Baker Academic Blog has posted some videos by Greg Beale describing his Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. The videos are good summaries of the book and how Beale thinks it can be used. For my review of the book see here.
Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Thursday, 20 December 2012
Baker Academic kindly provided me with a copy of Greg Beale’s recent Handbook of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. Beale is well-known for his studies of how the OT is used in the NT. This book provides the method behind the Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament which he edited with D.A. Carson (see also his A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New). Consistent with the title, the book functions more as a primer to the issues than a technical assessment.
Chapter 1 addresses several current debates about the use of the OT in the NT. Beale does not present full argumentation for his views, but rather introduces a topic and then states his position. He is particularly concerned to demonstrate that the NT authors read the OT within its context (which eventually is clarified to be the literary context). He also spends some time discussing ‘typology’.
Chapter 2 deals with how to identify quotations and allusions. Beale notes briefly Richard Hay’s method of identifying allusions and the critiques offered by Stanley Porter. In the second half of the chapter Beale highlights key sources to help with identifying allusions (e.g., NA27, commentaries).
Chapter 3 ‘is the core of the book’ (p.41). Beale presents nine steps for assessing how the OT is used in the NT (pp.42–43) which are then explained in the chapter:
- Identify the OT reference. Is it a quotation or allusion? If it is an allusion, then there must be validation that it is an allusion, judging by the criteria discussed in the preceding chapter.
- Analyze the broad NT context where the OT reference occurs.
- Analyse the OT context both broadly and immediately, especially thoroughly interpreting the paragraph in which the quotation or allusion occurs.
- Survey the use of the OT text in early and late Judaism that might be of relevance to the NT appropriation of the OT text.
- Compare the texts (including their textual variants): NT, LXX, MT, and targums, early Jewish citations (DSS, the Pseudepigrapha, Josephus, Phiilo). Underline or color-code the various differences.
- Analyze the author’s textual use of the OT. (Which texts does the author rely on, or is the author making his own rendering, and how does this bear on the interpretation of the OT text?)
- Analyze the author’s interpretative (hermeneutical) use of the OT.
- Analyze the author’s theological use of the OT.
- Analyze the author’s rhetorical use of the OT.
Although considered the core of the book, I’m somewhat disappointed with this chapter. First, I’m struggling to see what is different or profound about this approach than just teaching someone to be a good reader. Second, I’m wary of ‘step’ approaches. They give the impression that if someone simply does each step then he will arrive at the right interpretation. I realise that Beale will be aware of this, but students often think that if they simply follow the steps they will get things right and thus get a good grade. They are shocked when I say back, ‘Well yes you followed the steps, but you didn’t realise that there is more to it than just plugging in the right material’. Anyway, I think the approach offered by Beale is good, but it could use some slight refinement.
Chapters 4–6 take up specific steps from Beale’s nine-step method. Chapter 4 develops step 7 by categorising the primary ways that the NT uses the OT. Although Beale views chapter 3 as the core, primarily because it outlines a method, I found this chapter to be more interesting and potentially useful. Beale provides some 12 main ways in which the NT author’s interpret the OT, such as ‘direct fulfillment’; ‘indirect fulfillment of OT typological prophecy’; ‘symbolic’; ‘ironic’. He is careful not to make every use of the OT fit into one of the categories as he acknowledges both that he is offering only key categories and that there is overlap. Although I doubt that any nomenclature will ever be universally adopted, his attempt here at least provides a focal point around which scholars could work even if someone opts for a different label.
Chapter 5 develops briefly step 8. Beale identifies five basic presuppositions at work for the NT authors (pp.96–97):
- There is the apparent assumption of corporate solidarity or representation.
- In the light of corporate solidarity or representation, Christ as the Messiah is viewed as representing the true Israel of the OT and the true Israel—Church—in the NT.
- History is unified by a wise and sovereign plan so that the earlier parts are designed to correspond and point to the later parts.
- The age of eschatological fulfillment has come in Christ.
- As a consequence of the preceding presuppositions, it follows that the later parts of biblical history function as the broader context for interpreting earlier parts because they all have the same, ultimate divine author who inspires the various human authors. One deduction form this premise is that Christ is the goal toward which the OT pointed and is the end-time center of redemptive history, which is the key for interpreting the earlier portions of the OT and its promises.
Chapter 6, which has the title ‘Relevance of the Jewish Backgrounds for the Study of the Old Testament in the New: A Survey of the Sources’, expands on step 4. This chapter doesn’t actually describe the relevance of the contemporary sources. Rather, it is an (annotated) bibliography of works about the primary sources: translations, introductions, etc. He gives three points of guidance for locating Jewish texts that refer to Old Testament texts quoted in the New (pp.104-08):
- Consult background commentaries on key NT passages
- Consult major New Testament commentaries
- Consult primary sources in Jewish literature by utilizing topical and especially Scripture indexes of these sources in English translation
Chapter 7 is a case study of the use of Isaiah 22.22 in Revelation 3.7.
The volume ends with a ‘Select Bibliography on the New Testament Use of the Old’. The bibliography is somewhat dated and lacks direction at a number of points (e.g. General Epistles).
In general, I think this book can be helpful for students, but a few cautions would be in order. In addition to what I said about chapter 3, I would also add two other points. First, I was disappointed in the way that Beale handled the Jewish literature. Although Chapter 6 has the title ‘Relevance of the Jewish Backgrounds …’ Beale seems to keep the Jewish literature at some distance. He doesn’t actually show a student why this literature matters. I think that more careful attention to how the contemporary Jewish authors read the OT will help us better understand the NT authors as engaging in interpretative debates about the text. At times we will see that their readings match one segment of Judaism and disagree with other segments. Also, more careful attention to the Jewish literature will help us see where the presuppositions of the NT authors (particularly with regard to their understanding of Jesus as the Christ) have reshaped the way they read a text.
Second, I would have liked to see Beale address in more depth some of the problem texts like Rom 10.6–8 or Christ as the rock in 1 Cor 10.4. Hebrews is also poorly represented in the book which is surprising given the way in which scripture drives the argument. I realise that the volume is a handbook and cannot address every appearance of the OT in the NT, but problem passages of these kind are the ones that students do ask about.
Monday, 19 November 2012
There was an interesting article at CT last week with three opinions about what changes seminaries need to make. The first view (Dan Kimball) argues that seminaries must be more missionally focused so that seminaries become ‘missionary-training centers’.
The second view (Cheryl Sanders) suggests three ways to change. First, theological training needs to be more ‘pracitical’. Sanders isn’t thinking simply of how one does ministry; rather,the piont is that students should be taught ‘to think about what these truths mean in specific and changing ministry contexts’. Second, Sanders also argues that there needs to be greater ethnic diversity in the seminaries. Third, seminaries need to diversify the teaching methods.
In the final view Winfield Bevins opines that seminaries should be producing more church planters and a part of the curriculum would be that students would do an internship with a church plant.
Two things in particular stood out to me. First, the idea that our seminaries should be turned into missionary training centres or church planting factories seems to leave out those of us who are not going into these forms of ministry. Where will the next generation of scholars go for training if the seminaries are so oriented toward missionaries or church planters? Surely our seminaries need to be more diverse and recognise that there are all sorts of ministries. Second, the emphasis on doing seems to have forgotten what education is about. Seminary should be a place where one goes in order to have his or her mind stretched, to encounter new ideas and to develop the skills to evaluate and assess the ideas. Seminaries should be producing thinkers. Some of these thinkers will go on to be scholars well others will become missionaries and church planters or indeed pastors of an already existing church.
What is needed from our seminaries is not a narrower vision focused on a few people and a few types of ministry but a stronger emphasis on the value and point of education itself.
Monday, 11 June 2012
For those who haven’t seen it yet, Joel Willitts has listed the programme for the short papers for the St. Andrews Conference on Galatians in July. The programme for the main speakers is available on the St. Andrews website (here). I just wish that I could attend, but I’ll have to wait for the book.
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
I’m currently writing a book review (really a book notice: only 300 words) on a new commentary on Hebrews. I’ve not reviewed a commentary before, so I’ve been thinking about what goes into a good review of a commentary. Writing a review of a monograph is fairly straightforward; a collection of essays can be more difficult if space is really limited and there is no clear unifying theme. But, I think, a commentary presents different challenges. For one thing, most commentaries are now quite long. The one I’m reviewing is over 700 pages of commentary and introduction. I’ve heard that some people enjoy reading commentaries from cover to cover, but I’m not one of those. Plus, I’m not sure that a complete reading is what is needed for a good review of a commentary. Here are some questions that I’ve been thinking about:
- What is unique about the commentary? Uniqueness can be good or bad, but the question here is primarily about what justifies another commentary to occupy space on my shelf. Does this commentary have a different approach to the text? Does it concentrate on parallels in ancient literature better than other commentaries? Is the commentary focused primarily on historical or theological issues, or is there a balance between them? Does it come from a particular theological stance, and how does it handles texts that seem problematic for that view?
- How does the commentary position itself in relation to key current debates? Every generation has its own particularities, and the commentaries should reflect that. Basically, this is a key reason why there is the need for fresh commentaries. The commentator is forced to do two things: be aware of the past and present discussions, well also looking forward. No one wants to write a commentary that is outdated as soon as it hits the shelves, nor do I want to read one that simply repeats what a dozen other commentaries have already said.
- A follow-up question to this one is: how well does the commentary engage with other positions? I’m not a big fan of commentaries that merely present the author’s take without any real engagement with alternative views. A commentary is not the place for a literature review, but I would suggest that a commentary should also have some good dialogue partners that run throughout.
- What does the commentary say about key passages? I think this is crucial to getting a good feel for what a commentary is doing.
- How useful will this commentary be for my students? Since I spend most of my time teaching and addressing students, I find myself thinking more about what can benefit them. This is particularly the case when I’m reviewing a book that relates to a class I teach. Because I do English and Greek based classes, I have two sets of criteria to watch for. For example, does the commentary engage the Greek enough to challenge the students who have Greek, but without overwhelming them? Does it explain things simply enough that the English-only students can still use it?
- How well is it written? Let’s face it: a well-written commentary is more likely to be used when one encounters an issue than a poorly written one, however good the latter is.
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
I’m always looking for good pictures to use in my powerpoint presentations when I lecture, and we operate under really strict copyright rules, so it is good to find a site that gives me free, good pictures. Carl Rasmussan (author of Zondervan Atlas of the Bible; see here) has made available over 3,000 photos at his site: www.HolyLandPhotos.org.This site will now be the first place that I check when preparing my next powerpoint.
Sunday, 29 April 2012
In 7th grade I had a teacher who tried to make me learn the name of every country, river, mountain range, capital, major city, minor city, etc. We learned the modern world as well as changes throughout history. I did okay with the countries and USA stuff, but never got the rest and I have struggled with geography ever since. Yet, some awareness of where cities and towns were and how far one would have to travel between places is important to understanding the Bible and the ancient world. I’m grateful then for Carl Rasmussen’s Zondervan Atlas of the Bible (and Josh at Zondervan who sent me a copy).
The book is filled with high quality photos, maps and timelines. Rasmussen has provided notes about the places and people, a historical narrative of sorts. With the narrative, the book becomes much more than a book of maps.
I know this volume will be useful for me, and it could work well as a supplementary textbook to an Old Testament or New Testament Intro class.
Monday, 23 April 2012
I managed to get a copy of Ben Witherington‘s new book A Week in the Life of Corinth (IVP, 2012). It is a novel (about 150 small pages) centred around the life of Nicanor, a former slave of Erastos. Basically Nicanor has secured his freedom and is now an up-and-coming businessman. The novel tells of his business adventures and his encounter with the new religion, ‘Christianity’.
I won’t give away the details of the story because it really is a good story. I don’t read a lot of fiction and especially not during term time, but I found this story engaging and well written. I was intrigued and wanted to know what was going to happen.
Beyond the story itself, Witherington has managed to sneak in a large amount of history. One is introduced to the city of Corinth, key historical figures, what life was like for both the wealthy and the poor, how people travelled, and other things. Alongside what comes out in the story itself are short sidebars, ‘A Closer Look’, that provide explanations and historical details about things mentioned in the story.
The book is ideal for church goers and students. It can help to bring the ancient world to life in ways that a lecture or academic book simply can’t.
As reading the book, though, I wondered if we are perhaps seeing a different way to teach history and theology. This book, along with Bruce Fisk’s A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus (see here for my thoughts on this book), move in a different direction than standard academic textbooks. Rather than point by point arguments and reviews of scholarly positions, they teach by bringing the reader into a story. Both are, in my judgement, very effective at introducing a reader to the topics. Anyway, I just wonder if this more narrative, story-type book is where the future of textbooks might lie.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
I recently came across this advice about publishing for early career scholars. It comes from a conference last year organised by the Institute of Classical Studies in London. Although written with Classical scholars in mind, much of what is said can be helpful to early career Biblical scholars as well.
The presentations offer advice on all forms of publishing, but two points stood out to me. First, many of the contributors said that they began by writing book reviews. This is indeed a good way to get started, and there are many good practical reasons to do book reviews (you get to keep that CUP book that costs $150!). But it must be remembered that book reviews don’t carry much weight on a CV. You should decide early on how to balance time between writing reviews and researching and writing for journal articles and books. If you are going to write reviews, one way to get a balance is to review books that are directly related to what you are researching.
The second point that stood out was the advice to edit a volume. I have just recently completed editing a massive volume (630 pages) and I can say that this has pros and cons. I spent a lot of time working on it, especially since I had to typeset it as well. And the indexing took forever. But the payoff has been worth it. I have had the chance to work with some leading NT scholars, and I have learned a lot about the whole process that goes into editing books.
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
In the previous post, I noted several comments from Wright on how the Church has misread and distorted the gospels. I found much in Wright’s essay that I appreciated, and as one who comes from a tradition that undervalues the Gospels and ‘spiritualizes’ the kingdom, I completely understand his reaction against this view. However, I have reservations about the way that he pits ‘tradition’ against historical reconstruction and particularly his assertions that ‘the whole church’ or ‘the entire Western tradition’ has misunderstood the Gospels. Let me make two points.
1) The goal of biblical scholarship (indeed of any scholarship) is to advance knowledge. Scholars identify unresolved issues and attempt to provide solutions; we reassess the sources in light of new evidence, such as archaeological discoveries or new philosophical theories about knowledge. We put forth ideas that are often in conflict with previous interpreters. But at what point is it correct to declare all previous interpreters wrong not merely on issues of individual verses but rather on whole subjects like the Gospels (or Paul)? Note, this is not just saying ‘Hey, we have missed this key issue that needs to be included’. Rather, this is declaring ‘Hey, you all have gotten the whole thing wrong! This is how it really is’. Wright’s claim in the quotes listed in the previous post is not merely that we have misunderstood some aspect, but rather that the whole church—every previous interpreter—has completely missed the whole thing. The church has sailed the ship in the wrong direction for 2000 years! Or, more strongly, the church has not even been on the right boat. This is a bold claim, and although Wright is arguing for the importance of understanding the Gospels and Jesus historically, it raises for me a theological question: If the whole of the church has gotten it wrong, does it mean that God’s Spirit has not actually been guiding his people in their reading of Scripture?
2) I’m no expert on the Reformation, but Wright’s claim to be upholding the Reformation seems mistaken. The Reformers certainly stood opposed to tradition, but they didn’t declare the tradition to be wholly wrong. Luther and Calvin regularly turned to Augustine, for example, for support for their interpretations. They certainly went beyond Augustine at key points, but they were keen to make sure that others in the church’s tradition supported their interpretations. Indeed, a number of scholars have appealed for Wright to give more attention to earlier interpreters, not least because Wright may well find supporters for his views (Mike Bird has made this point on several occasions particularly in his response to Wright at IBR in 2010; after drafting these comments I read Edith Humphrey’s essay, ‘Glimpsing the Glory’, in Jesus, Paul and the People of God and she makes some very pointed remarks to Wright about the issue ). The whole issue raises this question for me: when proposing a radical reworking of a particular issue (such as the meaning of the Gospels or justification), how important is support from previous interpreters?
I don’t think there are easy answers to these questions. I find neither a ‘blind’ acceptance of tradition nor Wright’s absolute rejection of tradition acceptable. There must be a middle ground that recognises the value of previous interpreters while also realising that they were humans. Michael Gorman makes some good points here about the role of the creeds (and tradition) that are worth reflection.
I hope that this post doesn’t come across as another bash Wright argument. However we treat the relationship between biblical scholarship and church tradition, there is much in this essay by Wright worth pondering and much that the church does need to hear.