Daily Gleanings: Scripture (30 October 2019)

Joseph Gordon discusses his Divine Scripture in Human Understanding (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019) in an interview with Matthew Bates.

One of Joe’s constant encouragements in the discussion is to consider what it might properly mean to say x, y, or z about Scripture or the realities to which it speaks.

For the full interview, see OnScript.

Daily Gleanings: Resurrection (13 September 2019)

Forthcoming from Baker Academic in February 2020 is Brandon Crowe’s Hope of Israel: The Resurrection of Christ in the Acts of the Apostles. According to the publisher, the volume

highlights the sustained focus in Acts on the resurrection of Christ, bringing clarity to the theology of Acts and its purpose. Brandon Crowe explores the historical, theological, and canonical implications of Jesus’s resurrection in early Christianity and helps readers more clearly understand the purpose of Acts in the context of the New Testament canon. He also shows how the resurrection is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures.

The first half of the book demonstrates the centrality of the resurrection in Acts. The second half teases out its implications in more detail, including how the resurrection is the turning point of redemptive history, how it relates to early Christian readings of the Old Testament, and how the resurrection emphasis of Acts coheres in the New Testament canon. This first major book-length study on the theological significance of Jesus’s resurrection in Acts will appeal to professors, students, and scholars of the New Testament.

Daily Gleanings: Free Books (12 August 2019)

This month, Logos is giving away Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum’s God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2015). The related titles on deep discount are:

  • James Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2010).
  • Gerald Bray, God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Crossway, 2012).

For more information and to order, see Logos’s website.


This month, Verbum is giving away the Berit Olam series volume on 2 Samuel by Craig Morrison (Liturgical, 2013). The related titles on deep discount are the volumes on Genesis, Psalms, and 1 Samuel.

For more information and to order, see Verbum’s website.

Daily Gleanings: Recent Publications (18 July 2019)

In the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 62.2, Eckhard Schnabel discusses “Biblical Theology from a New Testament Perspective” (225–49). According to the abstract,

The history of writing comprehensive treatments of Old Testament theology, New Testament theology, and biblical theology shows that some authors pursue a historical reconstruction of theological traditions and proclamation, some authors present a systematic interpretation of content and themes, and some authors offer a combination of both. The outline and content of an Old Testament theology, a New Testament theology, or a biblical theology will be influenced by the personal interests of the author, by the intended readers, and, more mundanely, by word counts stipulated by publishers. At the same time, it can be argued that the character of God’s revelation as well as the character of the biblical writings themselves demand that the unity of the biblical message is explained in the context of the diversity and contingency of the biblical writings. The variegated theological truth of Scripture is best explained in the context of the historical realities of its authors and writings, taking into account relevant literary features, and paradigmatically spelling out the significance of the biblical texts for modern readers.

For the full essay, see JETS.


In what may sadly be his next-to-last post, Larry Hurtado discusses Craig Keener’s commentary on Galatians, commenting in part,

At xlvii + 848 pages, it is likely the largest commentary on this epistle.… The size of the commentary is not given over to blather.  In addition to the unhurried discussion of the text, as characteristic of Keener’s commentaries, this one too is full of references to primary texts (both early Christian sources and a wide panoply of others), and to a huge body of scholarly publications.

For further discussion, see Hurtado’s original post.

The Problem with Doctrines as Freestanding Assertions

Doctrine needs to be an answer to a question that arises and presses for an answer.1 Where it fails to do so, it begins to address freestanding problems and loses connection with its own life context.2

The Trouble with Doctrine as Freestanding Assertion

Belief is “inextricably embodied in patterns of habit, commitment, and action, which constitute endorsement, ‘backing,’ or ‘surroundings’” for that belief.3

So, the trouble with doctrine as an address to freestanding problems is that the doctrine disconnects from this larger life context.4

And in fact, losing connection with this life context runs the perilous risk of falsifying precisely this same belief.

In his Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer gives an excellent example of how this danger may play out.5

An Example: Pecca fortiter

From his own tradition, Bonhoeffer cites Martin Luther’s dictum Pecca fortiter, sed forties fide et gaude in Christo. That is, “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still” (55). According to Bonhoeffer, in interpreting this maxim, “everything depends on applying the distinction between the data and the answer to the sum” (56).

Pecca fortiter as a Freestanding Maxim

As Bonhoeffer points out, the difficulties with this statement become obvious if we leave off Luther’s “backing” or “surroundings” for it and take it as a “premiss” or a freestanding maxim.

Doing so makes the statement mean something like

You are a sinner … and there is nothing you can do about it. Whether you are a monk or a man of the world, a religious man or a bad one, you can never escape the toils of the world or from sin. So put a bold face on it, and all the more because you can rely on the opus operatum of [or, “work performed by”] grace. (55–56)

Loosed from its moorings in Luther’s thought and piety pecca fortiter, therefore, “conjur[es] up the spectre of cheap grace” (56).

Thus Bonhoeffer comments,

Taken as a premiss, pecca fortiter acquires the character of an ethical principle, a principle of grace to which the principle of pecca fortiter must correspond. (56)

As a freestanding maxim, pecca fortiter advocates “cheap grace” because it makes itself out as an ethical statement. It does not respond to a question that has arisen. Instead it projects from itself the question “What should a follower of Jesus do?”

But, Bonhoeffer observes, this “means justification of sin, and it turns Luther’s formula into its very opposite” (56).

Pecca fortiter as a Response to a Question

On the other hand, pecca fortiter can be a response to a question that has already arisen and that demands an answer. It can and “is meant to be taken, not as the premiss, but as the conclusion, the answer to the sum, the coping-stone, his very last word on the subject” (56).

Pecca fortiter is not a premise but a conclusion. And as such, it is “backed,” “surrounded,” and contextualized by the life context that gives rise to pecca fortiter and demands it as an answer.

What is this life context? And how does it lead pecca fortiter away from being an ethical principle?

“For Luther,” Bonhoeffer comments,

“sin boldly” could only be his very last refuge, the consolation for one whose attempts to follow Christ had taught him that he can never become sinless …. Take courage and confess your sin, says Luther, do not try to run away from it, but believe more boldly still. You are a sinner … and become a sinner … every day, but be bold about it. But to whom can such words be addressed, except to those who from the bottom of their hearts make a daily renunciation of sin and of every barrier which hinders them from following Christ, but who nevertheless are troubled by their daily faithlessness and sin? Who can hear these words without endangering his faith but he who hears their consolation as a renewed summons to follow Christ? (56–57)

Bonhoeffer asserts that this can happen only when pecca fortiter is backed up and surrounded by this commitment at the exhausted end of grace- and joy-filled striving in discipleship. Only then is pecca fortiter a statement not of license but of comfort, joy, and renewed summons in that same task.

Conclusion

Such dynamics are, of course, not unique to early 20th-century German Lutheranism. Our collective memory of why, how, and in what contexts particular doctrines matter can all too quickly become sadly amnesic.

But at the same time, simply being aware of the potential for problems along these lines can help us start looking for better ways to connect doctrines to their proper life contexts.


  1. Header image by the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute

  2. Anthony Thiselton, Hermeneutics of Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 38–39. 

  3. Thiselton, Hermeneutics of Doctrine, 20; see also 28–29. 

  4. Thiselton, Hermeneutics of Doctrine, 3–18, 38–39. 

  5. Here, I’m quoting and citing from the 1963 edition by Macmillan

Daily Gleanings: New Titles from SBL Press (9 July 2019)

New from SBL Press is Marvin Sweeney, ed., Theology of the Hebrew Bible, Volume 1: Methodological Studies. According to the publisher,

This volume presents a collection of studies on the methodology for conceiving the theological interpretation of the Hebrew Bible among Jews and Christians as well as the treatment of key issues, such as creation, the land of Israel, divine absence, and others.


Also new from SBL Press is Marianne Grohmann and Hyun Chul Paul Kim, eds., Second Wave Intertextuality and the Hebrew Bible. According to the publisher, the

essays from a diverse group of scholars offer new approaches to biblical intertextuality that examine the relationship between the Hebrew Bible, art, literature, sociology, and postcolonialism. Eight essays in part 1 cover inner-biblical intertextuality, including studies of Genesis, Judges, and Qoheleth, among others. The eight postbiblical intertextuality essays in part 2 explore Bakhtinian and dialogical approaches, intertextuality in the Dead Sea Scrolls, canonical critisicm, reception history, and #BlackLivesMatter. These essays on various genres and portions of the Hebrew Bible showcase how, why, and what intertextuality has been and present possible potential directions for future research and application.