Arhive lunare: decembrie 2009

A New Thematic Approach on the Old Testament Theology

Routledge, Robin, Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), pp. 384. $32.00. ISBN 13: 978-0-8382-896-8.

In his ten chapters long book, Routledge tackles the OT from the perspective of its most significant theological theme, namely God, and gives full attention to God’s dealings with other gods, his creation, his people, future, and the nations. As expected in a thematic approach there is little OT material to be left unclassified.

Although Routledge refrains himself from giving credit to a single theme to circumvolve all OT themes, one theme stands out as in the case of Theodore C. Vriezen’s Outline of Old Testament Theology: God’s communion with his people. As a matter of fact, one third of the book (pp. 159-260) deals with this topic by approaching traditional theological topics such as covenant, worship, instruction, kingship, and ethics.

In the first chapter, Routledge surveys a plethora of methodologies starting from John Cassian in Antiquity to Brueggeman and Goldingay in postmodernity, and defines his method following Grant Osborne’s four stages interpretative process counting exegesis, biblical theology, dogmatics, and homiletics. He argues in favour of a balance between the historical critical method and the canonical method.

Discussing the core of OT theology, the doctrine about God, Routledge precedes his talk on God’a nature and being with a material on divine names and monotheism, taking the time to interact with theories on the raise of monotheism. The nature of God is noticed t be personal and spiritual, whereas holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, and wrath are said to describe God’s very being. A section on the Spirit of God and angels concludes this chapter.

In chapter three on God and creation, the story of creation is told in comparison with ANE variants. It is a theological interpretation of reality and bespeaks of God’s transcendence, immanence, authority, and redemption. The creation of humankind in the image of God implies that human beings share spiritual characteristics with God, with whom they enjoy a relationship and from whom they receive authority over the world. The Fall means the disobedience of the first couple generalised. Human personality, described by four Hebrew terms – nephesh, ruah, leb, and bashar – is seen as a whole: not as a bipartite or even less as a tripartite entity.

The relationship between God and His people is determined in terms of election and covenant (chapter 4). Undisturbed attention is given to the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenant. The covenant with Noah is mentioned in passing and the covenant with David is treated latter in chapter 7. Although election is based entirely on grace, the beneficiaries of the covenants are expected to respond in obedience: build an Ark, get circumcised, fulfil de requirement of the Law, respectively.

Worship and sacrifice (chapter 5) implies discussions on the place of worship, clergy, religious festivals, sacrifices, prayer, music, and singing. Pleased to see a balanced, though brief, view on prayer in relation to God’s sovereignity. Receiving instruction (chapter 6) is meant to cover the prophetic and wisdom literature, but it is not clear how does prophetic ministry fit with wisdom, since the former has a revelatory character and the latter is rather a human construct on the divine presence in the world.

Chapter seven deals with Kingship in Israel. The ruler is meant to represent God in Israel, in administering justice, but also leads the people in worshiping the Lord. As well as the Israelite king is the best representation of a ruler king David epitomizes the kingship in Israel. The last chapter on the section on God and His people (chapter 8) treats the issue of ethics. Routledge adopts Wright’s theory of ethics as a reflection of the triangular relationship of God with community and land. Ethics are viciated by some misunderstandings due to anthropomorphisms, delay of God’s judgment, God’s hiddeness and inscrutability.

The longest chapter is the ninth on God and the future. Hope is that which shapes the future. An unrepentant Israel is not to stand on the mere unconditional promise given to David, but it will be rebuilt on the basis of a renewed covenant, wherein access to God is not mediated any longer but direct. The future is envisaged by means of three key concepts: Lord’s Day, God’s battle with the chaos, and Zion. Other discussions on the Messiah, Sheol, death, and ressurection are also included here.

The last chapter concluded the book by recalling an early theme, that of God’s dealings with the Gentiles, and the subjacent one, that of the OT relevance for Christianity. Since the Gentiles were part of God’s dealings with Israel right from the outset of history it is natural that the OT is rightly considered the heritage of Christianity as well.

Revelation is not a forgotten topic but it is rather spread thin alongside various theological themes. It would have deserved a better place, at least in an evangelical theological frame, where it has the place of honour.

Judging from its structure and content, this book seems to have been written having William Dyrness’ Themes in Old Testament Theology as a springboard, reacting to John Goldingay’s two volumes Old Testament Theology, and paying a great deal of homage to Walther Eichrodt (whose name is Americanized into Walter). Unexpectedly for an evangelical work as this, the theme of revelation is not given a place of honour, but is mentioned only in passing.

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New commentary on Judges

Martin, Lee Roy, The Unheard Voice of God: A Pentecostal Hearing of the Book of Judges (Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplement Series, 32; Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing, 2008), pp. xiv + 287. ISBN 13: 978-1-90567-907-2.

After introducing the reader to the issue of Pentecostal reading (‘hearing’) of the book of Judges and the critical studies on Judges, starting with chapter five Martin deals with the core of his thesis: the three speeches of God (2:1-5; 6:7-10; 10:11-16). Various appendices, indeces and bibliograpy are added at the very end.

The Pentecostal hearing is based on a God-centered worldview that influences the reading of the book with a focus on God. The hermeneutics preferred is not a rationalistic pursuit of truth, but a charismatic encounter with God in the middle of a covenant community that offers „balance, accountability, and uncontrolled subjectivism” (p. 72). The reason for such a preference owes much to orality, considered the common element between the OT society and the Pentecostal church in a postmodern society.

Surprinsingly, Martin does not mention the Holy Spirit as a theme in Judges (cf. p. 91-95), although it would fit the second mecanism specified for identifying themes: „the repetition of words, phrases, and topics” (p. 95). The term appears over 370 times in the OT. With its ten times in the book, and about 3% presence in the OT, the term appears once each almost 60 verses, an average comparable to that in Psalms.

The message of the first divine speech (2:1-5) is that God remains loyal to his covenant toward Israel even though there are plenty of reasons to dispose of it. Iterated at the outset of the book, the first speech anounces the progress of the plot during the forthcoming period of time, by allowing Canaanites to interfere with Israelites business in Canaan. Disciplining is thus part of the covenant God ped down with Israel.

The second divine speech (6:7-10) is mediated through a very intrusive prophet. By it God is rebuking Israel for turning to other gods. Exclusive reverence to God would have been the proper response Israel was expected in return for God’s salvation and care. This speech intensifies the plot in Judges, as a whole.

The third and final speech (10:11-16) is said to betray a conflict within God’s inner being, that is between his righteousness and his compassion. It consists of God’s refusal to help Israel any longer. This is an unmediated dialogue with Israel, the longest among the three, provoking apparently the most commendable reaction of Israel to the critique.

It is noticed that all three speeches build on the Exodus tradition. They have the role of signaling to the reader the development of the plot, the last of which being a genuine turning point. From Martin’s perspective the final two stories of wow (ch. 17-21) stand as the book’s epilogue. The intricacies of telling the stories of the judges show a constant depletion from the primary model with a God who is increasingly more reluctant to intervene on behalf of Israel, only to disappear entirely during the epilogue.

Martin’s study, literary in nature, advances suggestions on the meaning of divine speech in the plot, but promotes it only at the theological level. A linguistic thorough frame, such as the one offered by discourse analysis would have grounded more firmly the discourse, though. Even so, Martin managed to offer the public the first Pentecostal critical commentary on Judges.

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Studiu nou despre profeţii Israelului antic

Cu această recenzie încep publicarea unei serii de recenzii pe lucrări de specialitate în VT apărute în cursul acestui an în spaţiul anglo-saxon. Recenziile sunt pregătite pentru a fi tipărite în jurnalul de publicaţii al SOTS, al cărei membru sunt. Aici vă ofer o versiune mai lungă, pentru că versiunea finală a recenziilor nu va putea să depăşească 250 de cuvinte. Nădăjduiesc ca recenziile acestea să se dovedească folositoare într-o măsură oricât de mică.

Meier, Samuel A., Themes and Transformations in Old Testament Prophecy (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2009), pp. 240, $23.00, ISBN: 978-0-8308-1768-9.

In this book Meier launches himself in a „quest for the continuity of prominent prophetic themes” (p. 13). He prefers to use the term literary prophets when referring to Latter prophets including Daniel. Such an option is rather awkward from a writer with a high estimation of the Hebrew Bible such as Meier. The main thesis of this work is that preexilic prophets differ from their postexilic counterparts in many ways. In this last category the books of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Daniel are included, whereas the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel are at the transition point.

Meier identifies fifteen characteristics of Hebrew prophecy, investigation of which detail the distinction between preexilic and postexilic prophecy. The first five of them relate to the means revelation is mediated to the prophet. Before the exile the prophets appear (1) to have had the right to participate in the council of God and gain first hand insight in the dealings of God with humanity. (2) Therein lays the perception that early prophets were not sure how the future unfolds.  From this reality derives (3) the visual nature of their experiences of God, (4) the reciprocal nature of their communication (5) without the mediation of the angels.

Other three characteristics refer to the literary product itself. Preexilic prophecy displays a lack of interest in (6) using markers for divine speech, (7) mentioning the proceedings of preserving the writing, (8) reference to chronology. The last three items capture the prophetic social involvement. Before the exile (9) writing prophets are not pictured either in miraculous events, (10) or in annointing kings, (11) or even less so in supporting the militaristic endeavours of the Hebrew kings.

Nonetheless, Meier is fair in noticing that authentic prophets in the Hebrew kingdoms shared four characteristics: (1) since prophets held a vocational office, they were cared for through public donations, (2) if not requested by the public, prophets tended to bring bad news, only to expose themselves to (3) public discontent and official dismay, (4) but their oracles came to fulfilment.

Overall, I found Meier’s argument convincing. Something indeed happened during the Babilonian-Persian exile, more precise during the sixth century B.C., to fuel a change into the Jewish prophecy. Unfortunately, the changed triggered by the exilic experience aliented later Hebrew prophecy from its main stream only to reach a final halt after the ministries of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Nevertheless, this reality begs the important question that is not here answered: what happened during the exile to alter so much the manifestation of Jewish prophecy?

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