This work argues that the heart of patristic exegesis is the attempt to find the sacramental reality (real presence) of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. Leading theologian Hans Boersma discusses numerous sermons and commentaries of the church fathers to show how they regarded Christ as the treasure hidden in the field of the Old Testament and explains that the church today can and should retrieve the sacramental reading of the early church. Combining detailed scholarly insight with clear, compelling prose, this book makes a unique contribution to contemporary interest in theological interpretation.
What is the relationship between divine and human agency in the interpretation of Scripture? Differing schools of thought often fail to address this key question, overemphasizing or ignoring one or the other. When the divine inspiration of Scripture is overemphasized, the varied roles of human authors tend to become muted in our approach the text. Conversely, when we think of the Bible almost entirely in terms of its human authorship, Scripture’s character as the word of God tends to play little role in our theological reasoning. The tendency is to choose either an academic or a spiritual approach to interpretation.
In Rendering the Word in Theological Hermeneutics, Mark Bowald asserts that this is a false dichotomy. We need not emphasize the human qualities of Scripture to the detriment of the divine, nor the other way around. We must rather approach Scripture as equally human and divine in origin and character, and we must read it with both critical rigor and openness to the leading of God’s Spirit now and in the historic life of the church.
From this perspective, Bowald also offers a fruitful analysis of the hermeneutical methods of George Lindbeck, Hans Frei, Kevin Vanhoozer, Francis Watson, Stephen Fowl, David Kelsey, Werner Jeanrond, Karl Barth, James K.A. Smith, and Nicholas Wolterstorff.
The latest issue of the Journal of Faith and the Academyis kindly carrying my article “Figuring Things Out: Lyrical Resourcement for Figural Readings of Biblical Literature in the Contemporary Academy.” The “lyrical” element in the essay is an attempt to think through some of how Nicholas of Lyra might provide a helpful rubric for understanding and pursuing responsibly figural readings of biblical literature within a contemporary, confessional academic context.
Connections can read this essay via my LinkedIn page under “Publications.”
Sadly, the Paideia Centre for Public Theology is winding down. The Scripture and Hermeneutics and Scripture and Doctrine Seminars will, however, be continuing. Much of the Centre’s other work will also be taken up under the auspices of St. George’s Anglican Church.
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 Matt 4:5–7; Luke 4:9–12, Jesus cites Deut 6:16 in response to his temptation at the temple. The full text there runs “you shall not test Yahweh, your God, as you tested him at Massah” (Deut 6:16; לא תנסו את־יהוה אלהיכם כאשר נסיתם במסה) and refers to Israel’s grumbling about their lack of water in Exod 17:1–7. In this narrative, Exodus reports that Moses “ called the name of the place ‘Massah’ and ‘Meribah’ on account of the dispute of the sons of Israel and of their testing Yahweh, saying, ‘Is Yahweh in our midst or not?’” (Exod 17:7; ויקרא שם המקום מסה ומריבה על־ריב בני ישראל ועל נסתם את־יהוה לאמר היש יהוה בקרבנו אם־אין; cf. Num 20:2–13). Although this interpretation is Exodus’s own, Exodus does not directly narrate the people’s posing this question (Exod 17:1–6). Instead, they demand water from Moses and inquire whether lacking it indicates that they have been brought into the wilderness to die of thirst (Exod 17:2–3). Thus, the pericope’s interpretive conclusion seems to represent the recorded speech as tantamount to having asked the question “Is Yahweh in our midst or not?” (Exod 17:7; היש יהוה בקרבנו אם־אין).
When Jesus quotes Deut 6:16 to the devil, he quotes only the first part of the text about the inappropriateness of testing God and omits the direct reference to Massah (Matt 4:7; Luke 4:12). Yet, the connection with Massah apparently helps make Deut 6:16 an apt retort to the temptation in which the devil has taken Jesus to “the pinnacle of the temple” (Matt 4:5; Luke 4:9; τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ). Once there, the devil urges Jesus to jump and trust Yahweh’s angels to catch him, in the words of Ps 91:11–12, “lest you should strike your foot on a stone” (Matt 4:6; Luke 4:11; μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου).
Yahweh “will [indeed] command his angels” (τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται), and they will indeed minister to Jesus (Matt 4:7, 11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:10). Yet, Yahweh is himself one who does touch foot to stone: when Israel was at Massah, Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb” (Exod 17:6; הנני עמד לפניך שם על־הצור בחרב).
Thus, even as Jesus enacts what should have been Israel’s proper response of trusting Yahweh, so he also enacts Yahweh’s faithful care over his people. In Ps 91:4, somewhat earlier than the devil’s quotation, the psalmist says Yahweh “will cover you with his pinion, and under his wings you will seek refuge” (באברתו יסך לך ותחת־כנפיו תחסה). In one respect, though much differently than the devil now suggests, Jesus is the properly trusting recipient of his Father’s care (Matt 4:6, 11; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:11). In another, Jesus is the hen that would gather her chicks to protect them—even at the cost of his own life—if they would but come under his “wings” (Matt 23:29–39; Luke 13:31–35; πτέρυγες).
 Perhaps also in the background of this interchange is an exegetical tradition about Massah like that represented in Tg. Ps.-J. Exod 17:6: “Behold, I will stand before you there at the place where you saw the mark of the foot on the rock at Horeb” (Kaufman, Pseudo-Jonathan; האנא קאים קדמך תמן באתרא דתיחמי רושם ריגלא על טינרא בחורב). Thus, on the targumist’s reading, “the foot” (ריגלא) had apparently come into contact with “the rock at Horeb” (טינרא בחורב) with sufficient force to leave a “mark” (רושם).
In 1 Sam 15:3, Samuel commands Saul, the son of Kish, “Go, and strike Amalek, and devote to destruction everything that is his. Do not take pity on him, but kill man and woman, child and infant, ox and lamb, camel and donkey” (לך והכיתה את־עמלק והחרמתם את־כל־אשר־לו ולא תחמל עליו והמתה מאיש עד־אשה מעלל ועד־יונק משור ועד־שה מגמל ועד־חמור). Unfortunately, Saul’s subsequent engagement with the Amalekites heeded only Samuel’s order to “go and strike Amalek” (לך והכיתה את־עמלק). Saul “did devote to destruction” (החרים) the Amalekite people but captured alive Agag, the king. Indeed, “Saul and the people had pity on Agag and on the best of the flock and the herd and their choice offspring, on the lambs, and on everything good, and they did not accept devoting them to destruction, but every despised and weak thing they devoted to destruction” (ויחמל שאול והעם על־אגג ועל־מיטב הצאן והבקר והמשנים ועל־הכרים ועל־כל־הטוב ולא אבו החרימם וכל־המלאכה נמבזה ונמס אתה החרימו). Thus, Saul becomes the object of Samuel’s ire and forfeits the continuation of his kingdom.
The task of Agag’s execution then fell to Samuel to perform. Yet, not even in this case was the army’s previously defective destruction of the Amalekites completed. Rather, the people found themselves continuing to reap the fruits of this disobedience when “King Ahasuerus exalted Haman, son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, and he lifted him up, and he set him on his throne over all the officials who were with him” (גדל המלך אחשורוש את־המן בן־המדתא האגגי וינשאהו וישם את־כסאו מעל כל־השרים אשר אתו). Here too there was a descendant of Kish—Mordecai, by name—to oppose the Agagite. Yet, in this case, the son of Kish does not fail to fulfill his charge thoroughly.
After Esther exposes Haman’s plot to Ahasuerus, the king has Haman executed and commissions Mordecai to write as he pleases in behalf of the Jews defense on the still fixed day of destruction Haman had arranged. Mordecai’s decree against the Jews’ attackers is similarly thorough to Haman’s against the Jews, permitting the Jews “to destroy and to kill and to exterminate any force of a people or province that oppressed them—small children and women—and to plunder their goods” (להשמיד ולהרג ולאבד את־כל־חיל עם ומדינה הצרים אתם טף ונשים ושללם לבוז). Carrying out Mordecai’s decree in the king’s name on Adar 13–14, the Jews decisively defeat those who assault them. In contrast with the decree’s permission “to plunder” (לבוז), however, the mt three times directly denies that the Jews engaged in plunder. This avoidance of plunder is consistent both in Susa itself and “in the king’s provinces” (במדינות המלך). This consistency suggests that Mordecai’s message, circulated both in Susa and in the provinces, lies behind the Jews’ practice in this regard. Hence, the various activities prescribed in Esth 8:11b would be subordinate to Mordecai’s primary instructions for the Jews “to assemble and to make a stand for their lives” (להקהל ולעמד על־נפשם). Because the Jews successfully repelled their attackers, there was no defensive value in the activity of plunder.
In its three-fold affirmation that the Jews avoided plunder, the mt draws still a further contrast between Mordecai and Saul, who had found occasion to engage in plunder contrary to Samuel’s command. Even so does the final “savior and constant benefactor” (σωτὴρ καὶ διὰ παντὸς εὐεργέτης) obtain vindication for himself and his people over those who stand against them. Nor yet does he himself even gather plunder but rather consistently commends “godliness with contentment” (ἡ εὐσέβεια μετὰ αὐταρκείας).
Esth 9:10, 15–16; Jobes, “Esther 1,” 165; Phillips, “Mordecai,” 480. The Greek versions, by contrast, tend to agree with the mt in the latter two cases (Esth 9:15–16) and to describe the Jews as engaging in plunder in the first instance (Esth 9:10). The Lucianic recension appears to recount a consistent engagement in plundering, and 108 suggests plundering at least in Esth 9:16. The Hexaplaric tradition omits any reference to plundering in Esth 9:16, whether affirmative or negative, and agrees with the mt in portraying the Jews as refraining from plunder in Esth 9:10, 15 (Hanhart et al., Septuaginta). For discussion of Esther’s Greek versions, see Jobes, “Esther 5.”