One of the Oswalt quotes noted last week demonstrates how unbelief can distort a scholar’s understanding of Scripture.
It is hard to understand how those who can assert that the theological function of this passage [Isa 36-37 / 2 Kings 18-19] is to claim that God acts in history can then assert with equal force that God did not act in this event (cf. Clements). If they do so to demonstrate that biblical theology is self-discredited, that is one thing. But to speak of the worth of the theology while denying its evidence is very odd indeed.
Oswalt, Isaiah, NICOT, 1:638, n.21
Other examples of this abound if one looks for them. Here are a few others.
In commenting on Ezekiel’s charge as a watchman, Zimmerli, Ezekiel, 2.185, speaks of ‘the complete irrationality of the divine activity.’ He refers to God’s first commissioning a foe against his people and then sending a watchman to warn them. ‘Such is the divine logic!’ says Zimmerli. This bold exclamation minimizes the justice of God in bringing judgment on the persistently wicked, the mercy of God in not taking pleasure in the death of the wicked (33:11), and the full responsibility of every human being for his own actions.
Robertson, Christ of the Prophets, 295, n. 30
Or note the contrast between the critical and evangelical commentators on Ecclesiastes 2:26:
Qohelet’s positive counsel rests under a cloud. The ability to enjoy life is not in anyone’s power, coming as a gift from God.
Crenshaw, Ecclesiastes, OTL, 89
The final verdict of ‘vanity’ refers to the arbitrary (from the human standpoint) action of God who does as he pleases.
Murphy, Ecclesiastes, WBC, 26-27
This verse does not present God as capricious but does relate to the biblical idea of the grace of God. To believe that one’s life is ruled by impersonal fate is intolerable; to believe that one’s life is controlled by a personal God is a comfort.
Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, NAC, 296
All these commentators are looking at the same data, but the evangelical sees God’s grace whereas the liberals see a capricious god.
The court of the Tabernacle was open to Jewish worshippers bringing their sacrifices. Again God’s presence with his people is highlighted. There is an area set aside where Israelites could gather before the dwelling place of God on earth to worship him.
The court also indicated the distance of God. The court was a fenced off area. Gentiles were not permitted. The wall of the courtyard thus symbolized a “dividing wall of hostility” made up of “the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” (Eph. 2:14-15).
Once again, the Tabernacle was blessed symbol of God’s presence, but it was also a reminder of the further progress that was needed to reconcile man to God.
The Zondervan catalog also says that they will release a revised ZPEB in 2009.
And another interesting offering from Zondervan [catalog, p. 48]
Three prominent scholars — Darrell L. Bock, Walter C. Kaiser, and Peter Enns — detail their positions on how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament, a topic of significant interest today. This includes substantial discussion of instances where the New Testament authors discern the fulfillment of a prophetic element in the Old Testament text. The book also incorporates questions about the nature of fulfillment and typology as aspects of this seminal issue.
Here’s another interesting offering from Zondervan [catalog, p. 40]
The Biblical Theology of the New Testament (BTNT) series aims at providing textbooks in the areas of New Testament theology, interpretation, and exegesis at the highest level of academic excellence. A multivolume work, its eight volumes will cover the entire New Testament and include Matthean, Markan, Lukan, Johannine, and Pauline theologies as well as works on the theology of Hebrews;
Peter, Jude, and James; and the Book of Revelation. Each volume is written by a recognized expert in the field who has written one or several major commentaries or monographs on the subject. This exciting new series is designed both for use in the classroom and seeks to make a significant contribution to the burgeoning field of biblical studies.
The theology of Matthew—Michael J. Wilkins
The theology of Mark—David E. Garland
The theology of Luke & Acts—Darrell L. Bock
The theology of John—Andreas J. Köstenberger
The theology of Paul—Douglas J. Moo
The theology of Hebrews—George H. Guthrie
The theology of Peter, James, and Jude—Thomas R. Schreiner
The theology of Revelation—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Alan S. Bandy
Oswalt’s commentary on Isaiah is masterful. Furthermore, not only is Oswalt helpful in elucidating the text, he is also unafraid to challenge unbelieving scholarship.
On Isaiah 36:20
It is hard to understand how those who can assert that the theological function of this passage is to claim that God acts in history can then assert with equal force that God did not act in this event (cf. Clements). If they do so to demonstrate that biblical theology is self-discredited, that is one thing. But to speak of the worth of the theology while denying its evidence is very odd indeed. [1:638, n. 21]
On Isaiah 42:20
The change from second person to third in the middle of the verse has been troublesome to translators since the time of the LXX . . . But none of these stratagems seems necessary given the well-documented tendencies for this kind of shift in Hebrew writing. [2:131-32]
On Isaiah 45:18ff.
These verses show a rather profound understanding of paganism. Because paganism refuses to admit of a God who stands outside the cosmos, it must posit that the beginning of all things was matter in chaos. Out of this chaos the gods emerged. The ordering of the chaos was something of an afterthought on the part of the gods to protect themselves from the ever-present danger of its reemergence. Humans are even more of an afterthought, created primarily to take care of the gods. Since the gods have no commitment to and accept no responsibility for humans, they have no interest in communicating with them. If humans wish to divine the future, they must resort to mediums, wizards, and necromancers (cf. 8:19). To all of this Isaiah says a resounding no! Chaos did not exist before God, and God did not bring a meaningless chaos into existence. Rather, the preexistent God created the cosmos specifically for human habitation. [2:218]
On Isaiah 49:6
Some modern translations (e.g., NRSV [ESV, NASB]) render the final phrase of the verse as ‘that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’ While this is not impossible, it is not the obvious sense of the grammar. The plain sense is: ‘I appointed you . . . to be my salvation to the ends of the earth.’ The former translation obscures the point that the Servant is not merely to be the means of God’s salvation coming to the world, he is to be that salvation. All the versions confirm this understanding.” [2:294]
Here’s another forthcoming work form Zondervan that looks good:
The Bible among Other Myths
Unique Revelation or Just Ancient Literature?
John N. Oswalt
Sixty years ago, biblical scholars typically maintained that Israel’s religion was unique, that it stood in marked contrast to the faiths of its ancient Near Eastern neighbors. But nowadays it is widely affirmed that Israelite religion mirrors that of other West Semitic societies. What accounts for this radical change, and what are its implications for our understanding of the Old Testament?
Dr. John N. Oswalt says theological and philosophical convictions account for this new attitude among scholars, rather than a revision to the data itself. Its roots lie in the Western world’s increasing hostility to the idea of revelation. Revelation, which presupposes a reality that transcends the world of the senses, is objectionable to people because it assumes the existence of a realm over which they have no control.
Oswalt makes a detailed comparison of the Old Testament and the other ancient Near Eastern religions. While not advocating a “the Bible says it, and I believe it, and that settles it” point of view, he asserts convincingly that the Bible’s historical claims cannot be disassociated from its theological claims.
This thought provoking book supplies a necessary corrective to rejecting the Old Testament’s testimony about a transcendent God who breaks into time and space and reveals himself in and through human activity. Instructors will find it to be an ideal supplemental textbook for courses covering the Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern backgrounds.
[see 2008 catalog, p. 16]
Once of the more interesting features the description of the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [see p. 6-7 of the catalog].
“This generation has been blessed with an abundance of excellent
commentaries. The key question to ask is, what are you looking for in
a commentary? This commentary series might be for you if
• you have taken Greek and would like a commentary that would
help you apply what you have learned without assuming you are
a well-trained scholar;
• you would find it useful to see a concise, one- or two- sentence
statement of what the commentator thinks the main point of
each passage is;
• you would like help interpreting the words of Scripture without
getting bogged down in scholarly issues that seem irrelevant to
the life of the church;
• you would like to see a visual representation (a graphical display)
of the flow of thought in each passage;
• you would like expert guidance from solid Evangelical scholars
who set out to explain the meaning of the original text in the
clearest way possible and to help you navigate through the main
• you want to benefit from the results of the latest and best scholarly
studies and historical information that helps to illuminate
the meaning of the text;
• you would find it useful to see a brief summary of the key theological
insights that can be gleaned from each passage and some
discussion of the relevance of these for Christians today.”
Key Features and Distinctives
• A graphical display of each passage enables the reader to grasp quickly and accurately the main idea of the
text, its development, and supporting ideas.
• “Theology in Application” section follows the commentary proper and reflects on the overall theological
message of the passage and its function in the biblical book and biblical theology as a whole. Further, discussion
of how the passage should be understood and applied in the church today is also included.
• Identification and discussion of the main idea of each passage occurs in the graphical display, the introduction
to the passage, and the “Theology in Application” section. Few commentaries do this consistently.
• Responsible interaction with the Greek text ensures that the commentary remains understandable to pastors,
teachers, and students.
• Scholarly, yet accessible. Though certainly familiar with the best scholarly literature on their book, contributors
only present the most important findings when appropriate for their church-serving readers.
List of ZECNT Volumes
Matthew—Grant R. Osborne
Mark—Mark L. Strauss
Luke—David E. Garland
John—I . Howard Marshall
Acts—Eckhard J. Schnabel
1 Corinthians—Paul Gardner
2 Corinthians—Bruce W. Winter
Galatians—Thomas R. Schreiner
Ephesians—Clinton E. Arnold
Philippians—George H. Guthrie
Colossians & Philemon—David W. Pao
1 & 2 Thessalonians—Gary S. Shogren
1 &2 Timothy and Titus—Gregory K. Beale
Hebrews—Douglas J. Moo
James—Craig L. Blomberg & Mariam J. Kamell
1 Peter—Michael J. Wilkins
2 Peter & Jude—Robert W. Yarbrough
1–3 John—Karen H. Jobes
Revelation—Buist M. Fanning II
Based on the author several of these look to be worth getting. Schreiner on Galatians (along with proposed commentaries by Carson [PNTC] and Moo [BECNT]) should be good. I’ve liked most everything I’ve read by Theilman so far. Moo on Hebews is also exciting. And Fanning on Revelation means a new dispensationalist treatment of that book (does anyone know if he is Traditional or Progressive?).
R. Scott Clark of Westminster California is editing a new series that will put into print, often through new translations, the writings of the Reformed Orthodox. This is exciting news for those interested in historical theology and/or Reformed theology.
For Clark’s introduction to the series, see here.