Reviews


Ian Boxall’s new book, Discovering Matthew: Context, Interpretation, Reception (London: SPCK, 2014), is a welcome addition to the study of the Gospel of Matthew. Designed as an introduction to Matthew, Boxall sets out well the main issues in current scholarship and the key players in the various debates. He is not limited to only the classic works or the most recent positions; rather, he tries to give readers a feel for how debates have progressed, where they are, and where they might go. As well as gaining a sense for the state of present scholarship, Boxall aims to keep the text in front of the reader. His discussion is guided by Matthew and his presentation of Jesus, not simply what is fashionable at the moment in Matthean scholarship.

After a brief introduction that summarises the critical turn of the 19th century and lays out the content of Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 2 describes the range of critical approaches for reading Matthew. One finds here the standard references to source, form and redaction criticisms. As well, though, Boxall highlights (so-called) pre-critical readings. He also gives much attention to social scientific and narrative approaches. The strategies outlined in chapter 2 are taken up, more or less, in fuller detail in the remainder of the book. In chapter 3, the issues of authorship and date, source criticism and textual criticism are addressed. The structure of the book is also discussed. The characters and, to a lesser extent, places in Matthew’s Gospel are surveyed in chapter 4. With the rise of narrative criticism, interest in the characters of the Gospels has risen and Boxall develops this in his discussion. I had hoped for slightly more on the places mentioned in Matthew’s gospel.

Set within a narrative framework, in chapters 6-12 (about 100 pages) Boxall walks the reader through the content of Matthew’s Gospel highlighting the key themes and topics debated by scholars. He begins with the infancy narratives, addressing issues like Jesus as teacher and healer, the function of scripture, the church, and concludes with discussions of Jesus’ death and resurrection. While the discussions of these issues will be familiar ground to most scholars (even those of us who do not work much in Matthew), students should find this discussion insightful and accessible.

An important and welcome feature of Boxall’s book is the constant reference to the history of interpretation. Inspired, of course, by Luz’s monumental work, scholars have been keenly interested in how Matthew has been interpreted throughout church history. An important feature of Boxall’s contribution is that he often shows how today’s readings mirror ancient ones. For example, he notes the similarities between Bornkamm’s interpretation of the calming of the storm as a model of discipleship and earlier readings, such as Peter Chrysologus, bishop of Ravenna in the fifth century, who ‘offered an ecclesiological interpretation of the boat’ (p.117). Linking present interpretations with similar ones from the past should help eliminate the notion that all early interpretations are simply wrong and must be abandoned.

Boxall also notes how Matthew has been depicted in art. I think this is important as it helps us see how the texts have influenced others, and in turn how the depiction of scenes from the gospel may influence us in our readings. Perhaps if a revised edition is done, some pictures can be included to help get the full fell of the paintings.

While I would quibble over certain positions, as far as an introductory volume goes, this one is helpful. The book addresses all the standard features that one expects in an introductory book, but in a user-friendly and especially student-friendly manner. Students will benefit from the clarity of Boxall’s discussion.

I noticed over the weekend that Robert Orlando’s much discussed 89-minute documentary Apostle Paul: A Polite Bribe is now available for purchase on DVD or download. I’ve now watched it and was impressed by the number and names of the scholars interviewd in the film. I also enjoyed that the documentary sought both to persuade the viewer of a particular political function for the Jerusalem collection while also providing a decent (if not one-sided) summary of Paul’s life and ministry in the process, which gave the historical survey lying at the center of the film a sense of unity from beginning to end. The film certainly has an agenda to push, and I myself was not convinced, as the film suggests, that the Jerusalem collection was a failure, in that James ultimately rejected the Gentiles’ money and Paul’s Gentile mission. Unlike the director and the interviewees given prominence toward the end of the film (where Wright, Witherington, and Hurtado seems to disappear), I find no reason to believe that James and the Jerusalem believers conspired against Paul and somehow actively or passively contributed in his beating and arrest in Acts 21. Luke explains that Paul was welcomed gladly by James and company when Paul arrived in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17-26) and I find no reason to doubt the veracity of that account. Whatever the case, Orlando’s film is worth watching and reflecting upon critically critically. This could be a good documentary to show students of early Christianity, though afterward one should given plenty of time for class interaction and for fielding questions.

I was pleased to see that the Review of Biblical Literature (RBL) recently posted three reviews of my book, Paul as an Administrator of God in 1 Corinthians (CUP, 2012). I’m not sure why my book deserved three reviews in a single publication, but I appreciate the publicity. I’m also grateful that the reviews are generally positive.

Jason Weaver writes:

Goodrich’s perspective on Paul as administrator in 1 Corinthians is both unique and intriguing. He carefully and successfully demonstrates how an understanding of the metaphor as a private commercial administrator helps the reader to understand Paul’s approach to apostolic authority. His examination of the ancient background of oikonomos is clear and well-structured. His critiques of other scholarship are both fair and balanced. Overall, Goodrich is successful in defending his thesis and providing a new and thoughtprovoking perspective on two difficult Pauline texts.

Korinna Zamfir says:

The exploration of the office of oikonomoi in the Greco-Roman world is an excellent enterprise… The description of Paul’s position in the Corinthian community is convincing in the main… The volume is an important contribution to the discussion of Paul’s apostolic authority and offers a significant insight into the social background that shaped the language and imagery used by early Christians.

Kathy Ehrensperger’s remarks, on the other hand, are less flattering. Although she doesn’t challenge any of my historical, exegetical, or theological conclusions, she heavily criticizes my introduction. To be sure, I anticipated some of the criticisms I received from her. Ehrensperger has written an excellent book on a related topic (Paul and the Dynamics of Power [T&T Clark, 2009]), which investigates a number of Pauline power motifs and builds on a good theoretical foundation. More than anything Ehrensperger criticizes my lack of theoretical reflection, while also insisting that I have both misundertood her work and been “noncourteous” in my assessment of others:

This [lack of theoretical reflection] is one of the main weaknesses of the study, and it leads to some misunderstandings of colleagues’ works (I nowhere in my work claim that “apostolic authority” or hierarchies are rendered obsolete in Pauline communities; the arguments refer to Paul’s role as a teacher, not to “ecclesial structures” per se; see 135–36 in my Paul and the Dynamics of Power) and to rather noncourteous evaluations of others’ (e.g., as “confusion”; see 13, 19). The language of scholarly debate should reflect the legitimacy and plausibility of divergent views and approaches, in my view.

A more robust discussion of modern theories of power would have certainly benefited my work. Regrettably, I hadn’t the time or space to include it. In fact, from the beginning of the project my primary aim was to focus on the historical and conceptual background/source domain of Paul’s metaphor and to allow my historical and exegetical insights to support and refine the larger constructive projects of others, not least that of Ehrensperger, whose work I explicitly endorse in my conclusion.

What I take issue with, then, are Ehrensperger’s claims that (1) I was “noncourteous” in my interaction with others, and (2) I have misunderstood her work. First, it never occurred to me that “confusion” is an offensive word; I would have thought it was quite a fair way to characterize an unresolved scholarly debate. Second, the remark was in no way directed toward her, but to the general state of scholarship on how best to illuminate Paul’s oikonomos/oikonomia metaphors in 1 Corinthians. I am happy to legitimate divergent views and approaches (esp. as they concern models and theories for studying power in the NT). What I was identifying as “confusing/confusion” was the way that respected scholars talk past each other when they draw on ancient sources from a variety of social and adminstrative domains in their competing interpretations of Pauline texts.

Secondly, while it is possible that I have misunderstood Ehrensperger, it could be that she herself was simply unclear on the issues in her book that I failed to grasp. In her review of my book, Ehrensperger claims that I have misrepresented her: “I nowhere in my work claim that ‘apostolic authority’ or hierarchies are rendered obsolete in Pauline communities; the arguments refer to Paul’s role as a teacher, not to ‘ecclesial structures’ per se.” But the way I represented her work seems to be close to, if not precisely how, others have also summarized her argument. Note the following sound bites and summaries from reviews of Ehrensperger’s book:

The power that Paul exercised over the communities that he had founded “aimed at rendering itself obsolete” as Paul labored to impart to the community members the practical and discursive tools requisite to achieving “maturity” in Christ and thus to a position of semi-equality with Paul himself (62)… In the book’s final chapter, Ehrensperger completes her portrait of the power structure inherent in the Pauline letters (and within the early Christian movement generally) as one that contrasts with the oppressive structures of Roman imperialism. The power structure inherent in the early Christian movement was temporally self-limited, aimed at rendering itself obsolete (198, citing 1 Cor 14:20). (Thomas Blanton, Review of Biblical Literature)

Paul did not do away with hierarchy, nor did he simply turn existing hierarchies upside down. Instead, Paul redefined how ‘asymmetrical’ relationships are to function and put temporal, functional, and other limits upon the hierarchies that necessarily existed in faith communities. (Wade J. Berry, The Bible & Critical Theory)

One of its greatest merits is to show that even asymetrical power relationships are not necessarily relationships of domination/subordination, nor temporally permanent… (Ian Boxall, Scripture Bulletin [this one was posted on the publisher's website!])

Ehrensperger’s contrapuntal reading is evident as she understands Paul to be in a hierarchically-defined, asymmetrical relationship with his addressees but that this relationship was temporary and that planned obsolescence, similar to Wartenberg’s concept of “transformative power” (61) describes accurately Paul’s application of power. (J. Brian Tucker, Biblical Theology Bulletin)

None of these other reviewers appears to have interpreted Ehrensperger as saying that Paul’s planned obsolescence of hierarchies and power structures applied only to his role as teacher. Perhaps I have misunderstood her argument, and if so, I apologize. But it could be that Ehrensperger herself is to be blame for not making her argument clear.

It is the last day of class today for my M/W course on Pauline Epistles II (covering only Galatians-Colossians and Philemon). I’ve structured the class to end with Ephesians (since it is probably the latest of these epistles), so today we’ve covering Eph 6:10-24. To get a handle of the passage I’ve been reading through Tim Gombis’ The Drama of Ephesians: Participating in the Triumph of God (InterVarsity, 2010)–also because my students have a book review of it due today–and I was struck by Gombis’ insightful comments on how believers are to participate in divine/spiritual warfare. I’ve always been puzzled about how to apply Paul’s instructions about the “armor of God” in Eph 6:10-18 in the resistance of cosmic spiritual powers. Gombis’ take on the entire subject is illuminating.

First, Gombis suggests that while these powers are real and not to be demythologized, it is important that we focus not on their identities, but on their effects, i.e., “social practices, systems of injustice and oppression and relational dynamics that allow for exploitation and prevent human flourishing” (p. 50). (This looks similar to the approach of Robert Ewuisie Moses in his recent Practices of Power: Revisiting the Principalities and Powers in the Pauline Letters [Fortress, 2014], though I have not yet read it). As we strap on the armor of God, therefore, we are not to engage these spiritual beings head on in any way, if for no other reason than because they have already been defeated by Christ himself (Eph 1:20-23; Col 3:15). Instead, the church’s engagement of the powers involves redeeming and transforming their social and structural effects.

[T]he church wages its warfare in a subversive manner–it is not at all what we might expect. If Paul’s rhetorical summary appears in Ephesians 6:10-18, then his instructions for performing divine warfare are contained in the ethical section of the letter, Ephesians 4:17-6:9. Here, we will see that the church engages in warfare against the powers in ways that defy and overturn our expectations. Our warfare involves resisting the corrupting influences of the powers. The same pressures that produce practices of exploitation, injustice and oppression in the world are at work on church communities. The church’s warfare involves resisting such influences, transforming corrupted practices and replacing them with life-giving patterns of conduct that draw on and radiate the resurrection power of God. Our warfare, then, involves purposefully growing into communities that become more faithful corporate performances of Jesus on earth. Far from being a frightening prospect, this is good news for the world. (pp. 159-60)

I find Gombis’ understanding quite sensible. For one, it helpfully connects Ephesians 6 to the previous two chapters of the letter in a way that I had not previously considered; thus, rhetorically, the end of the letter hangs together quite naturally. Secondly, this reading makes sense of Paul’s largely virtue-driven system of spiritual defense: by embodying “truth,” “righteousness,” “peace,” and “faith,” believers will be transformed and thereby resist evil powers as well as influence their communities. Now, “the gospel,” “salvation,” “the word of God,” and “prayer” are not virtues to be embodied in the same way as those just mentioned, but one can easily see how these can also function as means of individual and community transformation, both inside and outside the church.

Gombis’ book is a good read. I’m looking forward to hearing how my students respond to it!

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.

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