Warren Carter leads the beginning student in an inductive exploration of the New Testament Gospels, asking about their genre, the view that they were written by eyewitnesses, the early church traditions about them, and how they employ Hellenistic biography. He examines the distinctive voice of each Gospel, describing the “tale about Jesus” each writer tells, then presenting likely views regarding the circumstances in which they were written, giving particular attention to often overlooked aspects of the Roman imperial setting. A sociohistorical approach suggests that Mark addressed difficult circumstances in imperial Rome; redaction criticism shows that Matthew edited traditions to help define identity in competition with synagogue communities in response to a fresh assertion of Roman power; a literary – thematic approach shows that Luke offers assurance in a context of uncertainty; an intertextual approach shows how John used Wisdom traditions to present Jesus as the definitive revealLer of God’s presence to answer an ancient quest for divine knowledge. A concluding chapter addresses how the Gospels inform and shape our understanding of Jesus of Nazareth.
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.
Romans is one of the most difficult New Testament books. It has started Reformations and continues to plague us as the artificer of poor readings today. I am always interested in seeing how Romans is presented… and as my readers know, I believe Romans is a rhetorical set piece designed to represent a dialogue between Paul and his imaginary interlocutor, whereby Paul is able to give his message as an explanation rather than a set of points.
First, the introduction includes a reference to Stanley Stowers and his “Rereading Romans.” Yet, nothing is mentioned about the scholarship on rhetorical practices involved in the letter. The author, Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, does mention rhetoric, not as a form of discourse so much as a figure of speech. Douglas Campbell is nowhere mentioned, yet his proposals (and mine, although mine is only blogged) are central to the author’s presentation of Romans 1.18-3.31. Kittredge correctly notes that the “clobber passage” at the end of chapter 1 is Jewish agitprop against Gentiles and that Paul’s “you” in 2.1 is directed against them for this. In speaking about homosexuality, she doesn’t shy from the surface level statements but does offer a way around it by tackling “natural theology.”
If I read the passage the same as Kittredge (admittedly, I am close), I still would not buy her argument about Natural Theology; however, I believe she approaches this with unbiasedness and an admission that she understands why. It is, frankly, a pleasant read.
I have found a solid “New Perspective” throughout the chapter on Romans, much to my likely. Also included are connections (because they are there) between Paul’s Romans and the Empire.
Over all, I am impressed with what Kittredge gets right and could quibble over the rest — especially in reading Romans through a particular viewpoint. If anything, the sections may be too large I would like to have seen 1.18-3.31 divided up, as well as Romans 13-14.
Known until the 18th century only from fragmentary quotations and references in patristic literature, more recent discoveries of Greek, Coptic, and Syriac manuscripts have drawn fresh interest and attention to the Odes of Solomon, a collection of Christian poetry from the second century rich in imagery and exhibiting an exotic spirituality. Internationally renowned expert on the Odes, Michael Lattke, provides a meticulous translation and discussion of the textual transmission of the “Odes,” along with judicious commentary on the place of the “Odes” in the development of Gnosticism, Logos theory, and early Christian worship. Historians and students of early Christianity will find this commentary a valuable resource for years to come.
Have you read the Gospel of John? Have you sang hymns? So did the author(s) of the Odes of Solomon. But, the Odes are much more important than that. To the researcher in early Christianity, they provide a window into an early community still struggling to piece together something new from something old. Not only does the Hermeneia series offer one of the few commentaries available for the Odes, but it does so as the entire series does with other books of canon and non-canon — critically, with attention to the details of the past. These details include a focus not only on the manuscript evidence but the context of the Odes as well; the connection between these hymns and the canon, but so too to the various translation issues arising from the fact that the Greek manuscript is more likely a translation from a previous language.
Meticulously researched and assembled by renowned German scholar Michael Lattke, this volume allows the researcher to dig deep into the pre-history and transmission history of Odes. Lattke begins with a discussion of the early reception of the Odes, from its canonical as well as gnostic use. He discusses authorship alongside other pseudonymous Solomons and after much debate, assigns the the first quarter of the second century CE as the probable date. Lattke then proceeds to give some meaning to the Odes throughout pre-modern history (yes, the gnostics are included as well) and in early 20th century reception. We meet not only the Odes, but the scholars we do their best to present the Odes to us. Following this, Lattke gives us the commentary.
If you have never seen the Hermeneia commentary, then it may seem a bit daunting at first. However, once you master it, the layout becomes a tool to aid your reading. At the beginning of each ode (think chapter or psalm), Lattke gives his translation which is divided into the commentary sections. For example, Ode 20 has ten verses, but Lattke adds the ‘a’ and ‘b’ (ex. 1a and 1b, or 9a, 9b, and 9c) to the lines as he will examine then. There is an introduction, and overarching view,to the ode given first. Likewise, there is an interpretation which is the meat of the commentary section. The footnotes are there as a separate, added, tool to the commentary, providing further reading and succinct explanations. Using Ode 20 as an example, I can point out the charts Lattke has included to help illustrate his points. Table 4 and 5 show the intertextuality between Ode 20 and the canonical books of Exodus and Isaiah. Following this is an excursus whereby the author presents something unique to the book, but drawn from the ode. Again, I use Ode 20. Here, the excursus examines “soul” throughout the book.
This volume is essential to the study of the Odes, if not understanding early Christianity and reception of wisdom traditions.