Book Notice: Language for God in Patristic Tradition

Mark Sheridan
Language for God in Patristic Tradition: Wrestling with Anthropomorphism
Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015.
Available at

In this volume, Mark Sheridan wrestles with biblical anthropomorphism, the depiction of God as a human figure, with human emotions and characteristics in Scripture. That God is not really like humans, goes back as far as Xenophon, and his attempt to distinguish the gods from Homeric myths. Others like Philo and Origen, interpreted scripture in such a way as to distinguish a literal sense, from senses that illuminated the divine nature and divine plan. These patristic authors tried to interpret Scripture over against the philosophers, the heretics, and the simple who they saw as wrongfully reading Scripture. In the final chapter, Sheridan attempts to show how ancient interpretation is still relevant even if many of their tenets are no longer tenable. Texts are there to be reinterpreted, a process already begun within the NT, and continued on in the Fathers. Sheridan thinks this might be an option for how we look at things like the genocidal texts of the Pentateuch of the imprecatory psalms. He writes:

We must always ask how these texts can be understood by Christians, and this question involves theology, the discourse about the nature of God. The literal, isolated text is not normative, but rather theology, not in the broad, all-inclusive sense in which it is often used now nor in the confession sense of ‘Lutheran,’ ‘Calvinist’ or ‘Catholic’theology, but in the original sense of the word, the discussion about the nature of God. In this sense the theological question should be primary in the interpretation of Scripture today. Perhaps the most enduring and fitting solution remains that of Philo, Origen and John Chrysostom with which we began: God spoke then like a father to his children. That should not be confused with the way he really is in himself. God does not behave like humans.


Why I owe Stephen Chester a Pint of Guinness

Faithlife (aka Logos) has a great interview with Dr. Stephen Chester about the Apostle Paul. Stephen has done some great work on the reception of Paul among the Reformers, esp. Martin Luther. In fact, before anyone engages in Lutheran bashing, they really should a few articles by him (see here and here), as he shows the context, nuances, and development of Luther's own thought.Any way, in the course of the interview, Stephen says some rather spiffy things about my book, Saving Righteousness … [Read More...]

Book Notice: J.B. Lightfoot on Acts of the Apostles

J.B. Lightfoot Eds. Ben Witherington & Todd Still The Acts of the Apostles: A Newly Discovered Commentary: The Lightfoot Legacy Set: Volume 1 Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014, Available at Amazon.comJ.B. Lightfoot (1828-89) was one of the preeminent biblical and patristic commentators of his day. Many had known about the collection of Lightfoot's notes kept in  the Durham Cathedral library, but no one has analysed them or interrogated them. Then in 2013, Ben Witherington (ch … [Read More...]

Book Notice: The Future of Evangelical Theology

Amos Yong The Future of Evangelical Theology: Soundings from the Asian American Diaspora Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014. Available at Amazon.comAmos Yong, a theology professor at Fuller Seminary, in this volume offers some reflections on the future evangelicalism from a Asian-American … [Read More...]

Book Notice: Reading Romans in Context

Ben C. Blackwell, John K. Goodrich, and Jason Maston (eds). Reading Romans in Context: Paul and Second Temple Judaism Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. Available at Amazon.comThis is a very helpful volume about the Jewish background to Romans which shows how parts of Romans can be read … [Read More...]

Book Notice: A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism

Matthias Henze (ed.) A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012. Available at Amazon.comThis is a very useful volume about Jewish interpretation of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles. The introductory chapter by James Kugel describes the origins of … [Read More...]

Book Notice: The Jesus Movement and Its Expansion

Sean Freyne The Jesus Movement and Its Expansion Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014. Available at Amazon.comThe late Sean Freyne is best known for his work on Jesus and the Jesus movement in Galilee. This book, published posthumously, includes great summaries of the Hellenism of Galilee and the … [Read More...]

Book Notice: A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude

Peter H. Davids A Theology of James, Peter, and Jude BTNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. Available at Amazon.comPeter Davids is one of those brave and rare individuals who has decided to specialize in the study of the Catholic Epistles. His various commentaries on James, 1-2 Peter, and … [Read More...]

Book Notice: The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture

Michael Graves The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014. Available at Amazon.comMichael Graves' book on patristic views of inspiration and interpretation is a particularly informative study of what we can learn from … [Read More...]

Book Notice: Introducing Christian Mission Today

Michael W. Goheen Introducing Christian Mission Today: Scripture, History and Issues Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014. Available at Amazon.comThis is a wonderful book and is a worthy replacement to David Bosch's brilliant but dated work Transforming Mission. It covers biblical and … [Read More...]

Book Notice: All That the Prophets Have Declared

Matthew R. Malcolm (ed). All That the Prophets Have Declared: The Appropriation of Scripture in the Emergence of Christianity Milton Keynes, UK: Paternoster, 2015. Available at Amazon.comThis volume examines how Jesus and the New Testament writers use their Scriptures in ways that may seem … [Read More...]

Coming Soon – Romans (SGBC)

There's a few good Romans commentaries coming out soon. Richard Longencker (NIGTC), Frank Thielman (ZECNT), and Beverly Gaventa (NTL). For those interested, February 2016 will see the release of my forthcoming volume on Romans in the SGBC series. I'll be honest, this is not a … [Read More...]

Book Notice: Richard Horsley & Tom Thatcher on Gospel of John, Jesus, and Israel

Richard Horsley & Tom Thatcher John, Jesus & the Renewal of Israel Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013. Available at Amazon.comThis is a bold book about how the Gospel of John contributes to the picture of the historical Jesus as a prophet of Israelite restoration hopes. The authors … [Read More...]

What Makes the Earth Just Right for Life?

Over at the OUP blog is a great piece by Karel and Iris Schrijver on What Makes Earth 'Just Right' for Life?There is nothing religious or theological about it, however, it looks like a great piece of evidence for intelligent design. The earth just happens to be the one place in the galaxy we … [Read More...]

Book Notice: Richard Horsley on The Prophet Jesus and the Renewal of Israel

Richard Horsley The Prophet Jesus and the Renewal of Israel: Moving Beyond a Diversionary Debate Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012. Available at Amazon.comAn old nutty debate in historical Jesus studies was whether Jesus was a Cynic-like teacher of Jewish wisdom traditions with an … [Read More...]