Archive for the ‘Study of the Old Testament’ Category

AHAB AGONISTES: The Rise and Fall of the Omri Dynasty

February 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Samaritans and Early Judaism: A Literary Analysis

August 12, 2011 Leave a comment

  • Author:   Ingrid Hjelm
  • Series:  Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. Supplement Series, 303
  • ISBN 10: 1841270725 
  • Publisher: Sheffield Academic Press
  • Published: 2000
  • Pages: 319
  • Language: English
  • Format:  PDF


All tradition is, of course, story. As such, it involves the coherent retelling of beginnings, other past events, and even future ones, interpreted from the center of a people’s experience in the world at a particular time and place. Then again, the story may be told from an outsider’s point of view. Hjelm’s excellent monograph on the historically elusive Samaritans provides yet another lesson that the prevailing tradition offers merely a collective perspective (albeit an ultimately meaningful one for those who celebrate it) on “what actually happened,” and that sometimes other meaningful perspectives are required for bringing a clearer view of historical reality into focus.

Hjelm asserts that the origin and history of the Samaritans cannot be drawn at face value from the accounts of Josephus, literature of the prevailing Pharasaic-rabbinic Jewish tradition, the New Testament, or even the Samaritan sources themselves. Rather, a critical evaluation of authorial intent must be made on the basis of all available sources in order to determine where and to what extent authors and editors have accommodated historical realities for ideological purposes. Carefully applied, this methodology results in a historian’s perspective of the traditions in question, relatively free of the biases produced by meaningful stories competing for preeminence or, as our author puts it, “the problematic presence of past traditions over against present innovations, and two groups who claim authority for each of their own” (p. 266).

Hjelm’s thesis in nuce is that the prevailing view of Samaritan origins and history, often described in terms of questionable heritage, expulsion, and dissidence must be abandoned. Underlying this view is the ideologically revisionist standpoint of a relatively late, Jerusalem-centered Judaism. Indeed, the historical hot spot for any real Jewish-Samaritan conflict is to be found in the second and first century B.C.E., with the emergence and maintenance of an independent Judaean temple state campaigning for political consolidation in the region. On the other side of the polemic, the Samaritan historiography, Hjelm rightly notes, “is as little reliable at face value as the similar Jewish historiography. We cannot simply read such ‘historiographies’ independently of each other’” (p. 272). The methodology is theoretically sound, but it still leaves much to the reader for testing the weight of Hjelm’s assertions.

The chapters of the book follow in logical order. Chapter 1 provides the necessarily selective overview of a century of scholarship on the Samaritan question, beginning with variations of the paradigm that viewed Samaritan origins on the basis of the Assyrian resettlements (2 Kgs 17); one or another later accounts (a priestly expulsion in Neh 13 or the accounts of Josephus or the books of Maccabees concerning the hellenistic period); and, finally, the irreconcilable break resulting from John Hyrcanus’s second-century B.C.E. destruction of the Samaritan temple. Chapter 2 provides the current state of Samaritan studies, focusing especially on alternative theories that, on the one hand, posit a relatively later date for the origin of a distinctive Samaritan tradition or, on the other hand, view the Samaritans as original Israelites. The most notable champion of the latter view is É. Nodet of the École Biblique, whose influence on Hjelm’s own work is apparent. The next three chapters offer a broad but cursory overview of relevant Samaritan and non-Samaritan primary texts. Chapter 3 covers the Samaritan literature from the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) through the Samaritan Chronicles of the nineteenth century.

Of particular interest is Hjelm’s comparison of SP to readings to non-MT biblical manuscripts, including those recovered from the caves at Qumran. The chapter ends abruptly; it would have benefited from the inclusion of a chapter summary. Chapter 4 examines references to the Samaritans in early Jewish and Christian literature, focusing especially on the former’s anti-Samaritan response due to their rejection of rabbinic authority and practice. Here the investigation leads the reader through a labyrinth of ambiguous textual references in an attempt to identify historical persons and exact chronologies, including an examination of early Jewish treatment of Shechem traditions and matters of priestly legitimacy. This is an important point for Hjelm in light of traditional Samaritan criticism of Pharisaic-rabbinic innovation, a telling issue which, she argues, later rabbinic literature attempts to avoid. In Chapter 5, Hjelm takes on Josephus.

Here our author succeeds in sorting out the historian’s obscure and ambiguous references to the Samaritans in the Jewish War and the Antiquities as well as the motives behind them, arriving at the unsurprising conclusion that the historian has agendas in mind other than an interest in providing a historically accurate picture of the Samaritans. Josephus, especially in the Antiquities, borrows from and contributes to the prevailing tradition that disparages the Samaritans on the basis of questionable background. Although somewhat an argument from silence, Hjelm asserts that the polemic of competing ideologies may be seen between the lines of Josephus’s biased rhetoric.

Chapter 6 returns to the subject of Samaritan literature, focusing specifically on the historiographies, most notably Sepher ha Yamin (also known as the Samaritan Chronicles II) and the fourteenth-century Kitab al-Tarikh. Reliance of these on SP contrasts sharply with the Masoretic tradition especially over the significance of Shechem and matters of priestly legitimacy. The differences call into question earlier assumptions about SP’s dependency on MT and assert the legitimacy of Samaritan claims alongside Jewish claims for who represents “true Israel.” The historical reality that gave rise to these competing traditions is interwoven between them and must be carefully extracted. The final chapter discusses the methodology of moving “from literary to historical reality,” and is so titled. The distillation of Hjelm’s analysis of relevant sources leads her to conclude that “Samaritans and Jews never did form a single state, and that the only historical effort to establish such a state destroyed its basis” (p. 284).

The reviewed monograph is based on the author’s gold medal-winning essay in Old Testament exegesis at the University of Copenhagen. The work maintains a consistently high level of scholarship throughout, yet its content would not be inaccessible to younger scholars. On a negative note, I detected far too many typographical errors than one would reasonably expect from a work of this sort, including inconsistencies resulting from the use of non-Anglicized spellings (e.g., Aj, Hilkija), left over I suppose from the foundational essay’s original Danish. Finally, traditionalist scholars will likely not appreciate the book’s underlying assumptions challenging the historicity of the Biblical text but will benefit from reading this engaging volume nonetheless.

Citation: Nicolae Roddy, review of Ingrid Hjelm, The Samaritans and Early Judaism: A Literary Analysis, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2000).

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Mixing Metaphors: God As Mother And Father In Deutero-Isaiah Publisher

August 12, 2011 2 comments

  • Author:  Sarah J. Dille
  • Series: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament. 
  • ISBN 10:  0826471560
  • ISBN 13:  
  • Publisher:  Continuum
  • Published:  2004
  • Pages:  215
  • Language: English
  • Format:  PDF


While most treatments of biblical metaphor examine individual metaphors in isolation, Sarah J. Dille presents a model for interpretation based on their interaction with one another. Using Lakoff and Johnson’s category of ‘metaphoric coherence’, she argues that when non-consistent or contradictory metaphors appear together in a literary unit, the areas of overlap (coherence) are highlighted in each. Using the images of father and mother in Deutero-Isaiah as a starting point, she explores how these images interact with others: for example, the divine warrior, the redeeming kinsman, the artisan of clay, or the husband. The juxtaposition of diverse metaphors (common in Hebrew prophetic literature) highlights common ‘entailments’, enabling the reader to see aspects of the image which would be overlooked or invisible if read in isolation. Dille argues that any metaphor for God can only be understood if it is read or heard in interaction with others within a particular cultural context. This is volume 13 in the Gender, Culture, Theory subseries and volume 398 in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement series.


Marjo C. A. Korpel

Utrecht University

3508 TC Utrecht, Netherlands

Since the 1960s there has been a lively discussion about new literary and semantic theories of metaphor and their importance for the study of the metaphors for God in the Bible. In this book, a revision of a dissertation written under the guidance of Martin Buss, Emory University, Sarah Dille takes up the category of .metaphorical coherence,. introduced by Lakoff and Johnson, and demonstrates how their ideas on the interaction of different metaphors can be helpful for the interpretation of .mixed metaphors.. As an example, Dille has chosen the .father. and .mother. metaphors in Deutero-Isaiah.

Dille.s book is divided into seven chapters. In an introductory chapter she gives a short theoretical overview of how to understand a metaphor, discussing the well-known theories of I. A. Richards, Max Black, and Lakoff and Johnson. Of course, this chapter could be very brief because in earlier studies on biblical metaphors these theories were discussed already at great length, though Dille does not mention them (e.g., M. C. A. Korpel, A Rift in the Clouds: Ugaritic and Hebrew Descriptions of the Divine [Münster, 1990]; G. Eidevall, Grapes in the Desert: Metaphors, Models, and Themes in Hosea 4. 14 [Stockholm, 1996]; B. Seiffert, Metaphorisches Reden von Gott im Hoseabuch [Göttingen, 1996]; M. P. Zehnder, Wegmetaphorik im Alten Testament [Berlin, 1999]; P. van Hecke, Koppig als een koe is Israël, en JHWH zou het moeten weiden als een schaap in het open veld? (Hos 4, 16): Een cognitief-linguïstische analyse van de religieuze pastorale metaforiek in de Hebreeuwse bijbel [Leuven, 2000], and his later publications in English; D. H. Aaron, Biblical Ambiguities: Metaphor, Semantics, and Divine Imagery [Leiden, 2001]). Oddly, Dille seems to be unaware of the existence of the international Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible group of Van Hecke, meeting since 2002 at SBL and EABS congresses (see

In chapter 2 the theme of kinship and birth in Deutero-Isaiah and ancient Israel is discussed in general. Dille states that there is a difference between the conceptual metaphor of God as creator and that of God as father. Creation terms quite clearly can be connected to God as creator, but in the case of the father metaphor it is impossible to speak about a simple concept of God as a father or parent because in Deutero-Isaiah this metaphor expresses .a variety of concepts rather than one central concept. (22). Dille gives an overview of several categories of the family/kinship language plus a short description of each: offspring, child-bearing and child-rearing, begetting, marriage, and the redeemer. These six categories appear to be selected from the discussed passages in Deutero-Isaiah. The question is whether this variety is not applicable to all metaphors for God. As Lakoff and Johnson stated, metaphors are structured in families. (semantic spheres of related concepts). A conceptual metaphor (or root metaphor) generates a range of semantically related metaphors. This justifies the question whether Dille is right in her statement that the metaphor of God as a creator in Deutero-Isaiah has a central concept in contrast to that of God as the parent that breaks down in several categories of commonplaces. The largest part of this chapter is dedicated to the description of these associated commonplaces and a short survey on father and mother as metaphors, taken from the entire Old Testament as well as from some other ancient Near Eastern texts. It is laudable that Dille also brings the importance of ancient Near East characteristics of the mentioned categories to the fore. She often mentions Babylonian and Canaanite texts, be it on the basis of sometimes secondary and/or dated sources (e.g., Cross, Canaanite Myth [1973]). On the other hand, she refers to a book on Birth, Death, and Motherhood in Classical Greece (1994) as applicable to a study of the associated commonplaces of childbirth in Israel and the ancient Near East, whereas she could have referred to the fine study by Marten Stol, Birth in Babylonia and in the Bible (Groningen, 2000).

In chapters 3.7 Dille studies five metaphorical passages in Deutero-Isaiah, where the father and mother metaphor (sometimes only mentioned implicitly) interacts with other metaphors for God, namely, Isa 42:8.17 (ch. 3); 43:1.7 (ch. 4); 45:9.13 (ch. 5); 49:13. 23 (ch. 6); and 50:1.3 (ch. 7). In these chapters a model is presented for understanding metaphors in their interaction with various other metaphors. The author starts with a full translation (with philological notes) of each passage followed by a section .unit: form and structure.. However, neither an argument for the unit delimitation nor for the structure is given. Of Isa 42:8.17 Dille simply remarks, .Verses 8.17 form a coherent unit.. In a footnote she admits that only George Adam Smith also treats 8.17 as a unit while other scholars take 10.17 as a unit. However, this unit of 10.17 is confirmed by the setumot and petuhot in both 1Q Isa and the Hebrew Bible (and LXX and Peshitta), dividing Isa 42:1.17 into three parts: 1.4, 5.9, and 10.17 (cf. Korpel and de Moor, The Structure of Classical Hebrew Poetry: Isaiah 40.55 [Leiden, 1998], 119ff.). Apparently the author feels free to ignore such data.

After form and structure the author presents an overview of the text in themes. In the third section she discusses the interacting metaphors. This part of her treatment is the most interesting. Making use of Lakoff and Johnson.s category of metaphoric coherence, Dille presents a new approach to the metaphors for God in Deutero-Isaiah. For Isa 42:8. 17 Dille concludes that here God is both destructive and creative, both masculine and feminine. At the same time there is an interaction, the warrior is not only destructive but also saves, just as birth is not only creative but also life-threatening. This she relates to the concrete situation of the exiles in Babylonia. In this way, she reveals the richness of the metaphors and demonstrates that a single description of just the mother metaphor is .overly reductionistic. (72).

At the end of chapter 5 an appendix devotes some philological discussion to Isa 45:9.13. In verse 9 Dille reads .earthenware with the artisans,. emending the text. She states (124) that this emendation is widely accepted and that .artisan. provides a suitable parallel term for .shaper.. However, of eleven (ten English and one German) commentaries published between 1972 and 2001 (and not cited by Dille), only one supports this emendation (Brueggemann, 1998)! All others follow MT. The problem with this emendation is, especially in this study, that God as the shaper then would be paralleled by the plural .artisans of the earth,. which makes no sense. Who are they? Deities? The question of Deutero-Isaiah is whether a creature (man) may ask God, his creator, about the work of God.s hands. In verse 11 Dille emends the word banai .my sons/children. into bani .son.. She argues that what follows is all about Cyrus. Also in this case there is little support for this emendation. Of twelve commentaries only one shares it (Grimm and Dittert, 1990). Baltzer (1999) defended the Masoretic reading with a reference to LXX, which reads ‘al banay ‘al benot, and pointed to a possible word play with the Canaanite title of El, bny bnwt. LXX confirms an early reading of .my sons/children.. Dille has overlooked the fact that in Isa 45 the prophet obviously reacts to people complaining that the God who created them is not watching them and leaves them unattended in Babylonia. In verse 12 God answers in a positive way: God has not forgotten his children; he has awakened Cyrus to restore the city and send the exiles home.

Although the central thesis of this book, the interaction of metaphors, is interesting and the conclusions of the chapters sometimes offer new insights, the book suffers from a lack of adequate bibliographic research. For some reason numerous important publications have been ignored. Although the book is a revised version of an earlier dissertation, it seems that only literature up to 1999 has been consulted, except for Blenkinsopp (2000) and Smith-Christopher (2002). Fully missing are, for example, the commentaries of Koole (1997, 1998), Brueggemann (1998), Oswalt (1998), Baltzer (1999), and Childs (2001). And with regard to the metaphors Dille should certainly have consulted S. L. Stassen, .Marriage (and Related) Metaphors in Isaiah 54:1.17,. Journal for Semitics 61 (1994): 57-73 (similar conclusions!); M. Brettler, .Incompatible Metaphors for YHWH in Isaiah 40.66,. JSOT 78 (1998): 97.120; R. Abma, Bonds of Love: Methodic Studies of Prophetic Texts with Marriage Imagery (Isaiah 50:1.3 and 54:1.10, Hosea 1.3, Jeremiah 2.3) (Assen, 1999), as well as G. Baumann, Die Ehe als Metapher für das Verhältnis JHWH-Israel in den Prophetenbüchern (Stuttgart, 2000). In a revised edition the book could gain clarity by the use of a better section and paragraph system.

The greatest merit of this book is the author.s awareness of the enormous potential the mixing of metaphors has as a deliberate ploy to simultaneously hint at and hide what cannot really be described (see also my remarks in A Rift in the Clouds, 632.34). Her emphasis on the relevance of what she calls .associated commonplaces. for the understanding of metaphors (esp. 177.78) is a welcome reminder of the fact that an ahistorical approach of the Bible is bound to create misunderstanding.


Marjo Korpel, review of Sarah J. Dille, Mixing Metaphors: God as Mother and Father in Deutro-Isaiah, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2005).

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The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy

August 8, 2011 Leave a comment

  • Author: Margaret Baker
  • Pub. Year: 2003
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 442
  • ISBN-10: 0567089428
  • ISBN-13: 9780567089427
  • Format: PDF*
  • Price:  $52.56


Margaret Barker has been researching and writing about the Jerusalem temple for over twenty years. Many of her studies have remained unpublished. Here for the first time her work on the roots of Christian liturgy has been brought together.

Most scholarship on the origins of Christian liturgy has concentrated upon the synagogues. Margaret Barker’s present work on the Jerusalem Temple makes a significant new contribution to our understanding. This book opens up important new fields of research.

The subjects addressed include: the evidence for an oral tradition of Temple learning in the early Church, and Christianity as a conscious continuation of the Temple; the roots of the Eucharist in the high priestly rituals of the Day of Atonement and the Bread of the Presence; the meaning of the holy of holies and the Christian sanctuary, and the development of Church architecture and iconography; the cosmology of Temple and Church and how this illuminates the New Testament; the significance of the Temple Veil for understanding the Incarnation, and concepts of Resurrection, Time and Eternity; Priests as Angels, and the concept of their Unity; the Holy Wisdom and the Mother of God; the ancient Temple traditions as an influence on Pythagoras and Plato; and the formation of the Christian Scriptures.

All readers whose interests encompass the Old Testament, early Christianity, and its relationship to Judaism, the origins of Christian theology as expressed in the liturgy, Platonism and the roots of Islam will find this book a hugely rewarding source of information and new ideas.

Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy

By Margaret Baker

Whereas most scholarship has concentrated upon the synagogue, Margaret Barker’s work on the Jerusalem temple contributes to our understanding of the meaning and importance of many elements of Christian liturgy which have hitherto remained obscure. This book opens up a new field of research. The any subjects addressed include the roots of the Eucharist in various temple rituals and offerings other than Passover, the meaning of the holy of holies and the Christian sanctuary, the cosmology of temple and church, the significance of the Veil of the Temple for understanding priesthood and Incarnation, the Holy Wisdom and the Mother of God, angels and priesthood, the concept of unity, the high priestly tradition in the early church and evidence that Christianity was a conscious continuation of the temple.

A Better Understanding of Christianity

By S. E. Moore

This book bridges the gap between Judaism and Christianity and refutes alot of preconceived ideas that Hellenistic Platonic ideas embellished what began as a simple Jewish Messianic movement. Barker claims that the rituals of the Orthodox Church go back to a more ancient form of Judaism based on the First Temple which was suppressed in the 7th century BC by King Josiah and later Ezra who rewrote the Old Testament which we now have. However, the beliefs of this form of First Temple Judaism were still prevalent in Jesus’ day and were revered by groups such as the community responsible for the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Jewish Apocryphal literature. After 70AD this form of Judaism survived in Christianity.

Some of these ideas are found sporadically in the Old Testament ie Ezekiel’s vision of the Chariot Throne, Isaiah’s visions in the Holy of Holies, and the seventh chapter of Daniel’s “Son of Man”. However, the emphasis on the Melchizedek Priesthood, Enoch, and Heavenly ascents which are found in the New Testament, especially Hebrews and Revelation, are all but absent in the Old Testament.

First Temple Judaism stressed the idea that certain mortals achieved a divine status and ascended to Heaven while they were still alive, that Yahweh, the Lord of Israel was the Son of God and that Wisdom was his mother. The emphasis and revered status of Wisdom was replaced by the Law by Jewish reformers returning from Babylon.

Jesus saw himself as the incarnation of the Lord of Israel, the preexistant Son of God. The vision he had of Heaven opening during his baptism, of the entire world when he was in the wilderness, and his transfiguration were all part of a belief system which can only be found in the New Testament and Jewish apocryphal literature, particularly the books of Enoch, The Ascension of Isaiah, and the Odes of Solomon.

Barker defends Philo’s premise that Plato was more influenced by Judaism than the other way around. Pythagorus, who influenced Plato, received his religious ideas in Palestine and Syria during the time of Ezekiel and before the reform of Judaism.

The Eucharist, which is the most important sacrament beside baptism, is the continuation of the Day of Atonement ritual in which Jesus took the roles of the High Priest as well as the sacrifice. Orthodox churches still perform the ritual in a separate area of the church which corresponds to the Holy of Holies in the First Temple which represents Heaven on Earth.

Many of the rituals of the primitive church to include the liturgy, signing with the cross, praying toward the east, were passed down from Jesus and the disciples in secret and were not committed to writing because the deeper meanings of these rituals could only be understood by a few. Some of the earliest fathers attested to this to include, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Ignatius of Antioch, and Basil of Caesarea.

The Orthodox liturgy is a reenactment of the events portrayed in the book of Ezekiel and Revelation. The deeper meanings of these two books can only be understood as such and not turned into ridiculous modern day science fiction.

Barker spends alot of time discussing the significance of the ancient Holy of Holies which contained the ark and the throne of the Lord and how ancient kings, beginning with Solomon were anointed with divine status there and how prophets received revelations there. The figure of Wisdom, the feminine aspect of God the Father, was described in The Gospel of the Hebrews as Jesus’ mother, not unlike Philo writing about Wisdom giving birth to the Logos. The Trinity doctrine and the veneration of Mary were not Hellenistic additions to Christianity but sprang from the very Judaism which Jesus and his followers belonged to which was suppressed and all but destroyed by both Christians and Jews later on.

I’m glad I ordered the paperback version of this book when I did. It should definitely be brought back.

What is old is new again

By Michael J. Gunson

Margaret Barker taps into the Temple ceremonies of Israel and the Early Christian Church to show a pattern of supression among the leaders in both. The sacred oral traditions of temple worship are wonderfully covered. Her insight into pre-exile Israelite beliefs, the Deuteronomist purge and the very early christian writings is inspiring. I loved every page and recommend it to those who share a belief in the lost cult of the temple.

Amazing !!

By a_ntv

Amazing !

This book explained me for the first time the words of the Roman Canon we say at every Mass:

“Deign to regard with gracious and kindly attention and hold acceptable, as You deigned to accept the offerings of Abel, Your just servant, and the sacrifice of Abraham our Patriarch, and that which Your hight priest Melchisedech offered to You, a holy Sacrifice and a spotless victim. Most humbly we implore You, Almighty God, bid these offerings to be brought by the hands of Your Holy Angel to Your sublime altar, before the face of Your Divine Majesty.”

The book explains that what the priest does during the Mass cames from what the ancient high priests of the first Temple did when in the Holy of the Holies.

More: this amazing book also gives a key to better understand the first Christian literature: many themes that no other books succeeded to explain now are very clear.

Barker, Margaret

The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy

London: T&T Clark, 2003. Pp. xii + 423. Paper. $42.95.

ISBN 0567089428.

Karl-Heinz Ostmeyer

Göttingen, Germany D-37083

M. Barkers Ausführungen sind originell. In ihrem im vergangenen Jahr erschienenen Buch über Jesus als den großen Hohenpriester und die im Tempelkult verorteten Wurzeln der christlichen Liturgie versammelt B. eine Reihe von Aufsätzen und Studien, die in der Mehrzahl zuvor schon an anderen Stellen erschienen sind.

Wenn B. von Tempelkult spricht, meint sie dessen von ihr rekonstruierte Ausprägung vor der Reform durch Josia gegen Ende des 7. Jh. v. Chr. (74). U.a. die mit Jesus verknüpften Sühnevorstellungen und die Sakramente, insbesondere die Eucharistie, hätten hier ihren Grund, und seien erst unter Berücksichtigung dieser Bezüge angemessen zu verstehen. B. ist angetreten, die unter der Oberfläche der Texte verborgene .secret tradition. (11; vgl. 315) herauszuarbeiten: .the original model for New Testament theology has been lost. (42).

Die in sich geschlossenen zwölf Einzeluntersuchungen umkreisen in unterschiedlich großen Bögen die oben benannten Themen. Dadurch wird den regelmäßig begegnenden Ideen und Argumentationssträngen besondere Prägnanz verliehen.

M. Barker weiß, dass Sie gegen den Strom schwimmt und eine knapp 2000 jährige christliche und eine noch viel ältere jüdische Tradition gegen sich hat. Sie wappnet sich gegen die zu erwartende Kritik, indem sie im Eingangskapitel (1.33) begründet, wie die von ihr wieder entdeckte Wahrheit so lange unterdrückt werden konnte. B. kehrt bewusst die Fragerichtung um (8 u. 26) und untersucht nicht, warum eine Schrift den Sprung in den etablierten Kanon geschafft hat, sondern für sie ist interessant, warum bestimmte Schriften ausgeschlossen wurden. Da die Wahrheit nur im Verborgenen habe überdauern können, verdienten diejenigen Schriften besonderes Augenmerk, die als apokryph oder gnostisch ausgeschieden wurden und sich bisher keiner besonderen Beliebtheit erfreut hätten.

B.s Anspruch ist es, den Text zwischen den Zeilen der christlich-jüdischen Überlieferung und ihrer paganen Parallelen lesbar zu machen (3). Die unterdrückte Wahrheit ist da zu erheben, wo sie schlaglichthaft aufblitzt, unabhängig von Textgattungen und Epochen (58). Folglich schöpft B. aus dem Alten Testament und Qumran ebenso wie aus Gnostikern, Kirchenvätern, der Hekhalotliteratur und den Pseudepigraphen aller Jahrhunderte: .The  temple  roots  of  the  Christian  Liturgies  lie  very  deep  in  the  first  temple, and have to be reconstructed from a variety of sources. (74). Daraus ergibt sich, dass, anders als in exegetischen Untersuchungen, bei Barker die Texte selber nicht im Mittelpunkt stehen. Ihnen kommt jedoch insofern Wert zu, als sie oder Teile von ihnen sich eignen, die von B. erkannte Wahrheit zu begründen oder zu illustrieren. Die Frage, ob bestimmte Schriften angemessen interpretiert sind, würde B.s Ansatz nicht gerecht. Zu bewerten ist vielmehr, ob B. jeweils die richtigen Stücke gewählt hat, um ihre Position zu stützen.

So ist zu diskutieren, ob B.s messianische Deutung der Warnung der Verteidiger Jerusalems glücklich ist: Beim Anflug eines Geschosses ruft ein Wächter jedes Mal in seiner Landessprache, wie Josephus betont: .uios erchetai. (Jos Bell 5,272). Die Verteidiger weichen rechtzeitig aus, und der katapultierte Stein verfehlt seine Wirkung. M. unterlegt dem Text einen bei Josephus nicht erkennbaren apokalyptischen Hintergrund, erklärt, die Verteidiger vermuteten .the return of the LORD. und übersetzt: .The Son is Coming. (41). Den .Sohn des Bogens. (=Pfeil) in Hiob 41,20 und die .Mutter aller Schlachten. interpretiert B. nicht.

Geschickt handelt B. da, wo sie sich nicht genau auf eine Stelle festlegt. Indem sie auf ein ganzes Buch, wie den Hebräischen Henoch, auf ganze Fragmente oder Kolumnen der Qumranrollen (11Q13 und vor allem in den Hodayot), Oden oder Bibelkapitel verweist, gibt sie der Intuition und der Überlegung, was aus den Texten ihre Argumentation konkret stützt, weiten Raum. Damit kann B.s Studien zusätzlich ein pädagogischer Wert abgewonnen werden: Wer alle angegebenen Stellen nachliest, wird sich auf diesem Wege umfangreiche Quellenkenntnis aneignen können.

B. nimmt ihre Leserinnen und Leser bei der Hand und führt sie auf einer breiten und hellen Schneise durch den Dschungel von ansonsten als dunkel, uneinheitlich und schwer deutbar geltender Literatur. Wo Qumranexperten rätseln und z.B. über die Fragmente von 11Q13 und ihre verschiedenen Deutemöglichkeiten uneins sind, sieht B. klar. Sie verzichtet auf Problematisierungen und nutzt die Figur des Melchizedek zur Interpretation ihres Jesusbildes (37.39). Dass das Hebräische (= dritte) Henochbuch erst im 5. oder 6. Jahrhundert entstanden ist, disqualifiziert diese Schrift nicht als Trägerin von Wahrheit. Aus ihr ist nach B. zu schließen, dass es sich bei der Auferstehung Jesu um die mystische Erfahrung seiner Himmelreise inklusive seiner Vergöttlichung zum .lesser JHWH. lange vor seinem Tod handelte (13.16). Damit erklären sich gleichzeitig die bisher als unterschiedliche literarische Schichten angesehenen Berichte über Jesus. Sie spiegeln einzelne seiner Bewusstseinsstufen. Die Passion wird vor diesem Hintergrund entbehrlich (32).

Eine Schlüsselrolle für B.s Verständnis der Verwurzelung Jesu und seines Werkes im Kult des vorjosianischen Tempels spielen die beiden Böcke im Rahmen des Sündopfers am Versöhnungstag. Sie deutet die beiden Tiere, von denen das eine in die Wüste geschickt und das andere dem Herrn geopfert wird, als Verkörperungen von Asasel und JHWH. B. begründet die von ihr angenommene Identität mit einer Stelle bei Origenes (51.62.83) und indem sie die hebräische Präposition .le-. mit .als. statt mit .für. oder .zu. übersetzt. Problematisch dabei ist, dass sich in Lev 16,8 das .le-. auf die Lose (.goral.) bezieht, mit denen die Böcke JHWH und Asasel zugeordnet werden. Es handelt sich hier nicht, wie B. interpretiert, um .den Bock für. . . . sondern um .das Los für. . . .. Wenn das .le-. als Identitätsaussage verstanden wird, müssten die Lose (nicht die Böcke) JHWH und Asasel verkörpern ( Wenn nun der eine Bock JHWH ist und gleichzeitig der Hohepriester in der Deutung B.s Gott verkörpert, dann opfert Gott letztlich sich selbst (67). B. erklärt: .For the great kpr, the blood/life of the goat .as the LORD. was a substitute for the blood/life of the high priest (also the LORD). (53).

Damit wäre der Bogen zu Jesus und zum Verständnis der Herkunft der Sühnevorstellung geschlagen. In Lev 16,6.11 heißt es jedoch, dass als Opfer für den Priester ein Stier und nicht einer von den Böcken dargebracht wird. Der Bock wird für (.le-.) das Volk nicht aber für den (oder .als.) Priester geopfert (Lev 16,15). Beide Opfer dienen der Reinigung des Heiligtums, um dessen Tauglichkeit für den Kult wiederherzustellen. Das Fortschaffen der Sünden vollzieht sich durch die Austreibung des zweiten Bockes. Bemerkenswert nach Lev 16,27f. ist, dass der Stier (für den Priester) und der Bock (für das Volk) nach der Durchführung des Ritus als verunreinigend gelten, nicht gegessen werden und vor dem Lager, also nicht im Heiligtum, verbrannt werden müssen. Hinweise auf Grammatik und Kontext sind letztlich nicht ausreichend oder geeignet, um B. zu widerlegen, denn auch der Wortlaut der Texte könnte von den verschiedenen Gruppen, die ein Interesse daran hatten, die Wahrheit zu unterdrücken, manipuliert sein: .the Deuteronomists who did so much to suppress the mystical elements of the ancient cult. (58). Wenn B. auf genau benannte Stellen eingeht, erweist sie sich nicht nur als Kämpferin gegen die ..Tyranny. of the synoptic Jesus. (18), sondern auch als Befreierin von der Diktatur der Grammatik und als Löserin der Fesseln des Kontextes. B. wendet sich noch gegen eine weitere .tyranny., nämlich die des .recent scholarship. (16 u. 23).

Damit hat sie die Sympathien auf ihrer Seite, denn wer möchte schon auf Seiten der Verschleierer und der Unterdrücker der Wahrheit stehen? Vorgestellt wird in .The Great High Priest. eine elaborierte Konzeption, die strukturell ähnliche Werke, wie zum Beispiel die zustimmend erwähnte .Enthüllung der Qumranschriften. von R. Eisenman und M. Wise (28 u. 318), an Komplexität weit übertrifft und die, wenn sich das Gesagte erhärten ließe, in der Tat.wie eine auf dem Buchdeckel zitierte Stimme erklärt. .revolutionary. wäre.

Wie für Verfechter von Konspirationstheorien gilt auch für M.Barker, dass Kritik sie kaum zu treffen vermag. Wer eine unterdrückte Wahrheit nicht als solche erkennt oder erkennen will, beweist gerade dadurch entweder die Effektivität der Verschleierung oder paktiert selber mit den Konspiratoren. Träfen B.s Voraussetzungen und Analysen zu, dann bedeutete Kritik an ihrer Aufklärung, die Unterdrückung der Wahrheit fortzuschreiben; Zustimmung stünde für Teilhabe an wahrer Erkenntnis. Schon unter den Jüngern Jesu habe, so B., nur ein kleiner Kreis die ganze Wahrheit ertragen können (32f.). Was Wahrheit ist, wurde B. u.a. deutlich anlässlich eines Besuches in einem orthodoxen Gottesdienst: .It was a revelation. (xi). Hilfreich wären explizite Hinweise B.s, die einem antijüdischen Verständnis ihrer Thesen wehrten. Wenn, wie sie sagt, der jüdische Tempelkult seit Josia verfälscht ist und das Christentum mit Jesus als dem Hohenpriester die wahrhafte Fortführung des Kultes des ersten Tempels sind, bleibt für das Judentum keinerlei Raum (vgl. z.B. S. 74). Ihm kommt im Rahmen der Konzeption B.s weder ein Eigenwert noch eine positive Funktion zu.

B.s Umgang mit antiken Texten, die Art der Argumentation und ihre Ergebnisse warden ihr Publikum polarisieren. Allen Interessierten sei empfohlen, die als Belege angegebenen Stellen in ihrem Kontext nachzulesen und mit B.s Analysen zu vergleichen. It might well be a revelation.

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Prophecy and the Prophets in Ancient Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament Seminar

  • Series: Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies
  • Editor: John Day
  • Pub. Year: 2010
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 484
  • ISBN-10: 0567473643
  • ISBN-13: 9780567473646
  • Format: PDF
  • Price:            $148.27 – $180.00

This major work re-examines prophecy and the prophets in ancient Israel, with essays ranging all the way from Israel’s ancient Near Eastern background right up to the New Testament. The majority of essays concentrate on prophecy and the prophets in the Old Testament, which are approached from a remarkable number of different angles.

Particular attention is paid to the following subjects: Prophecy amongst Israel’s ancient Near East neighbours; female prophets in both Israel and the ancient Near East; Israelite prophecy in the light of sociological, anthropological and psychological approaches; Deuteronomy 18.9-22, the Prophets and Scripture; Elijah, Elisha and prophetic succession; the theology of Amos; Hosea and the Baal cult; the sign of Immanuel; the rewriting of Isaiah in Isaiah 28-31; Deutero-Isaiah and monotheism; Jeremiah and God; Aniconism and anthropomorphism in Ezekiel; Habakkuk’s dialogue with God and the language of legal disputation; Zephaniah and the ‘Book of the Twelve’ hypothesis; Structure and meaning in Malachi; Prophecy and Psalmody; Prophecy in Chronicles; Prophecy in the New Testament.


Elie Assis, John Barton, Kevin J. Cathcart, Hywel Clifford, John J. Collins, John Day, Susan Gillingham, Lester L. Grabbe, Tchavdar Hadjiev, Walter Houston, Philip S. Johnston, Paul Joyce, Gary Knoppers, Reinhard G. Kratz, David Lamb, Jill Middlemas, Ernest Nicholson, Martti Nissinen, David Reimer, Christopher Rowland, Jonathan Stökl, Stuart Weeks and H.G.M. Williamson.

*Sorry only for premium member, but here’s the review:

Hallvard Hagelia

Ansgar College and Theological Seminary

Kristiansand, Norway

The present book is a collection of twenty-three essays presented as papers to the Oxford Old Testament Seminar between January 2006 and October 2008, covering such areas as “The Ancient Near Eastern Context of Prophecy” (part 1, three essays), “Specific Themes” (part 2, two essays), “Sociological, Anthropological and Psychological Aspects” (part 3, three essays), and “Prophecy and the Prophets in Specific Biblical Books” (part 4, fifteen essays). Most of the essays are written by British scholars (fourteen); the other authors come from Israel, Ireland, the United States, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, and Finland. It is not possible to review each essay adequately and in detail, but a few remarks will be given to each.

The book opens with an essay from Marti Nissinen (Helsinki) on “Comparing Prophetic Sources: Principles and a Test Case.” Nissinen writes on ancient Near Eastern prophecy as the context of biblical prophecy. His purpose is to “outline some methodological principles” (2) for the comparison of biblical prophetism with prophetism from Mari and Assyria. Nissinen “fully subscribe[s]” (15) to the idea that prophecy is a subtype of divination, “though I would like to emphasize the distinctive characteristics of different divinatory practices,” adding: “What unites different divinatory practices is their function in guiding the decision-making in society by means of revealing the divine will” (16). In  conclusion, he claims that “it is easy to note that none of the ancient Near Eastern documents reflect a development comparable to the one … that took place in Yehud” (20). But he sees “a conceptual distinctiveness” between “that of biblical prophecy and ancient Hebrew prophecy on the one hand, and that of written prophecy and literary prophecy on the other,” seeing the former, for example, in the book of Amos and the latter in the prophecies of Bayâ of Arbela.

Stuart Weeks (Durham) writes on “Predictive and Prophetic Literature: Can Neferti Help Us Read the Bible?” With main reference to the Egyptian Sayings of Neferti, he also has side glances to Mesopotamian literature. He concludes, among other things: “It may be difficult, but it is not illegitimate to seek historical information about prophecy from the prophetic books. Some of the materials which they contain may be indeed authentic oracles, and it seems likely that the literature seeks to reflect the common forms of address and patterns of speech used by prophets. The function of prophetic literature, however, is not inherently the same as the function of prophecy, and the act even of preserving an oracle verbatim is functionally and qualitatively different from that of delivering an oracle” (43).

Jonathan Stökl (Cambridge) concludes his essay on “Female Prophets in the Ancient Near East” by claiming that “the vast majority of named prophets in the Neo-Assyrian texts are female, and that female prophecy, often in the name of some form of Ishtar, was well established in the Neo-Assyrian empire. As far as the sources tell us, female prophets fulfilled all the prophetic functions performed by their male colleagues.… no differences between men and women can be found with regard to their prophetic function.” As for Mari, “there is a correlation between the social status of a prophetic profession and the numerical distribution of gender—the higher status, the fewer women we find” (56). In “Prophetesses in the Hebrew Bible,” Hugh G. M. Williamson (Oxford) studies Noadiah (Neh 6:14), Deborah, Huldah and Miriam, and the anonymous prophetess in Isa 8:3.

About Noadiah we know next to nothing, but Williamson indicates that she and the other prophets of Neh 6:14 “were in fact so enthusiastic about him [Nehemiah] that they wanted to go further than he himself was prepared to go by proclaiming him as king” (cf. 6:7). The anonymous prophetess in Isa 8:3 was not Isaiah’s wife (65) but a prophetess on her own, “a public figure” (75). Deborah and Huldah are paralleled by their similar presentations (Judg 4:4–5; 2 Kgs 22:14 [68]). They are also placed as the first and the last named prophets in the Deuteronomistic History (70), and Huldah is classified as “one in the Mosaic succession” (71; cf. 72), a role Williamson also ascribes to Deborah (72–73).

Deborah, Huldah, and Miriam were prophetesses along the same line (72). The most consistent element with them was their association with singing, instruments, and dancing (73), and it “seems likely to me [that] the figure of the prophetess was not nearly so unfamiliar in monarchical Israel and Judah as our scant sources initially suggest. The broadly male orientation of our present prophetic texts is therefore to be seen as later theological constructs overlaying an earlier social reading” (74).

David J. Reimer (Edinburgh) has two purposes with his essay on “Interpersonal Forgiveness and the Hebrew Prophets”: gathering sources from the writing prophets for reflection on interpersonal forgiveness and to account for the relative paucity of such sources (81). The problem is that the writing prophets of the Old Testament have little to offer by way of stories of forgiveness, even though fractured relationships abound in the Old Testament. He also explains that his study forms part of a “slowly evolving project” mining the Old Testament for an aspect of Christian ethics. After surveying a series of Old Testament texts for possible examples for possible reflexions on interpersonal forgiveness, he ends up emphasizing divine forgiveness as the foundation for human forgiveness (95): “In the Hebrew prophets, the seeming paucity of material directly related to interpersonal forgiveness nevertheless yields a result: repairing fractured human relationships requires divine participation.”

Walter J. Houston (Oxford) writes on “Exit the Oppressed Peasant? Rethinking the Background of Social Criticism in the Prophets,” with particular attention to Amos, Isaiah, and Micah and a few words of Zephaniah and Ezekiel. Houston concludes that “the hypothesis is plausible … that prophetic accusations of social injustice have a background primarily in the capital cities of Samaria and Jerusalem, and that both oppressors and victims mostly resided in those places, or nearby” (113–14).

Lester L. Grabbe begins his “Shaman, Preacher, or Spirit Medium? The Israelite Prophet in the Light of Anthropological Models” with a survey of anthropological examples of different kinds of shamans and diviners from different parts of the world, before arguing that “many biblical passages on prophets yields themes that cut across both the anthropological and the biblical material” (124). He mentions cosmology, ethical criticism, religious criticism and describes different religious roles, relationships to the establishment, the prophet as war leader, prophetic cults and conflicts, and the development of the prophetic tradition. As ideal types and prophet models, he mentions diviners, shaman, spirit mediums, and scribes. He does not use anthropological models “to impose a structure found in one cultural situation onto another. It is only a means of trying to probe more deeply into the (biblical) tradition … and ask whether there is more to be discovered and learned” (130). His claimed aim is “to seek clarity and illumination” and to make two responses to the critics of such an approach: his models “are just models,” and “the point is not that these models provide something exactly what we find in Israel. Rather, they suggest how prophets might have functioned, forcing us back to the biblical texts to read more carefully, to notice forgotten details, and to put aside our prejudices” (130).

Paul M. Joyce (Oxford) writes on “The Prophets and Psychological Interpretation,” with the intent to “illustrate some possibilities of psychological reading in relation to selected books named after specific prophets” (133). In the spirit of Paul Ricoeur, he writes of “the word behind the text” (with particular attention to texts from Ezekiel), “the world of the text” (also with particular attention to Ezekiel), and “the world before the text” (with particular attention to individual subjective text reading). Joyce has a balanced opinion about the usefulness of psychology in biblical interpretation. He sees the value of interdisiplinary work, for example, between biblical scholarship and psychology, and regrets that critical biblical scholarship has often neglected insights from psychology. He concludes that “I contend that psychological insights are really not newfangled or so detached from much that is generally taken as familiar and valuable in biblical criticism. If we approach such insights with an open mind and yet also a critical spirit … we have potentially much to gain in our reading of the prophets” (145).

Ernest Nicholson (Oxford) writes an essay on “Deuteronomy 18.9–22, the Prophets and Scripture,” arguing that this pericope is dependent on the book of Jeremiah and that the author of it was familiar with “a corpus of scripture that included Deuteronomy and its related literary corpus into which it had already been incorporated … as well as a series of prophetic books” (168), that is, Jeremiah, the eighth-century prophets Amos, Micah, Isaiah, and Hosea, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habakkuk; whether Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah should be included “must remain an open question” (167).

David T. Lamb (Hatfield, Pennsylvania) writes on “ ‘A Prophet Instead of You’ (1 Kings 19.16): Elijah, Elisha and Prophetic Succession.” Lamb argues that, while ancient Near Eastern sources from Mari, Assyria, and Babylon indicate the existence of prophetic institutions and probably successions, nothing similar is evident from the Deuteronomistic History. The succession of Elijah by Elisha is an unusual exception. Elisha’s succession was not actively willed by Elijah; he was called by God, like all other individual prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Group prophets were always viewed with suspicion.

John Barton (Oxford) writes an essay on “The Theology of Amos.” In his approach he deals with four senses: the theology of the prophet himself, the theology of the additions to the book, the theology of the final redactor of the book, and, finally, the theology Amos presupposes as shared by his audience (188). This approach is epitomized in his four subchapters, though not in the same sequence. His conclusion ends with “a plea not to abandon the attempt to get back to the ideas of the prophets themselves. The prophets are among the earliest theologians in the ancient world.… However difficult it is to reconstruct the thinking of these theologians, they are among the first witnesses to the theological thinking in ancient Israel, and at least in the case of Amos their thought is highly distinctive, differing markedly from both the popular religious ideas of their day and the theological systems that came into force in later times” (199).

The editor of the book, John Day (Oxford), offers an essay on “Hosea and the Baal Cult.” Day argues convincingly that “there is a solid deposit of pre-exilic, eighth-century material contained within the book of Hosea, whatever later redaction the book might have undergone” (203). The most dominant feature of Hosea’s message is his critique of the nation’s apostasy, in particular to Ba’al, the only Canaanite deity explicitly mentioned in the book of Hosea. Northern Israel was “highly Ba’alized” (206).

John J. Collins (Yale) writes an essay on “The Sign of Immanuel,” a matter of particular relevance in Norway, as the Norwegian Bible Society completed in 2010 an updated translation of the Bible into Norwegian (to be published in 2011), a venture in which I was a part of the translation committee. Collins writes on Isa 7:14 from its historical and literary context, as an oracle of reassurance, on whether it should be read as a proclamation of judgement, and on its messianic interpretation.

Reinhard G. Kratz (Göttingen) contributes an essay on “Rewriting Isaiah: The Case of Isaiah 28–31*.” Kratz is concerned with the literary and relative chronological relation of texts within the book of Isaiah (see 245), in particular the relation between chapters 1–12 and 28–31, as these two collections “with good reason are conjectured to contain the basic material and mark the beginning of the book … the main lines of the composition and the origin of the book of Isaiah” (246). To be more explicit, Kratz uses chapters 28–31 as an example, “to study and understand the laws of rewriting prophetic texts within the Bible” (246–47). As for the concept of “rewriting,” he refers to the French term relecture as a correspondent. In his summary of this rather detailed study, Kratz argues that chapters 28–31 as a whole “are to be regarded as a successive rewriting of earlier states of” chapters 1–12, that is, “as an ongoing rewriting in the book of Isaiah, no more and no less” (263–64). We have to reckon with a growth of the text that extended from pre- to postexilic times, beyond the historical prophet and the Israelite-Judaic religion practiced in the First and Second temple periods (see 264).

Hywel Clifford (Oxford) writes on “Deutero-Isaiah and Monotheism.” His “principal purpose is to argue that the consensus view regarding its theology is correct: that ‘monotheistic’ … is a term that can be used of the theology of these chapters (esp. 40–48) because they claim that Yahweh is God versus other gods as idols” (267). The basis for the monotheism is that Yahweh is the creator, because “creatio prima and creatio continua are entirely confined to the activity of Yahweh” (268). As creator, Yahweh is also the sovereign of history and in prophecy. Deutero-Isaiah shares the ancient Near Eastern incomparability rhetoric, which by itself is not monotheistic, but functions monotheistically in Deutero-Isaiah. Also, exclusivity formulae should be interpreted as absolutes. With these and other arguments, Clifford claims that Deutero-Isaiah proclaims monotheism.

Philip Johnston (Oxford and Cambridge) writes on Jeremiah and God in an essay entitled “Now You See Me, Now You Don’t.” This essay on Jeremiah’s portrayal of his perception of Yahweh “takes the typical for granted, and instead probes the untypical or unexpected in relation to Jeremiah and Yahweh” (290). Johnston concentrates on chapters 1–20 and treats, among other things, Jeremiah’s call and in particular his laments. He concludes: “most poignantly, Yahweh seems to make Jeremiah’s experience both his presence and his absence, both response and silence, both jubilation and despair. … it remains a potent and troubling portrayal of God” (306–7).

Jill Middlemas (Århus, Denmark) writes on Ezekiel and aniconism in “Exclusively Yahweh: Aniconism and Anthropomorphis in Ezekiel.” Middelmas argues that Ezekiel is able to see the likeness of Yahweh and representative symbols alongside it, even though no single or stable image emerges to represent Yahweh. “Ezekiel had been aniconic and iconoclastic all along. Aniconism was not just a cultic phenomenon, it entailed a literary reformation as well” (321).

Tchavdar S. Hadjiev (Sophia, Bulgaria) writes on “Zephaniah and ‘The Book of the Twelve’ Hypothesis.” His purpose is “to examine in some detail the validity” of the claim that the Book of the Twelve does constitute a single literary work, like the threefold book of Isaiah, not twelve separate books (325). To illuminate that question, he concentrates on the book of Zephaniah as a case study. In conclusion, he argues that “the transmitters and editors of the book of Zephaniah were not particularly concerned with integrating this prophetic text with some of the other Minor Prophets. If such a project as ‘creating the Book of the Twelve’ ever existed, it must have been undertaken after Zephaniah’s editors had done their job” (335).

Kevin J. Cathcart (Dublin) “ ‘Law is Paralysed’ (Habakkuk 1.4): Habakkuk’s Dialogue with God and the Language of Legal Disputation” on the legal language in Habakkuk, building further on an article he wrote in 1986. Cathcart also highlights similarities between Habakkuk and Job and Habakkuk and Jeremiah and psalms of lament.

Elie Assis (Bar-Ilan University, Israel) writes on “Structure and Meaning in the Book of Malachi.” Assis wishes “to show that the significance of the book is vital for a proper understanding of the history of Yehud at the beginning of the second temple period” (354). His essay is mainly an analysis of the relation between the book’s six oracles. Susan Gillingham’s (Oxford) “New Wine and Old Wineskins: Three Approaches to Prophecy and Psalmody” addresses cult-functional readings in the preexilic period, literary-theological readings in the later postexilic period, and reception-historical readings in the Second Temple period, with short surveys of a series of psalms. Through these lenses she intends “to illustrate how differently a ‘prophetic psalm’ is understood depending on the method used” (371), concluding at the end “that the relationship between psalmody and prophecy is complex” (387).

Gary N. Knoppers (Pennsylvania State University) writes an essay on “Democratizing Revelation? Prophets, Seers and Visionaries in Chronicles.” His intent is “to explore what prophecy is and is not in Chronicles” (393), which is presented in three sections on what the prophets in Chronicles are not, what they are, and what they do, ending up in his conclusion by underlining the great differentiation of prophetism in Chronicles. “The diversity is quite striking. There is a certain amount of democratization or diffusion in the means by which Yahweh speaks.” The words of Paul in Acts 14:17, “God does not leave himself without many witnesses,” is Knoppers’s last claim.

Christopher Rowland (Oxford) writes the book’s last essay, on “Prophecy and the New Testament.” Rowland follows prophecy, both as described and as reflected, through the Synoptics and Acts, Paul’s Letters, and the Johannine literature, including the book of Revelation, concluding: “Prophecy is one of the most important features in the New Testament, historically, theologically and hermeneutically, and a way of comprehending the diversity contained in them. … Indeed, we cannot understand early Christianity as a movement in history without all the many facets of the prophetic” (425).

For the simple reason of lack of space, this review does not admit more than a few glimpses of the different essays in this book, just to let the reader have an idea of what the book is all about.

Prophecy and Prophets in Ancient Israel is a book few readers will read straight through from beginning to end. But to me it has been a pleasure to do exactly that. This book will be consulted for its individual essay, and let it be said explicitly that this book is a veritable gold mine. Some essays are more technical than others and therefore not so reader friendly, but no essay in this book is indifferent. Even though readers will prefer some essays before others, all of them are important—and most of them very well written. The scholarly guild around Oxford, with John Day as its editor, is to be congratulated with this book. These are essays of high standard. Thank you!

Source: Hallvard Hagelia, review of John Day, ed., Prophecy and the Prophets in Ancient Israel: Proceedings of the Oxford Old Testament SeminarReview of Biblical Literature[] (2011).


A Glossary of Targum Onkelos: According to Alexander Sperber’s Edition

  • Series: Studies in the Aramaic Interpretation of Scripture
  • Author: Edward M. Cook
  • Pub. Year: 2008
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 338
  • ISBN-10: 9004149783
  • ISBN-13: 9789004149786
  • Format: PDF
  • Price: $158.00

Targum Onkelos is the oldest complete Jewish Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch, and it has played a major role in Jewish exegesis throughout the centuries. Although the vocabulary of Onkelos has been included in the major rabbinic dictionaries, there has never been a volume devoted solely to the vocabulary of Onkelos. This glossary, based on the standard critical edition, includes all of the vocabulary of the targum, plus geographical names, with bibliographical references to cognates in other Aramaic dialects. It will be a major help both to students first encountering the language of the Targum, as well as to specialists seeking a thorough treatment of its lexical features.

About the Author

Edward M. Cook, Ph.D. (1986), University of California at Los Angeles, was formerly an Associate Research Scholar for the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon project at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio. He has published a number of works in the area of Targumic and Qumran Aramaic, and is co-author of The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (2nd ed., 2005).

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The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture

  • Author: Brevard S. Childs
  • Pub. Year: 2004
  • Language: English
  • Pages: 350
  • ISBN-10: 0802827616
  • ISBN-13: 9780802827616
  • Format: PDF*
  • Price: $26.60

A key emphasis of Brevard Childs’s distinguished career has been to show not only that the canon of Scripture comprises both Old and New Testaments but also that the concept of “canon” includes the way the Christian church continues to wrestle in every age with the meaning of its sacred texts. In this new volume Childs uses the book of Isaiah as a case study of the church’s endeavor throughout history to understand its Scriptures.

In each chapter Childs focuses on a different Christian age, using the work of key figures to illustrate the church’s changing views of Isaiah. After looking at the Septuagint translation, Childs examines commentaries and tractates from the patristic, Reformation, and modern periods. His review shows that despite an enormous diversity in time, culture, nationality, and audience, these works nevertheless display a “family resemblance” in their theological understandings of this central Old Testament text. Childs also reveals how the church struggled to adapt to changing social and historical conditions, often by correcting or refining traditional methodologies, while at the same time maintaining a theological stance measured by faithfulness to Jesus Christ. In an important final chapter Childs draws out some implications of his work for modern debates over the role of Scripture in the life of the church.

Of great value to scholars, ministers, and students, this book will also draw general readers into the exciting theological debate currently raging in the Christian church about the faithful interpretation of Scripture.

A Pause to Reflect

By David A. Baer

Brevard Childs is a patient man. Few individuals could link such evident learning to a deep sympathy with the historical interpreters of the biblical book called Isaiah. The author’s empathy with the weighty labor of scholars who pour over an ancient work of such complexity is not only endearing. More importantly, it demonstrates that few of the book’s exegetes finished their work without achieving some mentionable merit, even when this is exceedingly modest by even Childs’ generous measure.

Childs has earned the merit of becoming one of the household names of twentieth century Old Testament criticism. In what may be a valedictory effort, this proponent of `canonical criticism’-an intellectual movement that can hardly be named without mentioning Childs and his students as its patriarchal figures-indicates how Christian interpreters have read one of the Bible’s most quotable books as Scripture.

In his first chapter (`The Early Reception of the Hebrew Bible: the Septuagint and the New Testament’, pp. 1-31), Childs establishes the important work carried out by the Septuagint translator of Isaiah and its impact upon the New Testament writers, who voraciously quoted and based their arguments upon Isaiah texts from all sections of the book. Childs wants to survey a wide ranger of historical Christian interpreters who read Isaiah from a christological point of view as scripture and then to return to the contemporary matter of critical scholars who have `returned to the older theological concerns of the church and synagogue, but now with fresh perspectives and newer formulations.’

Chapters two through fourteen treat individual Christian interpreters of Isaiah. In the second, Childs rehabilitates Justin Martyr-whose flaws are obvious-by pointing out his fidelity to a text he shared with the Judaism he anachronistically criticized. As well, Justin’s is an early attempt to mount a respectful (to Trypho) and rational defense of the Christian faith, very much within the confessional framework of the church of his day.

Irenaeus, another second-century Christian writer, is the subject of chapter three (pp. 45-55. Crediting him with the attempt `to recover a holistic reading of the Bible that united both testaments within a history of salvation’, Childs displays a muffled testiness towards those modern students of Irenaeus-and other precritical figures-who seem to judge him by modern, critical standards. Childs is less sanguine about the contribution of Clement of Alexandria (pp. 56-61), noting that his figurative/allegorical language is `vulnerable to other forces, such as Gnostic speculation and Philonic exegesis, that lack the Christian doctrinal restraints basic to his predecessors.’

Childs is clearly fascinated by Origen (pp. 62-74), one of the first millennium’s most important biblical scholars. With recent Origen scholars, he is careful to moderate some of the more crude presentations of Origin as a hopeless allegorist. In place of this caricature, Childs appreciates his concern for the details of the biblical text and the degree to which his exegesis rests upon hermeneutical traditions within Judaism, and brings to the conversation a more nuanced view of the relationship between typology and allegory. Still, Childs recognizes that Origen’s biblical interpretation proves difficult for heirs of the Enlightenment and the Reformation to appreciate, and promises to return to the matter later in the book.

The remainder of the book is taken up by similar surveys of interpreters and interpretive periods and fashions, the relative value of which will depend to some degree on the reader’s peculiar interests. For this reviewer, the chapter on `The Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (ch. 16, pp. 265-287) is worth the price of the book.

The greater worth of this project emerges only slowly. Childs is burdened to discover whether there is a `family resemblance’ in the struggle of Christian interpreters to understand Isaiah as Scripture, one that endures in spite of their evident personal, historical, theological, and philosophical differences. He finds that there is, indeed, such a genetic commonality in the observance of a `rule of faith’ that serves as a set of parameters to restrain certain interpretive possibilities and to include others. His concluding section spells out the components of this rule, giving pride of place to the insistence that both testaments of the Christian Bible must be held together, in spite of the admitted tensions and dialectical requirements that this presents.

Childs is poignant in his evidently pained appraisal of R. Rentdorff and-more extensively-W. Brueggemann, whom he considers to have stepped beyond the bounds of this rule of faith and, therefore, to have discarded in their interpretive work the family resemblance that is necessary if interpretation of Isaiah is to be innately Christian. According to Childs, Rentdorff has moved in the direction of a secular, history-of-religions dialect and Brueggemann has embraced the language and readerly autonomy of post-modernism in a way that is irreconcilable with the long stream of Christian struggle that is chronicled in this work.

For all its likeness to a book that has been tossed off by a preternaturally capable scholar on his way to his larger work on Isaiah (Childs, 2001), this book’s argument acquires a value in the final chapters-pages that are buttressed by the more prosaic analysis that has gone before-that makes it indispensable reading for students of Isaiah and of the long struggle to understand it in a way that honors those who have lingered previously over its protean pages.

Childs has been criticized for what appears to many scholars as a drift towards fundamentalism (the f-word of academic biblical scholars) in his later years, a claim that is ironic in the light of the eminent Yale scholar’s critical credentials. Yet Childs himself fairly invites such comment from more secular colleagues by his resolutely theological approach to the task that has for five decades established him in both academic and ecclesial contexts. In his final pages, he affirms that both common approaches to biblical study are valid: a history-of-religions approach that `attempts to reconstruct a history according to the widely accepted categories of the Enlightenment’ and the understanding of biblical history as `the activity of God testified to in scripture’. Yet he leaves little doubt as to which of these twin endeavors bears more enduring fruit. Childs concludes this formidable project thus: `By reviewing the history of the church’s biblical interpretation, we can derive new confidence in confessing with the creed: I believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic church.’

Here’s two useful review bout this book:

H. G. M. Williamson

Christ Church, Oxford

Oxford, U.K. OX1 1DP

Following his 2001 commentary on the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament Library series, Childs has now placed us further in his debt with this absorbing survey of and reflection on the history of the book.s interpretation within the Christian church. Whereas the earlier work of J. F. A. Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel: Isaiah in the History of Christianity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), was a genuine reception-historical study, so that it drew on a wide range of sources both profound and ephemeral, Childs avowedly restricts his focus to those who have sought to work with the book as part of the church.s canonical scripture, and that means above all commentaries.

Of the book.s eighteen chapters, thirteen are devoted to individual commentators or other writers, from Justin Martyr to Calvin. Indeed, half the book is taken up with the patristic period alone before we jump from Theodoret of Cyrus, who died in 460, to the great medieval scholar, Thomas Aquinas, and thence via Nicholas of Lyra to the reformers Luther and Calvin. Thereafter, Childs moves more briskly through a selection of commentators of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Grotius, Calov, Cocceius, Vitringa, Lowth, and Calmet) in chapter 16, then nineteenth and twentieth centuries (with George Adam Smith.s commentary of 1888.90 as the most recent) in chapter 17, before finally glancing at some postmodern interpreters (principally R. Rendtorff and W. Brueggemann). As .bookends,. the first chapter treats the Septuagint and the New Testament.s use of Isaiah (the former not strictly Christian, of course, but reasonably included because of its pervasive influence), and the last chapter reflects more discursively on the .family resemblances. between all these interpreters under such headings as the authority of Scripture, its literal and spiritual senses, its form as two Testaments, and so on.

The breathtaking range of Childs.s vision is such that no one will read this book without learning much and having preconceived notions challenged. In the patristic period, for instance, he demonstrates how the usual characterization of the distinction between the Alexandrian (allegorical) and Antiochene (historical) schools is far too simplistic; in the eighteenth century it will surprise some to find a major effort at the rehabilitation of Calmet.s reputation, and so on. As Childs admits, there may be many scholars who are more deeply acquainted with one or another of the individual commentators treated here, but it would be surprising if anyone else writing today were in a position to encompass the whole so authoritatively. And just to underline the point still further, not the least useful aspect of the book is the bibliography that follows each chapter, providing full details both of the primary sources and in a separate section of the major secondary discussions.

Almost inevitably there will be some names that surprise by their inclusion or, more probably, by their omission. Among the latter, I note especially that no attention is given to the great rabbinic commentators (they are just mentioned in passing a couple of times). Of course, Childs will respond that they have no place in a history of Christian interpretation. But in that sense, neither does the Septuagint. Their influence on Christian interpretation was far more extensive than is generally realized, however, for while the Reformers were busy polemicizing against the Jews on the one hand, they were on the other more or less dependent upon them for their knowledge of Hebrew and for the interpretation of textually obscure passages (as witness eventually the Authorized or King James Version). The situation was no different in this regard from Jerome a millennium before; his dependence upon Jewish informants is well acknowledged, but that did not prevent him from anti-Jewish polemic either! In fact, Christian debt to these scholars may well have gone beyond the philological, for there is at least something of a family resemblance between Christian concern for the literal and spiritual senses of scripture and the rabbinic distinctions between peshat and derash.

Another gap which I regret is any attention Hugh of St. Victor and his school (there are just a couple of passing mentions), which might have helped bridge the gap from the patristic to the medieval periods. Indeed, we would hardly realize in this long story that for much of its history the Christian church had no knowledge of Hebrew, and some reflection on the hermeneutical consequences of the choice of language in which the Bible was studied would have been welcome.

Finally, the modern period is dealt with scantily, but this will surprise only those who fail to appreciate Childs.s purpose. The great nineteenth- and twentieth-century commentaries that pass unmentioned (Dillmann, Duhm, Marti, Gray, Procksch, Westermann, and Wildberger, to name but a few), though written by professing Christians, do not struggle with the text as part of a two-Testament scripture but limit themselves to a severely historical exegesis. And although he does not say so, Childs is unlikely to set much store by the attempt to overcome this by tacking on a section entitled .Ziel. in the Biblischer Kommentar series.

Why that is so becomes plain from the whole drift of the discussion, in which it is not difficult to detect the commentators who come closest to Childs.s own ideal. Of all the family resemblances which he detects, it is that which is characterized as the struggle to bring together the literal and the spiritual senses of scripture that commands most attention. The permutations here are many and subtle, and one senses an impatience with some older as well as more recent commentators who emphasize either at the expense of the other. Thus Jerome (initially to my surprise) does not come out too well, despite full credit for his philological learning (.too narrow a view of biblical history. [97], and he .never adequately resolved the problem of the relation between the two levels. [101]), whereas John Chrysostom the preacher .remains a model for every successive generation in rendering the scriptures faithfully and with inspired imagination. (108; but note that this should not be confused with the imagination of the postmodern Brueggemann, which comes in for severe censure toward the end of the book).

Judged on this basis, it is hard to escape the impression that Calvin is as near the pinnacle as any, though Luther.s solution via a dialectic of letter and spirit, law and gospel, comes close insofar as it seeks to furnish a hermeneutical approach to both Testaments in a way that allows each its own integrity as a vital witness to Christian truth by holding the physical and the spiritual together in unity. Calvin, however, took this to the furthest limit. His humanistic training ensured that he would give proper scholarly attention to what would later become the concerns of the historical-critical method, but because he held that the text also reflected the intention of God himself, operative through the Spirit, the spiritual meaning derives directly from the literal as part of an organic whole, not by way of arbitrary allegory, as was often the case previously, nor by way of pious addition (as I suspect the Biblischer Kommentar.s .Ziel. might be characterized), but rather by using .his exegesis to provide an explicit link with Christian doctrine. (225). Herein lies the clue too to the rehabilitation of Calmet as well as the brief dismissal of Gesenius, Hitzig, and other such early historical-critical pioneers (265).

The question that all this raises for the contemporary scene.a question that Childs does not tackle directly, so far as I can see, but that has been put firmly on the agenda by the so-called .theological whether any exegesis that is not confessionally

Christian is automatically deficient. To address the issue personally (and it is difficult to know how else to do so), I approach the Old Testament as a professing Christian, and in preaching and some forms of my writing I too struggle with it as part of Christian scripture. In that guise, I recognize all too well the issues that Childs is raising, and I benefit from his insights into an appropriate hermeneutic. But does that mean that when I am asked to write in a narrowly academic context, addressing fellow scholars of a different faith or of none, my work is impoverished by working only at the level of the .literal. (to use Childs.s description)? There are times (though not so much in this book) when Childs has seemed to many to imply so. The alternative perspective, to which I want, at least, to adhere, is that such work is valid on its own terms, and although it does not express itself confessionally, it may nevertheless be of service to those who write in that vein (and indeed to myself when I do so separately). To use explicitly Christian theological language, it reflects an incarnational approach to scholarship, something that goes along the kind of line in Calvin of which Childs so evidently approves but that also moves beyond it by not wearing its doctrinal consequences on its sleeve. Such scholarship may not be all that is to be said of a text, but if unity of knowledge (including Christian knowledge) goes for anything, then it is as wrong to decry such work as inimical to Christian scripture as it would be to move off in the gnostic direction, so laudably opposed by Irenaeus early on in this long story (see ch. 3). As I have said, Childs does not address this issue directly, so for all we know he may heartily agree. But whether he does or not, we are deeply in his debt for raising such profound issues for reflection in our own day just as he has so brilliantly shown that they have accompanied the church in its struggles with scripture for nearly two millennia.

Citation: H. G. M. Williamson, review of Brevard S. Childs, The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2005).


Roy F. Melugin

Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University

Fort Worth, TX 76129

Brevard Childs.s study of the struggle to understand the book of Isaiah as Christian scripture presents us with an examination of various approaches to the interpretation of Isaiah from the second century C.E. down to the beginning of the twenty-first century. There is also a chapter on the treatment of Isaiah in the Septuagint and in the New Testament. The research by Childs shows that there has been great diversity among Christian interpreters of Isaiah. But is there at the same time some kind of unity? Or as Childs puts it, .Is there a .family resemblance. that emerges from this analysis of many generations of Christian biblical study? Are there any parameters that identify exegesis as Christian?. (xi).

Before we turn to Childs.s question as to whether there are certain parameters that might be considered .normative. for Christian interpretation of .Old Testament. books such as Isaiah, let us first explore Childs.s analysis of the diversity of Christian interpretation. The apostolic witnesses in what is now called the .New Testament. exhibit considerable diversity in using Isaiah to speak in Christian terms; yet to employ Isaiah to explicate the gospel was for them a widespread practice. Justin Martyr, too, before there was a .New Testament. as such, assumed that the Jewish scriptures, together with the apostolic tradition, were authoritative as revelation.

By the time of Irenaeus, however, there was talk, not simply of apostolic tradition, but of a written New Testament consisting at the very least of four Gospels, Acts, and apostolic be joined with the Jewish scriptures as revelatory text. Moreover, Irenaeus appealed to a .rule of faith,. that is, a summary of the church.s story. And in reciting the story from creation through conquest, Irenaeus presented almost entirely a literal reading of the narrative. Only when he came to the prophets did he turn to clear Christian interpretation of God.s purposes. Yet as Irenaeus wrote further, he spoke typologically by contrasting the first Adam with the second, Eve with Mary, and the tree in the garden with the cross.

Lack of space prevents full rehearsal of Childs.s history of interpretation of Isaiah. I can only point superficially to his discussion of Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Cyril of Alexandria to show how .literal. or .historical. or .plain. senses of what Christians commonly call .Old Testament. were supplemented in a spiritual way by interpretations sometimes called .allegorical.. Moreover, I do not have room to show in detail how Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome differed from the Alexandrian interpreters by understanding spiritual meanings as emerging from the more basic .historical. sense. Nor have I space to develop in detail Childs.s discussion as to how the Antiochene John Chrysostom considered allegory to be legitimate only when the language of the text itself indicated its presence.or how Chrysostom and Theodoret of Cyrus understood the .spiritual. sense in terms of historical fulfillment of prophecy or in terms of typology. Furthermore, Childs.s detailed discussion of Martin Luther.s letter-spirit/law-gospel duality cannot be fully explained here. Certainly for Luther, these dualities were not primarily to be located literarily in Old and New Testaments respectively but were instead different existential realities, both of which were present in both Testaments. Childs.s discussion of Calvin is also too complex for a sound byte.size presentation here. Thus I will mention primarily Calvin.s almost complete focus on the .plain. sense of scripture. Although the storyline of Christian scripture extends from creation at the beginning to eschatological consummation at the end, all of it was included in the .literal. sense of scripture. Literal sense for Calvin was not divided into .spiritual. and .carnal..

Indeed, .literal. included the spiritual (the work of the Spirit) and was not a separate level of meaning (see Calvin, e.g., on Isa 5:2; 19:1; 63:1). While there were indeed two covenants (old and new) with typology playing a significant role in the relation between the Testaments, there was no difference in substance between the two. There were only differences, Childs tells us, in the administration of the divine will, such as Old Testament promises expressed as earthly blessings, while the New Testament pictures blessings as heavenly.

It is abundantly clear that, at least through the sixteenth century, Childs sees a certain commonality (a .family resemblance.) in the great diversity of hermeneutical approaches to Christian interpretation of Isaiah (and, indeed, the Old Testament as a whole). First of all, the Old and New Testaments were both .universally. used throughout the church as Christian scripture (301). Only near the beginning of the Enlightenment and afterward did .new scientific knowledge . . . along with philosophical rationalism. lead to serious questioning of the .divine authority. of the Christian Bible (301). Furthermore, in the diversity of Christian interpretation Childs sees a .family resemblance. in widespread acceptance of a fundamental relationship between the two Testaments, commonly seen as involving both .literal. and .spiritual,. however differently these two were understood. Moreover, there was a broadly shared understanding of scripture as containing two Testaments, however differently the relationship between the two might be perceived. In addition, there was widespread belief in both Testaments as divine revelation and a broadly accepted understanding that both Testaments are related to God.s activity in Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, I cannot rehearse here Childs.s fascinating discussion of various attempts to maintain an understanding of the Old Testament as Christian scripture during the Enlightenment and in the period immediately preceding. It is abundantly clear that Childs considers the Enlightenment.s assumptions about rationality and its reduction of meaning to a history of religions approach as a serious impediment to theological interpretation of the Bible. Although both history of religions and theological approaches are legitimate, the differences between their appropriate functions must be clearly understood. Childs turns also to postmodern interpretation: .Working on the assumption that all literary interpretation is an activity involving an imaginative construction of the author in shaping a text, postmodernism denies that there is only one determinate sense of a text, but rather postulates meaning as an ongoing creation of the reader in dialogue with a given composition. (292). Here Childs focuses on Walter Brueggemann.s Isaiah commentary (Isaiah 1.39, Isaiah 40.66 [Westminster John Knox, 1998]) as presuming, in a postmodern way, that there are unlimited possibilities of meaning in Isaiah, depending on the biases of its interpreters. Brueggemann rejects any claim that the book of Isaiah predicts or anticipates Jesus Christ. Such talk not only distorts Isaiah itself, according to Brueggemann, but is also disrespectful of Jewish readers (see page 6 of both volumes of Brueggemann.s commentary). Brueggemann often discusses citations in the New Testament, but he considers them to be imaginative construals that have read Christian interpretations back into the Isaiah of the Jewish scriptures. For Brueggemann, Childs says, .there is nothing besides Israel.s speech that undergirds the Hebrew scriptures. (Childs, 294; see Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament [Fortress, 1997], 723).

Near the end of his book, Childs argues vigorously against the proposals of Brueggemann and Rolf Rendtorff .that the church should hear the voice of the Hebrew Bible on its own, independent of the New Testament. (Childs, 306; see Brueggemann, Theology, 733ff.; Rendtorff, Canon and Theology [Fortress, 1993], 31.45]). Even though in one sense Childs acknowledges that Brueggemann is quite accurate that the .rule of faith. widely appropriated in Christian interpretation is as much a construal as is Brueggemann.s own postmodern reading, nevertheless, says Childs, Brueggemann .mounts his case in the language of a secular, history-of-religions analysis. (Childs, 315). Yet, for Childs, .appeal to a rule of faith rests on a theological argument. (315), which functions quite differently from a history of religions approach.

The importance of Childs.s book should not be underestimated for those interested in usage of the Hebrew Bible as Christian scripture. Indeed, Childs.s study of the history of Christian interpretation of Isaiah allows him to make a strong case that, despite the diversity of Christian interpretation, there is a strong .family resemblance. Among Christian interpreters in their seeing .Old Testament. books as theologically related to the New Testament in terms of a two-Testament witness to Jesus Christ. To be sure, the books in the Christian Old Testament were not written to speak explicitly of Jesus Christ, but such a history of religions understanding (accurate though it is) is quite different from the historic theological usage of a two-Testament canon in the Christian community. Since the fundamental connections between the Jewish scriptures and Jesus seem to be a part of the very earliest confessions in the church, I see no good reason to disagree that there is a theological importance for Christians to explore ways of interpreting the Old Testament in relationship with the testimony of the Christian canon.

I am somewhat perplexed, however, by Childs.s apparent categorical rejection of postmodern hermeneutics (290), on the one hand, and his partial embrace of Brueggemann.s use of it, on the other: .This postmodern hermeneutical hypothesis is not to be easily dismissed; indeed, it expresses much that is true. (316). While I understand that Childs says this in criticism of Brueggemann.s presumed failure to understand arguments in favor of a rule of faith, Childs nevertheless seems to exhibit a degree of appreciation for postmodern hermeneutics. In my thinking, New Testament rereadings of Israelite biblical texts involve creative readerly activity that is, in some respects at least, similar to common postmodern views of the role of readers in the construal of textual meaning. Furthermore, I would ask, what analogies might there be between talk of the role of the Spirit in (re)interpretation and usage of scripture, on the one hand, and, on the other, postmodern understandings of creativity on the part of readers in the interpretation and usage of texts?

Finally, though I understand the limited focus of both this volume and also of Childs.s understanding of his 2001 commentary called Isaiah (Westminster John Knox) as a technical scholarly commentary, I think there is still need for a study of Isaiah as Christian scripture that focuses in more depth on the interpretation and usage of particular Isaianic texts in the existential realities of modern life and in the faithful shaping of Christian praxis.

Citation: Roy Melugin, review of Brevard S. Childs, The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture, Review of Biblical Literature [] (2005).