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A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel
The Gospel of Matthew and Its Readers is a biblical commentary with a difference. Howard Clarke first establishes contemporary scholarship's mainstream view of Matthew's Gospel, and then presents a sampling of the ways this text has been read, understood, and applied through two millennia. By referring forward to Matthew's readers (rather than back to the text's composers), the book exploits the tensions between what contemporary scholars understand to be the intent of the author of Matthew and the quite different, indeed often eccentric and bizarre ways this text has been understood, assimilated, and applied over the years. The commentary is a testament to the ambiguities and elasticity of the text and a cogent reminder that interpretations are not fixed, nor texts immutably relevant. And unlike other commentaries, this one gives space to those who have questioned, rejected, or even ridiculed Matthew's messages, since Bible-bashing, like Bible-thumping, is a historically significant part of the experience of reading the Bible.
The Reception of Mark in the Second Century
Scholars of the Gospel of Mark usually discuss the merits of patristic references to the Gospel’s origin and Mark’s identity as the “interpreter” of Peter. But while the question of the Gospel’s historical origins draws attention, no one has asked why, despite virtually unanimous patristic association of the Gospel with Peter, one of the most prestigious apostolic founding figures in Christian memory, Mark's Gospel was mostly neglected by those same writers. Not only is the text of Mark the least represented of the canonical Gospels in patristic citations, commentaries, and manuscripts, but the explicit comments about the Evangelist reveal ambivalence about Mark’s literary or theological value. Michael J. Kok surveys the second-century reception of Mark, from Papias of Hierapolis to Clement of Alexandria, and finds that the patristic writers were hesitant to embrace Mark because they perceived it to be too easily adapted to rival Christian factions. Kok describes the story of Mark’s Petrine origins as a second-century move to assert ownership of the Gospel on the part of the emerging Orthodox Church.
Early Christian Interpretation of the Psalms
The Psalms generated more biblical commentary from early Christians than any other book of the Hebrew and Christian canon. While advances have been made in our understanding of the early Christian preoccupation with this book and the traditions employed to interpret it, no study on the Psalms traditions exists that can serve as a solid academic point of entry into the field. This collection of essays by distinguished patristic and biblical scholars fills this lacuna. It not only introduces readers to the main primary sources but also addresses the unavoidable interpretive issues present in the secondary literature. The essays in The Harp of Prophecy represent some of the very best scholarly approaches to the study of early Christian exegesis, bringing new interpretations to bear on the work of influential early Christian authorities such as Athanasius, Augustine, and Basil of Caesarea. Subjects that receive detailed study include the dynamics of early Christian political power, gender expressions, and the ancient conversation between Christian, Jewish, and Greek philosophical traditions. The essays and bibliographic materials enable readers to locate and read the early Christian sources for themselves and also serve to introduce the various interdisciplinary methods and perspectives that are currently brought to bear on early Christian psalm exegesis. Students and scholars of theology and biblical studies will be led in new directions of thought and interpretation by these innovative studies.
Understanding the Biblical Archetype of Patience
The question that launches Job’s story is posed by God at the outset of the story: “Have you considered my servant Job?” (1:8; 2:3). By any estimation the answer to this question must be yes. The forty-two chapters that form the biblical story have in fact opened the story to an ongoing practice of reading and rereading, evaluating and reevaluating. Early Greek and Jewish translators emphasized some aspects of the story and omitted others; the Church Fathers interpreted Job as a forerunner of Christ, while medieval Jewish commentators debated conservative and liberal interpretations of God’s providential love. Artists, beginning at least in the Greco-Roman period, painted and sculpted their own interpretations of Job. Novelists, playwrights, poets, and musicians—religious and irreligious, from virtually all points of the globe—have added their own distinctive readings. In Have You Considered My Servant Job?, Samuel E. Balentine examines this rich and varied history of interpretation by focusing on the principal characters in the story—Job, God, the satan figure, Job’s wife, and Job’s friends. Each chapter begins with a concise analysis of the biblical description of these characters, then explores how subsequent readers have expanded or reduced the story, shifted its major emphases or retained them, read the story as history or as fiction, and applied the morals of the story to the present or dismissed them as irrelevant. Each new generation of readers is shaped by different historical, cultural, and political contexts, which in turn require new interpretations of an old yet continually mesmerizing story. Voltaire read Job one way in the eighteenth century, Herman Melville a different way in the nineteenth century. Goethe’s reading of the satan figure in Faust is not the same as Chaucer’s in The Canterbury Tales, and neither is fully consonant with the Testament of Job or the Qur’an. One need only compare the descriptions of God in the biblical account with the imaginative renderings by Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, and Franz Kafka to see that the effort to understand why God afflicts Job “for no reason” (2:3) continues to be both compelling and endlessly complicated.
Reflections on Method and Ministry
Although healing constitutes both a major theme of biblical literature and a significant practice of biblical communities, healing themes and experiences are not always conspicuous in presentations of biblical theology. Walter T. Wilson adopts an interdisciplinary approach to the healing narratives in the Gospel of Matthew, combining the familiar methods of form, redaction, and narrative criticisms with insights culled from medical anthropology, feminist theory, disability studies, and ancient archaeology. His focus is the New Testament’s longest and most systematic account of healing, Matthew chapters 8 and 9, which he investigates by situating the text within a broad range of ancient healing traditions. The close exegetical readings of each healing narrative culminate in a final synthesis that pulls together what can be said about Matthew’s understanding of healing, how Matthew’s narratives of healing expose the distinctive priorities of the evangelist, and how these priorities relate to the theology of the Gospel as a whole.
New Insights and Scholarship
In April of 2001, the headline in the Los Angeles Times read, “Doubting the Story of the Exodus.” It covered a sermon that had been delivered by the rabbi of a prominent local congregation over the holiday of Passover. In it, he said, “The truth is that virtually every modern archeologist who has investigated the story of the exodus, with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.” This seeming challenge to the biblical story captivated the local public. Yet as the rabbi himself acknowledged, his sermon contained nothing new. The theories that he described had been common knowledge among biblical scholars for over thirty years, though few people outside of the profession know their relevance.
New understandings concerning the Bible have not filtered down beyond specialists in university settings. There is a need to communicate this research to a wider public of students and educated readers outside of the academy. This volume seeks to meet this need, with accessible and engaging chapters describing how archeology, theology, ancient studies, literary studies, feminist studies, and other disciplines now understand the Bible.
In Dialogue with Augustine
In Hermeneutics and the Church, James A. Andrews presents a close reading of De doctrina christiana as a whole and places Augustine's text into dialogue with contemporary theological hermeneutics. The dialogical nature of the exercise allows Augustine to remain a living voice in contemporary debates about the use of theology in biblical interpretation. In particular, Andrews puts Augustine's hermeneutical treatise into dialogue with the theologians Werner Jeanrond and Stephen Fowl. Andrews argues on the basis of De doctrina christiana that the paradigm for theological interpretation is the sermon and that its end is to engender the double love of God and neighbor. With the sermon as the paradigm of interpretation, Hermeneutics and the Church offers practical conclusions for future work in historical theology and biblical interpretation. For Augustine scholars, Andrews offers a reading of De doctrina that takes seriously the entirety of the work and allows Augustine to speak consistently through words written at the beginning and end of his bishopric. For theologians, this book provides a model of how to engage theologically with the past, and, more than that, it offers the actual fruits of such an engagement: suggestions for the discipline of theological hermeneutics and the practice of scriptural interpretation.
The Center of Paul's Method of Scriptural Interpretation
Against the prevailing models for understanding the Apostle Paul's interpretation and use of scripture, Matthew Bates proposes a fresh approach toward developing a Pauline hermeneutic. He combines historical criticism with an intertextual strategy that takes seriously the work of the early church fathers, and in so doing fills a void in current scholarship. Bates applies his method to both oft-referenced and underutilized passages in the writings of Paul and suggests a new model for Pauline hermeneutics that is centered on the apostolic proclamation of Christ.
Hezekiah is a critical figure in the Hebrew Bible, which credits him with major political, social, and religious reforms in Judah’s history and the weathering of a major crisis in the invasion of the Assyrians under their emperor, Sennacherib. Examining the different accounts of Hezekiah’s reign in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah, Song-Mi Suzie Park describes a “Hezekiah complex” that developed over a long time, in which the figure of Hezekiah served as a symbol for the vicissitudes of Judah’s history. The king could be understood as a positive reformer of the “pagan” ways of the country, or as a sinner, at least partly responsible for the threats and disasters that befell Judah, from Sennacherib’s invasion through the Babylonian exile more than a century later. By showing how the stories about Hezekiah developed over time through a process of response and counterresponse, forming at the end a dialogue of memory, Park elucidates the ways in which biblical stories in general function as loci of continual dialogue, dispute, and discussion.
Memory, Typology, and the Son of David
The Historiographical Jesus introduces a new theory and approach for studying the life of Jesus. Anthony Le Donne uses the precepts of social memory theory to identify “memory refraction” in the Jesus tradition—the refocusing distortion that occurs as the stories and sayings of Jesus were handed down and consciously and unconsciously framed in new settings with new applications. Recognition of this refraction allows historians to escape the problematic dichotomy between memory and typology. The author focuses on the title"Son of David"as it was used in Jewish and Christian traditions to demonstrate both how his new theory functions and to advance historical Jesus research.