Thoughts on the COMMENTARY ON THE NT USE OF THE OT June 7, 2008

Yesterday I received my copy (for review in European Journal of Theology) of Greg Beale and D.A. Carson’s (eds) Commentary on the NT Use of the Old Testament (Baker/Apollos, 2007).  Here are my initial thoughts.

+ It looks slick and that always helps.  You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but when it looks this nice, it is inviting and really draws attention to itself.

+ The scholars for this are really good evangelical guys who know their stuff – Ciampa, Beale, Blomberg, CarsonThielman, Weima, M. Silva.  Very impressive.  I know it is meant to be a very unified evangelical approach and so that means no Richard Hays, Joel Marcus, Steve Moyise, Francis Watson, Morna Hooker, N.T. Wright, James Dunn, etc… But, I am a bit surprised that no women found their way into this ground-breaking project.  For instance, Karen Jobes blurbs the book, but she could easily have done 1 Peter (see her oft-cited BEC volume).  Or, Linda Belleville (who would have been a good choice for 2 Corinthians).  Marianne Meye Thompson might have been good for the Gospel of John.  With these three options I gave, no one would feel that they could not provide the highest level of competency and scholarship on the modern state of intertextuality.  OK, I will give the editors the benefit of the doubt and presume they considered such matters and perhaps women they tracked down could not commit to the project.  Still, this does not look good for conservatives.  Consider, at the most recent Institute for Biblical Research committee meeting at SBL, the lack of women in attendance was taken up as a serious matter of concern – this should show that I am not just blowing smoke.

Though I am not a woman and I don’t know what it feels like to be in a field dominated by ‘the other gender’, I am a minority and I remember being at the British New Testament Conference last year in Exeter and thinking – this is a lot of white people and I wish there was a bit more diversity – I kind of stick out (as an Indian).

Overall, I imagine Beale and Carson thought that they collected the expert scholars on the subjects involved (and they did a pretty excellent job).  Still, I wonder and hope that they really thought through this issue.

On a personal note, I know several of the authors of these chapters, and I do not doubt their desire to support all underrepresented groups in education and teaching.  Still, multi-authored works with this kind of homogeneity seems a bit off – maybe it comes from my having lived in Massachusetts for five years!

Well, all things considered, I anticipate that I will be impressed by the commentary, and I trust the theological leadership of Beale and Carson.  Keep an eye out for my coming review (when you purchase a copy of the European Journal of Theology or request your library to order it!).

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  • D.A. Carson’s conclusions on gender appear in the foundational complementarian book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

    Below is an excerpt.

    Paul understands from this creation
    order that woman is to be subject to man-or at least that wife is to be subject to husband . . .
    More broadly, a strong case can be made for the view that Paul refused to permit any
    woman to enjoy a church-recognized teaching authority over men (1 Timothy 2:11ff.),
    and the careful weighing of prophecies falls under that magisterial function.


    D.A. Carson, “‘Silent in the Churches’: On the Role of Women in 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem; Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 143.

    The entire chapter is available at:

    I don’t think that Greg Beale has written about the issue.

    Rikk Watts and I. Howard Marshall are egalitarian.
    Andreas Kostenberger is complementarian.
    Philip Towner and Craig Blomberg straddle the fence.

  • J. Barrett

    Nijay, I often don’t understand the criticism that there are no women contributing to a volume like this one. Like you said, what if they were all busy with other projects? Furthermore, what if they were simply less qualified? Why should they be asked just because they are women with a PhD or who have written a commentary? This sort of criticism makes women look worse (as if they need extra help). They should definitely be treated equally, but if they are not the best in their field – and if Carson and Beale feel they found the best – then should we just let things be? It seems not. Apparently, if you want academic respectability then you should choose women and minorities to write a few chapters (that also can make it more “international”). This whole line of thinking just seems way off to me.

  • Nijay,

    It is indeed an impressive volume. I agree with you on several points. The editors should have included other people from various theological spectrum. At the moment, I’m going through the Gospel of John written by Kostenberger. It is quite interesting.


  • John Lyons

    I think your and J Barrett’s wish that this was merely the result of the relevant women being too busy or actually being worse scholars (if that is the implication of J. Barrett’s “less qualified”) than those chosen would be much more convincing if it weren’t set against the historic backdrop of the marginalisation of women in both the Academy and in Evangelical settings. The question for IBR and these editors is how they respond to that issue. Is it good enough to leave your audience to assume that women were too busy or not as good as X or should they seek to address these issues by acknowledging a historic complicity and actively supporting the few women who have made it this far? Waiting for all this to eventually sort itself out when Society, Academy and/or Church become more egalitarian seems to me to be (a) culturally conforming rather than prophetic, and (b) very likely to result in my own daughters not being asked to write chapters in volumes produced in thirty years time!

  • John Lyons

    I don’t know why there is a smiley face in my comment above, Nijay. It should be fairly obvious that I don’t find this issue funny at all.

  • J. Barrett

    I implied that they could be worse scholars in a hypothetical sense. It’s a real question: what if they are? I’m not saying that this is the case, but if it was, I don’t want them to contribute just because they are women and will fill a quota.

    I’ve yet to consider the fact that asking them to contribute is supporting and encouraging more women to participate. I’ll think more on that, but I’m still not sure if that legitimizes – hypothetically – choosing a contributor because of their gender rather than their scholarship.

  • Jordan Barrett,
    The women I mentioned above (Thompson, Belleville, Jobes) are all as good as the male contributors in the volume – so that is not an issue. But, I don’t think the problem is simply a question of ‘is the book going to be written by competent scholars’ – on that level, they have done a fantastic job and I think it will complement and advance scholarship. What I am concerned with is how this kind of male-only representation affects the guild. In such ground-breaking kinds of studies, we (I think) should try and simulate the sort of scholarly environment we want in NT studies. Perhaps Carson and Beale tried – I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I just wish that it could have worked out to be a more diverse group of scholars.

  • J. Barrett

    Nijay, that makes more sense. Do you feel, however, that any of my questions (above) are warranted, or am I off-base? Thanks.

  • Jordan, I think this is a question of how to influence the way scholarship is done now so that students and scholars in the future will benefit from our attempt to promote the work of underrepresented groups. Why? It is not that women don’t like theology. Gordon-Conwell (where I went for my MDIV) had a number of women. Duke Divinity, as I have heard, also has a number of women. Where do women get opportunities to network in communities where they can get offers to write chapters – at conferences like ETS or SBL. If these women feel uncomfortable in such settings, its harder to want to put yourself out there.

    I guess a bigger question, let’s say for the Evangelical Theological Society, is – do we want more women as members, paper presenters, and scholars than we have right now? If the answer is yes, we need to do something about the way we choose contributors (even if it seems ‘agenda’ driven – because at this stage choices like that need to happen). If the answer is no – well, that’s a different story (and I fear too many male scholars really feel the answer is no).

    I know a major seminary, a number of years ago, that had an opening and really wanted a woman because they previously had only men (within a particular sub-discipline). They could hire a man or woman, but they wanted to have a female professor. Well, they did interviews, and found one, and she is really great – no regrets.

    I know another situation where a seminary really wants to hire a minority (especially an African-American) because they have a mostly white male faculty. Is that wrong? I guess you have to make some choices about this because your student population will tend to reflect your staff/faculty make-up – I think. In terms of major large-scale book projects, I think it can be analogous.

  • J. Barrett

    Good stuff to think about. Thanks for your reply.