Book Review: The New Creation and the Storyline of Scripture

The New Creation and the Storyline of ScriptureThe New Creation and the Storyline of Scripture by Frank Thielman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Some good spots here and there but mostly suffers from a grasping over-realized eschatology with fabricated fulfillments that stops just short of full preterism.

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Book Review: The Future of Land in the Pauline Epistles

The Future Inheritance of Land in the Pauline EpistlesThe Future Inheritance of Land in the Pauline Epistles by Miguel G. Echevarria Jr.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are not many resources that deal particularly with this subject, and especially the New Testament aspect of it. The author is clear about that and interacts with what is available. Of necessity, some of the material he interacts with comes from commentaries on relevant passages, so those aren’t as robust as a long form treatment, like James Hester’s for instance. As he interacted with different scholars, he was clear where he agrees or disagrees with them and why. He managed to do so without being insulting or condescending, and without misrepresenting them. Echevarria has done some good work here.

There are a number of things he does well in this book that provides a needed correction to the classical Augustinian system. The book starts very strong as he works through the Old Testament, noting the shape and tangibility of inheritance promises beginning with Abraham. He demonstrates from the prophets and historical books how those promises have never been fulfilled or realized by Abraham’s descendants. This is a line he maintains through the end of the book and does a good job refuting the neoplatonist idea of an already/not yet inheritance that spiritualizes tangible and territorial promises to have some sort of fulfillment presently. He plainly and effectively argues that land promises have in no way or in no sense been fulfilled already and the fulfillment is entirely future. Here he breaks with the classical Augustinian typological interpretation that leads to understanding tangible, physical entities as somehow being fulfilled in immaterial, spiritual ways, but the break is not as clean as it might seem. In this, he is downstream from some of the new wave interpreters like Hoekema who moved away from spiritual fulfillment toward new creation, physical fulfillment.

Apart from a few wobbles, he rolled through the Old Testament nicely, but the wheels came off in the intertestamental pothole. Surprisingly, he adopted the erroneous New Perspective hermeneutic, and quoted liberally from the usual suspects of Wright, Dunn, and Sanders. Of course, N. T. Wright has also broken with the classical Augustinian system with his emphasis on physical new creation fulfillment, so this isn’t entirely surprising. The New Perspective uses the apocalyptic literature of second temple Judaism to reinterpret, recontextualize, reframe, transcend, transform, etc. the Old Testament. A lot of different terms are used for this maneuver, and many practitioners want to avoid words prefixed with “re.” A horse by any other name still can’t be made to drink the water, and despite the protests, this hermeneutic changes the original contextual meaning of prior revelation. I’m aware of the protests and all the nice sounding talk about greater fulfillment and such, but it’s the same difference.

Echevarria makes use of the second temple literature to expand the land of Canaan promised to Israel as Abraham’s descendants to include the whole earth, and then reads that back into the Old Testament to transform the original promise. He concludes, “the original promised land was never meant to be the place where God would reign permanently over Israel.” Once he reinterpreted the Old Testament by the Jewish literature, he proceeds through the rest of the book as if that is what the Old Testament meant. He uses the Jewish corpus to reinterpret the Old Testament before he ever gets to Paul’s letters, which is the target of his whole study. He takes non-Scripture writings and interprets the Scripture by them, so he effectively values these writings as progress of revelation. So the break with Augustinianism is not clean as he still ends up changing the original promise, though he holds a physical rather than spiritual fulfillment. He faults from start on Paul’s writings because he comes to Paul with a reinterpreted Old Testament and the presupposition that Paul uses the reinterpretation in his own writing, rather than the original contextual meaning.

This is getting longer than I intended, so let me end with a glaring neglect in this study. Echevarria argues for the expansion of the original land inheritance promise based on the apocalyptic Jewish writings of the second temple period. It’s undeniable that second temple Judaism envisioned the Jews inheriting not just Canaan, but the entire earth. That’s a key point for this study. However, second temple Jews did not envision an expanded or new Israel that’s mainly Gentiles that would inherit the entire earth. No, their vision of the future was decidedly Jewish. Echevarria gives no explicit explanation for this glaring inconsistency. On the one hand, he adopted their view that the original promise was expanded to include the entire earth, but on the other hand he doesn’t adopt their view that the inheritors were most definitely the ethnically Jewish people.

This book and study is valuable. I disagree with his conclusions, but especially his method of arriving at those conclusions. He has done a lot of good work in this book and it’s worth reading.

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Book Review: The Supremacy of God in Preaching

The Supremacy of God in PreachingThe Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This brief book is a good spur toward big God theology and preaching. The added material in the revised edition makes the book stronger.

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Book Review: The Design of the Psalter: A Macrostructural Analysis

The Design of the Psalter: A Macrostructural AnalysisThe Design of the Psalter: A Macrostructural Analysis by Peter C.W. Ho
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic study on the final Masoretic Psalter. Ho does a good job interacting with the extant scholarship on the arrangement of the Psalms and his view is within the realm of the canonical view over against the form-critical view. I find some benefits from the form-critical views of the Psalms, but it leads to isolating individual psalms and the strict liturgical/cultic reading of Psalms in the second temple sitz im leben ends up non-Messianic a lot of the time. On the more popular level, the result is the anemic view of Psalms as a hymnbook or devotional reading. The canonical view generally results in a more Messianic, theological, and eschatological reading of the Psalms.

The macrostructural aspects of Ho’s thesis is to view the Masoretic arrangement of the Psalms, with the superscriptions and selah’s, as more thematic in terms of theology and eschatology. He supports this thesis with analysis of individual psalms intertextually within different collections, i.e., Davidic, Korahite, and Asaphite collections, and the placement of those subgroups within the five books. Intertextual references and allusions along with structural elements such as alphabet acrostics, alphabet composition, and numeric nexus combine to support the arrangement of the psalms as a book, with flow, and beginning, middle, and end.

You don’t have to agree with all his conclusions to be benefited by his work. Ho obviously doesn’t think he’s written the final word in Psalm interpretation, and generally indicates some of his own guesswork, though informed guesswork, in the process. This is not the place to start on Psalms, though it is a place to see along the way. It may not be necessary to have read a lot of other Psalms scholarship, but I did find it helpful to have read many of the other works and authors he refers to in order to not hear only one side of the conversation. Also, this is a published version of the author’s PHD dissertation, so it reads academic, but I found it accessible and enjoyable.

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Book Review: Church Membership

Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents JesusChurch Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus by Jonathan Leeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall a good explanation of church membership.

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