Could God Have Commanded the Slaughter of the Canaanites?
Stephen N. Williams (Union Theological College, Belfast)
This article is a slightly revised version of the Tyndale Lecture in Christian Ethics, delivered in 2010. It deals not with the narrowly historical question of the slaughter of the Canaanites, but with the theological question of the possibility of God’s having commanded it. Its argument is that we should not conceive it as a possible divine command, unless we regard it as sorrowfully commanded, a commandment accommodated to conditions of human violence for which humans are responsible.
But Ruth Clung to Her: Textual Constraints on Ambiguity in Ruth 1:14
Scott N. Callaham (Houston, Texas)
Researchers commonly assert that deliberately ambiguous language in Ruth 3 kindles sexual tension in the depiction of Ruth’s nocturnal encounter with Boaz upon his threshing floor. Perhaps inspired by the literary artistry of the author of Ruth, some recent interpreters have also averred that an erotic undercurrent flows through words they deem intertextually suggestive and allusively ambiguous in Ruth 1:14 as the text reads, ‘but Ruth clung to her’. The present study critically examines this proposal in light of interrelated semantic, syntactic, and intertextual literary evidence.
‘And How Much Do You Owe …? Take Your Bill, Sit Down Quickly, and Write …’ (Luke 16:5-6)
Marulli (Adventist University of France, Collonges-sous-Salève)
The parable found in Luke 16:1-8a has very often puzzled Christian commentators. The history of its interpretation shows that only a few fathers accepted the challenge to interpret it (mostly allegorically). Today we are all the more aware of the benefit of understanding the socio-economic backdrop of such an unsettling story. This essay is an attempt to shed light on the meaning of the parable in the context of debt contracts and rates of interest in first-century Palestine. We shall start by a short description of the pyramidal social structure, the relational function of honour/shame values, and debt reduction dynamics in first-century Roman Palestine. The second part of this article will review some biblical, rabbinical and non-literary papyri sources on the topic of loans and debts in order to shed light on the practice of lending/borrowing money and goods, as well as some practical aspects referred to in the parable of the shrewd steward, such as the possible contractors, the rates of interest, the steward’s share, and the documents used in the context of ancient loans.
Grace Tasted Death for All: Thomas Aquinas on Hebrews 2:9
Lee Gatiss (Peterhouse, Cambridge)
This article examines the biblical interpretation of Thomas Aquinas, which has until recently been relatively neglected amongst the many works of this leading medieval theologian. Looking particularly at ‘by the grace of God Christ tasted death for all’ (Hebrews 2:9), a key phrase which throws up several exegetical and theological puzzles, it concludes that Aquinas’s approach to it is a prime example of medieval commentating both at its best and its worst. It shows how his lack of knowledge of Greek led him astray, notes his neglect of textual criticism, and examines his reliance on tradition, especially the Hebrews commentary of Peter Lombard. It places his use of the theological formula ‘sufficient for all, efficacious for the elect alone’ when expounding the words ‘for all’ into historical context, surveying exegetical discussion of the extent of the atonement from Origen to Gottschalk to John Owen. Aquinas’s use of the scholastic ‘division of the text’ methodology to identify a melodic line centring on this verse’s theme of ‘grace’ within both Hebrews and Paul (the assumed author) is uncovered, along with other interpretative tactics and a reflective piety which jar against the presuppositions of modern academic biblical studies.
Heaven Opened: Intertextuality and Meaning in John 1:51
David R. Kirk (Highland Theological College)
John 1:51 presents unique interpretational challenges at a theological level. In this study, the allusion to Jacob’s encounter with the LORD at Bethel is the point of departure for an approach which brings together this background with a consideration both of the title Son of Man, and the function of the verse within the gospel. A re-examination of the Bethel narrative casts doubt on the stairway being an image of communication. A Jesus-Jacob nexus arises from a natural reading of John 1:51, and is the interpretational key which unlocks the meaning of the verse. This nexus gives a representative emphasis to the gospel’s first Son of Man saying, and the theological connection to the patriarchal promises leads to a conclusion about the identity of the ‘greater things’ which are promised.
Foreignising Bible Translation: Retaining Foreign Origins when Rendering Scripture
Andy Cheung (King’s Evangelical Divinity School)
This article considers the notion of foreignisation with respect to Bible translation, a concept originating with Schleiermacher but re-popularised in the 1990s by Lawrence Venuti. ‘Foreignising translation’ aims to relocate the reader in the world of the source text and attempts to make obvious the alien origins of the original text. It therefore differs from ‘domesticating translation’ which seeks to create a target text with expressions and style more in keeping with target readers’ receptor world conventions. Although foreignisation has long been established as a recognised translation strategy in ‘secular’ translation studies, it is less commonly considered with respect to Bible translation. This article discusses the benefits of foreignising translation in the task of rendering Scripture, albeit within a framework known among translation theorists as ‘skopos theory’, whereby multiple translation styles are permissible, depending on their usage and function in a target community.
Sitting on Two Asses?: Second Thoughts on the Two-Animal Interpretation of Matthew 21:7
Wayne Coppins (University of Georgia)
The main thesis of this article is that the ‘two-animal’ interpretation of Matthew 21:7, according to which Matthew speaks of Jesus as sitting on two animals, can be shown to be more probable than the ‘multiple-garments’ interpretation, according to which Jesus is understood to be sitting on multiple garments on a single animal. Prior to my analysis of Matthew 21:7 I discuss the related question of why Matthew’s account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem involves two animals rather than one, arguing that the ‘history conformed to Scripture interpretation’ is more probable than the ‘Scripture conformed to history’ interpretation. Following it, I advance a more tentative interpretation of the surprising outcome of Matthew’s interaction with Scripture.
The Eschatological Interdependence of Jews and Gentiles in Galatians
John W. Taylor (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary)
Agitators in Galatia insisted that law observance for Gentiles was essential, because the eschatological blessing promised to the heirs of Abraham is only to be found within Israel. But in three key passages (3:13-14; 3:25-26; 4:4-7), which are frequently misunderstood because pronominal shifts are set aside, Paul makes the blessing of Jews and Gentiles in Christ mutually interdependent, in a theological sense. Gentiles are blessed with the blessing of Abraham because Jews are set free by Christ from the curse of the law. Because the Gentiles are blessed, and have become sons of God, Jewish believers receive the Spirit. Thus Gentile inclusion in Christ is not subsidiary to Israel’s eschatological status, and does not require law observance.
My Psalm Has Turned into Weeping: The Dialogical Intertextuality of Allusions to the Psalms in JobWill Kynes (University of Oxford)
The ‘bitter parody’ of Psalm 8:5 in Job 7:17-18 has long been recognised but its hermeneutical implications have not been fully explored. The repetition of the phrase ש$מה־אנו (‘What are human beings?’), the common structure of both passages, and the recurrence of the verb פקד set in a context which reverses its meaning, have led to a nearly unanimous consensus that Job is intentionally twisting the meaning of the psalm from a hymn of praise for God’s watchful care to a complaint against his overbearing attention. Rarely, however, has the question which naturally follows been pursued: if the author of Job interacted with Psalm 8 in such a knowing and sophisticated way, what other allusions to the Psalms may likewise make significant contributions to the dialogue between Job, his friends, and God?