My personal book budget is quite limited so I kept myself to a meager upper limit of $15 at the Midwest SBL regional conference. Eisenbrauns and Eerdmans actually showed up and sold books, while Baker (and SBL?) had books just on display. I must mention that Eisenbrauns had my friend Douglas Earl’s Reading Joshua as Christian Scripture monograph out and it looks quite good (in the Journal of Theological Interpretation Supplement Series). Though I already own it, I must make mention of Eisenbrauns A Severe Mercy by Mark Boda which is essentially an OT theology with a focus on the theme of ‘Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament’ (which is the subtitle).
Eerdmans, of course, had lots of nice things. I was very tempted to pick up Miroslav Volf’s new Against the Tide: Love in a Time of Petty Dreams and Persisting Enmities.
The one that I chose, those, was a no-brainer. It is by Dale Allison Jr. and is called The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus. The book originated as the Kenneth W. Clark lectures at Duke in 2008 where this historian attempts to work through serious theological issues in Gospels study. Allison admits that he had not been interested in some of the theological issues involved in the study of Jesus, but felt compelled to struggle with it because these questions were ones that his own students were needing counsel and wisdom. The chapter section that caught my attention: ‘How Much History Does Theology Require?’
I personally have come to accept that, if the 4 gospels are considered, they cannot possibly all be recounting the actual words and deeds of Jesus just as they happened. (You might say, DUH!, but as a conservative evangelical, that is quite an epiphany, worrisome and foundation-shaking). I had some comfort in the work of Luke Timothy Johnson and others who focus on the literary artistry and theological power of the Gospels, but I just have this nagging sense that I don’t know where Jesus ends and Mark (or Luke or whoever) begins. I asked Dr. William Telford (Markan expert) in a course if he thought Mark would have considered any Jesus-saying or tradition to be so sacrosanct that he could not alter it for literary/theological reasons. Dr. Telford said, “Not that I can think of.”….!
I don’t know if Dr. Allison’s words are going to solve all of my problems and answer my questions, but he certainly is going to discuss the issues that I feel like have not been treated and worked through to my satisfaction.
This is what happens when you finish your PhD in Paul. Then you need to teach broader subjects (like the OT, or Gospels, or Revelation) and you need to go back to the basics and really get a grasp on the major issues and cruxes.
Well – hopefully I will be able to discuss Allison’s ideas, insights, and proposals and share them with you. In any case, at just over 100 pages it was a relief to buy a book that I can finish in a reasonable amount of time. A perfect “light” read after the gravitas of Campbell’s Deliverance of God! And, Allison’s little book was being sold (at 40% discount) for only $9.60! I will save my pennies for maybe another book at the Eastern Great Lakes SBL in April…