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New & Noteworthy Books

Susan Docherty. The Jewish Pseudepigrapha: An Introduction to the Literature of the Second Temple Period. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2015. 208 pp. $49.00.

Docherty PseudepigraphaThis short book is an excellent introduction to the Pseudepigrapha for the uninitiated. The literature is organized by genre, with each chapter devoted to a different type of writing. In contrast to organizing by chronology, along geographic lines, or according to the OT character with whose name they are associated or whom they honor, organizing by genre offers the advantages: “it is relatively easy for the reader to navigate; it highlights the creative use by the early Jewish writers of a variety of literary forms; it enables attention to be paid to all the noteworthy characteristics of each text; and it allows works which have something in common to be compared” (9). Each chapter first introduces the genre, then introduces several main texts from the genre, presenting key features and main themes of these texts. Each chapter concludes with the significance of the genre and suggestions for further reading. Distinguishing features of this volume include its accessibility and length as well as its focus on the significance of the texts.

Thanks to Fortress Press for the digital review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

Paul A. Hartog, ed. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Early Christian Contexts: Reconsidering the Bauer Thesis. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2015. 288 pp. $32.00.

Orthodoxy & HeresyThis volume offers a fresh, interdisciplinary reevaluation of the Bauer thesis from expert New Testament and Patristics scholars. Originally presented at an invited session of the Patristics and Medieval History Section of the Evangelical Theological Society, these essays provide a fresh look at orthodoxy and heresy and unity and diversity in early Christianity. Addressing topics from Apostolic Fathers to Gnosticism(s) to the rule of faith to  Patristic heresiology to the development of “orthodoxy,” this book is an excellent read for NT students and scholars, especially those with particular interest in early Christianity.

Although recognizing the importance of Bauer’s innovative methodologies, fruitful suggestions, and legitimate criticisms of traditional views, the contributors also expose Bauer’s numerous claims that fall short of the historical evidence. The contributors’ desire is that this fresh examination of Bauer’s paradigm may serve as a launching point to a richer and deeper understanding of the unity and diversity (and even normativity) found in the variegated early Christian movement” (5).

Thanks to Pickwick/Wipf & Stock for the review copy!

Purchase: Amazon

Peter H. Davids. A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude: Living in the Light of the Coming King. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 352 pp. $39.99.

DavidsZondervan Academic’s Biblical Theology of the New Testament series under the editorship of Andreas Kostenberger explores the NT writings within the context of the theology of the NT and ultimately the entire Bible. Peter Davids contributes the latest volume on the General Letters of James, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude. Davids begins with an introductory chapter which addresses the common themes and issues across these four epistles – Greco-Roman background, theology, Christology, view of the source of sin, and eschatology. The introduction also examines the issue of pseudonymity. The rest of the book devotes one chapter to each of the epistles covered, surveying recent scholarship (including providing a brief biography) and introductory issues, providing a literary-theological reading and examination of key theological themes, and commenting on the canonical contribution of each of the epistles. This volume is a short and accessible read that offers rich biblical-theological insights on a neglected part of the NT. The bibliography, survey of scholarship, and introductory matters provide a helpful orientation to these Epistles for the beginning student. This is a great book from an accomplished NT scholar for anyone desiring a theological reading and insights into the theological themes of these epistles.

Thanks to Zondervan Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Brian K. Morley. Mapping Apologetics: Comparing Contemporary Approaches. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. 384 pp. $25.00.

Mapping ApologeticsI had studied and employed apologetics for many years before I realized that there were different methodologies and that everything I had read about and utilized were in what are called classical and evidentialist schools. I thought what I had encountered was apologetics. I’d imagine that a great proportion of nonspecialists are unaware of the different methodologies in apologetics because most nonacademic literature is written from the perspective of a certain approach, labeling its contents apologetics. I would have greatly appreciated a book like Brian Morley’s new Mapping Apologetics in those early years when I first began studying apologetics.

Mapping Apologetics begins with two chapters on foundational issues that briefly survey apologetics in the Bible and apologetics in history. The rest of the book deals with the five major methodological approaches and the most influential current proponents of each. Organized according to a schema of increasing emphasis on objective, independently existing evidence, Morley addresses presuppositionalism (Cornelius Van Til and John Frame), Reformed epistemology (Alvin Plantinga), combinationalism (E. J Carnell, Gordon Lewis, and Francis Schaeffer), classical (Richard Swinburne, William Lane Craig, and Norman Geisler), and evidentialism (John Warwick Montgomery and Gary Habermas). Mapping Apologetics is an excellent introduction to apologetic methodology, accessible enough for someone without prior knowledge yet containing deeper tidbits for the more advanced reader.

Thanks to IVP Academic for the review copy!

Purchase: WestminsterAmazon

Book Review – The Blessing of Abraham, the Spirit, & Justification in Galatians: Their Relationship and Significance for Understanding Paul’s Theology

Chee-Chiew Lee. The Blessing of Abraham, the Spirit, & Justification in Galatians: Their Relationship and Significance for Understanding Paul’s Theology. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2013. 256 pp. $28.00.

Gal3.14This book is a revision of a dissertation done under Douglas Moo at Wheaton. In this study, Chee-Chiew Lee investigates the relationship between the Abrahamic blessing and the promise of the Spirit in Galatians 3:14. Finding the arguments of those who see no relationship between these two motifs unconvincing and the explanations of those who do see a relationship (whether as equal or related in some other way) unsatisfactory, Lee  undertakes perhaps the most thorough study of the topic to date by looking at the two motifs throughout the OT and Second Temple literature. She thereby offers a cogent explanation of the relationship between the Abrahamic blessing and the promise of the Spirit, why Paul juxtaposed these two motifs in Gal 3:14, and how their relationship sheds light on Paul’s overall argument in Galatians and the theology of justification therein.

This study begins with a contextual and exegetical overview of Gal 3:1-14 in Chapter 2. Lee demonstrates that Gal 3:1-14 is situated in the context of Paul’s discussion of justification by faith and argues that the passage “constitutes the primary substantiation of his fundamental assertion in Gal 2:16 that justification is by faith in Christ Jesus and not by works of the law. The elaborations in Gal 3:15-6:10 may be seen as the secondary substantiation of Paul’s thesis” (22-23). In introducing the key issues related to determining the relationship between the Abrahamic blessing and the promise of the Spirit in Gal 3:14, Lee first looks at the other occurrences of juxtaposed ἵνα clauses in the Pauline letters before coming back to discuss Gal 4:4-5 and applying the findings to Gal 3:14. Outside of Galatians, when Paul juxtaposes of ἵνα clauses there is a general pattern of the second clause explicating the first and of the content of the two being related but not equal. Lee notes that there are exceptions; that while these two observations are important, syntax alone is not decisive in determining the relationship between the Abrahamic blessing and the promise of the Spirit in Galatians 3:14, and that the context of Galatians is key. Lee notes that “the Spirit should not be equated with the Abrahamic promise or taken as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing. Rather, the promised Spirit is likely to be understood in the prophetic tradition of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel in relation to the Abrahamic, Sinai, and new covenants” (60).


Book Review: The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Seyoon Kim)

Seyoon Kim. The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2007. 402 pp. $46.00.

OriginIf you have an academic interest in New Testament studies, you’ve most likely heard of the WUNT monograph series from Mohr Siebeck. These are among the most prestigious in the field, but unfortunately, like all academic monographs, are rather inaccessible to most. This is why I take notice (and rejoice!) whenever there’s a more affordable reprint, and I want to spread that cheer far and wide. I’ve previously reviewed Wipf & Stock’s reprint of Aquila Lee’s WUNT monograph From Messiah to Preexistent Son, and today I’m highlighting another Wipf & Stock reprint – Seyoon Kim’s The Origin of Paul’s Gospel. This is a slightly revised version of Kim’s doctoral dissertation under F. F. Bruce submitted to the University of Manchester in August 1977. Despite the fact that this study is dated, it is an important one in the history of Pauline research and deserves a wider readership.

In contrast to much of modern Pauline scholarship which attempt to explain the origin of Paul’s gospel in light of literary and religionsgeschichtliche parallels, Kim’s thesis is that Paul’s “gospel and apostleship are grounded solely in the Christophany on the Damascus road and that he understands himself solely in light of it. The Damascus event is the basis both of his theology and his existence as an apostle” (31). Convinced that we can only truly understand Paul and his theology when we take seriously his insistence that he received his gospel from the Damascus Christophany, Kim guides us through a tour of Paul’s own testimony with a historico-philological method rather than a search for parallels between Paul’s theology and this or that stream of ancient Mediterranean belief.


Book Review – From Messiah to Preexistent Son (Aquila Lee)

Aquila H. I. Lee. From Messiah to Preexistent Son (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009. 388 pp. $40.00.

AILeeThis book is a revised version of Aquila Lee’s doctoral dissertation at the University of Aberdeen under I. Howard Marshall. Originally published in 2005 by Mohr Siebeck in the prestigious monograph series WUNT II and retailing at $147.50, this reprint by Wipf & Stock at a much more accessible price is a blessing to all who have a scholarly interest in early Christology.

With a conviction of strict Jewish monotheism and timing that’s basically in agreement with the “Early High Christology Club,” Lee’s thesis in this study is that “at the root of the pre-existent Son Christology lies the early Christian exegesis of Ps 110:1 and Ps 2:7 (the catalyst) in the light of Jesus’ self-consciousness of divine sonship and divine mission (the foundation)” (34). Lee’s study pays attention not just to Jewish precedents for early Christology but also to contributions by members of the early Christian community because of the overemphasis on the former in recent scholarship, thereby offering a more balanced account of the origin and development of early Christology.

After an introductory chapter, Chapters 2 and 3 looks at Jewish traditions concerning intermediary figures, examining whether these traditions provided the real precedent in the early church for viewing Jesus as a divine, pre-existent being alongside God. Chapter 2 concerns “personified divine attributes” and investigates how the Wisdom of God, the Word of God, and the Name of God were understood in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism. Here Lee helpfully points out the ambiguity and lack of scholarly consensus concerning the term “divine hypostasis” – whereas some (like Ehrman in his recent book How Jesus Became God) use it to designate a semi-divine being separate from God, others use the term to mean nothing more than a literary personification of an attribute of God. Lee pleads for a clear distinction to be kept between “personified divine attribute” and “divine hypostasis” and cogently argues that Wisdom, Word, and Name were understood as the former and not the latter in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism.

Chapter 3 deals with Jewish speculations about exalted angels and a pre-existent messiah and argues that these beings did not blur the distinction between God and intermediary beings, but that like personified divine attributes, they “offered the Second Temple Jews a variety of religious language to speak about God’s presence, manifestation, and action in the world without calling into question his transcendence and uniqueness” (85). Therefore, it’s most likely that there was not a concept of a pre-existent messiah prior to Christianity for the early church to readily apply to Jesus. Both these chapters demonstrate that Second Temple Judaism was strongly monotheistic.