Saturday, January 09, 2010

Onslaughts and Olive Branches, 2nd of 2

In the previous post I highlighted a few of the onslaughts: the places where Christianity Today magazine has taken a negative view of modern Old Testament scholarship.

What's interesting, however, is that for every pejorative remark regarding scholarship outside the evangelical camp, one can find another that is much more neutral, if not downright friendly. In many cases, the evangelical writer feels compelled to say that, yes, the work under review might be offensive to some. But then the writer goes on to vouch for the good intentions and correct points, even extending a welcome—where one might expect a warning—to the CT readership who are encouraged to study such works for all they're worth. For example, in 1959, remarking on Walter A. Maier’s commentary on Nahum, David Kerr observes:

If any trend distinguishes the direction of Old Testament studies at the present time, it is that which recognizes that the substance of biblical writing is often more important than the source. In some instances this trend is carried so far as to attempt to hold a fairly orthodox theology along side the most radical views of the literature of the Old Testament. In some other instances it has led to a higher respect for the integrity of biblical documents. [1]

In the 1960 review of recent books, although some writers are said to espouse what is called “Wellhausenism,” their efforts are credited in the warmest of terms. [2]

The Old Testament: Its Origins and Compositions by Curt Kuhl is calmly reviewed by Fred E. Young: “In simple and non-technical language, the PJED thesis is posited. He begins with P, although he dates it later than D.” The book, says Young, “is a good presentation by a critical mind on the books of the Old Testament and should receive wide reading by students interested in a critical approach to Old Testament scholarship.” [3]

Likewise, Carl Armerding notes that William L. Holladay's book Isaiah: Scroll of a Prophetic Heritage “is not committed to the literary unity of Isaiah." Nonetheless, says Armerding, "he finds in the varied materials of Isaiah a theological unity that will provide a thematic guide to a solid biblical theology.” [4]

Finally, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture by Brevard Childs (pictured above) is called “the notable event in Old Testament publication for 1979.” Armerding sums up his brief review by calling it “fresh, responsible, and devoid of irresponsible speculation.” [5]

What should we make of those much-different attitudes in the same publication representing the same group? In a final post on this subject, I'll take a stab at interpretation.

[1] CT, III (February 16, 1959), 8-9. It's interesting, I think, that Kerr's description of Maier's commentary sounds much like the later works of one Brevard S. Childs.

[2] CT, V (November 7, 1960), 43-44 and (December 19, 1960), 38.

[3] CT, V (July 3, 1961), 36.

[4] CT, XXIII (March 2, 1979), 30.

[5] CT, XXIV (March 7, 1980), 28.

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