The Latest Biblical Studies books from Continuum

I just got the new Continuum catalogue in the post and I found some very interesting new titles.

An Introduction to the Study of Wisdom Literature (Stuart Weeks) – I took a course on the LXX with Dr. Weeks and he is absolutely brilliant.  He knows ancient Near Eastern literature better than anyone I know.

Ecological Hermeneutics (DG. Horrell et al).  This is a project that has been in the works for many years on biblical, historical and theological perspectives on ‘ecological’ hermeneutics.  Should be the best thing out there right now in this field.

The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed (Helen Bond).  Helen studied at Durham with Jimmy Dunn and has been teaching at Edinburgh for a while now.  She is really excellent at historical backgrounds of the Gospels and is the perfect person to write this piece.  I am thinking about getting a copy of this myself…

Paul: A Guide for the Perplexed (Timothy G. Gombis)

The Minor Prophets in the New Testament (S. Moyise and M.J.J. Menken, eds.) This continues the series which includes Isaiah and Psalms in the NT.

Who is this son of man?: The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus (LW Hurtado and P. Owen, eds.)

The Audience of the Gospels (E.W. Klink III, ed.) This is an update of Bauckham’s edited book on this topic.

Jesus and Paul: Global Perspectives in Honor of James D.G. Dunn (B.J. Oropeza, C.K. Robertson, D.C. Mohrmann, eds.)  This is Dunn’s second FS, but not his last one!

Paul and the Gospel of Thomas (Part VI)

Briefly recapping the last post, I argued that Gos. Thom. 17 has a number of secondary features. Among the elements that suggest the Thomas logion emerged later than 1 Cor 2:9 are Thomas’s inclusion of ‘hand’, alongside eye, ear, and heart, and the attribution of this saying to Jesus. First, Paul’s version of the proverb refers to the eye not seeing, the ear not hearing, and the heart not conceiving. Thomas’s version appears to add a reference to what the hand has not touched. This change would provide a fourfold structure and contribute to a greater sense of literary parallelism. Conversely, it would be difficult to explain why Paul would have omitted the phrase.

Second, as with the vast majority of its 114 sayings, the Gospel of Thomas attributes this saying to Jesus. It is also difficult to imagine Paul, who at times expends great energy in differentiating between his own words and those of the Lord (cf. e.g., 1 Cor 7) altering a received tradition where Jesus was thought to be responsible for the saying. On the other hand, since nearly all of Thomas’s sayings begin with ‘Jesus said’, it is not a stretch to imagine that Thomas transformed a received tradition into a saying of Jesus to fit the content and structure of other Thomas sayings. In addition, most of the later versions of the proverb preserve it as a saying of the Lord, while Paul does not. This is to say nothing of the fact that attributing the saying to Jesus would invest it with greater authority than it would otherwise wield in the diverse world of early Christianity.

In the case of Gos. Thom. 3 we argued for Pauline priority, in part, on the basis of Paul’s use of Deuteronomic themes and language. We can mount a similar argument here by appealing to Paul’s extensive use of the Isaian tradition. Paul cites from Isaiah 28 times, more than any other OT book, and his reasons for choosing Isaiah are clear. Hays comments that

Isaiah offers the clearest expression in the Old Testament of a universalistic, eschatological vision in which the restoration of Israel in Zion is accompanied by an ingathering of Gentiles to worship the Lord; that is why this book is statistically and substantively the most important scriptural source for Paul (p.162).

In Isaiah, Paul finds support for his major theological concepts, not the least of which is his understanding of the eschatological inclusion of Jews and Gentiles in God’s plan of universal redemption. While several logia in the Gospel of Thomas show some familiarity with traditions influenced by Isaiah, (cf. logia 13, 111) little if anything can be said for Thomas’s direct or independent knowledge of Isaiah.

As was the case with our consideration of Rom 10:5-8 and Gos. Thom. 3, we must consider which scenario is more likely and more problematic. Given the similar uses of the proverb by Paul and Thomas, it is much easier to account for the changes in Gos. Thom. 17 if we assert Pauline priority than vice versa. Though the saying consists of original material from Isaiah, it is also possible that this particular form of the proverb originated with Paul, who consistently shows himself to be a sophisticated and creative interpreter of OT traditions (Gathercole argues that it came to Paul from a pre-existing tradition, p. 88-89). Even if that judgment turns out to be incorrect and the proverb does come to Paul from some pre-existing tradition, he was no doubt drawn to this proverb because of his affinity for the theology of Isaiah. In addition to this, it is clear that both Thomas and Paul use the proverb in ways that are similar to one another but different from other existing versions. There is more than enough evidence to conclude that those responsible for the composition of Thomas knew and used 1 Cor 2:9. It is not necessary to suggest that the logion in question was altered through oral tradition because both versions share such strong similarities, but we will remain open to the suggestion that the logion came to Thomas orally. Thus, Gos. Thom. 17 also shows evidence of having directly used a Pauline text.

In our next post we will look at the most obvious Paul-Thomas parallel, Rom 2:25-29 and Gos. Thom. 53.

Terrell’s PAUL’S PARALLELS (Review: Part I)

Paul’s Parallels: An Echoes Synopsis (Continuum, 2009), by P.E. Terrell, is a massive reference resource of nearly 1000 pages.  What is it?  It is a series of tables that place every Pauline pericope alongside “like-minded” texts that either influenced Paul’s thoughts or simply stand within the same thought-world (esp. Jewish texts) and show thematic resonances.

I will try to do a few  posts on this resource, but I can offer some quick thoughts.  Firstly, this is not the first resource of this kind, but it is certainly the most thorough attempt.  When a Pauline text is placed within an OT context, sometimes Terrell lists out several chapters of, e.g., Leviticus or Exodus.  This is useful as you are given a large amount of OT context and also it keeps you from having to look it up in another Bible.

Secondly, each pericope is titled to give you a sense for the nature of the “parallel” – as in “bear burdens of others” (1 Cor 9.21; Matthew 5.3-6; Gal. 6.2; Isaiah 53.4; Jer. 31.32).

Thirdly, and perhaps most surprising of all, the whole text of Acts kicks off the book and echoed parallels are given esp. with a view towards the life and ministry of Paul.  This information is certainly novel and not previously worked through by other similar reference books.

More to come, but I can see this will be a very handy tool for researchers.  My first thoughts are that I could probably find some of these parallels within the Pauline corpus using Bibleworks and word/phrase searches.  Where Terrell’s work shines is, for example, parallels to the Gospels where there is an overlap of ideas, but not of terms (things you can’t account for in Bibleworks).

Wait for part II….

Paul and the Gospel of Thomas (Part V)

The second Paul-Thomas parallel I want to look at is Gos. Thom. 17 and 1 Cor 2:9:

Gos. Thom. 17

1 Cor 2:9

Jesus said, ‘I will give you what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart.’ But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’


The similarities between 1 Cor 2:9 and Gos. Thom. 17 are evident right away though questions about the sharing of tradition prove difficult to answer. To begin with, the proverb appears to draw upon elements of Isa 52:15, 64:3-4, and/or 65:16, though no part of the saying represents a direct quotation of any OT passage. This was no doubt an important proverb in the early church as different versions appear in 1 Cor 2:9, Gos. Thom. 17, 1 Clem 34:8, 2 Clem 11:7, Dial Sav 57, Acts Thom 36, Acts Pet 39, Protrepticus 10.94.4 (an exhortation of Clement of Alexandria to the Greeks), and the Turfan Fragment M 789. Similarities are also present in 1 John 1:1, though the context and situation addressed by the Johannine epistles may suggest its independence from the tradition shared by these other texts. The widespread appeal of this proverb makes tracing its transmission history a complex endeavor.

If we exclude 1 John 1:1, it is clear that Thomas and Paul represent the two earliest extant versions of this proverb. Therefore the first question to explore is, which version preceded the other? Scholars are split on this question. April DeConick includes Gos. Thom. 17 in her list of earliest Thomas sayings, arguing that it reflects the eschatological views of the earliest Thomasine Christians (see Recovering, 97, 113, 118, 129). Stephen Patterson, who also regards logion 17 as pre-Pauline, offers the following unqualified assertion about Paul:

[I]n 1 Corinthians 2 he uses the wisdom style of these opponents to compose his own ‘wisdom speech’ (2:6-16), only to correct their views with a few well-placed Pauline twists. Interestingly, in the midst of this speech Paul quotes a saying from the Gospel of Thomas. . . .The version of the saying quoted here by Paul is not paralleled word-for-word in Thomas, but reflects the sort of differences one would expect to have resulted from oral transmission (from “Paul and the Jesus Tradition,” Harvard Theological Review 84 [1991] 36-37).

Thinking along the lines of those who argue that the communities of John and Thomas were embroiled in a theological conflict, Plisch suggests that Thomas may have altered the saying in response to 1 John 1:1, which would mean that Thomas’s version is later than Paul’s. Gathercole argues that Gos. Thom. 17 has a number of secondary features, indicating it emerged later than Paul’s version. There seem to be as many opinions on this parallel as there are scholars who take a position.

Several features of Gos. Thom. 17 suggest that it is later than 1 Cor 2:9. First, Thomas includes a reference to “what no hand has touched.” This does not appear in the Pauline version and would seem to be an ‘improvement’ as it provides greater parallelism in the saying. Second, Thomas’s attribution of this saying to Jesus is surely to be regarded as secondary. Most later versions of the proverb preserve it as a saying of the Lord where Paul does not. All of this would suggest Paul’s version is earlier.

It appears that the Thomas logion emerged later than Paul’s version of the proverb, but demonstrating that it is earlier than Paul is not the same as demonstrating its dependence upon Paul. In our next post we will ask the question, “Is there any compelling evidence that Gos. Thom. 17 used 1 Cor 2:9?

Patrick Miller’s THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (Review)

Confession: I have not read this massive book (400+ pp.) cover-to-cover.  However, I have read several chapters and the book is so patterened that you get a sense of its quality right away.  I must conclude, at this point, that this book is a real treasure-chest of insight and plumbs the depths of the theology of the Decalogue while also offering plenty of examples and reflections perfect for sermon-preparation.  This is the first book in a new series of the Interpretation from WJK and it has certainly whet my appetite for the further books on The Lord’s Prayer (C. Clifton Black), Prophecy (Ellen Davis), Eschatology (Bruce Fisk), Sermon on the Mount (A.K. Grieb), The Apostle’s Creed (R.W. Jenson), Miracles (Luke T. Johnson), and an Introduction to Christian Scripture (R.W.L. Moberly).  Wow!

OK, back to Miller (WJK, 2009).  The book works, basically, through each commandment chapter-by-chapter, but the first chapter considers commandments 1-2 (following the protestant tradition) together.  In each chapter, Miller explores the Pentateuchal context of the commandment and offers a basic meaning.  He is quick to point out, though, that it is rarely clear exactly how to understand the commandment in and of itself.  There is a constant filling out of their meanings and intentions as one progresses through Scripture and sees how God’s people deal with such matters alongside God’s verbal and physical responses.

Thus, after the initial defining, he traces the themes of that commandment through the rest of the OT and then also into the NT.  One thing I appreciated about what Miller emphasized was that the Decalogue is not just a bunch of commands that precede the rest of the law.  They present the ideals of what God wants for his covenantal people.  They are not meant to be taken in a legal sense, but more of as a vision (here he would find much agreement with John Goldingay).  The rest of Scripture is a working out of what it means to obey and live according to these “WORDS.”  When it comes to murder, for instance, the ideal is not “Don’t murder.”  Rather, God is showing the kind of person that his people are NOT.  It is as much about identity than it is about actions.  That is why it should not be so confusing that “the ten commandments” are not all commands, but a variety of prohibitions and commands with various forms of expression and not attempting to be universal, but exemplary.  They are comprehensive in the sense that they cover all the major aspects of life (and covetousness is the catch-all, isn’t it!).  I think it is appropriate to compare this approach to the Decalogue to Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 1.6-11 where he lists a series of evil-types (thieves, greedy, revilers, etc…) and claims that they will not inherit the kingdom: ‘And that is what some of you used to be.  But you were…made holy…’ (1 Cor. 6.11).  Similarly, the God of Israel shows his people who they are not, and who they are.

But this kind of insight led Miller to point out something important.  We think of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount often as an intensification of the morality of Torah – don’t even lust, don’t even become angry.  I can see now, through Miller’s well-articulated NT sections, that Jesus was not pushing Torah beyond its own vision of identity and morality.  He was simply helping his audience to see what Torah envisioned all along.  Just focusing on not murdering or not stealing was never what the Decalogue was about.  But it is human nature to create a line and toe it.  Jesus, like any good prophet, was shocking his audience out of their apathy and legalism, helping them to recognize that they should (and eventually though the Spirit could) obey the fullness of the commandments.  The Jewish people were not special because of their morality.  Their morality flowed from their proximity to a holy God who was one.

Well, I could go on about Miller’s fine work, but I think I will leave it to a few insights I picked up.

-When it comes to the commandment about having no other gods (Exod 20:3), Miller considers that this is not just about monotheism as a doctrine, but about allegiance and loyalty.  For the positive side of commitment and what it means, he points to Ps. 46:1-2: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.’  This is a helpful reminder, because I think we often tick this box and say, “OK, I don’t worship other gods of Hinduism or Islam, so I am covered.”  But, this is about all of life and how we make our choices about who to trust.

– no images.  This could be no images of foreign gods or no images of Israel’s God.  If it is the latter, it is about several issues.  One is that it could be seen as an attempt to control and domesticate God: ‘The Lord chooses the manner of divine revelation and appearance’ (p. 50).  Israel’s God, rather, is less of an ‘image’ God than a WORD God (p. 52) -‘the word of God is how the Lord is revealed and present’.  Miller also points out an important economic dimension – often gods are made of gold and silver.  This can be seen as a waste or a flaunting of riches, ‘icons of excessive wealth’ (p. 56).  I had never thought of this, but it is reasonable and also applies to us today and how we spend our money (even on expensive church equipment and buildings, sometimes for the sake of showing off).

If I don’t end up doing another post on this, let me conclude with this: Miller is a highly respected OT scholar, but he has done something very significant here for the church and it should be read and digested by ministers, leaders of all kinds, teachers, and anyone wanting to understand better the God of the Bible and what he wants for our lives.  Order it for your library!

ESV Study Bible (Review)

Growing up, I had the NIV Study Bible for church.  I never knew there were any other study Bibles and mine served me well for many years.  Now I am in a position where I will be teaching an introduction to the Bible and, because good whole-Bible textbooks are difficult to come by, I have leaning towards working from a good study Bible.

The new ESV Study Bible from Crossway shows great promise.  It is very large (almost 3000 pages) and has received a lot of praise since its release.  Here are some factors I consider and how the ESVSB ranks: scholars, book introductions, book notes, book charts/excurses, back matter, and maps.


There are a good number of recognized scholars involved in this Bible’s book material including Desmond Alexander (Genesis) John Currid (with N. Kiuchi and Jay Sklar, Leviticus), Gordon Wenham (Numbers), Iain Provan (1-2 Samuel), Gordon McConville (Ezra, Nehemiah), C. John Collins (Psalms), David Reimer (Ezekiel), David W. Baker (Zepheniah), Gordon Hugenberger (Malachi), Michael Wilkins (Matthew), Frank Thielman (1 Corinthians), Scott Hafemann (2 Corinthians), Simon Gathercole (Galatians), Sean McDonough (Philippians), Clinton Arnold (Colossians), Colin Nicholl (1-2 Thessalonians), Grant Osborne (James), and more.

There is a decent amount of diversity represented here (within Evangelicalism), but I noticed virtually no Methodist scholars and mostly Reformed and Baptist folk.


The book introductions (to each Biblical book) are very important, as this orients the book to the reader who may know very little or nothing about the content and how to make sense of it.  What would you say in a few pages to aid the reader in understanding?  Here, the ESVSB doesn’t skimp and I appreciate that.  For example, with Genesis, Alexander gives a one-page discussion on author and date (quite conservative on these issues).  Another two pages address Genesis in the Pentateuch and also the arrangement of the book (two charts are given, one on the ‘generations’ motif and another on the genealogies).  A short paragraph covers the themes of the book and more attention is given to ‘key themes’.

A full page treats ‘History of Salvation Summary’, while the next page works through ‘Genesis and History’.  The remainder of the intro deals with ‘Genesis and Science’, ‘Reading Genesis in the 21st Century’, and there is a map and book outline on the last couple of pages.  This is certainly the most extensive intro I have seen in a study Bible!

Not all of the intros are as detailed.  Genesis’s is 10 pages; Numbers (8pp.);  1 Samuel (6pp.); Matthew (5pp.); Acts (7pp.); 2 Corinthians (4pp.); Revelation (10pp.).  Though there is some variation, as you can see, overall we see 6-8 pp. with charts and maps.


The actual bottom-of-page study notes are nothing spectacular, but trustworthy (from an evangelical theology) and useful for lay-readers.  They deal with all the main issues and often there are charts that explain things further and supplement the notes.  The notes are overall more conservative than I would want, but I am probably not the ideal reader of the study Bible.


As I just mentioned, this book is littered with helpful charts and excurses.  The charts sometimes deal with structural issues, parallels between books, timelines, etc… I think that it is this sort of teaching material that sets the ESVSB apart from its competitors.


In the back, you will find a host of helpful essays: overviews of Biblical doctrine and ethics, hermeneutical advice, how to read ‘theologically’, the canon, reliability-of-Bible issues, NT use of OT, reception of the Bible, History-of-Salvation info, etc…

There is also a selective concordance and a Bible reading plan.

These book supplements are very useful for classroom use and will make the ESVSB more attractive for church Bible studies and sunday school material.


I like visuals in any book, and for Bible study maps are so crucial – especially readable, colorful maps.  There are a number of explanatory maps scattered throughout the study notes (from the ‘Boundaries of the Promised Land’ to ‘Solomon’s Administrative Districts’ to ‘The Empires of Daniel’s Visions’ to the path of ‘Jesus’ Arrest, Trial, and Crucifixion’).


I rate the scholarship a “B,” recognizing some real A+ scholarship, but a lot of B and C scholarship as well.  I get a bit frustrated when study notes tend to focus on apologetic issues (defending historicity and such) rather than on the meaning, theology, and/or application of the text.  What we teach Christians by this is that we read the Bible to defend it.  That leads to historicity and ‘authenticity’ obsessions and, while such issues are important, they can become idols that distract us from really engaging with God.  What I want is a theological study Bible (for my students).  For apologetics, I will send my students to Tremper Longman and Craig Blomberg’s books.  I want the study Bibles to sparkle with theological gems.  Alas, I know that a study Bible should do both because people want an all-in-one resource.  Well, as far as it goes, the ESVSB does alright.

When it comes to Teaching and Learning materials I give it an “A.”  They have worked hard to offer stunning visuals and plenty of contextualizing information.

In the end, I probably won’t require this as my classroom study Bible, in part because I prefer the NRSV translation.  However, I am sure I will turn to the tables and charts in the study Bible for teaching material.