Note, this is a Book Notes (a possible new feature), not a full review which may follow later. The goal of this feature is to give you a brief summary.
There is not a more important book to understanding Paul’s theology than Deuteronomy. Likewise, we may suspect that there is no important book to the Gospels’, especially John, understanding of Jesus than the final book of Moses. Finally, there seems to be no better book in understanding, if not the entire Jewish canon, than a sizable portion along with several literary strains of Second Temple Judaism, than the capstone to the Torah. Given Daniel I. Block’s work in Deuteronomy, it is not surprising then that his “colleagues, friends, and former students” would choose to honor him via this massive volume. I note with welcome the inclusion of a variety of voices found among his friends and contributors. The book is divided into 3 sections. The first examines the message of Deuteronomy, focused solely on the book itself while the second focuses on Deuteronomy’s reception both in the Jewish canon as well as the Christian canon. Pay attention the first part to Peter T. Vogt’s essay suggesting a pre-monarchy dating to the book while in the second, look especially to Grant R. Osborn’s “Testing God’s Son: Deuteronomy and Luke 4.1–13.” The third part is more practical, with the contributors giving essays on immigration (M. Daniel Carroll R.), human trafficking (Myrto Theocharous), and even a way to preach (Daniel L. Akin) — all based on Deuteronomy. While many of the essays are notable, there are outstanding ones, such as Douglas Moo’s essay on Paul’s use of Deuteronomy and Jason Gile’s essay on the theology of exile in Deuteronomy and Ezekiel. This volume is made complete with Thomas H. McClendon Jr.’s essay on Block’s (Christian) theology of Deuteronomy. In total, this volume is much more than a contribute Block; it is a lauding of the current multi-discipline work on the book of Deuteronomy itself. To that end, the essays explore the work via critical appraisals of Deuteronomy’s importance in the ecumenical canons and how it can impact our discussions of justice and grace today.
War and Terrorism opened up a new world for me in terms of dealing with the issues at hand from a variety of angles. It is very fitting to read this book from time to time in order to deal with the issues which we are promised to face for the rest of this century.
Andy‘s book, well, as I was sinking deep into the despair of cynicism, it came at the right time. I actually thought that this book was going to justify my cynicism and tell me how to continue to be both a cynic and a saint. But you know, it didn’t. Instead, it woke me up to the direction in which I was heading. It is a powerful little book which I think everyone needs to read – the idealist and the cynic.
I will be posting insights and reflections, leading up to a review starting soon. I’ve had the pleasure of reading this book since Friday, off and on, and it is spectacular. ORDER IT FROM EISENBRAUNS.
The ancient Near Eastern mode of thought is not at all intuitive to us moderns, but our understanding of ancient perspectives can only approach accuracy when we begin to penetrate ancient texts on their own terms rather than imposing our own world view. In this task, we are aided by the ever-growing corpus of literature that is being recovered and analyzed.
After an introduction that presents some of the history of comparative studies and how it has been applied to the study of ancient texts in general and cosmology in particular, Walton focuses in the first half of this book on the ancient Near Eastern texts that inform our understanding about ancient ways of thinking about cosmology. Of primary interest are the texts that can help us discern the parameters of ancient perspectives on cosmic ontology—that is, how the writers perceived origins. Texts from across the ancient Near East are presented, including primarily Egyptian, Sumerian, and Akkadian texts, but occasionally also Ugaritic and Hittite, as appropriate. Walton’s intention, first of all, is to understand the texts but also to demonstrate that a functional ontology pervaded the cognitive environment of the ancient Near East. This functional ontology involves more than just the idea that ordering the cosmos was the focus of the cosmological texts. He posits that, in the ancient world, bringing about order and functionality was the very essence of creative activity. He also pays close attention to the ancient ideology of temples to show the close connection between temples and the functioning cosmos.
The second half of the book is devoted to a fresh analysis of Genesis 1:1–2:4. Walton offers studies of significant Hebrew terms and seeks to show that the Israelite texts evidence a functional ontology and a cosmology that is constructed with temple ideology in mind, as in the rest of the ancient Near East. He contends that Genesis 1 never was an account of material origins but that, as in the rest of the ancient world, the focus of “creation texts” was to order the cosmos by initiating functions for the components of the cosmos. He further contends that the cosmology of Genesis 1 is founded on the premise that the cosmos should be understood in temple terms. All of this is intended to demonstrate that, when we read Genesis 1 as the ancient document it is, rather than trying to read it in light of our own world view, the text comes to life in ways that help recover the energy it had in its original context. At the same time, it provides a new perspective on Genesis 1 in relation to what have long been controversial issues. Far from being a borrowed text, Genesis 1 offers a unique theology, even while it speaks from the platform of its contemporaneous cognitive environment.
In a career spanning almost five decades, Baruch Levine’s numerous publications reflect his wide-ranging interests and areas of expertise in the study of the Hebrew Bible, the ancient Near East, and early Judaism. In Search of Meaning brings together fifty-one of the most important articles that Professor Levine produced during his years at Brandeis University (1962–69) and New York University (1969–2000, emeritus 2000–). The first volume, containing twenty-seven articles, focuses on the study of religion in the biblical and ancient Near Eastern worlds from a number of perspectives, ranging from close philological analysis of written sources to anthropological studies of ancient cultic practices. In the twenty-four articles of the second volume, Levine engages broader aspects of ancient Near Eastern society, from legal institutions of various types to larger societal forms of organization. This latter volume also contains some of his more incisive lexicographical and philological contributions to the study of the Hebrew and Aramaic languages.
The flavor of Prof. Levine’s work is captured in this paragraph from his introduction to these two volumes:
“Looking back, and reviewing my writings, I realize what it is that I have been seeking all along. I have been in pursuit of meaning, employing scholarly methods, primarily philology and semantics, to the exegesis of ancient Near Eastern texts, preserved in several languages, principally the Hebrew Bible. I regard language as the key to meaning. This conclusion would appear to be self-evident, and yet, philology is often sidelined in favor of engaging larger frameworks. Most of all, I challenge the notion that we already know the meaning of the words and clauses central to the texts under investigation, and may proceed directly to other considerations without first re-examining the smaller units. Again and again, that policy has resulted in flawed interpretation, and in missed opportunities for learning. This is not to say that scholars should stop at the smaller units, and, indeed, the tendency to do so has been largely responsible for the reaction against Semitic philology so noticeable since the latter part of the 20th century. It is our challenge to move outward from focal points to the circumference, from text to context, from content to structure.”
During our time, we are watching threats arise in North Korea and Iran as well threats emerging again in Iraq and other portions of the Middle East. Not only that, but the wars which prompted these essays have yet to subside and with each promise of withdrawal comes the passive acknowledgment that our children may not in fact see the end of these wars. This book doesn’t promise answers, and what answers it gives don’t always sit well with those of us to the political left who fight tooth and nail for the ‘pure’ doctrine of Just War. Of course, the political right will not find much comfort either in the idea of absorbing peace or the method of handling non-combatants.
This book, published by Eisenbrauns (here), is part of the Bulletin for Biblical Research Supplement series edited by Richard S. Hess and Craig L. Blomberg. This particular volume is edited by Hess and Elmer A. Martens and includes distinguished writers, such as Daniel Heimback and Ian G.C. Durie. It is a collect of essays inspired by Denver Seminary’s annual Biblical Studies conference, help in 2004, which attempted to ‘address… the question of the teachings of biblical ethics regarding modern war.’ (viii) Often times, especially in the latest round of discussion concerning war, terrorism and the appropriate response to attacks, the Hebrew bible is mined extensively (well, not too extensively, I suspect) to support a violent and oftentimes, religious response in the form of a crusade. I remember the days after 9/11 when our rhetoric was a ‘our God vs their god’ type mentality, with phrases such as ‘we should go Old Testament on their….’ brought up repeatedly. Richard Hess, an editor of this series, shapes a response to those who do violence to the Old Testament by using it to justify a swift and brutal reaction. His purpose is twofold: to consider the issue of war in a then/now spectrum as well as to allow the modern Westerner to regard him or herself in this light allowing them to see how much the views have changed by examining recent contributions to the ethics of war.
Elmer A. Martens, a co-editor of this volume and a Professor Emeritus at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, brings us the second essay which attempts to answer, somewhat, Regina Schwartz‘s book which called for the end of Monotheism. In this essay, Martens attempts to answer the charges against the Cross as a symbol of a violent and uncaring God, but doesn’t exclude the fact that their is violence in Holy Writ, and that God does at times cause it. What is interesting is first his notion of shalom, which while we tend to think that it fits neatly as ‘peace’, really doesn’t, and second, his view of the absorption of violence by the believers, but most notably, by the Cross. It is looking to be a timely discussion with tensions rising again around the Korean Peninsula, Rodas examines Isaianic impulses toward peace in a country at war. He first tells his story of how he came to his conclusions on biblical theology of war and the impetus of this search, followed by a thorough review of Isaiah’s prophecies dealing with Hezekiah, a king who in the midst of a war turned to human innovations instead of relying upon YHWH. It is not about what we can do, but about who we are that confirms what we should do.
Daniel R. Heimbach writes the fifth essay in this book, an essay which is immediately challenging to my political notions which developed over the past eleven years. He takes on the notion, developed during the lead up to the Iraqi War, that a Just War is in effect the same as a Crusade, making such a Crusade a morally righteous act. He tackles Plato, Aristotle and Augustine in (re)dividing Crusade from Just War, admirably. The final several move from a proper method of protecting civilians in a time of war to a just war theory in use against terrorism and ending with final essay in this momentous book by Christian ethicist Glenn H. Stassen. It pertains not to pacificism or the Just War Theory but to something different – to the Just Peacemaking Theory. Immediately, with that phrase, I think about the end of the Great War, and what might have happened at the peacemaking with Germany being in line with Christian precepts, but I digress.
These essays aren’t about mundane, rational logic or philosophy, but approaches the issue from the Christian Tradition with each author tying their essay in some way back to Christ and Scripture. There are thoughts aplenty in this book with questions being raised, some answered, but more importantly, it is a call to conversation about how to handle acts of illegal terrorism as a Christian nation, if that is indeed what we are or at the very least, what we desire to become.
Major General Durie was a strong advocate of the Just War theory, and his essay is not less adamant that Just War can be maintained in the fight against modern terrorism. He notes, rightly, that terrorism is generally what the other person doesn’t like. During the period immediately following 9/11, Reuters, if memory serves, published a story stating that one’s man terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. This was not received well by the American public who was still in the midst of subjective response. But, the statement is accurate. Durie writes,
…popular usage demands that we treat terrorism typically as an instrument of a resistance struggle. Whether or not it is unlawful depends on how it is used. (p115)
We should note that the same flip of meaning goes along with the words treason, traitor and the like. It depends, in the end, on who wins. Had the Founder Fathers lost, they would have been known as traitors. It is in this light that Durie tackles terrorism, asking for if terrorism is ever legitimate. It may surprise the answer, especially if we subjectively name it something else (p117). And while some terrorism may have been justified, rarely (Durie cites one instance where it was used solely against the military p116) did it not touch the noncombatants. Further, he notes, that it is justified, it will not work if the rules are completely followed (p117).
Durie is ‘big’ on the rules, especially in use of terrorism and response to terrorism. He writes,
The absolute necessity for governments to behave legitimately and accountable must be constantly reinforced and checked. If a legitimate government behaves illegally, wrongly, unethically, or immorally, it undermines its own authority and legitimacy and provides a precedent for its opposition to do the same. (p118)
If only, I think, that our Government officials consistently felt the same way, but you and I both know that they do not, not even ours. Durie’s essay is concerned with legitimacy, but I have wonder, that if as he even notes, legitimacy rarely wins, then what are we left with? How must ‘illegitimacy’ are we going to endure in order to ‘win’ any conflict, local, national, or international. In the War Between the States, Lincoln shredded the Constitution and treated fellow Americans as war-criminals, allowing a holocaust of sorts for Southern prisoners. Or, of Sherman’s scorched earth policy? If we follow Durie’s line, then we must re-examine Lincoln’s actions as well as our present course in understanding our guilt, first, and how our government as be effected by these things. One of his final sections is about holding national governments accountable. How do we do this if in doing this, we reveal the ugly actions we’ve undertaken to ‘preserve our way of life’?
But, it is in this accountability and indeed, in following the Just Peace and Just Rulemaking dictum’s of Christian theology that not only holds governments accountable, but neutralizes terrorism in many ways. Interesting enough is Durie’s appendix on Criteria on Justified Response.
Another one? Another essay which takes a different slant than I want on war and terrorism during our time?
Written by Lt. Col. Tony Pfaff, a former philosopher teacher at West Point, this essay tackles the issue of noncombatant immunity in our pursuit of terrorists. What I didn’t know was, was the distinction between Police Action and War, and how civilians factored into the decision of force.
This distinction is easily summarized when Pfaff writes,
By enforcing laws, police maintain peace; by fighting wars, soldiers establish it. (p98)
Pfaff then goes on to structure his argument of when police is need versus the use of soldiers around the idea which we might associate with Ex parte Milligan. The point that he makes (97-100) is essential in understanding his essay and his view on the biblical response to terrorism. He goes on to differentiate between Criminals, Enemies and Terrorists, and does so within the tradition of ‘Nation of Laws’ approach we often hear about. This is a vital element missing in our national discourse on the pursuit of terrorists, and one which must be approached by our leaders. I had never really thought about the legal nuances, which is generally portrayed as a means of circumventing the Law, of terrorism. Instead, these little differences amount to the culmination of much speculation not only of international law but so too the Christian Just War Theory. The differences also amount to the immunity or damage afforded to noncombatants.
“It is important”, he writes near the end of the essay, “to remember that noncombatants are not subject to unintentional harm because they somehow deserve it. Instead, they are subject to unintentional harm because they are citizens of a state against who act of aggression the government must move in defense. (p106)” It is difficult at best for a rational population who professes the Christian attitudes of peace and compassion to all to watch as seemingly innocent populations undergo such military strategies as ‘Shock and Awe‘, but it would behoove us, according to Pfaff, to know our goal, the reasons of that goal, and how such actions are determined by law. The reaction to terrorism is dependent upon many things; it is important to understand the reason for the reaction, and that not all terrorists are the same. I believe that a reconsideration and a reminder of the War on Terror may help to solidify our current strategy, if one buys into what Pfaff is arguing. And if the buy in is made, the stance against total war is equally assured by the consumer.
Daniel R. Heimbach writes the fifth essay in this book, an essay which is immediately challenging to my political notions which developed over the past eleven years. He takes on the notion, developed during the lead up to the Iraqi War, that a Just War is in effect the same as a Crusade, making such a Crusade a morally righteous act. He tackles Plato, Aristotle and Augustine in (re)dividing Crusade from Just War, admirably.
It is his take on the Iraqi war that I am having a difficult time with. In this short essay (the shortest of the series, I believe), he lays out masterfully the theology which prevents a Crusade, or preemptive action, but then mercilessly writes,
I believe that the war with Iraq was indeed justified, that there was a legitimate just cause. (p87)
What? I don’t even like writing those words, and yet, he doesn’t go into the casuistic American stance of the time, nor the defense which developed afterward, but focuses on his one reason. For him, none of the other reasons offered amounted to a just case for the war, but his singled out cause did. He appreciation of George W. Bush is another thing which mystifies me, but sitting today, when the President I supported is under vicious and often times unfounded attacks, I try to calm my nerves a bit and listen to what Heimbach is saying. He is fair in criticizing those who kept to a conservative notion of Just War (ironically, the Liberals) and those who sought to liberalize it (or, the Conservatives), although I think that he may not be giving the ethicists their due.
He includes an appendix to his essay which shows the statements of those who believe and defend Just War and those who believe and defend Crusade masked as a Just War.
It is going to take me a while to digest this essay, to be honest, finding any support for the Iraqi War morally questionable; however, I need to think on his singular reason, and what they might actually have meant for the overall war mind-set.
It was is looking to be a timely discussion tensions rising again around the Korean Peninsula, Rodas examines Isaianic impulses toward peace in a country at war. He first tells his story of how he came to his conclusions on biblical theology of war and the impetus of this search, followed by a thorough review of Isaiah’s prophecies dealing with Hezekiah, a king who in the midst of a war turned to human innovations instead of relying upon YHWH. It is not about what we can do, but about who we are that confirms what we should do.
Rodas begins his essay by detailing his personal pilgrimage during the years which he spent in war-torn Guatemala. It was in the midst of this struggle that he searched for ‘an appropriate evangelical response’ to what was happening around him, and as we know now, war and terrorism in general. In this struggle, he began to dialogue with voices such as Niebuhr who seemingly urged responses within the “ethics of responsibility” (p62). But, this was not to Rodas’ liking and was countered by the theology of Stanley Hauerwas. It was here that he formed his notion of response to violence as a test of identity. He expands this personal theology as he examines the attack faced by Hezekiah as recorded from the prophet’s viewpoint in the Book of Isaiah.
Throughout the remainder of the essay, Rodas is able to build up the notion that because those who hold to the legacy of Jewish monotheism as preached by Isaiah hold to a unique God, then we have a unique identity which requires a unique response to war and terror. And what is preached of a righteous king was never fulfilled an earthly king, which as we now live in the Kingdom of Christ, it behooves us to know our identity. If we identify with Christ, then we accept that while the Kingdom is come and is coming we must actively participate in it (p78).
In the end, maybe the best way to say what is happening so far in this book is “If God is our Warrior, then why not let Him fight?”
Elmer A. Martens, a co-editor of this volume and a Professor Emeritus at the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, brings us the second essay which attempts to answer, somewhat, Regina Schwartz‘s book which called for the end of Monotheism. In this essay, Martens attempts to answer the charges against the Cross as a symbol of a violent and uncaring God, but doesn’t exclude the fact that their is violence in Holy Writ, and that God does at times cause it. What is interesting is first his notion of shalom, which while we tend to think that it fits neatly as ‘peace’, really doesn’t, and second, his view of the absorption of violence by the believers, but most notably, by the Cross.
While I enjoyed his theme overall and found him honest in his treatment of Old Testament violence, I found his translation attempts compelling. Admittedly, I know nothing of Hebrew except to find someone who does. In examining his translation of Isaiah 2.2-4, I found that it is allowable. And if it is allowable, it is, well, preachable:
Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. (Isa 2:2-4 NAU)
Essentially, Martens seeks to translates the eschatological bent out of the English versions and instead, read it prophetically. His demand is that the text is better served as translated, ‘Now, it will come about that whenever…the mountain of the House…many peoples will come….and they will hammer their swords into plowshares…’. Martens contends that this era of peace herein described is attainable now. He goes to write ‘God’s intent is peace’ (p38), and shows throughout his essay that God’s interaction and intervention with humanity is about peace, which culminates in the Incarnation which for all time absorbed the violence of sin.
Introducing the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters
The Apostle Paul stands as an incredibly important figure within the religious and intellectual history of Christianity and Judaism in the first century. The study of Paul (the historical person, author, tradition, and legend) and the Pauline letters (content, context, authenticity, theology, and reception) continue to capture the fascination of scholars, students, religious communities, and even the media. A number of journals geared toward New Testament studies in general often contain a disproportionate number of articles dedicated to the study of the Pauline corpus. There is a never-ending avalanche of Ph.D. theses written about Paul and about the countless approaches and methods used to analyze the Pauline materials. Indeed, the study of Paul and the Pauline letters appears to be an almost inexhaustible field of investigation. Therefore, we think it time that Pauline research should have its own dedicated journal as a specific conduit for Pauline research as it is broadly practiced. In light of these considerations, it is my pleasure to present to you the Journal for the Study of Paul and His Letters (JSPL).
The JSPL will present cutting-edge research for scholars, teachers, postgraduate students, and advanced undergraduates related specifically to study of the Apostle Paul and cognate areas. It is proposed that the many and diverse aspects of Pauline studies be represented and promoted by the journal (see below, “Contribute“). The purpose of the journal is to advance discussion on these areas of Pauline research. As such we invite submissions on the above mentioned topics that make a significant and original contribution to the field of Pauline studies.
The inaugural issue of JSPL includes a contribution by one of its editorial board members, Dr. Susan Eastman of Duke Divinity School (USA) on “Philippians 2:6–11: Incarnation as Mimetic Participation.” Delving into the Christ-Hymn, Eastman argues for a close link between imitation and participation in Paul’s explication of his gospel to the Philippian audience. The first regular issue of JSPL will include studies such as Paul Foster, “Eschatology in the Thessalonian Correspondence”; Michael Gorman, “Justification and Justice”; Richard Bell, “Paul’s Theology of Mind”; and a review of Douglas A. Campbell’s The Deliverance of God by Christopher Tilling and Michael Gorman, with a further response from Douglas Campbell.
We invite contributions in areas such as:
Pauline chronology and biography
The Pauline corpus, including its collection and textual transmission
The historical, cultural, literary, and social context of Paul and the Pauline writings
Diverse perspectives, such as post-colonial interpretation and critical theory
Studies in Pauline theology and theological interpretation of Paul’s letters
The reception of Paul in the early church
Studies in the history of Pauline research
The relation of Pauline texts to practical theology
Essay-length reviews of significant new publications in Pauline studies