Karen H. Jobes, John through Old Testament Eyes

Jobes, Karen H. John through Old Testament Eyes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Academic, 2021. 374 pp. Pb. $29.99   Link to Kregel Academic  

Karen Jobes’s new volume in Kregel’s Through Old Testament Eyes series joins Andrew Le Peau’s Mark commentary (Kregel, 2017). Subtitled “A Background and Application Commentary,” the series is a basic commentary on the English text with a special emphasis on using the Old Testament to illuminate aspects a New Testament book.

Near the end of the book, Jobes observes “the Scripture of Israel are woven throughout the Gospel of John, though with a technique different from the other Gospels” (p. 319). Citing Richard Hays’s Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, John “simply and steadily presupposes the law of Moses and the words of Israel’s Scripture as the essential hermeneutical matrix for recognizing and understanding Jesus’s testimony” (p. 320). Jobes describes this as John’s “verbal artistry” (p. 24). She offers as an example Jesus changing the water to wine (John 2:1-11). As he tells this story, John has in mind the “symbolic value of wine in the Old Testament as a symbol of the messianic age and of blood” (p. 27). The six stone jars are an odd detail for most modern readers, but Jobes suggests an allusion to messianic imagery in 2 Baruch.

In her brief fifteen-page introduction to the Gospel of John, Jobes observes we cannot know for sure the author is John, the son of Zebedee, nor if the Beloved Disciple is John. However, she cites B. F. Wescott’s view the fourth Gospel was written by the disciple whom Jesus loved, by John the son of Zebedee with approval (p. 22). There is nothing in the introduction on often complicated theories of composition. In fact, she is clear in the introduction this commentary only briefly addresses the topics typically encountered in exegetical commentaries (p 14).

The body of the commentary proceeds through each chapter of John (except for John 15:26-27 which is included with chapter 16). The commentary is verse-by-verse, with occasional reference to Greek and Hebrew words (always transliterated). There is some interaction with secondary literature, although almost entirely in the endnotes. These notes include recent major academic commentaries and monographs. As expected, Jobes takes notice of allusions to the Old Testament.

There are three types of sidebars in each chapter, set apart from the main body of the chapter with a grey background. First, most chapters end with an overview of the section’s contribution to the theme of the series, “Through Old Testament Eyes.” For example, Jobes discusses the dignity of menial labor in the context of John 13 (Jesus washing his disciples’ feet). Commenting on John 15:1-17, Jobes discusses vine and vineyard imagery in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 5:1-7. Given the title of the series, it is curious there are no “Through Old Testament Eyes” sidebars in chapters 4, 5, 8 and 11.

Second, each chapter has at least one section entitled “What Structure Means.” For the most part, these sections discuss the outline of John and how the pericope in view fits into the overall context of the Gospel. There are occasional comments on Synoptic parallels or explanations of other literary features. For example, Jobes discusses the chiasm in John 4:4-42, which centers on true worship (p. 101). On one occasion she deals with a historical theological issue, the Filioque Debate.

Third, each chapter has at least one “Going Deeper” sidebar. Here is where Jobes deals with background details and practical implications of reading John through Old Testament Eyes. Some of these sidebars are theological in nature (the work of the Holy Spirit, p. 250-52). She discusses eating and drinking as a metaphor for faith (p. 144-45) and the sin of religious pride (p. 156).

This commentary does not attempt to point out the Jewish background to John’s Gospel as illustrated by the Mishnah and Talmud. For example, commenting on the six stone jars in John 2, Jobes discusses the regulations from Leviticus, but is not concerned with Rabbinic literature on utensils (m. Kelim 10:1, for example). Commentators tend to wear out their copy of Strack and Billerbeck to offer a “Jewish background” for details in John’s Gospel. Even her comments on the Jewish Festivals are grounded in the Old Testament rather than later traditions (p. 109, for example).

Conclusion. As series editor Andrew Le Peau observes in his series preface, although the commentary represents solid scholarship, Jobes does not write for an academic audience. There is no extended discussion of method or technical exegetical comments connecting some aspect of John’s gospel to a particular Old Testament passage. Occasionally the chapters seem frustratingly brief: John 15:26-16:33 is a mere eight pages, with no comments at all on 16:14-20, no sidebars on structure or “Through Old Testament Eyes.” In fact, two of the eight pages are a sidebar discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit in John 14-16..

However, John through Old Testament Eyes provides the reader with a basic guide for reading John’s gospel in the context of Israel’s scripture and Christian theology.

 

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

Published on Reading Acts, May 20, 2021

 

Bruce Waltke and Ivan De Silva, Proverbs: A Shorter Commentary

Waltke, Bruce K. and Ivan D. V. De Silva. Proverbs: A Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2021. 472 pp. Pb; $38.00.   Link to Eerdmans 

When Eerdmans published Bruce Waltke’s two-volume NICOT Proverbs commentary in 2004, reviewers immediately recognized it as one of the most comprehensive and insightful commentaries on Proverbs written in the twentieth century. It was one of those books reviewers call “magisterial.” Now fifteen years later, Waltke and his student Ivan De Silva have simplified the technical aspects of the earlier commentary and brought it up to date.

Waltke Shorter Proverbs CommentaryThe authors are clear; they did not simply condense the earlier commentary. There is considerable revision, primarily in the recent literature now cited in the footnotes. Most influential is Michael Fox’s two-volume Proverbs commentary in the Yale Anchor Bible (2008, 2009). The only new research in the commentary is on the “foreign woman,” the Sitz im Leben for the dissemination of Proverbs in ancient Israel, the existence of doublets, and a few exegetical comments in the body of the commentary.

There are several differences from the original commentary. First, the book now conforms to the Chicago Manual of Style and Hebrew translations are more gender neutral, although in sections addressed to a son the masculine pronoun is retained. Second, Waltke translates the divine name as I AM. Readers familiar with Waltke’s An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 2007) will be familiar with this practice. Third, unlike the original commentary, the shorter commentary does not arrange proverbs into larger meaningful clusters. Since the shorter commentary does not engage in a detailed exegesis of the Hebrew text, the clusters are less evident. Fourth, the shorter commentary includes a subject index so teachers and pastors can quickly find proverbs on a subject (pages 442-55).

The sixty-two-page introduction discusses the various collections within Proverbs, suggesting “Solomon’s fingerprint can be found in all but the last two collections” (p. 6). After a very brief notice of Ancient Near Eastern parallels, Waltke introduces readers to the features of Hebrew poetry and the wisdom genre. Two-thirds of the introduction is a theology of the book of Proverbs, including expected topics like God, Revelation and anthropology. Proverbs commentaries normally include a section defining the wise and the fools. The wise are the righteous, the ones who are upright and blameless. The wise fear the Lord and will receive their reward, including wealth and life. In contrast, the fool is unrighteous, senseless and sluggardly. They too will receive their own reward, the grave. Because experience demonstrates many wise people suffer and fools prosper, Waltke asks, “does Proverbs promise too much?” After looking briefly at three common suggestions for solving the problem, Waltke suggests the promises found in Proverbs are “mostly validated by experience” (p. 43). Proverbs tell the truth, but not the whole truth (there are exceptions). The book is a “primer on morality for the young” (p. 44) and does require trust in I AM.

Since this is a Christian commentary, it is not surprising to see a section on Christology. Since the original commentary, Waltke contributed two books on reading Psalms as Christian scripture, The Psalms as Christian Worship (Eerdmans 2010), The Psalms as Christian Lament (Eerdmans 2014, reviewed here) and The Psalms as Christian Praise (Eerdmans, 2019). Like the Psalms, Waltke argues the Proverbs are directly relevant to the Christian, although the book is surpassed by the teachings of Jesus (p. 57). He also includes several pages surveying and evaluating the “Wisdom Woman as a type of Christ” (p. 59-61). Although commonly found in early church discussions of Christ, the apostles themselves ever use Proverbs for their Christology. He does offer a short list of “striking similarities” between the personification of wisdom and John’s representation of Jesus (p. 61).

The body of the commentary works through the book verse-by-verse, usually devoting a brief paragraph to each saying. All Hebrew appears in transliteration and the editors removed most technical details of Hebrew syntax present in the original commentary. Most readers will have no trouble following the commentary.

Conclusion. In the introduction to the volume, the authors state the commentary is “intended for the Bible lover” (xvi). This shorter commentary is exactly what most teachers and pastors need for understanding the book of Proverbs. Eerdmans is to be applauded for publishing this affordable major commentary and making Waltke’s work available to a wider audience.

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

 

Three New Volumes in the The Transformative Word Series

Glanville, Mark R. Freed to be God’s Family: The Book of Exodus. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2021. 119 pp.; Pb.; $14.99.   Link to Lexham Press

Elsdon, Ron and William Olhausen. Transformed in Christ: The Book of 1 Corinthians. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2021. 96 pp.; Pb.; $14.99. Link to Lexham Press

Flemming, Dean. Self-Giving Love: The Book of Philippians. Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2021. 90 pp.; Pb.; $14.99. Link to Lexham Press

Transformative Word SeriesThe Transformative Word Series is edited by Craig G. Bartholomew and David J. H. Beldman in association with St. George’s Centre for Biblical and Public Theology. St. George’s Centre has sponsored several seminars (Scripture and Church, Scripture and Doctrine, and Scripture and Hermeneutics) and the annual SBL meeting and most recently hosted by Institute for Biblical Research. There are currently there are fourteen volumes in this series of thematic studies of biblical books. I will briefly review here the three most recent volumes in the series.

Exodus

Mark Glanville’s Freed to be God’s Family presents the book of Exodus as “all about community.” The book was written to “transform the way people live together in society” (p. 6). Glanville is interested in showing how Exodus can be a model for worshiping communities today. This begins with God redeeming his people from slavery, creating a new community which stands in contrast to society in Egypt. Since the main difference is God’s law and the Tabernacle, Glanville devotes two chapters to the Law (the “Law Collection” and the Ten Commandments). He offers a helpful six-step method for interpreting biblical law (p.31). Since the Tabernacle dominates about one-third of the book of Exodus, Glanville discusses why the sanctuary is so important.

1 Corinthians

Ron Eldson and Willaim Olhausen begin their discussion of 1 Corinthians with a “guided tour of Corinth.” First century Corinth was dominated by the desire for economic advancement and pervasive Roman entertainment. They therefore argue 1 Corinthians is a “countercultural document” and ask whether the Corinthian Christians were really aware of the pressure they faced from their culture (p. 6). Two factors make 1 Corinthians radical, Paul’s focus on the Holy Spirit (ch. 3) and his focus on the Cross (ch. 4). Centering on the Spirit and the Cross, Eldson and Olhausen then discuss sex and money, two cultural factors which plagued the Corinthian believers. After chapters on worship and resurrection, the authors offer a final chapter on how to read 1 Corinthians as contemporary Christian.

Philippians

Dean Flemming’s reads the short letter to the Philippians argues the theological center of the letter is 2:6-11, the Christ-hymn. This rich passage describes the self-emptying God which “shatters feeble and misguided understandings of God” (p. 17). Like most studies of Philippians, Flemming observes that Paul calls his readers to live out their heavenly citizenship by living their life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ (ch. 5) and having the same mindset as Christ Jesus (ch. 6) in a mission-oriented Christian community (ch. 7).

Conclusion. These short volumes are idea for both personal and small group Bible study. Chapters are brief, rarely longer than ten pages and conclude with several questions for reflection. Each book is written with the layperson in mind and avoid technical details and biblical languages. Since these books are theological readings of the Bible, they are focus squarely on drawing out biblical themes which are applicable to the missional church today.

See also my reviews of two earlier books in this series: A. J. Culp, Invited to Know God: The Book of Deuteronomy and Adrio König, Christ Above All: The Book of Hebrews.

 

NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book, both in print and Logos format. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Book Review: John Goldingay, The Theology of Jeremiah

Goldingay, John. The Theology of Jeremiah. Downers Grove Ill..: IVP Academic, 2021. 151 pp. Pb; $22.00.   Link to IVP Academic

This short primer to the theology of Jeremiah joins Goldingay’s The Theology of Isaiah (IVP Academic, 2014). Goldingay wrote the forthcoming NICOT volume on Jeremiah (Eerdmans, late 2021), informing his reflections on this important prophetic voice. Like the previous book in Isaiah, The Theology of Jeremiah is more like a series of challenging reflections on the book of Jeremiah.

Goldingay Theology of JeremiahPart one contains four chapters covering the contents of Jeremiah. As with any prophetic book, historical context is critically important for understanding the content and theology of the book. The first chapter (“The Man, The Scroll”) briefly introduces what we can know of the “historical Jeremiah” and the world to which God called him to announce his word. The exile was a catastrophe, a great calamity which destroyed Jerusalem. As for the date and composition of the book, Goldingay takes the “more old-fashioned view that the scroll was produced during the decades after the fall of Jerusalem, during or just after Jeremiah’s lifetime” (p. 9).

In the second chapter, “Reading Jeremiah Backwards,” Goldingay begins with the end of the book, the tragic conclusion to the book: Babylon devastated Jerusalem, and Jeremiah himself takes refuge in Egypt. He then backtracks through the narrative to explain what has happened. “It’s amazing how God keeps giving the people of God a new start and how we are capable of throwing it away. I picture God sitting with his cabinet in the heavens and they are all rolling their eyes at our stupidity and then starting another discussion about how they can fix things to give us another chance” (p. 19).

Goldingay then surveys the contents of Jeremiah in two chapters entitled “Themes in Jeremiah.” The book of Jeremiah asks Israel to get its thinking and commitments straight. Goldingay therefore divides the book into sections calling on Israel to “think about”: the Exodus (2-6), the temple (7-10), the covenant (11-13), prayer (14-17), God’s sovereignty (18-20), the government (21-25), the “reassuring prophets” (26-29), restoration and returning (30-33) “what is written” (34-26), tragedy and trauma (37-45), Egypt (46-49), and empire (50-51).

Part two covers five theological themes which arise from a reading of Jeremiah. Each of these five chapters are illustrated with scripture drawn from Goldingay’s own translation, The First Testament (IVP Academic, 2018). After creating a biblical theological reading of Jeremiah’s view of the topic, Goldingay connects Jeremiah to Christian theology. Here is sometimes uses categories of systematic theology (as in the chapter on God), the New Testament (as in the chapter on the People of God), or connects the theological theme to a contemporary work like Anglican Common Book of Prayer.

Goldingay is adamant that modern readers hear Jeremiah’s voice. He sometimes wonders what Jeremiah would think of later readings of his words. For example, in his chapter on the People of God, Goldingay says, “Jeremiah speaks with more than one voice about Israel’s security or vulnerability. He speaks of God annihilating Israel, of his decimating Israel but preserving a small community, and of his restoring Israel and vastly increasing its numbers. Jeremiah does not seek to reconcile these different positions in the way Paul does in Romans 9-11. Maybe he was glad when he could eventually read Romans—or will be when he gets the chance” (p. 100).

Since God called Jeremiah to confront the people of Judah about their wrongdoing, Goldingay devotes a chapter to the topic. He avoids using the word sin until the last section connecting Jeremiah to Christian theology. Jeremiah in fact uses a wide range of terms for sin: wrongdoing, taint, corruption, profanation, shamefulness, stubbornness, and even stupidity! Once again Goldingay concludes the chapter with the question of “what would Jeremiah think” about the Christian generalized confession of sin, For Jeremiah, says Goldingay, there are times when a person needs to seriously face their wrongdoings.

More than most of the prophets, Jeremiah has a great deal to say about “being a prophet” (chapter eight). God commissioned Jeremiah to speak his word to Judah. But because of his message, he was unpopular and vulnerable to attack. Jeremiah prays for (and against) those who attack him, even asking God to do what he has intended to do and judge Judah.

For many Christians, prophetic books are about the future. Goldingay devotes his final chapter to the future, but he is also clear the vast majority of the book of Jeremiah concerns the prophet’s own day and the next several generations. “The consideration about messianic prophecy leads into a reflection on the alternative inclination of Christian theology to see prophecy such as Jeremiah as forth-telling more than foretelling (p. 140).” Even in the seventy-year exile concerns his immediate audience: their grandchildren will experience the restoration.

Can Judah avoid the threat of exile? After all, God promised total devastation. If Israel does not repent, will God limit the time of the devastation? If the people turn and repent, will God restore them from their exile among the nations? For Jeremiah, the answer seems to be yes. Goldingay offers a list of the things expected when Israel is restored (p. 100). However, when he connects Jeremiah to Christian theology, these things are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. (There is no pre-millennialism here).

Conclusion: The book is a collection of Goldingay’s insights after the intense study required to write a major academic commentary. But Goldingay writes for a popular audience, so his style is clear, non-academic, and occasionally witty. The book is not cluttered with jargon or technical details. He challenges his readers to think more deeply about Jeremiah, perhaps in ways which confront their own assumptions about the book.

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

Book Review: Caleb T. Friedeman, ed. A Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature

Friedeman. Caleb T., ed. A Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Academic, 2021. xvi+549 pp.; Hb.  $59.95  Link to Hendrickson Academic

A Scripture Index to Rabbinic Literature (ASIRL, pronounced AY-sirl) is the first comprehensive Scripture index to classical rabbinic literature in English. The goals of this volume are quite different than the venerable (and oft-reprinted) work by John Lightfoot or Strack and Billerbeck, Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Midrash (German, 1926). Those volumes indexed the passages in the Mishnah and Talmud to New Testament passages. ASIRL indexes quotations and allusions to the Hebrew Bible in a wide range of classical rabbinic literature, providing a convenient list to study the developing interpretation of Scripture in classical rabbinic literature.

A Scripture Index to Rabbinic LiteratureBy classic rabbinic literature, the editors mean works produced in the second through seventh centuries CE (3). The volume is also limited to works available in English, untranslated Hebrew or German texts are not indexed. The literature indexed includes the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, Babylonian Talmud and the minor Talmudic Tractates, and seventeen midrashic works. The introduction surveys these twenty-two categories, indicating the translation used for the volume and a brief introduction to the contents and abbreviation schemes. This is a valuable introduction to many of the lesser-known works included in the index. The introduction also includes a brief bibliography for each work included.

According to the introduction to the book, ASIRL contains “approximately 90,000 rabbinic entries and represents over 2,500 hours of work by a seven-person team over the course of two and a half years.” ASRIL has five goals. First, the volume brings all Scripture references in classical rabbinic literature together in a single volume so that users can look at one or two pages and know every place in this literature where a given biblical passage is referenced. Second, the book creates Scripture indexes for rabbinic works that do not yet have them. Third, the book provides for each reference a hard citation that is transferable to other editions, and also to provide the corresponding page number in a standard English translation. Fourth, the editors decide whether each reference is a direct citation, allusion, or editorial reference. Fifth, the volume corrects any errors in the existing indexes for this literature.

As test case I selected Exodus 12:9. Referring to the Passover Lamb, the text says “Do not eat the meat raw or boiled in water, but roast it over a fire—with the head, legs and internal organs.” The index points the way to how this verse was interpreted by classic rabbinic literature. The ASIRL for Exodus 12:9 has thirty entries arranged in chronological order beginning with the Mishnah. Each entry includes pages numbers in the work cited in the edition listed in the introduction. For the Mishnah, they give page numbers both D for Danbey (D) and Neusner (N). This made it quite easy to locate references in my copy of Neusner’s translation of the Mishnah.. The index also pointed me to Lauterbach’s Mekilta de-Rabbi Ishmael: “R. Akiba says: From this I know only that it is forbidden to boil it in water. How about boiling it in other liquids? The scriptural expression: “nor sodden at all,” includes all other liquids in the prohibition.” In b. Hul. 115A the rabbis connected Exodus 12:9 to the prohibition of eating meat boiled in milk as well as prohibitions against eating meat with blood. Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon Bar Yoha adds “if one eats it insufficiently cooked, he gets the 40 lashes!”

This raises on potential problem for using the full potential of ASIRL. Users need access to a formidable research library in order to make use of the index. I happen to have both the Neusner’s Mishnah and Babylonian Talmud in Logos as well as a few of the other works listed, but few users will have immediate access to anything other than the Mishnah and Talmud. The majority of entries are from those two sources, but some may be frustrated trying to find a copy of Sifre Zuta Numbers, for example. Although it would be a great deal of work, I would really like to see this book converted to a Logos tagged resource so users could click a link and go immediately to the cited section.

Since this is an index of Scripture in the rabbinic literature, it is not surprising the bulk of the 549 pages of the book cover the Hebrew Bible (and about 250 pages are on the five books of the Torah). The Apocrypha appears on slightly more than one page, the New Testament in barely four pages. The editors are clear: they do not want to imply any listed classic rabbinic text actually directly interacts with the New Testament. All the New Testament examples are editorial references rather than citations or allusions. Once again, this is not a new version of Strack and Billerbeck. In fact, these two sections could have been omitted without effecting the goals of ASRIL.

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