Judges

This tag is associated with 4 posts

Book Review: “Reformation Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament, Volume IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth” edited by N. Scott Amos

The Reformation Commentary on Scripture series focuses on sharing insights from Reformation theologians on the Bible. Here, we’ll take a brief look at the commentary on Joshua, Judges, and Ruth

Joshua, Judges, and Ruth have an enormous number of issues that need to be addressed for any reader no matter when they lived. The introduction to this volume shows that several of the topics Reformation-era theologians were interested carry into today- the place of women, creation and providence, sacraments, and more. Reformation theologians also were more focused on some of these than modern theologians are, giving insight in ways that are often unexpected. 

The book of Joshua has many theological issues that continue to be debated to this day. The promise of the land to the people of Israel is seen by some of these Reformers as a conditional promise (eg. the English Annotations which note that the promise is given “if they would wholly follow the Lord their God….” (7)). The Reformers often provided highly figurative interpretations of passages throughout the Bible. John Mayer’s linking of Joshua to Jesus sees the crossing of the Jordan as a kind of baptism (20-21). Rahab was particularly controversial among the Reformers–should she have deceive to assist the Israelites? Is she an acceptable role model? Was she a woman of faith? Theologians from Philipp Melanchthon (Lutheran)  to Cardinal Cajetan (a counter-Reformer) weigh in on these topics. And again, this is one of the great strengths of this series and of each commentary in it. Readers will get numerous opinions from a range of theological perspectives, giving insight into the debates of the Reformation and the range of theological visions presented during that period.

Judges presents its own series of difficult questions. Jephthah’s apparent sacrifice of his daughter is approached from many directions, whether chastising him for making a foolish vow (Calvin) or noting that Rabbinic interpretation differs from most Christian interpretation of the passage (Johannes Brenz, 363). Other theologians try to make what Jephtah vowed non-literal (eg. Konrad Pellikan, 363-364). Once again this passage remains debated to this day and the multiplicity of voices from the Reformation can help guide that interpretation. Deborah is another hotly debated topic, as Reformers note her leadership or try to avoid the implications of the same. 

Ruth’s primary division of opinion–though there are many–is around Naomi’s plan for Boaz. Did Naomi plan for Ruth to seduce Boaz, or was something else going on? Most of the Reformers either play with euphemism here or are either unaware of or ignore the potential implications of Ruth 3. This section of the commentary is especially interesting, as the Reformers try to reconcile the passage with their expectations of the biblical text. 

The commentary has moments like this throughout the text, set alongside passages that clearly draw out the theological positions of individual Reformers. It, like the other works in this series, is an excellent read. It will lead you to delving back into the Scriptures yourself as you read the Bible alongside some of the major (and minor!) theologians of the Reformation Period. Reformation Commentary on Scripture: Joshua, Judges, Ruth is a must-read for anyone interested in this field. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Sunday Quote!- Samson’s Torment

webb-judges

Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Samson’s Torment

Reading commentaries can be an extremely edifying and valuable experience. I have very slowly been working through the book of Judges alongside Barry G. Webb’s commentary from the New International Commentary on the Old Testament series–an excellent series indeed–and came upon a gem regarding Samson. The passage in question is Judges 16:1-3, in which the people of Gaza attempt to trap him when he comes and sleeps with a prostitute (an interesting path to pursue at a later point) and he instead escapes in the middle of the night by tearing their gate out of the ground and carrying it to Hebron. Webb comments:

[The gate] would have been a formidable barrier… But Samson has spent all his life breaching barriers: between the permissible and the forbidden, holy and profane, man and animal, Israelite and Philistine, Naziriteship and normality. Barriers have never been able to contain him. They appear to him only as challenges which rouse him to a renewed frenzy of breaking through. So it is here again. His “grasping,” “pulling,” “putting,” and “taking” (v. 3) transgress the boundary between the human and superhuman. No normal person could do what he did. But Samson is not normal; that is his glory and his torment. (395, cited below)

Webb’s comments continue as he shows that this act of carrying the gates and placing them before Hebron demonstrate the lack of possible peace between Philistine and Israelite in Samson’s time, among other things. Webb’s comments on Samson are well worth taking the time to read, as is the rest of the commentary on Judges.

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Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Barry Webb, The Book of Judges (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2012).

SDG.

Microview: “The Dominant Culture: Living in the Promised Land” by Martin Murphy

100_2744Martin Murphy’s The Dominant Culture is an introductory exposition of the book of Judges in the Bible. Judges is my favorite book of the Bible for a number of reasons, but mostly for the people. Samson was my most loved story when I was a child–it was like a real-life superhero. Deborah has grown to be a story of great importance for me as it demonstrates a woman in the role of leader and prophet over the people of Israel. Gideon is another exciting story with all sorts of action. The cycle of Judges also draws interest by being mirrored in our own lives as we experience sin, consequence, cry for help/repentance, and deliverance.

Murphy’s book brings much of the book to life as he retells the stories with an eye for application in the present day. How do Israel’s stories point to truths in our own lives? The book proceeds effectively through the major stories of Judges, with a few comments on minor stories as well. The beauty of the way Murphy does this is that he doesn’t try to make a kind of direct correspondence between the nation of Israel as theocracy and our own world in a kind of one-to-one correspondence; rather, he draws from the stories of Judges to show how we live in a world in which each goes his/her own way, sin reigns, and we need repentance. These and other applications are drawn throughout the book with rather remarkable insight.

There are some downsides in the book, particularly with the marked reading of gender hierarchy into the narrative of Deborah. Here, it seems, Murphy goes off track of what is otherwise marvelous exegetical skill, as he must continually appeal to silence (by saying things like the Bible never says God approved of Deborah as a prophetess) rather than allowing the text itself to demonstrate that Deborah simply was a leader and prophet. The very fact that the author of Judges does not condemn a woman as a prophet and judge when they are quick to condemn other wicked practices (such as using the refrain of “everyone did as they pleased”) in fact seems to point in the opposite direction as that which Murphy goes regarding Deborah. This is, thankfully, just one unfortunate aberration of exegesis among what is otherwise a quite solid job navigating between the need to stay true to the text and draw out applications for today.

The Good

+Often shares insights that bring new light to familiar or unfamiliar texts
+Applicable interpretation rather than merely analytic
+Explains key terms in meaningful way

The Bad

-Unfortunate comments about Deborah and women in leadership

Conclusion

The Dominant Culture is a solid introduction that ties the book of Judges in to our own era. It does so remarkably well without falling into the possible errors of only going for current relevance or making direct 1-to-1 connections between Israel and a country like the United States. If one can get past a few specifics of doctrinal stances that take away from the general appeal of the work (in particular the discussion of Deborah and women in leadership), it provides a good introduction to and application of Judges.

I was provided with a copy of the book for review. I was not obligated by the publisher to write any type of review whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Martin Murphy, The Dominant Culture.

Description is not Prescription: A tale of interpretation

Imagine someone, let’s call him Jim, reading a chapter from a typical history book written on World War 2. In said chapter, one page says “Hitler was intent upon exterminating the Jews. The Nazis proposed a ‘final solution’ intended to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth.”

Jim stands up, indignant, and reacts to this text, “I can’t believe whoever wrote this book! They actually endorse the ‘final solution’! What evil person would dare to recommend such atrocities!?”

We would obviously be puzzled by Jim’s reaction. We would probably correct him by saying something like “Jim, the author isn’t recommending that course of action, they’re merely reporting what happened. It’s a history book. The author’s intent is not to tell you what to do, but to tell you what happened.”

Now imagine a similar scenario. This time, it’s Jessica reading the Bible. She reads that “Jephthah promised God that if he beat the Ammonites in battle he’d sacrifice the first living thing he saw at his house… He beat the ammonites and the first thing he saw was his daughter, whom he sacrificed after giving her time to grieve.” (A paraphrase of Judges 11. See my discussion of this passage here.)

Jessica immediately stands and shouts “How dare the Bible condone human sacrifice! God Himself told Jephthah to sacrifice his daughter!”

Our answer to Jessica is the same as it was to Jim: “Jessica, the Bible is reporting what happened, the author of Judges reports many horrific incidents and sins that God’s people committed, but that doesn’t mean the author is commending what happened or urging others to do likewise.”

Such reactions are similar to those of many who read the Bible. They read a passage which describes something that happened and jump to the conclusion that the Bible–or the God portrayed therein–is evil. The Bible is a collection of genres and writings from various authors, a point often overlooked by those unable–or unwilling–to fully engage the text. Yet often the Bible is merely describing what happened as opposed to prescribing something for God’s people.

Another problem is that people too often think of the Bible as being exclusively a “rulebook.” I think this really plays into the description/prescription fallacy because if the Bible were just a big rulebook, then everything in it would be taken prescriptively. Such people seem to think that every verse can be taken out of context and genre and used as a command. There isn’t much to say in answer to such people except to point out the obvious: there are different genres in the Bible, not all of it is a rulebook.

Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Geneva-bible-picture.jpg

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation and provide a link to the original URL. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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