Monthly Archives: February 2015

Review: From Paradise to the Promised Land

From Paradise to the Promised Land

T. Desmond Alexander (PhD, The Queen’s University, Belfast) is senior lecturer in biblical studies and director of postgraduate studies at Union Theological College in Belfast, Ireland, and has co-edited the IVP Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch and the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, and he is the author of From Eden to the New Jerusalem.

In this new (third) edition of From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch [2012] (which is about 14 pages longer than the second edition [2002], and 157 pages longer than the first edition [1998]), adds information about Pentateuchal Criticism [PC] (the title of Part 1) and some “refined judgments” by the author throughout the book. He says,

“The present volumes seeks to
(1) guide the reader through the maze of modern approaches to the Pentateuch, and
(2) focus on the main themes of the Pentateuch, viewed as a unified literary work, by drawing on the best insights of recent research into Hebrew narrative techniques” 
(p xiii).

Part 1; Pentateuchal Criticism

Being an introduction, one should expect some discussion on Pentateuchal studies. Alexander spends six chapters going through the history of these studies, introducing the reader to source-, form-, Traditio-historical-, and literary-criticism, and brings the reader’s main focus to the Documentary Hypothesis. Basically, DH espouses that “Moses had compiled Genesis from older documents” (p 8). The proponents of the DH, in general, say the narrative is not unified, some things are needlessly repeated, different uses of God’s name are used (compare the Hebrew of Gen 1 with Gen 2), etc. All of this would eventually bring us to (what some are familiar with now) the New Documentary Hypothesis: “the Pentateuch was composed of four documents that were combined by a redactor” (p 15). These sources would be called JEDP, the Yahwist source (J), the Elohist source (E), the Deuteronomist (D), and the Priestly source (P).

While one should be aware (and probably already expects) that these chapters are not an easy read. However, I actually found these chapters to be quite interesting, much more than I thought they would be. On the one hand, these chapters are quite detailed, showing the intricacies of PC and just what one would expect to find when studying the Pentateuch. Many (but not all!) large, scholarly works will be brimming with information on the legitimacy of the DH, and one should be aware of what they will find when they read those works.

But here Alexander does not side with the DH espousers, but shows criticisms against it. Chapter 5 is titled “The Sinai Narrative – A Test Case” where Alexander “examine[s] afresh the composition of the Sinai Narrative in Exodus 19:1-24:11” (p 64). I found this chapter to be very interesting as Alexander shows the divine structure of the chapters here in Exodus. He shows the divine speeches, how they fit with the positioning of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), and how Exodus 19 is a single account.

Admittedly, this section will not float everyone’s boat, but in dealing with introductions it’s still important and informative to those who are interested in a deeper study of the Pentateuch. It’s still ideal to be familiar with the discussions, knowing how to discern books, discussions, even sermons that have concepts of the DH backing them up.

Part 2; The Main Themes of the Pentateuch

This is where the book will become ‘alive’ for many (and probably most) readers. For though as interesting as reading various criticisms and critiques of the Pentateuch may be, reading the very words Moses wrote is far more interesting (as it should be!). Here Alexander looks at a broad range of themes beginning in Genesis and “ending” in Deuteronomy (they don’t really “end” in Deuteronomy. The biblical authors pick up the Pentateuch’s themes and carry them on throughout the Old and New Testaments. But, for our purposes…):

  • God’s Temple City
  • The Royal Lineage in Genesis
  • The Blessing of the Nations
  • Paradise Lost
  • By Faith Abraham…
  • Who is the Lord?
  • The Passover
  • The Covenant at Sinai
  • The Tabernacle
  • Be Holy
  • The Sacrificial System
  • The Clean and Unclean Foods
  • Toward the Promised Land
  • Murmurings
  • Love and Loyalty
  • Why Israel?
  • The Pentateuch and the Biblical Metanarrative

The Chocolate Milk

In looking at Pentateuchal themes, rather than being a collection of different sources, Alexander shows how the Pentateuch is a unified work. God placed man in a garden to be fruitful, to multiply, to replenish the earth and have dominion over it. They would reproduce, grow the garden, and thus bring the knowledge of God throughout the rest of the earth. Thus even still after the fall, Cain builds a city. Nimrod builds cities. Babel-Babylon is built. Abraham’s descendants will become a great nation. The Pharaoh enslaves those descendants so that they will build him a great city. When saved by Yahweh, the Hebrews build Him a dwelling place, and eventually a tabernacle. Once more, we are looking forward to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12.22).

The final portion of each thematic chapter in Part 2 was the New Testament Connections section, which I always enjoyed reading. Alexander summarizes how a particular theme (‘Be Holy’) is seen in the NT and is fulfilled in some way in Jesus. What defiles a person is not what they eat, but what is inside of them (Mk 7.20-23). We are “to purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit” (2 Cor 7.1). Peter (in 1 Pet. 1.15-16) quotes Leviticus by saying, “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'” The morality we find in the Pentateuch isn’t always so far removed from our world. Though we do not have to perform animal sacrifices, we are still to be holy just as the Israelites were holy because the same God who rescued them from slavery has done the same for us (Rom 5.21; 7.25).

The Spoiled Milk

One disappointment I had was that more of the Pentateuch wasn’t covered. As important as the themes are (I never really thought much about a lot of the themes mentioned here and their impact on the Five Books of Moses), I think the name of the book may be a bit misleading. Perhaps I’m used to books like deSilva’s An Introduction to the New Testament and Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles’ The Cradle, The Cross, and the Crown which both look at themes of the New Testament and summarize each letter (though deSilva has a stronger social-cultural-rhetorical flavor). While one book cannot do everything, I’m left wondering about much of what happens in the Genesis story after Abraham (though Alexander does spend six chapters on Genesis and doesn’t forget about Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph). Not to mention special laws in Leviticus (three chapters), or most of Deuteronomy (only two chapters are spent discussing this huge book).

The only criticism I have about the Old Testament Summary section was that it really wasn’t a summary of how the theme is seen in the Old Testament, but more how it is seen either in that individual book (‘Murmurings’ in Numbers) or in the Pentateuch. Again, perhaps misnamed, but it seems like Pentateuchal Summary” would be more apt.

Recommended?

All in all, this is an excellent introduction to the Pentateuch. Alexander has cross references to boot, and will give me plenty of work as I work my way through the Pentateuch. In this, I hope you will feel as I have, and that you will have a desire to read through the Pentateuch again and again, seeing and learning more about our loving God who has saved us from our sins and who we will see again in the New Creation.

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.”    Rev 21.22

Lagniappe

[Special thanks to Trinity at Baker Publishing for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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A Big Thanks To….

Louis at Baker Book House Church Connection for his book give-away this week. He was giving away Peter Leithart’s newest book Traces of the Trinity. Louis also posted about it here. John Frame (author of The Doctrine of God and other excellent works) even said, “This is the most delightful book I have read in a long time,” which makes this sound pretty exciting for me. I’ve really only read one book on the Trinity that I can think of, and that was Michael Reeves’ spectacular Delighting in the Trinity (his ‘sequel’ to arrive out soon, Rejoicing in Christ).

That all said, I will surely be reviewing this book, and, when I get it, probably Reeves’ book too. For now, I only have 6 books left in my review pile to move through, and 2/3’s of them are currently being worked through. Gotta finish all that I can before seminary…

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Was the Apostle Paul “Pro-Slavery”?

Ephesians BECNT

Few times in the New Testament does Paul refer to slaves obeying their masters. One case in point would be in Ephesians 6.5-8, Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.

Frank Thielman, in the BECNT volume on Ephesians, gives an example of commentators who thought Paul didn’t disapprove of slavery.

“Is it often said that this passage accepts unquestioningly the institution of slavery as it existed in the first century. ‘There is doubtless no approval, but at the same time no disapproval of the existing slavery in itself,’ said Meyer (1880:318) long ago, and most commentators would agree with him. Some recent interpreters go further and see in the passage not merely an acceptance of slavery but also an attempt to provide theological support for the institution, particularly as it benefited the slaveholder [Glancy 2006; Harrill 2006]” (404).

However Thielman disagrees, “Surprisingly, [Paul] then tells masters to do for their slaves what he has just required slaves to do for their masters (6.9a), and again he finishes with a clause that gives the reason why masters should do this: they too have a master, and he is no respecter of persons (6.9b-c).”

Slaves are to obey their masters, as the children are to obey their parents (Eph 6.1). Yet Paul deems these masters as ‘fleshly’, subtly indicating there is a greater Master, that of Jesus Christ himself, the One to whom the loyalty of a believing slave ultimately lies.

Sincere Obedience

Paul uses five phrases to describe the slaves’ sincere obedience:

1. “Fear and Trembling”

Like when Paul come to Corinth, he recognized his weak and subordinate position among the Corinthians (1 Cor 2.3; 9.19).

2. “In Integrity/Sincerity of Heart”

The term ἁπλότης haplotes [sincere] in the NT is only used by Paul and is found frequently in 2 Corinthians (1.12; 8.2; 9.11,13; 11.3). “There should be no division between the quality of the labor produced and the attitude of the one who produces it” (406).

3. Obey “as You Would Christ”

Paul contrasts laboring as a slave for humans with laboring as a slave for the Lord. The master doesn’t represent Christ to the servant. In fact, the master is factored out of the equation and replaced by Christ. Like Paul the prisoner of the Lord, this provides away for slaves to “walk worthily” of their calling as believers (4.1).

4. Slaves are Not to Obey Merely When the Master’s Eye is on Them, But as Slaves of Christ,  “Committed to the Will of God”

Paul emphasizes the importance of sincerity and honesty in one’s dealings with others (2 Cor 1.17-18; 2.17; 3.2; 4.2). It is acting sincerely and according to one’s inner convictions, something highly valued in Greco-Roman and Hellenistic (Greek) Jewish ethics.

5. Slaves Should Do Their Assigned Work With “Good Will”

Paul understands that there are injustices within the institution of slavery, and so “urges slaves to consider their obedience as ‘rendered to the Lord'” (407).

The slave can know that whatever good he does, in honor of the Lord, will be “repaid/given back” to him by the Lord (6.8), something true to both slave and free.

And We Can’t Forget the Masters…

Paul goes on in Eph 6.9, Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.

Paul gives one verse to the masters because he intends for them to follow the same instructions given to the slave. But who is the master’s master? Jesus Christ.

How do masters “do the same to them [the slaves]”? Most see this as meaning the masters should treat their slaves as well as their slaves treat them, or, in light of Christ as their Master, to treat their slaves justly and fairly.

  1. Having spoken of “fleshly masters” (6.5), Paul reminds both parties that they serve a greater Master. Both slave and free will be judged equally in the Final Judgment, as there is no favouritism with the Divine Judge of heaven to whom both are subject.
  2. There was a strong conviction in early Christianity following the teachings of Jesus that “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all(Mk 9.35; 1 Cor 9.19). The head of the household, if a believer, should consider the examples of both Jesus and Paul and follow this teaching.
  3. Eph 1-3 teaches that humans are united in their rebellion against God (2.2-3, 11-12) and through Christ are new creations (2.10; 14.22). They are one people and a family unit in Christ.
  4. He deprives masters of the threat of violence, something often used by slaveowners in Roman society to force their slaves to submit, or even just to vent their anger. Believing masters must now “give up” this form of coercion. This is not giving up “certain forms of threatening”, but “threatening entirely.”
    +
    Why? Because in the presence of the Lord there is no difference between slave and master (Gal 2.6; Col 3.25).

Within a traditional Greco-Roman household, how can believers “live wisely, do the Lord’s will, grow in maturity as human beings, and live in the Spirit (5.15-18)”? Both are now free in Christ to choose righteous attitudes and actions.

Paul undermines the whole system of slaveholding, as these slave-holding believers are, in a way, to submit to their slaves (5.21), serving them in the same way they desire their slaves to serve them.

“As the notes [above have explained], however, this passage is more radical than the account of it given in either of these readings [by Meyer, Glancy, and Harrill in the above quote]. There is no explicit criticism of slavery here, but the level of mutuality and reciprocity that is assumed to exist between master and slave creates an atmosphere in which it would have been difficult for slavery to survive if the advice of the passage had been rigorously followed. The problem that the passage highlights is not its own failure to rise above this brutal and ubiquitous [ever-present] institution, but the failure of those who received the passage as authoritative both in antiquity and in more recent times to live out its radical implications” (404-405; emphasis mine).

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Review: Matthew [ZECNT]

Matthew ZECNT

Grant Osbourne is well known for his commentaries on the Gospel of John (CBC), Romans (IVPNTC) and Revelation (BECNT). Having just released a Mark commentary in the Teach the Text series, he’s now come out with a Matthew commentary in the ZECNT series.

And, if you see this book in person, you’ll see it is a thick book. At 1157 pages (59 pages being bibliography and references) there is plenty to read here. He leaves no verse unturned, and is set on focusing on the small sections only after examining the overall structure. This series is geared towards pastors and teachers who need a solid understanding of the NT and so need a solid commentary on each NT book.

Osbourne starts his commentary with a bit of a hermeneutics course which gives the reader an explanation for what he does (proceeding from the macro- to the micro-structure), while at the same time explaining the purpose of the ZECNT series. In his introduction he gives explanations for:

  • Authorship 
  • Date
  • Genre
  • Purpose
  • Audience
  • Matthew’s Use of the OT

As I said, this commentary is thick, but don’t let that dissuade you from thinking you won’t have enough time to study. Osbourne breaks Matthew down into 122 different chapters, with each section covering (on average) between six to twelve pages. Each chapter is divided up into seven sections, which I explain below.

Commentary Divisions

Since this is my first review of a ZECNT commentary (I have Mark coming up), this section will be a bit longer as I give a sentence or two to each division. Future reviews will be more brief.

Literary Context

Shows how the chapter flows from the previous chapter to the next, and a short explanation of it’s position in the broader context. A Progress Bar with an outline is added at the end.

Main Idea

A simple, one- or two-sentence statement of the big idea found in the passage.

Translation and Graphical Layout

The author gives his translation of the Greek text, showing in a graph how each piece is broken down. It reminds me a lot of Bible Arcing (which is one of the best tools I’ve seen for learning and teaching the text). This is one of the most useful parts of the commentary because it gives the reader a visual of the entire section, the breakdown of sentences and their clauses, and how they parallel/contrast/describe the previous statement, or show cause and effect, etc (See picture below).

Structure

The commentator describes the flow of thought and the structure.

Exegetical Outline

Gives a detailed outline for the chapter.

Explanation of the Text

The emphasis in this section is to convey meaning, and after the giving the English text, the commentator places the Greek text in parenthesis. The commentator can examine words, ideas, phrases, grammar, rhetoric, the social milieu, and biblical theology, but usually not all at once.

Theology in Application

A fantastic section in the commentary. The commentator discusses how each section contributes a piece of theology to the overall meaning of the book and provides some suggestions of the meaning for the church today. This commentary moves from breaking down the text (exegesis), to explaining it (commentary), to showing the meaning of the Matthew to the Christian walk (application). It will be incredibly helpful to the pastor/teacher in drawing out the implications of the text for the Christian community founded on solid exegesis.

Example of the Graphical Layout

(I found this on this blog, and here’s a link to another picture)

zecnt-passage-flow

Major Themes in Matthew

The final section after the commentary has a helpful guide to some major themes that are found in Matthew’s gospel. This would be a good section to read when encountering any of these points in the text one is studying. Osbourne looks through the whole of Matthew to put each theme into perspective (as one would expect since they are ‘major’ themes). The major themes are as follows:

  • Christology
  • The Jewishness of Matthew
  • The Gentile Mission
  • Eschatology
  • The Church
  • Discipleship

The Chocolate Milk

Layout

Every section of the ZECNT’s layout is helpful. While I may praise the Graphical Layout and Theology in Application sections more than the others (the Explanation section is a given), I find that every section is extremely beneficial. One must understand the big idea to really have a grasp of the details seen in the Exegetical Outline. Every piece contributes to the readers knowledge of the passage, and of Matthew, as a whole.

Theology in Application

However, besides the GL (which you can see the benefits of i the picture above), the Theology in Application section is a major plus. Each chapter includes anywhere between one to seven applications, meaning if each section has three applications you have 366 points of application. I would imagine this is more than the average Matthew commentary (though I can’t honestly say having only read two other Matthean commentaries, but considering the other series’ I have a good idea), and is especially helpful for the pastor/teacher, and even the layman. Anyone who reads this commentary would be encouraged by this section.

To the Point

Osbourne gets to the point. Some may want longer Introductions, and I understand because I won’t complain when I have them. Yet often times I find myself wading through alternative viewpoints in order to see the author viewpoint along with his reasoning for it. Here, I don’t need to wade through much at all. I simply have to read to know what Osbourne thinks! Of course throughout the commentary Osbourne does present the reader with other viewpoints from other scholars, but he usually relegates the details to the footnotes. This is extremely helpful in keeping the text clear and free from too much obtrusion, something I feel the BECNT series should learn to do.

Here, you will always know where he is going and where he is at in the progression of Matthew. Osbourne excels because he does exactly what the commentary sets out to do, getting to-the-point without getting bogged down in scholarly discussions. Many pastors don’t have the time for these discussions, and this is the place they can go for clear writing. While one’s sermon won’t be written in 30 minutes, Osbourne cuts out much of the chaff and gives pastors exactly what they want to know.

The Spoiled Milk

The progress bar under the Literary Context section is quite hokey. It’s made to look like you are scrolling down a web browser, but in the end I’d rather see more of the outline along with a progress bar that fits more closely to the style of the book. Not a big deal, just goofy.

While his concision is a praise, it’s I would have liked to have seen more of Osbourne’s reasoning for certain views. Often times, in being brief and concise, I still would like to know why Osbourne takes the view that he does. What is so significant about this view over the others? Why should I think this view is the correct view? Sometimes an adequate explanation is given, other times a good explanation is left lacking.

Recommended?

Fortunately, there’s really not much to complain about with this commentary. All in all, this will benefit any library (unless someone has read every other Matthean commentary, but then they may as well get this one too). Certainly pastors and teachers will benefit from this commentary, but even the layman seeking to understand Matthew. I wish I would have had this book back in college. I didn’t understand much of what Jesus said, but Osbourne puts it all into perspective, always being aware of the placement of the text within the holistic view. Osbourne, again, leaving no verse unturned, explains how the smaller details of Matthew is seen within the larger structure of Matthew as a whole. This commentary is easily understandable. It is not too hard, but definitely not too simple in the least.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Zondervan (October 19, 2010)
  • Amazon: US; UK; CA

[Special thanks to Emily and Zondervan for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]


Other editions currently in the ZECNT series:

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Contemporary Portrayals of Jesus: Part 1

What do you know about Jesus? Who was he? A good man? A prophet? Who is he to you? A controversial figure? A Saviour?

I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament by Andreas Kostenberger, Scott Kellum, and Charles Quarles, curtesy of Chris at B&H Academic.

In Chapter 3, “Jesus and the Relationship Between the Gospels,” the authors discuss some Contemporary Challenges to the New Testament Portrayal of Jesus. If you read the newspaper, watch the news, or, God forbid, the tabloids, you’ve most likely seen an array of Jesus figures, many of which become part of our urban legends that we imagine when we (or the populace around us) think about Jesus.

But it’s not only public opinion, fancy novels, and conspiracy theorists that give a false shape to the picture of Jesus, but many New Testament scholars partake in fanciful imagery. Kostenberger (who I’ll refer to as the main author) and the gang give us eight examples of different pictures of Jesus, two of which actually follow what the New Testament says.

1. The Traveling Cynic Philosopher

Proponents:

F. G. Downing, B. Mack, and J. D. Crossan

The Proposed Jesus:

  • Preached and practiced a radical egalitarianism
    • His preaching abolished all social hierarchies and distinctions
  • The kingdom of God has no human broker
    • A relationship with God requires no human mediator
    • All have direct and equal access to God
  • Jesus’ death did not accomplish atonement for sin.
  • Jesus was tragically crucified because he threatened to destroy the temple,
    • the seat of Jewish hierarchical authority
  • Jesus’ agenda was not spiritual, but social
  • His parables and teachings taught more about human equality than about sin, judgment, forgiveness, or his own identity.

Problems:

However, Crossan dismissed much of the material found in the canonical Gospels, which he viewed as subpar to noncanonical sources. However, “his favourite sources are either late revisions of material from the canonical Gospels, speculations about Jesus from second-century Christians, or even outright forgeries” (118).

2. The Charismatic Faith Healer

Proponents:

M. Borg and G. Vermes

The Proposed Jesus:

  • Had visionary-mystical experiences of God
  • Functioned as a channel of God’s power for others
    • This ‘god’ was more of an impersonal force than a personal deity
  • Jesus had ‘’too much compassion’’ for others to demand moral purity (118)

Kostenberger quotes Borg as saying,

“God does not refer to a supernatural being ‘out there.’… God refers to the sacred at the center of existence, the holy mystery that is all around us and within us. God is the non-material ground and source and presence in which… ‘we live and move and have our being.’”

Vermes depicted Jesus as

  • A Galilean holy man
  • He performed miracles
  • He operated outside the proper channels of normal religious authority
  • Jesus healed the sick and conquered the forces of evil in individuals

Problems:

Vermes emphasized similarities between Jesus and Hanina ben Dosa and Honi the Circle Drawer, two holy men described in the Talmuds. However, mistakenly emphasized the similarities and ignored important differences. Any and all supernatural activity from Jesus is denied.

3. The Apocalyptic Prophet

Proponents:

E. P. Sanders and M. Casy

Sander’s Proposed Jesus:

‘’…[A]n apocalyptic prophet who expected the climax of human history during his lifetime or shortly after his death’’ (119)

  • He prepared for God’s judgment by offering unconditional forgiveness not requiring repentance
  • Jesus’ miracles were simply cures of
    • psychosomatic illnesses
    • intentional deceptions
    • sometimes mysterious manipulations of natural causes
  • He did not experience any serious conflict with the Pharisees

Casey’s Proposed Jesus:

  • Believing the climax would occur within his lifetime, Jesus urged the lost sheep of Israel to prepare for the final judgment by repenting of their sins
  • He experienced serious conflict with the Pharisees who tried to impose strict purity regulations on Galilean Jews
  • He foresaw his own death which procured atonement for Israel, not as a messianic figure, but more like the Maccabean martyrs

Problems:

Sanders and Casey rightly place Jesus within a first century context, but they minimize much of the Gospel’s data. They saw Jesus as being so similar to his Jewish contemporaries that they, like the proponents of the views we’ve seen so far, don’t adequately explain why Jesus was crucified.

4. The Social Reformer

Proponents:

G. Theissen, R. A. Horsley, R. D. Kaylor

The Proposed Jesus (and His Followers):

  • Renounced possessions and family ties
  • Embraced homelessness
  • Founded a peace party seeking to do away with violent revolts popular among Jewish movements
  • Encouraged non-retaliation
  • Was convinced the end was near
  • When the kingdom of Godwas established,
    • the poor would become wealthy
    • the weak, strong
    • the least, the greatest

Problems:

These scholars overlook the spiritual dimension of Jesus’ teaching and ministry. Jesus’ kingdom was not of this world. Jesus viewed himself as the Messiah, and was not concerned with a radical social or political change over.

Next Time

Not to overflow your brain-cup, I’ll end here. Next time we’ll look at the last four views and some concluding thoughts:

5. The Feminist Jesus
6. The Sage
7. A Marginal Jew
8. The Risen Messiah

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Review: Covenant and Commandment [NSBT 33]

Covenant and Commandment

I’ve posted a few reviews so far of books from the NSBT series [here, here, and here]. So far they haven’t let me down, and the newest contribution from Bradley Green didn’t disappoint. Covenant and Commandment is the 33rd book in the NSBT series, and it focuses on the nature of works, obedience, and faithfulness in the Christian life.

Christians are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, and we are justified by God. But while man agree that believers enter into a  covenant with God by His grace apart from works, there is still much debate on the ongoing works and obedience that are supposed to be found in the lives of those same believers.

Green’s argument is that: “in the new covenant, works are a God-elicited and necessary part of the life of a converted person, a constant theme in the New Testament…” (p 17, emphasis original).

Part of the newness of the new covenant is that there is “actual, grace-induced and grace-elicited obedience by true members of the new covenant” as promised in Jer 31.31-34 (cf. Ezek 11.19; 18.31; 36.22-29). Obedience is promised in the new covenant. If we are justified by faith, in what way does works play a part? We say that Jesus paid it all, but then say we must do something.

Yet what we are fighting for is the New Testament’s “expectation of actual obedience” (p 18). We truly do act, work, and obey, and this obedience also comes from God (Phil 2.12-13). Obedience flows from the cross, from the gospel, and from our union with Christ Himself.

Summary

In chapter one Green outlines fourteen key groups of texts that speak of obedience under the new covenant in Christ:

  1. Loving or knowing God is linked with obedience.
  2. The ‘conditional’ nature of our future salvation.
  3. Christians must ‘overcome’ if they are ultimately to be saved.
  4. The necessity of a great righteousness.
  5. The requirement of the law being met ‘in us.’
  6. God will efficaciously work ‘in’ us, moving us to obey Him.
  7. The necessity of putting to death the old man, by the power of the Spirit.
  8. ‘Faith’ and ‘obedience/works’ used as virtual synonyms.
  9. We are truly judged, or justified, by our works.
  10. The ‘obedience of faith.’
  11. We were created and redeemed for good works.
  12. Faith working through love.
  13. The law affirmed; the law of Christ.
  14. Persons do the work of their Father.

At a mere 208 pages, it would be impossible for Green to cover every verse, let alone explain the ones he has mentioned, yet he does explain each of the fourteen concepts he mentions and how they point to obedience in holiness in the life of a believer.

Chapter two takes obedience, works, and faith and moves from OT texts (Ezekiel and Jeremiah) and moves to NT texts (Hebrews, 2 Corinthians 3, Rom 2, etc). God’s law is internalized in the hearts of those who are His people.

Chapter three discusses continuity and discontinuity in the Old and New Testaments. Some who were in the old covenant were truly saved (‘the remnant’), but all in the new covenant are saved. Green looks to insights from Blocher, Gaffin, and Vos on the relationship between law and gospel, with a final excursus on John Own (and a.

Chapters four to six discuss the cross, union with Christ, and the end-time Judgment. In chapter four we look at texts such as Rom 8, Eph 5, and 2 Cor 4 which show that as Christ died so we are to die to our flesh and resist sin. His life is to be reproduced in our lives. Chapter five shows that as we have died with Christ, so we rise with Him. He is the firstfruits of the resurrection, the same one which all believers will partake in. Looking at Gaffic, “Sanctification…is God’s work,” and Christ is being formed in us. Chapter six shows that there will be a future judgment (Rom 2; 5; 1 Cor 4; 2 Cor 5; Jam 2; Rev 20). We see a discussion from important historical figures such as Calvin, Owen, Edwards, and Vos, along with contemporary scholars like Gaffin, Gathercole, and Beale. there is a final excursis on N.T. Wright’s view of justification and the final judgment, which is very interesting.

In the final chapter (seven) Green covers the reality and necessity of works, obedience and faithfulness. Three themes are found here: the headship of Adam and his obedience, the headship of the obedient Christ to transform His people, and already-not yet inaugurated eschatology. Just as the OT saints were saved by the death of Christ (which, in their time, still remained future), so believers who are under the new covenant are seeing the beginning fulfillment of the promised new creation (which also still remains to be completed in the future).

The Chocolate Milk

If you want a book that shows how works and obedience are needed under the new covenant because they show that we are, indeed, under the new covenant, this book is for you. There are plenty of good points and equally fantastic quotes (many of which I am using for my 2 Corinthians class this spring semester).

I really enjoyed Green’s discussions with contemporary scholars, although I found the conversations with the historical scholars quite boring and difficult to read. But, that’s merely a matter of personal taste. Regardless, that’s really my only complaint with the book. I would have enjoyed seeing more exegesis on biblical texts rather than with the old scholars, but what Green does he does well.

The Spoiled Milk

The book is a bit short. But perhaps I’m spoiled on some of the longer books in the series (Paul and the Law, 249 pgs; A Mouthful of Fire, 321 pgs, and The Temple and the Church’s Mission, 458 pgs), because many other books in this series are around 200 pages. However, I can’t fault the book on being short because Green’s argument holds up all along the way. He doesn’t need more space to present his argument. In fact, he even states that he “desire[s] to be particularly unoriginal in ‘doing theology’ – at least most of the time.” It’s here in chapter four where Green suggests “that our continued obedience and growth in Christ is something that flows form the cross.” And he doesn’t see himself being “original here in the least” (all quotes from p77).

Recommended?

If you know someone who is struggling with how one should construe living by grace with works in the Christian life, this is the book for them. One would wonder how this could be a problem (it certainly is, just read Mark Jones’ Antinomianism; review), but one must know that this is an issue found among believers. It’s battled in the mind by believers who want to follow God, but are afraid that while they began “by the Spirit,” they might end up living to be “perfected by the flesh” (Galatians 3.3).

Lagniappe

  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 12, 2014)
  • Amazon: US // UK

[Special thanks to Christine at Think IVP for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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Getting ‘Mari-ed’

I’m sure this will come as a surprise, but right now, at 11:40 am, Friday, February 13th, 2015, in Dumfries, Scotland, Mari and I are now officially pronounced man and wife. We are married. For those of you waiting, we’re still going to have the wedding ceremony in Norway this June.

What’s the Deal?

Now we’ll have to backtrack quite a bit so you can understand some of the many issues in this story.

My Visa Sponsorship

You may remember my post last semester about our engagement. During that semester, while teaching 2 Corinthians at CCBCY, the church in York had their sponsorship suspended. To be granted a visa, I, being outside the EU/EEA system, must be ‘sponsored’ by the organization that I am coming to the UK to work for. For the last six years, things have been fine and dandy with Calvary York (CCY). They’ve sponsored the majority of Calvary Chapel missionaries that have come to the UK.

The UK Government’s Visa & Immigration (UKVI) are now interpreting the status of missionaries differently than before. Instead of ‘supernumerary’ (a term used to describe someone coming to the UK to work a job that wouldn’t exist if they weren’t there), missionaries are now described as ‘non- supernumerary’. So in most cases, missionaries are now regarded

“as coming to the UK to take a ‘job’ that could potentially be filled by a UK worker. Despite CCY acting in good faith and making every attempt to resolve the situation to the satisfaction of UKVI, the decision was made to revoke CCY’s sponsorship license”

(Steve Vickery, pastor of CC Cardiff, see post here).

Yet before January 8th everything was pretty much up in the air. Was the suspension final? Would CCY get the sponsorship back? On January 8th we received the official news that CCY’s sponsorship had been revoked. Once I received the information, I had 60 days until I would have to leave the UK, that final date being March 9th.

Thankfully I was in Norway with Mari when this news came so there was no need to stress over that. Now the next question come: if I can’t be in England, and I can’t stay in Norway for over 90 days, and I need to be back in Norway in time for our June wedding, and we don’t want to be apart, where will we go? Can I still get into the UK?

My Options

  1. This was no option, but I had to leave the Schengen area. Under the Schengen agreement, moving from one country to another within the Schengen area is done without border controls, making it easier to migrate, travel, and trade. Norway is a part of that agreement, so I would have to live outside the Schengen for 90 days before I could return. My options (within the EU area) were now Bulgaria, Romania, and Ireland.
  2. We don’t know anyone in Bulgaria. I’m not going to Bulgaria.
  3. We have two Bible college families in Romania who Mari and I could stay with.
  4. There is a Calvary School of Ministry in Ireland. I applied to Jon Langley, the director there in Ireland, and was able to land (i.e., was graciously given) a position teaching 2 Corinthians over there. Now I had a place to go, but I didn’t want to go without Mari. But we would have to be married to live together there.

So The Bigger Question…

For the whole experience we had to face this question: How are we going to get legally married?

Most have the luxury of signing their legal papers during the wedding ceremony.

If only it would have been that easy.

Our ceremony would be in Norway, but the law wouldn’t see us as legally married until I had a visa. Only then could I sign the legal documents. While I’m working on getting a student visa, that could come as late as August, and it isn’t guaranteed.

Originally, before the visa ordeal, our plan was to go to Scotland at the end of the spring semester, fill out the papers, go to Norway and set everything up for the wedding, and then on June 6th “be” married. Upon receiving the news of the revoked sponsorship, this could no longer be the case. We had to get married as quickly as we could, and it had to be within the 60 day timeframe. 

We talked to people in Gretna Green, Scotland (famous for its overnight elopements of Britain’s 17-and-up year olds who weren’t required parental consent when in Scotland), found out what documents were needed, and filled everything out. Certain US documents I had (i.e., my birth certificate) were stamp with an Apostille Certification, and that would last for only four months. So what we needed to do needed to be done quickly.

In the End, What Happened?

A few CCY interns were allowed back into the UK, and that gave us some hope. We traveled to the UK and I was allowed through the border with no problems. The next day we drove up to Dumfries, Scotland, with some friends and handed in our documents at the Municipal Office.

Smooth as butter.

The date was set. On Feb 13th, 2015, Mari and I would be officially married. It was the earliest day we could get married and the only day her parents could come.

As It Turns Out

The 60 days haven’t started yet. They start when the letters are sent out. Classes at York will resume as normal, we will still have our wedding celebration in June as planned, and Mari and I will start the first few months of our new life in Ireland. It was a wild few weeks, but I’m not disappointed in getting married early (and neither is she…yet). We praise God for each other every day, and we are thankful that He has worked everything out for us so far. Times will still be tough, but we will continue to put our trust in Him.

Starting Sunday afternoon, we will be in York for a few more days before we leave on this coming Wednesday.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

(1 Peter 1.3-9)

P.S. FYI BTW, If anyone is wondering, we are NOT pregnant. Not for quite a while 😉

Can't Believe

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