Falls, Thomas B., ed. and trans. Writings of Saint Justin Martyr. The Fathers of the Church. Edited by Hermigild Dressler. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1948.
Justin begins his first apology with the argument that Christians should not be judged simply for bearing the name Christian. If they are to be judged, it should be for real wrongdoing. He then makes the argument that Christians are actually good citizens. In the remainder of the discourse Justin demonstrates how Christ fulfilled OT prophecies. He also deals with similarities between Christianity and pagan philosophy and myths. He claims that pagan myths were inspired by demons who knew of the prophesies of Christ. The second apology is a brief petition on behalf of a Christian who has just been sentenced to death.
The Dialogue with Trypho is a lengthy, styled dialogue between Justin and a Jew named Trypho (though Trypho speaks little). Much of the dialogue is taken up with application of OT prophecy to Christ. Justin’s conclusions are often sound, but his exegesis and reasoning is often flawed. For instance, he rightly concludes that the non-moral aspects of the Mosaic law are not binding on Gentiles, but he reasons that this is because the Mosaic law was given to Israel because of its persistent sin and is therefore a bad law given as a punishment (Eze. 20:25-26; but see Block, NICOT 1:636-41; Alexander, EBC, 836).
Irenaeus of Lyon. Against the Heresies: Book 1. Translated and Edited by Dominic J. Unger and John J. Dillon. New York: Newman Press, 1992.
The first book of Against the Heresies is largely an account of the heresies that the church faced in the time of Irenaeus. These are complicated and sometimes incomprehensible. a benefit of wading through them, however, is the recognition that completely implausible false teaching can seem quite persuasive in a given time and place while, in truth, being entirely empty. This is worth remembering when contemporary heresies seem formidable.
In terms of positive contributions to Christian theology, chapters 8-10 are the most significant. In general, Irenaeus is arguing that the Gnostics wrest Scripture from its context. He uses engaging illustrations to expose what the heretics do with Scripture: a mosaic of a king which is rearranged into the image of a fox; lines taken from throughout Homer and rearranged into a new poem. Interestingly, Irenaeus’s conclusion is not that one should investigate the contexts of the phrases the Gnostics wrest to their own ends, but rather that the rule of truth should be used as a template for performing the restoration. He states this rule of truth in 1.10.1 and 1.22.1. In support of the rule, Irenaeus argues that it is the truth confessed by the church in all parts of the world.
Irenaeus’s argument makes sense in its time. Why wrangle over the exegesis of texts with the heretics if one has the slam dunk argument that the church is unified in its teaching against the heretics (cf. Tertullian, The Prescription against Heretics, ch. 19). This approach would, however, bear bad fruit as church tradition began to diverge from apostolic teaching.
Irenaeus of Lyon. Against the Heresies: Book 2. Translated and Edited by Dominic J. Unger and John J. Dillon. New York: Newman Press, 2012.
Book one describes the heresies faced by the church in the time of Irenaeus. Book two begins a response to these heresies. In much of this book Irenaeus is simply pointing out contradictions and absurdities in the heretical doctrines, but there are several places in which he engages the heretics theologically and thus offers some positive statement regarding Christian doctrine:
- Monotheism: 2.16.3
- God the Creator and his creation: 2.1.1; 2.2.4-5; 2.3.2, 5-4; 2.11.1; 2.28.1
- Attributes of God:
- Omnipotence, invisibility, sovereignty: 2.6.1-2
- Divine simplicity and impassibility: 2.13.3
- Divine transcendence: 2.13.4
- Natural revelation: 2.9.1
- Eternal generation of the Son: 2.28.6
- Recapitulation (Jesus passed through every stage of life): 2.22.4, 5
- Christ truly suffered: 2.20.3
- Offer of salvation: 2.22.2
- Infant baptism? (some think this is implied in a statement that refers to infants being born again): 2.22.4
- Ethics (Irenaeus deals with the heretics’ justification their sin): 2.32
- Against the transmigration of souls 2.33
- On the soul and the intermediate state 2.34
- Resurrection 2.29.2
- Eternal punishment 2.28.7
- Right interpretation of Scripture (warnings against basing doctrine on parables contrary to clear teachings of Scripture): 2.27
- Example of an erroneous tradition (Irenaeus claims that the Gospels (cf. John 8:56-57; AH 2.22.6), and the elders in Asia (who passed on a tradition from the apostle John, and others teach that Jesus lived to his fortieth year before dying): 2.22.5
- Mystery in theology: 2.25.3-4; 2.28
- Love in theology (Love of God is more important than knowledge, for love builds up and knowledge puffs up. Irenaeus clarifies that this is not a polemic against true knowledge, for Paul is an example of one with true knowledge; Irenaeus opposes speculative knowledge that does not tend to increase love toward God or others): 2.26
Irenaeus of Lyon. Against the Heresies: Book 3. Translated and Edited by Dominic J. Unger and Irenaeus M. C. Steenberg. New York: Newman Press, 2012.
Book 3 of Against the Heresies is much more focused on positively stating Christian doctrine. Most of book 3 deals with Scripture proofs that counteract the heretics. But before engaging in the heretics on with Scripture itself Irenaeus makes the case that the Gospels contain accurate tradition from the apostles and that the oral tradition preserved in the orthodox church faithfully preserved apostolic teaching. This leads to an interesting discussion about the composition of the Gospels (including order of composition: Matthew, Luke, Mark) in chapter 1 and about the succession of the bishops of Rome in chapter 2. Irenaeus’s discussion of Scripture and tradition set the church down a trajectory that would need to be corrected by the Reformation. Two things should be noted in Irenaeus’s defense. First, his argument made good sense in its time—in general the church did preserve a more accurate tradition of apostolic teaching than the heretics (though this tradition was not always accurate, see 2.22.5-6). Second, Irenaeus locates apostolic tradition, in the first place, in the written Gospels, and he bases his arguments on Scripture.
The main thrust of book 3 is that there is only one God and that Jesus is the same God as the Father. Noteworthy passages in book 3 are the discussion of the various OT covenants (3.11.8) and the discussion of the virgin birth prophecy of Isa 7 (3.12). A discussion of Irenaeus’s distinctive doctrine of recapitulation takes place in 3.23.
Note especially Irenaues’s comments about the manifest authority of the four Gospels: "Now, the authority of these Gospels is so great that the heretics themselves bear witness to them, and each one of them tries to establish his doctrine with the Gospels as a starting point. The Ebionites use only the Gospel of Matthew. . . . Marcion, on the other hand, mutilated the gospel according to Luke. . . . Those, however, who prefer the Gospel of Mark and divide Jesus from Christ, and assert that Christ remained impassible but that Jesus suffered, can be corrected if they read this Gospel with a love for the truth. Finally, the followers of Valentinus, who make very ample use of the Gospel according to John . . ." 3.11.7
Hart, Jeffrey. The Making of the American Conservative Mind: National Review and Its Times. Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2005.
Hart provides an interesting view of post-WWII conservatism in the United States. Perhaps most interesting are his discussions of the various strands of conservatism and their varying visions of life. Hart himself opposes all forms of utopianism. He believes that the nation-state, though imperfect, is a necessary good. Along with this he believes that national defense is also necessary; it is utopian to think otherwise. But he also thinks it is utopian to think the United States can use its military power to bring democracy to the world. He prefers constitutional government to majority rule; Hart is not overly sympathetic to populism. He favors free-market economies—but not when they become a utopian ideal that overrules all other values. Hart believes that the conservative should value beauty and should seek to conserve good literature, art, architecture, and nature. Hart favors traditional religion (he is himself a Catholic, but not one who accepts the infallibility of the magisterium); he denies that evangelical religion is conservative, and he prefers a libertarian stance on moral issues. Thus while he grants that Roe v. Wade "was certainly an example of judicial overreach," he also avers that "simply to pull an abstract ‘right to life’ out of the Declaration of Independence, as some conservatives do, is not conservative but Jacobinical." He sees little value in seeking to overturn Roe v. Wade.
The value in Hart’s book is the unfolding of twentieth century (and now twenty-first century) conservatism by tracing the various competing strands of conservatism, and the debates among these strands, at National Review. For the Christian it is worth considering that some of these strands are more and less compatible with Scripture.
McClain, Alva J. "The Greatness of the Kingdom Part I," BibSac 112, no. 445 (Jan 1955): 11-27.
McClain, Alva J. "The Greatness of the Kingdom Part II: Mediatorial Kingdom in Old Testament Prophecy," BibSac 112, no. 446 (Apr 1955): 107-124.
McClain, Alva J. "The Greatness of the Kingdom Part III," BibSac 112, no. 447 (Jul 1955): 209-224.
McClain, Alva J. "The Greatness of the Kingdom Part IV: The Mediatorial Kingdom from the Acts Period to the Eternal State." BibSac 112, no. 448 (Oct 1955): 304-10.
McClain defines the kingdom of God as "the rule of God over his creation" (13). OT kingdom teaching reveals a number of paradoxes related to the kingdom: it "always existed," but it has "a definite historical beginning. It encompasses all creation, but it can be located at specific times and places on earth; God rules "directly," and God rules "through a mediator;" the kingdom exists because of the "sovereign nature of Deity," and the kingdom is grounded on the Davidic covenant (13). McClain distinguishes the two aspects of the kingdom represented by these contrasting statements as universal and mediatorial. The focus of McClain’s discussion in these articles is the mediatorial kingdom.
In McClain’s view the mediatorial kingdom is focused on the redemption of the human race, and eventually the cosmos. The "mediatorial ruler is always a member of the human race" (18).
Though the mediatorial kingdom had antecedents in the patriarchal families, McClain places the establishment of the mediatorial kingdom at Sinai. This kingdom eventually fails because the hearts of the people were not transformed by the law and because the rulers did not have the perfection needed. Thus the prophets look forward to "an age when the laws of the kingdom will be written in the hearts of its citizens (Jer. 31:33), and its mediatorial Ruler will be perfect in his character, wisdom and ways (Isa. 11:1-4)" (27).
According to McClain, the Old Testament prophets predict "a revival and restoration of the Old Testament kingdom of history" (cf. Mic 4:1, 7-8; Amos 9:11) (114). The re-establishment of the kingdom will be "sudden" and "immediate," its ruler will be both God and man, and his rule will be a monarchy that will bring about justice (115-18). The kingdom’s extent will be world-wide and it will spiritual, ethical, social, economic, political, ecclesiastical, and physical (both in terms of personal health and in terms of the earth’s fecundity) effects (118-23).
McClain finds this same far-reaching kingdom with these far reaching effects declared as at hand by John and Jesus. The kingdom is at hand because the king is presents, but the kingdom is still "contingent." When the kingdom is rejected, Jesus outlines in parables " the future of the kingdom in the peculiar form (hitherto unrevealed) which it will assume during the temporary period of Israel’s rejection" (217). Also, only after the rejection of the kingdom does Christ begin to teach about the church. Jesus then proceeds to Jerusalem, offers himself as the king, and is rejected.
After the resurrection, Jesus spends forty days teaching the apostles about the kingdom. According to McClain, the kingdom is still being offered in the book of Acts, though the church is also taking root. As rejection to the kingdom continues, and as the church grows, the offer of the kingdom passes. McClain says this is why the signs and wonders tied to the offer of the kingdom have now passed away.
At present the kingdom is found on earth only in the sense that "God is engaged in selecting and preparing a people who are to be the spiritual nucleus of the established kingdom" (307). Christians are part of the kingdom, but the kingdom is not yet established. McClain rejects the idea that there is currently a "spiritual kingdom" and that in the future there will be a "visible kingdom" (308).
In McClain’s understanding, the mediatorial kingdom in all its aspects finds fulfillment in the millennium. Once the last enemy, death, is subdued "the purpose of [the] mediatorial kingdom will have been fulfilled" (310). Jesus will still reign, but he will reign no longer as the mediatorial king but as the divine Son with the other Persons of the Trinity.
McClain carefully constructed a plausible theology of the kingdom that takes into account the variety of biblical data about the kingdom. And yet, his proposition raises many questions.
Are the universal kingdom and the mediatorial kingdom really to aspects of the same kingdom? While mediatorial rulers gain the right to rule from God, the universal ruler, the "paradoxical truths outlined by McClain seem to point to two distinct, but related reigns. (This may be picky since McClain is fairly nuanced here.)
Is the mediatorial kingdom’s primary purpose redemptive? Working back from Hebrews 2:5-9 through Psalm 8 to Genesis 1:26-28, one is led to the conclusion that the messianic rule of Jesus is a fulfillment of the Creation Blessing. If this is so, then it seems that the mediatorial kingdom’s function is not limited to redemption (though the prophets make clear that in a fallen world, it includes redemptive purposes). If this is the case this kingdom need not end with the millennium.
Did the kingdom prophesied in the OT and proclaimed as at hand by John and Jesus exist in the Old Testament? While it is true that the Messianic reign has roots in the Davidic covenant, I hesitate to say that this kingdom existed in the Old Testament era. McClain does an excellent job in his section on the prophets detailing the full extent of the kingdom and its effects. These effects are no more than foreshadowed in the Old Testament.
Was the kingdom offered, rejected and postponed in Jesus’s ministry and in the early church? McClain’s affirmative answer here makes sense of the fact that the kingdom prophecies of the OT are not being fulfilled in their entirety at present. But there is another way of making sense of this fact: the kingdom was inaugurated at the first advent but its final consummation is delayed until the second advent. This option makes better sense of the affirmations regarding the fulfillment of kingdom promises that occur throughout Acts.
Thus instead of seeing, with McClain, a mediatorial kingdom in existence from the time of Moses until the exile, a kingdom which will remain in abeyance until the Second Coming, I would see no mediatorial kingdom in the Old Testament, the announcement of the kingdom’s nearness by John and a presence of the kingdom in the person of Christ. The kingdom is inaugurated in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, but it will not be finally consummated until Christ returns.
Despite these differences, I still find McClain’s work helpful in a number of areas. He does helpfully distinguish the universal and mediatorial kingdom passages; his second article helpfully deals with some of O. T. Allis’s objections to premillennialism; his treatment of the "extensive nature of the kingdom" is masterful as is relation of each of the elements of OT kingdom prophecy with Jesus’s kingdom teaching; and his discussion of John 18:36 is also well done.
Millar, J. Gary. “Land.” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2000. pp. 623-27.
God promised to give land to Abraham and his seed (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-16; 15:18-21; 17:8; 26:3, 4, 24; 28:3-4, 13-15; 35:9-12). God has the right to give the land to Israel because he owns the whole earth. Thus the land given to Israel is God’s land (Lev. 25:23; Deut. 32:43; Josh 22:19; Is. 14:2, 25; Jer. 2:7; Ezek. 36:5; 38:16; Joel 1:6; 32). God has entrusted the land it Israel in his grace to them (Deut. 1:20-21, 25, 35; 3:18, 20; 4:1, 40; 6:1, 10, 18; 7:1, 8, 12; 8:1, 18; 9:5; 10:11; 11:9, 21; 12:1; 19:8; 26:3, 15;27:3; 30:20; 31:7, 21, 23; 34:4). The description of the land as abundantly fruitful (an land "flowing with milk and honey") "guarantees the restoration of intimacy with God in terms which recall the description of Eden" (623).
Obedience to God’s law is a significant feature of the OT’s teaching about the land. "The land is the place where Israel has the opportunity to obey God’s commands" (Deut. 12:1; cf. 6:1; 26:1; 27:1-3) (624). The land could only be gained and retained if Israel is obedient (Lev. 26:32-39; Num 13-14; Deut 4, 27-30). Land for Israel represented its relationship with God. Land in Israel was inherited by the son, and occupation of the land indicated that Israel was God’s son.
The NT does not develop a theology of land to the extent that the OT does. In Millar’s view the relational idea of Christians receiving an inheritance from God is the primary use of this theme (see Matt. 5:5; 25:34; John 15; Col. 1:13-14; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; Heb. 4:1-11).
McKeown, J. "Land, Fertility, Famine." Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Edited by T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2003. pp. 487-91
McKeown defines the semantic ranges of land words in the OT, highlights God’s sovereignty over land, its distribution, the expulsion of sinners. He notes the responsibilities given to mankind regarding the land in Genesis 1 and the fact that punishments for sin in Genesis 1-11 all relate to land. The land promises to Abraham are recounted. The gracious gift of the land along with the requirement for Israel’s obedience is noted. The significance of the Promised Land as a new Eden is noted, but with the caveat that problems caused sin must be regulated.
Williamson, P. R. "Land." In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Edited by Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2005. pp. 638-43.
Williamson notes that in the historical books, Israel’s history is told with primary reference to the land: how it is obtained, trespassed, secured, expanded, lost, and restored. Williamson also notes the theme of the land as Israel’s inheritance, the requirement of Israel’s obedience, and judgment in the form of invasion, famine, and exile. In the end, the historical books end "on a note of hope rather than one of fulfillment" (642).
Allison, Jr. D. C. "Land in Early Christianity." In Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments. Edited by Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997. pp. 642-44.
Allison recognizes that the Old Testament and Second Temple literature taught that God would regather Israel to a new land. However, since the land texts in the NT do not specifically mention a renewed Israel, but instead point more generally to a renewed earth or a worldwide millennial reign, Allison concludes the land has become "a symbol of some transhistorical reality" (643)) In fact, "holy space is where Jesus Christ is (Ign. Smyrn. 8.2); and because as risen Lord he is free to move where he will, there can be no sacred as opposed to profane territory, no genuine ‘holy land.’ Christ’s ubiquity as a spiritual presence universalizes the notion of holy space and so inescapably relativizes the sanctity and significance of the land promised to Abraham’s descendants" (644). This seems to be a far-ranging conclusion based on pretty weak argumentation. Would it not be more reasonable to assume the Old Testament background in instances when the land theme arises, rather than assuming that it is rejected? This would especially be so in cases such as Luke 13:29; Matthew 19:28 ; and Revelation 20 in which there are clear OT parallels. Furthermore, a "literal messianic kingdom centered in Israel" is not mutually exclusive of "a new or renewed earth" (644). John Goldingay’s approach is sounder: "The New Testament’s silence on the theme of Israel may thus imply that this theme should be taken for granted, not that it should be rejected. . . . The New Testament makes explicit that in Christ the temple and the sacrificial system lose their literal significance. If it had meant to suggest that this happens with the promise of the land, it would have had to make this explicit, too. But while it once or twice applies the rest/inheritance motif to Jesus, it never directly suggests that the First Testament promise regarding the land is fulfilled in him. We might infer that this promise is one to which God says yes in Jesus not in the sense that his coming fulfills it but in the sense that his coming confirms it, guarantees that like all other promises it will be fulfilled. It could naturally follow that the positive purpose of God lies behind the Jews regaining a home for themselves in Palestine. God’s commitment to Israel had to find expression in seeing it has a home; otherwise it is not a commitment at all. The New Testament’s concern with the being of the Jewish people cannot but imply a concern with the land of Israel." John Goldingay, "What Is Israel’s Place in God’s Purpose?" in Key Questions about Christian Faith: Old Testament Answers (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 200.
In the Old Testament theology section Janzen’s most helpful comments are his summaries of the prophetic literature on the land (his treatment of the Pentateuch and Historical Books mirrors the content of other works). In the New Testament theology section, he sees affirmations of the OT land theology, abrogation of it (especially in Hebrews), symbolic use of it, and extension of it to the nations. Janzen’s analysis of the New Testament data is problematized by his failure to recognize a coherent theology within that Testament, much less a coherence between the testaments. Nonetheless, the article does gather a good amount of data together.
Allen, Ronald B. "The Land of Israel." In Israel: Land and the People. Edited by H. Wayne House. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998.
Allen argues the following in this essay: through the whole earth is the Lord’s, he has selected the land of Israel as his special possession, a place where he has chosen to accomplish the most significant acts in his work of Redemption. He has promised in covenant that this land is the possession of the nation/people of Israel. This is an unconditional promise ultimately, but there are conditions for particular generations enjoying it. Presently Israel does not meet those conditions, and thus cannot claim the land as a divine gift. It does have a legal right to the land according to international actions of the UN. The Christian should see God’s providential working in preserving the Jews and in opening a homeland for them even though the spiritual transformation of the people and the fullness of the promises to them are not yet accomplished.
Kaiser, Jr., Walter C. "The Land of Israel and the Future Return (Zechariah 10:6-12)." In Israel: Land and the People. Edited by H. Wayne House. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998.
Kaiser argues that Zechariah 10:6-12 confirms that the return to the land prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel was not fulfilled in the returns documented in Ezra and Nehemiah. He also addresses arguments to the effect that the land promise was conditional (and thus has no future fulfillment), was given to Israel for a long period of time but not in perpetuity (and thus the promise has lapsed), or was abrogated or redirected by the NT.
Jelinek, John A. "The Dispersion and Restoration of Israel to the Land." In Israel: Land and the People. Edited by H. Wayne House. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1998.
Jelinek investigates Leviticus 24 and Deuteronomy 28-30 as a basis for the Bible’s teaching about Israel’s exile and restoration. He then surveys teaching on these themes throughout the remainder of the Old and New Testaments. He concludes that the land promise to Israel was unconditional, that the covenant did stipulate exile for breaking the covenant, and that a restoration was promised to the nation. This restoration to the land involved a spiritual restoration with an inward circumcision of the heart that made obedience possible. The New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit, the means of this internal circumcision, has been given. Israel as a whole remains unrepentant, however. Paul prophesies, however, the future conversion of the nation. This connects to the promises of restoration given earlier.
Muller, Richard A. “The Place and Importance of Karl Barth in the Twentieth Century: A Review Article.” Westminster Theological Journal 50, no. 1 (Spring 1988): 127-156.
After summarizing several books on Barth that emerged in the 1980s Muller evaluates Barth’s role as a theologian who mediated between liberals and conservatives. While acknowledging the draw that Barth has had on members of both groups, Muller concludes that Barth has actually constructed a new extreme rather than a mediating position. Muller concludes that Barth’s major value lies in his critiques of liberal theology and his call for conservatives the engage with issues raised in the modern world. But Muller does not find Barth’s theological position convincing: his theological exegesis often fails to truly exegete texts, his theology exists in the realm of words and concepts but distances itself from history and reality, and despite, Barth’s many discussions of the great tradition of the church, Barth "presents the tradition all too frequently only to deviate from it and, in so doing, points away from itself to treasures that are not its own."
Bolt, John. “The Greening of Spirituality : A Review Article.” Calvin Theological Journal 30, no. 1 (April 1, 1995): 194-211.
Bolt’s own conclusion summarizes his article nicely: "As this review has tried to show, the vast amount of literature on theology and ecology requires careful sorting and weighing. There is much that is interesting and valuable, there is far too much that is pagan and theologically goofy. In addition, there is also another caution that is called for, in my judgment. During the decade of the seventies, evangelical Christians became sensitive to the problem of poverty and hunger in the world. Ronald Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger served as a manifesto of that concern. Two decades later it is fairly evident that Sider’s analysis and moderately socialist solutions to the problems of global poverty and hunger were seriously flawed. Many well-intentioned Christians enthusiastically signed on to bankrupt ideas with evangelical fervor. The irony here is that critiques of the Sider approach were available even then but not taken seriously. Facing a related but distinct problem in the global environmental crisis, the lessons of that mistake should not be lost. Specifically, Christians who are concerned as they should be about the integrity of creation and human stewardship of it, have an obligation to listen to Her Majesty’s loyal opposition in this matter. Become familiar with the divisions in the scientific community itself about the actual threats of environmental disaster. . . ."
Harmless, William. "Augustine the Bishop." In Augustine in His Own Words. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2010.
Harmless draws on Augustine’s own writings and on Possidius’s Vita to sketch Augustine’s ordination, episcopal duties, and retirement. The text is sometimes encouraging as it reveals Augustine’s piety and concern for doctrinal and personal purity. His wisdom in dealing with difficult situations is often on display. Yet the text is sometimes discouraging as the departure from a biblical church order along with various abuses that will grow out of that departure are clearly already developing.