As I mentioned earlier, the current issue of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (60.2) contains Henry Kelly’s essay on “Love of Neighbor as Great Commandment in the Time of Jesus: Grasping at Straws in the Hebrew Scriptures” (265–81). According to the abstract,
One’s “neighbor,” generously interpreted to include everyone else in the world, even personal and impersonal enemies, looms large in the NT, especially in the form of the second great commandment, and in various expressions of the Golden Rule. The NT also contains expansive claims that neighbors have a similar importance in the OT. The main basis that commentators cite for these claims is a half-verse in the middle of Leviticus (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” 19:18b), as fully justifying these claims, supported by other isolated verses, notably, Exod 23:45, on rescuing the ass of one’s enemy. Relying on these verses has the appearance of grasping at straws in order to justify the words of Jesus, but it seems clear that in the time of Jesus they had indeed been searched out and elevated to new significance. John Meier has recently argued that it was Jesus himself who gave the Levitical neighbor his high standing, but because the Gospels present the notion as already known, this article suggests that it had achieved a consensus status by this time.
For JETS subscribers, the essay doesn’t currently seem to appear on the current issue’s webpage, but doubtless that absence will be remedied at some point in the near future.
In this article I posit the presence of an early Jewish exegesis of Lev 19:17–18 preserved in the Tannaitic midrash known as Sifra, which is inverted and amplified in Did. 1:3–5, Q 6:27–35, Luke 6:27–35, and Matt 5:38–44. Identifying shared terminology and a sequence of themes in these passages, I argue that these commonalities testify to the existence of a shared exegetical tradition. By analyzing the later rabbinic material I delineate the contours of this Second Temple period interpretation and augment our understanding of the construction of these early Christian pericopae. In commenting on Lev 19:17, Sifra articulates three permissible modes of rebuke: cursing, hitting, and slapping. In its gloss on the subsequent verse, Sifra exemplifies the biblical injunction against vengeance and bearing a grudge through the case of lending and borrowing from one’s neighbor. The Didache, Matthew, and Luke invert the first interpretation by presenting Jesus as recommending a passive response to being cursed or slapped, and they amplify the second interpretation by commanding one to give and lend freely to all who ask. The similar juxtaposition of these two ideas and the shared terminology between Sifra and these New Testament period texts suggest a common source. By reading these early Christian sources in light of this later rabbinic work I advance our understanding of the formation of these well-known passages and illustrate the advantages of cautiously employing rabbinic material for reading earlier Christian works.
Part one outlines the essential messages of six major New Testament books—Hebrews, Colossians, Matthew, John, Mark, and Revelation. Part two examines six key New Testament themes—resurrection, rebirth, temptation, hell, heaven, and new life—and considers their significance for the lives of present-day disciples.
Through June 11, the Westminster Bookstore is offering a free PDF download of Iain Duguid’s Is Jesus in the Old Testament? (P&R, 2013). Duguid has been at Grove City College but has recently joined the Westminster Seminary faculty. According to its introduction, Duguid’s essay (the text is a brief 33 pages of prose) has the following major components to its argument:
[T]his little booklet contends that Christ is present throughout the Old Testament. . . . I also want to explore what it means to rightly see Christ in the Old Testament. Not every attempt to discern the figure of Jesus in the Old Testament has been profitable. Some well-meaning interpreters have allowed their imaginations to run wild on this theme . . . . Finally, I want to look at some specific ways in which the Old Testament focuses on and prepares us to see and understand Christ and his ministry in the gospel. (6)
For more information, to order the print version, or to download the PDF ebook, please visit the Westminster Bookstore.
In sum, “Expanding on the work in which he has been fruitfully engaged for over a quarter century, Witherington challenges the previously assured results of historical criticism and demonstrates chapter by chapter how the socio-rhetorical study shifts the paradigm.” The volume discusses concerns related to orality and canon, and includes several chapters treating particular texts or phrases within the New Testament.
that we need to recover the sense in which the Gospels are testimony. This does not mean that they are testimony rather than history. It means that the kind of historiography they are is testimony. An irreducible feature of testimony as a form of human utterance is that it asks to be trusted. This does not mean that it asks to be trusted uncritically, but it does mean that testimony should not be treated as credible only to the extent that it can be independently verified. There can be good reasons for trusting or distrusting a witness, but these are precisely reasons for trusting or distrusting. Trusting testimony is not an irrational act of faith that leaves critical rationality aside; it is, on the contrary, the rationally appropriate way of responding to authentic testimony. . . . It is true that a powerful trend in the modern development of critical historical philosophy and method finds trusting testimony a stumbling-block in the way of the historian’s autonomous access to truth that she or he can verify independently. But it is also a rather neglected fact that all history, like all knowledge, relies on testimony. (5; italics original)
Thus, it is perhaps not without irony that we find ourselves still under the sway of a certain kind(s) of testimony even when we seek most to avoid or to exercise our independence from testimony of some other kind(s) (cf. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 354; Lewis, “Meditation in a Toolshed,” 215).