Monthly Archives: March 2015

Paul’s Allusions to Jesus

In Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles’ NT Introduction The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, they provide yet another table of Highly Probable Allusions to Jesus in Paul’s Letters. Identifying intentional allusions to Jesus’ teaching can be quite difficult, but there are three ways to discover when an allusions was likely intended:

  1. Paul used an explicit tradition indicator (“the Lord commanded” or “word from the Lord”).
  2. The suspected allusion contains linguistic or thematic echoes from the Gospels.
  3. A series of several possible allusions appear in a particular context.

In his book on Paul David Wenham concluded that “there is massive evidence of Pauline knowledge of Jesus-traditions” (Kostenberger, 373; Wenham, 381). The chart below summarizes the most important of Wenham’s findings.

Sayings and Acts of Jesus

Allusions by Paul

Last Supper
(Mt 26.26-30; Mk 14.22-26; Lk 22.14-23)

1 Cor 11.23-26

Resurrection
(Lk 24.36-49; Jn 20.19-21.14)

1 Cor 15.3-5,35-57; Phil 3.21

Divorce
(Mk 10.1-12; Mt 19.1-12)

1 Cor 7.10-11

Support of Preachers
(Mt 10.10; Lk 10.7)

1 Cor 9.14; 1 Tim 5.18

Eschatological Teaching
(Mt 24; Mk 13; esp. Lk 21)

2 Thess 2.1-12

Eschatological Parables

  • Thief in the Night (Mt 24.43-44)
  • Watchman (Lk 12.36-38)
  • Stewards (Mt 24.45-51; Lk 12.42-48)
  • Wise and Foolish Virgins (Mt 25.1-13)

1 Thess 4.1-5.11

Mountain-Moving Faith
(Mt 17.20)

1 Cor 13.2

Nonretaliation
(Mt 5.38-42; Lk 6.29-30)

Rom 12.14

Love and the Law
(Mt 22.37-40)

Rom 13.8-10; Gal 5.14

Nothing Unclean
(Mt 15.10-20; Mk 7.17-23)

Rom 14.14

Abba
(Mk 14.36)

Rom 8.15; Gal 4.6


Paul did not present and form a Christianity different than what Jesus presented. His teachings were a reflection of Jesus, His life and teachings, along with Paul’s study of the OT and his personal experience on the Damascus road. While Jesus’ ministry was primarily to a Jewish audience, Paul’s ministry was mainly for the Gentiles.

“Paul had to look beyond Jesus back to the OT to understand the implications of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for his audience” (337).

Jesus’ teachings were the seed (Mk 4.26-32), Paul’s the growing plant. Jesus was the foundation with Paul building upon it (1 Cor 3.5-17; Eph 2.19-22).

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Review: For the Glory of God

For the Glory of God

Worship Songs. We have the Oldies: “Celebrate Jesus, Celebrate,” “Enemy’s Camp,” and “Going Up To the High Places.” We have the Newbies: “How He Loves Me,” “Your Love Never Fails,” and “Oceans.” We meet God, enjoined together in a beautiful display of corporate worship, all to the glory of God. Yet, being honest with ourselves and others, what are these songs really saying? How often do we sit down to think about the words that are coming out of our mouths and being offered up to God?

In For the Glory of God Daniel Block gives us a biblical theology of worship. He doesn’t claim this as the be-all-end-all of books on worship. Block, wanting to do justice to the Scripture, looks at the entire Bible for his conclusions as “the First [the Old] Testament is three times the length of the New Testament and probably contains a hundred times more information on worship…” (4).

The problem with driving a “wedge” between the two Testaments is that “we dismiss the only Bible that Jesus and the New Testament authors had as irrelevant and lacking authority for us, and we sweep away significant continuities between the faith of ancient Israel and the early church” (5).

Three Principles:

For the Glory of God is written with the fundamental principles (which I’ve summarized from page 6).

  1. Let all Scripture contribute to the recovery of a biblical theology of worship.
  2. Worship is for the glory of God and should conform to His will.
  3. “…the Scriptures serve as the primary source for developing a theology of worship and establishing forms of worship that please God” (6), taking precedence over, say, singing songs that “make” us “feel good.”

The Chocolate Milk

Unlike some books on biblical worship, Block doesn’t hold the narrow view that only music = worship. Rather, all of life consists of worship to God. These are biblical theologies of worship in all of our life. It is very mundane. It is what is normally done on earth.

Summary/Outline

Block starts by giving us a biblical understanding of worship involving the human response to a gracious Creator and Redeemer (chapter 1). Who is this God (Father and Son) who we worship (2), and who are we to be as worshipers (3)? Worship is not a one-day-out-of-the-week event, but constitutes our daily life (4). Our daily life of worship includes: family life and work (5), the ordinances [i.e., baptism and the Lord’s supper] (6), hearing/proclaiming the Scriptures (7), prayer (8), music (9), sacrifice and offerings (10).

Block looks at the drama of worship (11) where we enter into the presence of God and celebrate, relive, and actualize his grace in our life. The design and theology of sacred space (12): in the Bible there has always been a ‘space’ where worshipping God was located: the Garden of Eden, the tabernacle, the temple, Jesus, and now with the church. Finally chapter 13 is on leaders and the roles they fulfill in worship.

Each Chapter

Besides chapters 1 and 5, every chapter starts with a deep look into the life of the OT worshiper. If someone is going to go through the Old Testament, I’m glad it’s D.I. Block, a top pick for OT exegesis. Block’s look includes many details on the OT worshiper’s lifestyle, the culture, and the Law and is packed with cross references. This book will keep you marking your Bible for quite a while, especially if you have a good grasp on Hebrew.

After looking at the OT, Block moves to the New and shows how the heart of OT worship continues into the NT. As is to be expected, he ends with application for the reader today. I thought his application sections were (usually) genius as his focus was on remembering what God has done for us throughout the week. We are to rejoice and give praise to him every day, as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, employers, employees, pastors, teachers, and we are to teach and include and join with others in right worship to him.

Block is both sincere and a hard-hitter. Sometimes he gives his thoughtful opinion only to encourage discussion between view points to see what can be changed for the better of the church body.

Yet, refreshingly, Block doesn’t hold back. Whether it be that church worship is not a ‘come-as-you-are’ and worship God event, as God will not accept the false worship of unbelievers (though Block doesn’t resolve the tension between the unsaved and worship in the church), or “whether through dress or public demeanor, drawing attention to those leading worship borders on idolatry” (p 360). There are more that could be mentioned, probably better examples too, but Block is serious about sticking to the word of God. He wants us to glorify God, not ourselves.

The Spoiled Milk

I didn’t always agree with how Block connects the two Testaments. He says we should assume that “unless the New Testament expressly declares First Testament notions obsolete, they continue” (7). He says the NT is silent on many matters (i.e., creation, certain ethical issues, and principles of worship). When the NT is silent, we look back at what the OT has to say. I don’t think it’s really that easy. Now that the Law is fulfilled in Christ, we read the OT differently. The NT gives us Christ as the lens to view the entire Bible through, and we seek to work out the rest.

One such example is how Block handles the Sabbath in chapter 11. Block says we should still keep the Sabbath and that Colossians 2.16 doesn’t refer to “the Sabbath” but to “‘holy days’ other than the seventh-day Sabbath” (279). Yet verse 17 says, “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” While he looks to the Gospels, he neglects to look at Matthew 11.28 where Jesus will give his people rest. I understand the Sabbath extends back to creation, but Hebrews 4 (in agreement with Matt 11.28) says we have this rest in Christ. Block disagrees that this text annuls keeping the Sabbath. Some will agree. Others won’t. Thankfully, this isn’t a big issue, and one should not find themselves in complete disagreement with Block.

Recommended?

Highly. This review is a long time coming, and I’m glad to finally have it up. This has helped to change and rectify my view of worship. I, and all Christians, should be seeking how to truly worship God according to His will. We want to be as Paul in 2 Cor 5.9, always aiming to be pleasing to God, in all that we do. Worship is not a 30 minute song list with the lights dimmed as we raise our hands to God during the chorus-peak. But an all day, every day affair. I warn you, this book is dense, and the layman may not have the patience. But it is a very good look at what the Bible, not man, says about worship.

Lagniappe

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic; 1 edition (August 19, 2014)
  • Amazon: US // UK

[Special thanks to Trinity at Baker Academic 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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Review: Judges, Ruth

Judges, Ruth [NAC]

When Daniel Block writes a commentary, he really writes a commentary.

Block is known for writing excellent OT commentaries (Ezekiel is 1,758 pages [NICNT 1-24, 25-48], and Deuteronomy [NIVAC] is 880 pages). Judges/Ruth? A whopping 767 pages total. Block’s commentary is longer than Younger’s [NIVAC], and his Judges section is longer than Webb’s [NICOT] (which I’ve heard is also one of the best on Judges).

Suffice it to say, length doesn’t always constitute greatness. There are plenty of commentaries that are long, but are just too long, or, for the pastor’s purpose, they don’t have much good to say. With Block this isn’t the case. Even in dense works like How I Love Your Torah, O Lord (see my review here), where scales the Hebrew text to find Moses’ meaning on smaller portions of Deuteronomy, he always brings it back to a final block (pun intended?) of spot-on application for the reader.

NAC

On top of that, the New American Commentaries [NAC] are “fundamental tool[s] for the…teacher who seeks to interpret and apply Scripture in the church or classroom….[it] focuses on communicating the theological structure and content of each biblical book…seek[ing] to illuminate both the historical meaning and contemporary significance of Holy Scripture” (Editors’ Preface). Both the NAC commentaries and Block seek to show the unity and uniqueness of Scripture, and they purpose to build up the body (2 Cor 12.19).

Intro

After a 52 page introduction which looks at the background to the book of Judges, the composition and genre of Judges, and it’s history of interpretation, Block turns to the main theme of Judges: The Canaanization of the Nation of Israel. Why is Israel so rotten in Judges? Once Joshua was out of the picture, Israel failed to fulfill God’s mandate to drive out the Canaanites and to teach their children the memory of Yahweh’s acts of salvation. Israel is becoming like all of the other Canaanite nations around them, those nations which they were supposed to drive out. As the leaders go, so do the people. And if the leaders in Judges do lend any support, it’s proving that statement true. Multiple times Israel forgot God and worshiped idols (2.11; 3.7,12; 4.1; 6.1; 10.6; 13.1), and their leaders (save Othniel and Deborah) weren’t much better. In fact, as the list goes on, the judges get worse. Yet still God’s grace in His promises reigns true, and even in the worst of times God is gracious. When He is needed most, He is still there, even if not always seen.

Though written most similarly to a short story, Ruth is taken to be a historical writing. It “evidences a high and entertaining literary style” and “communicates a lofty moral and spiritual ideal” (p 602). It develops the theme of “from emptiness to fullness.” The book of Ruth, short as it is, like the other books of the Bible, isn’t written merely to tell us about history. It opens up a world to us and teaches us about God, the world, the human condition, the people of God, and the individual believer’s life of faith. God rewards the godly who walk circumspectly after Him in these evil days.

The Chocolate Milk

Theological and Practical Implications: Block’s exegesis of the text is highly practical. He doesn’t merely parse the Hebrew to find out if a verb is reflexive or intensive.  This is definitely an added bonus to the pastor/teacher who knows Hebrew, but Block continues in and looks for the meaning of the text. What does the text say? What did it mean for the original audience? What does it mean for us today? Sometimes the TAPI sections are only a paragraph (after Ehud and Shamgar in J 3), and sometimes they can stretch up to four pages in length (after Jephthah’s war and sacrifice narrative in J 11). Block keeps his eye on feminist interpretations, and shows how here in Judges, this evil patriarchal system which abuses both its power and its women is not to be the norm. It’s what happens when man loses sight of God and “everyone does as he saw fit.” Yet in spite of man’s purposed misplacing of God, God’s grace triumphs even in the worst of times.

Different commentaries and commentators serve different purposes. Some go for redaction (editor) criticism, some form criticism, and others reader-response criticism. Thankfully here Block dabbles in narrative and historic criticism, seeking to understand the story going on along with the history (as much as can be currently known) behind it. Scholastic discussions over grammar are a’plenty, but they are not overbearing. Even a layman (like myself) can pick up this book and understand it’s main message and application to Israel then and to us now. Block is aware of the literature and genre used throughout Judges and Ruth, informing us of the differences between narrative, poem, fable, etc and it’s purposes.

Though he looks at grammar, it often times is still blanketed with guidance for the non-Hebrew reader. In Judges 15.18-19, Samson has just slaughtered one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Noting the use of qara instead of za’aq/sa’aq, the Hebrew reader would see in v18 that Samson’s cry was different than other afore-mentioned crisis cries. This was no national emergency. Rather, it was a personal crises – Samson was thirsty. Despite acknowledging and calling out to God, even his pious prayer exudes narcissism. And Samson names the spring En Hakkore, interpreted as “the spring of the namer/caller.” Forget the grace of God. Samson was able “to manipulate and move the hand of God” (p 447).

Block is a conservative evangelical scholar. In all that I’ve read from Block, he holds a high view of the inspiration of Scripture, not allowing wild, liberal interpretations to sway his view (as much as possible, and from what I can tell). He is aware to text-critical issues, but relegates many of those problems to the footnotes. If one wants to dig deeper, one can do so.

Block helpfully read Judges 14-15 backwards, showing us the cause-and-effect relationship between Samson and the Philistines, along with how J 14.4 is the key to chapters 14-15. I do wonder why this same structure couldn’t be done with ch 16. There is still cause and effect in ch 16, but perhaps the reader should now be the one to read it backwards and do the work. Block does again repeat this ‘backward’ structure for chapters 19-21, which is helpful for showing the importance of the key statements “In those days Israel had no king,” and “…no king; everyone did as he saw fit.”

The Spoiled Milk

There are no Theological and Practical Implications in Ruth? It was helpful in the Judges section, coming in at the end of each major section, but once one arrives at Ruth, there are no TAPI sections. Now, let it be said, there are 35 pages of introduction, part of which is the instruction of what the book of Ruth teaches us about God. He works in natural events, seemingly chance events, the daring schemes of humans, and in the legal process. Even still, it was a bit disconcerting going from the Judges commentary with TAPI sections, to the Ruth commentary with a very implied application within the commentary text.

But considering the introduction, this is not a big deal. However, you still may want to find some more assistance if you are preaching through Ruth.

Recommended?

Highly! While not as user-friendly as Davis’ Judges commentary (Focus On The Bible), Block is still highly readable. Aside from the grammatical discussions (which can get a bit into semantics and definitions in context), Block always keeps the big picture in mind, and everything revolves around and flows from that big picture. Doing so keeps the reader from falling off of the bandwagon, or from losing the plot. Block reviews the Canaanization cycle with every new block of narrative, reminding the reader of the seriousness of Israel’s downfall and idolatry. One can tell that Block has put a lot of time into Judges, as he is well aware of the opposing opinions and is well able to defend his stance, though some will still disagree (though I’ll say I’m pretty convinced on most, if not all, of what Block says). The judges are not superstars. They are real people with real faults, yet we learn that even in the worst of times, when seemingly nobody is following God, He can guide people to bring about His purposes.

Lagniappe

  • Series: New American Commentary (Book 6)
  • Hardcover: 767 pgs
  • Publisher: B&H Academic (Sept. 20, 1999)
  • Amazon: US // UK
  • Reading Level: Pastors, Teachers, Seminary students


[Special thanks to Chris at
B&H Publishing for sending me this book for review! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

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OT Prophecies in Matthew’s Gospel

Perhaps you’ve seen a table like this before, but in Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles’ NT Introduction The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, they provide a table of Jesus’ Fulfillment of OT Prophecy in Matthew’s Gospel. I thought I would include it here because, upon looking at it, there are plenty more fulfillments than I thought there were. Jesus is the Messiah predicted in the Hebrew Scriptures, a theme highlighted especially in Matthew 1-4. “Virtually every significant event in Jesus’ life is shown to fulfill Scripture” (214). It’s a bit cramped, but hopefully still readable.

Event in Jesus’ Life

   Matthew

OT Passage

The virgin birth and name of Jesus

   1.22-23

Isa 7.14; 8.8,10

Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace

   2.5-6

Mic 5.2

The flight to Egypt

   2.15

Hos 11.1

The slaying of infants by Herod

   2.18

Jer 31.15

Jesus called a Nazarene (“branch”)

   2.23

Isa 11.1; 53.2

John the Baptist’s ministry

   3.3; 11.10

Isa 40.3; Mal 3.1

The temptation of Jesus

   4.1-11

Deut 6.13,16; 8.3

The beginning of Jesus’ ministry

   4.15-16

Isa 9.1-2

Jesus’ healing ministry

   8.17; 11.5; 12.17-21

Isa 53.4; 35.5-6; 42.18; 61.1

Division brought by Jesus

   10.35-36

Mic 7.6

Jesus’ gentle style of ministry

   12.17-21

Isa 42.1-4

Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection

   12.40

Jonah 1.17

Hardened response to Jesus

   13.14-15; 15.7-9; 21.33,42

Isa 5.1-2; 6.9-10; 29.13; Ps 118.22-23

Jesus’ teaching in parables

   13.35

Ps 78.2

Jesus’ triumphal entry

   21.5,9

Isa 62.11; Ps 118.26

Jesus’ cleansing of the temple

   21.13

Isa 56.7; Jer 7.11

Jesus as Son and Lord of David

   1.1; 22.44

Ps 110.1

Lament over Jerusalem

   23.38-39

Jer 12.7; 22.5; Ps 118.26

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus

   26.15

Zech 11.12

Peter’s denial

   26.31

Zech 13.7

Jesus’ arrest

   26.54,56

The Scriptures, the Prophets

Judas’s death

   27.9-10

Zech 11.12-13; Jer 32.6-9

Jesus the righteous sufferer

   27.34-35,39,43,46,48

Pss 22.1,7-8,18; 69.21

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Who Wrote Ephesians?

In the world of NT scholarship, the authorship of the letter to the Ephesians has long (1500s) been debated. Many have proclaimed (perhaps ‘bewailed’ would be a better term) the letter’s “‘sublime’ and ‘difficult'” nature (Chrysostom). Origin thought Paul had “heaped up more obscure ideas and mysteries known to the ages in this epistle than in all the others” (Thielman, Ephesians, 6). “Erasmus believed that Peter had Ephesians in mind when he said, ‘In these Epistles there are certain things difficult to understand'” (6).

Throughout my life I have often heard that scholars have long debated the authorship of Ephesians, though I never knew what the big deal was. What makes admitting Pauline authorship of Ephesians so difficult?

Some Difficulties

In his commentary on Ephesians, Frank Thielman shows us three features of Ephesians are particularly unusual:

1. “Ephesians has a high number of long sentences,” more than any of Paul’s other letters (6).

  1. In the NA27 Ephesians has 2,422 words and, according to punctuation, has 64 sentences.
  2. In contrast, Galatians has 2,230 words with 102 sentences.

Six sentences in Ephesians are substantially long (1.3-14, 15-23; 2.1-7; 3.1-7; 4.11-16; 6.14-20).

2. “Ephesians is full of grammatical and lexical ambiguities that affect the meaning of the text” (6).

  • In 1.17, Does Paul pray that God will give his readers:
    • a wise spirit?
    • or God’s Spirit, who in turn will give them wisdom?
  • In 1.23,
    • Does the church fill up the one who fills all things?
    • or is it full of the one who fills all things?
  • In 2.2:
    • Does Paul refer to a hierarchy of spiritual enemies?
    • or does he elaborately describe on of these enemies (the devil)?
  • In 2.14,
    • Do the terms “middle wall,” “partition,” and “enmity” all refer to the same object?
    • Did Christ destroy them “in his flesh?
    • or was the enmity Christ tore down somehow located “in his flesh”?
  • In 2.21,
    • Does “every building” hold together in Christ?
    • or does “the whole building” hold together in him?
  • In 3.17,
    • Does Paul command his readers to be rooted and grounded in love?
    • or does he say that they have [already] been rooted and grounded in love?
  • In 6.24, the final sentence of the letter pronounces a blessing on those who love Christ “in corruption.”
    • What could this phrase mean?

3. “Ephesians is a highly redundant text” (7). Look at how many synonyms Paul uses (as the last sentence says) “redundantly.”

  • Some examples are:
    • 1.5, “the good pleasure of his [God’s] will.”
    • 1.8, “wisdom and understanding.”
    • 1.19, “the effect of the might of his strength.”
    • 1.21, “rule and authority and power and lordship.”
    • 3.19, “being ‘filled up to all the fullness of God.'”
    • 4.16, “each single part.”
    • 5.5, “[Paul] tells his readers to ‘know this, knowing that….'”
    • 5.33, He “addresses the husbands in his audience as ‘you – every single one of you.'”
      • Also read 1.11; 2.7; 3.7,12; 6.10.

4. Ephesians is “missing the argumentative, fast-paced feel typical of Paul’s undisputed letters. Rhetorical questions, if-then clauses, and syllogisms are virtually absent” (7).

From the early 16th century, interpreters have wondered how the apostle Paul could have produced such an unusual letter. In 1591 Erasmus said, “Certainly, the style differs so much from the other Epistles of Paul that it could seem to be the work of another person did not the heart and soul of the Pauline mind assert clearly his claim to this letter” (CWE 43:300n12).

Thielman lists for the reader a few scholars (De Wette, Holtzmann, Moffatt, Mitton, and Lincoln) who went further and saw evidence of a pseudonym in use.

Plausibility

Yet do these difficulties mean that Paul, not didn’t, but couldn’t write Ephesians? Could it still be plausible that the apostle authored the letter of Ephesians? Thielman gives two pieces of evidence that show Paul “could write this way if circumstances demanded it” (10).

  1. In his undisputed letter, Paul could write in a variety of styles (see 1 Cor 13; 2 Cor 6.14-7.1; Phil 2.6-11; Rom 16.25-27). These texts all show that Paul “was clearly a versatile writer” (11). (Thielman believes that these texts all come from Paul, and “arguments to the contrary are not convincing”).
    Given Paul’s high education from Gamaliel (Acts 22.3), a leading authority in the Sanhedrin, he, like any good author, wasn’t strapped to one writing style. If the circumstance calls for it, Paul could (and did) write as different as Colossians and Galatians.
    In the words of Dionysius, “Variation is a most attractive and beautiful quality” (Comp 19). We know this maxim to be true with our favourite actors and actresses in the films we watch. We enjoy seeing the different kinds of roles they step into and watching how they fill those shoes. He can play a 12-year-old boy who overnight grows up to be an adult, but how well does he play a brave captain whose ship is hijacked by Somalian pirates?
  2. The long sentences and broken syntax that appear in Ephesians also appears in other Pauline letters.
    1. Eph 1.3-14 and 2 Thess 1.3-12 “are roughly the same length, contain a torrent of words, and have a number of emphatic redundancies” (11).
    2. The long sentences found in Eph 2.1-3; 3.1-7, 8-12, 14-19; and 4.11-16 also appear in 1 Cor 1.4-8 and Phil 1.3-7.
    3. The broken syntax and digressive nature of Eph 2.1-7 and 3.1-19 are not unlike Rom  5.12-18 and 2 Cor 2.12-7.7.

“It is easy to imagine…that the circumstances of Paul’s imprisonment, and the need to dictate letter with little opportunity to revise them, accounts for this unusual element of the letter’s character” (11).

In the End

Thielman has a keen sense of understanding of Paul’s letter. Looking through, this is my favourite BECNT volume so far. Often times I’ve found the main text in the BECNT to be filled with references to other authors and writings, which unfortunately gets in the way of a clear and lucid reading. The information is still good, I would prefer to see the references relegated to footnotes. But here, Thielman gives his own opinion more often than referencing all of the other commentaries. Of the BECNT volumes I have read so far, Thielman’s volume is the easiest to read and understand. As with the BECNT volumes, he keeps the entire text, the flow of thought, and Paul’s argument in mind. He works to stay true to the text, but points to God’s word, hoping that no one will focus too much on “the bus” that brought them to “the mountain.”

More Reading

On his blog Matthew Montinini interviews Thielman about his commentary. Thielman shows great humility and is an excellent read if you are interested. This is also where I get the “bus”/”mountain” imagery from.

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Review: The Four, A Survey of the Gospels

The Four

I’ve fallen into the opportunity with this blog to pick up books on a way to study the gospels as I’ve always wanted to do. Already I’ve reviewed commentaries on Mark, and I’ve previously reviewed Richard Hays’ Reading Backwards, a book on how the Gospel read back into the OT to show how they pointed forward to Jesus. For future reference, I have two ZECNT commentaries (Matthew and Mark) to review, along with John in the BECNT series. I think I should know something about the Gospels after all this. And on top of that, I get to review Peter Leithart’s latest book The Four: A Survey of the Gospels.

His concern here is for those who miss the point of the Gospels. While much of the technical Christological discussions are good an important, Leithart asks, “Whatever happened to the Gospels in all this? Haven’t we left the living, risen Jesus buried in a cave of jargon and metaphysics?” (p 13).

His writing style is intended to be like that of his OT survey, A House For My Name (my review).

Summary

Chapter One starts with Daniel and other prophets speaking of days to come, when God does a new thing for the Babylonian exiles. He will lead them back to their land and a new covenant will be instituted. He then covers the intertestamental period.

Chapter Two gives us a harmonized picture of Jesus’ life, and it’s done very well. Again, in keeping with the purpose of this book, the bigger picture is seen.

In Chapter Three Leitharts puts forth arguments that there is likely no Q document, agrees with the early church fathers that Matthew was written first, and successfully argues for both early gospels and an early New Testament.

Chapters four through seven give overall summaries of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

  • Matthew presents Jesus as a new Moses and new Israel, the Sermon on the mount, and our actions according to it.
  • Mark presents a Jesus of action. We see irony. He is the Son of God who only the Father, demons, and a Roman Gentile guard can see. Yet the ones who should know the most, the religious leaders and Jesus’ own disciples, don’t even have the eyes to see or the ears to hear.
  • Luke shows a Jesus who brings good news to the poor, yet the Jews reject their Messiah.
  • John brings us a “Christology from above” (p 215) as John begins with the eternal Word of God who becomes incarnate in Jesus and lives among men.

The Chocolate Milk

Besides the latter half of the chapter on Matthew, I enjoyed the readings on all of the Gospels, especially Luke. Leithart puts Luke and Acts together, though he mainly focuses on Luke. Jesus has come to release the oppressed, and Israel should take part in the true fast of “dividing bread with the hungry.” Jesus comes to defeat the enemy behind the enemy, that ultimate enemy being Satan. And in doing so he upturns the social establishment showing them what true honour is, and that it is not to be gained before men, but ultimately before God. He shows a keen understanding of the social context, how subtle it is, and how Jesus easily subverts the Pharisees understanding of honour to reveal to them that it is only the humble and lowly who will receive honour before God.

The Spoiled Milk

One thing to note about Leithart is his typology. Often times it’s good, but there are times when I disagree, and often times it’s when he doesn’t explain his typology.

  • At the end of Chapter Two Leithart says Herod the Great is a new King Saul (presumably because Leithart tries to fit the narrative with Israel’s history, ending with the Davidic kingdom? Also because this ‘King Saul’ tries to kill the coming New David?)
  • John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus is likened to a new Samuel preparing the way for a new David. There is no other reason given for John being a new Samuel, besides the fact that Jesus is a new David.
  • Jesus is another Elisha who receives a double portion of the Spirit from John the Baptist (another Elijah). I didn’t know Jesus received a “double portion” of John’s spirit. He receives the Holy Spirit, and that is probably what Leithart means. However, the typology still seems lacking (or at least the explanation).

For all of these examples there is no explanation for why the typology of Herod to Saul, or John to Samuel, or Jesus to Elisha. It is simply expressed as being the way it is.

I felt the majority of Chapter One was unnecessary. The history is important, yes, but I don’t think it was very relevant for the books purposes.

  • Leithart claims the history of this period repeats the history of Israel from the time of the patriarchs to the time of David, but he hardly shows how this is so.
  • He shows how the history reflects the prophecies from Daniel 8 and 11, though I’m still unsure of how this works (especially considering his information mainly came from James Jordan, whose interpretations can be pretty wild).
  • This chapter is not an easy read. Though I wish Leithart would have made things simpler, I also realize he is summarizing 400-500 years of Israel’s history, which is not an easy task.

On the upside, if you are well-studied in the intertestamental times, this book would give a good summary and perhaps clear some things up for you.

The Chapter on Matthew was pretty dry.

  • Rather than covering the scope of Matthew and how things relate, the first half of the chapter is on the big picture (at least, how Jesus is a new Moses, new Israel, etc), but Leithart spends too much time on it.
  • He spends 7 ½ pages on Jesus’ five discourses and how they relate to five periods in Israel’s OT history.
  • He spends time on the sermon on the mount, and how we are to be holy like God is holy, thereby having a greater righteousness than the Pharisees. We don’t forget about the weightier matters of the law (justice and mercy).

Yet in all of this, he doesn’t cover much of the book of Matthew itself and it’s interconnections like he does with the other gospels.

Recommended?

When I read Leithart’s OT survey A House For My Name, I loved it. It’s still my favourite book (or one of them) I’ve reviewed so far. But this book on the gospels, though it gets the job done, I wouldn’t make it my number one choice. Overall I felt like much of it was lacking. Many general readers who pick up this book would have a harder time getting through the first chapter, indeed even seeing it’s relevance.

I would have preferred to have seen the chapters on the Gospels themselves expanded and Chapter One lessened. As I said, this book does get the job done, but many readers will mainly enjoy the last four chapters on the gospels themselves.

Lagniappe

[Special thanks to Gene at Canon Press 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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Jesus’ Fulfillment of OT Feasts and Festivals

In Kostenberger, Kellum, and Quarles’ NT Introduction The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown, they provide a table (though there will not be a table here) of Jesus’ Fulfillment of OT Festivals in John’s Gospel. They provide clear, short explanations of each feast and its fulfillment as found in Jesus along with the Scripture reference so you can go read each festival in its context and discover it’s full purpose yourself. I found this very helpful given that I don’t know much about many of the OT feasts, and a greater knowledge of the feasts sheds greater light on how Jesus fulfilled them.

Feast of Passover

Scripture: Exod 12.1-4; Lev 23.4-5; John 1.29-36; 2.13; 6.4; 11.55; 12.1

AKA: Pesach;

Description: A lamb was killed in commemoration of God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt

Fulfillment: Jesus is the lamb of God whose death causes God to pass over judging those covered by the blood of Jesus

Feast of Unleavened Bread

Scripture: Exod 12.15-20; Lev 23.6-8

AKA: Hag Hamatzot;

Description: Israel must eat unleavened bread for 7 days; leaven often represents sin in Scripture

Fulfillment: Jesus is the bread of life who is free from sin (leaven)

Feast of Firstfruits

Scripture: Lev 23.9-14

AKA: Yom HaBikkurim;

Description: Israel offered first ripe sheaf of barley to the Lord; the sheaf was set aside on Passover and offered on the third day of the Passover feast

Fulfillment: Jesus rose on the third day of the Passover feast as the “firstfruit of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15.20)

Feast of Pentecost

Scripture: Lev 23.15-22; Acts 2.1-40

AKA: “Feast of Weeks” or Shavnot;

Description: It occurs 50 days after Sabbath of Unleavened Bread; Israel offered new grain of summer harvest

Fulfillment: the Holy Spirit poured out on disciples 49 days after Jesus’ resurrection (50 days after the Sabbath preceding it)

Feast of Trumpets

Scripture: Lev 23.23-35; Num 29.1-11; Matt 24.31; 1 Cor 15.51-52; 1 Thess 4.16-17

AKA: Rosh HaShana;

Description: A trumpet blown to call people into a time of introspection and repentance

Fulfillment: Traditionally associated with judgment and the Book of Life, it represents the second coming of Jesus as judge; Jesus’ coming will be announced by a trumpet blast

Day of Atonement

Scripture: Lev 23.26-32,44-46; Rom 3.21-25; Heb 9.11-28

AKA: Yom Kippur;

Description: The high priest makes atonement for sin in the holy of holies where the ark of the covenant rested; final day of 10 days of repentance of Feast of Trumpets; two goats (atonement sacrifice and scapegoat) represented atonement of Israel’s sin for another year

Fulfillment: Jesus as High Priest entered heaven (he holy of holies) and made eternal atonement for sin with his blood

Festival of Tabernacles

Scripture: Lev 23.34-43; John 1.14; 7.38-39; 8.12; 9.5

AKA: Sukkot

Description: The Jews dwelled in tents for one week; reminder of God’s protection during Israel’s wilderness wanderings; priest would pour out water to symbolize the world knowing God at coming of Messiah

Fulfillment: Jesus made his dwelling among us; Jesus is the source of living water that will flow from believers (Jesus’ address at Festival of Tabernacles)

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