Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Jensen. God, Desire, and a Theology of Human Sexuality. 2013.

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Oct• 04•13

Jensen. God, DesireJensen, David Hadley. God, Desire, and a Theology of Human Sexuality. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2013.

Jensen’s work on human sexuality falls in to seven chapters as:
(1) Scripture and Sex: Narratives of Desire
(2) God and Sex: Holy Desire
(3) Christ and Sex: the resurrection of the body
(4) Eschatology and Sex: Making all Things New  (5) Lord’s Supper and Sex: A Sumptuous Banquet
(6) Vocation and sex: living in light of desire
(7 )Ethics and sex: flourishing desire
It is complete with index and bibliograpy. However, a book such as this which covers so much of biblical material should have a scripture index as well.
The author invites us to join him in his journey of exploring the the theme of human sexuality through the Bible and Christian traditions by the rather ‘puzzling’ opening statement: ‘Sex is an expression of Christian faith.’ Throughout the book we see an attempt to liberate the notion of sex from its traditional understanding and also to critique its distortions and misrepresentations in modern consumer culture. It is thus a double-edged sword wielded against the conservative Christian view of sex as well as against the distorted views of sex that the contemporary secular society promotes.
Certainly sex for the author is not just the act of making love but it is broader than that. It is this broader view of sex which has to do with desire, intimacy, etc. that allows him to see the theme of sex in the various aspects of Christian faith. He takes the Bible as a narrative of desire and maps the theme of desire throughout the Bible. In his exploration he disagrees with many popularly held Christian notions. For example, the author doesn’t agree with the popularly held notion that in the risen body the sexual attraction disappears though there will be sexual difference. He affirms that, ‘Sex in its ambiguity, is neither left behind in the resurrection nor consummated as the chief activity of heaven; rather it is redeemed in the risen body of Christ who gives us new life.’
He critiques the modern north-American consumer culture that promotes sex as being about possessiveness, that involves violence and deprived of real joy. He also takes in to account modern realities of life in shaping his views on sex. For example, his views on sex before marriage. The average age of marriage is now around thirty which is much higher than the medieval times where age of marriage and puberty was very close. The Christian doctrine of sex within marriage is framed against the background of this social reality. His new broader view of sexuality allows him to advocate sex before marriage, but consider sex outside marriage as dangerous because sex has to be celebrated within a framework of covenant.
Even though many may find it diffcult to accept all the views of the author, any reader will be highly impressed by the thorough research that has gone behind this work. This book on a  topic that is a taboo for many Christians is well articulated and engages anyone’s mind. The author’s engagements with ancient authorities on the topic is highly impressive.


Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Mar• 15•11

Barstad, Hans M.  A Brief Guide to the Hebrew Bible  (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010). ISBN: 978-0-664-23325-9.

This is a student-friendly introduction to the Old Testament and can be rightly hailed as ‘excellent primer.’ It is translated from the Norwegian original, Det gamle testamente. En innforung  (second edition which appeared in 2003). The author has an novel approach. A brief and simple introduction treats topics a student of the Old Testament need to know before entering into a detailed study. This section deals with topics like, the cultural history of the Bible, the academic study of the Bible, the OT and the NT, a description of the ANE, its culture and languages, canonization, transmission of the Hebrew Bible, Qumran and Biblical exegesis. Instead of presenting book by book, he introduces the theological traditions of the Old Testament and classifies the Pentateuch and Former Prophets according to “authorial groups.” So we have the tetrateuch introduced as the Priestly History and the books from Deuteronomy to Kings as the Deuteronomistic History. This is followed by an introduction of the Chronicler’s works. Two chapters offers a survey of the prophetic literature and the poetic traditions. The books of Jonah, Ruth and Esther are considered as novellas in the last chapter. The Introductions to the Hebrew Bible have been bulky since they deal with individual books separately. These book-by-book treatment is at the cost of userfriendliness. However, Barstad’s Introduction is concise and introduces the students to the corpora of the literature than to individual books. This helps the students to have a grasp of the theologies and movements that shaped the Hebrew Bible. This certainly helps in their appreciation of the individual books and their themes later in their study.