William Baird on the Historical Critical Method

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William Baird

Some reviewers have accused me of undue affection for the historical critical method. To that I merely reply, mea culpa. I am well aware, of course, that the use (or abuse) of the critical method has been destructive for some, resulting in depreciation of Scripture and loss of faith. For me the opposite have proved true. It has been the historical critical method that has sustained my faith and deepened my devotion to the New Testament, the book I have spent my life attempting to understand and teach.
History of New Testament Research, vol. 3: 3-4.

In some circles, the historical critical method is demonized and blamed for all sorts of interpretative evils. Sadly, I have witnessed this first hand on a number of occasions. The phrase is thrown around like a curse word, and the last thing you want to be caught doing is playing nice with this method.

I find Baird’s wonderful affirmation the historical critical method to be a breath of fresh air. While it may be true that some people have loss their faith due to this method, it is also true that people have loss their faith using the historical grammatical method and other methods as well. I do not blame the method for these tragic apostasies; rather, there is something else going on—something much deeper—in the heart of one who loses their faith in the Son of God.

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Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Sam Storms)

Kingdom Come- The Amillennial AlternativeRecently, the kind folks at Christian Focus Publications sent over a review copy of Sam Storms new book on amillennialism, Kingdom Come. While mainstream evangelical eschatology would likely be some form of premillennialism—be it dispensational, progressive dispensational, or possibly classical/historical premillennialism—Sam stands relatively alone among popular pastors/preachers with his belief in amillennialism. I remember watching a panel discussion hosted by John Piper, which included three men discussing various eschatological views. This was my first encounter with Sam, and I remember thinking that he did a good job explaining his views.

In any case, when I heard that Sam was publishing a book on amillennialism I was eager to get my hands on it. As one who holds to amillennialism, I was eager to see how this book would be received within the lager evangelical community. While it is far too early to gauge the influence of this book, I nevertheless wanted to offer some early observations on what I have read thus far.

The Audience

What I appreciate most about this work is that it is written for the laity. While terms like amillennialism and premillennialism may seem foreign or strange to some believers, Sam has done an excellent job at making these words and other relevant terms accessible for the reader. Eschatology is not an easy filed of theology to jump right into, and Sam has taken great care to make sure that the reader does not get lost.

The Critics

I would guess that most evangelicals in America are dispensational in their eschatology. Therefore, most of the readers who read this work would identify with the majority. Nevertheless, Sam is gracious towards dispensationalism, always trying to explain their viewpoints clearly and honestly. While I am sure that some would disagree with his critique of dispensationalism, Sam does come across as one who tries to fairly represent his opponents.

Some Observations

While there is much to commend, I still have a few areas I want to highlight. First, I noticed that some of the sources that he cites as support for his case are relatively old and somewhat dated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, I just was hoping for more engagement with modern works on the subject. Second, I did notice that on one occasion he makes an assertion but does not reference relevant data to support his claim:

My point is that “seventy years” is an approximate designation of length, such as we find in Jer 27.7 and Eze 4.6-8. In Mesopotamian culture, seventy years refers primarily to a certain period of desolation followed by the visitation of God.
Kingdom Come, 86 (emphasis mine).

I am not saying that Sam is incorrect in his claim regarding Mesopotamian culture—I would just like to see where his evidence for such a claim is based is all. Third, I found some parts to be a bit repetitious. For example, chapter four—Daniel’s Contribution to Biblical Eschatology—dragged on a bit too long and could have ended much earlier. Maybe because I am already convinced by most of his arguments that I felt this chapter repeated some of the main arguments, which in that case I may be too harsh with this criticism.

In the end, I commend Sam for writing a book that offers another perspetive (the right perspective!) on eschatology and the end times. When it comes to eschatology, I have found that instead of reading the works of those who hold another views, most people read a critique instead. Therefore, it is my hope that people who are interested in what amillennialism is will pick up Sam’s book and find out firsthand what amillennialism is from one who is himself an amillennialist.

Guest Review: Neues Testament und christliche Existenz

downloadBultmann, Rudolf
Neues Testament und christliche Existenz
Mohr Siebeck, 2002. Pp. 340. Paperback
ISBN: 9783825223168

Reviewed by: Drew Davis, Münster

 
Neues Testament und christliche Existenz was graciously made available to me by UTB and Mohr Siebeck in Germany.  The 2002 book gathers 18 important essays from Bultmann in one easily accessible and handy volume. For the American audience the book is still not so easily accessible at around 30 dollars on Amazon, but it is astonishingly well-priced at 7 euros through the German media.

Though the volume is primarily concerned with exemplifying Bultmann’s theological approach (the book is found in the systematic theology section of the library at my German university), it does not lack substance of interest to the New Testament exegete. It contains essays on the Christology of the NT, the concept of the word of God in the NT, and the famous, “Ist voraussetzungslose Exegese möglich?”

For those interested more in systematic theological matters, the volume begins with the article “Welchen Sinn hat es, von Gott zu Reden?” (where Bultmann famously writes, “…will man von Gott reden, so muß man offenbar von sich selbst reden.”) and ends with a previously difficult-to-find article, “Die protestantische Theologie und der Atheismus”.  This short article outlines conscious atheism and unconscious atheism (the latter having to do with life in a secularized world) and argues that the word of God of Christian faith meets the existential questions of the modern man.  Interestingly Bultmann here picks up, in part favorably and in part critically, on Paul Tillich’s concept of the ultimate concern (Ger.: “das, was uns unbedingt angeht”).

But why is this German volume recommendable to the American audience? First, the book really does gather a representative sample of Bultmann’s work. It contains articles for the exegete, the Biblical theologian (see the articles on demytholigization), the systematic theologian, and historical theologian (see the fascinating articles on the theological task).  This offers the benefit of having some of Bultmann’s most important articles in accessible form in the original language without having to wade through his longer works like his NT theology or his John commentary.

Second, it offers an excellent opportunity to exercise one’s German. Many of the articles are quite short, 10 pages or less. These are often some of the easier articles to read, particularly if one is already familiar with the discussion (for example those on demythologization and presupposition-less exegesis).  Plus, several of the articles were not written for academics and the introduction to the book also includes helpful summaries of each essay in light of their historical context.

All in all, reading Bultmann in the original German forces one to get past the years of praise and criticism and to read with fresh eyes and new insights or questions. Moreover, with the variety of articles, one can explore the various sides of Bultmann’s thought, which touches far more than just NT studies.

Contents:

  1. Welchen Sinn hat es, von Gott zu Reden?
  2. Das Problem einer theologischen Exegese des Neuen Testaments
  3. Die Bedeutung der “dialektischen Theologie” für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft
  4. Die Geschichtlichkeit des Daseins und der Glaube
  5. Zur Frage des Wunders
  6. Die Christologie des Neuen Testaments
  7. Der Begriff des Wortes Gottes im Neuen Testament
  8. Die Bedeutung des Alten Testaments für den christlichen Glauben
  9. Die Aufgabe der Theologie in der gegenwärtigen Situation
  10. Die Frage der natürlichen Offenbarung
  11. Anknüpfung und Widerspruch
  12. Das Problem der Hermeneutik
  13. Die christliche Hoffnung und das Problem der Entmythologisierung
  14. Ist voraussetzungslose Exegese möglich?
  15. Gedanken über die gegenwärtige theologische Situation
  16. Der Gedanke der Freiheit nach antikem und christlichem Verständnis
  17. Zum Problem der Entmythologisierung
  18. Die protestantische Theologie und der Atheismus

Review of @Baylor_Press “Handbook on the Greek New Testament: Mark”

5621Decker, Rodney J.

Mark 1–8; 9–16

Waco: Baylor University Press, 2014.

Since its inception in 2003, the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament continues to be the best resource there is on syntax of the Greek New Testament. For those not familiar with this series, the BHGNT provides a convenient reference tool that explains the syntax of the biblical text, offers guidance for deciding between competing semantic analyses, deals with text-critical questions that have a significant bearing on how the text is understood, and addresses questions relating to the Greek text that are frequently overlooked or ignored by standard commentaries, all in a succinct and accessible manner.

As with each volume in the series, the BHGNT begins with an Series Introduction as well as the author’s Introduction. The series introduction contains a useful section on how to use the BHGNT as well as a brief discussion on deponency. If this is your first exposure to this series I would recommend taking the time to read what is there. As for the author’s introduction, Decker is concise and to the point. Because this is not a normal commentary you will not find extensive discussion on author, setting, or any other topic you would typically find in a more traditional commentary. Rather, Decker focuses on matters that are relevant to the study of the Greek text. One such topic is Verbal Aspect. Having written a monograph on verbal aspect—Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference to Verbal Aspect—Decker section is very useful for understanding how verbs in Mark’s Gospel function aspectually. Also very helpful is the discussion on the use of καί and δέ. There are also section on Voice, Periphrastics, Prepositions with Verbs of Movement, and the Imperfect Tense. The introduction is an informative guide as one works their way through the handbook.

The handbook is organized in small sections of the Greek text of Mark. Each section begins with the an English translation supplied by Decker. Following the translation is the Greek text in bold, laid out one verse at a time. The verse is then sectioned off according to the word or words that the author is commenting on. The layout of the handbook is easy to follow and a perfect fit for a handbook like this. When commenting on the text, Decker provides useful information from primary and secondary sources. One of the things that I find most useful with this series is the minimal use of sources. This is helpful for not only the reader to be able to follow the argument but I would assume this is also helpful in keeping the author from chasing rabbits down very deep holes and getting lost along the way.

In my opinion, Decker’s handbook on Mark is the best volume in the the series so far. It is linguistically strong and up to date with the relevant discussions ongoing in field of New Testament Greek. When I was first introduced to this series during my undergraduate studies in Greek I remember thinking “Finally, a commentary that actually comments on syntax!” This is a series that you will want to be sure that you have every volume published as they appear, starting with Rod Decker’s.