ACADEMIA

Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Sarisky. Reading the Bible Theologically, 2019

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Apr• 06•20

Sarisky, Darren. Reading the Bible Theologically. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019.

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This book is yet another contribution to the discussion on how to read the Bible. It deals with the question if it is valid for the reader to bring their own theological framework to their reading or not?

The readers will certainly benefit from the detailed treatment of the contrary views of scholars presented here: between those who argue for a neutral, purely objective reading of the Bible and those who argue for a theological reading of the Bible. The book is trying to answer the crucial question of whether the readers should distance their faith from their reading of the Bible or not.

The author has clarified that the God-belief he talks about is Trinitarian, the Trinity that reveals itself to the humans through the text. On the outset, he also clarifies that the theological reading that he proposes is different from what most scholars hold. In his own words: ‘What this book does is to suggest that theological reading can be conceived differently than it usually is, as an interpretive response that inevitably results from thinking theologically about the reader and the text, thus challenging readers to reconsider their self-conception, their view of Scripture, and how both impinge on interpretation’ (p. 4).

One of the many valuable contributions of this book is the thorough survey of the ‘Literature on the Nature of Theological Interpretation’ (pp.16-26), a great treat for the student and the scholar as well.

He finds support for his view in the writings of Saint Augustine whom he considers as a model for the Hermeneutics of Restoration. He has attempted to convince the readers that the ‘theological reading’ he proposes is not an Eisegesis, but it is still bringing the meaning from the text rather than reading into it. He also discusses Descartes and Spinoza in building up his arguments.

The book is highly technical enough to intimidate novices and students, but experts on the subject will find it as a treat!

 

Yong. Dialogical Spirit, 2014

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jun• 17•15
Yong, Amos. The Dialogical Spirit: Christian Reason and Theological Method in the Third Millennium. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2014. ISBN: 9781625645647; pages: 336.

978157625645647

In response to the post-foundationalist turn, the author is suggesting ‘shifting foundations,’ that, while acknowledging the plurality of ‘starting points’ within the dialogical spectrum, he claims that, it will further justify the ‘particularity’ of faith articulations to ascertain ‘universal applicability.’ He turns to Donald L. Gelpi’s use Charles Sanders Pierce’s triadic pragmatism and Richard Rorty’s interpretations – sans his agnostic outlook–to overcome the binary limitation of foundationalism and relativism that makes it possible for him to articulate a Pentecostal-Charismatic faith and practice, within the shifting foundations. He goes on to engage McClendon and Veli-Matti Karkkainen and Radical Orthodoxy to show the fecund possibility of intra-Christian and interfaith dialogues from a robust ‘international’ Pentecostal theological framework, in the post-Christendom context. Within the post-secular milieu, the author engages the Tibetan Buddhist interlocutors and John Polkinghorne to suggest a viable, dialogically driven, Trinitarian theological methodology with a pneumatological thrust.

The final chapter grapples with the postmodern challenges and the burden on Christian theologians to approach pervading religious pluralism and obligatory interfaith encounters. He evaluates the dual-religious affiliation of Francis Clooney and further clarifies it through Andre Drooger’s ‘methodoloical ludism’ which enables human beings to assume an alternative identity while suspending another aspect of identity and also at times to engage both simultaneously. He claims that such ‘ludic stance’ would make possible for a a pneumatological theological method, facilitating dialogue partners across all religious, socio-cultural and political boundaries.

Overall the book is a highly stimulating reading as it attacks the factors that attempts to shrink ‘faith spaces’ and suggests relevant alternatives, all the while staying true to the ‘orthodoxy and orthopraxy’ of one’s faith articulations. The pertinent questions that the author has grappled with will stay on, and hence an engagement with these are a prerequisite for any serious theologian. This book will definitely help in that venture.

— David Muthukumar, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India.

Hamilton Jr. What Is Biblical Theology? (2014)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Nov• 18•13

Hamilton Jr., James M. What Is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism, and Patterns

9781433537714Hamilton proposes a new method of doing biblical theology. In his opinion most of the biblical theologies that are written enforces a modern, rationalist world-view on the bible which mutes the biblical authors. The conservative scholars, those who stand for the unity and coherence of the Bible also used the tools and methods use by those whom they oppose. Both are wrong because they failed to see the world-view of the biblical authors.

In his opinion, biblical theology is done by sharing the world-view of the biblical authors and by trying to understand the scripture in that perspective.

The author’s convictions are deeply rooted in the divine inspiration of the Bible. This leads him to argue that the biblical authors share the same world-view. In other words, there is only one world-view that is shared by all the authors, though they lived in different places, different times and addressed different issues. That is the bible’s one story.

His treatment of biblical theology follows a three-fold pattern. To quote, “The rest of it falls into three parts: the first sets out the Bible’s story, the second looks at the way the biblical authors use symbols to summarize and interpret that story, and the third considers the part the church plays in that story. So the three parts of the books can be put in to three words: story, symbol, and church.

This book is innovative in its approach to biblical theology. Its attempt to navigate a third way between the “liberal” and the so called “conservative” biblical theologians let in a lot of fresh air. However, the assumption that all the biblical authors share one world-view ignores the multiple voices (sometime even contradictory but certainly complementary) that we find in the Bible. Moreover, though this method very well can accommodate the narrative sections, the poetry of the Bible and especially the wisdom tradition seems to fall out of its scope.

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.

Anderson. CONTOURS OF OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY (1999)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 11•08

Anderson, Bernhard W. Contours of Old Testament Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999 pages ix, 357

In the first section titled “Preliminary Considerations” Anderson discusses issues like the place of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible, and the relative independence of the Old Testament. He then does a thorough survey of the problems in writing theology of the Old Testament by examining the contributions made by main figures in the field. This survey begins with Gabler and winds it way through the works of Hoffman, Terrein, Eichrodt, von Rad, and the most recent, Brueggemann. The conclusion of this survey is that we are in a period of uncertainty in biblical theology scholarship. He cashes on this uncertainty because it is the opportune time for experimenting in this area.

In the first section titled “Preliminary Considerations” Anderson discusses issues like the place of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible, and the relative independence of the Old Testament. He then does a thorough survey of the problems in writing theology of the Old Testament by examining the contributions made by main figures in the field. This survey begins with Gabler and winds it way through the works of Hoffman, Terrein, Eichrodt, von Rad, and the most recent, Brueggemann. The conclusion of this survey is that we are in a period of uncertainty in biblical theology scholarship. He cashes on this uncertainty because it is the opportune time for experimenting in this area.

He then offers his own “experimental Approach” to the Old Testament theology. This experimental approach involves, synthesis (an emphasis on the final canonical form), which he think is the shift this discipline has taken in the last thirty years. He acknowledges his indebtedness to the Canonical Approach of B. S. Childs as his concern is the final shape of the canon. However, he also wants to acknowledge the diversity of Old Testament material. He considers that the Torah is the centre of the Old Testament canon and he builds his theology with God of Torah, the Holy One of Israel as the starting point. However, he want to avoid the mistake of the previous generations of scholars who tried to squeeze everything to a central theme, but allows for diversity. He also wants to avoid extreme literalism and extreme historicism since the Old Testament is world construed by poetic imagination. He thus takes clue from the covenant patterns of symbolization in the Old Testament. His methodology also pays attention to the continuity and discontinuity between the two testaments.

In Part I, he discusses, Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. This includes discussions on how Israel experienced the Holy, the Name of God, the Characterization of Yahweh, Yahweh and other Gods and finally the People of God. Part II elaborates on Yahweh’s covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David. Part III is on the crisis of the covenant theologies. He then discusses two lines of development in the third part; one line from the Torah to Wisdom and the other from Prophecy to Apocalyptic.

The conclusion discusses the link between the Old and New testaments by presenting the apocalyptic triumph of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest and King.

There are two appendices, one a course Précis on Biblical Theology of the Old Testament and the other a tribute to George Ernest Wright, to whom this book is presented. This is titled “The Relevance of Biblical Archaeology to Biblical Theology: A Tribute to George Ernst Wright.”

This book is not yet another addition to the list of Old Testament Theologies written in the 20th century but a book that marks a change in direction of the discipline. It is a book that tries to avoid the mistake of previous generations, but still trying to discover the coherence of the Old Testament literature. It is new, useful and original in its presentation.