Articles in TynBul 63.2 (November 2012)

Could God Have Commanded the Slaughter of the Canaanites?
Stephen N. Williams (Union Theological College, Belfast)

This article is a slightly revised version of the Tyndale Lecture in Christian Ethics, delivered in 2010. It deals not with the narrowly historical question of the slaughter of the Canaanites, but with the theological question of the possibility of God’s having commanded it. Its argument is that we should not conceive it as a possible divine command, unless we regard it as sorrowfully commanded, a commandment accommodated to conditions of human violence for which humans are responsible.

But Ruth Clung to Her: Textual Constraints on Ambiguity in Ruth 1:14
Scott N. Callaham (Houston, Texas)

Researchers commonly assert that deliberately ambiguous language in Ruth 3 kindles sexual tension in the depiction of Ruth’s nocturnal encounter with Boaz upon his threshing floor. Perhaps inspired by the literary artistry of the author of Ruth, some recent interpreters have also averred that an erotic undercurrent flows through words they deem intertextually suggestive and allusively ambiguous in Ruth 1:14 as the text reads, ‘but Ruth clung to her’. The present study critically examines this proposal in light of interrelated semantic, syntactic, and intertextual literary evidence.

‘And How Much Do You Owe …? Take Your Bill, Sit Down Quickly, and Write …’ (Luke 16:5-6)
Marulli (Adventist University of France, Collonges-sous-Salève)

The parable found in Luke 16:1-8a has very often puzzled Christian commentators. The history of its interpretation shows that only a few fathers accepted the challenge to interpret it (mostly allegorically).  Today we are all the more aware of the benefit of understanding the socio-economic backdrop of such an unsettling story.  This essay is an attempt to shed light on the meaning of the parable in the context of debt contracts and rates of interest in first-century Palestine. We shall start by a short description of the pyramidal social structure, the relational function of honour/shame values, and debt reduction dynamics in first-century Roman Palestine. The second part of this article will review some biblical, rabbinical and non-literary papyri sources on the topic of loans and debts in order to shed light on the practice of lending/borrowing money and goods, as well as some practical aspects referred to in the parable of the shrewd steward, such as the possible contractors, the rates of interest, the steward’s share, and the documents used in the context of ancient loans.

Grace Tasted Death for All: Thomas Aquinas on Hebrews 2:9
Lee Gatiss (Peterhouse, Cambridge)
p. 217

This article examines the biblical interpretation of Thomas Aquinas, which has until recently been relatively neglected amongst the many works of this leading medieval theologian. Looking particularly at ‘by the grace of God Christ tasted death for all’ (Hebrews 2:9), a key phrase which throws up several exegetical and theological puzzles, it concludes that Aquinas’s approach to it is a prime example of medieval commentating both at its best and its worst. It shows how his lack of knowledge of Greek led him astray, notes his neglect of textual criticism, and examines his reliance on tradition, especially the Hebrews commentary of Peter Lombard. It places his use of the theological formula ‘sufficient for all, efficacious for the elect alone’ when expounding the words ‘for all’ into historical context, surveying exegetical discussion of the extent of the atonement from Origen to Gottschalk to John Owen. Aquinas’s use of the scholastic ‘division of the text’ methodology to identify a melodic line centring on this verse’s theme of ‘grace’ within both Hebrews and Paul (the assumed author) is uncovered, along with other interpretative tactics and a reflective piety which jar against the presuppositions of modern academic biblical studies.

Heaven Opened: Intertextuality and Meaning in John 1:51
David R. Kirk (Highland Theological College)
p. 237

John 1:51 presents unique interpretational challenges at a theological level. In this study, the allusion to Jacob’s encounter with the LORD at Bethel is the point of departure for an approach which brings together this background with a consideration both of the title Son of Man, and the function of the verse within the gospel. A re-examination of the Bethel narrative casts doubt on the stairway being an image of communication. A Jesus-Jacob nexus arises from a natural reading of John 1:51, and is the interpretational key which unlocks the meaning of the verse. This nexus gives a representative emphasis to the gospel’s first Son of Man saying, and the theological connection to the patriarchal promises leads to a conclusion about the identity of the ‘greater things’ which are promised.

Foreignising Bible Translation: Retaining Foreign Origins when Rendering Scripture
Andy Cheung (King’s Evangelical Divinity School)
p. 257

This article considers the notion of foreignisation with respect to Bible translation, a concept originating with Schleiermacher but re-popularised in the 1990s by Lawrence Venuti. ‘Foreignising translation’ aims to relocate the reader in the world of the source text and attempts to make obvious the alien origins of the original text. It therefore differs from ‘domesticating translation’ which seeks to create a target text with expressions and style more in keeping with target readers’ receptor world conventions. Although foreignisation has long been established as a recognised translation strategy in ‘secular’ translation studies, it is less commonly considered with respect to Bible translation. This article discusses the benefits of foreignising translation in the task of rendering Scripture, albeit within a framework known among translation theorists as ‘skopos theory’, whereby multiple translation styles are permissible, depending on their usage and function in a target community.

Sitting on Two Asses?: Second Thoughts on the Two-Animal Interpretation of Matthew 21:7
Wayne Coppins (University of Georgia)
p. 275

The main thesis of this article is that the ‘two-animal’ interpretation of Matthew 21:7, according to which Matthew speaks of Jesus as sitting on two animals, can be shown to be more probable than the ‘multiple-garments’ interpretation, according to which Jesus is understood to be sitting on multiple garments on a single animal. Prior to my analysis of Matthew 21:7 I discuss the related question of why Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem involves two animals rather than one, arguing that the ‘history conformed to Scripture interpretation’ is more probable than the ‘Scripture conformed to history’ interpretation. Following it, I advance a more tentative interpretation of the surprising outcome of Matthew’s interaction with Scripture.

The Eschatological Interdependence of Jews and Gentiles in Galatians
John W. Taylor (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
p. 291

Agitators in Galatia insisted that law observance for Gentiles was essential, because the eschatological blessing promised to the heirs of Abraham is only to be found within Israel. But in three key passages (3:13-14; 3:25-26; 4:4-7), which are frequently misunderstood because pronominal shifts are set aside, Paul makes the blessing of Jews and Gentiles in Christ mutually interdependent, in a theological sense. Gentiles are blessed with the blessing of Abraham because Jews are set free by Christ from the curse of the law. Because the Gentiles are blessed, and have become sons of God, Jewish believers receive the Spirit. Thus Gentile inclusion in Christ is not subsidiary to Israel’s eschatological status, and does not require law observance.

Dissertation Summaries:         

My Psalm Has Turned into Weeping: The Dialogical Intertextuality of Allusions to the Psalms in Job
Will Kynes (University of Oxford)   
p. 317

The ‘bitter parody’ of Psalm 8:5 in Job 7:17-18 has long been recognised but its hermeneutical implications have not been fully explored. The repetition of the phrase ש$מה־אנו (‘What are human beings?’), the common structure of both passages, and the recurrence of the verb פקד set in a context which reverses its meaning, have led to a nearly unanimous consensus that Job is intentionally twisting the meaning of the psalm from a hymn of praise for God’s watchful care to a complaint against his overbearing attention. Rarely, however, has the question which naturally follows been pursued: if the author of Job interacted with Psalm 8 in such a knowing and sophisticated way, what other allusions to the Psalms may likewise make significant contributions to the dialogue between Job, his friends, and God?


Articles in TynBul 63.1 (May 2012)

The Definition of the Term 'Canon': Exclusive Or Multi-Dimensional?
Michael J. Kruger (Reformed Theological Seminary)

There has been an ongoing debate amongst biblical scholars about how to define the term 'canon'. In recent years, one particular definition­that canon can only be used to refer to books in a fixed, final, closed list­has emerged as the dominant one. Moreover, some scholars have argued that this is the only legitimate definition that can be used. This essay suggests that a single definition fails to capture the depth and breadth of canon and may end up bringing more distortion than clarification. Instead, the complexities of canon are best captured through using multiple definitions in a complementary and integrative manner.

Heptadic Verbal Patterns in the Solomon Narrative of 1 Kings 1–11
John A.Davies  (Presbyterian Theological Centre, Sydney)  

The narrative in 1 Kings 1–11 makes use of the literary device of sevenfold lists of items and sevenfold recurrences of Hebrew words and phrases. These heptadic patterns may contribute to the cohesion and sense of completeness of both the constituent pericopes and the narrative as a whole, enhancing the readerly experience. They may also serve to reinforce the creational symbolism of the Solomon narrative and in particular that of the description of the temple and its dedication.

'Certainly this Man was Righteous': Highlighting a Messianic Reading of the Centurion's Confession in Luke 23:47
Matthew C. Easter (University of Otago)

This essay expands on common readings of the centurion's confession of Jesus as dikaios ('righteous', 'innocent') in Luke 23:47. Many interpreters take the centurion's words in Luke as his recognition of Jesus' political innocence. While not denying a Lukan insistence on Jesus' innocence, this essay argues for a fuller reading of the centurion's words that accounts for the christological potential in his calling Jesus dikaios. Whether historically-speaking he knew it or not, this centurion in Luke's narrative world stands as one of the first people to recognise the crucified Jesus as the Christ.

The Manumission of Slaves in Jubilee and Sabbath Years
Michael A. Harbin (Taylor University, Upland IN)     
p. 53

Debt in the Old Testament economy was problematic, and our understanding of it is even more problematic, especially with respect to debt slavery. It is suggested that several common misunderstandings have contributed greatly to the problem. First, the Hebrew word 'ebed can be translated servant or slave and in the latter case it can denote both debt slave and chattel slave. In many cases there is a failure to make these distinctions. Second, there is a tendency to categorise all debt the same, regardless of the size. Third, a misunderstanding of the purpose of the jubilee has led to confusion regarding its role with respect to slavery and the manumission of slaves. Specifically, while the sabbath year guidelines included debt slavery, the jubilee by its nature did not involve slavery at all. Because the land 'sale' was really a land-lease, there was no debt involved, and the Israelite who 'sold' his land was not enslaved. It is then suggested that one option for the Israelite who 'bought' the land was to employ the 'seller' to work the land as a hired hand, which would explain the admonition that he was not be viewed as a slave.

Pistis Christou in Galatians: The Connection to Habakkuk 2:4
Debbie Hunn (Dallas Theological Seminary)   
p. 75

The coherence of Paul's argument in Galatians 2:15–3:14 depends upon strong links among the phrases. Therefore the reader who understands a single use of in the passage can correctly infer basic aspects of the others. Therefore ek pistews in Habakkuk 2:4, because it is cited in Galatians 3:11, informs the discussion about pistis Christou in Galatians 2:16, 20; and an Old Testament prophet speaks in a present-day controversy. Habakkuk, by using ek pistews to refer to the faith of Gentiles, testifies that pistis Christou in Galatians refers to human faith as well.

Early Christian Eschatological Experience in the Warnings and Exhortations of the Epistle to the Hebrews
Scott D. Mackie (Venice, CA) or (Venice, Calif.)
p. 93

This essay examines the characteristics and rhetorical function of the many eschatological experiences found in Hebrews' warnings against apostasy and exhortations to persevere. In these two contexts we see the vital connection of the author's hortatory effort to the community's eschatological experiences. Warnings of the dire consequences of forsaking the community are often substantiated by appeals to the community's eschatological experiences, both past and present. Similarly, exhortations to persevere are frequently supported by reminders of past and present supernatural experiences. The primary experiential motif found in these exhortations pertains to the community's identity as the family of God. This essay concludes with the novel claim that the author's Christological doctrine, hortatory effort, and the community's eschatological experiences are mutually interdependent.

The Affective Directives of the Book of Revelation
Andy Harker (Nairobi, Kenya)
p. 115

In contemporary study of the Johannine Apocalypse both at the academic and popular levels there continues to be a strong bias towards questions of hermeneutics and semantics. This is true despite the calls of many commentators and pastors over the last two millennia to receive the prophecy as pictures to move the heart rather than puzzles to tease the mind. This paper adds volume and clarity to their call. The approach here is an emic one­How does the text itself invite the recipient to engage with its words? Picking up on J.-P. Ruiz's suggestion that Revelation is punctuated by 'hermeneutical imperatives' (sc. Rev. 1:3; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9-10, 18; 17:9; 22:7, 18-19), this article argues that these texts are just as much, if not more, 'affective imperatives' or better 'affective directives'. Thus to read the book in line with its own explicit directions is much more a matter of being moved at the level of the heart and will than of solving a hermeneutical conundrum.

Back Under Authority: Towards an Evangelical Postcolonial Hermeneutic
Peter H. W. Lau (Seminari Theoloji Malaysia)
p. 131

A postcolonial approach is gaining acceptance by many scholars as a fruitful way of interpreting the Bible. Yet a postcolonial approach raises issues for those who hold a 'high' view of Scripture. Five issues will be demonstrated through an analysis of Mary Donaldson's reading of the book of Ruth, with the outcome being that the authority of Scripture is decentred. Nonetheless, a postcolonial approach can still be usefully adapted by those with a 'high' view of Scripture. This article will present an alternative postcolonial reading of the book of Ruth that uses biblical theology to help maintain the central authority of the biblical text.

Dissertation Summaries:         

Affirming the Resurrection of the Incarnate Christ: A Reading of 1 John
Matthew D. Jensen (Sydney, Australia)          
p. 145

It is often claimed that 1 John contains no references to Jesus'  resurrection. However, for this claim to hold, a possible allusion to the resurrection in the opening verse of 1 John needs to be denied. There are three reasons given to discard this allusion. First, under the influence of the historical reconstructions that dominate the interpretation of 1 John, the opening verses of 1 John are often understood to affirm the incarnation and not the resurrection. Second, the allusion to the resurrection is rejected because of the similarity between the prologues of the Gospel of John and 1 John. Since John 1:1-18 affirms the incarnation, so too must 1 John 1:1-4. Third, the allusion to the resurrection is dismissed due to the apparent lack of other references to the resurrection in 1 John. The thesis proposes that 1 John affirms the resurrection of the incarnate Christ in the context of an intra-Jewish disagreement over Jesus' identity. The thesis presents a reading of 1 John that flows from understanding the opening verses of the book to be affirming the resurrection of the incarnate Christ.

An Exploration of Early Christian Communities as 'Scholastic Communities'
Claire Smith (Sydney, Australia).
p. 149

In 1960, Edwin Judge described the early Christian communities as 'scholastic communities'. Since then, he has continued to explore this aspect of early Christian communities. However, while his pioneering work in this field has become a standard point of departure for the socio-historical study of the early Christian movement, his 'scholastic communities' description has received scant attention. By contrast, scholarship on the formation and social character of early Christian communities is dominated by the search for antecedents, influences, and analogies or models from antiquity, none of which adequately accounts for the Christian communities, or recognises the priority of educational activities reflected in Judge's characterisation. Moreover, the approach of these studies is problematic, because without a prior description of early Christian communities on their own terms, comparative approaches risk overlooking, distorting or misunder­standing aspects of early Christian communities that are not repeated in other social phenomena.

Lexical Dependence and Intertextual Allusion in the Septuagint of the Twelve Prophets: Studies in Hosea, Amos and Micah
Myrto Theocharous (Greek Bible College, Athens)
p. 153

As the Septuagint is becoming increasingly important in studies of Second Temple Judaism, the interest of scholars is shifting away from the mere use of the version as an adjunct to the textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. The process of sifting secondary readings in order to arrive at the 'pure' form of the Hebrew text has been the main preoccupation of textual critics for centuries. LXX readings were commonly retroverted into Hebrew in order to offer more pristine readings than have survived in the MT. Other ways of explaining deviations (e.g. translational factors, influence of late Hebrew/ Aramaic) were generally neglected and a different Hebrew Vorlage behind the LXX was commonly assumed. 

Text, Context and the Johannine Community: A Sociolinguistic Analysis of the Johannine Writings
David A. Lamb (University of Manchester)
p. 157

This thesis examines the social context of the Johannine writings from the perspective of sociolinguistic theory of register. In particular, it considers the validity of the Johannine Community model. The idea of a distinct Johannine community lying behind the production of the Gospel and Epistles of John has become, to use Thomas Kuhn's terminology, a paradigm within Johannine scholarship over the past fifty years. The key works in establishing this paradigm were the two large Anchor Bible commentaries on the gospel published by Raymond Brown in 1966 and 1970, and the slim volume published by J. Louis Martyn in 1968, History and Theology in the Fourth Gospel. Other scholars, from Wayne Meeks and his 1972 essay 'The Man from Heaven in Johannine Sectarianism' onwards, have used sociological insights to depict the Johannine community as a sectarian group, opposed both to wider Jewish society and to other Christian groups.