So, we are homeschooling our children for a few weeks during the move and vacation, etc… Today’s assignment (yesterday was to read about religion in Rome) is to read both Creation stories (Genesis 1-2.4 and 2.5-3), detailing five differences, followed by two sentences describing what the differences mean to the them.
The fact is, is that my third and fifth grader will have a better theological grasp of the stories by the end of today than Young Earth Creationists.
Why? Because by comparing the details of the story, we will explore what the different authors wanted to say about Creation(s), and how they see it as applying to them (theology). Yes, there are wrong answers. For instance, if they come back and say that they are the same, just one is expanded, not only will they be grounded, I will deny them their college education, and quite possibly break their toys. Seriously, if they, I will explain to them that if they have any respect at all for Scripture, they will see the differences and appreciate them for what the original authors and redactor is trying to tell us about the way they see God, Creation, Humanity, and the relationships exiting between those realities.
I am not opposed to reading books such as this one. It is more difficult for those who are more academically inclined than they are evangelically inclined, but if we separate the Church from the Academy, both will perish. Bock’s book is a collection of essays by those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and more, that Jesus is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Most, if not all, come from a more evangelical approach to Scripture than I am used to (Isaiah was written by one author, prophecies are about future events), but where this remains controversial for some, the scholarship rarely fails to satisfy.
The book is the child of a campaign created by Christians and Jews believing in Christ to teach the Christian interpretation of Isaiah 53. A conference was held in 2009, with a summer 2010 campaign devoted to Isaiah 53 Explained, a traditional print media campaign including booklets, newspaper ads, and one on one communication. The book follows that. It is Evangelical, evangelistic, and apologetic in focus. One important point is that the essayists make an effort to discover the Jewish interpretation of the passage, even if they disagree with it. It is divided into three parts. Part I includes Christian and Jewish interpretations. Part II places Isaiah 53 in biblical theology, examining the chapter first in Isaiah and then in the New Testament. The final two chapters in Part II deal with the role of salvation in Isaiah 53 – how salvation is accomplished, and if that method is in line with the view of substitutionary atonement. Part III is evangelistic. It aims to convert the postmoderns, the Jews, and the Mainlines, it appears. The appendix includes two sermons to show the reader how to preach Isaiah 53.
While this book is unashamedly Evangelical, it could have helped itself by first defining some of the key terms, such as prophecy. The concept of prophecy is, understandably, one that causes controversy. Depending on where the reader falls on the spectrum, prophecy is either an explanation of a past event or the forecasting of a future action, albeit rather unclearly. Yes, all of the essayists, and even this reviewer, agree that Isaiah 53 does include the clearest prophecy of Jesus in the Hebrew Scriptures, but the issue here then becomes what is prophecy. To the credit, and this is important to Christians, Evangelical and Mainline alike, the Jewish interpretation is examined almost independent of the Christian interpretation. I say almost because it is still examined alongside the Christian interpretation. Instead of simply pointing to Jesus and saying “See,” the essayists get into the underbelly of Isaiah 53. They examine the context, the various uses of “Servant of the Lord,” and the Hebrew terminology. They also examine what the great Rabbis of the past ages have said. Some of them lean to a Christian interpretation, while some do not. This should be appreciated. The only unpalatable part of the book, however, is the evangelistic message to the Jews. Not to the Evangelicals but to Jews and the Mainlines. The book is essentially valuable because of the Jewish interpretations and the Christian interpretations given without polemical pogroms, but it may turn off some readers due to the evangelistic nature of the book.
Let me recommend this book, but with a few caveats. First, the scholarship if terrific. The essayists include Darrell Bock and Craig A. Evans. Other names like Averbeck, Chisholm, Feinberg, Wilkins, and Sunukjian appear as well. These are well known and trustworthy scholars providing what their students have come to expect, solid and competent scholarship. Second, the Evangelical side of some of the authors do make an appearance, especially when discussion the historical critical approach to Isaiah. Third, the evangelistic aim of the book will be disconcerting to some; however, all academic, theological, or mundane pursuits aim to convert. That is the human nature of conversation. When God told the human species to go and rule, to have dominion, this was the first order of conversion. Simply put, do not be offended if you read Christians attempting to convert Jews to Jesus. Do not be offended if Jews use this same work to convert Christians to Jews. The scholarship is itself converting, in one way or other.
The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 presents the redemptive work of the Messiah to the Jewish community, exploring issues of atonement and redemption in light of Isaiah chapter 53. It is clear that Jesus fulfills the specifications of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. This book has many potential uses in its presentation of the gospel for Jewish people. Pastors who study it will find unparalleled help in preparing Bible studies and sermons, so that their listeners will become better equipped to tell Jewish people about Jesus. It will be beneficial as supplemental reading for classes on Isaiah, the Prophets, and Jewish evangelism. And believers will be trained to share Isaiah 53 with Jewish friends and family. Contributors include: • David L. Allen • Richard E. Averbeck • Darrell L. Bock • Michael L. Brown • Robert B. Chisholm Jr. • Craig A. Evans • John S. Feinberg • Mitch Glaser • Walter C. Kaiser Jr. • Donald R. Sunukjian
That’s an impressive list of contributors.
As Christians, we have to learn to use the Old Testament rightly. I’m not too terribly sure about some of the aims of the book, but I look forward to reading it nevertheless.
Thanks to Kregel for this and the person behind the blog review program – whomever that may be
Oddly enough, my Sunday School class will be engaging Isaiah (53) this week. Should be fun.
English: Illustration to The Holy Bile, Judges, chapter 3. Eglon assassinated by Ehud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, Joseph was a “stud,” as Peter Enns describes him, but he wasn’t the only sex fiend in Scripture. The Bible is actually a very human book, in that it deals with the full range of human passion, including, well, sex.
For example, did you know that God freed Israel by a homosexual rape? He presented the tribute to Eglon, king of Moab, who was very fat, and after the presentation went off with the tribute bearers. He returned, however, from where the idols are, near Gilgal, and said, “I have a private message for you, O king.” And the king said, “Silence!” Then when all his attendants had left his presence, and Ehud went in to him where he sat alone in his cool upper room, Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.” So the king rose from his chair, and then Ehud with his left hand drew the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into Eglon’s belly. The hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade because he did not withdraw the dagger from his body. (Jdg 3:17-22 NAB)
A couple of things here. First, there is a similar story in the Avesta. Second, the fatted king is made a sacrifice. Third, there are two men alone here. Ehud sticks in his blade into the “stomach” of the king and kills him. Rape was a way to rid a king of his authority and manhood. Ehud did just that. If you don’t read it as the authors (re)wrote it, you miss a lot.
Why are we concerned when we speak vulgar (I mean that in both ways) about Scripture when there are so many vulgar (again) things in Scripture? Indeed, if you haven’t read the Song of Solomon in the original erotica, you haven’t read the Song of Solomon. Granted, they have better, more concealed words for body parts than we do, but…there are there. A lot.
A retired Bishop once reminded me that more often than not, pastors who use the Revised Common Lectionary will preach from the Gospel or Epistle Reading rather than the Prophets. Indeed, many times, the Old Testament is merely read during the Lectionary in mainline churches, with the themes present seemingly too evangelical to touch. Dr. Allan R. Bevere, himself a United Methodist pastor, presents nineteen of his sermons based in the Old Testament. They are not about connecting the dots, so to speak, between Christ and the Old Testament, something which is a usual past time of many preachers; his task is about connecting the dots between the Old Testament and our lives.
I sincerely hope that there will be a follow-up to this book. I don’t mean to say that this book is lacking, but the greatly majority of his sermons are drawn from the historical books. Maybe rather, the so-called historical books, given that Bevere shows them to be rather prophetic in examining our own lives today. He provides great insight through personal stories, illustrations, and good scholarship, but more than that, he ties all of these things nicely together to deliver to his congregation, to which the reader is seemingly invited to partake in, a meaningful message. Again, this is not about proclaiming Christ in the Old Testament, but about proclaiming the Christian life, hope, and connection to the Old Testament (which, of course, is made possible only through Christ). Make no mistake, this is not some soft peddling of Old Testament themes. The sermons, longer if read aloud (and really, they should all be), provide a challenge to the Christian today, not in pondering how to be better people, but how to tackle the life and calling God has given us, whether it is in a land of plenty or a sea of destruction. Bevere’s book serves to draw sharply the Christian into the life of these historical figures and places them as a foundation of our faith.
He tackles a variety of issues, from hopelessness to living wisely to pursuing God’s calling, showing that the Old Testament does have something for us today. The layout is is pastoral, even to the closing prayer, but these sermons are fodder for the heart, serving as devotionals, or, perhaps, reflections to be shared. If there is a follow-up, I would love to “hear” more regarding the use of the prophets in our lives, especially considering other books by Dr. Bevere. Until, then, I’ll enjoy his prophetic turn of the familiar stories of the Old Testament.
I’ll post a review sometime this week, but I wanted to post a short thought which I had after reading one of the sermons in this book.
Bevere reminds us of two things about Esau (this is taken from the third sermon in the book, entitled, Giving Birth to What is Right). First, through Grace, Esau was given a birthright. He didn’t earn it, but because of his birth, it was given to him. This seems to be the definition of Grace, isn’t it? Second, Esau was not an individual, but through the giving of the birthright, which is the promise made to Abraham by God, he had a responsibility to all those who came after him. Bevere insists that because of Grace (birthright), Esau had certain obligations to fulfill.
I have to take this, and in narrative fashion, wonder if the Church is not becoming an Esau?
Are we, especially those of us born to Christian parents, raised in a Church-like setting all of our lives, partaking of the richness of the Christian experience in such a way that it shows our appreciation for the double gift of Grace given to us? We are fortunate, we many, we disheveled community, to be born in a relative Christian country, with Christian families, and Christian churches as far as the eye can see with free access to Scripture and other theological tools. We have even democratized Christianity, to make it more palatable to our pluralistic notions best summarized as simply being starved, allowing that a bowl of porridge will tide you over until the next meal. Sometimes I get the feeling that Christianity will only survive when we cease trying to be still be Christian and become Christian. When we begin to live the Gospel message, instead of just listening to others debate it.
James Beilby and Paul Eddy’s The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views has been one of my “go-to” theology books for several years. In general, I love any book that presents multiple views on an academic topic because it feeds into my fantasy that evangelical scholars are all polite, reasonable people who wear tweed and never shout, but this book has been especially significant in my own understanding of how multi-faceted the atonement is.
Beilby and Eddy’s newest book, Justification: Five Views, has been available for several months, but only now have I been able to sit down and work through it. So far, I’ve only gotten as far as the Introduction, but the margins are already filled with notes, questions, and ideas for blog posts.
In Part 1 of the Introduction, the authors survey 2000 years of justification theology, touching on everyone from Origen to Bultmann. While they drive a little too fast at times, occasionally just waving at Augustine or Anselm when I would have liked to have stopped and gotten out of the car to take a better look, I appreciate the inclusion of less mainstream views of justification such as Anabaptist and Pentacostal. And their short description of feminist theology is, I think, one of the best I’ve read.
It is, of course, the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP) that consumes much of the Introduction. Somehow, the authors manage to survey pre-NPP 19th and 20th century scholars and summarize the views of E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N.T. Wright and effectively describe the wide-ranging diversity of opinions that exist under the NPP umbrella—all in the Introduction. As someone who has often wondered what all the fuss is about, this chapter managed to wipe the fog off my glasses and clarify why these issues are so important.
The Introduction ends with a catalog of what the authors describe as five “exegetical flashpoints” in the justification debate: (1) What, really, was Paul’s attitude towards Judaism? (2) What is the role of works in final judgement? (3) What is the Old Testament’s view of righteousness? (4)What is the exact nature of the “righteousness” by which believers are justified? (5) How should the Greek word “pistis” be translated?
While these questions sound obtuse (and possibly even a little dull) when I list them, the authors manage to both clarify what the issues are and, more importantly, convince the reader why they’re relevant.
Joel and I will be blogging through Justification: Five Views for the next few weeks, so anyone who wants to still has time to pick up the book and join the conversation.