Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture

The Blurb:

Many thanks goes to Steve Moyise who has given us in The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture a dependable and reader friendly handbook on a complex subject that will be a classic in its field for years to come.        

The Full Review:

Moyise, Steve. The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture. London: SPCK; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.  Pp. x + 182. Soft Cover. $22.99.  ISBN 978-0801048531

Steve Moyise (hereafter SM), professor of New Testament at the University of Chichester and most known for his work in the area of the New Testament’s use of the Old, has provided the NT student with yet another helpful handbook on this subject.  The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture (hereafter LNTWS) is the third, and presumably the last, in a series of books on the topic of the NT and Scripture (see the title).  SM first published Paul and Scripture (2010), and soon followed it up with Jesus and Scripture (2011).  This series proposes to “consider the use of Scripture” in three divisions of the NT, that is the Gospels, Pauline Letters, and the rest.  Each of his three book in this series parallels, SM states, IVP’s series of dictionaries, LNTWS following The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture volume. 

    LNTWS consists of an introduction, five chapters that are categorized by NT books, and a conclusion.  In its approach, LNTWS is pragmatic.  First, the chapter order is of note since SM does not follow canonical order.  The book begins in Acts and then skips to a chapter on “1 Peter and Scripture.”  SM says concerning his move from Acts to 1 Peter, “Although the order of the books in the New Testament would suggest that we turn to Hebrews next, it will be more useful to follow Acts with a study of 1 Peter, since the first part of Acts was devoted to Peter’s speeches” (42).  He notes that the comparison between the use of the Psalms in Peter’s speeches in Acts and their use in 1 Peter is of specific interest to his study.  SM continues to move about the NT canon pragmatically as he sees connection between books best made by traditional authorial suppositions and topical content rather than canonical order.  Thus, after 1 Peter SM treats “Jude, 2 Peter and James and Scripture.” He then devotes the final two chapters to Hebrews and Revelation. 

    Secondly, SM studies each of the Later NT use of the OT uniquely; as he sees each book of the NT using the OT. His first chapter on Acts is investigated by how the OT informs a theological topic, including: “Salvation for Jews and Gentiles”; “Christ’s death, resurrection and exaltation”; Christological titles and functions”; “Judgment”; “Major interpretations of Acts and Scripture”; etc.  Next, SM investigates both in chapters on 1 Peter, and Jude, 2 Peter and James simply by following which OT book is being quoted.  These two chapters also include treatments of the quotations and allusions to 1 Enoch.  In the chapter on Hebrews, SM investigates the OT quotations primarily with reference to pericopes in Hebrews, namely: Hebrews 1.5-14; Hebrews 2.6-13; Hebrews 10.19-39; “The cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11”; “Miscellaneous quotations in Hebrews 12-13”; but like the three preceding chapters, SM also covers some topics in Hebrews as they relate to OT use (“High Priest like Melchizedek in Hebrews 5.5-7.28”; “The cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11” could fit here as well; and a special section on “Philo on Cain and Abel”); and finally studies other topics in Hebrews by the specific “traditional” OT passages in Hebrews (“Psalm 95.7-11”; “Psalm 110 in Hebrews”; “Jeremiah 31.31-34 in Hebrews 8-10”;  and subsumed under the previously noted Hebrews 10.19-39 is a section on “Habakkuk 2.3-4 in Hebrews 10.37-38”).  Last, SM covers Revelation.  As he notes, “John does not quote Scripture but his visions allude to numerous biblical passages…” (111).  Thus, SM studies these allusions topically, under the headings: “God, Jesus and the Spirit”; Dragon, beast and false prophet”; “Judgment and disasters”;  “Witness and struggle”; “Final salvation”.  SM concludes his study on Revelation with a short excurses on the Letters of John and Scripture that covers “Cain and Abel and Other allusions”.

    Finally, of objective observation, SM includes two helpful features to his book.  First, throughout LNTWS grey boxes provide the reader a closer look at a specific topic just mentioned in the text.  Some include: Typological Interpretation; The Enoch Literature; The canon of Scripture; Introductory formulas in Hebrews; Philo on Cain and Abel; etc.  Each of these is one long paragraph that orients the reader with a brief definition of a critical topic.   Second, he has a two-page appendix of “quotations in the later writings of the New Testament” according to the UBS critical edition of the NT.  These two, but especially the grey boxes, fill in assumed material that his supposed audience, which I will discuss below, would not likely be aware of. 

    It is customary to reserve recommendations for the end of a review, but it seems necessary with regard to the points I will highlight in LNTWS that I suggest a readership for this book.  Though in this volume SM does not propose an audience, two come to mind to me as I read this book.  This book is suited best for the seminary or graduate student, and non-specialist, like a pastor or specialist in another field, both who would be looking for an informed introduction to a vast area of scholarship in an economy of time and pages.  This being said, I will comment on a couple salient points in the work that stood out to me as helpful.

    First, SM has a keen ability to make technical issues limpid to those who are not ‘in the know’.  One such area is the so-called LXX in the writings of the Later NT, and of course the broader NT.  In very non-threatening ways, SM takes account of the LXX and its interpretive use in the writings of the NT.  In Acts 13.40-41, for example, SM points out to his reader that the Habakkuk 1.5 quotation in Acts will look different than “the one that came down to us [in Hebrew]”, that is, what one would see if one were to turn to Habakkuk in their English Bible.  He helps his readers to see and understand why this is by briefly noting the discrepancy in words such as ‘nations’/’scoffers’ and ‘perish’/’astounded’ and making reference to the linguistic legacy of Luke’s possible source to a DSS commentary on Habakkuk.  The payoff for the reader here is that SM spared much of the details reserved for specialist attention, but gave enough detail to the reader to assure that they were informed of the most salient points.  From here SM can make a redemptive point, that is, that Paul means his audience to know that “God will judge ‘scoffers’ by means of the proclamation of the gospel” (27). 

    Secondly, SM’s chapter on the OT in Hebrews gives a framework for the many (37) explicit OT quotations and many more allusions.  His treatment of Hebrews enables his reader to observe the skilled Jewish exegesis employed in this NT book.  Quoting Susan Docherty (2009), SM observes, “‘originally separate and independent passages of scripture’ can speak in unison: ‘The author of Hebrews as much as any Jewish exegete… regarded it as legitimate interpretation to seek out what scriptural texts imply as much as what they actually say, presumably believing that the new meaning…was inherent in the original revelation, which he regarded as having endless depths of meaning and real contemporary relevance’” (87).  Rounding out the Hebrews chapter, SM does not dodge the authorship issues, possibly submitting an implicit vote for Paul.  He says, “Although few scholars today believe that Hebrews was written by the apostle Paul, it (Hebrews) clearly comes from a mind every bit as sharp and knowledgeable of Jewish tradition” (110). 

    The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture, SM’s latest addition to his and Scripture series, was a joy to read and will serve a wide audience very well.  Of course, it would be easy in a slim book such as this that one could claim that this or that point could have gained a bit more attention.  But the coverage of the primary issues in this field, especially concerning the area of the later NT, and the helpful way for which SM covered these issues should be commended. I can see this book, along with the two previous in this series, becoming useful companions along side particularly Carson and Beale’s OT in the New commentary.  Additionally, this book is an accessible yet not ‘dumbed-down’ intro that would serve seminarians and pastors who do not have traditionally have course space or time for education in Jewish exegesis and LXX quotation in the NT.  Many thanks goes to Steve Moyise who has given us in The Later New Testament Writings and Scripture a dependable and reader friendly handbook on a complex subject that will be a classic in its field for years to come.    

Note:  This book was furnished without charge from Baker in exchange for an objective review.  Thanks to Baker for the book.     

Other Book Reviews on MosisMose:
New Testament Theology in Light of the Church’s Mission

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