Harrison, Frank Mott. John Bunyan. Banner of Truth, 1964.
A biography written somewhat like a novel. It also manages to weave in copious quotations from source material (though at points it would be nice to have clarified what is quoted and what is imagined).
Holwerda, David E. Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.
Holwerda begins his book by noting the recent change regarding the status of Israel in broadly Christian theology. Supersessionism is on the wane; the new approach suggests that Christians and Israel function under two equal but distinct covenants (thus invalidating the need to seek Jewish converts to Christianity). Within this context, Holwerda seeks to defend supersessionism from Scripture. Holwerda is exegetically and theologically careful. He is also willing to grant what he views as the strong points of an opposing position. At times his argument seems to trend away from supersessionism before returning to it. For instance, he affirms that the land promises are "irrevocable." He denies that the exile or Israel’s unfaithfulness has canceled the promises. But he retains the supersessionist position by arguing that the NT universalizes the land promises (Eph. 6:2-3; Gal 3:16, 29) and moves beyond the particularities. This approach applies to each issue he covers: "The particular promises concerning land and city, temple and people, will find their fulfillment only within the structures of the universal fulfillment inaugurated in history by the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ" (181). In response, I fail to see why the particularities must be banished when promises are universalized. To be sure, symbols like the sacrificial system or the temple are replaced by the realty they symbolized. But Holwerda failed to demonstrate that the land, or Jerusalem, or the people of Israel are mere symbols. In fact, some of his discussion pointed the opposite direction (e.g., his argument that Romans 9-11 looks forward to the future salvation of the fullness of ethnic Israel). If the land, city, and people have inherent and not mere symbolic significance, why can the promises given to and about them not be fulfilled both in their particularities as well as in a universalized fashion? Holwerda’s failure to address this question is the primary weakness of his argument.
McCall, Thomas H. “Religious Epistemology, Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and Critical Biblical Scholarship: A Theologian’s 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.
McCall surveys recent approaches to epistemic justification and then applies the findings to critical biblical scholarship (CBS). He finds that critical biblical scholarship presumes an epistemology that is no longer widely accepted. He therefore doubts the right of CBS to command assent. It is possible to dismiss the findings of CBS and remain epistemically justified in doing so. Indeed, one may reject CBS and stand on much firmer epistemic ground than CBS itself. This is one of the most incisive essays in the book.
Kofoed, Jens Bruun. "The Old Testament as Cultural Memory." 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.
This was not the most lucid essay in the book, and it may even run counter to the overall emphasis that the actual historicity of the events recounted in the OT is essential.
Walton, John H.. “Ancient Near Eastern Background Studies.” In Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005.
Walton states his view succinctly in the form of an if/then form:
"(a) comparative studies provide a window to the ancient worldview; and
"(b) Israel in large measure shared that ancient worldview; and
"(c) revelation was communicated through that worldview; and
"(d) that revelation embodies the theological teaching of the text;
"Then: comparative studies become crucial to the theological understanding of the OT" (41).
He unpacks the syllogism in five theses:
"1. God did not reject the entire-world-picture of Israel’s neighbors, but used much of its structure and framework for revelation" (41).
"2. God often used existing institutions and converted them to his theological purposes" (42).
"3. Revelation did not always counter ancient Near Eastern concepts, but often used them in productive ways" (42).
"4. Literary connections do not negate inspiration of Scripture" (43).
"5. Spiritualized explanations must not be chosen when cultural explanations are readily available" (43).
The strength of this article, especially given its location in a dictionary for theological interpretation, is its insistence that history and cultural context do matter for right interpretation of Scripture. Barthian and Childsian interpreters too often minimize or reject this point.
Nevertheless, problems emerge with the application of each of Walton’s theses.
1. Walton argues that Genesis 1 operates within a world-picture that understands the sky as a solid dome that is "holding back the cosmic waters above." To those who wish to interpret raqi’a as something other than a solid dome, Walton says, "Our doctrine of Scripture would be jeopardized if we felt free to conform the meanings of words to make them more comfortable to us" (42). But is not the inerrancy of Scripture (something I’m sure Walton affirms) jeopardized if Scripture affirms false world-pictures of surrounding cultures?
2. The thesis itself is true, and Walton rightly uses circumcision to illustrate it. But I believe he goes astray with a second illustration: "If we ask where the pre-Mosaic practice of sacrifice derived from, we would have to take the silence of the text as suggesting that it was of human invention, guided by Providence" (42). It is more probable that God instructed the first humans to offer sacrifices in worship and that the practice persisted even after the nations had fallen away from God. Scripture is not silent about the emergence of sacrifices. It testifies that they are practiced as early as Genesis 4. This makes the divine institution of sacrifices the more likely option.
3. Walton once again rightly notes that the temple structure used by Israel with its eastern orientation and levels of increasing sacred space was common in the ancient Near East. But he then says, "We would entirely miss the mark to allegorize the architectural features of the temple, trying to give them ‘theological’ meaning rather than finding meaning in the ancient Near Eastern background, as the Israelites would have. That they can be given allegorical meaning is arguably demonstrated in Hebrews. That the theological interpretation of the text is meant to be fond in allegory or that we have the freedom or ability to pursue such an approach with confidence is questionable" (42). Is Walton saying that the author of Hebrews was correct to find theological symbolic significance in the tabernacle’s structure (apart from ANE background), but that we are not? That has troubling implications for our understanding of apostolic hermeneutics. In any event, it is difficult to see why Walton is raising this objection. He has already granted under thesis 2 that ANE institutions can be "converted" to "theological purposes." Why can the Israelite tabernacle not have followed an ANE pattern and yet have its own distinct theological significance?
4. Walton is correct to discount attempts to relativize the Old Testament by claiming its theology is simply derivative of Babylonian or other ancient Near Eastern myths. He is also doubtless correct that many of the similarities between Scripture and ANE literature are due to shared culture rather than borrowing (though again with theological matters we should not discount the possibility that the nations corrupted original true knowledge of God and his ways). But it is quite another thing to assert that if the Bible were revealed in the modern world, the creation account would have been given in terms of "the big bang" or "evolution," whereas it was given in terms of ANE mythology. The OT may be culturally at home in the ancient Near East, but it cannot affirm the erroneous thinking of ANE cultures.
5. Walton’s two examples here are the tower of Babel (the people were building a ziggurat rather than trying to build a tower up to God through the heavens) and the sun stopping in Joshua 10 (an idiom relating to the alignment of the sun and moon and its perception by the Canaanites that it was an evil omen rather than a halting of the earth’s rotation). With the last example Walton neglects the precise wording of the passage. The sun and the moon stood still "until the nation too vengeance on their enemies," a time period specified in the text to have lasted "about a whole day" (10:13).
Walton’s theses are not entirely wrong (thesis one is the most problematic, and thesis five may draw too sharp a dichotomy), but he does seem to overestimate the importance of ANE background for understanding the text, and this over-estimation has caused him to deploy his theses in some uncareful and problematic ways.
Noll, Mark A. “Jonathan Edwards and Nineteenth Century Theology.” In Jonathan Edwards And the American Experience. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
In this essay Mark Noll documents the competing efforts to appropriate Edwards in the 19th century. Finney and the revivalists appealed to Edwards’s role in the First Great Awakening while rejecting his theology. Proponents of New England Theology, such as Edwards Amasa Park, argued that they were the true heirs to Edwards’s theology as opposed to the Old School Princetonians . Noll judged that argument unconvincing even at the time, especially on doctrines such as the freedom of the will and original sin. In those areas, Princetonian theology agreed with Edwards and New England Theology departed from him. The Princetonians, however, found Edwards’s approach to theology too speculative, and they found his Dissertation on the Nature of True Virtue problematic. Noll notes that the New England Theologians better understood the Dissertation and that, whatever the difference in the content of their theology and Edwards’s, they retained his bent for speculative theology. In fact, one of the differences between Princeton’s approach of Common Sense Realism and the New England Theology’s is that Princeton allowed Common Sense Realism to affect only its method for doing theology whereas it affected the content of New England Theology.
As the nineteenth century wore on Edwards’s views, especially on the freedom of the will, were subjected to numerous critiques. He fell out of favor until Perry Miller revived interest in the early twentieth century. Edwards found more favor in nineteenth century Scotland, especially among Thomas Chalmers and John McLeod Campbell (though the latter rejected penal substitutionary atonement).
Noll notes that Edwards remained significant not despite his difference from prevailing nineteenth century thought but because of it. "He was their foil" (280). More than that, however, "The final reason may well be that while others preached self-reliance or sang the song of the self, Edwards drove nearer the truth—that nothing can be saved without confronting its own damnation, that freedom is found within necessity, that the way to gain one’s life is to lose it" (281).
Cohick, Lynn H. "The Pastoral Letters." In The New Testament in Antiquity: A Survey of the New Testament within Its Cultural Context. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009.
I confess that I rarely find help in these sorts of books that I don’t already find in commentary introductions or throughout a commentary. Since the commentary always has a fuller treatment, I’d rather read the commentary.
Cole, Graham A. “The Peril of a ‘Historyless’ Systematic 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.
Cole’s primary thesis in this essay is that Systematic Theology cannot presume to work in abstraction apart from the reality of the history presented in Scripture. The best part of his essay, however, was a discussion of accommodation that distinguishes Calvin’s view from the Socinian view. Sparks, the focus of critique, is closer to the Socinian view than the Calvinian.
Bergen, Robert D. "Word Distribution as an Indicator of Authorial Intention: A Study of Genesis 1:1-2:3." In DDo 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.
This was an interesting study in literary analysis of a passage, but it seemed to have little to do with the thesis of the book.
Hilber, John W. “The Culture of Prophecy and Writing in the Ancient Near East.” 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.
Written evidence from the ancient Near East demonstrates that oral prophecies were often written down shortly after they were given and that the scribes who recorded them were concerned about accurately recording them (though they could range from paraphrase to actual selections of what the prophet said). Thus the critical assumption that the writings of the Old Testament prophets were written long after they were orally delivered and that scribes altered (and even contradicted) the original message is an assumption at odds with the culture of prophecy in the ancient Near East.
Thompson, Mark D. “The Divine Investment in Truth: Toward a Theological Account of Biblical Inerrancy.” 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.
Mark Thompson engages recent critics of inerrancy such as A. T. B. McGowan, Craig Allert, and Kenton Sparks. He argues that their critiques of inerrancy misunderstand classic statements of inerrancy (e.g., those by Warfield, Feinberg, and the Chicago Statement). His main concern, however, is to demonstrate that the doctrine has a broad theological grounding. He roots the doctrine in truthfulness of God. Scripture is both a divine and human-authored book, and Thompson links concursus to the doctrine of providence. He also distinguishes between to understandings of how God accommodates himself to humankind, distinguishing between Calvin’s and Socinius’s views. Nonetheless, it is often claimed that human language is not capable of communicating God’s inerrant intent to humans. Thompson counters that language is a creation of God. Though after the Fall it may be abused, it remains God’s creation and sufficient for his purposes in communicating to mankind. Finally, in light of the character of God just enunciated, Thompson deals with the passages that form Scripture’s own self-testimony to its inspiration.
Walton, John H. “New Observations on the Date of Isaiah.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 28, no. 2 (June 1985): 129-32.
Walton argues in three steps: First, he notes that "the events in Isaiah 36-39 are not in chronological order." The reversal of the chronological order is best explained by the desire to naturally shift the focus of the book from Assyria to Babylon. Thus chapters 40-66 must have been written at the time that chapters 36-39 were moved out of chronological order.
Second, "Kings used Isaiah as a source." Though Kings typically follows a chronological pattern, he breaks that pattern here. The break is best explained in terms of Isaiah’s purposes. There is no clear reason in Kings for moving the account out of chronological order. If Kings used Isaiah as a source, and if Isaiah’s ordering of the material depends on the existence of chapters 40-66, then chapter 40-66 must have been written by the time Kings was written.
Third, "The Hezekiah material in Kings, by almost any standard, is to be dated no later than the time of Josiah and Jeremiah."
Walton, John H. “Creation.” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003.
Walton teaches that Creation in the ancient Near East concerned functions rather than material. He argues this holds true for Genesis 1 as well since he finds Israel’s view of God distinct from the surrounding cultures but not their view of the cosmos. In his view, Genesis 1 is about the assigning of temple functions to the cosmos. Foundational to Walton’s view is his conception of the cosmos as a temple. He is able to demonstrate that in the ANE temples are regarded as the cosmos, but it is not clear that the cosmos was viewed as a temple in the ANE. The whole cosmos is the dwelling place of God. Temples are needed after Fall because sin brought about a condition in which man can no longer dwell with God. A temple mediates God’s presence to man. But to conclude that the cosmos is a temple seems to read the symbol back into the reality. Walton’s proposal (made in other works) that the seven day creation week indicates that Genesis 1 is about the inauguration of the cosmic temple (since seven day temple dedications existed in the ANE) also founders upon lack of evidence. As Walton himself notes, temple dedications were not uniformly seven days in length (Lost World, 181-82, n. 1). Perhaps those that are simply reflect the fact that a full week is an appropriate length of time for something as significant as a temple dedication. Walton’s argument would be more impressive if Moses had emphasized a seven day tabernacle dedication in a way that made clear connections to Genesis 1. If Moses intended the readers to understand the creation week as a temple inauguration, it would make sense for him to reinforce this with the tabernacle narrative. Thus its absence there is striking. The best Walton can do here is note that the Bible does not say whether the events in Exodus 40 took place in one day or over multiple days. He tries to bolster his case by noting that it did take place in connection with the new year (Ex. 40:2, 17), and in Babylon the new year was often a time for reenacting the temple inauguration (the Akitu festival). This observation does not help much, however, since there is no evidence that Israel had yearly inauguration reenactments. Thus Walton is forced to speculate: “The Bible contains no clear evidence of such festivals, but some see hints that they think point in that direction. It would be no surprise if they had such a festival and would be theologically and culturally appropriate” (Lost World, 89-91). This seems more like wishful thinking than marshaling convincing argumentation.
Walton, John H. “Inspired Subjectivity and Hermeneutical Objectivity,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 13, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 65-77.
Walton believes the New Testament authors operated (under inspiration) with a subjective hermeneutic that modern interpreters ought not imitate. A better guide to the New Testament’s use of the Old is G. K. Beale, “Positive Answer to the Question: Did Jesus and His Followers Preach the Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? An Examination of the Presuppositions of Jesus’ and the Apostles’ Exegetical Method,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts?: Essays on the Use of the Old Testament in the New, ed. G. K. Beale (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994), 387-404.
Walton, John H. “Isa 7:14: What’s in a Name?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 10, no. 3 (September 1987): 289-306.
Lewis, C. S. "Animal Pain." In The Problem of Pain. New York: HarperCollins, 1940.
Lewis’s essay on animal pain is ultimately unsatisfying in terms of its conclusions, but, as typical with Lewis, it contains helpful insights throughout. He rightly notes that animal pain is a part of the problem of evil that theologians must address. Further, those who grant evolution are forced to abandon the classic solution to the problem of animal pain: that it entered the world upon Adam’s fall (137). In addition, Lewis notes, “The fact that vegetable lives ‘prey upon’ one another and are in a state of ‘ruthless’ competition is of no moral importance at all. ‘Life’ in the biological sense has nothing to do with good and evil until sentience appears” (133). This is an important fact since some theistic evolutionists try to dismiss the argument that death entered the world through Adam by arguing that eating plants or even the existence of skin demands the presence of death before the Fall (Walton, Lost World, 100).
Joad, C. E. M. and C. S. Lewis, “The Pains of Animals: A Problem in Theology.” In The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis. New York: Inspirational Press, 1996.
C.E.M. Joad was willing to grant the free will defense to the problem of evil, nevertheless he raises an additional problem, “But now I come to a difficulty, to which I see no solution; indeed, it is in the hope of learning one that this article is written. This is the difficulty of animal pain, and, more particularly, of the pain of the animal world before man appeared upon the cosmic scene.” In the article he proceeds to outline the deficiencies in Lewis’s chapter on animal pain in The Problem of Pain. Lewis responded by correcting some misapprehensions, but he did not advance his theory further.
Stambaugh, James. “Whence Cometh Death? A Biblical Theology of Physical Death and Natural Evil.” In Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth. Edited by Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury. Green Forest, AR: Master, 2008.
An excellent survey of the problems of death preceding the Fall. His study of the relevant biblical words confirms Lewis’s observations death words applied to non-sentient life are used metaphorically and that morally significant pain and death applies only to sentient life.
Nettles, Tom J. Review of The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World, by William A. Dembski. Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 13, no. 4 (Winter 2009): 80-85.
William Dembski is one of the few old earth creationists who take seriously the problem of death and suffering before the Fall. He develops an imaginative solution in which the fall precedes death and suffering in kairos-time but in which the order is reversed in chronos-time. Nettles’s review is an excellent rebuttal of this strange proposal.
Johnston, P. S. “Death and Resurrection.” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000.
Murray, John. “The Fall of Man.” In Collected Writings of John Murray. Volume 2. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1977.