New Research Fellow: Dr John Meade

In August the research fellows welcomed Dr John Meade to the Center’s board of research fellows. Here is a brief bio about Dr Meade.

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Dr. John Meade is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Co-Director of the Text & Canon Institute at Phoenix Seminary. He serves as co-chairman of the Septuagint Studies section at the Evangelical Theological Society and Member at Large on the Executive Committee of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies. His research interests include canon formation, Old Testament textual criticism, Origen’s Hexapla and the philological project of the Caesarean Library, and the biblical languages.

 Dr. Meade has published articles on Origen’s Hexapla, Septuagint, and Old Testament Textual Criticism. He co-authored The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis (OUP 2018) and his A Critical Edition of the Hexaplaric Fragments of Job 22–42 (Peeters forthcoming) will appear soon. He is a member of ETS, SBL, and IOSCS. He has just returned from moderating a workshop on Early Christians and the Books at the Edges of the Canon and giving a paper on Origen’s philological work on books outside of the Jewish canon at the International Conference on Patristic Studies in Oxford.

You can follow him on Twitter @drjohnmeade and he blogs at the Evangelical Textual Criticism Blog.

Book Notice: Christ Redeemed 'Us' from the Curse of the Law: A Jewish Martyrological Reading of Galatians 3.13

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We are delighted to see the release of a new book by one of our Sr. Research Fellows, Jarvis Williams. He is an Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Seminary. In Christ Redeemed “Us” from the Curse of the Law: A Jewish Martyrological Reading of Galatians 3:13 (Library of New Testament Studies), Williams engages the intersection of Galatians and Jewish Martyrological literature in antiquity.

Here is the blurb from bloomsbury site.

Jarvis J. Williams argues that the Jewish martyrological ideas, codified in 2 and 4 Maccabees and in selected texts in LXX Daniel 3, provide an important background to understanding Paul's statements about the cursed Christ in Gal. 3.13, and the soteriological benefits that his death achieves for Jews and Gentiles in Galatians. Williams further argues that Paul modifies Jewish martyrology to fit his exegetical, polemical, and theological purposes, in order to persuade the Galatians not to embrace the 'other' gospel of their opponents. 

In addition to providing a detailed and up to date history of research on the scholarship of Gal. 3.13, Williams provides five arguments throughout this volume related to the scriptural, theological and conceptual, lexical, grammatical and polemical points of contact, and finally the discontinuities between Galatians and Jewish martyrological ideas. Drawing on literature from Second Temple traditions to directly compare with Gal. 3.13, Williams adds new insights to Paul's defense of his Torah-free-gentile-inclusive gospel, and his rhetoric against his opponents.

You can purchase the book at Bloomsbury or Amazon.

Book Review: St. Augustine’s Interpretation of the Psalms of Ascent

Book Review: St. Augustine’s Interpretation of the Psalms of Ascent

—Published in Fides et Humilitas, no. 3 (2016): 144–147

Gerard McLarney, Adjunct Professor at St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta, has written a monograph on Augustine’s interpretation of the Psalms of Ascent, contributing to the field of theological exegesis (p.4). He argues that Augustine uses a hermeneutic of alignment, aligning “the listeners and the text within this unfolding narrative,” a narrative chronicling a journey of salvation spanning from Abel to Augustine’s present (p.37). Augustine’s alignment hermeneutic allowed his audience to participate “in the life of the text” (35).

McLarney demonstrates his thesis with an introduction, five chapters, and a conclusion. The monograph’s title, however, unsuccessfully describes the book’s contents. It is only in the fourth and fifth chapters that McLarney directly deals with Augustine’s interpretation of the Psalms of Ascent, meaning that the first 122 pages describe introductory and related issues. Chapter 1 describes patristic exegesis of the Psalter in general, while the second chapter details how the Psalms of ascent were delivered and transmitted. The third chapter addresses the social, cultural and ecclesial context of the homilies.

Even though the monograph’s title may not accurately describe its contents, the first three chapters provide a learned introduction to issues surrounding Augustine’s use of the Psalter. The skill with which McLarney wields both primary and secondary sources in, for example, the third chapter’s discussion on Augustine’s context bestows upon readers a wealth of measured knowledge that will inspire junior scholars and will inform interested readers.

McLarney’s monograph on Augustine also aids Christian ministers. For example, Augustine’s alignment hermeneutic implies that preaching a text’s original setting is insufficient; a text’s meaning must be interpreted in the local church. The text and reader are the place or context of interpretation (p.34). In other words, Augustine advocates contextualizing Scripture to bridge the gap between the “then” and “now.” Whatever one’s conviction is on the issue of contextualization, McLarney confronts readers with relevant issues of the day that shine from the past.

Additionally, McLarney provides rationale for why Augustine interprets a particular Psalm in the way that he does. Readers of ancient texts know that discerning an author’s rationale or assumptions behind an interpretation can be quite difficult. McLarney details such assumptions when, for example, he speaks of Augustine’s interpretation of Ps 119 (Eng: 120) in which Augustine interprets the Psalm as “a pilgrimage to the heavenly Jerusalem” (p.148). “The Bishop’s rationale,” writes McLarney, “is based on his interpretation of the superscription, and other biblical references, in addition to his theological presumptions about the fallen human condition, the interiority of the ascent, and the salvific descent and ascent of Christ” (p.148).

Due, in part, to his careful reading of Augustine that takes into account his rationale for interpretation, McLarney’s monograph also contributes to the retrieval movement, a movement that aims to recover earlier Christian tradition to reinvigorate the church. Augustine’s theological exegesis of Psalms challenges modern conceptions of exegesis. Even though few modern scholars will adopt Augustine’s model of the theological exegesis, awareness of the bishop’s thought and of early Christian exegesis will allow scholars to become more aware of their own situatedness and the situatedness of their interpretations.

Consider, for instance, Augustine’s interpretation of Ps 121 (Eng: 122). He argues that the city being built in Ps 122 is the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly city. Immediately, one may suspect Augustine to have allegorically read the text, but actually he “appeals to authorial intent” (p.172). After weaving together texts that furnish a biblical-theological understanding of the city, Augustine explains that the Psalmist wrote of Jerusalem which is (a) being built (aedificatur) (b) like a city (ut civitas). The bishop reasons that the passive present participle (“being built”) cannot be David’s city, which already has been constructed but it must be another. Indeed, the Psalmist’s Jerusalem is only “like a city.” Thus, the Psalmist himself engages in a figural reading akin to Peter’s words in 1 Pet 2:5 where “Christians are to be built ‘like living stones, into a spiritual house’” (p.172).

Such an interpretation combines grammatical and theological exegesis into an undivided whole, and McLarney’s presentation of it rejects a fine distinction between historical and spiritual exegesis. From a twenty-first century point of view, such interpretations appear at first blush allegorical. But McLarney makes readers aware that Augustine uses grammatical and theological reasoning to derive his interpretation, exposing the situatedness of readers who might otherwise dismiss Augustine’s reading as non-historical and invalid.

McLarney’s monograph deserves to be read by Augustine enthusiasts and those interested in patristic interpretation in general. Indeed, the breadth of McLarney’s scholarship lends itself to history, textual criticism, and hermeneutics, making his volume valuable to different sorts of readers.

Bibliographical Information

Gerard McLarney. St. Augustine’s Interpretation of the Psalms of Ascent. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2014. Pp. xviii + 244. ISBN: 978-0-8132-2703-0. $65.00 [Hardback].
About the Author:
Wyatt A. Graham

Wyatt A. Graham is a Ph.D. candidate at Southern Seminary and currently serves as Executive Director of the Gospel Coalition Canada.