Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Book Comments: Hahn and Johnson

Library.jpgI can’t possibly discuss every book I’d even like to discuss at length on this blog, let alone books I get that deserve to be mentioned. I would need four blogs to get all this accomplished. 

Yet, I’ve been frustrated about this for a long time, and never landed on anything that works so I want to start a column I will call “Book Comments” that mentions some really good books, usually of an academic level fit mostly for pastors and professors. I want to mention two today:
Scott W. Hahn is known throughout the American religious scene as “the evangelical who went Catholic on us,” and Scott was featured in my own study of why evangelicals become Catholic. But Scott is a very good biblical scholar and theologian, and he is perhaps the world’s most covenant-focused interpreter of the Bible that I know. Furthermore, he has processed almost all of contemporary scholarship through his lens of kinship (with God) by covenant. Perhaps Michael Horton or one or two others rank up there with Scott, but I’d still give Scott the nod when it comes to a focus on covenant theology in interaction with all the discussions. Scott did his dissertation on this topic and he has been writing and speaking about it ever since, and if you know what he thinks about covenant, you’ll see it in every book he writes. I read Scott’s thesis and wrote him and urged him to publish it, and I’m so glad that Doubleday has brought it out in revised form in their prestigious Anchor Bible Reference Library. In my view, this book has to be read by seminarians across the theological spectrum. It’s that important. In some ways it chases away the old polarities and some of the more recent ones too. In process, it changes the categories. 


In the same series, The Anchor Bible Reference Library, Luke Timothy Johnson has written yet one more intelligent, evidence-based book on the relationship of Greco-Roman religions and Christianity. This area — Greco-Romans religions — has entered a new phase of significance because of the cottage industry studies on the anti-empire ideology at work in so many New Testament studies today. For that reason alone Johnson’s book needs to be put on the shelf of all libraries and on the desk of anyone who wants to ponder anti-empire ideology. I hear this in professors and even more today among pastors. Recently two pastors told me they are thinking of writing a book on the anti-empire theme. Before you do, I say to them, figure out the evidence. 
But there’s so much more and Johnson scans it all — this is a must-read book for the one who wants to understand the religious context of the earliest (diaspora especially) Christians. Johnson examines religious phenomena through the Third Century.
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posted October 18, 2009 at 5:37 pm

I’m so glad to see a level headed Protestant review of Dr. Hahn’s book. I’ve been a fan of Scott for nearly 5 years. He opened the covenant relationship between God and man more than anyone I know. He really has a great handle on it. I look forward to reading this book. Scott is one of several leading the way to great reform in the Catholic church for which we can be thankful. He’s a profound believer and writer.
Thank you Scott for adding another Scott to look at on your blog.

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Mike M

posted October 19, 2009 at 12:01 am

Richard: you mean thank-you “Wuntie Scot” for adding another “Tootie Scott” to look at.

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posted October 19, 2009 at 10:15 am

Scot, Good idea for a book notes addition to Jesus Creed, although part of me goes ‘Oh no, another book I should read. And how does Scot find the time?’
[Nice photo Trinity College Dublin’s library btw. The Book of Kells used to sit in a glass case in the middle. Now downstairs in a special exhibition]

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John M.

posted October 19, 2009 at 12:29 pm

So Scot, do you think Brian McLaren and N.T. Wright get it wrong with their emphasis on empire in the New Testament context?

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posted October 19, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Ya caught me Mike. I forgot to drop my “T” when I switched to the double “T’s”. It’s like my last name. I can’t tell you how many letters to Mr. Olsen addressed to Mr. Olesson, Olessen, Ohlssen, Ohlesson, Olson etc etc.
And Patrick..I’ve asked myself the same question. How can Sco(tt) read so many books. Then I got the answer. He’s paid to read. Now if only I can land a job like that. (It helps to be a PERfessor too. or is that Purrfessor for a guy who is a cool cat)

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Scot McKnight

posted October 19, 2009 at 4:10 pm

John M, I think both overemphasize a theme. There is no doubt that if Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not. To read that into all instances, or many or most instances of the word “Lord,” is to read into the text too much. The only times Paul mentions Rome he says positive things. The anti-imperial theme does come up in Acts 17.
The new book by Seyoon Kim, not to mention John Barclay’s lecture response to Tom, put a test to the anti-imperial readings of folks like Dick Horsley and others … and I also think there’s more than a little anti-Bush in all of this … I could go on.

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posted October 19, 2009 at 5:33 pm

In the publishers recomendation for the book they says: “This thoughtful and passionate study should help break down the walls between Christianity and other religious traditions.”
How is that articulated in the book? I am a little surprised if this is a correct description of LT Johnson’s view (and then even of your recommendation of it )..

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John M.

posted October 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Thanks Scot. As in most things, blance and nuance are needful. I won’t say more becuase I will be in over my head!

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Terry Tiessen

posted October 19, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Thanks, Scot. This is an excellent idea and I look forward to future posts like this.

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