New Testament Greek and Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Gerald F. Hawthorne

Amy M. Donaldson, Timothy B. Sailors, editors Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids October 1, 2003
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The title of this Festschrift in honor of Gerald F. Hawthorne, longtime professor of Greek at Wheaton College, seems to suggest that the book is about Greek and exegetical method or how the study of Greek contributes to exegesis. But the book is neither. Rather it includes a number of helpful articles on Greek, exegesis, and exegetical discussions about various passages in the New Testament. And yet there seems to be little relationship among any of the articles. A diverse collection such as this includes articles of various levels of interest for the reader.

The authors have all studied Greek with Professor Hawthorne, and the book begins with a short “personal appreciation” written by Ralph Martin and an introduction written by the editors. These both provide insights into the life and career of the honoree.

The first section, “Greek and Exegesis” includes three articles. In “Lexical Glosses and Definitions of Qerapeuvw,” David Aune provides a detailed study of the term. He is responding to a major work by Louise Wells on the healing language used in ancient Greek up to and including New Testament times (The Greek Language of Healing from Homer to New Testament Times, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft [Berlin: de Gruyter, 1998]). However, Aune goes beyond critique and suggests helpful insights for understanding New Testament usage. Aune believes that qerapeuvw has not been adequately treated in Greek lexicons. He suggests that a definition for the term in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts would significantly enhance the contextual meaning of the word. Aune suggests that in these four New Testament books qerapeuvw means “to cause someone to recover physical health immediately, without medical treatment or nursing.” This is helpful. However, one wonders whether he is being overly critical of the lexicons. This meaning is purely contextual. It seems unlikely that one could defend this as an aspect of the word itself. The distinction between semantics (roughly, the meaning of the word) and pragmatics (roughly, contextual meaning) is hotly debated in linguistics and philosophy, and the difference between Aune and the lexicons may be a difference between which aspects of meaning are semantic and which ones are not. Nevertheless the article is quite detailed and helpful on many issues related to qerapeuvw.

William Klein’s article, “Exegetical Rigor with Hermeneutical Humility: The Calvinist-Arminian Debate and the New Testament,” is a refreshing look at the age-old question, Which came first, theology or exegesis? This is an important article and deserves more attention than space permits here. Essentially Klein argues that theological commitments often exert more influence on one’s exegesis than exegetes are often willing to admit. The Calvinist-Arminian debate is used as an example, but his observations could be applied to many theological positions and debates. Klein demonstrates that Calvinists and Arminians may look at specific verses and phrases in the text slightly differently (e.g., “dead to sin”) depending on interpretive conclusions emphasized elsewhere. Exegetical rigor (meticulous concern for the meaning of the text) and hermeneutical humility (realizing one’s limitations and respecting others’ views) are traits that evangelical interpreters should exhibit.

Although Klein is careful to point out that he is not suggesting that all positions are driven by theological commitments, at times this seems to be the implication. In a footnote (p. 26 n. 6), Klein tells of students from the Ukraine who maintain both Arminian and pretribulational positions. He wonders whether their difficult experiences during the last one hundred years have driven them to these positions. This is certainly possible, but one must allow for these conclusions to have also resulted from independent study. When experience can be linked directly to theological commitments, one must be careful. However, the fact that a position fits well with experience does not mean it is invalid. Such positions, whether right or wrong, may be based on honest exegetical analysis. Nevertheless this is a thought-provoking article worthy of consideration by all students of the Scriptures and theology.

The third article in this section is by Douglas L. Penney and is entitled, “Finding the Devil in the Details: Onomastic Exegesis and the Naming of Evil in the World of the New Testament.” This interesting article provides an explanation of how a number of terms such as Satan and other titles of evil developed from relatively generic evil concepts (e.g., satan as an adversary) in Old Testament literature to fully personified evil characters (e.g., Satan) in the writings of second-temple Judaism (including the New Testament). Simply put, onomastic exegesis is the semantic development of an Old Testament concept into a role that finally takes on a proper name. The article includes helpful discussions of Old Testament and second-temple Judaism texts.

The second section, “Gospels and Acts,” begins with an article by John Levison entitled, “The Spirit in the Gospels: Breaking the Impasse of Early-Twentieth-Century German Scholarship.” In addition to bringing to the readers’ attention some early twentieth-century German scholarship on the Holy Spirit, this article pinpoints the background to pneumatology in the Gospels. The article begins by surveying the approaches of three German scholars, Hans Leisegang, Friedrich Büchsel, and Heinrich von Baer. The first, Leisegang, was a proponent of the religionsgeschichtliche Schule (History of Religions School), a movement primarily in Germany that advocated among other things an almost exclusively Hellenistic background for most of the New Testament. On the other hand Büchsel and von Baer advocated an exclusively Jewish influence. Not satisfied with either approach, Levison argues that the strict division between Jewish and Hellenistic influence is unsustainable. Using as an example the Liber antiquitatum biblicarum (Pseudo-Philo), Levison demonstrates that strongly Jewish and Hellenistic influences can be present in a single work. Levison concludes that this is also the case in the Gospels. This article rightly corrects the false strict division between Jewish and Hellenistic influences. First-century Judaism, although certainly unique, was significantly Hellenized. Unfortunately the article is somewhat inaccessible to those not engaged in scholarly research because it includes extensive German passages without translation. These passages are significant and are often the basis of Levison’s subsequent discussion. Nevertheless his essential points are clear.

In “A Leper in the Hands of an Angry Jesus,” an exercise in textual criticism, Bart Ehrman argues that despite the overwhelming manuscript support for splagcnisqeiv", “compassion,” it is preferable to conclude that ojrgisqeiv", “anger,” is original in Mark 1:41. Although not entirely convincing, Ehrman argues his point based on strong internal evidence. His use of internal evidence is a model of how this aspect of textual criticism should be done. The implication of his position is that Jesus was not moved with compassion to heal the leper but rather with anger. Others have taken his position on the reading; however, most seem to focus the anger away from the leper and onto something else. Ehrman argues that anger fits the context (both immediate and in the entire book) better than compassion by tracing the two emotions throughout the Book of Mark.

Jeffrey Staley’s article, “Liar Liar and ‘This Woman’ in John 7:1–8:59: From Rhetorical Analysis to Intertextual Rereading,” is both a rhetorical analysis and an intertextual rereading of this Johannine passage. Also it describes the author’s own journey from his dissertation conclusions twenty years ago to his present understanding of the passage. Initially he proposed a straight rhetorical analysis of the text, ignoring the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (7:53–8:11). This includes a complex chiastic structure for the passage. However, as time progressed and through influences such as intertextual readings and a Jim Carrey movie (Liar Liar), he began to see a role for the story of the adulterous woman in the passage, especially since it is placed close to his chiastic center (7:44). It seems that Staley is suggesting that the passage was not part of the original manuscript. Within a postmodern framework, he is identifying an intertextual connection between John and the Jim Carrey movie. Not all will readily accept this connection, especially if one does not adhere to many intertextual theory presuppositions; however, his approach may cause readers to search for an explanation of why the story is usually placed between 7:52 and 8:11. Many have simply ignored the passage. However, it is worth considering why some(one) in the ancient church chose to place the passage here. This is not necessarily an exegetical pursuit; rather it is a question about early church history.

“The Spirit and Jesus and ‘on Mission’ in Postresurrection and Postascension Stages of Salvation History: The Impact of the Pneumatology of Acts on Its Christology,” by William Larkin Jr., highlights the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the postresurrection and postascension ministries of Jesus in Acts. Essentially the role of the Spirit is to glorify Jesus. Among other roles in the postresurrection earthly ministry of Jesus, the Spirit empowered Jesus to be “an authoritative prophetic revealer” of future events in salvation history, and in the postascension ministry the Lord continues His mission through the Holy Spirit.

The final article in this section is “Moral Character and Divine Generosity: Acts 13:13–52 and the Narrative Dynamics of Luke-Acts,” by Bruce Longenecker. This is a rich biblical-theological (“narrative”) study in Luke-Acts of the themes mentioned in the article’s title. Longenecker begins by contrasting the two episodes at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:13–52). In the first, Paul essentially presented the Christian message focusing on Jesus as Savior and His resurrection. The response from the people was positive, and he was invited back to speak again. However, after the second speech the people became hostile. The reason for this cannot be ascribed to Christology. This was presented in the first speech. Paul’s audience was angry because of his emphasis on the universal nature of the gospel and the inclusion of the Gentiles. The article traces this theme throughout Luke-Acts and discusses how concepts like jealousy were part of the negative reaction.

Hawthorne’s best-known work is his 1983 commentary on Philippians in the Word Biblical Commentary series. It is not surprising then that three of the four articles in the final section of the book (on “Epistles”) concern Philippians. Stephen Fowl’s article, “Philippians 1:28b, One More Time,” suggests that a version of Hawthorne’s view on this difficult clause is most satisfying in the immediate context. Essentially the faith of the Philippians (1:27) in light of opposition (v. 28a) is a sign. The readers’ opponents, Fowl suggests, would see it as a sign that the church would be destroyed, but believers in the Philippian church would see it as a sign of salvation.

Walter Hansen provides a detailed study of three relational terms in Philippians in his article, “Transformation of Relationships: Partnership, Citizenship, and Friendship in Philippi.” Describing some Roman relational concepts, Hansen suggests similarities in Philippians. However, he avoids pitfalls of others by not demanding these are necessarily technical terms with direct parallels in Roman writings. First, “partnership” (koinwniva) is described in light of two kinds of Roman partnerships, societas and communio. The former is a partnership by consensus and the latter is a partnership based on common ownership. Hansen demonstrates how both of these kinds of partnerships are present in Philippians. The Philippians and Paul were voluntary partners in the gospel ministry (societas, e.g., 4:10–18). Also there is a common “ownership” (communio) explicit in the letter. For example koinwniva pneuvmato" (“fellowship of or with the Spirit,” 2:1) is shared by both Paul and the church. Concerning “citizenship” (politeiva) Hansen argues persuasively that the letter is concerned with both earthly (1:27) and heavenly citizenship (3:20). In discussing the concept of “friendship” (filiva) Hansen suggests that Paul reflected a Greco-Roman concept of friendship in his letter. This type of friendship is based on virtue (e.g., 4:8) and includes dependence, community, and selfless love (e.g., 2:4).

Hawthorne is known for his belief that Philippians was written from Caesarea. Therefore it is fitting that an article on the setting of the letter be included in this collection. In “Ephesus and the Literary Setting of Philippians” Frank Thielman argues for Ephesus against the more common and traditional city of Rome as the place of writing. Thielman argues from internal evidence and suggests that a letter written during an earlier Ephesian imprisonment best accounts for the two kinds of opposition reflected in the letter (3:2 and 3:18–19). Considering the evidence of the letter itself and attempting to place it within Paul’s ministry is the means by which to determine where the letter was written. However, the lack of evidence of an Ephesian imprisonment and the strong internal evidence for Rome (e.g., 1:13; 4:22) still seem to suggest Rome as the most probable option.

The final article in the book, Peter Davids’s “The Meaning of  JAeivrasto" Revisited,” argues that the best translation of this rare word in James 1:13 is “God should not be put to the test by evil people.” The article includes a thorough diachronic study of the word as well as a discussion of Jewish testing.

Possibly the most valuable contribution of this book is beyond the actual content. The list of capable scholars who contributed to this volume and who appear in the “Tabula Gratulatoria” (pp. 249–52) is impressive. The reader cannot escape the impression that faithfully teaching and imparting one’s life to his or her students is highly significant. Professor Hawthorne has had an immeasurable impact on biblical studies and the church. This volume is a fitting tribute.

This Festschrift includes many excellent articles. However, given the wide range of topics discussed, it is unlikely that readers will find the entire volume of equal interest. Nevertheless it would be helpful for Bible students to be aware of the contents of the volume and to make use of those articles that are of value to their own research.

—Joseph D. Fantin

January 1, 2005
 

Biblotheca Sacra

This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2005 vol. 162 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.

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