The Meaning of the Pentateuch

Stephen Dempster, Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, gives a good review of John Sailhammer’s magum opus The Meaning of the Petateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation (IVP 2010) on the Themelios blog.

Here is an excerpt:

There is a gold mine of information in this book, which is the result of the author’s many years of painstaking and fruitful study of this part of the Bible. In some ways this book is a compendium for much of the author’s distinctive themes and terminology: text versus event, literary strategy versus literary strata, Pentateuch versus Mosaic Law, Abraham versus Moses, poetic commentary versus narrative progression, Pentateuch 2.0 versus Pentateuch 1.0, big idea versus smaller details. Whatever one thinks of this book, it needs to be part of the conversation of Pentateuchal studies in the future, particularly among evangelicals. Personally, I have found it refreshing to read a volume on the Pentateuch concerned with the final form of the text’s surface structure rather than the layers of literary strata beneath it.

Agree or disagree with Dempster or Sailhammer, I have my copy, do you have yours?  I do need to get Dempster’s book though….

Quote of the day on Israel

From Bruce Watlke’s An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Zondervan, 2007).

Zionists who claim the Land on the basis of the Bible wrongly fail to distinguish between the cursed Canaanites and non-cursed Palestinians, between holy war and secular war, between covenant fidelity and the denial of its relevance, and above all, between being politically “in the Land” and its fulfillment of being spiritually “in Christ.”

I think Waltke is largely right with this quote. All too often we get the modern state of Israel confused with biblical Israel when they are not the same thing. It is that kind of thing that causes me to disdain the politicalization of it all by such groups as Hagee’s CUFI. If you want to reach Jews I think there are better ways to do that.

HT: Dale Brueggemann (the quote was put up on his facebook page and he quoted from his Kindle so I do not have the exact location at the moment).

on the Ten Commandments

as part of my recent amazon order I received Patrick Miller’s The Ten Commandments: Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church in WJK’s Interpretation Series.  This is going to be an amazing and interesting read for me.  How many of us fully realize how much the Scriptures center around the Ten Commandments and any ethical and life implications that come from them?

What do you think about this quote from Luther?

This much is certain: those who know the Ten Commandments perfectly know the Scriptures and in all affairs and circumstances are able to counsel, help, comfort, judge, and make decisions in both spiritual and temporal matters

From Large Catechism, in Kolb and Wengart, Book of Concord, 382, as quoted in Patrick D. Miller’s the Ten Commandments (WKJ 2009), 1.

If you have a solid understanding of the Ten Commandments and their basic meaning, an you pretty much know the Scriptures and provide solid pastoral counsel?

New Book: USPS edition

with much thanks to Jeff, I now have a copy of Patrick Miller’s work The Way of the Lord: Essays in Old Testament Theology (Eerdmans, 2007).  I first learned of Miller’s work when taking an exegesis of the Psalms class at Fuller Seminary NW in Seattle (before going to AGTS).  I like his work and am glad Jeff got this for me.

Here is a description:

The essays in this volume represent a theological interpretation especially focused on the Decalogue and the Psalms. The essays on the Commandments lay out an understanding of them as a kind of constitutional guideline for the life of the community of faith that is then developed in many specific and illustrative ways in the rest of Scripture – legislation, narrative, prophetic oracle, psalm, and wisdom saying.

The various treatments of the Psalms focus especially on the way in which the Psalter is a book of theology as much as it is a collection of hymns and prayers. The final section of the book continues the theological reading of the Old Testament with some specific attention to the methodological issues as well as to aspects of the character of God and the nature of the human.

Contents include: The place of the Decalogue in the Old Testament and its law; The sufficiency and insufficiency of the commandments; Metaphors for the moral; The good neighbor: identity and community through the commandments; The story of the first commandment: The book of Exodus; The story of the first commandment: The book of Joshua, The psalms as a meditation on the first commandment; The commandments in the reformed perspective; “That It May Go Well with You”; The commandments and the common good….

The ruler in Zion and the hope of the poor: Psalms 9-10 in the context of the Psalter; The poetry of creation: Psalm 104, The hermeneutics of imprecation, Prayer and worship, The Psalter as a book of theology, What is a human being? The anthropology of the Psalter I, The sinful and trusting creature: The anthropology of the Psalter II, Constitution or instruction? The purpose of Deuteronomy, “Slow to Anger” the God of the prophets, What the scriptures principally teach, Theology from below: the theological interpretation of scripture, Man and woman: towards a theological anthropology.

Now doesn’t that sound wonderfully delicious!!?  lol!  Looking forward to getting into this one.

just ordered

thanks to the graciousness of a few folks I was able to use a couple gift cards (the rest will be for Debbie).   So I decided on the following:

Harold Hoehner’s Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary (Baker Academic, 2002).   This was a big chunk of the bill but I just could not go on not having it anymore.   Probably the only other commentary on Ephesians that I’ll be interested in from here out is the one by Clint Arnold in the Zondervan set.  So, for now it is Hoehner, Theilman, Gombis on Ephesians.

Patrick Miller’s The Ten Commandments: Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church (WJK, 2009).  I first learned of Miller’s work when I had classes at the Fuller Seminary branch in Seattle on a class on the Psalms.  I like his stuff and wanted to get this work since the Ten Commandments have such widespread influence in how we understand our relationship with God, with others and with the Scriptures in general.

Christopher W. Morgan, et al., Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment (Zondevan, 2004).  With Hell being the “hot” topic at the moment (pun intended) I wanted something I could read up on for myself (though at the moment I am caught between the traditional (everlasting ongoing never ending punishment forever and forever) view and the conditional immortality (that eternal destruction (death) is ultimate and eternal “life” is granted only to believers) view (for which I will later have to consider reading Edwad Fudge’s book The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment).

So that was my order!

Is God a Moral Monster?

you can find out one way or the other watching a video interview (done by Skype) with the author Paul Copan here.

The book, Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Baker 2011) is mainly written against the claims of the the New Atheists who have supposedly leveled the accusation that the God of the Old Testament is nothing but a bully, a murderer, and a cosmic child abuser, etc, etc.  Apparently this viewpoint is even making inroads into the church?  So, Copan suggests ways as to how are Christians to respond to such accusations.  And how are they to reconcile the seemingly disconnected natures of God portrayed in the two Testaments?

Seems like a good book to pick up some time.

for a less positive view from a newly minted OT Scholar go here.

on the intertextuality of Philippians 2:14-18

if you are into this kind of stuff, which can be pretty interesting to see how it works, Gordon Fee says its “quite unlike anything else in the Pauline corpus” (241-242).  Here goes from Fee’s Philippians commentary in the NICNT set (a must have commentary):

The abrupt way is ministry is brought into the sentence, with it eschatological focus – also a recurring theme in the letter – is perhaps best explained on the basis of its most striking feature: the sudden and profuse influx of echos from the OT, which is quite unlike anything else in the Pauline corpus.   So unique is this that one scarcely knows what to make of it.  A maximal  view would see it as intentional intertextuality, with distinct language from a series of LXX text that recall the story of Israel from its origins, through the desert, to its eschatological hope.  A minimal view would see it as the outflow of a mind steeped in Scripture and Israel’s story as it has been regularly applied to the new people of God.

The data: It begins with v. 14 with Israel’s “murmuring” (Exod 16:12 et al.): the Philippians are urged not to do so.  The reason for the prohibition is first expressed in the words God spoke to Abraham at the renewal of the covenant in Gen 17:1; as with the father of the covenant, the Philippians are to “become blameless” before God.  This concern is then repeated in the language of Deut 32:5, where in the Song of Moses Israel is judged on account of its rebellion as “blameworthy children, a crooked and perverse generation” (LXX); but for the new covenant people of Philippi all of this is now reversed: by heeding to prohibition against “murmuring,” they become “God’s blameless children,” and the opposition in Philippi the “crooked and perverse generation.”

Finally, in Dan 12:3 Israel’s eschatological hope takes the form: “the wise shall shine as luminaries (phosteres),” with the parallel clause in the Hebrew (MT) adding, “and those who lead many to righteousness as the stars” (for which the LXX has, “those who hold strong to my words“); from the perspective of Paul’s “already/not yet” eschatological framework, the Philippians, as they live out their calling as God’s blameless children, already “shine as stars” as they “hold firm to the word of life.”

The eschatological context of Daniel in turn accounts for Paul’s concluding with a word about the “not yet” side of eschatological realities: the Philippians must persevere (now) in this kind of obedience or Paul will have no “boast” at the end; indeed, he will have “labored in vain” (yet another clause echoing OT language [esp Isa 65:23, “my chosen ones will not labor in vain“]).   Finally, in contrast to that, and now with no specific text in view, he images his ministry and suffering, and their faith and suffering, in terms of the levitical sacrifices (242). 

It’s breathtaking really.  I take the minimalist view on this: Paul was a person who lived and breathed the Old Testament story of God’s people and that this narrative merely reflects that reality.  Fee goes on to share:

But what to do with this phenomenon?  On the one hand,  both its uniqueness in the corpus and the sudden profusion of language not found elsewhere in Paul suggests something more intentional than otherwise; moreover, it seems to “work” too well to be mere chance or coincidence.  On the other hand, this might be just our discovery, with nothing intentional on Paul’s part at all; afterall, he is a man steeped in the story of Israel and is quick to see its application to the people of God newly constituted by Christ at the Spirit.

Perhaps there is a middle way, that this reflects something sermonic or some former teaching (and is thus intentional in that sense), of a kind that Paul can draw on at will, and weave into a single, meaningful sentence that specifies the kind of obedience his is calling them to, while at the same time placing the imparative within the larger biblical framework that assures the Philippians of their place in God’s story (242-243).

Perhaps it’s just me, but I read this some time ago and it has been amazing to me to think about and it comes back to me now and again.

Genesis 3:16 NET Notes

I got my wife an NLT One Year Bible for Christmas (since the new NIV won’t be out for a while) and she seemed taken aback at the NLT’s translation of Genesis 3:16:

Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you. ” (Gen 3:16 NLT)

When most other translations are more like the following:

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen 3:16 NRS)

I noticed that the NET Bible is similar to the NLT: ‘

To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your labor pains; with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you.” (Gen 3:16 NET)

So, I thought, this was interesting so I wanted to see the exegetical notes for the NET that I have on BW8.  They read as follows:

NET Notes (Gen 3:16)
48 ) tn Heb “and toward your husband [will be] your desire.” The nominal sentence does not have a verb; a future verb must be supplied, because the focus of the oracle is on the future struggle. The precise meaning of the noun hq’WvT. (t®shuqah, “desire”) is debated.

Many interpreters conclude that it refers to sexual desire here, because the subject of the passage is the relationship between a wife and her husband, and because the word is used in a romantic sense in Song 7:11 HT (7:10 ET).

However, this interpretation makes little sense in Gen 3:16. First, it does not fit well with the assertion “he will dominate you.” Second, it implies that sexual desire was not part of the original creation, even though the man and the woman were told to multiply. And third, it ignores the usage of the word in Gen 4:7 where it refers to sin’s desire to control and dominate Cain. (Even in Song of Songs it carries the basic idea of “control,” for it describes the young man’s desire to “have his way sexually” with the young woman.)

In Gen 3:16 the LORD announces a struggle, a conflict between the man and the woman. She will desire to control him, but he will dominate her instead. This interpretation also fits the tone of the passage, which is a judgment oracle. See further Susan T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire?” WTJ 37 (1975): 376-83.
49 )tn The Hebrew verb lv;m’ (mashal) means “to rule over,” but in a way that emphasizes powerful control, domination, or mastery. This also is part of the baser human nature. The translation assumes the imperfect verb form has an objective/indicative sense here. Another option is to understand it as having a modal, desiderative nuance, “but he will want to dominate you.” In this case, the LORD simply announces the struggle without indicating who will emerge victorious.
sn This passage is a judgment oracle. It announces that conflict between man and woman will become the norm in human society. It does not depict the NT ideal, where the husband sacrificially loves his wife, as Christ loved the church, and where the wife recognizes the husband’s loving leadership in the family and voluntarily submits to it. Sin produces a conflict or power struggle between the man and the woman, but in Christ man and woman call a truce and live harmoniously (Eph 5:18–32).

So here was my initial reaction…  🙂   It made me wonder if complementarianism is a consequence of the fall and not God’s ideal?  Because of the indication of a future struggle to desire to control one another, I wondered if just prior to the fall God intended a more egalitarian partnership in both the man and woman relationship and in the care for the earth?  Does the indication of a future struggle mean there wasn’t one before?   Did God intend for each to be equal to each other working together?  Notice too that God had all the animals pass before Adam and he found no equal – til he saw Eve and said “AH, now I have found my equal!”  All kinds of questions for me to think about!  lol!

Now, I fully recognize this could be a completely ridiculous assertion, but I just wonder if it might hold up.

This is why we need to know out bible languages people (or interact with those who do) – it greatly helps in exegetical method!

Too much Bible Science?

I am getting back in to reading Ross’ book The Genesis Question to finish it and carry on with the rolling review I started on it a while ago (when I got blasted for supporting the changes to the AG paper on the doctrine of Creation).   Here is a passage I came across:

That so many Christians today believe the Bible is largely devoid of scientific content is, at least in part, a reaction to the last two hundred years of dialogue between science and theology in which Christian theology appears to have been bested repeatedly by secular science.  The Bible, unlike any other book, is intended to be read and understood by people living in eras spanning at least 3,500 years.  This places some serious constraints on the quantity and kind of science it can contain.

For the Bible to adopt the scientific paradigms or language of any age would compromise the ability of the text to speak to earlier or later generations.  But, because the Bible does have the capacity to communicate to all generations of humanity, many Bible interpreters are tempted to read into the text far too much of the science of their time.  For example, I have received more than ten unsolicited manuscripts from individuals who are convinced that Genesis 1, properly understood, gives a detailed exposition of the origin and structure of the various families of fundamental particles even though no word in the text even hints of particles.

from Hugh Ross’ The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis (Navpress, 2001), 14-15.

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So basically, the Bible isn’t a scientific text so quit trying to make it out to be one.  If it happens that modern science can support some aspect of the Genesis creation narrative, cool!  If not, don’t try to wedge it into the text and make it fit.  Let the text be as it is and let it speak for itself!