Review: Saved by Allegiance Alone

Matthew Bates, Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois, is the author of The Birth of the Trinity (which I will be reading soon). Seeking to serve both the church and academy, he co-hosts OnScript, a podcast dedicated to interviewing scholars over their books to pique the interest of many.

What is “faith”? More so, what does it take to be saved? Acknowledging that although you are a sinner, God sent his one and only Son to die on a cross for your sins? Then, after his resurrection, he ascended to the Father and will return to gather up his people one day? Is it only belief in those core facts that makes someone a new creation? The biblical authors (see James 2.14–18) would disagree. 

Throughout his book, Bates puts forth that pistis (“faith”) is better understood within the umbrella-term of “allegiance” instead of “faith,” “belief,” and “trust.” Now, nowhere does he says that pistis should always be translated as “allegiance” (78), but it is more than mere mental assent. We don’t need to stop using “faith, and “belief,” but allegiance is “the best macro-term available to us that can describe what God requires from us for eternal salvation” (5).

Faith is not opposed to evidence. We need not make leaps of faith to believe God nor should we fear intellectual study. Faith does not oppose works of all kinds (cf. Eph 2.10; 2 Tim 2.21; 3.17), nor believing all will just happen to go well. We believe and thus preach the “good news about the enthronement of Jesus the atoning king” (30). We live under that eternally reigning King, and we will be judged for how we live (2 Cor 5.10).

Preaching allegiance to the eternal reigning King is not legalistic, for the Apostle Paul preached the very same thing.

Rom 1.5, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.

Rom 16.26, but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith

Acts 26.20, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Bates is not the only scholar to emphasize loyalty. In Supernatural, Michael Heiser says, “Salvation is about believing loyalty—trusting what Jesus did to defeat Satan’s claim and turning from all other gods and the belief systems of which they are a part” (125). In his commentary on Deuteronomy, Dan Block says,

Answering to the Supreme Command, by uttering the Shema the Israelites were declaring their complete, undivided, and unqualified devotion to Yahweh. This is not strictly a monotheistic confession (cf. 4:35, 39) but a cry of allegiance, an affirmation of covenant commitment that defines the boundaries of the covenant community. It consists of those who claim this utterance as a verbal badge of identity and who demonstrate this identity with uncompromising covenant commitment… (182).

So, is allegiance a better way to understand pistis than the long-held “faith”/“belief”?

The Spoiled Milk

First, I don’t think all of the verses Bates uses as support are so helpful. Consider his translation of Romans 5.1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by allegiance, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Were we justified when we believed/trusted Christ as King or when we trusted and then acted upon it? Wouldn’t trust imply that we will act upon our beliefs? Bates says that the “metaphors [of ‘belief’ and ‘trust’] are best adjusted and subsumed within the richer category of allegiance. Consistent trust in situations of duress over a lengthy period of time is allegiance” (90).

Maybe it is my own myopia, but I fail to see how mental assent comes under the doing of allegiance. One must believe before he can do. One must mentally “assent” to Christ as King before he can follow in his steps.

Ephesians 2.8, “For by grace you have been saved through allegiance. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” However, if we have been saved by allegiance, this surely sounds like our own doing. Although Bates admits that “even the ability to render allegiance to Jesus as king is a gift” (172), this seems to confuse more than clarify.

Hebrews 11.1, 3 say, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God….” As the author continues, the remaining 22 uses of faith seem to focus on “belief”/mental assent rather than allegiance (though without excluding obedience/allegiance).

In 11.4, both Cain and Abel offered sacrifices, but it was by Abel’s trust/faith in God that he offered a better sacrifice. Noah, warned of impending doom, trusted God (and obeyed, Gen 6.22). Joseph (Heb 11.22), at the end of his life, trusted God’s promises of land and genealogy made mention of Israel’s future exodus. In 11.28, Moses trusted Yahweh’s promise that obeying the Passover instructions would protect them from the Destroyer’s touch (a trust which included obedience).

As a reminder, Bates doesn’t say allegiance is always the best way to translate pistis, but throughout Hebrews 11 it seems that the main focus is on heroes who trusted God and thus acted upon that trust.

Recommended?

There’s not much new here, though his book is a helpful emphasis on loyalty to our King. Bates rightly makes the case that faith should not be left in the ether; it is expressly shown in our daily actions as we serve our righteous King. However, these actions, while expressing allegiance to our King, are subsumed under the overarching idea of our mental assent and understanding of what God has down for us in Christ. The teachings in this book would be helpful when correcting a brother or sister who creates a habit in saying, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” and for encouraging those who might have forgotten (or just not realized) the importance of loyalty. While allegiance is an important facet of our loyalty to our King, I still believe that sola fide, “faith alone,” is a better way to understand our salvation.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Matthew W. Bates
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (March 14, 2017)
  • Podcast: OnScript 

Buy from Baker Academic or Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic through the Baker Academic Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Separation Anxiety IV (2 Cor 6.15-16)

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

1. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)

a. The Command to Separate (v. 14–16a)

i. Unbelievers (v. 14)

ii. 5 Rhetorical Questions (vv. 15-16a)

14Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

.
For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15What accord has Christ with Belial?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

16What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

b. The Promise of Fellowship (v. 16b)

For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people.

ii. 5 Rhetorical Questions (vv. 15-16a)

The believers in Corinth must recognize the opponents as unbelievers and separate from them. If the Corinthians refuse to obey this command, they too will be considered “unbelievers.” The seriousness of the separation from Paul’s opponents is grounded in the five preceding rhetorical questions which each anticipate a negative answer. Paul reinforces the notion of being yoked together with the word “partnership” (seen also in 1.7; 8.4; 9.13) and continues to touch on this theme in his remaining four rhetorical questions (“fellowship” [6.14c], “accord” [6.15a], “portion/share” [6.15b], and “agreement” [6.16a]).

  1. Those blinded by the god of this world (4:4) are slaves “to impurity and to lawlessness” (Rom 6:19), but those who accept Christ (2 Cor 4:6), as Mark Seifrid says, “are righteousness” (5:21). God’s righteousness is wholly separate from sin and death (Rom 6:21-23; 2 Cor 5:21), and those who are in Christ and who are becoming the righteousness of God (5:21; 6:7b) are not to partner with the world which is passing away (5:17b).
    .
  2. In his next question, Paul moves to “creational language”: light and darkness. Here Paul intends a life of obedience to the God who shines light into dark hearts (2 Cor 4:6; cf. Jn 1:5; 3:19; 12:46). The Corinthians cannot walk with God in fellowship (2 Cor 6:16c) while walking with Satan (11:2–3). Darkness is associated with Satan, the god of this age (4:4) and the ultimate source of unbelief (11:14; 12:7). Darkness was the blinded realm they were in prior to their knowledge of God’s glory in Christ (4:4; cf. Col 1:12–13), a realm of which they are no longer ignorant (2 Cor 2:11). A realm with a false light born by Paul’s rivals.
    .
  3. Paul then moves to his third question with a focus on two sources of headship: Christ reigns over all (1 Cor 15:25–27) while Belial/Beliar is the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4; cf. Eph 2:2). The term “Belial” is not used as a personal name anywhere in the Old Testament “although it personified the forces of evil and chaos.” The term occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but it “is widely used as another personal name for Satan in the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient writings.”
    .
    Paul viewed Satan’s work through his personal opponents as one of treachery and worthlessness (2 Cor 11.13-15). “The conflict between Christ and Belial (6:15) appears in the conflict between Christ’s ambassadors (4:5–6; 5:20) and servants of Satan (11:14–15).” In hopes that the repentant majority (2:6) would not experience separation anxiety from their fellow “members,” Paul casts a dark shadow on his opponents by referring to them, their works, and their followers as being from Belial, the ultimate opponent of God.
    .
    This brings into view those who live under the headship of Christ and Belial: believers and unbelievers (6:15b). Paul has the purity of the church in view here, for “in most of its OT attestations, bêliyya‘al functions as an emotive term to describe individuals or groups who commit the most heinous crimes against the Israelite religious or social order, as well as their acts.” Believers and unbelievers “belong to different spiritual spheres,” and Paul’s concern is to warn the Corinthians that to be associated with his unbelieving opponents is to be associated with Satan, the blinding god of this age, and vile worthlessness.
    .
  4. In the Old Testament, no Israelite was to sell the “portion” of land God had given him (Lev 25:23). There were harsh consequences as a result of neglecting the land (Lev 26:35). The Holy Spirit cannot be bought with money nor by those with wicked intent (Acts 8:19–20, see “μερίς” in v. 21). For the Corinthians to give their life and loyalty over to the “worthless” false teachers by allowing them into the lives of God’s temple-family dwelling is for them to share some of their inherited “portion” (μερίς) with the “unbelievers,” the false apostles Paul later speaks of as “disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” just as Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:13–15).
    .
  5. Paul’s final rhetorical question in 6:16a ends with the dwelling place of the one deserving worship (“God”) and of those which do not (“idols”). Paul uses idolatrous terminology to show the dire consequences of the Corinthians separation from him to his opponents. Keener adds, “If the analogy with idolatry that dominates this section sounds too harsh to us to apply to Paul’s rivals, it is no harsher than ‘ministers of Satan’ in the passage where he becomes most explicit against his opponents (11:14–15).” They are to have nothing to do with idols precisely because they are “the temple of the living God” (6:16b) and not of dead idols (Ps 115:4–8).

The fact that the reference to the temple is the climax of Paul’s string of contrasts and the only one that has its own explicit support prior to this sentence (2 Cor 6:16a) highlights its significance. The Corinthians are the temple “of the living God” which is paralleled to the earlier mention of their having the Spirit “of the living God” (3:3), the guarantee (1:22; 5:5) of God’s promises in Christ (1:20). Under the new covenant believers have the Spirit of the living God in them, thus becoming the location where God dwells (2 Kgs 8:10–11; cf. Jn 1:14; 2:21–22).

Identifying the Corinthian believers with God’s temple consequently contains a warning of divine destruction against all who destroy God’s people, since the Corinthians, as God’s temple, are “holy” (1 Cor. 3.16-17; 2 Cor 7.1). If they fail to separate themselves from the false teachers, Paul will come to them in his third visit and cleanse God’s temple from all impurities (13:2). Paul’s command is an application of Scripture’s teaching and expectation of the way new covenant believers are to live (3:3, 6; cf. Jer 31:31). The words “as God said” (2 Cor 6:16c) remind the Corinthians “that the ultimate author of biblical revelation is God.”

b. The Promise of Fellowship (v. 16b)

“Paul now reinforces the theological assertion of 6:16b with a string of OT passages centering on the themes of God’s presence among his people and the consequent need for sanctification.” In this string is a conflation of texts from Leviticus 26:11–12, Ezekiel 37:27, Isaiah 52:11, Ezekiel 11:17, 2 Samuel 7:14, and Isaiah 46:6, respectively, which give the Corinthians six reasons why they are to separate from the “unbelievers.” Not only is Paul telling them to separate from the false teachers, but God himself is telling them to separate!

Paul alludes to and combines Leviticus 26:11–12 and Ezekiel 37:27, two contexts where a variation of “I will be your God, and you shall be my people” occurs. In Leviticus 26:11–12, covenant blessings are given to the Israelites after their exodus from Egypt. Now that God is in covenant with his people, he promises them that he will be in their presence (in the tabernacle) if they obey him. Verses 14–39 relay what would happen to Israel if they disobeyed God, with exile from their land being the worst consequence of all (v. 34). Verse 41 says that if they humble their “uncircumcised heart[s]” God will remember his covenant with their forefathers and will eventually bring them back as his people.

In Ezekiel 37:26, God gives the promise of an “everlasting covenant” (cf. Jer. 32:40; 50:5) to Israel when his “servant David” is “king over them” (v. 24). This promise of a new covenant was brought about by the need for a second exodus where God would finally fulfill His purpose of living among His people. In 2 Corinthians 3:3–6, Paul declares that the Corinthians are under the new covenant, which is “permanent” (or “everlasting,” cf. Jer. 32:40; Ezek. 37:26) in glory (2 Cor 3:11) and causes them to be transformed into the “same image” (3:18).

The Corinthians are new covenant believers, and God’s presence in them is the guarantee (1:22) that they are his people who will be resurrected (5:4–5) and who will enter into the consummated new creation (5:17). It is because the Corinthians are God’s people, temple, and place of dwelling that they should separate from the unbelievers. They were betrothed to one husband, Christ, and are to be presented as a pure virgin to him (11:2).

 

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John’s Prologue

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort” (The Hobbit).

The beginnings of narratives provide us clues, purpose. They can lead us to expect one thing before unveiling the blinders over our eyes. They can provide pivotal information that we need for the rest of the story. If you read The Lord of the Rings, but skip The Fellowship of the Ring, you will, frankly, be utterly lost in Isengard without a compass.

The beginning of The Hobbit reveals that hobbits, like humans, love comfort. But as the story goes on, this hobbit, in particular, remains in no such cozy hobbit holes. He will later find himself stranded in such holes in which the ends of worms and oozy smells would bring him the greatest delight if he could see them only once more. Anything beats dragon breath.

John’s prologue is a guide to the remainder of his Gospel. If you miss this, you’ll be as lost as John’s characters. In ancient Greco-Roman writings, “prologues were often used to introduce the important characters in the narrative, situate them within the story, and give some understanding of their importance” (84). Prologues explained the “seen” and “unseen” forces that were at play throughout the drama.

Morna Hooker explains that prologues provided “vital information that would enable [the audience] to comprehend the plot, and to understand the unseen forces — the desires and plans of the gods — which were at work in the story” (84). Rather than reveal the plans of the Gods, John explains “the desires and plans of the God” (84). 

The prologue is not mere background information, for it is a guide to the drama. With John’s story of Jesus, “the reader is provided with comprehensive inside information about the origins, identity, and mission of ‘the Word’ (1:1, 14), a figure subsequently described as Jesus Christ (1:17)…. John’s Prologue places the reader in a position of privilege while the characters in the narrative remain in the dark” (Skinner, 9-10).

John’s prologue is not mere theological abstraction that comes right out of the ether. It is connected to the real events that take place throughout the drama. It explains the “unseen” forces in the midst of the “seen.” If Jesus is the unique Son of God, why do so few believe him, and why do so many of Israel’s leaders want to kill him?  He [the “true light”] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (Jn 1.10–11). “Thus, the prologue is guiding the reader to see the invisible (God) in the visible (historical persons and events)” (85). 

There are two strands in John’s plot: the visible and the invisible. The first strand is the historical setting. Jesus, a real person, comes to tabernacle among God’s people in first-century Israel. In the second strand, “The setting of this second story is not Palestine in the first century but the cosmos in eternity itself. Interestingly, the cosmological story is the very first thing introduced to the reader” (85). It is in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus where both strands reach their climax. Jesus is the stairway to heaven, greater than what Jacob saw. He will ascend to the very real Father and send his very real Spirit to his physical disciples who will preach the message of the King who forgives sins.

Buy John (ZECNT) from Zondervan or on Amazon!

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Separation Anxiety III (2 Cor 6.14)

This section can be separated into three smaller sections: 6.14a begins with a command to separate from the unbelievers. 6.14b–16a contains five rhetorical questions to reveal to the Corinthians why they should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Finally, in 6.16b Paul conflates two Old Testament texts as the ground for their separation: the Corinthians are the dwelling place of God.

14Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.

.
For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?

Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

15What accord has Christ with Belial?

Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

16What agreement has the temple of God with idols?

.
For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, 

and I will be their God, 

and they shall be my people. 

Paul closes 6.11–13 with a command for the Corinthians to open their hearts to him and opens this section with the command not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” To be “unequally yoked” comes from Leviticus 19.19 and, primarily, Deuteronomy 22.10, where the “clean” ox and the “unclean” donkey were not to plow together. Paul’s intention may be for the Corinthians to not be in any kind of spiritual relationship with pagans (1 Cor 8.1–10; 10.14, 19–22).

Yet Craig Keener says the “warning against being ‘mismatched’ would at least include marital unions. . . . [because] Paul is thinking of the rivals; as Paul wishes to deliver them [the Corinthians] still virgin to Christ, Satan’s agents threaten to corrupt them with their deceptive gospel (2 Cor 11:2–4)” (194). While not all commentators agree on this point, the “idols” (v. 16) are the false teachers whom Paul refers to as “unbelievers.” These false teachers (or “apostles”) are not merely in competition with Paul but preach an entirely different gospel than he does.

Paul makes clear what is at stake if the Corinthians support his opponents. Much of the terminology used in this section is used to describe the necessity of breaking free from demon-dominated idolatry.1 Keener remarks, “It is not difficult to envision Paul’s conflict with his rivals here; if the Corinthians must be reconciled to Paul to be reconciled to God (5:20–6:13), they also must reject his rivals for their affection” (193). Although up to this point, Paul has not explicitly condemned the false apostles, “If Paul’s precautions, specifically the fortification of the Corinthians against the lies of this ‘present, evil age,’ are real, then so are the spokespersons for this age, whose influence Paul has been seeking to undermine (2 Cor 5:12) throughout the letter, even while they are scarcely mentioned.”2

Conclusion

The believers in Corinth must recognize the opponents as unbelievers and separate from them. If the Corinthians refuse to obey this command, they too will be considered “unbelievers.” The seriousness of the separation from Paul’s opponents is grounded in the five preceding rhetorical questions which each anticipate a negative answer. Paul reinforces the notion of being yoked together with the word “partnership” (seen also in 1.7; 8.4; 9.13) and continues to touch on this theme in his remaining four rhetorical questions (“fellowship” [6.14c], “accord” [6.15a], “portion/share” [6.15b], and “agreement” [6.16a]).

Next time I will cover Paul’s five rhetorical questions.


[1] Compare 2 Cor 6.14 // 1 Cor 10.16–21; 2 Cor 7.1 // 1 Cor 8.7.

[2] DeSilva, David A. “Recasting the Moment of Decision: 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 in its Literary Context,” 4–5.

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Review: Now My Eyes Have Seen You (NSBT)

Job is a particularly difficult book (in English, Hebrew, and Greek). Understanding the poetry of Job and his three friends requires having a handle on their worldview, which involves a lot of reading of peripheral material from the ANE world. Robert Fyall has done much of that work for us and focusing on the images of creation and evil in the book of Job, with a particular emphasis on God’s divine council, Satan, and the place of Behemoth and Leviathan. He approaches the book of Job with humility so that he, and those he teaches, will not be like Job’s three friends who did not speak what was right about the Lord (Jb 42.7-8). In this study Fyall believes that Yahweh’s divine speeches (38-41) ought to control how we read the book, he draws numerous comparisons to the rest of the OT to draw out the theology of creation and evil, and he argues for the unity of Job.

Behemoth3

According to Fyall, we can see the unity of Job in three ways: structurally, thematically, and theologically. Structurally, the narrative and poetry portions of Job can not stand on their own. Throughout the poetic portion of the book, Job glimpses the divine council aspect that was seen in Job 1–2. In 42.7–17, the final narrative section, God says that Job’s three friends did not speak what was right about him. This wouldn’t make sense unless Job was a unity, for the friends don’t start speaking until Job 4. Thematically, some try to separate the “patient” Job from the “angry” Job, but to separate the patient from the angry is to miss out on the mixed emotions of a real person. Theologically, the divine council is the controlling theme of the book, as Satan’s role in Job 1–2 is bound together with various references to him and his workings in the preceding chapters. This is especially so in Job 41 where, as Fyall argues, the Leviathan is unmasked as being Satan himself.

This brings us into one of the main points of the book. Who or what is the Behemoth and the Leviathan? Fyall, using intertextuality and Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths, argues that Behemoth represents Mot, the god of death, and Leviathan is Satan. Throughout the book of Job, Job believes that God is against him (6.4, “For the arrows of the Almighty are in me”), when in fact it is Satan himself who is allowed to terrorize Job. Fyall says that “to say that Leviathan has characteristics of the crocodile and the whale is not to say that it is such a creature, but rather to suggest that evil is rooted in the natural world” (27).

Fyall’ss discussion on the use of imagery and myth is extremely and could be used to explain the Bible’s use of so much imagery (from other ancient Near Eastern sources and it’s own use of metaphor in general). Metaphor “is not merely a means of ‘conveying’ doctrinal positions but an adventurous occasion for deepening doctrine through the play of literary resources…” (24–25). As for myth, which Job makes numerous allusions to both Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths, do not mean “make believe,” but rather is “an attempt to embody in narrative the great truth of good and evil” (27). Instead of speaking of light and darkness, myth embodies these concepts (e.g., Baal and Yam, Marduk and Tiamat).

The Spoiled Milk

Unfortunately I don’t think Fyall provides a slam-dunk argument. I generally agree with him, as many of his hooks to other passages in Job seem to guide us into seeing that these two beastly animals are something more than just a crocodile/whale or a hippopotamus (and it’s hard to go against scholars like Robert Chisholm and my own Hebrew/OT professor Peter Gentry). However, I think many of his points are too vague, though his argument is one of cumulative evidence, and he provides plenty of that. One isn’t required to know Hebrew to read this book (as you’re only given the transliterations anyway), but a working knowledge of it and ANE works is certainly helpful. 

I also have a hard time seeing how the divine council is the controlling theme of Job. I know it’s important, but was it really because of Job’s partial knowledge of the divine council and his “continual awareness of a cosmic and supernatural dimension to his sorrows” that God announced Job’s spoke rightly of him (148; Jb 42.7–8)? I find it difficult to accept this, though I don’t want to understate the importance of the divine council in Job.

Recommended?

Those points aside, Fyall does a great service in his book by helping us get a better grasp of Job and his theology through the angle of creation and evil. I think his points should be wrestled with, and, even if you don’t agree with him, his book is especially helpful for those who are studying and will be teaching through Job. There is more to this book (and to Job) than chapters 40–41. throughout his book, Fyall doesn’t eschew Jesus, but instead keeps him in sight. He is the Redeemer (Jb 19.25) we look forward to seeing (42.5) on the other side of life.

Lagniappe

Author: Robert S. Fyall
Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology (Book 12)
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: IVP Academic (August 15, 2002)

Buy it from IVP Academic or Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Hermeneutics as Apprenticeship

How should we read the Bible? Interpret obtuse texts with the clear texts? Should the Scripture interpret me alone? Those are helpful methods, but Starling vouches for an intertextual hermeneutic. Like the snowball which rolls down a hill and picks up more snow along the way, the Biblical authors picked up former themes and ideas when they wrote. Revelation, the last book of the Bible, has more echoes and allusions (~635) than any other NT book. That’s quite the snowball. But more than that, Starling argues that the “interpretation of the Scriptures is like a craft or a trade that must be learned if we are to draw the right connections, make the right intuitive leaps, and bring to bear on the task the right dispositions, affections, and virtues” (17). The work of the interpreter (which is anyone and everyone who reads the Bible) will require sweat, toil, and character.

The rest of his book is made up of fourteen case studies, six from the Old Testament and eight from the New. Each chapter has a specific theme (or “hermeneutic”) that is developed throughout that biblical book. If each theme was a play, Starling gives us tickets to the front row, the side balcony, and the nose bleed section. Each seat is a different angle and allows the ticket-holder the see the play, its actors, their motions, and their faces from different angles (near, far, and to the side). Some examples are Psalms (“delight”), Deuteronomy (“law”), Zechariah (“prophecy”), Luke (“fulfillment”), Galatians (“allegory”), and 1 Peter (“Empire”).

For example, in 1 Peter, how do we read the Bible and live in this world as exiles under an evil empire (no matter where we live)? Peter teaches his readers what the OT says about living as followers of Christ today (yes, even today) by having us sit in the different seats of the play Empire. We are to live with both a reverent fear/respect to those we live and serve under, and a reverent fear of God whom everyone lives under. We live under a God who has show us grace and we should show grace and good works as well to others. When we are alienated from the world we know that there is another greater One who we serve and approves of our lives. Our glorious salvation is incorruptible, greater than all the gold and social approval this world can give us. We were taken out of darkness and into light by the precious blood of Christ through a horrific crucifixion. “What is beautiful in the sight of God can—at least in principle—be found beautiful by all those who have eyes to see” (190).

The Spoiled Milk

There not much I don’t like about this book, but there are times when Starling is making a point, but it either seems to come out of nowhere or it’s very vague. For example, to conclude his chapter on Luke-Acts and to clarify how they explain a true “gospel-centered hermeneutic,” Starling says in his third concluding point that “the gospel preaching of Jesus and his apostles in Luke-Acts does not sit well with one-dimensional propositional accounts of the gospel speech-act, or with overly sharp attempts to pare off the response the gospel calls for and the blessing that it offers from the facts that it announces, as if only the latter were properly part of the gospel” (117). He states just before that the way Luke-Acts uses the OT contrasts with a one-dimensional use of the OT simply as a backdrop for the facts of the gospel that many people today use.

But just what are these “one-dimensional propositional accounts”? What does he mean by “gospel speech-act”? What are the “overly sharp attempts to pare off” the gospel response and its offered blessings from the facts of the gospel, and who is doing the paring? I don’t know, but this is one of final main points. To give (what I thought to be) a vague expression of how we shouldn’t interpret the OT without explaining what that looks like is disappointing. Many may continue on without realizing their own one-dimensional interpretations. 

Recommended?

I would assign this book if I taught a hermeneutics class in a Bible college, and at least a few chapters if I taught this in a high school. It’s a good subset of larger Biblical theologies that keeps an eye on what the individual biblical authors are teaching their readers. They each have something specific they want to emphasize (multiple things, really), and it all fits under the heading of God’s Word.

Interpreting Scripture requires sweat, skill, and character. We work and develop the skill of learning how to read and understand it properly, and as God develops our character and shapes us into the image of his Son, we will understand better just who this God is who is working in the world around us. The fear of God which leads to godly wisdom “is a way of living with unanswered questions that still bears true witness, keeps faith with friends, maintains integrity, and hopes in God” (80). 

The reading and interpretation of God’s word should continually shape us into the image of Christ. The end goal of the Bible is not that we know every correct interpretation (taking up all of our time), but that we love God and serve others because we are transformed by interpreting what the Bible teaches us. We will never get to the end of the Bible, and we will never have all the answers. But we will eventually have to make decisions in life, and what we have learned from the Bible will inform those decisions. Learn to interpret well. 

Lagniappe

Author: David I. Starling
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Baker Academic (September 20, 2016)
Podcasts: OnScript with Matthew Bates

Buy it on Baker Academic or on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Academic through the Baker Academic Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Separation Anxiety II

Detailed Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

1. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)

a. The Command to Separate (v. 14–16a)

b. The Promise of Fellowship (v. 16b)

2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)


Context

2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 comes at the end of a lengthy defense of Paul’s apostleship, stretching from 2:14–7:4.

  • 6:14–7:1 is framed by two sections (6:11–13 and 7:2–4) which consist of Paul’s requests for the Corinthians to make room in their hearts for Paul and his associates (6:13; 7:2):

A  6.11–13, “widen your hearts”

B  6.14–7.1

A’  7.2–4, Make room in your hearts” 

  • In 7:5 Paul picks up where he left off in 2:13 about his uncomfortable travel plans and describes the joy and comfort he experienced when he met with Titus and heard the good news of the Corinthians’ repentance that came as a result of Paul’s previous tearful letter (2:1–4; 7:8).
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  • 2 Cor 8–9: Paul encourages the Corinthians to give to the Jerusalem church knowing that God will fill them with many blessings.
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  • 2 Cor 10-13: Paul pulls no punches combating the influence of the false teachers among the Corinthians. He shows Christ’s glory by explaining to the Corinthians that he has not been a burden to them out of love for them, nor has he harassed them or cheated them in anyway.
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  • Finally, in 13.10, if he must, when he arrives in Corinth for the third time, he will spare no one who rejects his God-given gospel and authority.1

How Does 6.14-7.1 Fit?

G. K. Beale keenly points out, “This is not a general exhortation to separate from the world; rather, Paul likely has in mind that the readers are to separate from the world by not evaluating Paul’s apostleship according to the unbelieving standards of the world, as the preceding context has also focused upon.” While the unbelieving world did remain outside of the church, Paul here “viewed it as a force within the church (cf. 13:5) against whose influence believers needed to be on guard.” Rather than being an interruption, 6:14-7:1 “anticipates the main opposition to be elaborated on in chapters 10–13.” “Paul shows that the situation is so serious that their very salvation is at stake.”2

Some scholars don’t think Paul wrote this section. One in particular (i.e., Mitzi Minor) leaves this section out of her commentary completely. If not Pauline, why comment on it at all? But, if it is Pauline, then we’re missing out on a lot of theology in this section. This is more than a simple, “Don’t be married to an unbelievers.” Paul has Christ’s bride in view!
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1
 In my paper, I didn’t have space to touch on arguments against Pauline authorship of 6:14–7:1. These arguments include the number of hapax legomena (terms which occur only once in the New Testament) Paul uses (ranging from six to nine) in this short passage, the amount of terms found in Qumran texts, and stylistic inconsistencies with Paul’s other letters. Pauline authorship will be argued for in the way I present how this section “hooks” with the rest of the letter.

2 Quotes from G. K Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 716-717.

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