K. Vanhoozer and the Drama-of-Redemption Model of Theology

In recent weeks I have reading the excellent Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology book by Zondervan and highlighting the views of each model-contributor – this time around it is Kevin Vanhoozer (following Walt Kaiser and Dan Doriani).

Vanhoozer, unlike the other authors in the first part of this book, is first-and-foremost trained as a theologian- and a darn good one at that, as I can see.  The others are primarily Biblical scholars.  So, his approach is different.  He takes a wider perspective on all these issues, but he never plays fast and loose with ‘proof-texts’.  As a hopeful biblical scholar (read here: lifelong student), I hope to see more ‘theologians’ handle biblical texts as carefully as he does in this book.

OK, so Vanhoozer advocates a Drama-of-Redemption model.  He begins by urging Christians to see living ‘biblically’ as something different than counting up the commands in the Bible and ‘doing’ them.  Rather, ‘living biblically’ is a matter of ‘cognition, affection, and imagination…’ and that it is a ‘community project’ (p. 153).

Vanhoozer (hereon “V”) explains that we may be doing it wrong to take the Bible as if it were a rulebook for ethics.  Rather, V prefers the analogy of a drama – a “theodrama.”

The sacred page [i.e. Scripture] exists to direct our attention to the divine play….Theology is merely the shadow cast by the theodrama; God’s doing–God’s speech and action– is prior to the church’s response.  The gospel that assembles the church is a divine comedy in which followers of Jesus Christ have a privilege and responsibility to take part (p. 156).

Here is V’s definition of the DoR approach which

affirms God’s actions in history, preserves the emphasis on story, and incorporates a canonically attuned, wisdom-oriented “chastened” principlizing, while better integrating the interpreters into the action…[U]nderstanding is a matter not only of cognition but of action. (159).

Believers all, in any and every generation, are called to perform their part in the drama.  Here are V’s guiding questions for eager actors.

1. Where are we in the theodrama?  What kind of scene are we playing?

2. Who are we?  In what kind of plot are our lives entangled?

3. What time is it? What act and scene of the drama of redemption are we playing?

4. What is happening?  What is God doing?

5. What we say or do?

(see pp. 162-3).

You will notice, and V makes it no secret, that he is influenced by NT Wright’s interest in narrative,

So, how does the drama work?  For V, Scripture does not offer the script to the drama; rather, ‘we perform…the world/theodrama that the text/script presupposes, entails, and implies’ (p. 166).

As I gather, V means that you do not read the Bible to know what to do, but how the world works, how God has worked in the world, and how we can realize his hope for the renewal of the world (my words, not his).  V says, biblical interpretation involves ‘renewing and transforming people’s habits of seeing, thinking, and acting…[Scripture] is…a medium of divine communicative action whose purpose is not only to inform but to transform: to nurture right vision, right attitudes, right action.’ (p. 171).

How to act out the theodrama takes, what V calls, “canon sense,” what is ‘right and meet’ with Scripture.  He calls this: ‘fittingness.’

Here are his principles for fittingness.

1. Determine who is speaking and how what they are doing with their words relates to the main idea and action of the whole triune drama.

2. Know who, when, and where you are in the drama.

3. Put on the canonical spectacles of faith in order to see, judge, and act in the spectacle of faith now playing in a world theater near you.


Vanhoozer has more to say.  Much more, so I will leave you to it.  But this is a teaser.  He is so articulate and poetic – his words have real power because he is a master communicator.  However, I fear that those of us with very empirical historical-critical training will read this chapter and scratch our heads: huh?

Here is Walt Kaiser’s response:

After reading and rereading Kevin’s chapter many times over, for the life of me I cannot explain to anyone else, much less myself, how the “drama-of-redemption approach” works or really solves any of the crucial questions being put to the Bible in our day.

Again, while Vanhoozer offered a very rich essay on what the Bible is, his answer to those wondering about doing ethics and theology in light of the Bible is very complex.  Do we look for a simple method that makes sense, but can seem overly simplistic and can lead to multiple conclusions (such as Kaiser’s principlizing method); or do we try a more theological dense method that is very hard to grasp, takes a lot of explaining, and will only finally be accessible to a few bright theologians?  I must say that Vanhoozer’s chapter received, so far, the least criticism.  But was that because the other contributors liked it or didn’t quite get it and weren’t as honest as Kaiser in saying it out loud (or on paper)?

Ok, maybe it was just Walt and me.  I will reread Vanhoozer, and I would be tempted to say that he is probably closest to the most accurate answer.  I think that there must be a better way to make what he says obviously right.  Well, more to come on following chapters.


Again – I can’t emphasize this enough – this is one of the most important books I have ever read on how Christian use and interact with their Bibles.  Also, the contributors were chosen very carefully and all have made excellent points.  Clealry a lot of work went into this book, from beginning to end, and it is worth it.  A must-read and one that you will not able to put down.


new Expository Times (SAGE)

The November issue of Expository Times is up.  Usually, the articles do not tend to be that engaging for NT studies, though you might be fortunate once in a while.  This issue, there appear to be lots of goodies.  I copied and pasted from the SAGE website – I can’t vouch for the links and buttons to work – I was just being lazy.


Charles H. Talbert
Matthew and Character Formation
The Expository Times 2009 121: 53-59. [Abstract] [PDF] [Request Permission]
Lisa Isherwood
Book Review: The Master’s Tools Have Not Dismantled the Master’s House: Alistair Kee, The Rise & Demise of Black Theology (London: SCM, 2008. £19.99. pp. xxii + 234. ISBN 978—0—3340—4164—1)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 59. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Surekha Nelavala
‘Babylon the Great Mother of Whores’ (Rev 17:5): A Postcolonial Feminist Perspective
The Expository Times 2009 121: 60-65. [Abstract] [PDF] [Request Permission]
Nigel Zimmermann
Book Review: Reasons to Keep Reading: in Defence of Belief: Scott Hahn, Reasons to Believe (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2007. £8.95. pp. 227. ISBN 978—0— 232—52713—1)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 65. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Professor J.D.M. Derrett
Homer in the New Testament
The Expository Times 2009 121: 66-69. [Abstract] [PDF] [Request Permission]
Douglas R.A. Hare
When Did ‘Messiah’ Become a Proper Name
The Expository Times 2009 121: 70-73. [Abstract] [PDF] [Request Permission]
Dan O’Connor
Book Review: A History of Christianity in India: Robert Eric Frykenberg, Christianity in India: From Beginnings to the Present (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. £75.00. pp. xxi + 564 + 8 maps. ISBN 978—0—19—826377—7)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 74-75. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Alison Phipps
6th December: 2nd Advent: Fire and Soap (Malachi 3:1—20)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 76-78. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Jolyon Mitchell
Book Review: Robert Breeson — Film Director: Joseph Cunneen, Robert Bresson: A Spiritual Style in Film (New York and London: Continuum, 2003. £15.99. pp. 200. ISBN 0—8264—1605—5)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 78. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Viv Randles
13th December: 3rd Advent: Narrative Sermon: Zephaniah 3:14—20; Isaiah 12:2—6; Philippians 4:4—7; Luke 3:7—18
The Expository Times 2009 121: 79-80. [PDF] [Request Permission]
John Bollan
20th December: 4th Advent: Navel Gazing (Micah 5:2—5; Luke 1:46—55; Hebrews 10:5—10; Luke 1:39—45)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 81-82. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Allen Permar Smith
27th December: 1st Sunday after Christmas: Luke 2:41—52; Colossians 3:12—17
The Expository Times 2009 121: 83-84. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Paul Foster
Book Review: Collected Essays of Gilles Quispel: Johannes van Oort (ed.), Gnostica, Judaica, Catholica. Collected Essays of Gilles Quispel (NHMS 55; Leiden: Brill, 2008. {euro}195.00/$289.00. pp. xxv + 869. ISBN 978—90—04—13945—9)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 84. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Ruth H. Bell
Children’s Ministry in December
The Expository Times 2009 121: 85-87. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Chris Keith
Book Review: Bauckham On the Gospel of John: Richard Bauckham, The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple: Narrative, History, and Theology in the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007. $29.99. pp. 313. ISBN 978—0—8010— 3485—5)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 87. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Kate Tuckett
Prayers for December
The Expository Times 2009 121: 88-91. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Tomas Bokedal
Book Review: Divine and Human Agency Discussed Afresh: John M. G. Barclay and Simon Gathercole (eds), Divine and Human Agency in Paul and His Cultural Environment (London: T&T Clark — A Continuum imprint, 2008. £25.00. pp. 208. ISBN 978—0—567— 08443—9)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 92-93. [PDF] [Request Permission]
H.G.M. Williamson
Book Review: Sense About History: Hans M. Barstad, History and the Hebrew Bible: Studies in Ancient Israelite and Ancient Near Eastern Historiography (Forschungen zum Alten Testament 61; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. {euro}64.00. pp. xiv + 223. ISBN 978—3—161498—09—1)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 92. [PDF] [Request Permission]
David Firth
Book Review: The Old Testament and Social Justice: Walter J. Houston, Contending for Justice (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2008. £30.00. pp. 304. ISBN 0—5670—3354—3)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 93. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Petri Luomanen
Book Review: Jewish Legal Debates Reflected in the New Testament: Bernard S. Jackson, Essays on Halakhah in the New Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2008. {euro}109.00. pp. 264. ISBN 978—9004—16273—0)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 93-94. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Paul Ellingworth
Book Review: The Law in Hebrews: Barry C. Joslin, Hebrews, Christ and the Law: The Theology of the Mosaic Law in Hebrews 7:1—10:18 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2008. £29.99. pp. xix + 334. ISBN 1842275305)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 94. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Matthew Arbo
Book Review: Introduction to Simone Weil: Stephen Plant, The SPCK Introduction to Simone Weil (2nd edn; London: SPCK, 2007. £12.99. pp. 128. ISBN 978—0—2810—5938—6)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 94-95. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Jason Wardley
Book Review: Protocols Against Idolatry: Nicholas Lash, Theology for Pilgrims (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2008. £14.95. pp. xiv + 302. ISBN 978—0—232—52732—2)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 95. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Paul Foster
Book Review: Western Christianity in the High Middle Ages: Miri Rubin and Walter Simons (eds), Christianity in Western Europe c. 1100-c. 1500; The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 4 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. £100.00. pp. xv + 4 maps + 577. ISBN 978—0—521—81106—4)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 95-96. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Mark D. Chapman
Book Review: Charting the Trinity: Tarmo Toom, Classical Trinitarian Theology: A Textbook (New York and London: T&T Clark, 2007. £22.99. pp. 208. ISBN 978—0—5670—2699 —6)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 96. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Paul Foster
Book Review: Acts in the Paideia Series: Mickeal C. Parsons, Acts (Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008. $27.99. pp. xxv + 438. ISBN 978—0—8010—3188—5)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 96-97. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Joshua A. Kaiser
Book Review: A Strange and Peculiar People: Ben Pink Dandelion, The Quakers: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. £6.99. pp. 142. ISBN 978—0—19—920679—7)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 97. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Paul Foster
Book Review: Commentary on Acts: Darrell L. Bock, Acts (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007. $54.99. pp. xxi + 848. ISBN 978—0—8010—2668—3)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 97-98. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Brandon D. Crowe
Book Review: A Distinctive Introduction: Charles B. Puskas and David Crump, An Introduction to the Gospels and Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008. £11.00/$19.00. pp. xvii + 209. ISBN 978—0—8028—4557—3)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 98-99. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Timothy H. Lim
Book Review: Penitential Prayer After the Second Temple Period: Mark J. Boda, Daniel K. Falk and Rodney A. Werline (eds), Seeking the Favor of God. Volume 3, The Impact of Penitential Prayer beyond Second Temple Judaism (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2008. £22.99. pp. 306. ISBN 978—1—58983—389-0)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 99. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Michael D. Royster
Book Review: Media Literate Homiletics: Audrey Borschel, Preaching Prophetically When the News Disturbs: Interpreting the Media (St Louis, MO; Chalice Press, 2009. pp. 181. $15.99. ISBN 978—0—8272—3009—5)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 99-100. [PDF] [Request Permission]
David J. Bryan
Book Review: A ‘Makeover’ For Albert Eichhorn?: Albert Eichhorn, The Lord’s Supper in the New Testament. With an Introductory Essay by Hugo Gressmann, ‘Albert Eichhorn and the History of Religion School’ (Eng. trans. J. F. Cayzer; Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007. $14.95. pp 104, ISBN 978—1—58983—274—9)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 100. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Timothy H. Lim
Book Review: Second Temple Judaism: David Flusser, Judaism of the Second Temple Period. Volume 1. Qumran and Apocalypticism (Eng. trans. Azzan Yadin. Foreword by David Bivin; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007. £19.99. pp. 356. ISBN 978—0—8028—2469—1)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 100-101. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Ashley Cocksworth
Book Review: Transformation Theology: Paul D. Janz, The Command of Grace: A New Theological Apologetics (London: Continuum, 2009. £22.99. pp. 200. ISBN 978—0—567—03359—8)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 101. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Paul Foster
Book Review: A Major Commentary On First Corinthians: Joseph A. Fitzmyer, First Corinthians (AB 32; Yale: Yale University Press, 2008. £30.00. pp. xxv + 660. ISBN 978—0—300—14044—6)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 101-102. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Ralph W. Klein
Book Reviews: 1 Chronicles: John Jarick, 1 Chronicles, 2nd edn (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007. £15.00. pp. viii + 182. ISBN 978—1—905048—89—2)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 102. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Ralph W. Klein
Book Review: 2 Chronicles: John Jarick, 2 Chronicles, 2nd edn (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007. £15.00. pp. viii + 208. ISBN 978—1—905048—97—7)
The Expository Times 2009 121: 102-103. [PDF] [Request Permission]
Margaret Forrester
And Finally… A Lifetime of Remembering
The Expository Times 2009 121: 104. [PDF] [Request Permission]



Reflections on Cousar’s new Philippians/Philemon commentary

I am a pretty glass-is-half-full kind of guy, so I usually am able to spin a new book in a positive direction.  With this new commentary (WJK, 2009), I am having trouble coming up with reasons (or even a reason) why someone would buy it.

The first thing you will notice when picking it up is how thin it is – a slender 106 pages of text.  This is strange for a new commentary and a world that demands large technical and exhaustive resources.  What is more unusual is that last year WJK release Jerry Sumney’s commentary on Colossians (a short book than Philippians) which is over 3x longer than Cousar’s!  And Cousar’s also includes Philemon (though the actually commentary on Philemon is a mere 6 pages)!

As for the content of Cousar’s work, he focuses mostly on literary issues and standard exegetical questions.  As for interest and influences, he comes from a perspective appreciative of apocalyptic and cosmology, and when he does quote a scholar, he turns to Barth’s commentary on Philippians more often than anyone else.

What Cousar how been known for is a helpful theological discussion of the death and resurrection of Christ – thus, he has some interesting and useful things to say when you get to the Christ hymn in chapter 2 and also Phil. 3.9-10.

All things considered, I really don’t think this commentary will attract many readers.  It lacks length, depth, and the series doesn’t really have its own niche, so it is bound to just be ‘another commentary’ that a student consults for an exegesis paper.

If one is looking for a ‘short commentary’ for sermon prep or quick reference, I would prefer Gordon Fee’s shorter treatment in the IVP NT commentaries (the litle blue books).


‘Interested in NT PhD’? post just reached….

….8000 hits.  It is, of course, my most popular post (totalling about 35 pages or so).  For a couple I years I have toyed with the idea of expanding it into a book.  Now, I am quite close to closing the deal on getting it into print.

But – why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?  Well, I expect that the book will have three main parts – (1) getting into a phd program, (2) doing well on your dissertation and surviving your defense, and (3) preparing to be a scholar (publishing, book contracts, book reviews, networking, conference presentations, job interviews, etc…).

My PhD post covers primarily the first part of the projected book, but many students will find themselves in need for parts (2) and (3) if they listen to me on part (1)!  Also, I may trim down what I offer on that blog post -keeping bare minimum info, but encouraging readers to get the book.  Hopefully it can be reasonably priced.

So, I will keep you updated on whether I can make this work or not!  I hope so!

This Just In: My Thesis Will Be Published By…

My thesis will be published by Walter de Gruyter in their BZNW series.  I just got word yesterday!

This is very exciting, as they are very professional and come highly recommended.  Here were the main factors for me to consider in choosing a publisher: I wanted

1) A german publisher because, If I choose to apply for a German von Humboldt fellowship, they like it when candidates have gone with a German verlag.

2) a german publisher because they tend to require little or no corrections (other than typos) and require no limiting of pages (at this point, I want to move on to other projects rather than fine tune my thesis).

3) a nice-looking book.  While I like the content in, let’s say, Mohr Siebeck’s work, I think the WUNT II books are very austere and bland in appearance.  BZNW, though, is “handsome,” as one person remarked.

4) to do something a little different.  People go with WUNT and LNTS for a reason – quick, easy to work with, professional…But, I wanted not just to fade into the crowd.

5) a highly respected, international publisher – and WdG is good.


Dale Martin (Yale) – free itunes course: Introduction to New Testament

I have mentioned before that, as I have a very long commute to work, I have been scouring itunes for good (free) courses to listen to.  I did stumble across a great find!

Dale Martin (Yale University) is on itunes with his Introduction to New Testament History and Literature course which is comprised of 26 lectures, each one ranging from 45 minutes to 51 minutes.

He seems to do a good job of covering a number of NT books, though it does not seem like he hits all of them (though I could be wrong).  He does get into some history of reception stuff towards the end (such as “medieval interpretations), and the formation (and formalization) of the church.  When he discusses the gospels, he includes a lecture on the gospel of Thomas.  He also spends about 6-7 lectures on Paul.

I have learned some important things from Martin’s work in the past, though I am certainly critical of some parts of his thinking and work.  This does seem like an interesting course with more than your typical NT survey stuff – provocative, but probably very insightful at times.

Check it out on itunes by going to your itunes store page and in the search window (top right) type in “Dale Martin” and you should find it.  Happy listening!

New Book on the Spirit by John R. Levison

I just picked up John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit (Eerdmans, 2009), a book written by a real expert on the Spirit in early Judaism and early Christianity.  While I have not read the book yet, the argument he is attempting to make is quite paradigm-shifting:

The initial endowment of God’s spirit at birth must not…be understood as an inferior presence, a merely physical reality, in comparison with charismatic endowments, but rather in its own right as a vital and powerful presence with its own supernatural effects…

Gunkel was absolutely justified in identifying early Christian conceptions of the holy spirit with miraculous and mysterious effects. Early Christianity did believe that filling with the spirit was a special endowment, a superadditum, which brought extraordinary abilities in the swells of its powerful wake…

While early Christians put their stock, even their self-definition, on the line in a subsequent experience of the spirit, Israelites did not.  In their narratives, the spirit which effected extraordinary insight was not necessarily the product of a charismatic endowment…

What may be true of early Christian belief cannot be said to characterize all Israelite claims to inspiration, particularly those claims in which the spirit is said to reside within or to fill an individual.

Here is a line from Max Turner’s endorsement: ‘Anyone writing seriously on the spirit in the biblical literature needs now to start with this book…’ – Coming from a leading expert on biblical pneumatology — WOW!

Having looked at Levison’s discussion of NT texts a bit (especially Spirit + cultic imagery in Paul), I wish this book had come out a year earlier so I could have worked through it for the benefit of my doctoral research.

Do check it out HERE.