BHS Reader’s Edition Insert (Bookmark)

The new BHS Reader’s Edition has an insert (or bookmark) with a guide for the parsing code on it, as well as a list of the most frequent verbs not parsed in the apparatus.

You can download a free PDF of the insert HERE or from Hendrickson’s webpage. The link is the one marked ‘Operation Manual’ at the bottom of the Hendrickson webpage.

Chris Tilling on ‘How God Became Jesus’

Dr Chris Tilling (St Melitius College) gives a nice brief intro to the important book How God Became Jesus (Zondervan), to which he contributed. The book was written in response to Bart Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God. Not only does Chris give some insight into how the book came about, but he also has a nice word of wisdom at the end of the video. It’s definitely worth the few minutes of your time.

You’ll need to click HERE to access the video.


Israel of God

Lionel Windsor

In his recently published book, Paul and the Vocation of Israel (BZNW 205. Berlin / Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2014), my good friend and colleague, Lionel Windsor, discusses how Paul viewed his own vocation as Apostle to the Gentiles within the larger picture of Israel’s vocation as the classic people of God. Lionel has recently blogged about one of Paul’s often misunderstood phrases: the ‘Israel of God’ in Galatians 6.16. You can read Lionel’s short summary here, and even download an electronic copy of chapter 3 from his book.

I recommend Lionel’s work highly.


A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism (Book Review)

One way to view modern biblical scholarship is as a big set of conversations. People join the conversations, ask lots of questions, raise new ideas, and challenge old ones. It can be quite daunting keeping up with everything people are saying, but it is exciting trading and testing ideas.

These conversations have been going a long time now, so many conversation partners have come and gone. Some of these are the giants in the field of Biblical Studies. Students usually encounter the names of these giants early on in their studies as they are just trying to pick up what has been said in conversations past. At that stage students are usually unaware of the profound effect these scholars have had. Their influence goes beyond the conversations these scholars had in their own day. They have left an indelible mark on all the conversations after them.

I’m grateful, therefore, to have received from Zondervan a review copy of Mark Gignilliat’s book, A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism (Zondervan, 2012). One of the beauties of Gignilliat’s book is that it not only identifies and introduces some of these expert conservationalists in Biblical Studies; it also allows readers to begin detecting echoes of these scholars in subsequent scholarly conversations. Gignilliat works hard to frame an understanding of these seminal scholars within the social and philosophical currents of their own day. To this end, he supplies a brief biography of these scholars, concentrating on the influences that impacted them, and then sketches the particular contribution each person made to the conversation of Biblical Studies. The result is simple yet masterful! Gignilliat distils the essence of these innovative contributors for easy consumption, allowing us to hear their salient statements, understand how these fell on other ears of the day, and then perceive how theses statements still echo even in our day.

Gignilliat introduces us to seven master conversationalists in chronological order. They are:

  1. Benedict Spinoza
  2. W. M. L. de Wette
  3. Julius Wellhausen
  4. Herman Gunkel
  5. Gerhard von Rad
  6. William Foxwell Albright
  7. Brevard Childs

Of course this list raises questions as to why these seven were chosen over others. Gignilliat states three reasons for the shape of his list:

(1) I want the volume to remain small and accessible to students; (2) I believe the figures in this work represent the larger trends and tendencies of Old Testament criticism in the modern period; and (3) I wanted to finished. (loc 104)

Yet one thing these seven particular scholars have in common is they are no longer with us. Their respective legacies are, therefore, somewhat set. It would perhaps be preemptive to include on the list someone who is still contributing to current conversations in biblical studies. Thus, either Thomas L. Thompson or Philip R. Davies could feature on the list as critics of William Foxwell Albright. While this would provide good balance, both Tom and Philip are still with us actively contributing to ongoing conversations. Their inclusion would perhaps sell their contributions short before they were finished.

If, however, we are to apply departure from the conversation as a criterion for inclusion, then there are two particular names I am surprised are still not on the list. These are Martin Noth and James Barr. The contributions of Wellhausen and von Rad would surely have been enhanced if Noth’s contribution to tradition history in the Pentateuch and the ‘Deuteronomistic History’ had been included. James Barr’s work in comparative philology and his criticism of biblical theology were also highly influential. We could argue the toss on other names, but the legacy of these two scholars, I feel, has been overlooked and, by implication, unwittingly minimised.

Mark Gignilliat (Beeson Divinity School)

Nonetheless, the discussion of these seven scholars is very well presented. It gives students a useful orientation to how these men were shaped by the conversations of their day, thus uncovering their assumptions, and their ideological and rational framework. It also equips the student to see how these men, in turn, shaped conversation after them. For example, we see how Descartes’ radical rationalism and deism influenced Spinoza’s separation of ‘theology’ and ‘morality’ from ‘philosophy’ and ‘truth’. We observe how Romanticism stood behind de Wette’s emphasis on mythicism over historicism. A similar observation is made for Gunkel in his analysis of the Psalms. We come to understand von Rad’s distinction between ancient Israel’s actual history and their account of it in their kerygmatic documents about their God. This notion stands behind many current conversation in biblical studies today, and has led many to abandon conversing about the Bible as ‘scripture’. Thus, we are helped to understand the response of Brevard Childs’ ‘canonical criticism’ as a critical confessional contribution.

Students wishing to understand why current conversations in Biblical Studies sound the way they do will find Gignilliat’s book an excellent tool. It gives some good ‘sound bites’ that will help train the ear. It also just might help students begin to understand how they themselves converse in Biblical Studies. It’s not until we hear someone else speak that we realise we have the same or different accent (i.e. assumptions and framework). Gignilliat’s clever book may guide students to discover from whom it was that they inherited their ‘accent’. Understanding the greats, therefore, is an important step in self-awareness.


Those who made the list:

Benedict Spinoza

W. M. L. de Wette

Julius Wellhausen

Herman Gunkel

Gerhard von Rad

William F. Albright

Brevard Childs


Those I think should have made the list:

Martin Noth

James Barr


DISCLAIMER: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher (Zondervan)

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Let’s Think Good and Hard about Driscoll and ‘BookGate’

So Mark Driscoll is in hot water over plagiarism in his books, and using church funds to artificially inflate sales figures to land his marriage book on the New York Times Bestseller List. A few quick observations and comments about this ‘BookGate’ controversy in light of the various reports out there:

  1. No one should be gleeful about this. That a leader of so many Christians is in trouble like this is no cause for rejoicing, even if you have major issues with Driscoll and his ministry. This is tragic on a personal level for Driscoll, on a communal level for the Mars Hill church, and also on the broader level for the cause of the gospel. There’s no room for Schadenfreude here.
  2. Protestant Christians believe in the priesthood of all believers, as together we work in mediating the gospel to each other and to the world. This does not mean plagiarism is permitted. We hate it when the media don’t cite sources in their reporting, so we shouldn’t be doing that kind of thing in Christian literature. Academic honesty is always the best policy.
  3. That Driscoll and/or Mars Hill hired a PR company to boost book sales is neither here nor there. In fact, it sounds like sensible strategy to me. It’s just plain old marketing.
  4. The use of church funds (or any funds for that matter) to artificially inflate sales and circumvent the ‘rules’ for the New York Times Bestseller List is just plain dishonest. If all this was done without the broad knowledge of those contributing financially to the church, then Driscoll and/or the leaders at Mars Hill have breached their trust and exceeded their mandate. If it was done with broad knowledge, then we have to question what kind of teaching and guidance they issued on the matter.

When Jesus sent out his disciples on public ministry, he told them to be ‘as shrewd as snakes’ (Matt 10.16). They were to use all their skill, wisdom, and cunning to get the message of the gospel out there.

But that’s not all he said. He also instructed them to be ‘as innocent as doves’.

Christians, pray that God would bring good out of this situation, so that the cause of the gospel would be enhanced, and not hindered. And let’s think good and hard about how we engage this world. ‘As shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’

“A Man after God’s Own Heart”

I’ve written an article for the Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament (JESOT 2.2) titled, ‘“A Man after God’s Own Heart’: David and the Rhetoric of Election to Kingship’. Here’s the abstract:

The anticipation of David as a “man after Yahweh’s own heart” in 1 Sam 13:14 is to be understood as a statement about Yahweh’s election of David to kingship, rather than about David’s own moral qualities. Comparison of similar phrases in Akkadian texts shows that the phrase is part of the rhetoric of divine election to kingship. The focus on divine election does not mean David has no positive attributes. On the contrary, he is depicted as a man with clear leadership qualities. The phrase serves the Davidic apologia in distinguishing David from Saul as Yahweh’s personal choice for king.

JESOT is a free online journal. Subscribe at the website for notifications of new issues.

Reviewing Reza Aslan’s Jesus

My friend and fellow Sydneysider, historian John Dickson (Centre for Public Christianity), has written a review of Reza Aslan’s controversial recent book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Random House, 2013). In short, John isn’t a fan of Aslan’s method, content, or conclusions. Here’s a sprinkling of comments from John’s review:

John Dickson

The mismatch between Aslan’s grandiose claims and his limited credentials in history is glaring on almost every page.

In order to move from the bleeding obvious (that some Jews were freedom-fighters) to the utterly implausible (that Jesus was one of them), Aslan takes several false steps, all of which involve as much creativity as history.

…there is the exaggerated depiction of Jesus’s homeland as a place brimming with insurrection and crazed prophets of doom. Scholarship over the last four decades, ever since Martin Hengel’s seminal work, has concluded that “zealotry” in Palestine was a limited, if contiguous, set of movements through the first half of the first century.

…countless scholars from within the relevant disciplines are amply satisfied that there are straightforward explanations of the fact that Jesus of Nazareth ended up on a Roman cross. And none of them involves trampling on the range of evidence in our possession that Jesus eschewed violence on behalf of the kingdom of God.

Finally, the list of exaggerations and plain errors in Zealot bear testimony to Aslan’s carelessness with concrete history.

The review was published by the ABC, and can be accessed HERE.