Robertson, O. Palmer. The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000.
I’ve greatly benefited from O. Palmer Robertson’s work in the past, especially his The Christ of the Prophets. I am frequently refreshed by his forthright rejection of critical theories that stand at odds with Scripture’s testimony to itself. I therefore picked up The Israel of God in the hope that it would provide me with the best argumentation for the position that the Israel of God in the New Testament are the elect Jews and Gentiles who have been brought together in the church (with the implication that there is no future role for the people of Israel in God’s redemptive plan). While there are some helpful sections (e.g., a critique of Childs’ canonical criticism; a study of Melchizedek; a study of the wilderness theme), I was disappointed by the level of argumentation for the book’s primary thesis. Sometimes Robertson simply asserts things that he ought to argue for (e.g., that the land of Israel is a type and only a type). Most significantly, his treatment of Galatians 6:16, a foundational text for his thesis, contains little interaction with opposing views, leading to an overconfidence in his position. He states that taking the kai as epexegetical (so that "the Israel of God" is equated with "all those who walk according to this canon") is the "only explanation of Paul’s phrase . . . that satisfies the context as well as the grammar of the passage." But S. Lewis Johnson demonstrated that it is possible for the "Israel of God" to be a subset of "all those who walk according to this canon," a view that Robertson never considers.* As a result of the overconfidence that "Israel of God" must refer to elect Jews and Gentiles alike, much of the rest of the exegesis seems forced. I had the same feeling that I get when I read some dispensationalists who argue that the kingdom is not currently present in any form. They can get the passages to conform to their theology through exegesis that is possible. But it doesn’t seem to be the most probable reading of the texts. This is especially the case for Robertson when seeks to prove that the salvation "all Israel" in Romans 11 refers to the salvation of Jews and Gentiles throughout the present age. He can get the exegesis to work, but his readings are not the most likely.
*S. Lewis Johnson, Jr., "Paul and the "Israel of God: An Exegetical and Eschatological Case-Study," in Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost, (Chicago: Moody, 1986), 184, n. 22, 187-88. (This essay is also reprinted in The Master’s Seminary Journal [Spring 2009]: 41-55).
Richardson, Peter. Israel in the Apostolic Church. Cambridge: The University Press, 1969.
Richardson’s research led him to conclude that the term "Israel" was not applied to the church until Justin Martyr so applied it in A. D. 160. Though some hints or steps toward this application were made earlier in the fathers, and indeed, in the New Testament, the actual step did not take place until that point. With regard to Galatians 6:16 Richardson concludes: "We suggest it [Ισραήλ του Θεου] is those within Israel to whom God will show mercy—all those Israelites who are going to come to their senses and receive the good news of Christ . . . . This means that Galatians 6:16 does not presuppose that the church has taken over the name Israel for itself." Richardson does think, however, that a process was begun in the early church that culminated in Justin’s conclusion. The church recognized a certain continuity between itself and Israel and would apply mutually descriptive terms such as "elect" or "brothers." It slowly began to adopt more significant terms such as "people." Two things remained before the title "Israel" itself could be adopted. First, the church had to see itself as third entity, neither Jew or Gentile, rather than a group within Israel. Second, Jesus had to be envisioned as the true Israel (via the Son of Man and Servant terminology). Once that step had been taken, his body, the church could be identified as Israel.
At many points Richardson has provided helpful analyses, but his work is hampered by his critical stance. This leads causes him to attribute different theologies to the varying NT authors, and it in other ways adversely affects his exegesis.
Soulen, R. Kendall. The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Fortress Press, 1996.
Christian’s cooperation with Nazi persecution and slaughter of Europe’s Jewish population. Soulen concludes that the problem is deeply rooted in Christianity’s construal of the biblical narrative. A solution to the problem of supersessionism thus involves reimagining the biblical narrative. Soulen rejects placing redemption at the center of the Christian narrative, and he rejects placing Christ as the "unifying center" of the two testaments. Instead each testament is to be allowed to have its own focus. Furthermore, while the church has a mission to make disciples of all nations, it has no mission to convert Jews to the church. Israel and the church have two separate missions in God’s purposes. Soulen’s reimagining theology is creative but exegetically thin. He interacts briefly with Romans 11 but he entirely neglects key passages such as Ephesians 2 and Acts 4.
Bucer, Martin. Concerning The True Care of Souls. Edited by David F. Wright. Translated by Peter Beale. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1538.
Both helpful pastorally and also interesting historically. On the latter score, it was interesting the role that penance still played for Bucer. It was no longer a sacrament, but it was still present. I’ve also been reading some early Luther, and he held on to penance as a sacrament in the early years, though within a few years of his break with Rome concluded that it was not in any way a sacrament.
Kaiser, Walter C. Preaching and Teaching the Last Things: Old Testament Eschatology for the Life of the Church. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011.
Kaiser had a great line up of topics mapped out in the table of contents. However, those looking for comprehensive treatment of those topics should look elsewhere since Kaiser primarily takes one passage related to the topic and provides a model exposition. These expositions vary in their value from quite helpful to somewhat idiosyncratic.
Fee, Gordon D. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988. [read introduction and 1 Timothy section ]
Excellent defense of Pauline authorship in the introduction; disagreed with his position on women and ministry and did not find the exegesis on that point compelling; found the commentary on 1 Timothy to do a good job of explaining how the letter fits together, how the parts relate to the whole.
Luther, Martin. Word and Sacrament I. Luther’s Works. Volume 35. Edited by Helmut T. Lehmann and E. Theodore Bachmann. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1960.
Read the following (did not read materials related translation):
"The Sacrament of Penance" (1519)
"The Holy and Blessed Sacrament of Baptism" (1519)
"The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods" (1519)
"A Treatise on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass" (1520)
"A Brief Instruction on what to Look for and Expect in the Gospels" (1521)
"Avoiding the Doctrines of Men and a Reply to the Texts Cited in Defense of the Doctrines of Men" (1522)
"How Christians should Regard Moses" (1525)
Luther’s treatments of the sacraments in this volume are early, and the introductions in this edition are very helpful in placing these treatises in the development of Luther’s thought (for instance, at this point Luther had reduced the sacraments from seven to three; later he would reduce them to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). Luther’s primary goal in the treatises on the sacraments is to respond to abuses in the medieval church.
The title to Luther’s "Brief Instruction" is potentially misleading, for it does not provide a guide to the four gospels. Rather, Luther mounts the argument that the gospel is found throughout the New Testament. He contrasts the promises of the gospel with the works of the Law demanded by Moses.
In "Avoiding the Doctrines of Men" Luther argues against the addition of rules, such as avoiding certain foods on certain days, or the rules of monastic orders, as binding on Christians or certain groups of Christians. He also replies to claims that the Scripture itself supports the creation of these human commandments.
In "How Christians should Regard Moses" Luther argues that the law cannot produce righteousness or good works. The Christian must distinguish the law and the gospel. The law says, "do this." The gospel says, "This is what God has done for you." In addition, the Law was given to Israel, not to the Christian. This does not mean, however, that there is no commonality between what God expected of Israel and what he expects of Christians—what is required by natural law, is required both of Israelite and Christian. Luther warns that obeying one part of the Mosaic law as Mosaic law binds one to the whole, but at the same time he does not dismiss the significance of the law for the Christian. The law contains fine examples of law that could be reused (e.g., some of its concrete implementations of natural law can provide guidance to Gentile nations for their implementation of natural law), the law contains many promises, and the law contains examples both good and bad from which the Christian should learn.
I enjoyed the writings on the law and the gospel the most. I think Luther is in general correct in his assessment of the place of the law, though I also think that greater room for the third use of the law can and should be made within this framework.
Hoffmeier, James K. “‘These Things Happened’: Why a Historical Exodus Is Essential for Theology.” In Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
In light of Kenton Sparks’s attack on traditional evangelicals as obscurantist for insisting on the historicity of biblical events, such as the exodus, Hoffmeier documents both the problematic methodology of the critics and evidence for a historical exodus. He further maintains that a historical exodus is necessary for sound theology and for the health of the church.
Yarbrough, Robert W. “God’s Words in Human Words: Form-Critical Reflections.” In Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Yarbrough begins his essay with a brief review of "form criticism," a critical approach to Scripture dominant from the 1920s to the 1950s. This critical approach sought to classify the teachings of Christ or Gospel narratives, to determine a life setting in the church that gave rise to the story, and then to reconstruct the history of the units until they reached their final written form. Yarbrough proposes in this essay to analyze Kenton Sparks’s book from a form-critical standpoint.
There is some irony in this approach to evaluation. Sparks is encouraging evangelicals to embrace critical methodology (and castigates those who refuse to do so). By evaluating him in terms of a now-superseded methodology Yarbrough subtly questions the wisdom of Sparks’s fulsome embrace of biblical criticism.
Yarbrough proposes that Sparks’s book falls into the "shift story" form. That is, it tells the story of one who has shifted form one religious position to another. In Sparks’ case he shifted from traditional evangelical beliefs to those of the critics as he studied under John Van Seters. In examining this form Yarbrough documents shift stories of others who moved from critical positions to positions of belief: Heinz Cassirer (1903-1979), Eta Linnemann (d. 2009), and the stories of Victorian skeptics who became Christians documented by Timothy Larsen in Crisis of Doubt. These shift stories that move in the opposite direction from Sparks expose a weakness account. In his telling, evangelicals hold to their position "because of unthinking traditionalism or partisan loyalty" (333, Yarbrough’s words). But what of those whose research moved them toward evangelical beliefs about Scripture?
Yarbrough next turns to the Sitz im Leben of Sparks’s book. Sparks wrote in a context in which a number of scholars’ embrace of critical methodologies and rejection of biblical historical accuracy led to their abandonment of Christianity. Bart Ehrman and William Dever are among the more prominent names discussed. Given this Sitz im Leben Yarbrough notes, "The academic enterprise in its frequent post- if not anti-confessional dress may represent a greater threat to historic Christian faith than Sparks’s book indicates" (336). Thus it should not "be thought innovative, progressive, or attractively risqué that an ‘evangelical’ Bible teacher turns on forebears, peers, and elders in the guild and takes a sizeable step toward the embrace of a contrasting set of authority figures at the point of one of Christianity’s foundational teachings: the doctrine of Scripture" (337).
Yarbrough finally turns to the community out of which shift stories such as Sparks’s come, and he notes that the history of criticism is full of men who have grown up in devout homes, often pastor’s homes, and lost their faith by embracing criticism. Sparks does not wish to travel that road to its destination, but Yarbrough urges caution since the criticism Sparks advocates "has little to no record of fostering or aiding Christian belief" (342).
In the end, Yarbrough finds more promise for the next generation of evangelicalism in the rise of robustly confessional Christians in the global south than in old world criticism.
Blomberg, Craig L. “A Constructive Traditional Response to New Testament Criticism.” In Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Kenton Sparks argues that evangelicals should abandon traditional approaches to the critics and adopt "’constructive’ responses to biblical criticism" (346), by which he seems to mean abandon the historicity of Scripture at disputed points and adopt the critics’ unbelieving posture. Blomberg finds Sparks’s denunciations of traditional harmonizations and defenses of Scripture’s historicity over the top. He responds by demonstrating in a number of test cases (the timing of the Passover in John, the number of temple cleansings, and mention of Abiathar in Mark 2:26) that these represent reasonable exegetical approaches to the text—approaches that are in some cases clearly superior to the critics. On the other hand, Blomberg chastises those on his right for ruling out of bounds critical conclusions (e.g., the pseudonymity of some NT epistles or claims that part of Matthew is midrash rather than history) when these conclusions are reached in a manner that safeguards inerrancy. Blomberg says these conclusions may be challenged by challenging the exegesis or the background assumptions, but they ought not be ruled out of bounds on the basis of being incompatible with inerrancy. No doubt Blomberg is correct that the methodology must be examined, but if it is found to be faulty, there should be no problem in proclaiming the conclusion incompatible with inerrancy. Furthermore, it is not a fault for more conservative theologians and exegetes to be suspicious when evangelicals develop strained methodologies that enable them to embrace critical conclusions and inerrancy at the same time.
Bock, Darrell L. “Precision and Accuracy: Making Distinctions in the Cultural Context That Give Us Pause in Pitting the Gospels Against Each Other.” In Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Bock surveys various alleged discrepancies between the Gospels and seeks to demonstrate that they are not in conflict but simply reflect differing levels of precision. They are all accurate, but not equally precise. He uses the three accounts of Paul’s conversion in Acts to demonstrate that such variations can be expected even within the work of a single author. Overall his solutions are helpful, though there is perhaps too much confidence in the two source solution to the synoptic problem. Nor was I convinced that positing an "updated saying" is necessary for reconciling the disciples’ opening question in the Olivet discourse.
Pinson, J. Matthew. “Thomas Grantham’s Theology of Atonement and Justification.” Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 7-21.
Pinson compares Thomas Grantham’s theology, especially his soteriology, with that of influential Arminian John Goodwin. According to Pinson, Grantham "differed from the Calvinists in his doctrines of election, the extent of atonement, the resistibility of grace, and the perseverance of the saints. On these subjects he agreed with his fellow Arminians. Yet he differed substantially with his Arminian counterparts on the doctrines of sin and depravity, human inability, the nature of atonement and justification by faith, and what was involved in falling from grace" (10). Pinson focuses this article on Grantham’s defense of penal substitution as contrasted with Goodwin’s moral influence approach.
Davis, Thomas W. “Saint Paul on Cyprus: The Transformation of an Apostle.” In Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Davis provides extensive social and historical information about Cyprus and then draws some sketchy theological conclusions at the end (e.g., it was this encounter that enabled Paul to overcome reticence to actually engage in the mission to the Gentiles).
Haykin, Michael A. G. “Fundamentum Et Colomnam Fidei Nostrae: Irenaeus on the Perfect and Saving Nature of the Scriptures.” In Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Haykin presents a brief biography of Irenaeus followed by an argument that he taught inerrancy against the Gnostics who taught the apostles had erred in their writings.
McCall, Thomas H. “I Believe in Divine Sovereignty.” Trinity Journal 29, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 2050.
Piper, John. “I Believe in God’s Self-Sufficiency: A Response to Thomas McCall.” Trinity Journal 29, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 227-34.
McCall, Thomas H. “We Believe in God’s Sovereign Goodness: A Rejoinder to John Piper.” Trinity Journal 29, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 235-45.
In this trio of articles, McCall argues against deterministic accounts of God’s sovereignty. He argues that non-deterministic alternatives avoid theological problems, though he does not unpack an explanation of the alternative. More particularly he argues that John Piper’s (and before him, Jonathan Edwards’s) account of divine sovereignty undermines the asetiy of God because the essence of God is to be glorified and demonstrating wrath toward unrepentant sinners is a necessary part of his receiving his fully glory. Thus the creation of the world (indeed the creation of world that would fall) is necessary to the being of God.
Piper confesses that some of his statements could be misread this way, but denies the conclusion. He notes the difficulty of affirming both God’s utter self-sufficiency and ascribing purpose to the creation. Nonetheless, he believes Scripture constrains us to do both.
McCall, in his rejoinder, does not think that Piper has escaped the original charge concerning aseity. He also raises the charge that God is a moral monster if he determines all things (including sin and suffering) for his own glory.
McCall’s critiques are highly philosophical in nature. This led me to think as McCall was arguing, "is that a necessary conclusion from what was said?" or "but what if the Bible does teach both this and that?" McCall would have been more convincing if he had expounded an alternative to Piper’s view on firm exegetical grounding.
Averbeck, Richard E. “Pentateuchal Criticism and the Priestly Torah.” In Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?: A Critical Appraisal of Modern and Postmodern Approaches to Scripture. Edited by James K. Hoffmeier and Dennis R. Magary. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Averbeck surveys critical approaches to the Pentateuch and then critiques them with a case study on Exodus 19-24. Though he is gentle (perhaps too gentle) in stating his conclusions, he finds that critical methodologies often obscure rather than illumine the text (at one point he says of source critics: "It is as if ancient writers could not hold two related concepts together. The assumption is that such a tension must be explained diachronically." But if the assumption is bad the scholar spends a lot of time chasing the wind instead of examining how the two concepts relate).Averbeck is careful to affirm critical thinking and eschew facile harmonizations, but he denies that one has to adopt the premises of the critics to think critically.