It is hard to imagine a single text more influential than the Confessions. Of course there is the Bible or the Declaration of Independence, but, Confessions rivals any text apart from divine revelation or nation forming documents.
Contributing to the allure of the Confessions is the autobiographical nature of the work. Not entirely an autobiography, the first half recounts Augustine’s life. Secondly, there is a diversity of disciplines which are attracted to the Confessions. One only has to look at Rousseau’s Confessions to witness these two factors.
These elements are also present in Augustine’s Confessions: Philosophy in Autobiography (Oxford, 2014; source: publisher). The perspective of these philosophers provides a welcome contribution to the study of Augustine’s Confessions.
When it comes to the origins of the ecclesiastical offices, established scholarship has long held episkopos and presbyteros as synonymous terms describing the same office. F. C. Baur’s understanding was established as the classic position in 1835. This position has become the standard, articulated in specialist and non-specialist literature alike.
Revisionist work has challenged the consensus to a limited degree of success. However, such studies have either failed to provide convincing evidence for their case or lacked widespread reception. That is, until Stewart’s The Original Bishops.
In light of the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the global impact it continues to have, there has been much talk about the role of satire in our society. When used well, satire allows for communication of ideas through the medium of humor, irony, and mockery. Not only does satire challenge the status quo, but accomplishes its objective in a manner that is received and heard by an audience which otherwise would not.
Perhaps one of the greatest examples of satire can be found in Erasmus’ The Praise of Folly. Though written in the sixteenth century, Praise of Folly continues to offer modern readers a wealth of insight (I am assigning Erasmus’ work in two classes this semester). Erasmus’ use of satire is not a diatribe against ecclesiastical or governmental institutions. Nor is Erasmus writing to merely display his literary skill (Erasmus’ comments on the relationship between folly and authors can be found on p.82-84). Rather, Praise of Folly should be seen as an exercise in cultural hermenutics, which uses the medium of satire and the counter-cultural theme of folly.
Professor Gerald McDermott, a leading Edwards scholar and co-author with Michael McClymond of the monumental The Theology of Jonathan Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2011), has posted a gracious guest review of my book, Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms, at the Jonathan Edwards Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School website.
Check it out at this link: http://jecteds.org/blog/2014/09/23/jonathan-edwards-the-psalms-and-the-history-of-redemption/.
It’s a pleasure to announce that my book, Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture (Oxford University Press, 2014), is now available from major online retailers. I’m grateful to the many people who have helped bring this book to publication.
To give you a sense of what I discuss in the book, here’s a brief description from the jacket cover:
Our reading of the past can often be obscured by various factors. We all come with presuppositions and theological convictions. Other times our methodology causes us to arrive at conclusions different than others. The list goes on. Timothy J. Wengert advances a more simple reason why we misinterpret history.
For Wengert, our misunderstanding of someone like Martin Luther is due to the simple fact that we are not reading his writings. Our preconceptions of what Luther should say, or our assumptions of what he said, replace the act of reading his works and discovering what he actually said.
For evangelical Christians, reading the Bible represents one of the most basic aspects of the Christian life. As heirs of the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, evangelicals elevate Scripture above all other authorities.
Yet even Martin Luther never intended that Christians should read the Bible alone. Luther owed much in his biblical interpretation to Augustine, and he cast the Reformation movement as standing in continuity with the early church.
Michael Graves, Armerding Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, echoes Luther’s sentiment that Christians can gain much by interpreting Scripture in the light of earlier biblical interpreters in The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What the Early Church Can Teach Us (Eerdmans, 2014). In this volume, Graves guides readers into the ancient world of early Christianity by exploring the intersection of biblical inspiration and biblical interpretation. For the early church fathers, what are the “entailments” of affirming the doctrine of inspiration, as they all did?
As the common story goes, the Bible lost its place of authority in the American mind when Darwinism and German theological liberalism cracked its foundations in the last half of the nineteenth century. In The Erosion of Biblical Certainty: Battles over Authority and Interpretation in America (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), Michael J. Lee pushes back that timetable, arguing that the Bible began to lose authority in the early eighteenth century when, ironically, orthodox Christian interpreters unwittingly contributed to its demise.
In this well-documented account of Americans’ engagement with the rise of biblical criticism, Lee, assistant professor of history at Eastern University, explores interpreters from the early eighteenth to the early nineteenth century and shows how they relied increasingly on historical evidence in their defense of the Bible’s authority. Influenced by European interpreters from Benedict de Spinoza, Jean Le Clerc, and John Locke to Johann Jakob Griesbach and J. G. Eichhorn, Americans increasingly employed historically based arguments in their biblical interpretation.
I’m pleased to see that Amazon has recently posted the cover for my book, Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms: A Redemptive-Historical Vision of Scripture, which is being published by Oxford University Press (OUP). It is currently slated for an October 3, 2014 release date.
Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms is the first book to explore Edwards’ treatment of a full book of the Bible. In the volume I examine Edwards’ engagement with the Psalms in the context of the history of interpreting, preaching, and worshipping with the Psalter. Edwards was a devoted student of the Bible, and in this book I hope to further the conversation about Edwards as a biblical interpreter—an area that deserves much more attention.
In my volume, I explore Edwards’ engagement with the Psalms throughout his corpus, including understudied manuscripts such as his “Blank Bible,” “Notes on Scripture,” and dozens of unpublished sermons. In his reading of the Psalms, Edwards treated various theological themes, including God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, revelation, humanity, sin, the gospel, Christian piety, the church corporate, and the eternal dwellings of all people. I argue that Edwards connected all of these themes through a redemptive-historical framework that guided his engagement with the Psalms.
Check out the OUP page for more details about Jonathan Edwards and the Psalms.
Steven Nadler’s piece at the New York Times, Judging Spinoza, is an interesting take on the modern reception of Spinoza. In his post he recounts his role as part of an advisory committee, sanctioned by the Portuguese-Jewish community of Amsterdam, to discuss lifting the original 1656 ban against Spinoza, ordered by that same Portuguese-Jewish community. Though an admirer of Spinoza’s philosophy, Nadler ultimately advised to maintain the ban.
While we don’t agree on the merits of Spinoza’s scholarship, I appreciate Nadler’s honest depiction of Spinoza’s ban. Rather than skirting the issue, Nadler comes out and states the actual basis for the ban. He writes,
Cocceius vs. the Cartesio-Cocceians? Probably not the first face-off that would come to mind when thinking about Johannes Cocceius (1603-1669). The more natural pairing would be Cocceius vs. Voetius. But today I want to take a moment to examine a phenomenon that occurs throughout history; namely, the discontinuity between teacher and disciple.
By the 1640s, a cohort of orthodox Calvinists gained the moniker “Voetians,” named after their leader Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676). Over the years they also gained a reputation for affirming a scholastic form of Calvinism and combating heterodoxy in all forms. Cartesianism became a repeated target for the Voetians, claiming that Cartesian skepticism elevated reason over revelation.
It has been a week since I have successfully defended my dissertation. Currently, I am making some revisions before I submit the final copy. The project itself examined the accommodation debate of 1761-1835. Graham A. Cole, speaking to the history of biblical interpretation, writes, “one of the most fertile ideas generated in such discussion is the idea of divine accommodation” (Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith?, 63). Urging for a renewal of the doctrine of accommodation D. A. Carson states that a “restatement of that doctrine would be salutary today” (The Gagging of God,130).
The doctrine of accommodation contends that a chasm exists between God and his creation. Despite being created in his image, man is bound by his limited mental capacity. Thus, the dilemma: how does God communicate his religion of truth to humankind which lacks comprehension?