Posted by: chuckbumgardner | June 7, 2012

Reading Report, May 2012

5/31/12  Raymond E. Brown, “Episkope and Episkopos: The New Testament Evidence,” Theological Studies 41 (1980): 322-38.

5/30/12  Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd edition (University of Chicago, 1972). An important and very thought-provoking book.  As an historian of science, Kuhn’s purpose is to demonstrate his understanding of the way in which scientific progress is made: usually by “normal science” which explores the minutiae of the prevailing paradigm in a particular field of research.  Then (among other possible reasons) when the prevailing paradigm fails to explain certain data and adjustments to the prevailing paradigm fail, younger scientists (or those new to the field) may develop/discover a new paradigm which may better account for the data.  When the new paradigm commends itself to enough people in the area of science which it affects, a “paradigm shift” (the notion that the book popularized) occurs within that field — hence the title The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  The paradigm shift is fundamental enough that it brings new ways of seeing certain things within the field of study even though the data under scrutiny may be unchanged (think “interpretation”, although I don’t know that Kuhn would see it as mere interpretation).  The Copernican Revolution is a prime example, but Kuhn gives numerous examples from the sciences to make his points.

5/27/12  A. E. Harvey, “Eunuchs for the Sake of the Kingdom,” Heythrop Journal XLVIII (2007): 1-17.  I was looking for an article-length treatment of Matthew 19:12, hoping to find something that gave a detailed case for justification of reading “eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs” as figurative (e.g., “voluntarily remained single”), since that is the prevailing interpretation of the passage, but doesn’t seem to fit the context.  Harvey actually sees the “self-eunuching” as a literal reference to the self-castrated priests of the widespread cult of Cybele known throughout the Greco-Roman world, arguing that Jesus is using an extreme example (“shock[ing] and paradox[ical]”) as an “open metaphor for any form of radical renunciation”.  I’m not convinced.  All the same, I was apprised of something helpful in the midst of the article, when Harvey noted that the Ethiopian eunuch reading through Isaiah would have eventually encountered (and his familiarity with it could even have led to him obtaining the scroll) the prophecy of 56:3-5 about the status God would confer upon eunuchs.

Five Views on Law and Gospel5/26/12  Wayne G. Strickland, ed., Five Views on Law and Gospel (Zondervan, 1996).  As I wade into studying the relationship between the Christian and the Law of Moses, I find this book to be a generally helpful orientation.  Contributors are Willem VanGemeren (Reformed), Greg Bahnsen (theonomist), Walter Kaiser (“The Law as God’s Gracious Guidance for the Promotion of Holiness”), Wayne Strickland (dispensational), and Doug Moo (“a modified Lutheran view”).  The former three emphasize varying levels of continuity while the latter two emphasize discontinuity.

A Weed in the Church5/24/12  Scott T. Brown, A Weed in the Church: How a culture of age segregation is destroying the younger generation, fragmenting the family, and dividing the church (Wake Forest: The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, 2011).  I have not read many defenses of the age-integrated approach to ministry, but I doubt any could top this one for clarity and thoroughness.

5/21/12  William Einwechter, “A Review of and Response to Andreas Kostenberger’s Critique of the Family-Integrated Approach to Church Ministry,” online.

5/19/12  All fifteen book reviews in Southeastern Theological Review 2/2 (2011): 181-208.

5/18/12  Robert Cole, “Isaiah 6 in Its Context,” Southeastern Theological Review 2/2 (2011): 161-80.  See “The Vision of Isaiah in Light of the Sin of Uzziah.”  In addition, instead of being surprised that John finds Jesus in the vision of Isa 6 (John 12:41), interpreters should not be surprised at all, because “the sixth chapter of Isaiah, when read in its context, portrays in its opening verses the glorious eschatological exaltation of Adonay as a visible and anthropomorphic priest/king from the line of Jesse.” (180)

5/17/12  Richard S. Briggs, “How to Do Things with Meaning in Biblical Interpretation,” Southeastern Theological Review 2/2 (2011): 143-60.  Briggs is a lucid and entertaining writer, and here seeks to set forth one major thesis: that the present-day obsession with questions of meaning is by and large unnecessary.  The point of the matter, he would aver, is not so much to develop theories of meaning, abstractly speaking, but to address concrete questions of the meaning of particular texts.  In his own words, “Despite the huge gravitational pull of theory, and hermeneutical theory in particular, I submit that generalizing such ad hoc questions into concerns about ‘what do texts mean?’ (or comparable matters such as ‘do texts mean what authors intend?’ and so forth) does not shed much light on the manifold tasks of reading scripture well.” (159)

5/16/12  Jason B. Hood, “Theology in Action: Paul, the Poor, and Christian Mission,” Southeastern Theological Review 2/2 (2011): 127-42.  Hood argues that the significance of Paul’s collection is not to be limited to its desired contribution to unity in the early church, but that it also reflects Paul’s interest in helping the poor, and as such is instructive for Christian mission.  The poor in view with the collection are clearly those in the church, but Hood argues that “Paul’s emphasis on care-within-the-church is not a rejection of beneficence outside the ecclesial sphere.  The limits on Christian social concern taught in Paul’s letters should not be pressed into service against Christian social obligation in the wider world.” (138)

5/15/12  “A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story: STR Interviews Dr. Michael Goheen,” Southeastern Theological Review 2/2 (2011): 109-16.

5/15/12  Bruce Riley Ashford, “A Review Essay of Michael Goheen, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story,” Southeastern Theological Review 2/2 (2011): 117-26.

Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Studies in Theological Interpretation)

5/12/12  Markus Bockmuehl, Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study, Studies in Theological Interpretation (Baker, 2006).  Bemoaning the fragmented state of NT scholarship (“a discipline that is now widely felt to lack agreed criteria, not just for appropriate methods and results, but in many cases even about the subject to be studied” [22]), Bockmuehl makes a couple of programmatic suggestions as to a way forward: “to investigate the implied readership and the implied readings that arise from its [i.e., the implied readership’s] engagement with the text” and “to harness the New Testament’s plural and diverse effects as a resource for renewed reflection on its interpretation” (230, italics added).  As to implied readers, the NT “favors a certain kind of exegetical posture that fosters attentive textual observation leading to a close cohesion of exegesis and theology in a personally and corporately engaged interpretation.”  More specifically, the NT text calls for a reader who (1) “has a personal stake in the truthful reference of what it asserts”, (2) “has undergone a religious, moral, and intellectual conversion to the gospel of which the documents speak”, (3) “already takes a view of the New Testament texts as authoritative”, (4) “are ecclesially situated”, “assumed to be relegated to the (or a) body of Christian believers, either as full members or at least as sympathizers and hangers-on,” and (5) “is evidently assumed to be ‘inspired,’ in the sense of Spirit filled,” that is, he or she “will in the act of reading be empowered to receive the saving divine reality of which the text speaks” — with the implication that “access to the text’s concerns is a function less of the detached acuity of criticism than of engaged self-involvement” — “the New Testament frequently claims that the realities of which it speaks are properly accessible only to believers like the implied reader” (69-73).  See “Interpreting the NT with Final-Form Literary Approaches”, and these Google Plus posts.

5/3/12  Hans-Josef Klauck, “Introduction” in The Religious Context of Early Christianity: A Guide to Graeco-Roman Religions (Fortress, 2003).  (see “Greco-Roman Religious Practices in Acts“)  Read the introduction on Amazon.  He quotes Wettstein approvingly thus: “Another rule [for NT interpretation] is much more useful and more easily comprehended: If you wish to get a thorough and complete understanding of the books of the New Testament, put yourself in the place of those to whom they were first delivered by the apostles as a legacy.  Transfer yourself in thought to that time and that area where they first were read.  Endeavour, so far as possible, to acquaint yourself with the customs, practices, habits, opinions, accepted ways of thought, proverbs, symbolic language, and everyday expressions of these men, and with the ways and means by which they attempt to persuade others or to furnish a foundation for faith.  Above all, keep in mind, when you turn to a passage, that you can make no progress by means of any modern system, whether of theology or of logic, or by means of opinions current today.”  There’s a lot of truth in that, I think.
Klauck goes on in the introduction to note two ends of the spectrum when considering possible influences on Christianity: the history of religions school has averred that Christianity was derived in large part from the religions of the surrounding milieu; reactions to this position have denied any dependence on non-Christian religions (except Judaism) whatsoever.  Klauck attempts to steer a middle course: “Ultimately, we are not helped here by antitheses such as Judaism or Hellenism, autonomy or independence.”  He notes that Judaism was strong in the Hellenistic diaspora, and Hellenism had made considerable inroads into Judaism, even that in Palestine.

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