Quotes: Scholarship and Wisdom

From Witherington:

“Notice that the way  ‘virtue’ is inculcated in most of these sayings is not by direct command or imperative but rather by setting examples before the listener’s ears and letting them discern and decide which examples to shun and which to follow.  Proverbs are basically a form of moral persuasion, not authoritative command.”  P.  26




King, Priest, and Prophet: A Trinitarian Theology of Atonement; Robert Sherman, T&T Clark, NY/London, 2004

This book is about a complete theology of the Atonement, tying the atonement to Trinitarian Theology.  I got it for a sermon series this fall, “Prophet, Priest, King and Sage.”

“…To be sure, I am an ‘academic theologian’ and the book exhibits a number of standard academic trappings…but my motivation for writing ins pastoral.  I am convinced that theology written for the academy — or, more pointedly, just for other academic theologians — misses its original and true calling.  That calling is to serve the church by helping it better understand the full meaning and implications of the gospel it proclaims in its preaching, liturgy, counseling, catechesis, and evangelism.  I offer this book in hopes that it may make certain biblical themes and theological traditions more accessible and powerfully present for ministers in their diverse pastoral work, to the end that the church’s work my be faithfully enriched and strengthened.”  p. ix

This is a Rant! – Malachi 1:11

Here is what I see very often.  An academic offers an outside the box interpretation or suggests making an emendation to the biblical text.  This is taken up by subsequent commentators, more often based on the fact that other commentators have taken the bait.  This comment then rings down through the decades and is usually dismissed or it is tagged with a category such as “conservative reading”, “anti-supernatural bias”, “not generally accepted.” etc.

This is an important exercise in the academy – you need to know who else has said what on your passage.  For the normal reader, it is often advisable to skim (so you are familiar with the outline of the issue) but avoid getting entangled.

Case in point:  Malachi 1:11 – does this word affirm that worship by gentiles in gentile temples is acceptable?  This is the view of G. A. Smith, and is discussed by Verhoff (NICOT, p. 222-232, footnote p. 222) extensively as it is by R. Smith (WBC, p. 312-316) and others.

I find this interpretation highly unlikely because 1.  It runs against the rest of the Prophetic literature which diagnoses the people’s problem as either nominalism or idolatry.  2. it is said as if it would be understood and accepted by the post-exilic audience without need for explanation, 3. and because it fits a large prophetic theme of the gospel for the nations (from Genesis 12 through such passages as Isaiah 2, 11, 55 etc) – that the Nations will come and worship the LORD, and 4. from the other “my name will be great among the nations” comments in Malachi (1:5, 1:14, 3:12)

What is produced in the academy is very useful for any student of the scriptures, but also note that the interests of the academy (analysis, original research, pushing the envelope) is not the same  for the disciple, pastor or the church (hear, reflect, keep).

So let the academy wrestle, listen to their various voices if you like, but first go to the summary paragraph of these long, arcane academic discussions.

Start at the end!