Studies of the New Testament christology have always interested me; it started out while reading Oscar Cullmann’s Christology of the New Testament while being a young student. Now there is soon to be published another book that might prove to be just as interesting: I am thinking about the announced book by Matthew V. Novenson, Christ among the Messiahs: Christ Language in Paul and Messiah Language in Ancient Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press (UK) or Oxford University Press (USA), 2012).
The description provided by the publisher should wet the appetite for anyone with similar interests:
“Recent scholarship on ancient Judaism, finding only scattered references to messiahs in Hellenistic- and Roman-period texts, has generally concluded that the word ”messiah” did not mean anything determinate in antiquity. Meanwhile, interpreters of Paul, faced with his several hundred uses of the Greek word for ”messiah,” have concluded that christos in Paul does not bear its conventional sense. Against this curious consensus, Matthew V. Novenson argues in Christ among the Messiahs that all contemporary uses of such language, Paul’s included, must be taken as evidence for its range of meaning. In other words, early Jewish messiah language is the kind of thing of which Paul’s Christ language is an example.
Looking at the modern problem of Christ and Paul, Novenson shows how the scholarly discussion of christos in Paul has often been a cipher for other, more urgent interpretive disputes. He then traces the rise and fall of ”the messianic idea” in Jewish studies and gives an alternative account of early Jewish messiah language: the convention worked because there existed both an accessible pool of linguistic resources and a community of competent language users. Whereas it is commonly objected that the normal rules for understanding christos do not apply in the case of Paul since he uses the word as a name rather than a title, Novenson shows that christos in Paul is neither a name nor a title but rather a Greek honorific, like Epiphanes or Augustus.
Focusing on several set phrases that have been taken as evidence that Paul either did or did not use christos in its conventional sense, Novenson concludes that the question cannot be settled at the level of formal grammar. Examining nine passages in which Paul comments on how he means the word christos, Novenson shows that they do all that we normally expect any text to do to count as a messiah text. Contrary to much recent research, he argues that Christ language in Paul is itself primary evidence for messiah language in ancient Judaism.” (Thanks to Larry Hurtado on FB for the reference..)
My latest book review has now been posted on www.bookreviews.org. It concerns the book by Jennifer G. Bird, Abuse, Power and Fearful Obedience: Reconsidering 1 Peter’s Commands to Wives (Library of New Testament Studies 442 New York: T&T Clark, 2011.)
I must admit that I am not too favorable to here theses in my review. The book is, however, also a valuable example of this way of interpreteting a text. Or as I state in my review: “This study is, considering Bird’s premises and presuppositions, tightly argued and wellstructured. It might be very informative for those who want to see how a feminist, postcolonial, and materialist study might be carried out. But it is also somewhat provocative and often not very convincing.”
You might read the review for yourself here, or/and have a closer look at the book here. Another review is available here.
Last fall Professor Halvor Moxnes (University of Oslo) got his latest book published: Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism. A new quest for the nineteenth century historical Jesus. (I.B. Tauris, 2012.). Due to several reasons I have not been aware of the book before last month, and most recently got hold of it.
On its front leaf, we can read: “The great German theologian Albert Schweitzer famously drew a line under 19th century historical Jesus research by showing that at the bottom of the well lay not the face of Joseph’s son, but rather the features of all the New Testament scholars who had tried to reveal his elusive essence. In his thoughtful and provocative new book, Halvor Moxnes takes Schweitzer’s observation much further: the doomed “quest for the historical Jesus” was determined not only by the different personalities of the seekers who undertook it, but also by the social, cultural, and political agendas of the countries from which their presentations emerged. Thus, Friedrich Schleiermacher‘s Jesus was a teacher, corresponding with the role German teachers played in Germany’s movement for democratic socialism. Ernst Renan‘s Jesus was by contrast an attempt to represent the “positive Orient” as a precursor to the civilized self of his own French society. Scottish theologian G A Smith demonstrated in his manly portrayal of Jesus a distinctively British liberalism and Victorian moralism. Moxnes argues that one cannot understand any “life of Jesus” apart from nationalism and national identity: and that what is needed in modern biblical studies is an awareness of all the presuppositions that underlie presentations of Jesus, whether in terms of power, gender, sex, and class. Only then, he says, can we start to look at Jesus in a way that does him justice.”(Links added by TS)
The book provides interesting readings and understanding into both the culture of the nineteenth century and the emerging Jesus research, and their inter-relationships. On my part, I would have liked a similar study to also be carried out for the twentieht century; they were probably not less influenced by their own culture. And one might add, Prof. Moxnes will surely admit that he too is influenced by his culture.
In fact, the book and its author are astonishing contemporary in its preferences; to what degree he will escape allegations of being (too?) politically correct in his preferences for a post-national world order, only time can tell….
For my self, the kind of study it represents, reminds me very much of an other study, the one by Jonathan S. Perry, on The Roman Collegia: The Modern Evolution of an ancient Concept (Mnemosyne Supplements Vol CCLXXVII; Brill, Leiden, 2006). In this interesting and well-researched volume, Jonathan S. Perry describes some aspects of the development of research on the collegia from Th. Mommsen up to the present time, especially focusing–in more than half of the book–on the intersection of this research and the politics of Fascist Italy. That is, he reads the research on the ancient collegia in light of contemporary culture. For a review of that book, one might look here.
I am really looking forward to reading prof. Moxnes’ most recent book, and congratulate him with its publication.
Olive Tree‘s Bible reader is now available for PC and Mac. That is great news for many.
After having been a steadily growing and bettered program for cellphones, OliveTree has now expanded their product and made it available for Windows, Mac, Iphone, Ipad and Android phones. I addition, the range of books offered are constantly growing.
The program itself is still free for downloading, including some books.
I have used the program on Iphone and Ipad for some time, and have now also installed it on my PC. As I have other programs I still prefer for my PC, OliveTree’s Bible Reader is my favorite on my Iphone and Ipad.