Reviews of

Jesus the Priest

In Baker Academic, Gospels, Historical Jesus, Nathan Charles Ridlehoover, Nicholas Perrin, Priest, Synoptic Gospels on February 27, 2020 at 2:00 pm

9780801048593

2020.02.05 | Nicholas Perrin. Jesus the Priest. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2018.

Review by Charles Nathan Ridlehoover, Columbia International Seminary.

Nicholas Perrin is the president of Trinity International University, Deerfield, IL. Previously, he was the Franklin S. Dyrness Professor of Biblical Studies and associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, IL. Jesus the Priest is the second installment in a planned three-part series. Following the 2010 release of Jesus the Temple, the current volume forms the lynchpin to the expected Jesus the Sacrifice.

Jesus the Priest is Perrin’s argument concerning Jesus’s mission to invigorate the priestly role in conjunction with the predictive prophecies of Ezekiel 36. In so doing, Jesus takes on priestly functions in creating a cultic space of renewal for the final temple where his people will worship. Perrin pursues this line of reasoning along two concurrent levels. On the first level, he follows a purely inductive approach in which he looks through various textual details to establish Jesus’s movement as a priestly order. The primary evidence for this assertion is his appeal to the Lord’s Prayer, and then looks as other texts as corroborative evidence. The second line of reasoning is more of a comparative argument (in his words, “redemptive-historical analogy”) in which Perrin compares Jesus’s persecuted disciples to the exodus generation persecuted under Pharaoh. Perrin explains his methodology in the beginning as somewhat of a historical Jesus approach but admits that he does have theological sympathies and seeks to fuse together the historical-critical with insights from composition criticism, socio-historical backgrounds, and study of the Hebrew Bible.

The book is arranged around seven main chapters bookended by an introduction (i.e., history of debate, presuppositions, and method) and conclusion. The chapters are as follows: Chapter 1 explains the significance of the Lord’s Prayer for Jesus’s role as priest. The primary focus is on the invocation—our Father in heaven. Chapter 2 examines the baptism of Jesus. The chapter begins with an examination of John’s baptism and questions concerning the theophany in Mark 1:11 and its consequences for seeing Jesus as the Son of God. Chapter 3 examines the kingdom of Jesus. Perrin is clear that his reading of the priestly role is not intended to dismiss other prominent titles of Jesus such as his role as Messianic king. Rather, he intends to show that the titles and roles properly understood subjugate Jesus’s royal identity to his primary identity as priest. As chapter 2 examined the significance of Jesus as the Son of God, so chapter 4 explores the significance of Jesus as the Son of David. Perrin shows the dual themes of kingship (in conjunction with chapter 3) and priesthood in the lives of David and Solomon before finishing the chapter with an analysis of Ps 110. Chapter 5 examines the third significant title used of Jesus, the Son of Man. Significant to this chapter is Perrin’s analysis of the apocalyptic vision within the book of Daniel. Chapter 6 takes a deeper dive into the implications of the previous chapter. Here, Perrin explores three Son of Man passages in the New Testament (Mark 2:23–28 par., Q 9:58 [Matt 8:20//Luke 9:58], and Q 7:31–35 [Matt 11:16–19//Luke 7:31–35]). The implications of both chapters 5–6 is that the Son of Man title was not being used as an individual marker of Jesus’s identity but more as a marker of the “drama which […] was already playing itself out in the experience of his movement.” Jesus’s implementation of Son of Man was to signal the implementation of the narrative of Daniel 7 as a model and map for his ministry. Chapter 7 concludes Perrin’s formal study with an examination of Jesus’s interlocutors, or in this case, antagonists. By focusing on Jesus’s teaching on paying the temple tax to Caesar and his trial before Caiaphas, Perrin is able to reinforce his argument for Jesus’s priesthood. The book concludes with a summation of the argument and foreshadowing of his forthcoming Jesus the Sacrifice.

Among the endearing qualities of the following volume is its preference for textually driven conclusions. Each chapter is replete with thorough examinations of Greek wording, grammatical constructions, and extracanonical parallels. Perrin also weaves together insightful analogies from art, history, and literature that bring his overall argument to life. Although some will see this as a weakness to Perrin’s argument, I appreciate the limited sample sets of investigation. Focusing on very particular verses that hold up under the historical Jesus criteria allows Perrin to avoid those who would undermine his bigger argument by focusing on minutiae in his presuppositions and methodology.

I agree with Perrin’s larger conclusion but wonder about some of his exegetical observations along the way. Because the first chapter is so pivotal to Perrin’s primary argument, I will reserve my comments to its content. In this chapter, Perrin provides a fascinating reading of the Lord’s Prayer, with a particular emphasis on the Father language in the invocation. It is apparent from his reading and the footnotes contained therein that Perrin is a fan of N. T. Wright and Brad Pitre’s understanding of the Lord’s Prayer. After establishing the significance of the Father language and its relationship to the first petition (“hallowed be your Name”), Perrin asserts that the rest of the petitions follow suit. In his particular argument, Father is understood against the backdrop of the exodus narrative. I think this can be reasonably demonstrated, but I noticed that there was no interaction with the conclusions of Jonathan Pennington’s Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew. In Pennington’s work, he gives arguably one of the most thorough examinations of the “Father in heaven” invocation not only from the perspective of the OT and Second Temple Judaism (which Perrin also does masterfully), but also within Matthew’s Gospel itself (not listed among Perrin’s sections). Pennington concludes that the title is part of a four-fold “heaven and earth” schema within the First Gospel. Some of his conclusions, I think, are very important for how we establish the meaning of the phrase and do not necessarily fit the priest motif. One example includes the rearrangement of familial roles. A follower of Jesus subverts biological ties to spiritual allegiances. These conclusions may be complementary, but they do not appear immediately so. I think there are other aspects of the Father title that also may fall within this criticism.

Overall, the book was a stimulating read and refreshing in unpredicted way. I enjoyed Perrin’s writing style with its flares of contemporary analogies alongside rigorous and methodical argumentation. The beginning of the book mentions Bultmann and Schwietzer, and although Perrin disagrees with their conclusions, he pays tribute to two highly influential New Testament scholars. It seems that, too often, contemporary scholarship only engages contemporary scholars and some of the greats are forgotten. In going against this trend, Perrin turns over old stones and introduces new conclusions. The book definitely left me wanting more and anticipating the third installment of the series.

Charles Nathan Ridlehoover
Columbia International Seminary
nathan.ridlehoover [at] ciu.edu

 

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