Early Jewish Christianity may be unique in associating Jesus with all three of the lead agents described by Abernethy.

Finally, chapter 5 concerns “the realm and the people of God’s kingdom.” Abernethy describes Isaiah’s view of the kingdom as “bifocal” since sometimes God’s kingdom is the entire cosmos (40:28) in in other contexts the kingdom is particularized as Zion (65:17). Jerusalem and Zion are a microcosm of the universal kingdom of God (176), and Abernethy refuses to discuss how physical Jerusalem “fits into God’s plan on this side of the cross” (179). Isaiah is clear, however, the people who participate in this future kingdom will be purified and redeemed remnant who are obedient to the King and trust completely in God. The theme of trust is clear in the Ahaz and Hezekiah stories, but Abernethy shows how this theme appears in each of the sections of the boo (Isa 50:10, for example). This kingdom will also be an international community. Abernethy shows that Isaiah 2:2-4 and 66:18-24 frame the book with the prediction that in the latter times Gentiles will be part of God’s kingdom. Although the nations do participate in the eschatological kingdom in some way, I would point out the blood staining the warrior king in Isaiah 63:3 is that of Gentile nations who have opposed God and oppressed his people.

Conclusion. Abernethy contributes an overview of the whole book of Isaiah using the theme of the kingdom of God. Although there are other themes in Isaiah, kingship provides the reader with enough structure to make sense of the massive amount of material in the book of Isaiah. By describing the lead agents of God’s salvation in each unit of the book, Abernethy has provided a useful rubric for understanding how messianic expectations developed in different directions in the Second Temple period.

This is a very readable book for both scholar and layman. Abernethy is clear and structured in his presentation with occasional allusions to pop culture (Batman, the Matrix and Lord of the Rings). Although presenting an important scholarly argument about the book of Isaiah, his canonical reflections have a pastoral interest for the Christian reader. In fact, Abernethy offers two possible teaching outlines in an appendix for use in a small group Bible Study or Sunday School class.

 

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.

longman-proverbsThe Logos Free Book of the Month offer for December is How to Read Proverbs by Tremper Longman III (IVP, 2002). Longman is a well-know Old Testament scholar who has contributed a commentary on Proverbs in the Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms series (2012) and Psalms in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (IVP, 2014). For only $1.99 you can add Longman’s companion volume, How to Read Psalms (IVP, 1988).  I have used both of these small volumes on the book of Proverbs as a textbook in an undergraduate Wisdom Literature class.

The book is divided into three parts. First, Longman deals with the genre of Proverbs by defining and clarifying what proverbs are and “how they work.” For example, most readers of the book of Proverbs wonder if proverbial sayings are “always true” since we all know someone who “raised up their child in the way they should go” and the child certainly departed from that part.

In the second part of the book, Reading Proverbs in Context, Longman places the book of Proverbs in the context of the Ancient Near East. Most books on Proverbs deal with potential overlaps with international Wisdom (did Solomon use Egyptian Wisdom?) Longman also deals with the conversation between Proverbs and two other Wisdom books which have a slightly different view, Job and Ecclesiastes. This section also deals with theological aspects of this rather secular of biblical books in a brief chapter entitled “Where is God in Proverbs? Christ, the Treasure of God’s Wisdom.”

The third section traces three themes in the book of Proverbs, money, women, and words. These three chapters demonstrate how to create a thematic biblical theology within the book of Proverbs. I used this model for several assignments the last time I taught wisdom literature.

Logos also has a free book available through their Verbum site. For the month of December they are offering The Sermons of St. Bernard on Advent & Christmas is a collection of 19 sermons, originally given in Latin and translated by John Cuthbert Hedley, the bishop of Newport from 1881–1915. For 99 cents you can add The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ, or, The Mysteries of Faith by St. Alphonsus Liguori. This book contains over 70 discourses and meditations on celebrating the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.

Shepherd, Charles E. Theological Interpretation and Isaiah 53: A Critical Comparison of Bernhard Duhm, Brevard Childs, and Alec Motyer. The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 598. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2014. Hb $112.00.   Link to Bloomsbury

This monograph arises from Shepherd’s Ph.D. work at Durham University in 2012 under the direction of Walter Moberly. He proposes to study a theologically rich passage in the Hebrew Bible through the lens of three significant Isaianic scholars as way to explore the value of classical historical criticism in the light of recent developments in the field of theological interpretation of Scripture. Bernhard Duhm represents historical criticism of the nineteenth century and is well known for the religionsgeschichtliche Schule of Protestant liberalism. Brevard Childs is often associated with canonical criticism and is something of a godfather of recent theological interpretations of Scripture. Alec Motyer represents an evangelical voice who has a strong faith commitment to Scripture. Shepherd describes Motyer as an evangelical who “reads the Old Testament without recourse to critical questions” and is guided by “core theological and doctrinal convictions” (p. 6). In fact, Shepherd considers Motyer’s work on Isa 53 “a true tour de force in evangelical interpretation” that is theologically coherent and exegetically independent (p. 198).

ShepherdAside from their magisterial commentaries on Isaiah, an additional factor in selecting these three scholars is that their hermeneutical approach is a “rhetorical positioning away from a perceived threat” (p.200). Duhm moved away from teleological readings of the prophets which read Isaiah only through the lens of Christ (“Erscheinung Christi”). Childs moved away from Protestant Liberalism’s fascination with “Historie” by emphasizing the connection between the Old and New Testament. Motyer does what Duhm avoided, he reads the prophets as messianic prophecy fulfilled in Christ, although he seeks to set the prophecy in an original eighth century B.C. context as well as applying it to the modern church.

Another contrast between the three scholars studied in this monograph is each has an interlocutor representing a threat which proper exegesis will answer. For Duhm, “supernaturalists” such as Delitzsch and Hengstenberg, although Shepherd points out it is not always clear if Duhm has a specific scholar in mind (p. 233). Childs approach is in dialogue with “anthropocentrists” in contrast to his own “theocentric” hermeneutic. He has in mind the religionsgeschichtliche Schule. Since Motyer is concerned with the unity of the book of Isaiah, he distances himself from the “rationalists,” specifically Eichrodt and Von Rad. Shepherd says “Motyer’s rhetorical shaping suggests that those who are open to traditional source-critical work have no basis on which to wed text with doctrine” (p. 237).

Shepherd devotes two chapters to each scholar. He first sketches the theological hermeneutics represented by the scholar, then he examines the application of those hermeneutical strategies on Isaiah 53. This text was chosen because it is, as Shepherd puts it, an “easy target” (p. 5). More than this, Isa 53 has been located in various ways in history and has been an important text moving from antiquity to the Christian theology. The complexity of the passage is conducive to both historical critical studies and a theological reading. Shepherd is clear that the his study is not interested in the correct reading of Isaiah 53, but rather the moves made by the interpreters as well as the theological and philosophical commitments which inform those exegetical decisions.

Shepherd offers several observations by way of a concluding chapter. Duhm’s comments in Isa 53 demonstrate his work as an interpreter on the “raw materials” of the text, and he does not think the poem refers to the Christ event. Yet Shepherd points out Duhm “felt the need to reflect theologically,” although in a section separated from his exegesis. This “historical distancing” of theology and history is somewhat artificial, Shepherd suggests, but it was “already underway in his prior exegetical moves” (p.203).

Childs consciously approaches the text of Isa 53 as a Christian interpreter and stands with those interpreters who have gone before. Since Childs argues the poem has been “loosed from particular historical settings and relocated to a literary context,” the concrete, original historical context is important only in the sense of “types,” or foreshadowing of how the final writer intended the poem. The placement of the poem in Second Isaiah points to an eschatological theme: “God intervenes to end the exile and to usher in his eschatological reign” (p. 208). Reading the poem as a Christian, Childs stands with virtually all patristic and scholastic interprets by identifying Jesus as the servant. The original context is inaccessible and may even be at odds with a theological reading of the text.

Motyer approaches the text as a divinely inspired revelation from God and therefore emphasizes God’s sovereignty and involvement in history. Yet he is still interested in the facts of history, although these are the facts as they relate to God’s work of redemption. Shepherd considers this a “strange relationship” with modern knowledge. Motyer uses history to avoid “make believe,” but the Bible itself is immune from critical analysis (specifically, Motyer’s reading of Isaiah as the work of a single eighth prophet). Motyer reads Isa 53 as a referring to a servant in history, but the poem “reminds” the Christian reader of the “resurrection, ascension and heavenly exaltedness of the Lord Jesus” (p. 213). Shepherd concludes Motyer collapses the distance between history and Christian theology. Old Testament and New Testament share the same messianic context and theological foundations. As an example of this, Shepherd cites Motyer’s unapologetic reading of Isa 53 that supports penal substitutionary atonement (p. 228). While Childs would be cautious in imposing this kind of theological category, Duhm rejects this kind of theological reading.

In his epilogue Shepherd asks if Historical Criticism is a “Friend, Foe, or Foil.” Shepherd interacts with Francis Watson’s assertion that historical criticism does not really exist since every generation of Christian interpreters have used all of the scholarly tools available to them. In fact, to create a dichotomy between “historical criticism” versus “theological interpretation” assumes the two exist in complete isolation. This is simply not how exegesis works. “The task of the biblical ‘historian’ was likewise bound up with questions of personal commitment” (p. 260).

Conclusion. Shepherd’s study achieves what it proposes to do. He does in fact offer a “sympathetic yet critical” reading of these three diverse scholars. By contrasting Duhm with Moyter, Shepherd appears to be favoring Childs as a “golden mean” between the two extremes, the modernism of nineteenth-century Protestant liberalism and the twentieth-century evangelical (fundamentalism?) reaction to liberalism. But he does not set Duhm or Motyer up as straw men; their ideas and hermeneutical strategies demonstrate Shepherd’s thesis that personal commitment will always color interpretation.

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

40 Questions Logos Bible Software partners with Kregel this month to offer Thomas Schreiner ‘s  40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law (Kregel, 2010) for their “Free Book of the Month” promotion. Schreiner explains the “interplay between Christianity and biblical law.” Schreiner is well-known for his Baker Exegetical commentary on Romans and the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on Galatians. He serves as professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was the president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2014.

This book is part of Kregel’s “40 Questions” series. Schreiner therefore follows a Q&A format in order to cover a wide variety of questions about the relationship of Christians and the Law, such as What Does the Word Law Mean in the Scriptures? Does the Old Testament Teach That Salvation Is by Works?  Does Paul Teach That the Old Testament Law Is Now Abolished?  Is the Sabbath Still Required for Christians?  Should Christians Tithe?

Bateman WarningIn addition to this free book, Logos is offering Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews (Kregel, 2007), edited by Herbert W. Bateman IV.  Bateman begins the book with a lengthy essay introducing the reader to the Warning Passages in order to set up the debate. The four views covered in the book are the “classic Arminian” by Grant Osborne, the “classic Reformed view” by Buist Fanning, the “Wesleyian Arminian view by Gareth Lee Cockerill and the “moderate Reformed view” by Randall Gleason. As is typical of these four-views books, each author responds to each position, and George Guthrie offers a concluding comment. More than most texts in the New Testament, exegesis of these passages in Hebrews is very much influenced by theological perspectives, so this book offers a balanced survey of the options.

So for 99 cents you can have two excellent books representing conservative Evangelical biblical scholarship. Both are worth owning and reading. But Logos is also giving away a copy of Logos 6 Bronze along with the six 40 Questions books published in the Logos library (a $670.90 value). Head over to Logos and get the two free/almost free books and register to win Logos 6.

 

EstherLogos’s Free Book of the Month promotion is offering an excellent commentary once again for the month of June. Until the end of this month, Logos users can download Anthony Tomasino’s contribution on Esther in the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC). If you are not familiar with the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary is a 44-volume commentary series published by Lexham Press, a division of FaithLife / Logos. The commentary incorporates the latest critical biblical scholarship” and “a distinctly evangelical perspective” and is in many ways similar to the Word Biblical Commentary or Baker Exegetical Commentary. The series was originally planned as a traditional print series but was dropped by the original publisher. Lexham picked it up a few years ago and has been publishing new volumes in the Logos system as they are released. (See this list of volumes, authors and publication dates.)

Anthony J. Tomasino (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is the Director of the Biblical Studies Program and associate professor of Bible, Old Testament and Hebrew studies at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana and is well-known for his Judaism before Jesus: The Events and Ideas that Shaped the New Testament World (IVP, 2003). He wrote the Esther commentary in the Zondervan Bible Background Commentary of the Old Testament.

CommentaryIn addition to the Free Book of the Month, Logos is also offering Gary Derickson’s 1, 2, & 3 John commentary in the EEC. Derickson has a Ph.D from Dallas Theological Seminary and is currently Professor of Biblical Studies and Greek and Chair of the Bible and Theology department at Corban University.

This is another great giveaway from Logos I can think of no better use of 99 cents than adding these two resources to your Logos library. In addition to the free and nearly free books, you can enter to win the entire Evangelical Exegetical Commentary Series (a $999.95 value). I think this is the most expensive giveaway Logos has had since the started the promotion.

Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

the-old-testament-library-series-isaiahJust when you though the Logos Free Book of the Month promotion could not get any better, they offer Brevard Childs’ commentary on Isaiah in the in OTL series for free through the month of April. This 576 page commentary on on Isaiah was published by Westminster John Knox Press in 2000. Childs is a one of the major voices in the development of what has become known as “canonical criticism” as early has his OTL Commentary on Exodus (1974) and his Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. Canonical Criticism means the exegete attempts to read the final form of the text of Isaiah a whole in order to develop theological themes, often listening to how those theological themes resonate in later historical Christian and Jewish interpretations. While the commentary is often not as nuanced in lexical or syntactical issues as some reviewers would have liked, Childs is an excellent expositor of the text and has a broad understanding of Jewish and Christian interpretations of Isaiah. Childs has continued to write on Isaiah, his The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture was published by Eerdmans in 2004.

the-old-testament-library-series-jeremiahIn addition to the Free Book of the Month, Logos is offering Leslie Allen’s 2008 Jeremiah commentary in the OTL series for only 99 cents. Allen contributed the Ezekiel (1990, 1994) and the Psalms 101-150 (2002)in the Word Biblical Commentary and a Minor Prophets commentary ( NICOT series from Eerdmans). This 656-page commentary replaced Robert Carroll’s OTL commentary in the series and was very well-received in the academic community.

This is perhaps the best giveaway from Logos to date and I can think of no better use of 99 cents than adding these two resources to your Logos library.

As always, you can enter to win a seven-volume collection of OTL commentaries in the Logos library. Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

Childs, Brevard S. The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2004. 332 pp. $35, hdbk. $19.25, Kindle.

When Brevard Childs finished his commentary on Isaiah in 2001, he had some unfinished business. In the Introduction to The Struggle to Understand Isaiah, he explains that writing a commentary does not permit serious reflection on the way Isaiah has been read by past interpreters or the hermenutical assumptions made by these interpreters over the long history of reading Isaiah as Scripture.

Childs summarizes the problem he wants to address in this way: “I am very conscious of the great confusion in the church generated by an endless number of conflicting approaches for reading the Bible. Not only has the subject been heavily politicized both by the right and the left, but the field has become awash with a parade of fads, each promising major advances in personal and communal enlightenment” (x.)

Every generation has sought to read and interpret Scripture as God’s word, and apply that Scripture to the “present day.” And every generation has created a “method” which is believed to be the proper way to read Scripture. While some of the allegorical interpretations of the medieval church are laughable today, it was at one time the “assured results of scholarship.” In the same way, reading a serious scholarly commentary from the late nineteenth-century is usually an exercise in futility since the method used to read and interpret scripture has been completely rejected.

Does this mean that the church was hopelessly confused about the meaning of Scripture for the better part of two millennia until we wise moderns came along to sort things out? Or does this mean that Scripture has no real meaning until enlightened imaginations encounter it and create meaning? Neither option is attractive to Childs. He therefore wants to read a wide selection of commentaries on Isaiah in order to discover any consistency over the centuries of interpretation. My first reaction is “I cannot learn anything from Origen!” But this is not true; as Childs shows there is some consistency from the earliest Christian readings of Isaiah to the present.

Despite the fact that it is pre-Christian, Childs begins with the Septuagint as the earliest interpretation of Isaiah. This is an important step since it shows that Jewish readers in the second century B.C. were already struggling to read Isaiah and apply it to their own situation. After observing how the translators of the Septuagint struggle to read Isaiah, Childs surveys examples of commentaries on Isaiah from the earliest Christians (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen) through the great thinkers of the Church (Jerome, John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas) and the Reformation (Luther and Calvin). He treats the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and postmodern interpretations in single chapters.

By moving through such a large number of representative commentaries, Childs then concludes by looking for what he calls “family resemblances” between these various Christian voices. He finds seven basic characteristics of Christian interpretation of scripture based on his historical survey of Isaiah commentaries.

  1. Authority of Scripture.
  2. Literal and Spiritual Sense of Scripture.
  3. Scripture’s Two Testaments.
  4. The Divine and Human Authorship of Scripture
  5. The Christological Content of the Bible.
  6. The Dialectical Nature of History.
  7. History and the Final Form of the Text.

In the end, I think that Childs has collected the basic consistencies in this wide variety of literature. At least the first five of his points (and probably the seventh) would be true for any commentary I have read and found useful for teaching and preaching. I would also hope that my own reading of the Bible is consistent these points as well.

I do have some reservations, however. I do not think that every passage from the Hebrew Bible must be read Christologically. Certainly Isaiah 7:14 must be, since there is warrant in the New Testament for this topological reading. But what about Hezekiah’s illness in Isa 39? Must I read Christ into that account? It seems to me that the text has nothing specific to say about Christ and a great deal to say about how God is dealing with his people at that time and place in history. To find a Christological principle in Isaiah 39 seems to rob the text of the original meaning.

Childs provides an excellent overview of how thoughtful Christians have read Isaiah in the past.  This alone makes the book a valuable contribution.  His conclusions show that there is much consistency between the various Christian voices which have struggled to read Isaiah.  Whether this is a platform for developing a “Christian Hermenutic” remains unclear, but Childs certainly shows that one cannot read Scripture as a Christian unless Scripture is central.

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