Reviews


When I started doing book reviews as a PhD student, someone recommended to send my reviews to the author directly.  It helps you keep in mind they will read it more closely than anyone else, and it will remind you to keep your comments civil since they are directed at a person and not a faceless journal audience.  I did that with my review of Matt Bates’ The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (part 1 and part 2), and offered for him to do a response to clarify any misunderstandings I had and further the conversation.  Thus, the following is the first part of his response.  (He sent this several weeks ago, and due to some email snafus I am just now posting it.  My apologies, Matt!)  I know you’ll be enriched by his discussion.

Guest Post by Matthew Bates:

Greetings to all of you. First of all, I want to thank Ben Blackwell and the other contributors at Dunelm Road for extending me an invitation to supply a guest post—an unexpected pleasure. This is my first foray as a writer into the blogosphere, so psychologically this is a big step for me. Indeed, I haven’t exactly embraced this new social-media laced world with open arms. My face is not booked. I don’t tweet. And although I finally got around to creating an academia.edu profile a couple months ago, I still wouldn’t consider myself truly linked in. But I am working on it. So, today as a guest writer for Dunelm Road, I appreciate the opportunity to reap all of the undeniable benefits of biblioblogging—the lustrous fame, the plush advertising revenues, the posh book deals, the billions of adoring fans—while also avoiding its dark underbelly—the inevitable posting of a check-out-this-weird-thing-my-cat-just-did youtube video in order to stave off the mounting pressure to write something intelligent and coherent for the blog every couple days! No, seriously, I appreciate the biblioblogging community for keeping all of us non-regular bloggers up to date on various happenings in the biblical studies world.

It is of course an honor to have had my first book, The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation, blog-reviewed by Ben. I myself have had occasion to enjoy some of his research work as we share common interests. In previous posts Ben has already supplied a solid overview of my book (see part I) and an excellent critical evaluation (see part II). He also asked a couple questions.

So what’s on tap for my guest post? Well, of course, I am going to try my best to answer Ben’s questions and respond to issues raised. Also, as is inevitably the case, probably because I wasn’t sufficiently lucid in the book itself, there are a couple little things in Ben’s review that I want to clarify. Moreover, since this might be my one and only shot at extreme social-media self-promotion—I am thinking of those billions of Dunelm Road readers—I want to say a few words about how my work on prosopological exegesis in this first book bridges to my second book, tentatively titled The Birth of the Trinity.

I will use a dialogical format, giving Ben’s question/comment from the previous posts followed by my response:

Ben’s comment/question:
“[Bates] argues that we should understand Paul’s hermeneutics as thoroughly Christian rather than Jewish”
and (summarizing)
Bates leans in an “either/or” direction on this issue.

My response:
In intention (if not in effect), I was trying to argue two things. (1) That Paul was a Jew and that he did use Jewish interpretative techniques, and that the study of such techniques generally continues to be helpful and fruitful (e.g., as in Francis Watson’s Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith), but that we can’t stop there in comparative studies, because Paul was a special sort of Jew—one who had embraced Jesus as messiah. So if perchance I give off an “either/or” vibe, I would nonetheless consider myself very much “both/and.” (2) Yet because scholarship has already repeatedly and nearly exhaustively compared moments of Pauline exegesis of the OT to all the Jewish parallels, but has scarcely even begun to compare to Christian parallels, we are more likely to discover new insights through the latter. Thus, my specific focus on situating Paul amidst other early Christian exegetes in this book.

Ben’s comment/question:
“Bates’ intention is to dismantle the emphasis upon typology as a means to describe Paul’s interpretation.”
and
For Bates, “[older texts] don’t have to speak about the old event and then make a correspondence to the contemporary event (as in typology). They just speak directly to the contemporary event/issue.”
and
For Bates, “…a correspondence between past and present is not the focus, only the present is.”
and
“Bates deconstructs Hays’ and others’ use of the language of typology, arguing that typology is focused on the (Christ-informed) present, rather than working from past to the present.”

My response:
I can certainly see, due to my tone and emphasis, why Ben might feel like my intention is to dismantle typology and to exclude the past referent, but I would like to think my point about typology is more subtle. (But then again, I always like to think that I am being clever and subtle when it is perhaps more likely that I am being obscure or inscrutable).

I want to deconstruct typology only in the sense that, unlike allegory (Greek: allegoria), typology is not an ancient term for an interpretative technique—in fact, it wasn’t an ancient term at all but is a modern neologism. So “type” (Greek: typos) language is a metaphor, a kind of trope, not a reified exegetical technique for Paul or his contemporaries. But this doesn’t mean that the “type” metaphor lacks hermeneutical significance for Paul when he uses it in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 and in Romans 5:14. So, the real question is what does Paul intend when he deploys the “type” metaphor? Drawing on my own lexical analysis and Frances Young’s Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture, I determine that “iconic mimesis” is at the heart of Paul’s “type” language—that is, imitation predicated on participation in a common image.

An author’s use of “type” language can be based on that author’s identification of an image in a past-tense narrative that is then found to reoccur in the present, but other configurations are also possible. For example, an author might first observe the image in the present, and then retrospectively look backwards and find the image prefigured in an earlier text. If indeed (as I argue) Paul tends toward the latter, that is he begins with the apostolic proclamation and mission, and then looks backward to the OT text to find the imitation, then Paul’s use of “type” isn’t thereby excluding the past or narrowly focused on the Christ-informed present, but rather Paul is drawing attention to the resonance between certain OT events and the his present, and this resonance gives both the past OT events and present events a heightened significance.

(Part 2 of the response will follow soon.)

I am continuing my review of Matt Bates’ The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation.  See my summary of the argument of the book in part 1 of the review.  This post will focus on my evaluation of the argument.

Methdology

Though the focus of Bates’ project is by far and away exegetical, he widens the field of vision beyond that of the first century by exploring later Christian use of biblical texts as a window into understanding Paul better.  Those of you who know my own work on the helpfulness of the Wirkungsgeschichte of biblical texts (see my Christosis) won’t be surprised by my interest in and support of Bates’ project.  In situating his project vis-a-vis that of Watson, he argues that we should understand Paul’s hermeneutics as thoroughly Christian rather than Jewish.  I view this particular issue (and wider engagement with the Wirkungsgeschichte) as less either/or than Bates, but ultimately the shared Christocentrism of NT and post-NT texts does mean that the later texts might have more in common than comparator Jewish texts.  That being said Paul’s Christian (or kerygmatic) hermeneutic arose specifically in a Jewish context and so this context should not be ignored.  Of course, this is not a critique of Bates for not exploring it–there are only so many topics a book can address–but a caution about the rhetoric.

While his study of the Wirkungsgeschichte of these texts positively (and strongly) supports Bates’ emphasis on prosopological exegesis, I’m not sure the later Christians would be as supportive of his treatment of typology.  Briefly, Bates deconstructs Hays’ and others’ use of the language of typology, arguing that typology is focused on the (Christ-informed) present, rather than working from the past to the present.  See his clear discussion on pg 147-48.  I accept his thrust that the Christ-event gives the present a hermeneutical priority, but I wonder what a more sustained interaction with Irenaeus (in addition to Barnabas and Justin) on this topic would have produced?  For instance, in his application of this present-focused perspective with Romans 15.9 (p 301-2), Bates asserts that Paul is basically not concerned with David (Ps 17.50 LXX) as Hays asserts.  I find Bates’ exegesis enlightening, but I don’t see the need to make David such a flat character and therefore I identify more fully with Hays: Christ has the precedence but his role as the Messiah makes sense in light of David’s substantive role as King.  Irenaeus has a robust perspective on typological connections (e.g. AH 3.21-3.22), which would offer mixed support and critique of Bates: Irenaeus ignores the place of the virgin in Isaiah giving preference only to the Christ-informed present, whereas Adam’s and Eve’s roles as historical characters are very important.

On a related note, Bates’ inclusion of the steps in the process of developing an argument drawn from the rhetorical handbooks is enlightening for the topic of typology (and other tropes).  He concedes that it wasn’t a rigid process and that we can’t be certain of Paul’s specific engagement with the method, but if the choice of the evidence preceded the method of employing the evidence with particular tropes (like typology), this definitely strengthens his case.  Of course, Paul’s rhetorical training is highly debated, some will find the evidence more or less convincing.  But it is definitely relevant to the discussion.

Apostolic Kerygma

With use of these terms, Bates captures the heart of Paul’s hermeneutical practice in that the scriptural (OT) witness points to Christ (kerygma) and this witness forms the mission and practice of the church (apostolic).  As I mentioned, this could be positively compared to Hays’ description of Paul’s hermeneutic as Christocentric and ecclesiotelic (a revision from his original ‘ecclesiocentric’ assessment).  I particularly liked chapter 2 where Bates traces Paul’s larger perspective and puts this context of his support from the scriptures.

Bates does not focus only on Christ in the study: I was surprised but not bothered by the fact that he regularly returns unapologetically to the specifically Trinitarian implications of Paul’s hermeneutic.  (We’re fortunate that he’s got a forthcoming volume tentatively titled The Birth of the Trinity, which focuses just on this issue so we can see the argumentation developed more fully through the NT.)

I have a question related to his interpretation of 2 Corinthians 3 and this Trinitarian structure in Paul’s theology.  If the Spirit as an equal member of the Trinity plays a central role, should there not be more emphasis on or more of place given to the Spirit’s role in Paul’s hermeneutics and not just the content of his message?  A key place where Bates discusses this is his exegesis of 2 Corinthians 3.  This is just about the only place in his monograph where I couldn’t see how it built towards his larger argument.  He explained how his reading is moving beyond the “literal-spiritual” distinction, but in the end his employment of the verba-res distinction seemed to return partially to the literal-spiritual.  As a New Covenant passage, a distinct emphasis is on the Spirit as the agent of transforming our understanding.  As a result, the Spirit is fundamental to all forms of knowing, but particularly understanding the meaning of the OT.  When combined with passages like 1 Corinthians 2-3, Paul imho has a strongly informed Spirit-epistemology.  If we combine this with a larger Trinitarian perspective, the role of the Spirit could be seen as even more elevated.  The later Christians made much of the Spirit’s role.  See, e.g., Wilken’s Spirit of Early Christian Thought pg 73ff.

Prosopological Exegesis

The heart of the volume is Bates’ engagement with the issue of prosopological exegesis, and this is where the work shines.  Bates demonstrates the employment of this method in ancient literature in a variety of authors from various cultural/theological perspectives.  He concedes that this exegesis is not used in the majority of Pauline uses of the OT, but it occurs enough to give an insight into Paul’s larger perspective.  That is, it coheres with Paul’s apostolic kerygma.  This conclusion is evident from Bates’ careful exegesis.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this to anyone working in the area of NT use of the OT.  For beginners, Bates introduces you to all the right players and nicely interacts with them throughout and with substantive engagement in the concluding chapter.  However, this does not mean that the monograph is just for beginners.  Bates takes the discussion forward in new ways, which is an accomplishment in a field with so many world-class scholars.

Matthew Bates (Ph.D., University of Notre Dame), currently Assistant Professor of Theology at Quincy University, has provided us with a fine discussion of Pauline use of the OT in his The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation: The Center of Paul’s Method of Scriptural Interpretation. I received a review copy from Baylor press a few months back, and I’m finally getting around to posting my thoughts.

Over the last few decades the NT use and interpretation has garnered a growing level of interest, and Bates wades into a discussion dominated by some of the biggest names in Pauline scholarship–Richard Hays, Francis Watson, Christopher Stanley, Steve Moyise and Ross Wagner.  While not changing the whole tenor of the conversation, Bates contribution effectively widens the scope of evidence and provides a new lens on some of Paul’s uses of scripture.

A Brief Summary

Chapter 1.  Bates thoroughly lays out the history of research into Paul’s use of the OT.  In fact this is one of the most comprehensive reviews I’ve read in any dissertation/monograph.  Though informed about the issues, I wasn’t previously aware of some of the nuances of various approaches, so this was quite helpful.  He ultimately works towards two deficiencies in the field.  The first, modeled by Watson, is focusing solely on Jewish comparators.  The second relates to Hays’ limited employment of Bahktin, whose work calls for a consideration of the polysemous nature of texts in their original context and later contexts.  Hays, he says, focuses on the polysemous nature of texts, but he doesn’t take into account later contexts.  Accordingly, he calls for a “diachronic intertextuality” in which the interpretive methods of later post-Pauline interpreters are brought into the frame of comparison, rather than merely Paul and his contemporaries.

Chapter 2. Here the importance of scripture for Paul in forming his basic gospel narrative is the focus.  Rather than picking Pauline passages that directly quote scripture, Bates chooses two passages where Paul summarizes his key message (in “protocreeds”): 1 Cor 15.3-11 and Rom 1.1-6.  In both these passages, which receive detailed exegesis, Bates shows that the narrative of the Messiah is one that Paul sees as developing from his interpretation of scripture.   He summarizes the details of his exegesis by developing a 12-stage narrative in two sections: stages 1-8 relate to the story of Christ and 9-12 relate to apostolic mission arising out of the Christ event.  Though Bates doesn’t use these terms, it seems that he is detailing what Hays in his later revision of his work on intertexuality (see Conversion) would describe as a christocentric and ecclesiotelic model of interpretation.  Bates uses the terms kerygma and apostolic to capture this.

Chapter 3. Bates next brings in the results from study of rhetorical handbooks to explain how scriptures would be employed to support Paul’s apostolic kerygma.  Bates’ intention is to dismantle the emphasis upon typology as a means to describe Paul’s interpretation.  The key to this argument is considering the stage in which scripture would be employed in writing (based on the rhetorical handbooks).   Though he concedes these steps don’t happen rigidly, the order is important: 1) invention, 2) arrangement, 3) expression, 4) memory, and 5) delivery.  The collection of material to use in an argument (for Paul, scriptural texts) happens with the invention stage (1), whereas the employment of that material to the audience through tropes (metalepsis, metaphor, allegory, etc.) would occur in the expression stage (3).  That is, typology (a trope) would be just verbal dressing meant to convince, but this would not be the heart of his argument.  Since Paul has a unified view of the divine economy he can use older texts to speak about current events, which can only be viewed in light of Christ and the apostolic kerygma.  They don’t have to speak about the old event and then make a correspondence to the contemporary event (as in typology).  They just speak directly to the contemporary event/issue.  Bates goes through a number of Pauline passages to demonstrate this: Rom 5.14; 1 Cor 10.1-11; Gal 4.21-31; and 2 Cor 3.1-4.6.

Chapter 4. One central example of reading the Old Testament as speaking directly to or within the contemporary frame is through prosopological exegesis.  That is, an interpreter encounters an inspired writing which has an ambiguous voice/saying, and the interpreter “resolves the perceived uncertainty by assigning a suitable prosopon to the speaker or the addressee (or both) to explain the text” (217).  In this chapter, Bates does not focus on Paul but rather Greek, Jewish, and later Christian writers to show how this method of interpretation was employed.  This is particularly where his “diachronic intertextuality” model comes into play.  After establishing the existence and execution of the practice, he turns in the next chapter to explore how Paul employs this.

Chapter 5. Bates walks through several Pauline passages that meet his criteria for the possibility of prosopological exegesis: Rom 10.6-8; 15.3; 10.16; 10.19-21; 11.9-10; 14.11; 15.9; and 2 Cor 4.13.  Of these passages, he cogently explains how Paul inserts/hears Christ (or others) as the ambiguous speaker in OT texts.  Paul only explicitly introduces prosopological exegesis in Rom 10.6-8, but the other texts explored (besides 10.19-21) clearly show prosopological exegesis.  While 10.19-21 may appear to be prosopological, Bates argues against seeing this employed in that passage.  Importantly, Bates doesn’t conclude that this method of exegesis is the key to unlock every use of the OT (cf pg 326), but it does give insight into Paul’s perspective on the unified divine economy.

Chapter 6. In his final chapter Bates gives a gift to his readers.  He revisits all of the major conversation partners in modern scholarship and explains how his research affirms, critiques, or refutes their work.  He prefigures this in chapter 1, but having a clear discussion about each scholar’s work in light of his research is again very helpful for framing its significance in larger debates.  I’ll note two here.  In distinction to Watson’s decision to explore Paul in light of fellow Jewish interpreters, Bates finds Paul’s fellow Christians, especially those a century or so later, to be better models of helping us understand Paul’s methods.  In contrast to Hays who finds a form of typology important for Paul’s exegesis, Bates argues that the method of selecting and employing texts doesn’t support that view and more importantly the contemporary Christ-informed setting consumes Paul’s vision such that a correspondence between past and present is not the focus, only the present is.

Hopefully, that is an adequate summary of the argument.  It only scratches the surface of the exegesis and work put into the monograph.  I will return in my next post to give my evaluation of the work.

Warren Carter’s Seven Events that Shaped the New Testament World (Baker, 2013) is a clear and well-written introduction to issues relevant for understanding early Christianity. The book is structured around seven crucial ‘events’ (using the term loosely at times) that impacted the world of early Christianity. The seven events are:

  1. The Death of Alexander the Great (323 BCE): explores the significance of the spread of Hellenism and compares Alexander with Jesus
  2. The Process of Translating Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (ca. 250 BCE): discusses the tale of the Septuagint and how early Christians read the Scriptures with ‘Jesus-glasses’
  3. The Rededication of the Jerusalem Temple (164 BCE): explains how the Maccabean revolt and the events following it helped form Jewish identity
  4. The Roman Occupation of Judea (63 BCE): describes the rise and impact of Roman rule in Judea and how early Christians responded to Roman rule
  5. The Crucifixion of Jesus (ca. 30 CE): addresses who was crucified in the ancient world and why Jesus was crucifed both historically and theologically
  6. The Writing of the New Testament Texts (ca. 50 — ca. 130 CE): goes over briefly the standard introductory issues, such as authorship and purpose
  7. The Process of ‘Closing’ the New Testament Canon (397 CE): outlines five stages that lead to the canon and then surveys some of the criteria for canonization

Carter explores the historical and social context of these events. His concern is less with individual figures or the event itself. Rather, he is interested in a ‘people’s-history’, so he explores the relevance of these events for the lives of the common folks. He highlights in each chapter the significance of these events for the development of the early Christian community. Spread throughout are pictures and sidebars that briefly explain related issues or develop some point in slightly more detail.

Scholars won’t find anything surprising in Carter’s discussion, although as with any short book like this one would wish for some more explanation at points. At times I thought that Carter presented conclusions as universal givens when there is dispute about the matters. For example, the discussion of the authorship of the disputed Pauline letters was too one-sided for me. Also, each chapter contains a short bibliography, although the lists don’t reflect well ongoing discussions and tend to be one-sided.

Perhaps the most disputed point will be the selection of these seven events. I think Carter is right to highlight these, but I wondered why there was nothing about the resurrection. Arguably the cross is meaningless without the resurrection. The chapter on Christ’s crucifixion needs to be supplemented by discussion of the resurrection for the full significance to come out.

Although Carter’s work is focused primarily on the ancient context, scattered throughout and particularly in the Conclusion are reflections on the relevance of the New Testament for today. I appreciate his concern to bring the ancient context of the New Testament  into connection with its relevance for today. His final words are worth highlighting:

Reading with awareness of the worlds from which these texts emerged and reading in community help readers to have genuine conversation with the texts and with other readers, rather than simply making the texts reflect our prejudices and preferences. Reading in community requires awareness of how readers are interpreting the texts, what values and practices they are promoting, and who is being harmed and benefited by the interpretation. Reading in community requires conversation and accountability. (p.159)

Overall, I like this book and especially the idea of picking seven key events to focus on. I imagine that designing an Introduction to the New Testament class around these events would help students navigate the complexity of the ancient world and early Christianity’s place within it. Also, it would move beyond the typical approach of working book by book through the critical issues. I, though, wouldn’t use the book itself as a core textbook simply because it lacks the necessary detail that I want in an core textbook. But, that being said, I will be recommending it to my students as a starting point to help them get into the context of the New Testament.

This is an epilogue to my review of Najeeb Awad’s God Without a Face?: On the Personal Individuation of the Holy Spirit.  See also Part 1Part 2, Part 3, & Part 4.

As I noted in my review, Awad’s argument that we need to appreciate the personal individuation of the Spirit more fully if He is an equal member of the Trinity as the Father and the Son.  As I read last month’s CT article by Michael Reeves, “Three is the Loveliest Number”, it showed the current relevance and need for Awad’s argument.  Reeves very helpfully critiques how many (evangelicals) shy away from or even positively eschew the doctrine of the Trinity.  What is more important than God?  Shouldn’t we pursue knowing God as fully as possible, seeking the depths of his revelation of himself?  And has not God revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  These are pressing questions that many have thought too little about.  For his work on reminding the church about the center of their gospel, I commend Reeves.

However, there is one area that I would have liked Reeves to express more fully in his article, and that area is the personal individuation of the Spirit.  This is just a brief article, and so we can’t fault him for not saying everything he believes, and even more we cannot charge Reeves for having a deficient view of the Spirit based on one article.  Of course his book, which I have not read, would be a better place to assess his perspective on the Spirit.  But, in the article Reeves seems to reproduce the same lack of individuation of the Spirit vis-a-vis the Father and the Son that is stereotypical of the West.  Again, I’m not sure that we can lay the problem at the feet of Augustine as some argue, but the Spirit, at times, seems merely to be the mediating presence of love between the Father and Son.  Rather than a relationship of three persons, Reeves brief article reads more like a relationship of two persons with the Spirit as a mediator. For example he writes:

If at any time the Father did not have a Son to whom he gave his life and love, then he simply would not be a Father. To be who he is, then, this God must give out life and love. And so we begin to see why the Trinity is such good news: God is love because God is a Trinity, because for eternity this God has been giving out—positively bursting with—love for his Son.

How the Father loves and delights in his Son is something we get to see in the baptism of Jesus. There the Father declares his love for his Son and his pleasure in him as the Spirit rests on the Son like a dove. For the Spirit is the one who makes the love of the Father known, causing the Son to cry “Abba!” (see also Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6 for how he does the same for the adopted children of God). Thus Jesus is called “the Anointed One” (“the Messiah” in Hebrew, “the Christ” in Greek), for the Father loves, blesses, and empowers him by anointing him with his Spirit. (p. 44)

Rather than a focus on the personhood of each person, the Spirit seems to be minimized in light of the individuation of the Father and the Son.  This is not the only way Reeves represents the Spirit.  For instance, he has other statements that point to the equality of the three persons of the Trinity:

In the triune God we have a magnetically attractive God of overflowing love and radiant joy, the Father, Son, and Spirit finding their happy satisfaction and everlasting delight in each other. And since we become like what we worship, if we press in to know this God better, we will become delighted, friendly, and winsome, like our God. Just imagine what the world would make of that.  And it is not just the Christian life as such: The triune nature of God imbues all of life with a beauty it could never otherwise have. Because God is a relational God, the Father eternally knowing and loving the Son in the Spirit, relationships and love make sense.  (p. 45)

He begins with a relationship of three equal persons, but notice how the quote returns to the Father loving the Son as the focus.  Yes, that is the biblical focus in John, but can we not argue that the Father loves the Spirit in the Son or the Son loves the Spirit in the Father?  If the qualifying “in the …” makes one uncomfortable, Reeves and others would surely agree that the Father loves the Spirit, and the Son loves the Spirit, for that is (rightly) essential to his argument, so to focus repeatedly on the Father’s love for the Son appears to minimize the Spirit.

I don’t want this to be considered a strong critique of Reeves because I wish my students would all share his vision for Delighting in the Trinity.  However, Awad’s argument that we should recover the personal individuation of the Spirit is relevant to the way we delight in the Trinity.  If all three persons of the Trinity equally share in the Godhead, then let us delight in each of them.  Of course, we do not want to neglect the revelation of the Trinity in the Bible, which moves in order of focus from the Father to the Son to the Spirit, but logically our affirmation that the Spirit is God demands that we act and revere him accordingly, “who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and  glorified”.

This is part 4 of my review of Najeeb Awad’s God Without a Face?: On the Personal Individuation of the Holy Spirit.  See also Part 1Part 2, & Part 3.

Let me conclude my review of Awad’s God Without a Face? with a clear support for his purpose and his argument.  There is a distinction between the West and the East with regard to the individuation of the Spirit.  We cannot simply lay the blame at Augustine’s feet, because many factors influence modern theology and the Enlightenment has done no favors to Trinitarian theology.  Whatever the source, the simple critique of Awad is that the west represents a unitarian anhypostatization of the Trinity (104).  A less technical way to say this is that the church at large in the West, and particularly Protestants, have little room for the individuation of the Spirit.  There are many examples that demonstrate otherwise, but a large majority of those in the west lack a substantial place for the Spirit.

To combat this problem, Awad is rightly calling for a robust encounter with the Trinity.  If God is really three persons, three hypostases, then we need to be able to account for the individuation of each person of the Trinity.  This is not simply a charismatic (i.e., pentecostal) movement, but rather a call to take the revelation of God’s self seriously.  Obviously, this can (and has been) appropriated by the larger pentecostal/charismatic movement, though they are often not the ones who will be reading and drawing from the deep patristic tradition explored by Awad.  At the same time, it is important to note that the experience of the Spirit is not merely limited to those who have this more refined perspective on his individuation, just as he is not missing from non-Charismatic churches.  God has been working through the centuries through and in the church, but that is no reason to ignore this call to a more careful and thoughtful interaction with God’s self-revelation as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Accordingly, I can recommend Awad’s detailed and comprehensive monograph for those wanting to explore modern, patristic, and biblical conceptions of the Spirit.

This is part 3 of my review of Najeeb Awad’s God Without a Face?: On the Personal Individuation of the Holy Spirit.  See also Part 1, Part 2.

The focus in this post is on my disagreements, but be sure to read the other parts of the review that demonstrate my fundamental agreement with Awad’s overall thesis.

One point of disagreement that I have with Awad is on the issue of hierarchy in the Eastern, namely Cappadocian, views of the Trinity.  Awad notes that Basil and Gregory of Nyssa have some aspect of hierarchy, which he calls a “linear” perspective on the Trinity, as opposed to a “parallel model” which focuses on the “alongsidedness” captured in Gregory of Nazianzus (see esp. 134-139).  This linear perspective is one of the root causes of the poor reading in the west, as well.  Awad carefully balances the two models but clearly has a preference for the latter.  Some argue that Gregory of Nazianzus also works from a model of hierarchy, such that the Father is the fons divinitas, such that he follows in the same trajectory of the other Cappadocians.  This doesn’t negate the individuation of the Spirit or lead to the failures of Augustine, as Awad sees them, but it does maintain the hierarchy found in other Greek theologians.  This point of disagreement over the way of reading Gregory of Nazianzus doesn’t invalidate Awad’s overal thesis, but there might be more options than what are presented.

Awad’s thesis is already expansive, so you cannot fault him for not addressing a wider scope.  However, by frequently using the terminology of “perichoresis”, which has a distinct tradition in the later Eastern tradition, it might help clarify his use by exploring the development of that language.  Though it arose much later, Awad repeatedly describes Gregory Nazianzen’s theology as perichoretic.  Awad clearly describes that this theology entails a “reciprocal koinonia“, but the use of an anachronistic phrase should at least be explained.  I’m not bothered by it’s use, as my own work is based on using anachronistic terminology to describe Paul’s soteriology–theosis/christosis.  However, when dealing with a variety of time periods, it is helpful for readers to note the development and use of the terminology, since they may not realize that the terminology was not introduced until centuries after Gregory.

I will continue this review in my next post: Part 4.

This is part 2 of my review of Najeeb Awad’s God Without a Face?: On the Personal Individuation of the Holy Spirit.  See also Part 1.

In support of Najeeb’s thesis that we should take seriously the hypostatic reality of the Spirit, or his personal individuation, his monograph has four parts:

  1. The Twofold Distortion of Modern Pneumatology
  2. The Holy Spirit in the Theology of the Church Fathers
  3. ‘Person’ Theology and the Person of the Spirit
  4. The Scriptural Attestation to the Hypostasis of the Spirit

Rather than a biblical study regarding the Spirit, Awad presents the modern and historical discussion about the Spirit first and then addresses biblical texts.  The amount of material covered in this project is expansive.  By addressing biblical, patristic, medieval, and modern writers, Awad provides a comprehensive discussion of the topic of pneumatology.  This strength is also a weakness in that no one can master all of these areas, so inevitably he depends, at points, on secondary texts to help with his discussion of some texts not in his area of focus.  This is not a bad thing, but the strength of the monograph is in his discussion of the Cappadocians (particularly, Gregory of Nazianzus) and modern theologians.  In each part Awad has distinct areas of discussion, he regularly integrates voices from his main interlocutors–namely the Cappadocians and modern theologians.  Accordingly, the monograph maintains a sense of continuity and shows that theology is not merely a modern or historical task but a discussion from these various sources.

In part 1 of the monograph, Awad sets up two contemporary “anhypostatic” perspectives on the Spirit, that is, perspectives that lack an individuality of the Spirit.  These are what he calls “pneumatic-monism” in which the Holy Spirit is seen as a descriptive attribute or name ascribed to God’s relational encounter with humanity and “pneumatic-jesuology” in which the Spirit is an expression of the spiritual experience of Jesus Christ’s sonship in his relation with God as his Father.  Interestingly, in both camps Awad doesn’t just draw out the easy examples that lack a proper pneumatology; rather, he uses examples of scholars like Barth and Moltmann for the former and C.K. Barrett and J.D.G. Dunn for the latter who seemingly elevate the Trinity and/or the Spirit in their writings but end up still presenting a deficient Trinitarian perspective.

As he turns to the patristic era to sort out the roots of positive and negative pneumatologies, Awad presents the standard East vs West perspective regarding the focus on the respective emphasis on the threeness vs oneness of God.  It is clear that the Greek East, particularly the Cappadocians, present the better model for Awad.  Rather than an psycho-anthropological understanding of the Trinity that we find in Augustine, which spoils the western tradition who follow him, the Cappadocians hold a distinct role for the Spirit and thus capture a more robust koinonia-based Trinitarianism.  I wouldn’t agree that the division between East and West is so stark, but stereotypes often have their basis in some fact, and this one I think does as well.  Augustine would not feel the need to write a text titled “On Not Three Gods” as Gregory of Nyssa did.  At the same time, the Cappadocians don’t always neatly agree on key points (against a western perspective).  It is really only Gregory Nazianzen, according to Awad, who comes out with the “full attestation” of Cappadocian theology (111).  So, even when Basil and Gregory of Nyssa, do meet the full mark, they are given the benefit of the doubt because they are redeemed by Gregory of Nazianzus.  Thus, Awad rightly doesn’t make everyone say the same thing, and he helpfully draws out the distinct voices each of these key theologians provide.

I’ll continue my review in the next post: Part 3.

A friend of mine tipped me off about a new and helpful work on the Holy Spirit in  modern theology: Najeeb Awad’s God Without a Face?: On the Personal Individuation of the Holy Spirit, published with Mohr Siebeck in their newly established series Dogmatik in Der Moderne.  Mohr Siebeck kindly offered me a copy of the book to review here.

This engaging and challenging monograph began its life as doctoral thesis submitted to King’s College London, under the supervision of Colin Gunton and later Murrie Rae.  The title–God Without a Face?–points to ambiguity most Christians have with regard to the Holy Spirit.  God the Father, they understand, and God the Son, but what do we really think about the Spirit?  Many think of the Spirit as merely a way of talking about God’s action, and if they distinguish the Spirit from the Father and/or Son, he is merely an “it”, an indistiguishable grey blob of energy (cf. Gordon Fee, Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God, 24).  However, Awad wants the church and the academy to think more clearly about the distinct personhood, or “individuation” of the Spirit, so that one cannot think about God as Father and as Son without at the same time thinking about God as the Spirit.

Awad’s work is a fruit of the return to Trinitarian studies in the 20th century, which was spurred on by Barth but moved beyond him with the work of Moltmann and later Gunton and Torrance and a slew of other contemporary theologians.  This movement is not merely centered in Protestant thinking because it is highly influenced by greater ecumenical discussions particularly with Orthodox theologians as well as the patristic resourcement–a return to patristic sources as central to theological discussions.  Awad is no different in this, in that his study, is largely focused on patristic debates as means to assess modern Trinitarian constructions.  In particular, Cappadocian Trinitarian thinking is central to Awad’s argument.  This, I think, is a helpful move for all sorts of areas of theology, as my own thesis work on Greek patristic soteriology as a helpful introduction to reading Paul.  Accordingly, before picking up Awad’s monograph, I was already amenable to his methodology.

At the same time, I think the problem that Awad addresses is a central issue within Christian theology.  What place does the Spirit have in our theology?  Are we truly Trinitarian or do we merely use this language out of habit and out of tradition?  When I was in seminary and took my first class in systematics, my prof helpfully guided us into the Trinity as the foundational framework for doing theology.  As my essay for that class, I did a brief survey of different Protestant churches asking things about their stated views of God and their practice of incorporating the Trinity into their preaching and teaching.  I, unsurprisingly, found much continuity between different traditions about the Father and the Son, but there were wildly different conceptions of the Spirit portrayed.  This spurred me on to write almost every optional-topic essay I had in seminary about the Spirit–Spirit in the OT, Spirit in the New Covenant, etc.–so that I could better conceive of the Spirit in the divine economy.  I don’t think I personally scratched the surface, but I began to get a better feel for the Trinity.  I am woefully conscious of the continued general lack of Spirit-awareness, as my recent post on Christomonism demonstrates.

For my review I’ll do a few more posts as I interact with his helpful volume, so check back for those.

In a new article (“Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13: The Denouement of the South Galatian Hypothesis”, NovT 54.4 [2012]: 334-53), Clare Rothschild argues a number of controversial theses relating to the composition of Acts 13 and the text’s relationship to Paul’s letter to the Galatians. She argues that “Luke” (i.e., the author who wrote Acts in 115 C.E.) produced the account of Paul’s visit to South Galatia in Acts 13 without the aid of any historical data about Paul’s actual journey there—that is, with the exception of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians itself. In fact, the account is fictional, and was created for two reasons:

  1. “to provide grounds for Paul’s foundation of the Galatic churches, irrespective of the historicity of its presentation in Acts” (334; she refers to the account throughout as a “desideratum”);
  2. to place Paul in the colony of Pisidian Antioch (“Little Rome”) at the start of his gentile-centered gospel ministry in order to form a literary inclusio with the apostle’s journey to the imperial capital (“Big Rome”) at the end of the book. “Pisidian Antioch,” she explains, “affords Luke an attractively Romanesque departure point for his Roman-born, Roman-named, Rome-bound missionary” (348).

Luke, therefore, perhaps the first proponent of the Southern Galatian hypothesis, mistakenly portrays Paul’s ministry to have taken place in South Galatia, when, in fact, it took place in the north. Her theory, as she explains in the article’s final paragraph, “invalidates the Southern Galatian Hypothesis by demonstrating that South Galatia is based on nothing more than a blank mandate to get Paul to Galatia and a literary advantage of placing him in the South. And, conversely, it confirms the Northern Galatian Hypothesis: for many scholars the more cogent explanation, even before this argument was made” (353).

Rothschild’s article is certainly provocative, if not highly speculative. Indeed, there are a number of problems with her argumentation. First, even if one were to grant her thesis on Acts’ composition and literary structure, it does not follow that the Northern Galatian Hypothesis is thereby “confirmed,” as she supposes. Casting doubt on the historicity of Luke’s account does not prove that Paul never founded churches in Southern Galatian, or that the epistle to the Galatians was addressed to Northern Galatia. She does not, for instance, address the historical difficulties of the Northern Galatian Hypothesis identified by Stephen Mitchell, even though she is clearly aware of them (336-37 n. 5). In fact, Rothschild never actually advances a case for the Northern Galatian Hypothesis, only that Luke’s account in Acts 13 is fictional and its denouement in the plot of Acts lies in its connection with the end of the book.

Moreover, Rothschild believes that her argumentation demonstrates that “South Galatia is based on nothing more than a blank mandate to get Paul to Galatia” (353). But she does not adequately demonstrate the basis of this mandate. Why is Luke so committed to getting Paul to South Galatia if, in fact, he did not have good reason to do so? Was it simply for the literary purpose of bookending Paul’s ministry with Romanesque cities? This is doubtful, since Luke mentions nothing in Acts 13 about Pisidian Antioch being a Roman colony. As Conzelmann remarks, “The Roman character of the city is not recognizable in Acts (in contrast to [Philippi in] 16:12).”

It seems far more plausible, then, that Luke places Paul and company in South Galatia, because that is where they traveled following the conversion of the proconsul Sergius Paulus in Cyprus, whose possessions and prominence in South Galatia made that region an advantageous place to do ministry with the proconsul’s commendation (of course, Rothschild does not accept the historicity of the Cyprus mission, either).

To her first point—that the mission to Pisidian Antioch is creative fiction—she presents five textual features to make her case: “(1) stereotypes; (2) lack of detail; (3) historical inaccuracies; (4) brisk narrative pace; and (5) link between Cyprus and Antioch” (340). I’ll present part of her explanations and then limit my comments to some initial thoughts.

1. Stereotypes:

Stereotypes replace historical information in Acts 13-14, suggesting that the author knows little more about Paul in the region of Galatia than the duty to place him there. If, for the sake of argument, the “three missionary journeys” model for Acts is adopted, the second journey—with its references to Jerusalem—poses by far the most historical questions. Challenges posed by the first journey seem minor in contrast. With some exceptions, traveling from Paphos to Perge, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and Attalia comprises the expected Galatian tour. Pisidian Antioch made a natural choice as hub. . . . Antioch was caput viae of this road system, running east through Iconium and Lystra in Lycaonia and southwest through Apollonia and Comama across the Taurus Mountains to Perge in Pamphylia.

In terms of Luke’s narrative, the via Sebaste would have taken Paul on his so-called first journey. In fact, the cities of Paul’s journey beginning in Pisidian Antioch adhere so closely to the route of the via Sebaste as to appear stereotypical. A writer in possession of a map or even just a list of the cities on this road might easily have selected them as an itinerant missionary’s (or other traveler’s) choices in lieu of sources. (340-41)

I find this to be a curious argument. Paul’s route, she explains, “comprises the expected Galatian tour.” I do not understand how one gets from “expected” to “stereotypical” to unhistorical. If this route is in any sense “typical,” why is it not thereby extremely plausible? Her point seems to rest on certain unstated assumptions about how to assess historicity. I suspect that if Luke had Paul traveling a route that was in fact atypical, she could have just as easily used that as grounds to argue for the text’s unreliability.

2. Lack of Detail:

The second observation that Galatia constitutes a desideratum of Luke’s narrative irrespective of access to specific information about Paul’s visit there (either to the North or South) is that, different from other cities [cf. 19:9] . . . Acts’ account of Paul’s visit with Barnabas to this city lacks detail. The account comprises, almost entirely, a speech to Jews and others who “fear God.” As such, the report is a construct of the Lukan imagination. Whereas the episodes about Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (14:1-20) feature local color in lieu of historical detail, the report about Pisidian Antioch lacks both. (342)

This is a bit misleading, since, as Rothschild assumes in the second half of the article, Luke knew plenty about the Romanization of Antioch to use the colony to form an inclusio with Acts 28. Knowing enough about Antioch to consider it to be “Little Rome” seems at least comparable to the “local color” that Luke knows of other cities visited on Paul’s first mission. If Luke was not aware enough of the colony’s “local color” to report Paul’s visit in any detail, why is it fair to assume he knew enough about the Romanization of the colony to use it in an inclusio? This sounds like special pleading.

3. Historical Inaccuracies:

Third, what little the narrative offers about Paul in Galatia is not always accurate. Although 13:13 mentions that the missionaries arrive from Paphos at Perge—Perge was not on the coast and the nearest tributary (i.e., the Cestrus River) was still eight kilometers from this city. Pisidian Antioch was not in Pisidia (it was, rather, “toward” or “facing” Pisidia as opposed to Antioch on the Maeander), and the adjective “Pisidian” (Πισίδιος, 13:14) has no prior attestation. The episode in Pisidian Antioch is at once significant and hollow, suggesting some kind of empty imperative. (343-44)

I’m not sure that it is fair to infer from Acts 13:13 that Perge was the first stop following the departure of Paul and company from Paphos. The Greek ēlthon eis (“came to”; cf. Acts 13:51; 14:24; 17:1; 22:11; and many other places in the LXX/NT) simply indicates arrival; to force it to mean “to land the boat at,” or perhaps “came directly/immediately to,” seems to force the phrase to mean something it does not demand. Indeed, if Luke was able to create Paul’s route by map, as Rothschild supposes, why would he not have been able to realize that Perge was not a harbor town?

Moreover, Pisidian Antioch (Antiocheian tēn Pisidian) is simply an attributive adjective and this does not necessarily imply that Luke believed Antioch was located within the geographical limits of Pisidia; it was simply the Antioch related to, or associated, with Pisidia, to which it faced. As F. F. Bruce explains, “Πισιδίαν is an adj. here: Pisidian Antioch was so called because it was near Pisidia.” And as Colin Hemer remarks, “‘The Pisidian Antioch’ is an informal allusion to a city of Phrygia on the Pisidian border.” Again, if Luke knew enough about Antioch as “Little Rome” to link it to “Big Rome,” why would he not have known where Antioch was located? Rothschild seems to be grasping at straws here to demonstrate the inaccuracy of this particular narrative.

4. and 5. Brisk Narrative Pace and Cyprus and Antioch

Fourth, the Pisidian Antioch episode is driven by a sense of urgency. No sooner do Paul and Barnabas arrive in Antioch than they enter the synagogue to deliver a speech. (344)

[T]he fifth and final observation . . . is that the Cyprus and Pisidian Antioch incidents are, in at least one important respect, linked. The Bar-Jesus episode (nine verses) constitutes the miraculous component of a two-part—miracle + teaching—segment, a common feature of the Lukan narrative. The apostles’ dash to the synagogue emphasizes the connection, unifying Cyprus and Pisidian Antioch. (345)

Now, I don’t know nearly as much as Rothschild about the literary and stylistic features of Acts, but it seems plausible that the fifth feature, in fact, helps to explain the fourth, which also helps to explain the second: Luke desires to connect the two episodes; he therefore narrates them with urgency, and therefore omits the details. Thus, the features of the text do not suggest that the narrative is some kind of historical fiction; rather it was written selectively. As William Ramsay eloquently remarks, “The power of accurate description implies in itself a power of reconstructing the past, which involves the most delicate selection and grouping of details according to their truth and reality, i.e., according to their comparative importance.”

I do not, of course, approach the NT without presuppositions. But even if I were to try to lay my historical and theological assumptions aside, I do not find Rothschild’s evidence to be strong. Her evidence certainly does not “demonstrate” what she thinks it does, nor is she able to “validate” the Northern Galatian Hypothesis; her argument neither adds support to nor confirms anything about the audience of Paul’s letter. The whole exercise seems to beg for a preliminary discussion on how to assess historicity.

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