Land: Genesis 14-15

Genesis 14

Place names are abundant in this chapter, and the land word שָׂדֶה (country) appears in 14:7, but the only theologically significant occurrence of the land theme in this chapter are in 14:19, 22. In those verses God is identified as “Creator of heaven and earth” (HCSB; The Hebrew word קנה could refer to either “Possessor” or “Creator.” Hamilton, NICOT, 1:411-12. In the context of Genesis, “Creator” seems the better choice. Of course, as Creator, God is the owner of heaven and earth). Abram reaffirms his trust that God as Creator of heaven and earth will fulfill his promises apart from the help of the king of Sodom.

Genesis 15

Genesis 15 is about the seed promise and the land promise. The chapter divides into two somewhat parallel sections. Verses 1-6 concern the seed promise and verses 7-21 concern the land promise (Wenham, WBC, 1:325; Mathews, NAC, 2:157; Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 248-49). In verse 7 God reaffirms his promise to give the land to Abraham. It was for this reason that God called Abram from Ur of the Chaldeans. The promises of seed and blessing could theoretically been fulfilled in Ur. But the gift of this land required Abram’s departure from Ur.

As in verse 2, Abram asks for confirmation of the promise. Given verse 6, this should not be taken as a sign of faithlessness (Wenham, WBC, 1:331). God responds to this request by cutting a covenant with Abram. This begins with God’s instructions to take certain animals, cut them in half (except for the birds) and lay them opposite. All of the animals, save for the last bird (גּוֹזָל) were used in Israel’s sacrificial system. Most were used for a number of different kinds of sacrifices. The heifer was used in sacrifices to purify the land from unsolved murders (Deut. 21:1-7). Abram is then forced to defend the carcasses from birds of prey.

It is the next section (vv. 12-16) that gives us clues as to the significance of these actions. The animals that would later be used in Israel’s sacrificial system may represent Israel (Wenham, WBC, 1:332-; Mathews, NAC, 2:172-73). Given the prediction that Israel would be afflicted in Egypt, the birds of prey may represent Egypt (Mathews, NAC, 2:172-73. Other commentators identify the birds more generally as representing the “surrounding nations.” McKeown, 92; cp. Wenham, 1:132-33). McKeown notes, “Without Abram’s presence, these carcasses would have disappeared rapidly” (THOTC, 92.). This may indicate the importance of God’s covenant with Abram in preserving the people of Israel.

In 15:12-16 we have the prediction that Israel will sojourn in another land, Egypt, before receiving the promised land. Also Abram is told that he will die prior to the return of the people in the fourth generation (15:15-16). The promise of the land was made to Abram personally in 15:7 but the confirmation speaks only of possession by his seed. In fact, it implies that he will die before the land is possessed. Perhaps this awareness of death prior to possession of the land stands behind his expectations according to Hebrews 11:18-16.

The smoking fire pot and flaming torch that pass between the pieces likely represent God. They call to mind God’s revelation of himself in fire in Exodus at the burning bush and at Sinai (See McKeown, THOTC, 93). The significance of passing through the pieces is indicated by Jeremiah 34:18: “And the men who transgressed my covenant and did not keep the terms of the covenant that they made before me, I will make them like the calf that they cut in two and passed between its parts” (Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, NSBT, 80; Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 250-56. I agree with Gentry, against Wenham and Mathews, that the elements of the covenant in this passage and Jeremiah are not bound to a particular time but persisted in their significance from the time of Abraham to Jeremiah). Notably, God has placed Abram in a deep sleep; God passes through the pieces himself. This is an unconditional or a royal grant covenant.

In this covenant, the Lord specifies the borders of the land. No longer is it simply “this land” (12:7) or “all the land that you see” (13:15). Now specific boundaries are set. The promised land will stretch from the river of Egypt, probably the Wadi el-Arish (In other places the term נַ֫חַל [translated brook by the ESV] is used instead of נָהָר. Some commentators therefore think that the eastern part of the Nile Delta is meant [cf. Waltke, 245]. However, since these borders are repeated elsewhere [Num. 34:5; Josh 15:4-47; 1 Kings 8:65; Isa. 27:12], it is most likely simply a variation in terminology [cf. Hamilton, NICOT, 1:438]), to the Euphrates River. The land is also designated by the peoples who lived there. Waltke holds that a purposeful discrepancy exists between the stated borders and the nations that Israel is said to conquer. “Since the geographic description is much larger than the ethnographic and the ethnographic matches Israel’s history but the geographic does not, the geographic is best regarded as an idealization” (Waltke, 245). First, the land of the Amorites stretched up to the Euphrates River (ABD, 1:199-200; P.E. Satterthwaite and D. W. Baker, “Nations of Canaan,” DOTP, 601-2. Milgrom says, “In the eighteenth-century Mari texts, Amurru is a territory and kingdom in central Syria. As such it continues in Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources of the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries when its boundaries are most clearly defined: from the Mediterranean to the Orontes and to Canaan on the south.” Milgrom, Numbers, JPSTC, 105. Though Milgrom thinks that Genesis 15 uses the term merely as an ethnic label for those living in Canaan, the evidence he cites indicates it could have a broader referent). The discrepancy Waltke posits does not exist. Second, the argument for idealization by analogy does not hold up. Waltke says the point is to highlight the land’s “spiritual significance,” which is greater than its physical significance just as the Jordan river is physically insignificant but spiritually significant to Christians. These are not parallel examples. The spiritual significance of the Jordan is never outlined in a covenant. One would think that a covenant document promising land would be the least likely place for borders to be merely ideal. Such an argument would certainly be rejected by interpreters of human covenants. Why take God’s covenant words any less seriously and straightforwardly?

In Solomon’s day Israel’s exercised brief control within these borders, but it was never complete nor long lasting. This points toward a future fulfillment of this promise. It may have been to avoid this conclusion that Waltke resorted to the expedient of claiming the boundaries were idealized (Kidner, TOTC, 125; Hamilton, NICOT, 1:438).

Books Read in February 2015

Dallimore, Arnold. A Heart Set Free: The Life of Charles Wesley. Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1988.

This is another of Dallimore’s well-written biographies. Wesley is best known as a prolific hymn writer. Dallimore’s biography certainly enhances the reader’s appreciation for Wesley’s poetical gift. But Dallimore also demonstrates his role in the formation of Methodism and his relations with both his brother John and the evangelist George Whitefield. Dallimore’s writings are devotional, but they are not uncritical. Wesley’s weaknesses (interference with his brother’s marriage and overly-close attachment to the Anglican Church, to name but two) are also discussed in such a way as to benefit Christians who seek not only inspiration but cautionary lessons from the lives of Christians who have preceded them.

Gates, Robert M. Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War. New York: Knopf, 2014.

This is a memoir by the Secretary of Defense for President George W. Bush’s last two years and President Barack Obama’s first two years. Its insights not only on the wars and military actions of those years but also on the way the White House and Department of Defense function was fascinating. Gates has decided opinions, and they do not always align with those of the presidents under whom he served. But he is careful to always speak respectfully even when in disagreement (this was not so much the case when he vented his frustrations with Congress).

Two quotations give a feel for the tone of the book—respectful but critical:

I had been lucky financially when I reentered government in late 2006. Under the ethics rules, I had to sell all the stocks I owned in early 2007, at the very top of the market. However, those joining the Obama administration in early 2009 who owned stocks, and there were quite a few, had to sell at the bottom of the market. A number of those people took huge losses in their personal finances, and I admired them for their patriotism and willingness to serve at great sacrifice. I would disagree with more than a few of these appointees in the years ahead, but I never doubted their love of country (although, as in every administration, there was also ample love of self). 302-3.

I expressed my great concern [to Thomas Donilon, the National Security Advisor] that we were entering uncharted waters and that the president couldn’t erase the Egyptians’ memory of our decades-long alliance with Mubarak with a few public statements. Our course, I said, should be to call for an orderly transition. We had to prevent any void in power because it likely would be filled by radical groups. I said we should be realistically modest ‘about what we know and about what we can do.’ Donilon reassured me that Biden, Hillary, he, and I were on the same page. All of us were very concerned that the president and White House and NSS staffs were leaning hard on the need for regime change in Egypt. White House staffers worried about Obama being ‘on the wrong side of history.’ But how can anyone know which is the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ side of history when nearly all revolutions, begun with hope and idealism, culminate in repression and bloodshed. After Mubarak, what? 304-5

Kapilow, Rob. All You Have to Do is Listen: Music from the Inside Out. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008.

Kapilow’s thesis is that attentive listeners to music really can understand what a composer is seeking to accomplish simply by listening. He writes to non-musicians, providing them with basic music theory that will help them better appreciate classical music. A companion website provides scores and recordings of the examples in the book.

Oren, Michael B. Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

This is the definitive history of the Six Days War. It is not designed to be a battlefield thriller. Instead it provides historical context for the war and details how the war unfolded both on the battlefield and diplomatically. Well worth reading.

Peter Lombard. The Sentences, Book 4: On the Doctrine of Signs. Translated by Giulio Silano. Toronto, Canada: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2010.

Peter Lombard’s Sentences is the most significant theological text published. It was the theology textbook of the Middle Ages. Even Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae did not displace it until after the Reformation. The Sentences were finally translated into English between 2007 and 2010. This is the primary primary source for understanding medieval theology. Book 4 deals with the sacraments, so it is going to highlight that areas of medieval theology most at odds with orthodox Protestant theology.

Currid, John D. Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.

Currid’s book is set against the backdrop of an increasing willingness, even among professed evangelicals, to see the Old Testament as dependent on ancient Near Eastern mythology and folklore. This is often done in such a way that the historicity of the biblical accounts are questioned. Currid’s book highlights, by way of contrast, that one way the biblical accounts are related to ANE writings is through polemic. I found some of his proposed polemics convincing. For instance, the use of the rod turned serpent by Moses, the parting of the Red Sea, and the drought in Baal-worshipping Israel during Elijah’s time, and Yahweh as the true thundering deity all seem to have true polemic elements to them. I wondered if some of the accounts, for instance those alleged to parallel Joseph and Moses, were truly parallel. With the creation and flood stories my inclination is to see shared memory as a more likely cause for parallelism. I think before links between Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts to the biblical text can be firmly established there needs to be a control group study on creation and flood stories from around the world.

Hoffmeier, James K. Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

There is no direct evidence for Israel’s sojourn in Egypt or the Exodus. However, this should not be used to discount this historicity of Scripture accounts. Hoffmeier looks briefly at what can be legitimately expected from archaeology regarding Israel in Egypt given what is and can be known about Egypt at that time and in the place where the Israelites lived. He concludes that the lack of direct evidence for Israel is actually more to be expected than otherwise when this comparative study is undertaken. However, most of the book seeks to provide indirect evidence for Israel in Egypt and the Exodus. Hoffmeier is able to demonstrate that “Semetic-speaking people” would come to Egypt during droughts. Such people did live in Egypt during the time Bible places Israel there. There is also evidence of non-Egyptians, like Joseph, serving in government. Hoffmeier also documents Egyptian influence and an understanding of Egyptian practices in the Pentateuch. This argues for an author familiar with ancient Egypt (rather than one more familiar with later Mesopotamian cultures). Though there are some points at which I would disagree with Hoffmeier (e.g., aspects of his discussion of the plagues) or at which I am not yet entirely convinced (e.g., route of the exodus), the book is an excellent defense of the historicity of the latter part of Genesis and Exodus. I was also pleased to see Hoffmeier cast doubt about the reality of some of the parallels that I found least convincing in Currid’s book (see above).

Best Commentaries on Genesis

Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 1-11:26. New American Commentary. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville: B&H, 1996. Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 11:27-50:26. New American Commentary. Edited by E. Ray Clendenen. Nashville: B&H, 2005.

If you buy only one commentary on Genesis, this should be that commentary. I’ve repeatedly been impressed by Mathews’s exegetical judgment. He also has a sensitivity to the literary features of the text. In addition, the commentary is lengthy enough for him to survey and evaluate multiple views on contested passages. He is conservative on matters such as authorship.  Finally, though Mathews is thorough, the commentary is still readable for the interested layman.

Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by David A. Hubbard. Dallas: Word, 1987. Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 16-50. Word Biblical Commentary. Edited by David A. Hubbard. Dallas: Word, 1994.

Wenham provides a more technical commentary than Mathews. He provides more comment on Hebrew grammar. His exegetical judgment and literary sensitivity is also good.  He critiques source criticism in the introduction to the first volume, though he consistently reports the views of source critics in the Form/Structure/Setting sections of the commentary. He is weak on the historicity of the opening chapters of Genesis. Nonetheless, the commentary is full of valuable insights and is worth owning.

Kidner, Derek. Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Edited by D. J. Wiseman. London: Tyndale, 1967.

Kidner’s commentary is brief, but Kidner knows how to pack a great deal of insight into a small space.

Leupold, H. C. Exposition of Genesis. 2 voils. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950.

Leuipold was a stoutly conservative Lutheran scholar. Though the liberal positions he spars with are now dated, his arguments against them are still worth reading. Leupold’s comments are more atomistic than literary. Nonetheless, there is great value in many of them.

McKeown, James. Genesis. Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary. Edited by J. Gordon McConville and Craig Bartholomew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

In the Two Horizons series, the first half of the commentary provides brief passage by passage commentary through the book. The second half of the commentary looks at the theological themes of the book, the relation of the book to biblical theology in the rest of the canon, and the significance of the book for relevant systematic theology topics. I think this is a good approach that more commentaries should follow. I picked this commentary up in connection with my study of land because it seemed more sensitive to that theme in Genesis than other commentaries.

Currid, John D. Genesis. 2 vols. Evangelical Press Study Commentary. Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 2003.

Currid also refreshingly adopts a straightforward, historical reading of the creation account. Despite being two volumes, Currid’s commentary is not as full as others. He is nonetheless careful, conservative, and insightful. I’m not as impressed with his application sections.

Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Edited by R. K. Harrison. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990. Hamilton, Victor P. The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50. New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Edited by Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

Hamilton’s commentary, like Mathews and Wenham, is a major two volume work. I don’t find it as helpful for the following reasons: (1) too often Hamilton simply notes the available interpretive options without mounting arguments for or against them. I find it most helpful to read different commentators who argue for their positions; (2) sometimes Hamilton spends his space on ANE parallels rather than opening up the text; (3) related to this, Hamilton’s comments are sometimes disjointed. He doesn’t examine the literary unfolding of the text as Mathews and Wenham do. Nonetheless, his comments still have value. He also has helpful “New Testament Appropriations” sections.

Waltke, Bruce K. and Cathi J. Fredricks. Genesis: A Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001.

Genesis is a narrative, and it should be read with the skills necessary for interpreting narratives. Reading Waltke’s commentary on Genesis is a good way to develop those skills. His emphasis is on the literary features of the text.

Books & Articles Read January 2015

Books

Carpenter, Humphrey. J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography. London: Allen & Unwin, 1977.

Carson, D. A. Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

In this brief book Carson surveys the meaning of the title “Son of God” in the Scripture. He notes that “son” language in the Bible can be used non-metaphorically of actual biological sons, generically in proverbial passages, and of more distant descendants. Son language can also be used metaphorically. Sometimes the metaphor indicates that the “son” was “begotten” by the Father. In other cases it indicates a similarity of type or class between “father” and “son.”

Carson notes that the phrase son of God is sometimes used non-Christologically of angels, Adam, God’s people, those who imitate God, and the Davidic king. It is used Christologically of Jesus as the Davidic king, of Jesus as true Israel, and of Jesus as the divine Son. After this initial survey Carson examines Hebrews 1 and John 5:16-30 as case studies.

The final chapter examines the issue of how to translate “son of God” in Bible translations targeted toward Muslims. Carson concludes that “son of God” should not be replaced with attempted alternatives.

Carr, Simonetta. John Calvin. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2008.

This is a beautifully illustrated children’s biography of John Calvin. The biography is accurate, understandable, and engaging.

Beeke, Joel R. and James A. La Belle. Living Zealously. Reformation Heritage, 2012.

This is one of a series of volumes that survey Puritan teaching on a particular topic and present it to the modern reader. Zeal is a currently neglected topic that occupied the Puritans, which means this book fills a gap. It is a warmly written book that is clearly written in the hope that its contents will draw its readers closer to God.

Currid, John D. Doing Archaeology in the Land of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999.

Currid wrote this brief book so that novices could gain a good idea of the history and current practices of biblical archaeology. Currid’s writing is clear and understandable. A helpful book.

Witmer, Timothy Z. The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2010.

Witmer looks at the shepherd theme in the Old and New Testaments as a guide for the responsibilities of elders. He begins with a biblical and theological foundation, but he moves to the practical. He argues that shepherds are to know, feed, lead, and protect their sheep. He notes that there are macro ways to carry out these responsibilities with then whole flock in view. But Witmer’s challenge is for elders to carry out these responsibilities with the individuals in their flocks. He supplies concrete recommendations for how churches may do this.

Articles

Van Houwelingen, P. H. R. “Fleeing Forward: The Departure of Christians from Jerusalem to Pella,” WTJ 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 181-200.

Eusebius and Epiphanius both relate a tradition in which the Jewish Christians fled from Jerusalem before the events of AD 70 to Pella and later returned to Jerusalem. The historical accuracy of this tradition has been recently challenged. Van Houwelingen defends the accuracy of the tradition.\

Dumbrell, W. J. “The Role of Bethel in the Biblical Narratives from Jacob to Jeroboam I,” Australian Journal of Biblical Archaeology, 2, no. 3 (1974): 65-76.

Dumbrell surveys the passages in which Bethel is significant. He is largely interacting with critical scholars who want to reinterpret these texts according to speculative pre-histories.

Metzger, Paul Louis. “Luther and the Finnish School: Mystical Union with Christ: An Alternative to Blood Transfusions and Legal Fictions,” WTJ 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 201-13.

Seifrid, Mark A. “Luther and the Finnish School: Paul, Luther, and Justification in Gal 2:15-21,” WTJ 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 215-30.

Trueman, Carl R. “Is the Finnish Line a New Beginning? A Critical Assessment of the Reading of Luther Offered by the Helsinki Circle,” WTJ 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 231-44.

Jenson, Robert W. “Response to Mark Seifrid, Paul Metzger, and Carl Trueman on Finnish Luther Research,” WTJ 65, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 245-50.

I read these articles for the purpose of getting a better understanding of the arguments for and against the Finnish interpretation of Luther. For that purpose I could have saved time and read the articles by Trueman and Jenson alone. Those were the most helpful in understanding the Finnish school and the arguments for and against. Metzger and Seifrid are trying to do their own thing, and seem to draw on the Finnish school at certain points while rejecting other points, but they aren’t good introductions to the debate. I wish the format had been Trueman’s critique, Jenson’s response, followed by an additional rejoinder from Trueman.

J.R. Mantey, “The Causal Use of Eis in the New Testament,” Journal of Biblical Literature 70, no. 1 (Mar. 1951): 45-48.

J.R. Mantey, “On Causal Eis Again,” Journal of Biblical Literature 70, no. 4 (Dec 1951): 309-11.

Ralph Marcus, “The Elusive Causal EIS,” Journal of Biblical Literature 71, no. 1 (Mar. 1952): 43-44.

Mantey argued that are rare use of εἰς is causal. He looks at both extabiblical and biblical materials. Marcus disputes Mantey’s exatrabiblical examples of a causal ἐἰς, while noting his interpretation of the baptism passages in the NT may be correct.

Vessey, Mark. “Jerome.” In Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. 460-62.

Madec, Goulven. “Christian Influences on Augustine.” In Augustine Through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. 151-56.

Harmless, William. Augustine in His Own Words. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010. pp. 156-200 [Augustine the Exegete]

Once again Harmless does an excellent job of selecting from Augustine’s a representative sample of Augustine’s writings so as to give a well-rounded introduction to his thought in his own words.

Land: Genesis 13

Genesis 13 begins with a geographical reversal as Abram retraces his steps from Egypt back into the Promised Land. Verses 5-7 set the stage: Abram and Lot are dwelling in the land, and they have been blessed. But there is not room for both of them to dwell together. Verse 7 reminds the reader that the continued presence of the Canaanites and Perizzites contributed to this problem.

In verses 8-9 Abram demonstrates faith in God’s promise by offering Lot the choice of settling anywhere in the land. The land is still possessed by the Canaanites, but Abram speaks as if God’s promise is true and the land is his to give. Abram also shows faith that his generosity toward Lot won’t result in his loosing part of the land to him.

Verses 10-14 present Lot as a foil to Abram. Lot makes his choice based on sight, rather than based on faith. His choice places him on the very edge of the Promised Land, if not beyond it.

In verses 14-17 God expands on the land promise. The promise is now no longer simply to Abram’s seed―it is a promise to him personally. He is promised all the land that he can see. He is promised that this land will be his and his seed’s possession forever.

In verse 18 Abram is said to have settled by the oaks of Mamre. This location is near the only plot of the promised land that Abram will own in his lifetime (Gen. 23:17-18).

Land: Genesis 12

The Abraham narrative begins with movement from one land, Ur of the Chaldeans (11:28) to another land, the land of Canaan (11:31). The first words we hear from God to Abraham are for him to leave his land and his family to go to another land (12:1).[1] Already the themes of land and seed are present. The fact that Abram travels with his father, Terah to Haran and remained there until Terah died (Acts 7:4)[2] may indicate a lack of obedience on Abram’s part.[3] Verse 4, however, indicates Abram’s obedience.

Preceding the obedience of verse 4 is a recitation of the promises of God to Abram. These promises are often summarized under the headings of land, seed, and blessing. These themes have their genesis in chapter 1 at the climax of the creation narrative. Genesis 1:28 identifies God’s words in 1:28-30 as a blessing. The blessing centers on seed (“be fruitful, and multiply”) and land (“fill the earth and subdue it”). When Adam and Eve sin the blessing is replaced with a curse (Gen. 3:17). The content of the judgment focuses on seed (3:16) and land (3:17). Therefore it should come as little surprise that God’s plan of redemption includes promises to Abraham regarding land, seed, and blessing.

The promises hang on a command regarding land and seed. Abraham is to leave his land and his family in order to receive God’s blessing. The land promise is not given in these opening verses, but it is hinted at by God’s promise to show Abram a land (12:1). It is also implied in the promise to make Abram a great nation (12:2). The term גוי may imply both people and land.[4]

The climax of God’s promise to Abraham is that in him “all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (12:3). Interestingly, all the land words in this chapter are אֶ֫רֶץ except in this verse where אֲדָמָה is used. The energies of the commentators is spent on determining whether נִבְרְכ֣וּ should be understood as passive or reflexive.[5] Little reflection is given to why the word אֲדָמָה is chosen over אֶ֫רֶץ. It could be free variation. Wenham notes that אֲדָמָה is used here and in 28:14 but that אֶ֫רֶץ is used when this promise is repeated in 26:4l 22:18; 18:18.[6] However, there may be an allusion back to Adam. All are cursed in Adam, but in Abraham all the families of אֲדָמָה shall be blessed.

Verse 4 testifies to Abram’s obedience to the Lord’s command. In verses 5-7 אֶ֫רֶץ occurs five times and in verses 8-9 the recurrence of geographical locations indicates that land is a major theme of 5-7. These verses reveal Abram’s entrance into the land and his travels through it from top to bottom in a survey of the land.[7]

And yet the land is clearly not yet Abram’s. In the first two mentions of land in verses 5-9, the land is identified as “the land of Canaan.” After noting that “Abram passed through the land to the place at Schechem,” Moses says, “At that time the Canaanites were in the land” (12:6). The reference to the oak of Moreh may be a reference to a place of Canaanite worship,[8] and its mention may be another means of driving the point home: Abram is a sojourner in this land.[9] It is in this context that God appears to Abram and for the first time explicitly promises the land to Abram’s seed. Abram responds by building an altar to the Lord. This may serve as a counterpoint to the oak of Moreh, and it reveals that Israelite possession of the land should displace pagan worship with the worship of Yahweh.

Verses 10-20 reveal that the path to fulfillment is not going to be straight. Already facing a barren wife (11:30), Abram now faces a barren land (12:10).[10] Abram does not respond to the challenge of the barren land by faith.[11] He leaves the land for Egypt, he places the seed promise in jeopardy (from a human perspective) by lying about Sarah, and as a result Abram is a curse to Pharaoh rather than a blessing.


[1] Abram’s obedience to God’s command does not merit the promises. His obedience is a testimony to his faith in God’s promises. Abraham’s later behavior in this chapter and God’s blessing of Abram despite his failures is a testimony that Abram is blessed because of God’s grace and not because of his goodness.

[2] On ways to harmonize Genesis 11:32 with Acts 7:4, see Hamilton, 1:367-68; Waltke, 201.

[3] Waltke, 201; Kidner, 111.

[4] Wenham, 1:275; Hamilton, 1:371-72; Mathews, 2:112; Currid, 252; Gentry & Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 235.

[5] Conservative commentators favor the passive. Kidner, TOTC, 114; Wenham,  1:277-78; Hamilton,  1:375; Mathews, 2:117.

[6] Wenham, 1:278.

[7] Wenham, 1:283; Hamilton, 1:379; cf. Sailhamer, EBC, 112.

[8] See Wenham, 1:279. This oak is identified by name in Deuteronomy 11:30 and seems to be mentioned in Genesis 35:4; Joshua 24:26; and Judges 9:6, 37.

[9] Mathew Henry emphasized the sojourning nature of Abram in these verses. Commentary on the Whole Bible, 35.

[10] Currid, 1:58.

[11] It is difficult to determine whether Abram’s departure because of the famine was acceptable or indicated a lack of faith. On the one hand there are many parallels between this passage and the divinely ordained sojourn of the people of Israel from Jacob to Moses: famine results in the emigration to Egypt, plagues are visited on Pharaoh by God, Abraham/the people leave with great wealth from Egypt. On the other hand, Abraham is not recorded here as leaving the land with a word from the Lord. In a context in which Abram is told by God to go to the land and in which his faith is tested, and in which he in other matters is showing a lack of faith, a negative reading seems most likely.

Top Ten Books Read in 2014

Beeke, Joel. Developing Healthy Spiritual Growth: Knowledge, Practice, and Experience. Grand Rapids: Evangelical Press, 2013.

This brief book of three sermons on Colossians 1:9-14 has been the most spiritually nourishing book that I have recently read. It led me to desire to know Christ more, to follow him better, and to grow in my experience of the Spirit’s sanctifying work.

Gouge, William. Building a Godly Home: Volume 1, A Holy Vision for Family Life. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2013. | Gouge, William. Building a Godly Home. Volume 2. Reformation Heritage, 2013.

This is one of the best expositions of Ephesians 5:21-6:4 that I’ve encountered. Gouge does an excellent job of explaining the text, explaining difficulties, and reconciling apparent contradictions. His seventeenth century perspective is an advantage rather than a liability because it enables us to see this text through different cultural eyes. In this regard his comments on equality were especially insightful. Reformation Heritage has done an excellent job in laying out the text, inserting headings and footnotes, and making the text readable for a contemporary audience.

Volume 2 provides practical application of the husband and wife’s mutual duties to each other, the wife’s duties toward her husband, and a husband’s duties toward his wife. According to the editors this book was the most influential Puritan book on marriage and family. It is easy to see why. It is full of careful, biblical guidance. Hermeneutically, Gouge is sometimes over-reliant on biblical examples that should not be taken as normative. Overall, however, his counsel is biblically grounded.

As expected, Gouge presents the biblical teaching of a husband’s leadership in the home and the wife’s submission to her husband. Gouge also sees the wife as holding an exalted position in the home, and his counsel repeatedly calls on the husband to lovingly treat her in way that honors her station. Egalitarian caricatures of what life in a biblically ordered home fall flat here as would any attempts to misuse the biblical teaching about the husband’s authority in order to demean the wife.

The overall effect of this volume is to challenge husbands and wives in their daily life to reflect Christ and the church. Gouge writes in a way that is direct and challenging while also being inspiring. These volumes by Gouge may still be the best books on marriage and the family on the market. They certainly are worthy of being as widely read today as they were in Puritan times.

Rosner, Brian S. Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God. New Studies in Biblical Theology, ed. D. A. Carson. Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 2013.

The issue of the Christian’s relation to the law of God is one of the most complicated issues in theology. Some New Testament passages seem to teach that the Christian is not under the law while others seem to demand obedience to the law. Rosner addresses this seeming contradiction by noting four ways in which the Christian relates to the law. First, the Christian is not under the Mosaic Law as his covenant. Second, the Christian is under the Law of Christ (or the law of faith or the law of the Spirit of life) instead of the Law of Moses. The Christian does not walk according to the law; he walks in the Spirit. Third, the Law is prophetic and the Christian uses the law as such. Fourth, the Christian should use the law as wisdom. Even the commands that are not repeated in the New Testament have a bearing for how the Christian lives his life.

Rosner’s approach accounts for the New Testament’s negative and positive statements about the law in a coherent manner. Other scholars, such as Frank Theilman, Douglas Moo, and Thomas Schreiner have written with similar perspectives. But Rosner’s book is longer than Moo’s brief article in the Four Views book on the law. It is less comprehensive than Theilman or Schreiner’s books. Rosner’s selectivity leads to clarity. This may now be the best book for the interested layperson on the topic of the Christian and the Law.

Denault, Pascal. The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology: A Comparison Between Seventeenth-Century Particular Baptist and Paedobaptist Federalism. Solid Ground Christian Books, 2013.

Denault proposes that the root of the difference between Particular Baptists and Paedobaptists of the Seventeenth Century was their different covenant theologies. Both held to similar views of the Covenant of Works, but they differed regarding the Covenant of Grace. Paedobaptists argued that the Covenant of Grace had a single substance but different administrations. The New Covenant was simply a different administration of the Covenant of Grace. The Baptists, on the other hand, held that the New Covenant was indeed something new and distinct from the Old Covenant. Regarding the Mosaic Covenant, Paedobaptists disagreed about whether it was part of the Covenant of Grace and unconditional in nature or whether it was akin to the Covenant of Works and distinct from the Covenant of Grace. The Baptists held that all the Old Testament Covenants were part of Old Covenant. This is why circumcision, a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant, is so closely connected with the Law. In this view Abraham was given the promises of the Covenant of Grace, but the Covenant of Grace, though progressively revealed in the Old Testament, was not enacted until Christ. The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace. Thus Abraham stands at the head of two seeds, a physical and a spiritual. Once Christ comes the purposes of the physical seed and its covenant are finished. Unlike the Old Covenant, which was mixed, the New Covenant is unconditional, entirely effective, and made up entirely of those who know Christ.

Denault does a good job of introducing the reader to significant seventeenth century figures from both sides of the debate. Nehemiah Coxe is introduced as the Baptist who most clearly developed this version of Covenant Theology, though other Baptists, such as Benjamin Keach, are also drawn on. Interestingly, though not a Baptist, John Owen is also claimed to have held the Baptist Covenant position. This is especially clear from his Hebrews commentaries.

Overall Denault seems to have presented the historical information clearly and accurately. This is not merely a historical monograph, however. Denault wishes to recover Baptist Covenant Theology for the present day. I found this position most convincing when critiquing the Paedobaptist one-covenant-under-many-administrations approach. I think the case for a disjunction between the New Covenant and Old is clear. And I am in full agreement that the New Covenant is a unconditional, effective, and unmixed covenant. The equation of the Covenant of Grace with the New Covenant is more convincing than the Paedobaptist construct of a Covenant of Grace made up of many different biblical covenants. However, this Baptist Covenant Theology has its own construct: the Old Covenant. In Scripture it seems clear that the Old Covenant and First Covenant are the Mosaic Covenant. Despite providing an explanation for the connection of circumcision and the Law, I’m not convinced exegetically that the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and Davidic Covenants can all be subsumed under one Old Covenant.

Geertsema, J. Always Obedient: Essays on the Teachings of Dr. Klass Schilder. P&R, 1995.

Klass Schilder (1890-1952) was a Dutch pastor and professor in the generation following Kuyper and Bavinck. He is notable for standing within the tradition developed by Kuyper and Bavinck while also dissenting from Kuyper at key points. He is also notable for his opposition to dialectical theology (Barthianism) and to the Nazi occupation of Holland. The book provides a brief biography of Schilder and includes essays on several aspects of his thought: Scripture, covenant, the church, culture, and heaven. Fundamentalists will appreciate Schilder’s resistance to Barthian approaches to Scripture and his resistance to ecumenical unity with Barthians and other unorthodox groups. At the same time he strongly held that Reformed Christians ought to be more united. Those from the free church tradition will disagree with the way he maps out this unity institutionally, but should appreciate his emphasis on both unity and purity. Baptists will also disagree on his thoughts regarding the covenant, since he includes children in the covenant. Yet we would appreciate his opposition to Kuyper’s views of presumptive regeneration and eternal justification. Regarding Christ and Culture, Schilder strongly believed in the importance of Christians participation in cultural pursuits. However, he saw dangers in Kuyper’s formulation of common grace. He placed greater emphasis on the antithesis, and he emphasized the needs for Christian cultural involvement to be truly Christian.

Kidner, Derek. The Message of Jeremiah: Against Wind and Tide. The Bible Speaks Today, ed. J. A. Motyer. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987.

Derek Kinder has the rare talent of packing a great deal of pertinent observation into a small space. This commentary on Jeremiah succinctly captures the message of the book in a running exposition that is meant to be read through from cover to cover. Throughout Kidner makes brief but pointed applications to the present. In this way the book lives up to both its title—it gives us the message of Jeremiah—and its series title—it speaks that message to us today.

Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo Darwinian Is Almost Certainly False. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

The gist of Nagel’s argument is that Neo-Darwinism cannot provide a materialist explanation for consciousness, cognition, and values. The explanations they do offer actually undermine our ability to have confidence in our reason―including the reasoning for Neo Darwinism. Nagel rejects theism and intelligent design (while appreciating their work and defending their critique of Neo Darwinism) for what seems to be a teleological evolutionary approach that embraces panpsychism rather than materialism. I found the critique compelling (aside from some spots that I had difficulty following). The positive vision was left underdeveloped because a paradigm shift in science would be necessary to develop it, Nagel says. Christian theism would provide answers to the questions that Nagel raises, but Nagel doesn’t consider theism in the book because he is “strongly averse” to the idea of God.

Cooper, John W. Body, Soul, and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-Dualism Debate. Updated Edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

When Christians think of conflicts between prevailing scientific theories of science and the Bible, the creation-evolution debate comes readily to mind. But other areas of conflict exist as well, including whether the humans have a soul or not. For many the soul seems to be unneeded as scientists can map the functions of the mind to the brain, reducing the mental to the physical. Cooper defends the traditional Christian position that humans have distinguishable souls and bodies. He grants, however, that Scripture tends to speak of people holistically. In contrast to monists (who deny that humans have a soul), Cooper identifies his position as “holistic dualism” or “dualistic holism.”

The heart of Cooper’s argument is that the Bible teaches that humans exist and interact in an intermediate state between death and the resurrection of the body. The fact of the intermediate state indicates soul and body must be separable. He considers alternative approaches such as “soul-sleep” or immediate resurrection and finds them exegetically lacking. Prior to making this argument, Cooper surveys Scripture and finds that it emphasizes holism but presupposes a dualism. In other words, the emphasis of Scripture is on the whole person though it can distinguish body and soul. After making his argument that the intermediate state requires a distinction between soul and body, Cooper examines theological, philosophical, and scientific objections. For instance one theological objection is that the Bible portrays the dead as bodily beings. In response, Cooper notes a number of responses are possible that harmonize with holistic dualuism: the language in those instances is not intended to be metaphysical, that souls maintain a bodily from, as Thomas Aquinas taught, or that the dead are “quasi-bodily” beings. The primary scientific objection is that states of mind and emotions can be mapped to the brain; indeed that these states of mind are not even possible when certain areas of the brain are damaged. Cooper responds on a number of levels: (1) The correlation between mind and brain is more complex than direct correlation. (2) He denies that even exact mind-brain correlation would not prove that it is the brain the causes all mental activity. While granting that the brain can affect the mind (something Cooper says has been known since people began to drink alcohol), there is no reason to deny that the mind affects the brain. (3) Cooper highlights the importance of distinguishing between empirical data from brain studies and the interpretation of that data. Materialism would be one interpretation, idealism another, and body-soul interaction another.

In all Cooper tackles a complex subject in an understandable fashion and with compelling argumentation.

Marsden, George. The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

This brief book of 200 pages looks back to the 1950s and the changes that emerged from that decade in order to better understand our present situation, particularly as it relates to religion and public life.

In his first two chapters Marsden looks at the concerns that intellectuals of the 1950s had about American culture. One of the chief concerns was that mediums such as TV were not meditating high culture to a broader audience. Instead a new mass culture was created that was culturally degrading. Serious thought was needed in the modern world but was lacking in popular magazines and television shows. Another major concern was the preservation and expansion of freedom. This theme was, of course, developed against the backdrop of the totalitarianism that arose prior to World War II and continued as a threat in the Cold War. The danger to freedom that the public intellectuals focused on, however, was the danger posed by conformity to business procedure, suburban housing, and even child-raising methods. The themes of freedom and nonconformity were stated in moderate, academic tones in the 1950s but lived out by the counter-culture of the 1960s.

In chapter three Marsden focuses on the great public intellectual of the time, Walter Lippmann. Marsden notes that the intellectuals of the 1950s could champion freedom because they had a shared consensus about the common goods that freedom should be oriented towards. Lippmann pointed out that these intellectuals valued the consensus but “had dynamited the foundations on which those principles had been first established.” Lippmann proposed that natural law be the needed foundation for the common good. His proposal was roundly rejected. Most intellectuals saw no need for these foundations; they saw natural law as a threat to human autonomy. Lippmann’s proposal was roundly rejected. Ironically, Marsden notes, out was the Christian-based rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr. that best exemplified the consensus ideals of the 1950s liberals: liberty, justice, equality.

In chapter four Marsden argues that the two actual authorities in American life were the individual (existentialism) and science. These two came together in psychology. Marsden traces the debates between Skinner and Rogers as well as the influence of Dr. Spock. The result of this unstable dual authority was the 1960s.

In chapter five Marsden looks at the the influence of Henry Luce and Reinhold Niebuhr as exemplifying the surface religiosity of the 1950s. Luce promoted a civil religion. Niebuhr gave profound evaluations of the American situation but lacked in providing a way forward, in part because there was no shared authority.

In chapter six Marsden looks at how the consensus of the 1950s collapsed in the 1960s, and eventually gave rise to the Evangelical Right/Moral Majority of the 1980s. Marsden holds that the Christian right wanted the 1950s back with its embrace of a Christian civil religion. His major critique is that they set up a binary opposition between themselves and “secular humanism.” Secularists likewise claimed to be the heirs of the 1950s consensus with its emphasis on personal freedom and science. Thus the culture wars.

In his conclusion Marsden looks to Abraham Kuyper as pointing the way forward. He notes that Kuyper rightly recognized that there is ultimately no neutral, objective ground. Thus attempts since the 1960s to move religion to a purely private sphere will fail. Nor is it possible to make a religiously plural nation Christian. What is needed, Marsden argues, is a principled pluralism that gives all religious views a voice.

Baker, Hunter. Political Thought: A Students Guide. Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition. Edited by David Dockery. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

Hunter Baker does a good job in a brief space of describing different approaches to government, key themes such as order, freedom, justice, and the Christian’s role in the political process. This is a good introduction to political thought from a Christian perspective.

Books and Articles Read Fall 2014

September

Books

Baker, Hunter. Political Thought: A Students Guide. Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition. Edited by David Dockery. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

Hunter Baker does a good job in a brief space of describing different approaches to government, key themes such as order, freedom, justice, and the Christian’s role in the political process. This is a good introduction to political thought from a Christian perspective.

Ware, Bruce A. The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.

Bruce Ware’s writing is characterized by a determination to be rigorously biblical, to dig in deep to what the Scripture says on a matter, and to communicate this rich, biblical theology in a clear, devotional manner. These are all characteristics of The Man Christ Jesus. The burden of this book is to cause Christians to glorify God for the incarnation. The Son taking flesh is part of God’s wise plan, and Ware probes what this means and why this is so. He invites his readers to consider that Jesus lived his life as a man empowered by the Spirit. This should encourage us in striving to live righteous lives. He discusses Jesus’s growth in wisdom, what this implies about his attitude toward Scripture, and how this should shape our attitude. He reminds us that Jesus didn’t obey God automatically. He strived for obedience through suffering as our pattern. Ware also has an insightful treatment of Jesus and temptation. Truly, as God Jesus could not sin. But Ware points out that this doesn’t mean that Jesus triumphed over temptation as God any more than someone who swam the English channel with a boat following behind achieved his goal because of the boat. Jesus could not sin as God, but he met temptation as a man. Ware of course discusses the need for Christ to be a man in order for him to be the substitutionary sacrifice in our place. Ware also picks up on some topics that are often neglected in discussions of Jesus’s humanity. Ware argues that Jesus not only needed to come as a human but that he also had to come as a male human. This was fitting because he is the eternal Son. But it was also necessary for Jesus to be the second Adam, to fulfill the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, to be a prophet like Moses, to be our High Priest, and to be the bridegroom of the church. Finally, Ware argues that Jesus had to be a man to fulfill his kingly reign. Of course Jesus is God and sovereign over all. But a number of texts speak of the Father giving Jesus authority to reign (Ps. 2:5-9; Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Phil 2:9-11; 1 Cor. 15:27-28; Ps. 110:1-4; Dan 7:13-14; Heb. 1:1-3; 2:9; 1 Pet. 3:22). Tied into this are the bodily resurrection and the bodily return of Christ.

Dallinore, Arnold A. George Whitfield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century. Crossway, 1990.

Dallimore writes devotional, but not uncritical, biographies of evangelical leaders. This brief biography is a condensation of his massive two-volume work on George Whitfield. It is warmly written. Dallimore conveys Whitefield’s zeal for the gospel. He also highlights Whitfield as a model for how to handle controversy by showing his grace and refusal to allow the Wesley’s attacks on Calvinism to cause a permanent breach that harmed their evangelistic work. His forbearance seems to have resulted in a reconciliation with the Wesley’s by the end of his life. Whitfield was not without flaws. Dallimore discusses his use of slave labor at his Gerogia orphanage. Whitfield also failed to support the Erskine’s in their separation from a corrupt church. But despite these flaws he was God’s faithful servant in spreading the Gospel in the British Isles and American colonies.

Speare, Elizabeth George. Sign of the Beaver. Houghton Mifflin, 1983.

Marsden, George. The Twilight of the American Enlightenment: The 1950s and the Crisis of Liberal Belief. New York: Basic Books, 2014.

This brief book of 200 pages looks back to the 1950s and the changes that emerged from that decade in order to better understand our present situation, particularly as it relates to religion and public life.

In his first two chapters Marsden looks at the concerns that intellectuals of the 1950s had about American culture. One of the chief concerns was that mediums such as TV were not meditating high culture to a broader audience. Instead a new mass culture was created that was culturally degrading. Serious thought was needed in the modern world but was lacking in popular magazines and television shows. Another major concern was the preservation and expansion of freedom. This theme was, of course, developed against the backdrop of the totalitarianism that arose prior to World War II and continued as a threat in the Cold War. The danger to freedom that the public intellectuals focused on, however, was the danger posed by conformity to business procedure, suburban housing, and even child-raising methods. The themes of freedom and nonconformity were stated in moderate, academic tones in the 1950s but lived out by the counter-culture of the 1960s.

In chapter three Marsden focuses on the great public intellectual of the time, Walter Lippmann. Marsden notes that the intellectuals of the 1950s could champion freedom because they had a shared consensus about the common goods that freedom should be oriented towards. Lippmann pointed out that these intellectuals valued the consensus but “had dynamited the foundations on which those principles had been first established.” Lippmann proposed that natural law be the needed foundation for the common good. His proposal was roundly rejected. Most intellectuals saw no need for these foundations; they saw natural law as a threat to human autonomy. Lippmann’s proposal was roundly rejected. Ironically, Marsden notes, out was the Christian-based rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr. that best exemplified the consensus ideals of the 1950s liberals: liberty, justice, equality.

In chapter four Marsden argues that the two actual authorities in American life were the individual (existentialism) and science. These two came together in psychology. Marsden traces the debates between Skinner and Rogers as well as the influence of Dr. Spock. The result of this unstable dual authority was the 1960s.

In chapter five Marsden looks at the the influence of Henry Luce and Reinhold Niebuhr as exemplifying the surface religiosity of the 1950s. Luce promoted a civil religion. Niebuhr gave profound evaluations of the American situation but lacked in providing a way forward, in part because there was no shared authority.

In chapter six Marsden looks at how the consensus of the 1950s collapsed in the 1960s, and eventually gave rise to the Evangelical Right/Moral Majority of the 1980s. Marsden holds that the Christian right wanted the 1950s back with its embrace of a Christian civil religion. His major critique is that they set up a binary opposition between themselves and “secular humanism.” Secularists likewise claimed to be the heirs of the 1950s consensus with its emphasis on personal freedom and science. Thus the culture wars.

In his conclusion Marsden looks to Abraham Kuyper as pointing the way forward. He notes that Kuyper rightly recognized that there is ultimately no neutral, objective ground. Thus attempts since the 1960s to move religion to a purely private sphere will fail. Nor is it possible to make a religiously plural nation Christian. What is needed, Marsden argues, is a principled pluralism that gives all religious views a voice.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays. New York: HarperCollins, 1983.

Lewis, C. S. The Horse and His Boy.

Kidner, Derek. The Message of Jeremiah: Against Wind and Tide. The Bible Speaks Today, ed. J. A. Motyer. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1987.

Derek Kinder has the rare talent of packing a great deal of pertinent observation into a small space. This commentary on Jeremiah succinctly captures the message of the book in a running exposition that is meant to be read through from cover to cover. Throughout Kidner makes brief but pointed applications to the present. In this way the book lives up to both its title—it gives us the message of Jeremiah—and its series title—it speaks that message to us today.

Articles

McKay, David. “From Popery to Principle: Covenanters and the Kingship of Christ.” In The Faith Once Delivered: Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne R. Spear. Edited by Anthony T. Selvaggio. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2007.

McKay traces a shift in the view of Christ’s relationship as king over the nations in Scottish Presbyterianism. He notes that George Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford distinguished between Christ’s mediatorial reign over the Church and his reign as God over the nations. Erastians argued that since magistrates were under the mediatorial reign of Christ, magistrates may also rule over the church. Gillespie and Rutherford insist on the twofold kingdom otherwise, contrary to Scripture, infidels could not be legitimate rulers and magistrates would wrongly intrude on the church. They also wanted to keep the mediatorial offices of Christ unified. Christ was only mediatorial king over those who by faith had him as their mediatorial prophet and priest. Rutherford argued that it was popery to teach that Christ rules as mediator over the nations.

Positions began to shift in the eighteenth century. In 1733 the Erskine’s led a group to secede from the Church of Scotland. But the Seceders did not join with the Covenanters, who were already outside the church of Scotland because of differences over government. The Seceders taught that governments are raised up providentially by God and must be obeyed according to Romans 13:1-7. A good and moral ruler is good for the nation but morality on the part of the ruler is not necessary to legitimate his rule. The Covenanters said that the legitimacy of government rested on its conformity to the rules for government laid down in Scripture. The Seceders argued that this was pushing the Covenanters toward the position of Christ being mediatorial king over all nations. Though they denied this, by the early nineteenth century, that shift had indeed happened.

In 1803 Alexander McLeod, an American Presbyterian in a Covenanter denomination, wrote Messiah, Governor of the Nations of the Earth. In Scotland William Symington’s Messiah the Prince (1839) argues similarly. These authors point out that Christ’s authority over the nations is given to him by the Father and is not held eternally by virtue of his divine nature (Matt. 11:27; 28:18; Acts 10:26; etc.). Further this rule includes rule over the nations. (Ps. 2:10-12; Dan. 7:13-14; etc.).

By the twentieth century these sentiments make it into the official documents of churches that stand in the Covenanter tradition. Thus a view once denounced by Rutherford as popery has made it into the confessional statements of the churches of his heirs.

One of the difficulties in working through these issues is that there are exegetical, theological, and practical considerations all coming into play. Practical concerns sometimes shape the exegesis and theology and sometimes similar exegetical and theological positions are held with different practical conclusions drawn.

Warfield, B. B. “The Divine Messiah in the Old Testament.” Works. 3:3-39.

Warfield argues, primarily from Ps 45:6; Isa. 9:6; Dan. 7:13, that the Old Testament presents the Messiah as divine. He also argues on the basis that the OT speaks of Yahweh coming and the Messiah coming in the same terms.

Warfield, B. B. “Christless Christianity.” Works. 3:313-67.

Warfield recounts the persistence of Lessing’s idea that true religion is a matter of the “eternal truths of reason” rather than the “accidental truths of history.” Though only a few deny the historicity of Jesus altogether, many affirm that though they think the historical Jesus existed, his non-existence would make no difference to their religion. Warfield draws an analogy to Platonists and Plato. If Plato never existed that would make little difference to the Platonist as long as the ideas were valid.

Warfield holds that Christianity is different from Platonism. True Christianity must reckon with the problem of sin. Forgiveness of sin demands expiation, “and expiation, in its very nature, is not a principle but a fact, an event which takes place, if at all, in the conditions of time and space” (340). Christ does not merely point the way to salvation (making him dispensable); Christ is the Way.

In addition, Warfield finds Lessing’s confidence in science and doubt in history to be self-contradictory since the conclusions of science are based on observations that are historical once they have taken place.

Warfield also argues that we can be more confident of the great gospel events than we can be of some events of the present or of recent history. There is much we do not know of the present, but there is a great deal of evidence for the events of the Gospels.

Finally, Warfield anticipates Machen’s argument by insisting that Christianity is a redemptive religion. A Christless Christianity is therefore not Christianity.

Warfield, B. B. “The ‘ Two Natures’ and Recent Christological Speculation.” Works, 3:259-310.

Warfield argues in the first half of this article that all the NT writings teach and presuppose the doctrine of the two natures of Christ. He makes the case that neither Paul nor the Synoptics have a Christology any less high than John’s. He notes that even some of the critics concede this. But, the critics maintain, there is evidence that a more primitive view than the two natures doctrine can be detected at points in the NT writings. In the second part of the article Warfield demonstrates that the critics are simply reading their own preconceptions of what t this primitive doctrine must be into the texts. Thus affirmations that Jesus is human are taken as indications of an earlier view that Jesus was only human. But, Warfield points out, affirmations that a Jesus is human is a necessary part of the two natures doctrine and are not indications of anything else. Warfield demonstrates powerfully in this article that the critics, more than the orthodox have a dogma that they read into the Scripture.

Scott, R. B. Y. “Wisdom in Creation: The ’Āmôn of Proverbs VIII 30.” Vetus Testamentum 10, no. 2 (April 1, 1960): 213-223.

Scott surveys five possible meanings of אמון in Proverbs 8:30: skilled craftsman, child, guardian, binding, faithful. He opts for “binding” as the sense that can explain the rise of the other senses. The meaning is that “Wisdom was a link or bond between the Creator and his creation.”

October

Books

Gundry, Robert H. Jesus the Word According to John the Sectarian: A Paleofundamentalist Manifesto for Contemporary Evangelicalism, especially Its Elites, in North America. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

I found the exposition of Jesus the Word largely convincing. If at times Gundry may have stretched to show how the Logos theme runs throughout the book, the number of actual connections is substantial enough for his thesis to stand. Furthermore, I’m in agreement that Word refers to the revelatory aspect of Jesus’s ministry.

The exposition of John as sectarian I found less convincing. He pits the theology of John against the synoptics, and tries to mount an argument that John does not intend for Christians to love the world in any sense, John 3:16 notwithstanding. I have a hard time seeing fundamentalists, paleo or otherwise affirming an approach that sees diverse theologies among the Gospel writers.

I was of a mixed mind of his paelofundamentalist manifesto. As a fundamentalist, I found aspects of the critique, especially those aspects about theological assimilation and worldly living, pertinent. I resist the idea, however, that fundamentalism should is only about churchly and heavenly life and not about earthly life. Not least because at those points Gundry is setting different parts of Scripture against each other.

Witherington III, Ben. A Week in the Life of Corinth. Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 2012.

This book provides an entertaining way of picking up background knowledge about the world of the New Testament. The plot and characterization may be a bit thin at points, but that’s not the point of this book. The point is to learn about the world of the New Testament in an entertaining way. At that, this books succeeds.

Campbell, Iain D. and William M. Schweitzer, Engaging with Keller: Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical. Grand Rapids: Evangelical Press, 2013.

This book is a model of critical engagement with a brother in Christ. Almost all of the authors are respectful and appreciative of Keller’s ministry. Most are not reticent to praise Keller even as they critique significant aspects of his ministry. The manuscript was also submitted to Keller for feedback.

I disagreed most with the chapter by Hart. This, no doubt, is because he was arguing for a Presbyterian ecclesiology while I am a Baptist. However, the other essays I found to be careful treatments of Keller’s teaching about sin, hell, perichoresis, the church’s mission, and evolution. Another chapter examines Keller’s hermeneutical methodology. One of the central concerns raised repeatedly is that Keller’s efforts to make biblical doctrine plausible in a today’s world sometimes subtly distorts the doctrines themselves. The authors are not opposed to finding new ways of talking about old truths, but they note that when this is attempted the church does need to be careful to ensure that the new ways of speaking are as faithful as the old ways.

Given the overall excellence in content and spirit of this book, I was disappointed to see a defensive review in Themelios. For instance, Kevin Bidwell has a perceptive critique of the use of the divine dance metaphor. The reviewer criticizes Bidwell for not treating Keller’s Trinitarian views more fully. But this is unfair. Bidwell notes at the beginning of his essay: “This is not a critique of everything that Keller ever said about the Trinity, but only his use of a particular imagery of questionable validity and having problematic implications.” Surely a friendly critic should be allowed to note that Keller is orthodox in his Trinitarian teaching but that a particular metaphor that he often uses is problematic. In addition the Themelios reviewer accused the authors of at times misrepresenting Keller, but I wonder if the reviewer misread the critiques, which were often not that Keller denied certain teachings but that they were minimized to the point that certain distortions arose. The response to that kind of critique cannot be, “but Keller teaches such and such here.” I would have been much more encouraged if the reviewer mixed his defense of Keller with acknowledgement of areas in which the authors had pointed up some real problems. The authors of Engaging with Keller clearly appreciate his work, and wrote their book to strengthen Keller’s ministry and the churches influenced by it. But that goal won’t be achieved if the readers are defensive.

Tolkein, J.R.R. Bilbo’s Last Song.

Articles

Vos, Geerhardus. “The Range of the Logos Title in the Prologue to the Fourth Gospel.” In Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos. Edited by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1980.

Vos argues that the title Logos applies to the pre-incarnate as well as incarnate Christ, that Logos carries the meaning of Creator as well as Revealer, and that many of the statements about light in connection with life are references to general revelation.

Arnold, Matthew. “Thyrsis”

Snoeberger, Mark. “Weakness Or Wisdom? Fundamentalists And Romans 14.1– 15.13.” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 12 (2007): 29-48.

In this article Mark Snoeberger responds to the assertion that those with standards that are stricter than explicit biblical statements are by biblical definition weak. Snoeberger notes that such a position “implied that the most restrained and self-denying of believers are in fact the very weakest, and, contrarily, that the most libertine and self-indulgent of believers are actually the very strongest” (29). While Snoeberger is ready to grant that some Fundamentalists have wrongly developed strictures beyond those with biblical warrant. But he also notes Romans 14-15 is not about adiaphora or things about which the Scripture is silent. It has to do with Jewish believers who continued to think they had to obey the dietary laws and observe sacred days as a matter of sanctification (not justification). These people are wrong. They are weak in faith. As a result, Paul counsels the strong to restrict their liberty so that they do not destroy the weak. Snoeberger argues that Fundamentalists have often done well in the matter of restricting their liberty for the benefit of others.

November

Books

Bonar, Horatius. The Everlasting Righteousness.

Bonar presents the reader with solid meat regarding the Bible’s teaching about righteousness in Christ. The book focuses on the justification side of things, but sanctification is not neglected. But this book is no mere treatise. It is full of pastoral exhortation as well.

O’Dell, Scott. Island of the Blue Dolphins. Laurel Leaf, 1960.

O’Dell. Scott. Sing Down the Moon.

Challies, Tim and R. W. Glenn. Modest: Men and Women Clothed in the Gospel. Cruciform Press, 2012.

This book suffers from false dichotomies. The authors wrongly conflate concrete applications of Scripture with Paul’s warning in Colossians to beware of “self-made religion and asceticism.” Thus if a father tells his children, “‘only this low,’ ‘at least this long,’ ‘never in this combination,’ and ‘never so tight that ______ shows.'” he is not necessarily replacing “the gospel . . . with regulations.” He may simply be helping his son or daughter apply the Scripture to their lives in a concrete way. The same can be true of a local church or a Christian school. Such families, churches, and schools may be legalistic. They may think they’re earning God’s favor by adhering to their rules. They may look down on others who draw their guidelines differently. Or they may be a group of believers who really want to please God in all that they do—not to earn his favor but because they love their Savior and his church.

Jaeggli, Randy. Christians and Alcohol: A Scriptural Case for Abstinence. BJU Press, 2014.

I have long personally held an abstinence position with regard to beverage alcohol for the following reasons: (1) The Bible counsels strict moderation with regard to alcohol. (2) The alcohol content of alcoholic beverages today is so much higher than in biblical times that drinking them undiluted would seem to violate biblical teaching. (3) Given this, biblical comments about delighting in wine are not about experience the effects of the alcohol. This is confirmed because these passages also refer to rejoicing in bread and oil. Thus I can obey exhortations to rejoice in bread and wine by rejoicing in all manner of good food. (4) Paul warns Christians not to be brought under the power of anything. I do not trust myself to drink alcoholic beverages without being brought under their power. Putting one’s self to the test seems to me a position of Christian immaturity. (5) Even if drinking alcoholic beverages were my liberty (of which I am not convinced, given points 1 and 2), I willing restrict my liberty lest I be a stumbling block to my brothers and sisters in Christ who are tempted to drunkenness. (6) Any medicinal benefit that can be gained from drinking wine can be gained with less risk in other ways. For this reason articles that I read about these benefits always close by counseling people not to begin drinking if they don’t already do so.

I am therefore pleased to see Jaeggli develop his arguments along these lines and to provide cogent exegetical and theological reasons for holding them.

Horton, Ronald. Family: The Making and Remaking of a Christian Home. BJU Press, 2014.

This is a book of wise counsel from an older Christian who thinks carefully about the Christian life.

Bangs, Carl. Arminus: A Study in the Dutch Reformation. 1985; reprinted by Wipf & Stock, 1998.

Bangs’s biography has long been the standard biography of Arminius. He provides abundant historical background. He writes sympathetically. He should be read alongside more recent works such as those by Muller, McCall, and Stanglin.

Articles

Muller, Richard A. “Arminius and the Reformed Tradition,” Westminster Theological Journal 70 (2008):

Bangs has argued that the Dutch Reformed Church was a much broader church up to the time of Arminius, that Arminius was just as similar (and different) from Calvin as the Reformed disagreeing with him, and that therefore Arminius has just as much right to be identified as Reformed as his opponents.

Muller grants the second point. There are indeed many commonalities between Arminius’s overall theological positions and those of Calvin. Indeed, there are many similarities between he and his opponents. But, Muller notes, Arminius’s differences placed him outside the confessional boundaries. His opponents’ differences with Calvin do not. Muller does not grant the first point. He notes that Bangs is only able to find a broader Reformed church by excluding certain national synods on the grounds that they were held outside the country. But Muller notes that the fact that a national synod is held outside the country due to war does not invalidate the national character of the synod. Furthermore, through Arminius tried to insist that he remained within the confessions, his interpretations of the confessions on disputed points were contrary to the early commentaries on the confessions, one written by the confession’s author. Muller concludes that while Arminius could be called Reformed by virtue of the fact that he served as a Dutch Reformed pastor, his theology fell outside the already agreed upon confessional standards of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Stallard, Mike. “The Post-Trib and Amillennial Use Of 2 Thessalonians 1,” JMAT 6:2 (Fall 02): 59-80.

Post-tribulationists and Amillennialists typically argue that 2 Thessalonians 1 is incompatible with pre-tribulationalism because the promised relief to the Thessalonians was located, not at a pre-tribulational rapture but at the visible return of Christ. Stallard argues that the rest promised is not merely freedom from persecution. It is a fuller eschatological promise. Thus it is no problem for the Thessalonians to die or for some Christians to be ruptured prior the Second Coming and the rest that comes with it. Stellar not only demonstrates that this is a possible reading, but he shows, based on the structure of the text, that it is the most likely reading.

Henry, Carl F. H. God, Revelation, and Authority, III:248.303.

December

Books

Bartholomew, Craig and Michael Goheen. The Drama of Scripture: Finding our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.

The Bible is not just a collection of spiritual sayings from which Christians gather guidance for life. Any individual verse or passage must be understood within the context of the book in which it is written. But it is also important to see that the books themselves fit into an overall storyline as well. Explaining this storyline is the purpose of this book. It does this job well with three weaknesses. First, it excludes coverage of OT poetry. This is understandable in a book that covers the storyline of Scripture. But the authors did cover the NT epistles. Furthermore, Bartholomew is an expert on OT poetry and has elsewhere written about how it connects to the narrative portions of Scripture. Including some of that material in this book would have made it stronger. Second, the book fudged when it came to the evolution issue. But the fundamental goodness of Creation is essential to these authors’ (and the Bible’s) worldview, making this a significant weakness. Third, the authors quote from left-wing evangelicals enough that I would not want to use the book for an undergraduate class, which is the author’s target audience.

Barrett, Matthew and Ardel Caneday, eds. Four Views on the Historical Adam. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.

The advantage of multiple views books is the quick survey they provide of controversial issues from multiple points of view. But these books have a danger as well. The best argued position is not necessarily the best position. I believe that is the case with this book.

The book begins with an introduction written by the editors. This is followed by the four views: Denis Lamoureux argues that there was no historical Adam. The other three contributors argue for a historical Adam but from three different perspectives. John Walton writes from his unique comparative studies approach. C. John Collins writes from an old earth perspective. William Barrick writes from a young earth perspective. The book closes with two essays about the implications of a historical Adam. Gregory Boyd argues that for some a historical Adam is an obstacle to faith whereas nothing is lost by denying a historical Adam. Philip Ryken, on the other hand, argues that core elements of Christian theology and worldview depend on a historical Adam.

I think that Barrick and Ryken hold the correct positions, but Walton and Ryken argued for their positions the best. Unfortunately, Barrick’s chapter was largely taken up with an exposition of Genesis 1-4. This mean that he spent a good deal of space on matters that were not directly under debate. I think his argument would have been better if it proceeded under two lines of argument: First, he could have argued that a historical Adam in a world without death or sin is theologically necessary. Some of the points that Ryken raised in favor of a historical Adam Barrick should have raised in support of his position. Second, he should have demonstrated at key points that a young-earth reading of the text is superior to the alternatives offered by the other authors. For instance,

Rosner, Brian S. Paul and the Law: Keeping the Commandments of God. New Studies in Biblical Theology, ed. D. A. Carson. Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 2013.

The issue of the Christian’s relation to the law of God is one of the most complicated issues in theology. Some New Testament passages seem to teach that the Christian is not under the law while others seem to demand obedience to the law. Rosner addresses this seeming contradiction by noting four ways in which the Christian relates to the law. First, the Christian is not under the Mosaic Law as his covenant. Second, the Christian is under the Law of Christ (or the law of faith or the law of the Spirit of life) instead of the Law of Moses. The Christian does not walk according to the law; he walks in the Spirit. Third, the Law is prophetic and the Christian uses the law as such. Fourth, the Christian should use the law as wisdom. Even the commands that are not repeated in the New Testament have a bearing for how the Christian lives his life.

Rosner’s approach accounts for the New Testament’s negative and positive statements about the law in a coherent manner. Other scholars, such as Frank Theilman, Douglas Moo, and Thomas Schreiner have written with similar perspectives. But Rosner’s book is longer than Moo’s brief article in the Four Views book on the law. It is less comprehensive than Theilman or Schreiner’s books. Rosner’s selectivity leads to clarity. This may now be the best book for the interested layperson on the topic of the Christian and the Law.

Articles

Naselli, Andrew David. “Three Reflections on Evangelical Academic Publishing,” Themelios (November 2014).

Andy uses two recent books, John D’Elia’s A Place at the Table and Stanley Porter’s Inking the Deal, as grist for reflections of academic publishing. The article is both written humbly and, in my estimation, wise in its assessments.

Waltke, Bruce K. “Psalm 110: An Exegetical and Canonical Approach” in Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church: Essays in Honor of Richard B. Gaffin Jr. Edited by Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey C. Waddington. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2008.

Waltke exegetes Ps. 110. He also argues that the Psalm was written by David as a prophecy of the Messiah.

Munday, John C. “Creature Mortality: From Creation or the Fall?” JETS 35, no. 1 (March 1992): 51-68.

Munday’s position is that death has always been part of God’s creation rather than a result of the Fall. The article is weakly written. Many of the positions are asserted rather than argued. Oftentimes alternative explanations are not considered.

Land: Genesis 1-11

Land is a significant theme in Genesis 1-11. It plays a prominent role in both blessing and judgment. McKeown summarizes that theme well:

When humans are alienated from God there are significant repercussions, because God uses the land to punish his recalcitrant subjects. Misdemeanors as diverse as eating ‘forbidden’ fruit (Gen 3:17-19), fratricide (Gen 4:10-16) and building a tower without divine approval (Gen 11:5-9) are all punished in relation to land. As a result, the ground is cursed (Gen 3:17-19), thorns and thistles make the ground more difficult to cultivate and less productive (cf. Gen 5:29), human beings must still work the soil but the benefits they receive are greatly reduced (Gen 3:19, 23), and the harmony established at creation is replaced by alienation culminating in the expulsion of the human beings from the idyllic surroundings of the garden of Eden (Gen 3:24). The account of the fratricide perpetrated by Cain shows that crimes such as murder could result in further alienation from the ground and in a total loss of fertility of the ground. The final crime in the primeval narratives is that of the tower builders whose insubordination results in them being scattered over all the earth. In these early stories fertile land is a gift from God and a sign of his blessing while infertility (famine) may be a consequence of divine displeasure.

J. McKeown, “Land, Fertility, Famine,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003), 488.

Land: Genesis 11

The tower of Babel account is the concluding account to the first major section of Genesis.[1] The phrase “all the earth” [כָל־הָאָרֶץ] brackets the account as well as being a motif that recurs throughout (11:1, 4, 8, 9). The account begins with the people of the earth resisting the creation blessing. Instead of filling the earth they are determined to avoid being dispersed.[2] Mankind determines to use its capacity for dominion over the earth to resist God and to build what may be seen as an alternative Eden. The land of Shinar is located between two rivers given the names of two of the rivers that flowed from Eden.[3] After the Fall, mankind had been thrust from Eden, God’s dwelling place with man. But in this account, the people seek to build a tower that reaches into the dwelling place of God.[4] On one level this is absurd. The text makes the point that God has to come down to even see the tower.[5] On the other hand, God notes that the blessing of dominion can be turned to powerful evil if limits are not placed on it. For this reason he confuses the language of the peoples, which results in their scattering over the earth. This scattering could be looked at as a parallel to the exile from Eden and the exile of Cain.[6] Once again in the opening chapters of Genesis exile is the judgment for disobedience. On the other hand, this scattering over the face of the earth is what makes possible the fulfillment of the creation blessing’s promise that mankind will fill the earth.[7]


[1] For literary connections between 11:1-9 and earlier parts of Genesis, see Mathews, NAC, 1:466-67. The toledoth formula seem to be the major structuring device in Genesis, but the narrowing of focus to the covenant family of Abraham beginning in 11:27 seems to mark a thematic division in Genesis.

[2] Josephus, Antiquities, 1.110; Jeremy Cohen, “Be Fertile and Increase, Fill the Earth and Master It”: The Ancient and Medieval Career of a Biblical Text (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989), 69.

[3] Mathews, NAC, 1:467. It plausible, though unknown, if these rivers had the names Tigris and Euphrates at the time of the tower of Babel. The Euphrates, however, did have its name by the time of Abraham, five generations later (15:18).

[4] Wenham, WBC, 242; Mathews, NAC, 1:481-82.

[5] “With heavy irony we now see the tower through God’s eyes. This tower which man thought reached to heaven, God can hardly see! From the height of heaven it seems insignificant, so the Lord must come down to look at it! ‘He sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers’ (Isa 40:22). God’s descent to earth to view the tower is no more proof of the author’s primitive anthropomorphic view of God than is God’s asking Adam and Eve where they were hiding in the garden an indication of his ignorance. It’s is simply a brilliant and dramatic way of expressing the puniness of man’s greatest achievements, when set alongside the creator’s omnipotence.” Wenham, WBC, 1:240; cf. Mathews, NAC, 1:468, 469, 483; Hamilton, NICOT, 1:354.

[6] McKeown, THOTC, 72.

[7] McKeown, THOTC, 72; Mathews, NAC, 1:467.