Book Notes on “For Our Good Always: Studies on the Message and Influence of Deuteronomy in Honor of Daniel I. Block”

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.

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Working on my Dissertation – something I’ve murdered, for now

Image taken from page 97 of 'The Chinese as th...
Image taken from page 97 of ‘The Chinese as they are: their moral, social, and literary character. A new analysis of the language; with … views of their … arts and sciences’ (Photo credit: The British Library)

I had to remove some stuff from the prospectus when I turned it into chapter 1. I am studying under Dr. Francois Tolmie, at the University of the Free State, doing a literary analysis of the Fourth Gospel and its use of Deuteronomy. What I hope to do is to do a complete analysis of every way the author of the Fourth Gospel has used the Fifth Book of Moses to tell his tale. I will invest a heavy portion of the dissertation into quotations, allusions, and echoes — then, I hope, I will over something by way of the way “John” structures his book to look something like Deuteronomy. 

I *think I see something I would like to explore, so we will see.

What follows is an unedited portion I removed.

3.4       Example of Quotations and Allusions

In looking for possible quotations and allusions, I will begin with Hans Hübner’s work, Evangelium Secundum Iohannem. This portion of my work will attempt to show a Johannine appreciation of Deuteronomy as well as his use of quotes and allusions to alert his readers to his grander literary design based on Deuteronomy. As Labahn has demonstrated, the use of Deuteronomy as a quotable source is limited. He points to John 8:17 as the only likely quote attributed to Deuteronomy (calling to his side two Deuteronomic witnesses, 17:6 and 19:15). We must eliminate Deuteronomy 17:15 given (with the methodology to be developed later), the passage around it does not give itself to acting as a mnemonic cue.

That leaves us with two contending passages for John’s source, either Numbers 35:30 or Deuteronomy 19:15. The passage in John presents a challenge to Jesus by the Jewish leaders who questioned his manner of truth if he could only offer testimony on his own behalf. The passage in Numbers 35:30, following the discussion on the murderer, relates the requirements to have two witnesses to put the criminal to death. Deuteronomy 19:15, on the other hand, speaks to the accusation against someone who has sinned. Deuteronomy declares the priests must judge the accusation while including a warning against the false accuser. John’s passage includes Pharisees, the Temple setting, and a passive proclamation that Jesus’s accusers are making false statements. It is much more likely John is quoting from Deuteronomy rather than Numbers.

I will now offer, based on a proposed allusion by Hübner, an example of the work I plan to accomplish. He proposes a possible connection between Deuteronomy 16:2 and John 2:15 based on πρόβατα καὶ βόας. Exodus 12:32 contains the exact word order found in John, πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας, while the word order matching Deuteronomy 16:2 is found in Psalm 8:8. As to be discussed in the chapter on critical theory of allusions, for an allusion to work as an intentional ploy of the author, the allusion must serve as a cue to a larger intertextual frame. Neither Exodus 12:32 nor Psalm 8:8 give to John the needed imagery to allow us to consider this phrase an allusion. Only Deuteronomy does. Again, I must refer back to the imagery present to identify the likelihood of the allusive allowance. In John, Jesus is presenting his body as the Temple whereas in Deuteronomy, the Temple is in only view. This is not all. The Johannine passage takes place near the Passover (John 2:13) whereas Deuteronomy calls for the Passover to take place in the Temple (16:1). Both passages share the Passover and Temple imagery, as well as the ultimate Passover as an expected future event. For Deuteronomy, it is the building of the Temple whereas for John, it is with the death of Jesus.

If we can find more allusions between Deuteronomy, using them to act as signs for larger intertextual frames, we will begin to see the larger role the Fifth Book of Moses plays in the Fourth Gospel. Such allusions, I contend, are replete, adding structure to John’s writing so that John should not be interpreted apart from Deuteronomy, but nestled in an almost inter-linear fashion. The search for allusions, rather than direct quotations will give us this possibility as well as allow us to examine what, if any, these additional recognized intertextual frames contribute to understanding an overall Johannine theology and intent.

3.5       Example of Neologism Work

The word dedicated to allusions will included a specialized section focused on examining the possibility of John’s use of the neologisms created by the septuagintal translator of Deuteronomy. There are two lists of neologisms, based on two different critical texts. The first is found in Wevers’ Notes on the Greek Text of Deuteronomy. The second is in Göttingen Septuagint. The second list is found in Cécile Dogniez and Marguerite Harl’s work, based on Rahlfs’ critical edition. What I intend to do here, briefly, is to show a positive end to the search of neologisms as a possible allusion in John as well as a negative.

Towards the negative boundary of exploration is the exploitation of the neologism that evolved into the name of the fifth book of the Torah, Δευτερονόμιον (Deut. 17:18). In several instances, we find John referring to an action of Jesus with δεύτερος. While we may wish to see something in the passages relating to a second birth of sorts, nothing quite approaches an allowance to see δευτερονόμιον behind the various instances of δεύτερος in the Fourth Gospel.

We may find a positive allusion to a Greek Deuteronomic neologism in John 19:5, referring to Deuteronomy 1:31. The neologism created by the translator of Deuteronomy is τροφοφορέω, used twice in this verse. Likewise, it is used in 2 Maccabees 7:27. Both books are likely in John’s cognitive environment. Equally, both passages under review contain images likely to have influenced the author of the Fourth Gospel. However, whereas 2 Maccabees relates the natural course of the mother and the child, the passage in Deuteronomy contains the imagery of God who fights for Israel and, more importantly, εἴ τις τροφοφορήσει ἄνθρωπος τὸν υἱὸν. God is bearing Israel as a man bears his son. John uses this hapax legomenon to imagine Jesus φορῶν τὸν ἀκάνθινον στέφανον καὶ τὸ πορφυροῦν ἱμάτιον. Given the similarity in imagery, if only in theology, it is possible John uses for the only time in his Gospel a word to harken back to God bearing Israel as a man bears his son.We must admit, however, beyond the theological allusions, the use of a neologism in Deuteronomy with a similar hapax legomenon in the Fourth Gospel is not in of itself completely convincing. It may be that we are seeing a Deuteronomic theological allusion in use by John because of a hyper-focus by the examiner; to remedy that, I will not insist on these as allusions, if the evidence is this flimsy, but seek to present them as echoes indicating some contextual verbal hints in John’s vocabulary.

Admittedly, this is a rather weak connection and while I will use one or two of these weak analogies to showcase the stronger ones, it is less likely such a exposed allusion will be used to prove any substantial connections between Deuteronomy and John. Of course, I will beg the reader to allow for echoes to abound in John’s vocabulary so that while choice may imply purpose, there are those choices in the author’s mind we cannot so well gauge as to remain confident as to their purpose, as if one purpose is more explicable than one accident.

Hans Hübner, Antje Labahn, and Michael Labahn, Evangelium Secundum Iohannem 2003.

Labahn in Menken and Moyise, 84.

Hübner, Evangelium Secundum Iohannem, 59–60

πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας (John 2:15)

See Michael A. Daise, Feasts in John: Jewish Festivals and the Jesus’ “Hour” in the Fourth Gospel (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007). Daise proposed the use of feasts to denote a narrative aspect of John. If his premise is correct, then we can see more easily an allusion to Deuteronomy 16 (as opposed to Exodus 12 or Psalm 8) due to this particular pass of Deuteronomy focusing on the proper celebration of the feasts.

John William Wevers, Notes on the Greek Text of Deuteronomy (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 1995.)

Cécile Dogniez and Marguerite Harl, La Bible d’Alexandrie LXX, Tome 5: Le Deuteronome (Paris: Le Cerf, 1992).

John 3:4, 4:54, 9:24, 21:16

The ultimate purpose of using this neologism is to first show the work under the soon-to-developed methodology and not argue convincingly for its determined purpose.

There are natural arguments against the allowance of this as a intertextual allusion. The first is the use of the figurative language in the LXX, something John either ignores or misses as the Evangelist strips the word (as with the removal of τροφο) of the language needed to conjure the image of a caring, or nursing, person. Jesus is not the caring individual here, but in need of care. Second, there are the other New Testament usages, such as in Matthew 11:8 and 1 Corinthians 15:49. The answer to a possible weakness in this example is to beg allowance that John may simply use the word to call attention to the larger intertextual framework he may employ here while the answer to the second opposition is to suggest we examine vocabulary in John as Johannine rather than as New Testament.

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Quick Question – Leviticus and Deuteronomy

I was speaking to my rather elderly neighbor yesterday and a topic involving Leviticus and Deuteronomy came up.

This is how I explained the difference:

  • Leviticus presents a ritualistic (priestly/land) holiness
  • Deuteronomy presents a political holiness


New one… per comments

  • Leviticus presents a ritualistic (priestly/land) holiness
  • Deuteronomy presents a political faithfulness.

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Deuteronomy always beats Leviticus, always

Last week, I posted something on Brian Thomas who had used additions to justify the historical reliability of Scripture (because Scripture needs us to justify it. bah!). Today, Craig Adams posted something from Daniel Steele:

QUESTION: Explain Deut. 14:21: “Ye shall not eat of anything that dieth of itself: (thou mayest give it unto the sojourner that is within thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto a foreigner;) for thou art a holy people unto Jehovah.”

ANSWER: There is here evidently an instance of an uninspired interpolation which I have indicated by the marks of a parenthesis. This law is found in Ex. 22:31 and in Lev. 17:15 without the words in the parentheses which are out of harmony with the character of God, as revealed elsewhere in the Bible. In fact, they contradict the law about the sojourner, found in Lev. 17:15, where he is indirectly forbidden to eat carrion.

It is a glaring contradiction in the text, and if you have made such statements that the Scriptures are somehow inerrant then you may want to reconsider that, even in the original sources, as if there is such a thing as a pure original source for much of Scripture. Anyway…

So Steele points this contradiction out and points to what he considers a parenthetical (it’s not in parenthesis, by the way, in other the original text or in most modern translations) addition by a later scribe. So, for those who feel the need to explain this away… how do you? I guess for me, it is more about the political realities of the time in which Deuteronomy was coming about. Near and post-exile when Israel wasn’t so neatly ‘Jewish’ as it ‘once was.’ Maybe it looks at a type of religious pluralism while allowing for ethnocentrism? I note that Deuteronomy is often a less-supernatural book than the rest of the Torah, with more of a humanistic spin to it. I mean, look at the Sabbath and the reason given for that, as compared to Exodus (something Creationists always fail to mention, by the way).

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Sorry but Penal Substitution is not in Galatians 3:13

There are already several arguments that scholars have made against Penal Substitutionary Atonement that I will not delve into here. Why? Because they are appeals to emotion, and they are the same points that opponents use to argue against any view of “blood atonement,” that is a theological interpretation of Jesus’ death on the cross of reconciling humanity with God and with others.

Instead, my rejection of PSA is on exegetical grounds.

See: Christus Victor in Galatians 3: The Messiah Conquers the Curse for the Gentiles

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James is right – Jeremiah was a Deuteronomist

James has a quote and then writes,

Oh, I like that! It sounds like Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Imagine finding it in Deuteronomy!

Idle musings of a bookseller: A new heart in Deuteronomy?.

Agreed. Oh wait, you don’t know what James is really saying?

I’ll help. What he is saying is that:

Jeremiah’s heart and Ezekiel’s heart and the heart in Deuteronomy are all the same. Further, he is alluding to the fact that Jeremiah was the proto-prophet of Deuteronomy 18 and the new covenant of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel is Deuteronomy.

James Spinti, as paraphrased by Joel Watts.

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Review: Paul and the Early Jewish Encounter with Deuteronomy

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In Lincicum’s revised Oxford dissertation, we have what the author calls a ‘study of the study of Deuteronomy (p12) which is meant to place the Apostle Paul well with in interpretative methods commonly employed by various groups of Second Temple Judaism, and even some afterwards. Lincicum introduces his audience to the fact that many commentators throughout the centuries have sought to contextualize Deuteronomy for their own present need, which testifies to the greatness of the document.

The work is divided into two parts, with nine chapters. The first chapter serves as the introduction which is neatly wrapped up, especially with the discussion of icons which present Paul as the anti-Jew, in the concluding chapter of the book. This first chapter sets out the perimeters of study, which ranges from the third century BCE to the third century CE and is replete with many Jewish documents and sources, such as various scrolls from the Dead Sea, Josephus and even Philo. Here, he is concerned with Deuteronomy’s effective history (p10) which he postulates as when completed, will redress various issues with Paul’s use of Deuteronomy. Part of this effective history are the authors, some of them just noted, which Lincicum notes sees themselves as part of Israel (p11), as even the Apostle Paul does. It might have been more stressed by our author this point, especially in the beginning, although throughout the book, this motif of the interpreter(s) of Deuteronomy receiving the text for themselves is easily made. This introduction ends with Lincicum’s reminder that this work will enable us to ‘see Paul as one member in this chain of tradition’ and ‘thus enables us to view Paul as a Jewish reader of Deuteronomy’ which ‘casts light on the Jewish reception of Deuteronomy. (p16). He suggests (in chapter 2) that Paul, with his background and education’ would have patterned his engagement with the Book of Deuteronomy alongside the Jewish liturgical praxis. (p21). As the work moves alone, it is important to remember the deep connection between Paul and the Jewish communities of his day.

Chapter 2 places the audience in the ancient synagogue as Deuteronomy was developed into a liturgical text. This is important to understand as it was from this daily practice which Lincicum suggests Paul gains his interpretative understanding of the book. The author brings out several important, cross-study, facts, namely that Deuteronomy survives almost unchanged in the Septuagint, and that it was received widely in the liturgical formula from which Paul was able to memorize it (p49). This is noteworthy, and easily supported, as early manuscripts include ‘various markers for sense-division.’ (p27). Why is this important? Just as today, with verses and chapters, interpreters sometimes fall into the trap of interpreting only groups of statements assigned a passage status by another, either in printing or in liturgical drama. Further, as Lincicum points out, Deuteronomy was widely distributed in written forms, in various sects, which highlights the importance of the document in Second Temple Judaism. Lincicum notes that Deuteronomy, as opposed to Exodus (regarding the Decalogue), presents a majority of textual evidence for the use of the book, even at Qumran (p46-46). This evidence shows that Deuteronomy was well studied, memorized, and used as a liturgical text during Paul’s day, something he would have been a party too (p51, cf. p57)

Chapters three through five deal with the reception of Deuteronomy at Qumran, in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha, and finally in the words of Philo of Alexandria. This is, with the exclusion of his work on Paul, among the most versatile and interesting. He covers a wide swatch of literary and socio-religious ground with the works he has selected. His strong points here surround his rather weak assessment of Deuteronomy in the Apocrypha. Further, he leaves out the Psalms of Solomon which as a work in close proximity to Paul should have been examined, even above that of Philo.

Lincicum has several positive statements which must be highlighted and remembered, especially as the reader approaches Paul, such as the use of Deuteronomy as a means to or from the Covenant (p68) at Qumran along with the writers of the Temple Scroll which places Deuteronomy into the first person (p70, cf p72-73; on page 74, Lincicum calls this process of the ‘representation of Deuteronomy’ as a ‘presentification of it.’ This allows the interpreter, such as Paul, to actualize the work to the demands of the present day.). As he often does throughout his work, he makes his grounding support well known and shows his familiarity with the source material, often times offering his own interpretations along the way. This portion of the work, sometimes hinted at by Lincicum is of a very real importance, namely that the (then-)current interpreter is allowed to take the Book of Deuteronomy and make the conditions of it present to them, and to respond to their needs, something which many have singled Paul (and other New Testament writers) out for doing, calling it an error; Lincicum shows that Paul was not alone in his interpretative style, and the reverse of the critics’ charges are instead true – that Paul was well within the Jewish tradition when he interpreted Deuteronomy through the lens of Christ. Lincicum points out that for those at Qumran (and Paul), Deuteronomy was able to be contextualized so easily because it was seen functioning as a ‘sort of historiographical eschatology’(p77). Those at Qumran, and Paul, were simply applying Deuteronomy as they saw fit, because that was how it was supposed to be based on the suggestiveness of the text (p83).

As I said earlier, the weakest point of his work is chapter 4, regarding Deuteronomy in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. While there is no doubt an influence of Deuteronomy in some of these works and letters (p86), Lincicum has a rather difficult time pointing them out. Be briefly skims Jubilees, II Maccabees, Pseudo-Philo (who’s inclusion, in my opinion, only serves to show Lincicum’s weakness in assembling texts for this portion of his work), Tobit, Baruch, and the Testament of Moses. Only the last work can the presence of Deuteronomy, unquestionably, be ascertained, but as these works are not truly interpretative, I find it rather difficult to accept some of the statements made in chapter four as pertaining to the whole of the work, especially Paul’s influence. While such works from Paul’s community, such as the Maccabees and the Psalms of Solomon may have yielded further clues and/or evidences to support Lincicum’s thesis, much of these text can simply be left out, of if the author is to inclined, strengthened considerably. I say this based on the fast that those at Qumran, Philo and the author(s) of the Psalms of Solomon were interpreting their present situation through the lens of Deuteronomy or at least offering modern interpretations of Dueteronomy, instead of, as many of these other books, merely offering clue of intertextuality by uninspired authors.

While not as strong as chapter three, chapter five offers a contemporary view (contemporary of Paul) of the way Deuteronomy was interpreted. He begins the chapter by restoring Philo into Israel’s interpretative history and showing that the ancient philosopher cannot so easily be termed ‘disinterested’ (p100). He easily explores Philo’s use of Deuteronomy, but more than that, how he perhaps saw Deuteronomy (p103). This is extremely important as the examination of Paul as a Jewish exegete nears. Lincicum notes that Deuteronomy was sometimes read in a literal sense (uncharacteristic of the philosopher) and was something that Philo admired (p109). In closing this chapter, Lincicum notes that ‘Philo has an overwhelming conviction that the biblical text speaks to his present concerns, and so he performs sometimes elaborate acts of correlation in order to bring that relevance to bear in specific situations’ (p116).

Chapter 6 is the core unit of Lincicum’s work, the one which deals exclusively with Paul’s reception of Deuteronomy. It revolves around three issues with Deuteronomy – Deuteronomy as Ethical Authority (6.3); Deuteronomy as Theological Authority (6.4); and Deuteronomy as the Lens of Israel’s History (6.5). Lincicum writes, “After long years of reciting, praying, memorizing, debating, teaching, and ordering his life in conformity with its precepts, Paul the Pharisee had an unexpected hermeneutical irruption in his understanding of Deuteronomy” (p117). Through these three sections, Lincicum is able to, what we hope, is once and for all secure Paul’s place well within traditional Jewish interpretation. The causes of Paul’s ‘hermeneutical irruption’ is not of scholarly concern at the moment, as Paul’s change in course is beyond the realms of the scientific method; however, Lincicum notes that Paul’s change of course is due to a visionary encounter with the resurrected Jesus, ‘whom he then recognized as Lord and Christ.’ At this moment, Paul’s Judiasm didn’t cease nor his use of all of his litgurical learning, meditations and daily study of the Holy Writings. Paul, instead, was a Jew who read the Book of Deuteronomy like others Jews and became a Jew who, like other Jews, read the Book of Deuteronomy but after this moment would read it through the prism of Christ. This ‘emphatically public book’ (p56) was about to be used to secure a new community which served one master (p117).

Lincicum states that Paul saw Deuteronomy as a ‘written authority with a voice whose relevance to the present situation is granted’ (p118). Very true. Paul was not one to cast Scripture as something long forgotten but used Scripture to show that what was currently happening (albeit usually in Christ) was exactly what Scripture was talking about it. (We note, of course, Matthew’s use of Scripture as well as 1st Peter 1, where both authors noted that while the ancient writers wrote, they wrote, in reality, for the here and now.) In this, as Lincicum notes, Richard Hayes has played a large role in helping to bring to light Paul’s masterful use of Scripture (echo, allusion and quote, of course). It wasn’t just a use of Scripture for Paul, but equally a respect of it. It was this use and respect of Scripture which Paul was able to carry over to his use of Deuteronomy. Throughout this chapter, as one should hope with a (revised) doctoral thesis the preceding explorations of literature are used to show that Paul was not doing anything new with Deuteronomy but was following along with his contemporaries in contextualing the book for the present demands of Paul’s Israel.

In sometimes startling language Lincicum is able to show the proper place of Deuteronomy in Paul’s interpretative life, such as a biblical corrector to Leviticus, “…the fact that Paul twice appears to use Deuteronomy to correct Leviticus in its view of the Law (Gal 3.10; Rom. 10.5-8)” (p126). (cf Lincicum’s statements on the Pauline contrast between Leviticus and Deuteronomy in Romans, p154-155) The reader is forced to examine the differences (which were not fully explored in this work, and indeed, this work is not the place for such examinations) between Deuteronomy and Leviticus or Exodus. It is not merely the codified rise of monotheism (p138-140 for the Pauline response to the Shema) which we receive from Deuteronomy but so too a different genesis of the Decalogue (p127). Of course, where Deuteronomy can be seen to correct Leviticus or Exodus, it may be said that Paul corrects Deuteronomy in usurping its literal context for the new understanding in Christ (cf 129-136 for discussions on execution, vengeance and muzzling the ox. For seeing Christ as the word of Deuteronomy, cf p157)

In dealing with a subject sensitive to theological leanings, Lincicum offers up a short section on Paul’s use of the Law in Deuteronomy 27.26, another moment in which Paul, following along with other Jewish interpreters, offers his own new context. Here, Paul alters the quote to extend the original meaning to the book of the law which allows the curse of the law not to be the Law itself but against those who disobey it (p144). This is seen, according to Lincicum, through the lens of Israel’s history, something he notes Paul would have found lacking. The curse was applied to Israel because the people had forsaken the Law and goes from there to tackle the Judaizers in Galatians, ending with the author’s own axiom that ‘Scripture and gospel are mutually interpretive’ (p145). Further, and in a note, Lincicum calls attention to Paul’s allowance of contradiction in Scripture by quoting Martyn who wrote that for Paul, “The voice of God and the vice of the Law are by no means the same. It was the voice of the Law, not God that pronounced a curse upon the crucified one.” (cf147)

He closes the chapter on Paul with these words, admonishing us to understand that Paul is reading Deuteronomy backwards, through the lens of Christ. “First, and perhaps most clearly, Paul reads Deuteronomy retrospectively from the standpoint of an apostle of Christ to the nations” (p167). He moves on to suggest that the second sense is to read Deuteronomy as the community expressed in the final chapters of Deuteronomy and from there, to engage the ethical requirements of the book (p168). Without understanding these lens, and while we may even get it right that Paul was another Jewish interpreter, we would fail miserably at understanding Paul’s intention of understanding Deuteronomy though the eyes of the Apostle. Paul, as Lincicum reminds us, is set well within the Jewish chain of interpreting Deuteronomy. The author’s work is a powerful reminder of that, and one which should help to end the examination of Paul aside from Second Temple Judaism.

Chapters seven and eight deal with Josephus and later interpretations offered by the Sifre and the Targums and ending with the conclusion. Examining Josephus for a relationship to the New Testament has become a (much needed) stable for New Testament scholarship, critical and lay alike. Lincicum’s brief examination here shows that Josephus treats Deuteronomy to the same propagandist flair as he does with much of history (p176, 178). Equally, it shows that Deuteronomy was of a great value even after the cataclysm of Paul and the beginning of the Christian Church.  Less of a staple is the Sifre and Targums, but Lincicum does the exploration well enough, although after the examination of Paul, much of this chapter seems to be a simple case of needed inclusionary material. What Lincicum does reveal, however, is the Deuteronomy continued to be important and contextualized in Judaism as both religions found their separation from one another to be widening and ever more permanent. In the conclusion, Lincicum draws together his material, calling attention again to just how important Deuteronomy was throughout the interpretative traditions, include Paul. This ‘catholic text’ (p193)  indeed spans time and interpretative space, and allows for itself to be contextualized to fit the demands of the present, perhaps a testimony to the genius of rhetorical skill (Deuteronomy is primarily a spoken word, liturgical text, missing the stories of Exodus and the rest of the Torah) behind the book (cf 197-198 for the message which the book mediates).

This is an exceptional work. It combines the necessity of studying Deuteronomy, Jewish interpretation, and redressing the error of placing Paul outside the mainstream of Second Temple Judaism which has done a great disservice to the Apostle and hurt the relationship between Jews and Christians. Lincicum scholarship will be the starting point for continuous study, as well as it should be, on how Deuteronomy was used by the early Christians, which should draw together a better picture of when and where the ‘Christian Church’ started. What Lincicum does well is to maintain his trajectory, give credible evidence for his thesis, and to write in such a way that is neither boring nor mundane. His weaknesses aren’t exaggerated, but there are a few, such as the previously noted poor showing of examining the Apocrypha, but this is more than made up with his attention to detail and his steady building to the core unit. No one is surprised by Lincicum’s facts or conclusions, but overall, this must be a welcomed inclusion in further studies of Paul and his use of Scripture. While he has his weak points, notably the examination of the Apocrypha/Pseudepigrapha and the inclusion of the Sifre and the Targums, overall, the work is a solid piece of scholarly examination without biasness into the theological mind of Paul who was himself a Jew, who sought to interpret Deuteronomy and the eschatological hope which it gifted him, through the lens of Christ.

You can find Jim’s more noble, and better, review here.

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Deuteronomy – Israel as a Vassal State to YHWH

Moses Sees the Promised Land from Afar, as in ...
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Try to remember that this is only based on Weinfeld’s study and is for my class on Deuteronomy.

Weinfeld’s study on the formulation of Deuteronomy 28 surmises that it is derived from a variety of Ancient Near Eastern treaties, such as the Hittites, Mesopotamians, and the Assyrians. For this brief response, I will state the data as presented by Weinfeld and then follow-up with a brief conclusion in answering Weinfeld’s passive question raised on page 148, in which he writes, “The analysis of this relationship (treaty and law-code) may also serve as a point of departure for understanding the crystallization of the covenant form in the theology of ancient Israel.” The importance of Deuteronomy, not just to various historical groups, has been understated and often passed over for the more exciting and meaningful (to Christians) prophets. If Weinfeld and others are correct, then Deuteronomy stands as a very important piece in understanding the uniqueness of the relationship between YHWH and Israel, and indeed, just what is actually a biblical covenant.

Weinfeld notes that Deuteronomy mimics Hittite treaties (p60) which were not unique amongst the Near Eastern treaties of the time (Weinfeld goes further to note that Deuteronomy has resemblances to treaties formulated thousands of years before it came to be). He writes that the ‘elaborate and detailed formulation of curses and blessing correspond both in structure and content’ (p62) with Mesopotamian texts and draws our attention to the fact that in Exodus and Joshua 24, these features are missing from the covenants formed there. By comparing the structure of Deuteronomy with Exodus 19-24 and Joshua 24, it is found that the last book of the Torah contains the structure of the political treaties of the Hittites and Assyrians while the other two covenant making passages do not (p66); however, the connections to the Hittites and Assyrians aren’t in total. Weinfeld notes that unlike the Assyrian vassalage treaties which only requires loyalty from the vassal, both the Hittite treaties and the Deuteronomic text includes the exchange of love/loyalty between the holder of the treaty (or grantor) and the vassal (p69), although loyalty was conditional, based on the fulfillment of the law (p81). Beyond that, however, lays the fact that ‘The religion of Israel was the only religion to demanded exclusive loyalty (p81).’

The author goes on to note that what the relationship between a king and his subjects was patterned in Deuteronomy to be reflected between YHWH and Israel. This pattern was a political treaty which was prevalent in the Ancient Near East (p83). It is in this light, then, that Deuteronomy 13 and the proscriptions which we usually, and flatly, read against false prophets should be taken. If, as Weinfeld postulates, religious treason was treated the same as political treason, then this sets the prophet in the light of a treasonous instigator  (p92), and further unites the fact that Deuteronomy is a political treaty between YHWH and Israel but cannot be made distinct from the religious covenant between the two. This leads Weinfeld to accept Frankena’s suggestion that Josiah, in ‘finding’ the book of Deuteronomy, removed Israel from vassalage to the King of Assyrian and placed it firmly under the political vassalage of YHWH (p100). This sets up the need, then, for curses and blessings, which we do not find in Exodus or Joshua 24, but is found throughout other Near Eastern treaties of the time.

Weinfeld notes that Deuteronomy, while mirroring the standard treaties of the time, including the issue of leprosy and judicial blindness which was borrowed from the Mesopotamian treaty (p146-147)  and the current materializing of the ‘prophetic word’ which was akin to the Assyrian treaty (p121; 130), underwent several cycles of covenantal structuring. Of these structures which are found within the overall treaty form of Deuteronomy is the introduction of the law-code.  This is, as the author notes, an abnormal difference as treaties were concerned only about loyalty (external) while law-codes generally dealt with the way citizens act (internal) (p48). Further, law-codes were seen as a sign of reform, which is not unusual during this time. It generally included the liberation of a people, generally slaves, and required the proclaiming of the law (p149). Already, our internal mnemonic devices are triggering the different times throughout Deuteronomy wherein we find that the law proclaimed as a symbol of reformation. Further, in Deuteronomy, Weinfeld finds traces of a polemic against the Hammurabi code. It wasn’t enough that a law existed, but it to bring about righteousness and good works (p150-151), which is what the Deuteronomic code does. Weinfeld has made his case that the whole of Deuteronomy is a treaty, with various intrastructering to reflect other forms of written restrictions and that chapter 28, as the zenith of the political structure, which contains the curses and blessings for keeping the treaty with YHWH.

I now return to the suggestion of Weinfeld on 148. I have briefly analyzed the treaty structure of Deuteronomy and mentioned that it contains as well a law-code which is abnormal to treaties of the time, and not found in Joshua 24. A law-code was meant to be internal while the treaty of vassalage was meant to be external (p156). As Weinfeld notes, Moses is seen as bringing about the legal reform needed to bring Israel through the transition (p152) which the Exodus (exile) would have caused. What brought them through the transition was in fact the reform brought by the Torah. In the Exile, what held the Israelites together was very much the tradition as expressed in Deuteronomy and allowed them to establish the community upon return which Moses had told them should be established. Further, it kept in their minds their own history of being slaves (Deut 5.12-15) and the liberation brought by the perfect Lawgiver, Moses.

What may be lacking is why the two are incorporated together, especially when we see that it wasn’t historically done so in other Ancient Near Eastern treaties and law-codes nor in biblical history (Exodus 19-24 and Joshua 24). In Deuteronomy 4.8 we see that no other nation had the Law which was being delivered to Israel. In Amos 9.7, God equalizes Israel with its neighbors and notes that the exodus from Egypt was nothing spectacular or unique to the Hebrews. Throughout Amos, what makes Israel special is their system of Justice, the same system which Deuteronomy now proposes to call attention to, as to what makes Israel special enough to be given in vassalage to the Most High God, YHWH. Thus, the Law Code prepares for the vassalage, which as Weinfeld notes, is different in that it is not a treaty between Israel and Assyria any longer, but between Israel and YHWH. It is, for the first time, a divine betrothal which unites the political vassalage with the law-code of holiness, allowing not a foreign king to visit the land, but a Divine King to intermingle with Israel.  Although, I admit that this is based in part on my biases in seeing Deuteronomy as a covenant from the ground up, offered from Israel to God, as I have continuously expressed.

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