Friday, January 30, 2009

New Book on NT and Christian Theology

One of the best books I've read in recent times is:

Markus Bockmuehl & Alan J. Torrance
Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008.

The first essay on the Septuagint by J. Ross Wagner (who I must try to meet one day) looks at the Septuagint as part of the Christian Bible. He points out that there was no single "Septuagintal" text that the NT authors drew on, but a diversity and fluidity of biblical texts in Greek that, in an on-going process, translators were constantly trying to bring into closer conformity to the Hebrew text. He finally opts for John Webster's dogmatic theory of the "sanctification" of Holy Scripture that specifies how the Septuagint may legitimately lie with the Church's ongoing search for the Christian Bible. God speaks in and through texts that remain very human artifacts. The sanctification refers to the Spirit's election and overseeing of the historical events leading to the formation of Scripture so that the events themselves serve the purposes of God. The Spirit's superintending refers to the production of a text, not just its authorship.

In the second essay, "Is There a New Testament Doctrine of the Church?" Markus Bockmuehl, in his usually good form, contrasts the presentations of Ernst Kaesemannand (a then young) Raymond Brown at the 1963 World Conference on Faith and Order on the Church in the NT. argued for no unifying ecclesiology which emerges largely from his conviction that there is a plethora of christologies and theologies in the NT. In other words, the fragmentation of churches has its justification in the multiplicity of conflicting confessional positions in the NT itself. At the same time, Kaesemann raised ecclesial and canonical diversity to a metaphysical ideal, this is helped much by Walter Baur's Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, and embraced by postmodern discourse that idolizes endemic and irreconciliable diversity as a hegemonic metanarrative. Brown, in contrast, departs from Kaesemann by stressing that Luke-Acts cannot be reduced to a later harmonization of incompatible Palestinian and Gentile church views into a coherent construct. And the disputed or "pseudepigraphal" epistles are not a correction to Pauline and Petrine views, as much, a continuation of their style and thought. For Brown there are three areas of common conviction among NT authors as including continuity with Israel, apostolicity, and baptism/eucharist. Bockmuehl goes on to argue that there was a widespread perspective in the NT of the New Covenant people of God as the elect of the God of Israel. The Old Testament fathers are our fathers of the faith. On apostolicity, the Rule of Faith shaped the canon but was also shaped by it. As Irenaeus supposed, one cannot be in authentic ecclesial life if one stands apart from the apostolic foundations. Bockmuehl also contests Alfred Loisy's much repeated dictum that "Jesus foretold the kingdom of God, and it was the church that came". Bockmuehl maintains that Jesus did intend to found a messianic community since the intended outcome of Jesus' ministry was the Son of Man's messianic rule over Israel as its King. That required a further apostolic mission from his chosen disciples to gather the leaderless lost sheep of the house of Israel. That is why, according to the Synoptics and Paul, that Jesus expressed his thought on the matter by instituting a eucharistic meal that became the focucs of their remembrance and worship.

That's all for now. I might post highlights later on.

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