Category Archives: Book Notes

Who wouldn’t want to be in bed with a good book?

Coleman, In Bed with the WordDaniel Coleman, In Bed with the Word: Reading, Spirituality, and Cultural Politics (Edmonton, AB: The University of Alberta Press, 2009).

In this fascinating book, Coleman offers reflections on reading and the spiritual life.

In ‘Reading and Longing’, he understands reading as ‘erotic’ in that, ‘like all eros, it leaps with energy and passion; it compels our focus; it reaches out toward an Other’ (p. 13). It leads to an experience of fusion, of being inhabited by another, which frees us from the confines of our own perceptions, opening us to those of others, thus facilitating growth and an intimate connection with the larger world.

‘Reading as Counterculture’ explores reading as quiet time, as a form of solitude, as ‘private and politically relevant contemplation’, as an ‘imaginative and dialogical’ practice that is slow, active and reflective – all of which is countercultural in a society that is ‘increasingly drawn away from silence, slowness, reflection, and internally generated imagination’ (p. 31).

In ‘Posture’, Coleman emphasises that, ‘if we are to rediscover a spiritually nourishing experience of reading, we need to rediscover … a posture of openness and expectation, … an intention … to connect with something larger than and outside of our own sphere of experience’ (p. 59).

‘The Structure of Absence’ includes reflections on how kenotic, self-emptying, reading that is imaginative and responsive leads to and indeed is in itself ekstasis, the transcending of ourselves by ‘paying fierce and generous attention to others as others’ (p. 70), which can lead to an experience of intimacy that is both erotic and profoundly spiritual.

Finally, in ‘Eating the Book’, Coleman explores how the book we read becomes us in that it shapes what we see, how we hear and what we perceive. Taking his cue from Ezekiel 2:8–3:3, where the prophet is told to eat a scroll of grief that tastes sweet as honey to him, Coleman also reflects on the transformative power of books of pain, sorrow and grief, on the pleasures of devastation, confirmation and surprise, all of which are equally important to a spirituality of reading, and on the empowering potential of books, which can lead to profound personal, social and political change.

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Insights from psychology and Christian mystics combine in these reflections on spiritual transformation

BennerDavid G. Benner, Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2012).

This book discusses spiritual transformation from a psychological perspective, which traces the development of the self through four key stages: the body-centred, mind-centred, soul-centred and spirit-centred self.

Benner includes insights from Christian mystics, he considers the role of spirituality in human awakening, and he explores the importance of the communal context for transformation.

Appendices on the function of dreams for human growth and transformation and on meditation, prayer and awakening complete the book.

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An introductory textbook for those wishing to explore spirituality

RuncornDavid Runcorn, Spirituality Workbook: A Guide for Explorers, Pilgrims and Seekers (London: SPCK, 2006).

Runcorn’s Spirituality Workbook falls into five parts. The first takes a historical perspective, looking at the desert tradition and its spiritual legacy, at Anglican and Orthodox spirituality and modern expressions in the Pentecostal and evangelical traditions.

Part two explores the spiritual life in the context of community, discussing, among other things, rules of life, communion and personality types.

Part three is devoted to identity, personhood and spirituality. This includes attention to the body, sexuality and the stages of life.

The fourth part focuses on different expressions of prayer: intercession, confession and forgiveness, the role of the Spirit in Christian spirituality, liturgy, and Ignatian spirituality.

The final section discusses how Christian spirituality is lived out in the real world. Here Runcorn considers issues such as creation, spirituality in times of uncertainty and transition, prayer in a world of violence, contemplative prayer and engagement with the world, and spirituality beyond religion.

This being a workbook, each chapter features helpful suggestions for thought, prayer, activity and further reading.

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Thoughts on how Amos may be read as a book

Reading Amos as a Book
Karl Möller, Reading Amos as a Book (Grove Biblical Series, 74; Cambridge: Grove Books, 2014)

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All too often the message of Amos is broken up and read in pieces – either devotionally, so that we know only the ‘purple passages,’ or academically, separating Amos’s original message from its later editing.

But reading it as a whole opens up powerful new understandings. We see Amos’s passion as he tries to persuade a complacent people to wake up to God’s judgment and grace – a message we desperately need to hear in our own day.

Contents

1. Getting Started

2. An Opening Trap (Amos 1-2)

3. Passionate Dialogue with a Late Audience (Amos 3.1-5.17)

4. Woes and Throes (Amos 5.18-6.14)

5. Visions of the End (Amos 7-9)

6. Reading Amos: Some Conclusions

7. Suggestions for Further Reading

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Articles on reading Old Testament law

Reading the Law
J. G. McConville and Karl Möller (eds), Reading the Law: Studies in Honour of Gordon J. Wenham (Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies, 461; New York: T & T Clark International, 2007)

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This book is a Festschrift for Prof. Gordon Wenham. Its chosen theme is intended to reflect his central interests in his long career of writing on the Old Testament, in which he has exemplified the highest standards of scholarship, but also written for practitioners of biblical interpretation. The topic of ‘reading the law’ has three aspects which will be treated by the various contributions, namely: 1. Reading the Pentateuch: Pentateuchal criticism, narrative readings, rhetorical-critical readings; 2. Reading the Law: the law codes in historical and/or literary context, anthropological readings, the law in relation to prophets, wisdom, worship; 3. Reading the Bible ethically: e.g. ethics of marriage, war.

… a worthy set of essays collected in honor of a very worthy scholar.

Joe M. Sprinkle, Stone-Campbell Journal

Contents

Part I: Reading Pentateuchal Law

  • Being a Man in the Book of the Covenant
    David J. A. Clines
  • ‘Fellow Citizens’: Israel and Humanity in Leviticus
    J. G. McConville
  • Commanding an Impossibility? Reflections on the Golden Rule in Leviticus 19:18b
    Nobuyoshi Kiuchi
  • The Case for the Pre-Exilic and Exilic Provenance of the Books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers
    Jacob Milgrom

Part II: Reading the Law in the Prophets

  • The Meaning of תורה in Isaiah 1–39
    Ronald E. Clements
  • Torah in the Minor Prophets
    Thomas Renz
  • The Trial of Jeremiah
    Raymond Westbrook

Part III: Reading the Law in the Writings

  • Reading, Singing and Praying the Law: An Exploration of the Performative, Self-Involving, Commissive Language of Psalm 101
    Karl Möller
  • The Ethics of Lament: Lamentations 1 as a Case Study
    Robin Parry
  • The Torah and History in Presentations of Restoration in Ezra–Nehemiah
    H. G. M. Williamson

Part IV: Reading the Law for Theology

  • The Theology of Place in Genesis 1–3
    Craig G. Bartholomew
  • The Regal Dimension of the תולדות־יעקב: Recovering the Literary Context of Genesis 37–50
    T. Desmond Alexander
  • On Learning Spiritual Discipline: A Reading of Exodus 16
    R. W. L. Moberly
  • The Week That Made the World: Reflections on the First Pages of the Bible
    Robert P. Gordon

Part V: Reading the Law and History

  • Going Down to Sheol: A Place Name and Its West Semitic Background
    Richard S. Hess
  • The Tablets in the Ark
    Alan Millard
  • Memory, Witness and Genocide in the Book of Joshua
    Pekka Pitkänen
  • Towards a Communicative Theology of the Old Testament
    J. W. Rogerson

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A collection of articles on biblical theology

Out of EgyptOut of Egypt

Craig Bartholomew, Mary Healy, Karl Möller and Robin Parry (eds), Out of Egypt: Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation (Scripture & Hermeneutics Series, 5; Carlisle: Paternoster Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004)

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The Christian church confesses Scripture to be the authoritative Word of God, and thereby commits itself to seeking the inner unity of the Bible as it is focussed in the one gospel of Jesus Christ, which the church declares to the world. Biblical theology is the name for the articulation of that inner unity of the Bible, and this volume rows vigorously against the currents in mainline biblical studies as it seeks to set the table for a renewed feast of biblical theology in biblical interpretation.

Craig Bartholomew

Out of Egypt is the fifth volume from the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar. This annual gathering of Christian scholars from various disciplines was established in 1998 and aims to reassess the discipline of biblical studies from the foundations up and forge creative new ways for reopening the Bible in our cultures.

In modernity biblical studies has stressed the diversity of Scripture to such an extent that any expression of its overarching unity is regarded with scepticism. The demise of the Biblical Theology Movement in 1961 played into this tendency, and since then biblical theology has not recovered its place as a major element in biblical interpretation. However, any approach to the Bible as Christian Scripture must recognise the need to articulate the inner unity of the Bible and hence of biblical theology. Furthermore, situated as we are in ‘post-modernity’ we are better able to see how untimely the demise of biblical theology is. This volume assesses the current state of biblical theology and sets forth in a smorgasbord of creative ways fresh directions for doing biblical interpretation.

This volume on biblical theology jumps into the fray and poses the right kind of questions. It does not offer a single way forward. Several of the essays are quite fresh and provocative, breaking new ground (Bray, Reno); others set out the issues with clarity and grace (Bartholomew); others offer programmatic analysis (Webster, Bauckham); others offer a fresh angle of view (Chapman, Martin). The success of this series is in facing the challenge of disarray in biblical studies head-on and then modelling a variety of approaches to stimulate our reflection.

Christopher Seitz, Professor of Old Testament and Theological Studies, St Andrews University, UK

Ranging widely across the latest theory and up-to-date praxis of biblical theology, this volume makes a significant contribution to the gathering renewal of that discipline on both sides of the Atlantic. With an ecumenical, star-studded team of experts in the Old and New Testaments as well as in Patristics and Christian doctrine, Out of Egypt is more than a sum of its parts: from various theoretical and practical perspectives, it demonstrates both the pedigree and the intellectual vitality of biblical theology. In so doing, this book gives continued hope for an exodus of Christian biblical interpretation from its long slavery to diverse late-modern taskmasters of historicist and ideologically revisionist deconstruction.

Markus Bockmuehl, Reader in New Testament Studies, University of Cambridge, UK

Biblical theology attempts to explore the theological coherence of the canonical witnesses; no serious Christian theology can overlook this issue. The essays in the present volume illustrate the complexity and richness of the conversation that results from attentive consideration of the question. In a time when some voices are calling for a moratorium on biblical theology, or pronouncing its concerns obsolete, this collection of meaty essays demonstrates the continuing vitality and necessity of the enterprise.

Richard B. Hays, George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament, The Divinity School, Duke University, USA

Contents

Biblical Theology and Biblical Interpretation: Introduction
Craig G. Bartholomew

  1. The Church Fathers and Biblical Theology
    Gerald Bray
  2. The Nature and Genre of Biblical Theology: Some Reflections in the Light of Charles H. H. Scobie’s ‘Prolegomena to a Biblical Theology’
    Karl Möller
  3. Some Directions in Catholic Biblical Theology
    Francis Martin
  4. The Theology of the Old Testament by Marco Nobile: A Contribution to Jewish–Christian Relations
    Nuria Calduch-Benages
  5. Mission as a Matrix for Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology
    Christopher J. H. Wright
  6. Story and Biblical Theology
    Craig G. Bartholomew and Mike W. Goheen
  7. The Problem of ‘Biblical Theology’
    James D. G. Dunn
  8. Biblical Theology and the Problem of Monotheism
    Richard Bauckham
  9. The Unity of Humankind as a Theme in Biblical Theology
    Stephen C. Barton
  10. Zechariah 14 and Biblical Theology: Patristic and Contemporary Case Studies
    Al Wolters
  11. Paul and Salvation History in Romans 9:30–10:4
    William J. Dumbrell
  12. Hebrews and Biblical Theology
    Andrew T. Lincoln
  13. Systematic – In What Sense?
    Trevor Hart
  14. Biblical Theology and the Clarity of Scripture
    John Webster
  15. Biblical Theology and Theological Exegesis
    R. R. Reno
  16. Imaginative Reading of Scripture and Theological Interpretation
    Stephen B. Chapman
  17. Biblical Theology and Preaching
    Charles H. H. Scobie

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An investigation of the rhetoric of the book of Amos

A Prophet in DebateA Prophet in Debate
Karl Möller, A Prophet in Debate: The Rhetoric of Persuasion in the Book of Amos (Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, 372; London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003) [366 pages]

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This is an investigation of the literary structure and rhetorical challenge that prompted the book’s production. It argues that the book of Amos captures and presents the debate between Amos and his eighth-century audience. When read in the light of Israel’s fall, the presentation of Amos struggling (and failing) to convince his contemporaries of the imminent divine punishment functions as a powerful warning to subsequent Judaean readers.

This is an important book on a stunning prophet (and his galvanizing Hebrew) on several counts. … the footnotes and bibliography display a massive acquaintance with the study of the book of Amos over the past century. … our author is a skilled Hebraist with penetrating insights into the organizing structure of the entire book … Möller makes a very persuasive (he’s a good rhetorician!) case for retaining chapter 9 as coming from the prophet Amos. … While biblical-theological implications are left to the biblical-theological student, Möller lays the foundation with his superb work on the text.

James T. Dennison, Jr, Kerux

Möller’s work on Amos is careful, thorough, integrative, and thoughtful. He has read widely, both in traditional scholarship and in literary theory. … Sensible and pragmatic, the work resists being drawn into ingenious discoveries of textual markers or the esoteric jargon of literary theory and continues throughout to inquire into the persuasive function and effect of the text. … the work … provides a solid platform for further study of the fascinating book of Amos.

Patricia K. Tull, Review of Biblical Literature

In this monograph Karl Möller offers a thorough demonstration of the nature and use of rhetorical criticism as applied to the prophetic literature. … The introduction offers astute hermeneutical reflections on the nature of rhetorical criticism in general. … Möller’s work represents a key study in the rhetorical criticism of prophetic material. It offers a thoughtful perspective on the task and methods of rhetorical criticism, presenting each step the rhetorical critic must take in evaluating the argumentation, purpose, and potential effectiveness of a biblical book. Moreover, because of its compilation of other rhetorical approaches to the book of Amos and detailed analysis of Amos 1–4, it would serve as a fine reference on recent approaches to this prophetic book.

David G. Garber, Review of Biblical Literature

… interesting and appealing.

Reviews in Religion and Theology

Contents

Part I: Reading Amos – A Communication-Theoretical Approach

Introduction: Amos and the Rhetoric of Persuasion

Chapter 1: Rhetorical Structure

Chapter 2: Rhetorical Situation and Strategy

Part II: The Rhetoric of Amos 1–4

Chapter 3: Amos 1–2

Chapter 4: Amos 3

Chapter 5: Amos 4

Conclusions

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