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.

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.

In the Mail: The @Fortresspress Edition

9781451472950bThe awesome folks at Fortress Press sent along a review copy of Shepherds of the Empire: Germany’s Conservative Protestant Leadership 1888-1919. This looks to be a fantastic book! Review will come shortly.

In the Mail: Wiley-Blackwell and Brill

I have received some fine books in the mail recently for review. The first two are from Wiley-Blackwell: The Blackwell Companion to Jesus and The Blackwell Companion to Paul. The third is from the Linguistic Biblical Studies series, The Greek Article: A Functional Grammar of ὁ-items in the Greek New Testament with Special Emphasis on the Greek Article. Thanks to both publishers for this opportunity.

In the Mail: @Eerdmansbooks Edition

It is always a nice surprise to get a package, especially when that package has Eerdmans on it. Yesterday I received Jesus Research New Methodologies and Perceptions: The Second Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research, and boy what a book this is! Clocking in at over 1,000 pages, this work is a who’s who of Jesus scholars. I look forward to digging in to this masterful book.

Well-known scholars discuss the current state of Jesus studies

This volume explores nearly every facet of contemporary Jesus research — from eyewitness criteria to the reliability of memory, from archaeology to psychobiography, from oral traditions to literary sources.

With contributions from forty internationally respected Jewish and Christian scholars, this distinguished collection of articles comes from the second (2007) Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research. It summarizes the significant advances in understanding Jesus that scholars have made in recent years through the development of diverse methodologies.

Readers already knowledgeable in the field will discover unique angles from well-known scholars, and all will be amply informed on the current state of Jesus studies.

Contributors:

Dale C. Allison Jr. Mordechai Aviam Richard Bauckham
Darrell L. Bock Donald Capps James H. Charlesworth
Bruce Chilton Michael Allen Daise Arye Edrei
Kathy Ehrensperger Casey D. Elledge Craig A. Evans
Peter W. Flint Seán Freyne David Hendin
Tom Holmén Richard A. Horsley Jeremy M. Hutton
Craig Keener Werner H. Kelber Ulrich Luz
Gabriel Mazor Lee Martin McDonald Doron Mendels
Daniel F. Moore Suleiman A. Mourad Étienne Nodet
Lidija Novakovic Gerbern S. Oegema George L. Parsenios
Pheme Perkins Petr Pokorný Stanley E. Porter
Brian Rhea Jan Roskovec D. Moody Smith
Gerd Theissen Geza Vermes Walter P. Weaver
Robert L. Webb

In the Mail: Mohr Siebeck Edition

StantonToday I received a lovely surprise from the fine folks at Mohr Siebeck (my favorite publisher!): Studies in Matthew and Early Christianity. This volume consists of essays from the late Graham Stanton, edited by Markus Bockmuehl and David Lincicum. During his lifetime Dr. Graham was arguably the world’s leading expert on the Gospel of Matthew. I look forward to what this gem will teach me.

Thanks Mohr!

In the Mail: @Fortresspress Edition

9780800699116.jpgbI received in the mail yesterday a review copy of Mark Reasoner’s Roman Imperial Texts: A Sourcebook, courtesy of Fortress Press. This fascinating book is a “sourcebook of Roman texts for readers of the New Testament.” Further, “it is a supplement to one’s reading of the New Testament, a tool to prompt consideration of how its texts relate to the Roman Empire and how the Christianities that grew out of communities behind those texts came to relate to the state” (Reasoner, 1). This looks to be an excellent supplementary text for a NT survey course. I look forward to its contents.

In the Mail: Mohr Siebeck Edition

The kind folks at Mohr Siebeck sent along a review copy of Jared Calaway’s The Sabbath and the Sanctuary: Access to God in the Letter to the Hebrews and its Priestly Context. As always, I look forward to reading works on Hebrews and hope to soon dig into this one.

In the Mail: @IVPAcademic Edition

IVPToday, while waiting for my copy of Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, I received the latest volume in the essential IVP “Black Dictionaries” series Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. If you are seminary student you know just how useful and essential these dictionaries are. They are a storehouse of theological goodness; a one-stop-shop for anything and everything related to gospel and Jesus studies. I cannot begin to describe why you need this dictionary! You already have the first edition? Great, now get the second as well! I will spend a number of posts reviewing this, comparing it with the first and highlighting some of the differences, which include new articles.

Like its predecessor, this revision of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels provides students with introductory discussions, comprehensive surveys and convenient bibliographies. For pastors and teachers it provides reliable and readable information. For theologians and biblical scholars it provides up-to-date reviews. People interested in Jesus and the Gospels can start here–and from here they will be led back with new insights and questions to the biblical texts themselves. And they may find themselves turning from one article to the next, and on to further studies, as the pursue their questions.

In The Mail: @ZonderAcademic Edition

BirdI received in the mail this week Mike Bird’s Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction, courtesy of Jesse Hillman at Zondervan. No doubt this will be one of the big sellers at this year’s ETS/SBL. In fact, look for Mike cruising the halls of the exhibit hall and you may be able to get him to sign a copy for you. I look forward to reviewing this massive work of pure awesomeness!

 

 

 

In the Mail: @Baylor_Press Edition

I received a very pleasant surprise in the mail today. The very kind folks at Baylor Press sent along a review copy of Jens Schröter’s From Jesus to the New Testament: Early Christian Theology and the Origin of the New Testament Canon. Schröter’s work is the inaugural volume in Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity.

From the Editors Introduction:

The new series Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity aims to facilitate increased dialogue between German and Anglophone scholarship by making recent German research available in English translations. In this way, we hope to contribute to the advancement of our common field of study.

The awesome folks over at Mohr Siebeck have this to say regarding this joint venture:

Mohr Siebeck (Tübingen, Germany) and Baylor University Press (Waco, Texas, USA) introduce an international collaboration in Christian scholarship: The Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity series. In this series, editors Wayne Coppins (University of Georgia, USA) and Simon Gathercole (Cambridge, UK) select, translate, and edit major works from senior German scholars on early Christianity’s relationships to Second Temple Judaism and Hellenistic religious movements from the first years of the Common Era. Titles in Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Studies in Early Christianity will appear for the first time in English and make accessible the highest level of German erudition for the anglophone world. The publication schedule is for one volume per year.

If I could, I would hug those at Baylor and Mohr Siebeck for teaming together to make German scholarship more readily available for us lowly English speakers.
Kudos to both Baylor and Mohr Siebeck. May we all support such work by buying each of the volumes as they appear.

In the Mail: @BloomsburyRS and @TandTClark Edition

9780567077400The very kind folks at Bloomsbury sent along Dale Allison’s recent tome on the epistle of James in the ICC series. I am more than grateful for their generosity and look forward to reviewing this in the coming weeks.

In the Mail: Eerdmans Edition

SeowThe kind folks at Eerdmans sent along for review the inaugural volume in the new Illuminations Commentary Series. Job 1–21, by renowned OT scholar C. L. Seow, is a massive tome weighing in at 999 pages. From a quick glance it looks to be a promising work. Review to follow.

In the Mail: Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not (IVP Academic)

IVPThe kind folks over at IVP Academic sent along a review copy of Scot McKnight and Joseph Modica’s Jesus is Lord, Caesar is Not: Evaluating Empire in New Testament Studies. It looks to be a fantastic read! You can check out the TOC here. I will post a review as soon as I finish reading it.