Category Archives: Books

Review of @bakeracademic’s “Atonement, Law, and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural Contexts”

Adonis Vidu has no need to argue in his work, Atonement, Law, and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural Contexts, which atonement model is the most accurate. Rather, his purpose is to trace a path of model development next to evolving systems of justice, from the ancient world to the modern. Vidu matter of factly states, “the history of atonement thinking could be read as an ongoing conversation with the history of thinking about justice and the law.” (xiv) His book does not simply fill a gap, but may in fact help us understand atonement modeling as a contextual paradigm, perhaps loosening our tight grip on particular expressions.

Atonement, Law, and Justice has 6 chapters, with the first 4 examining the development of atonement and justice since before the Christian-era. Chapter 5 examines the atonement via various modern lens with the final chapter acting the the author’s view. Chapter 1 examines the development of justice and law in Patristic thought, although Vidu is smart in bringing in Homer, Plato, and other familiar pre-Christian influencers first. Nothing develops in a vacuum, not even Christian theology. As such, we encounter philosophy, before we are led to Augustinian theology (which is based on philosophy!). To be quite clear, our usual notions of the atonement as retributive justice are called into question — as well as they should,  if we are to be consistent with the cognitive environment of the New Testament writers. For the ancients, justice is order, but not necessarily equity. Thus, the gods were unrestrained in achieving that order, with little or no expectation between the deities and humans. Law was second, if not third. For the modern (American) reader, the notion of an executive pardon (refusing to punish a law-breaker) may be the best image here. It wasn’t until the Romans borrowed Stoicism that justice existed outside of social order, becoming an internal virtue.

atonement
Say what?

This move from justice-as-order to justice-as-equity fed directly into early Christian thought. After all, once justice becomes a virtue, then one can assign it to God. This then separates justice from non-justice, good from evil, and law from disorder, leading us into the rollercoaster of atonement models and justification theology. Where once the divine could contain deceit, evil, etc… the doctrine of divine simplicity started to take hold, giving way to a higher refrain of justice only complete in God. Because of this, we move from the ransom theories to a satisfaction model. Before I go too far into summarizing this chapter, allow me to simply suggest that this chapter is a hallmark in not only the study of Augustinian theology, but in early Christendom. In the end, Augustine’s move towards anchoring the sacrifice of Christ to a divine justice sets the stage for medieval atonement models.

Is God tied to or bound by law? That seems to be the discussion between Anselm and Abelard in the late medieval ages. More than that, however, is the shift (Vidu calls it a revolution) from law-as-specific to context, to a universal notion of law and legal remedies. Because of this universality in viewpoint, Anselm is able to offer his satisfaction theory, which precludes free grace. In other words, a wrong required a penalty. Abelard, on the other hand, moves away from original sin, but into a realm of what is desirable. Vidu shows that these two men and the third, Aquinas, are very much products of their time. Here especially, Vidu slows down and gives us a great depth of understanding as to how changing notions of law, justice, and universality shape the various atonement models during this time. Likewise, we are introduced to John Duns Scotus (p79 — 87) and left to wonder if the notion of atonement, as developed as it was by European developments in law and justice, did not contribute to the development of our Western society, ending with the separation of Church and State. I suspect that this portion of Vidu’s thesis is at least a remarkably important read in understanding Western Christianity, Christian civilization, and how our doctrines have shaped our current political realities. I cannot stress this enough — I desire more from Vidu on this subject, and would have sacrifice more time and pages to read more from our author on Don Scotus.

We are now ready to be reformed, which is the subject of chapter 3. Here, Vidu takes us through Luther and Calvin, who existed in Duns Scotus’ now secular shadow — where law was autonomous. If anyone has read anything from the New Perspective on Paul theologians (E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, or N.T. Wright), you will become immediately familiar with Vidu’s take here. Because the notion of the Law and what authority it has has been transformed in European society of the time, the same thing shapes Protestant theology. Luther and Calvin cannot be divorced from their time, but like several others before them, are shaped by it.

It is here that I question if the usual modern refrain of the Church shaping the World or the World shaping the Church. While Vidu’s book does not tackle this issue, I cannot help but see that when we had no Christendom, or no firmly established Christendom, Christians and their doctrine shaped the world. After a millenia of Christendom, the world shaped us. The one real stand-out during this time is Duns Scotus. While Aquinas gave to the Church Universal Natural Law as tied to Divine Law, Duns Scotus broke that a part, preparing a way not only for the separation of Church and State, but so too the separation of the Body of Christ in the West. 

Up until recently, legality and morality were thought to be the same. In our current world, we know better. Which is, perhaps, why so many Christians challenge the very idea of atonement. Secular law is decided by the State whereas, for the most part, moral law is still divine (or at least above the State). Names like Kant and Schleiermacher come to the forefront. Ritschl as well. And each, leading the way in the liberal Protestant tradition and thought, removes the exchange in atonement, making it subjective (according to Vidu). This is the sum of chapter 4.

Chapter 5 turns to post-modern thought, tackling the changing of terms and ideas from historic Christian lexicons to psychologist-influenced trends. His first engagement with a modern theology is with Andrew Sung Park, a seminary professor of mine at United Theological Seminary. Park incorporates Han into the equation, something Vidu takes to task. I should not like to decide who is correct here. From here, Vidu tackles feminist and postcolonial views on sin and atonement. Theologians and thought leaders such as  Foucault, Derrida, and Girard are given special treatment by Vidu. He treats each one well, giving them their voice — and then attempts to demolish their arguments. It is up to the readers to decide if he succeeds. Their arguments are met from the positive angle in chapter 6, where Vidu begins to shape his view on atonement, law, and justice.

There are few deficits in Vidu’s work. He does not take into account Jewish thoughts on justice and law. I would like to have seen how the rabbis fit into these paradigms. Further, there are no counters to the hegemonic West. Augustine is left without Cassian and Aquinas has no Gregory Palamas. I realize he is not writing an encyclopedia or multi-volume set; however, in getting into the cultural contexts, which themselves stand as comparisons one to another, a bit of the East should have been mentioned.

There are two important takeaways for me, personally. One, it shows a somewhat well-ordered path in developing the penal substitutionary atonement model. Note, never once does he argue for this view as the only view. This is interesting because of the development of other doctrines. Secondly, I think it shows the sad state of liberal Protestantism. Where we once had great thinkers, digesting 1900 years of theological and philosophical thought, we are now left with loud-mouth bloggers with little or no intellectual training. What thinkers we do have are often times shredded in engagements, retreating to catch-phrases like oppression, privilege, and bully.

I started this book with a distaste in my mouth. I do not believe in penal substitutionary atonement — although the atonement takes center stage in my theology. However, while I am not convinced that PSA is correct, I am convinced Vidu has provided the Church a rather important book in discerning the doctrine of atonement and allowing that it has developed. Also, I think he has called us to be mindful of our context and the way we approach issues of Christian thought. Finally, especially in chapter 5, Vidu gives us reason to suspect the liberal Protestant tradition along with post-modern thought may in fact be bankrupt when it comes to their stances on the atonement. It is expertly researched, meticulously crafted, and properly presented.

the portions in italics do not appear on Amazon. 

Prop 8 – @ivpacademic’s “Lost World of Adam and Eve”

On facebook, I stated my concern regarding Walton’s stance on the historical Adam and Eve. I am troubled he makes these statements without support, whereas nearly every other statement he makes is supported by well-reasoned logic. There is a fallacious danger in not reading ahead as one does “read throughs,” so I have at least skipped ahead to see if Walton does give his reasons. He does, in Proposition 11. Yet, I am on Proposition 8, with only the point-of-fact statements “Adam was a real person” made in the midst of “don’t take anything else as ‘literal’.”1 He tries to separate when Genesis 2–3 speaks about a historical figure and when it speaks about an archetypal representative; however, the lines are not clear enough in my mind. If Adam is representative of humanity (or Israel as a King would be) in 8 out of 10 cases, then why are the other two revealing he is a real person? Could it be a stylistic choice or an interpolation?

Wo ist Wellhausen!?

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on...
Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on the concept of just war (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indeed, this troubling statement is surrounding by an acutely canonical awareness of “formed” (as well as “rib” and “dust”) and how it plays into the story. While Walton does not mention it, his own parsing of the Hebrew reveals a Platonic caveat of soulmates (i.e., Symposium) I did not realize was there. Yet, through all of this, we are still told by the author of his belief in a historical Adam. Or perhaps, an assumption. If the forming of the two are archetypal and not related to material origins but rather symbolic of human relationships, then why are we still discussing Adam as if he is a historical person? Likewise, the author goes to great lengths to bring in St. Paul and his use of Adam in Romans and 1 Corinthians. This latter issue I find exciting and troubling.

Exciting because of the use of the entire Christian canon to work out theology. But, likewise it is troubling because if I am examining the ancient literature for what it is, I want to examine it devoid of reception during the apocalyptic discontinuity. Admittedly, however, I cannot focus too much on the troubling (to me) aspect because if Walton is doing what he did in Lost World of Genesis One, then he needs to tackle the usual Protestant Christian teaching regarding Original Sin and the Fall (even if one is because St. Augustine did not read Greek all that well).

There is a lot in this singular proposition, some of which I will detail in a follow-up post. As usual, Walton is pushing the boundaries, not of the Text itself, but of our theological facets.

  1. Joel’s paraphrase.

In the Mail from @ivpacademic, “A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir”

This is going to be awesome. Oden is one of the premier Wesleyan intellectuals and theologians today. I believe his work on paleo-orthodoxy and the confessions is essential in moving the UMC forward.

How did one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated liberals have such a dramatic change of heart? After growing up in the heart of rural Methodism in Oklahoma, Thomas Oden found Marx, Nietzsche and Freud storming into his imagination. He joined the post-World War II pacifist movement and became enamored with every aspect of the 1950s’ ecumenical Student Christian Movement. Ten years before America’s entry into the Vietnam war he admired Ho Chi Min as an agrarian patriot. For Oden, every turn was a left turn. At Yale he earned his PhD under H. Richard Niebuhr and later met with some of the most formidable minds of the era—enjoying conversations with Gadamer, Bultmann and Pannenberg as well as a lengthy discussion with Karl Barth at a makeshift office in his hospital room. While traveling with his family through Turkey, Syria and Israel, he attended Vatican II as an observer and got his first taste of ancient Christianity. And slowly, he stopped making left turns. Oden’s enthusiasms for pacifism, ecumenism and the interface between theology and psychotherapy were ambushed by varied shapes of reality. Yet it was a challenge from a Jewish scholar, his friend and mentor Will Herberg, that precipitated his most dramatic turn—back to the great minds of ancient Christianity. Later a meeting with then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Benedict XVI) planted the seeds for what became Oden’s highly influential Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. This fascinating memoir walks us through not only his personal history but some of the most memorable chapters in twentieth-century theology.

SBL 2014 Interviews

SBL 2014 was great and I had the opportunity to interview three scholars for MAP.

Dr. Yael Avrahami is the author of the award-winning book Senses of Scripture: Sensory Perception in the Hebrew Bible. In our discussion, she addresses why the 5 senses alone don’t hold up in the epistemologies of the Hebrew Bible. Yael is also one of the creators of Hendrickson’s new Reader’s Hebrew Bible.

Dr. Bob Bascom is a Hebrew Bible scholar and Bible translator. Bob is a friend who has taught me a lot about life and love. Literally. He’s a cognitive linguist who can tell you about love in the brain and what kind of love it is. And he does here in the interview.

Dr. Chip Hardy has recently completed his PhD at the University of Chicago on the diachronic development of biblical Hebrew prepositions. In our discussion, he lays out the basic principles of grammaticalization theory.

@dageshforte

 

Review of @OUPAcademic’s “Jewish Study Bible, 2nd Edition”

The (now) first Jewish Study Bible (JSB) was a major breakthrough in establishing a critical, yet faithful, study system for the Jewish canon (for Protestants, the Old Testament). It brought to the table both modern research as well as rabbinical sayings, easily competing with other critical study bibles not only for attention but for depth and clarity. It has been my go-to bible for much of my study in the Jewish Scriptures. Not bad for an “experiment” (as the editors call the first edition) and a winner of the National Jewish Book Award (2004). With the second edition (again edited by Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler), what was good before is now great. I simply have no other words to describe it.

The barebones of the JSB has remained the same. The Jewish Publication Society (JPS) 1985 translation has remained the same. The introductions to the books of bible are virtually unchanged, but the notes have been revised. According to the second edition’s preface, “over one-third” is new. This means we have updated scholarship, new voices, and more importantly in this last category, new voices that include women and Israeli scholars. In the first edition, some essays are simply revised essays from the New Oxford Annotated Bible, but in this one, the editors sought completely new essays on the same topics while asking for revisions of previous ones. Likewise, new essays are added — such as the additions of  “Reading Biblical Narrative” and “Reading Biblical Law” to the stand alone essay of “Reading Biblical Poetry.”

One new essay of note is “Gender in the Bible”(2177–84) by Marc Zvi Brettler. Brettler is a co-editor of the volume, the Dora Golding Professor at Brandeis University, and the author of numerous scholarly works examining the Jewish Scriptures (including serving as co-editor on Amy Jill Levine’s The Jewish Annotated New Testament, also by Oxford). He notes the difference between “gender” (“enacted”) and “sex” (“biological”). No doubt this differentiation will concern some, but Brettler is able to show easily why it needs to be. Even a woman can share the (en)action of a man (masculinity) — and the bible’s idea of masculinity often changes based on perspective. In once sense, masculine means warrior while in another time, masculine meant a devoted student. “The diversity of models should not be surprising, since the Bible is a complex work with multiple perspectives on many issues.”

Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (...
Jews praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur. (1878 painting by Maurycy Gottlieb) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When it comes to specific roles, Brettler breaks down the language to show that while ancient Israel and Judaism was indeed male-centric, it was not exactly patriarchal. Nor was it homogenous. Women did have specific roles, but in some portions of Scripture, women shared in roles usually thought to be the sole domain of men (for instance, Brettler points out the Nazarites and prophets). This doesn’t mean Brettler is a wild-eyed liberal, nor given to exaggeration of Scripture. His attention to the verse rather than later culturally influenced readings is made readily apparent when he explores the masculinity of God. He does, in all fairness, give time to scholars who disagree with him, but in the end maintains the explicitness of the bible. “Gender is central to one’s identity and should be immediately evident. Males should act and look like males, and females should act and look like females, and both genders should worship a masculine God” (2184). This section in particular is prefaced with a warning that “all religions…change over time” (2182). We are not told what to think, only what the facts are in determining how we think.

Each essay is based on solid scholarship that remains within the biblical realm. Of note, Jon Levinson’s introduction to Bere’shit (Genesis) ends with, “if J, E, P, and various equally anonymous sources and redactors are its human authors, nothing ensures that God is not its ultimate Author” (10).

My only issue with the bible is the cover. I am going to heavily use this one and I am fearful I will damage the white hardcover. JSB1 had a dust jacket and rough, dark colored cover. JSB2 lacks the dust jacket (thankfully) but has a white glossy cover. The quality of the book, however, is one that will last over time. The pages are thin (use an India marker) but so are most bible pages. (If this bothers you, note there is a kindle version.) JSB2 is set up a lot like JSB1, with the text in the upper portion, next to the spin, surrounded on the left/right and on the bottom by notes. Also included are the JPS 1985 translator’s notes. Throughout the various books, you will find charts and smaller maps to help guide the reader in understanding what is happening in the text and notes. Also include are full color maps like you would find in other bibles. This is a scholar’s bible, but it is a adherent’s book as well.

I have looked, but in vain, for a better study bible for those interested in engaging the Jewish Scriptures as Jewish. Granted, the Christian writings are mentioned, as are the rabbinical sages and both alongside critical scholarship. It does not exclude ecumenical inquiry, but it is the most useful when one is trying to determine how one portion of the text is seen by Jews. This is a great benefit, to be sure, to Christians and Muslims, scholars and theologians, if they are going to interpret the “Old Testament” as a Jewish document first. It is an intellectually stimulating study bible that must be on the desk of every serious student of Scripture.

This coming week… In (pre-)reviews

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I intend to highlight and review these books this coming week.

I’ll update this post with links to those reviews, of course.

But, what would you like to see in these reviews?

Book Review of @Energion’s “Worshiping with Charles Darwin”

There are a few names unmentionable, at least in the positive sense, from the Christian pulpit. One of them, if not the main one of them, is Charles Darwin, the 19th century scientist many accuse of creating evolutionary science. But, there are more than a number of Christians who believe science and faith are co-habitable. This number, we hope, grows every day. And this is where the problem lies. Pastors are having a difficult time presenting science and faith together due to a lack of education on the topic or because they simply do not know how. There are plenty of books about science and faith, but only a few on how to use them together. There is one, however, incorporating them. Cornwall’s book is a book of sermons and essays.

This is a pastoral account, almost like an autobiography, of bringing forth God’s message out of the two books, Scripture and Nature. As one who has read Cornwall considerably, I am neither surprised nor let down at the amount of work in these sermons. They exist, ever etched into someone’s mind, as a real method of worshiping the Most High God by celebrating how he formed the world. The book begins with a lengthy introduction wherein Cornwall tells you of his journey from Young Earth Creationism to this robust faith presented in this volume. Many of us who have traversed the same plane will recognize the same highway pit-stops along the way. This is not a story about someone losing their faith, but one where someone finds a faith richer and fuller than he has known before.

Following this are two parts, one with sermons and the other essays. Cornwall uses these short statements to explain further the relationship between faith and science. The sermons he delivered while the essays are former blogposts, all are crafted for both the subject and the audience. What does Cornwall really do? He doesn’t destroy the Christian faith, as I imagine some of his detractors would accuse him of, but instead leads us along the way to a better, more honest faith.

English: "A Venerable Orang-outang",...
English: “A Venerable Orang-outang”, a caricature of Charles Darwin as an ape published in The Hornet, a satirical magazine Deutsch: Man sieht Darwin als Affen dargestellt, was eine Anspielung auf seine Evolutionstheorie sein soll. Seiner Meinung nach entwickelten sich die Menschen aus den Affen, was damals eine völlig neue Vorstellung war. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To be frank, it is difficult to review sermons, although not all of the book is made up of sermons. Sermons are meant to be given rather than read. Even the poorest sermon can sound remarkable if given properly. So I will not judge them as such. Rather, when I read them I tried to see if they were accomplishing what Cornwall intended. He does the job well. The sermons are exactly what you expect from sermons — rooted in Scripture, rooted in the Christian faith, and yet applicable to the modern world. No doubt, this is going to be difficult for some to digest, but the sermons (and essays) approach the Christian as a Christian who is in need of moving forward. Yes, Cornwall declares, the Books of God are applicable, practical and compatible. I would hope, and pray, that more pastors seek to implement what Cornwall has done, else we subcumb to St. Augustine’s warning about looking like fools for following superstitions (disguised as theology). God helps us and God bless Robert Cornwall.

Book Announcement: “Coming Out Christian in the Roman World: How the Followers of Jesus Made a Place in Caesar’s Empire”

This looks important:

The supposed collapse of Roman civilization is still lamented more than 1,500 years later—and intertwined with this idea is the notion that a fledgling religion, Christianity, went from a persecuted fringe movement to an irresistible force that toppled the empire. The “intolerant zeal” of Christians, wrote Edward Gibbon, swept Rome’s old gods away, and with them the structures that sustained Roman society.

Not so, argues Douglas Boin. Such tales are simply untrue to history, and ignore the most important fact of all: life in Rome never came to a dramatic stop. Instead, as Boin shows, a small minority movement rose to transform society—politically, religiously, and culturally—but it was a gradual process, one that happened in fits and starts over centuries. Drawing upon a decade of recent studies in history and archaeology, and on his own research, Boin opens up a wholly new window onto a period we thought we knew. His work is the first to describe how Christians navigated the complex world of social identity in terms of “passing” and “coming out.” Many Christians lived in a dynamic middle ground. Their quiet success, as much as the clamor of martyrdom, was a powerful agent for change. With this insightful approach to the story of Christians in the Roman world, Douglas Boin rewrites, and rediscovers, the fascinating early history of a world faith.

In the Mail from @OUPAcademic, “The Jewish Study Bible: Second Edition”

From the official listing:

  • Informative essays that address a wide variety of topics relating to Judaism’s use and interpretation of the Bible throughout the ages
  • Section and book introductions that deliver insights into the background, structure, and meaning of the text
  • Running commentary beside the biblical text that provides in-depth theological interpretation
  • Features the Jewish Publication Society TANAKH translation
  • Full-color Oxford Bible maps
  • Verse and chapter differences between the Hebrew text and many English translations
  • Table of Scriptural readings for synagogue use
  • Glossary of technical terms

First published in 2004, The Jewish Study Bible is a landmark, one-volume resource tailored especially for the needs of students of the Hebrew Bible. It has won acclaim from readers in all religious traditions.

The Jewish Study Bible combines the entire Hebrew Bible–in the celebrated Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation–with explanatory notes, introductory materials, and essays by leading biblical scholars on virtually every aspect of the text, the world in which it was written, its interpretation, and its role in Jewish life. The quality of scholarship, easy-to-navigate format, and vibrant supplementary features bring the ancient text to life.

This second edition includes revised annotations for nearly the entire Bible, as well as forty new and updated essays on many of the issues in Jewish interpretation, Jewish worship in the biblical and post-biblical periods, and the influence of the Hebrew Bible in the ancient world.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition, is an essential resource for anyone interested in the Hebrew Bible.

More can be found here.

It is an increase of about 180 pages above the previous version.

By far, it is already an improvement upon something that was near perfect. More later.

Book Notes: @IVPAcademic’s “Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man: A Commentary on Mark 13″

Robert H. Stein has written a very specific book on a very particular chapter in the Gospel According to Saint Mark. Taking only chapter 13 (although he does provide a lead-in by exploring its place in the book itself), Stein goes virtually line-by-line through the chapter, offering the ‘why’ of his interpretation. He does so by relying on conservative scholarship as well as canonical support. His reliance upon these things, including Q and other unidentified oral sayings, is mixed with his acceptance and use of critical scholarship as well. Indeed, given his locus, his conclusions are that much more outstanding. All of this — locus, avenues of investigation — would normally give me pause when considering his conclusions; however, I find little fault in them. While I do not agree with his conclusion regarding the arrival of the Son of Man, his treatment of the first half of Mark 13 and his conclusion thereof is spot on. The book is divided into 8 chapters. The first lays out his thesis statement and his actual goal. The second chapter tackles various issues in reading this chapter, such as placement in Mark. Chapters 3-7 each discuss a specific, and successive, pericope wherein the chapter itself is given a critical and theological account. The final chapter includes the author’s own translation, making use of cues inside the text. Again, he uses intracanonical support as well as (a hope of) oral tradition. Unfortunately, this is the lowpoint (although admittedly, his lowpoint is still well above the highpoints of many) of Stein’s work. In the end, he allows that the first part of Mark speaks to the destruction of the Temple while the second half alerts the readers to an unknown date of the arrival of the Son of Man. He bases this on the inclusio he sees in 13.5 and 13.23. Rather than an inclusio, I believe Mark is using a chiastic structure. But, this is my view point, not my book. In all, while Stein uses avenues I would not, he arrives at a solution I believe is tenable. Jesus, the Temple and the Coming Son of Man is an important book, especially in these times of heightened expectation. It is at once academic and theological, allowing the reader to place Mark 13 within the context of the entire Gospel as well as seeing how it works without a canonical context.

English: The destruction of the Temple foretol...
English: The destruction of the Temple foretold. Caspar Luyken. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 3904. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section R. predictions and warnings. Mark 13:1-37. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/an-illustrated-commentary-by-phillip-medhurst-on-the-gospel-of-mark-section-q-to-r (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

@FortressPress “Commentary on the Bible: The Old Testament and Apocrypha” – Additions to Esther

Since he-who-must-not-be-named is reviewing the “normal books,” I wanted to take some time and focus on the books you good Protestants are missing due to the drunk who threw them out. Frankly, they are among my favorites.

Yes, you Wesleyans like James and you Calvinists like the Institutes, but for those of us who love Jesus, there are books (used by Christians since the beginning) like Wisdom of Solomon and the (Greek) Additions to Esther. Admittedly, the former of these two is my favorite.

The introduction to the entire section (split off as as they do in Protestant bibles) is a short, but masterful work on the history of the deuterocanon (or “Apocrypha”) in Protestant bibles. I’m not going to spend much time reviewing it, but Eileen M. Schuller has done her considerable homework and gets it, as far as I can see, right. By this I mean, Schuller presents exactly what I want to see presented in a commentary of this scope and it is appreciated. She presents the ups and downs (the drunken brawl that led to the books being discarded right up to their reemergence in our wayward and biblically illiterate society) of these “hidden” books in Protestantism. Further, she doesn’t exclude, as many are apt to do, the Orthodox varieties of lists.

Let me spend just a moment on the (Greek) Additions to Esther, for no other reason than it was penned by my favorite seminary professor, Dr. Vivian Johnson. She begins by noting the surface problem with Esther — there is no God (at least in the book). Therefore, later Jewish scribes sought to remedy that, adding to the story as they needed to deliver the message they wanted. Rightly so, Johnson speaks to how this book dealt with identity in Empire and how the additions turn the book from a very limited scope to one that has far reaching cosmic implications.

After taking us through the additions and what they mean inside the text, she turns to the interpretative tradition and the text in contemporary discussion (as is the case with all other books in this commentary). Since the Additions to Esther are so short, this has allowed Johnson to expand these two discussion sections greatly to the benefit of the reader. To my great joy, her section on contemporary discussion discusses the contrast between the Greek additions (and the story it produces) compared to that of the original and Hebrew forms. This is important in deciding which story to read — not necessarily which story is authoritative. Like Daniel and his additions, the additions to Esther are important to us as we discover how stories were told, retold, and redacted/edited to meet new challenges — not simply with mimetic reuse, but by adding directly to a sacred text.

In all, Johnson does exactly what this former student expects, delivers supremely.