Two Great Review of M. Bird Books!

Two Great Review of M. Bird Books! November 5, 2017

I woke up Saturday morning feeling like Christmas had come early for me. My email contained two very positive reviews of my most recent two books.

First, over at RBL, Mark Harding (former CEO and Principal of the Australian College of Theology) reviewed my book An Anomalous Jew: Paul among Jews, Greeks, and Romans. The review is very thorough and detailed, with a few points of contention, but ends with a very warm affirmation:

In summary, I doubt whether there is a better introduction to Paul’s thought and theology that could be placed in the hands of students of the apostle. The book not only highlights Bird’s ability to engage the views of others but also reveals how insightful a commentator he is. I particularly enjoyed Bird’s always insightful and extensive remarks on relevant passages in Galatians (ch. 3) and Romans (ch. 5) and look forward to the publication of large-scale commentaries he might write for us. Although one might not always agree with Bird, and I have offered a few caveats above, there is no doubting his standing as an erudite and persuasive Pauline scholar whose mastery of the scholarly literature and the primary texts is a great gift to the academy.

Well, as we say in Oz, “That is going straight to the pool room.”

Second, over at RBECS, Michael Kok (King’s University in Canada, but heading to Vose Seminary in Perth) writes an appreciative yet not uncritical review of Jesus the Eternal Son: Answering Adoptionist Christology. Kok prefers Daniel Kirk’s take on the Synoptic Gospels as exhibiting a christology typified by an “ideal human” agent. However, he is willing give a bit of credit here and there.

If “adoptionism” is defined as the apotheosis or deification of Jesus, I evaluate Bird’s thesis to be fairly compelling that this position came to its fullest expression among the Theodotians. On the other hand, I remain persuaded by Daniel Kirk’s case in his monograph A Man Attested by God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016) that Jesus’s words and deeds in Mark’s Gospel can be understood in light of his category of “idealized human” agents. Moreover, I am not sure that Romans 1:3–4 transcends a royal, Davidic christology. Even so, other canonical writings explicitly affirm Jesus’s pre-existence and incarnation (e.g. John 1:1–18; 1 Cor 8:6; Phil 2:6–11; Col 1:15–17; Heb 1:2–3). To do justice to all the voices within the New Testament canon, Christian theologians fine-tuned their conceptualization of Jesus’s humanity and divinity with the philosophical categories available to them. One last matter that may be worthy of exploration is whether chronological priority should determine theological truth. Bird concludes with the theological axiom inherited from Athanasius of Alexandria that a creature cannot perform the function of mediating between God and humankind (128–29). One might side with Athanasius on theological grounds, regardless of the historical issues over whether adoptionism was an early way of conceiving of Jesus’s identity or a late innovation. Nonetheless, Bird’s work deserves careful attention by all who are curious about the historical and theological questions.

I’ll take that as a win.

I should add that both books are published by Eerdmans and were indexed by my studious student John Schoer.

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