Stephen Fowl and Theol Interp of Scripture (Book Review, Part I)

When I lived in Massachusetts, my wife and I would go to hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra once in a while.  I like music as much as the next person, but I did not have enough technical knowledge of music theory and composition to really appreciate what was going on in each concert.  It happened, though, that prior to the concert, on one particular evening, the conductor offered to give a lecture before the concert where he would help to pre-guide novice listeners to the concert.  He offered behind-the-scenes sorts of tips.  He helped us to fine tune our ears to hear the details.  Essentially, he gave enough information to enrich our understanding.

Imagine if someone could do this for SBL for you….

In comes Stephen Fowl.  The Wipf & Stock (Cascade Series) Theological Interpretation of Scripture ‘companion’ does this sort of thing that the conductor did for the beautiful but complex symphony.  As a ‘companion’ at the party of scholars discussing ‘theological interpretation of Scripture’ (TIS), Fowl is a skilled and eloquent guide.

The ‘party’ metaphor is one that Fowl uses throughout the book.  He treats the book as a friendly introduction to a gathering of bible and theology scholars who have been debating and discussing an important issue.  In about 100 pages, Fowl masterfully succeeds in giving the tyro a succint and useful lay of the land.

In the first chapter, Fowl gives a view of Scripture itself and how Christians are meant to interact with it and what role it plays in ‘God’s drama of salvation’.  Then Fowl moves on to define how TIS is related to various other critical matters.  Thirdly, Fowl highlights certain ‘practices’ and ‘habits’ of TIS.  Finally, he briefly considers the ‘prospects’ for the future.  The book closes with a short set of profiles of the other ‘guests’ at the TIS party.

A more detailed interaction with Fowl’s book will follow in other posts.  For now, let me say that this was a delight to read.  I had lunch with Fowl last year at SBL and he is a humble and wise scholar.  His Philippians commentary (Two Horizons) was a great inspiration to me and I was also not disappointed at all with this book.  This is another great volume in what looks to be a very promising series from Wipf & Stock.

Quick Update

I have been off of the blogging radar for a while for several reasons, the most pressing: I just returned from a holiday in Rome and I am getting ready to move back to the US having completed my phd.

I have plenty of books waiting for me to crack open and review once I return to the States.  Until then, time permits only a few short posts in the next two weeks or so.

I hope to post on the British New TEstament Conference and the glory of Aberdeen after the conference – as well as how my papers went.

Thanks to everyone who offered advice about Rome.  Other than the almost unbearable heat, we had a great time and enjoyed some really excellent ice cream.

Hermeneutics Seminar of Brit NT Conference (programme)

I am getting excited about the British New Testament Conference (Aberdeen, this year)- always a fun time and usually some very good papers.  The seminars and paper abstracts are steadily streaming in.  Today the programme for the Hermeneutics seminar is up.  Of three sessions, one is combined with the Paul group.  The other two sessions are as follows:

Dr. Cherryl Hunt (Exeter Univ) – ‘Reconciliation of the Cosmos? Re-reading Paul in a time of Ecological Crisis’

Abstract: New readings of Paul are generated not only by new historical and exegetical information but also by changing contemporary circumstances and demands. The present ecological crisis calls for a fresh engagement with the Pauline corpus. The obvious place to begin is with what are already favourite texts among ecotheologians: Romans 8.19-23 and Colossians 1.15-20. However, a more significant challenge is to ask, once texts such as these are placed centre-stage, how the wider patterns and resources of Pauline theology and ethics might be re-read from an ecological perspective. Informed by the approach to hermeneutics of South African theologian Ernst Conradie and by a narrative reading of Paul, the paper will briefly consider cosmic reconciliation as a unifying theological theme and other-regard as a central ethical theme, and will assess both the potential and the difficulties entailed in recruiting Paul for the ecological cause.

Dr. Nijay K. Gupta (Durham Univ/Ashland Theol Seminary) – ‘Mirror-Reading Paraenesis and Moral Discourses in an Ancient Letter: Sexual Immorality in Romans and 1 Thessalonians as Test-cases’

Abstract: Over twenty years ago, Prof. John M.G. Barclay wrote a seminal article (JSNT 31: 73-93) on the important subject of ‘Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter’. Barclay demonstrated concern for how scholars reconstructed the nature and arguments of presumed opponents (especially in Paul’s letters); he argued that often such mirror-reading lacks methodological precision and care. His proposed criteria have aided in refining scholarly approaches to studying epistolary polemics.

The act of mirror-reading, though, takes place even when ‘opponents’ are not of primary concern. There is also the matter of the author’s approach and response to intra-church moral concerns. Historical and social reconstructions are sometimes useful for the purpose of determining whether the author was exhorting his readers in a generic way (standard paraenesis), for preventative reasons, or for reparative purposes. This paper will explore a methodology, building on the work of Prof. Barclay, for mirror-reading moral discourses and paraenesis cautious of overinterpretation and other pitfalls. The matter of sexual immorality in 1 Thessalonians and Romans will serve as test-cases.

It is normally a small group that meets for the hermeneutics seminar, but I am looking forward to giving this paper.

Wipf & Stock New and Soon-Coming Releases

I get update emails, once in a while, from Wipf & Stock.  I was pleased today to see that Stephen Fowl’s Theological Interpretation of Scripture book (Cascade Companions series) is now out.  I met Stephen last year at SBL and he is a great guy.  The endorses for this book are all experts and give his book much accolade.  I hope to get my hands on this for some light reading in the near future.

James Charlesworth has written a nice little book (172 pp.) on the Odes of Solomon called The Earliest Christian Hymnbook.  He offers his own translation as well. Interestingly,this is pitched almost as a kind of devotional book.  The endorser writes: ‘…fine for scholars, wonderful for believers!’

One of my favorite journals, one that happens to be published by W & S, is Ex Auditu; each issue is themed (based on a conference each year) and the topics are well chosen (as are the contributors).  The newest issue, vol. 24, is on ‘The Idolatry of Security’.  The various articles look very interesting.

Fear in the Garden: The State of Emergency and the Politics of Blessing
Scott Bader-Saye

Response to Bader-Saye
Amy E. Black

“In God We Trust”? The Challenge of the Prophets
R. W. L. Moberly

Response to Moberly
Robert L. Hubbard, Jr.

Imagining the Unthinkable: Exposing the Idolatry of National Security in Amos
M. Daniel Carroll R.

Response to Carroll
Robert D. Haak

Security and Self-Sufficiency: A Comparison of Paul and Epictetus
John M. G. Barclay

Response to Barclay
Joel Willitts

Martin Luther’s Teachings on Security in the Psalms and Their Signicance for the Art of Reading Scripture
G. Sujin Pak

Response to Pak
Jo Ann Deasy

“One Who Trusts Will Not Panic”: Providence and the Prophet of Desecuritization
Jill Carson Colwell

As for future releases, keep an eye out for these:

- Colossians/Philemon commentary by Mike Bird

- Romans commentary by Craig Keener

- A book on Reading Revelation Responsibly by Mike Gorman

- The interestingly-titled: From Expected Death Comes New Life: The Theology of the Gospel of Mathew (M.J. Marohl).

Review of Mead’s Biblical Theology

James K. Mead’s Biblical Theology: Issues, Methods, Themes (WJK, 2007), is a wonderful critical introduction to this very important subject.  In many ways, it acts as a history of the study of BT as Mead synthesizes and compares the work of dozens of scholars interested in BT.  Mead leaves no stone unturned when it comes to problems and approaches to the subject.  His exploration of themes in BT is interesting as well, but he finds nothing ‘new’ that has not already been discussed by other scholars.

As a note, some scholars approach NT theology by going through the NT book-by-book (like Thielman and Marshall).  I appreciate, in these approaches, careful attention to the historical background and contextual significance of each book of the NT.  However, this can also lead to a very disjointed approach that does not help the reader to connect the dots.  Others try to trace certain themes throughout the NT.  This is what Mead does (with both OT + NT) in his chapter on themes in BT.  He has three master categories: ‘The God attested in BT’ (character of God, words of God, works of God), ‘Living in relationship with God’ (history and story, creation and covenant, worship and life), and ‘Living in relationship with human beings’ (Nation and nations, need and justice, community and calling).  Again, not unique, but a solid approach.

As a beginner in the area of BT, I learned a lot from Mead’s book.  What becomes clear is that he is a great teacher – wonderful charts, helpful titles and subtitles, and very clear illustrations and historical discussions.  He has put a lot of work and thought into this book and I will turn to it whenever I need to get a sense of those who are movers-and-shakers in this discipline and what they thought and stood for.

If I have one critique, which may have been beyond Mead’s control, it is that it is an ‘endnotes’ book.  Personally, I see no need for any academic book to have endnotes.  I am so often loathe to ever bother to look any notes up and when I do want to, it takes me a very long time.

This is a small issue, though, and I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in BT, especially newbies.

Keeping Up With Greek – Part 1

When it comes to second (or third or fourth…) language acquisition, the old adage is true: if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.  Ministers and others who took Greek in seminary often struggle with maintaining their knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.  What can you do?  Attempts to ‘re-learn’ Greek often fail as too many other responsibilities (work, family, the house, etc…) preclude the possibility of spending weeks and months going back through a textbook.

How can you keep up with your Greek?
In a sense, I am wrong person to ask because, as an ‘academic’, I use my Greek everyday.  But, as someone who teaches Greek and cares that my students sharpen this tool for a lifetime’s worth of use, I care enough to know how to keep it and encourage students to do so.

First, a bit of general advice.  Language learning and maintaining is a bit like building muscle on your body.  First of all, you can’t really do it very quickly (say, in a weekend).  It takes months to train yourself and build muscle a little at a time, in order for it to become integrated into your body.  But, inevitably, if you become inactive for a long period of time….its gone (I know this all too well!).  On the other hand, a little bit of work each day will go a long way to keeping that toned look and overall fitness.

It is the same with Greek.  The best way to keep Greek is to use it daily, at least for a little bit of time (even 5 minutes!).  There are several tools and resources to help you, but there are no quick fixes.

Here are some helps, though.

More Light on the Path.  This is a daily devotional book with a small OT (Hebrew) text and a short NT (Greek) text with some aids (vocab and parsing help).  So, you can read your Bible for independent devotional time and work on keeping up with languages.  Great tool!

And, of course, I am always a fan of the UBS Greek NT: Reader’s Edition (Hendrickson), which I have endorsed before.  It is, essentially, a regular Greek NT that has on-the-page glosses of all infrequently-occurring vocabulary words (found in footnotes).  This saves a lot of time and frustration and I heartily recommend my own Greek students to purchase this when they complete the first year of Greek.

More to come!

Interview with J. Pennington re: NovTSup (Brill)

Jonathan Pennington is Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He published his thesis with Brill’s Novum Testamentum Supplement Series – a very wise choice.  He was kind enough to share his experience with me.

What is especially exciting is that he has published his thesis additionally as an affordable paperback book with Baker Academic.  Now it will be widely available at a reasonable price.

Q1: As I recall, you studied at St. Andrews with Prof. Bauckham.  Did you ask him or did he give you any particular advice about how to publish your thesis?

[Jonathan Pennington] It has been several years now so I don’t recall exactly, but I certainly must have asked his advice on publication at some point. He was always very kind and helpful. I do remember him saying once that during his tenure as the editor of the SNTS Monograph Series he felt it was not entirely appropriate to recommend his own students’ works for that series, but that now that he had stopped serving as the editor he once again was glad to point his students in that direction. This is a testimony to his own integrity and scholarship.

Beyond this, however, I believe I got more direct advice and suggestion from my readers, that is, the scholars who examined me for my viva, or defense. [For those not familiar with the British PhD system, the candidate must finally defend his or her thesis (or dissertation, in American terms) before two scholars who were not involved in the supervision of the writing. One of these must be internal (from one's own university) and one external (from elsewhere).] My readers were Bruce Longenecker and Mark Goodacre, both of whom gave excellent and very encouraging points. Before I had even left the viva room they had both made clear to me that this was a publishable book requiring little revision. This obviously encouraged me to pursue publication and at the highest levels.

Q2: What drew your attention to Novum Testamentum Supplements?  What are the benefits of publishing with them?

[Jonathan Pennington] As I said, I was reasonably confident in light of how well my defense went that I would be able to get the work published. There seemed to be a general understanding among post-grads and professors which series were the most well-recognized and well-respected and so obviously these were the most desirable to pursue. At the top of this list for NT studies seemed to be Brill’s NovTestSupp and Cambridge’s SNTSMS. These not only have a long history of being places where seminal works have been published, but they also have the renown of being connected to two of the most venerated NT academic institutions, the journal Novum Testamentum and the Society for New Testament Studies. This is not to put down other important institutions, journals, and series such as JSNT or WUNT. But simply, for whatever reasons, NovTestSupp and SNTSMS seemed to me to be shooting for the very top.

I made initial contact with Cambridge, but two things stalled this process. One was a more restrictive page limit for SNTSMS — mine would have been over at 370+ pages and of course there was simply nothing I could cut out! :). The other was the pragmatic reality that another scholar, Dan Gurtner, had just submitted his thesis, also on Matthew, and also supervised by Bauckham, for consideration in the series. As the editor, John Court, apologetically explained, this slowed things down quite a bit especially because it was difficult to find another Matthew scholar on short notice who could read the book and comment for publication. I think there was sincere interest, but I decided I did not want to wait and was glad to turn to Brill. My reading of several volumes in this series convinced me that it would be a great honor to be published by them. (Subsequently, Dan’s excellent book was picked up and published by Cambridge.)

Q3: How much re-working or modifying did you do on your thesis before you sent it off to NovTSup?

[Jonathan Pennington] I sent an initial inquiry to Margaret Mitchell who serves as the editor for

this series. She expressed interest and so I sent along a full proposal and at some point the whole manuscript. Between the proposal and submitting the manuscript I made a few adjustments suggested at my viva, but none of these were very significant. The biggest thing I did was to rewrite Chapter One. As I continued to consider the arguments I felt it would be more persuasive to restructure how I prosecuted the thesis of that chapter. There was no new content, but a better presentation. Other than that, nothing much else was changed beyond the ever-creeping-in typos.

Q4: How much work did you have to do once the manuscript was accepted?  How long did it take?

[Jonathan Pennington] Some months later I received the positive word from Professor Mitchell. She informed me that the readers liked the work and had made only minor suggestions for improvement and that the editors would be happy to accept the book in their series. You can imagine there was much rejoicing in the Pennington household that day! At this point I worked on the suggestions made — usually things like pursuing initial sources rather than quoting people quoting people — and resubmitted the manuscript. Later on, after Brill had proofed it, I and a PhD student of mine re-read the whole thing in galley form. This whole process took something like 6 months if I recall correctly.

Q5: Looking back on your publishing experience, what might you have done differently, if anything?

Brill was brilliant! They were professional, kind, and took over the whole process with ease. I cannot imagine a better experience than what I had, especially being such a novice.

Q6: You have, now, a new edition of your thesis work published with Baker.  How does that work?  Does that mean the NovTSup edition is out of stock?  Did Baker approach you?

[Jonathan Pennington] I have long respected Baker and the way forward they are going under the editorial leadership of Jim Kinney. Over the years I had many good interactions with Jim and so one year at SBL, shortly after the Brill volume came out, I pitched to him the idea that I thought this book could use a broader readership than it would get in a purely academic series, especially one that was so expensive ($185; I couldn’t even afford to buy one for my mom). I knew it would be a hard sell to publish a PhD thesis, but I hoped that it was somewhat different than most dissertations in that it did not cover just one passage or particular point, but offered a macro-level theme for understanding Matthew and the huge idea of the kingdom of heaven. Whether I was just foolishly naive or correct, the reader will have to decide! My proposal to him included comments and recommendations I had received, including the very kind words of Dale Allison (one of my top 5 favorite NT scholars) who had been my NovTestSupp reader.

It took Jim a few months to get back to me, but then one day he called to say that he had finally gotten around to reading the portions I had sent him and he liked it very much and thought it was readable and significant. We went through the formal proposal process with Baker and it was accepted. (More rejoicing in the Pennington household.)

So, the Baker version is not really a new edition, but simply a paperback reprint of the Brill volume, as is — with the one change – it now costs about $150 less!

I believe technically it is still in print with Brill, but again, the price is prohibitive for the individual reader to buy it. Brill required that Baker wait 18 months before publishing the pb version so that they could get whatever sales they could. Beyond that, the legal details are beyond me! I just sign the contracts.

Q7: Out of curiosity, do you mind sharing what other projects you have on your table for the future?

[Jonathan Pennington] Certainly. I am currently working on a number of essays, including one on the Lord’s Supper in the Synoptics and on a theology of work in Matthew. The biggest projects on my horizon are that I have agreed to write the Pillar NT Commentary on Matthew to replace the Leon Morris volume. This is a 5-6 year out project. As has been said about writing, I like the idea of having written this volume more than the actual mountain that it will be to do so! But closer on the horizon I am using my upcoming sabbatical to, Lord willing, write a book on how to read the Gospels theologically. I consider myself part of the ‘theological interpretation of Scripture’ movement and am very keen on hermeneutical and history of interpretation issues. I want to apply these new hermeneutical turns specifically to reading the Gospels as Holy Scripture.

Interview with B. Reynolds re: WUNT II (Mohr Siebeck)

Benjamin Reynolds is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Tyndale University College & Seminary (Ontario, Canada).  Again, Benjamin is an alum of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary – my own alma mater.  He studied for his PhD at Aberdeen under Simon Gathercole (who studied here at Durham and was my external examiner).  He is definitely someone to keep an eye on in the near future as he is already publishing some journal and dictionary articles and some essays.  Ben has been kind enough to share his experience publishing with Mohr Siebeck.

1. How did you come to choose WUNT II for publishing your thesis?  What would have been a second choice for you?


At the beginning of the thesis process, I thought about JSNTS (now LNTS) for my thesis, but as the project progressed, my supervisor and I came to see WUNT II as the better option both for the quality of the series and the content of my thesis. A thesis on the same topic had already been published in the JSNTS series 15-20 years ago, whereas Mohr Siebeck had not published anything similar. My second choice would have been BZNW.


2. What was it like to submit the manuscript?  How much re-working did you do before you sent it for consideration to Mohr Siebeck (at the initial send-off)?

My thesis examiners suggested that I revise part of the introduction. So I reworked that section, and I edited some sections that I felt needed some smoothing out. I also made some bibliographical additions. Once those changes were made, I mailed/posted a hard copy directly to Jörg Frey. I wasn’t sure if that was proper procedure, but I knew someone else who had done it that way. It worked out positively for both of us.


3. Did your reader require much modification (of content)?

There was no modification asked of me. It was suggested that I double-check non-English citations.


4. I have heard that you have to prepare a camera-ready copy of the manuscript and typeset it.  Was that difficult for you?

Yes, you do have to prepare a camera-ready copy. I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but it was tedious. I learned quite a bit about Microsoft Word!! The most time consuming piece was the indexing and not the formatting.


5. Are you satisfied with your overall experience?

I am very satisfied. If I could go back in time to the beginning of the thesis, I would definitely set up some formatting styles and use them consistently throughout the entire writing process! What I mean by this is that in Microsoft Word (I haven’t converted to a Mac yet…) you have the option to choose “Styles and Formatting” under “Format”. A sidebar opens with the default Styles: Heading 1, Heading 2, Heading 3, Normal. You can create your own styles so that, in my case, WUNT Heading 1 matches Mohr Siebeck’s settings for a first heading (e.g. something like 16 pt font, a space of 12 pt above, 6 pt below, centered, .2 pt spacing between characters, etc.). When you multiply that by Chapter headings, various levels of subheadings, footnote settings, body settings, block quote settings, bibliography settings, etc., you have a lot of changes to make to meet the specific publisher’s formatting requirements. If I had established style settings at the beginning of the process, all I would have needed to do was change the Heading 1 style and not every heading in my entire thesis. It was a tedious process, but the editorial staff at Mohr Siebeck were extremely helpful and quickly answered all of my questions.


6. If you could go back, would you have done anything differently (with regard to the process of publishing)?

I would have used formatting styles during the writing process, as I mentioned above. But with regard to Mohr Siebeck, I would not make any changes. They were excellent. Oh, I would pay attention to the difference between their corporate address in Stuttgart and their editorial office address in Tübingen, but that is another story not worth repeating.


7. Have you sold any of the complementary copies of your thesis on ebay (just kidding!)?

No, I didn’t! I didn’t think about it in time.

NB: Here is the description of Dr. Reynold’s monograph:

The title ‘Son of Man’ in the Gospel of John is an apocalyptic reference that highlights, among a number of things, that Jesus is a heavenly figure. Benjamin E. Reynolds analyzes the background of ‘Son of Man’ from the ‘one like a son of man’ in Daniel 7 and the interpretations of this figure in Jewish apocalyptic and early Christian literature.

Although there is no established ‘Son of Man concept’, the Danielic son of man is interpreted with common characteristics that suggest there was at least some general understanding of this figure in the Second Temple period. The author shows that these common characteristics are noticeable throughout the Son of Man sayings in John’s Gospel. The context and the interpretation of these sayings point to an understanding of the Johannine Son of Man similar to those in the interpretations of the Danielic figure.

However, even though these similarities exist, the Johannine figure is distinct from the previous interpretations, just as they are distinct from one another. One obvious difference is the present reality of the Son of Man’s role in judgment and salvation. The Johannine Son of Man is an apocalyptic figure, and thus ‘Son of Man’ does not function to draw attention to Jesus’ humanity in the Gospel of John. Nor is the title synonymous with ‘Son of God’. ‘Son of Man’ may overlap in meaning with other titles, particularly ‘Son of God’ and ‘Messiah’, but ‘Son of Man’ points to aspects of Jesus’ identity that are not indicated by any other title. Along with the other titles, it helps to present a richer Christological portrait of the Johannine Jesus.