Reviews of

To Recover What Has Been Lost

In Brill, Dale C. Allison Jr., Daniel Frayer-Griggs, Eschatology, Gospels, Intertextuality, Jonathan Rowlands, Nathan C. Johnson, NT reception history, Reception history, Tucker S. Ferda on June 11, 2021 at 3:00 pm

2021.6.13 | Tucker S. Ferda, Daniel Frayer-Griggs, and Nathan C. Johnson (eds). “To Recover What Has Been Lost”: Essays on Eschatology, Intertextuality, and Reception History in Honor of Dale C. Allison Jr. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 183; Leiden: Brill, 2021. ISBN: 978-90-04-44350-1.

Review by Jonathan Rowlands, St. Mellitus College.

The essays collected in this Festschrift are grouped into one of the three areas mentioned in the volume’s subtitle. As the helpful introduction from the editors notes, these are three areas that have each occupied a significant place in the writings of Dale C. Allison Jr. 

The first part contains seven essays gathered around the theme of eschatology. Paula Fredriksen begins this section with an essay on “Jewish Apocalyptic Eschatology, from Schweitzer to Allison, and After,” and here she is at her best, writing with her characteristic combination of scholarly rigour, intellectual imagination, and stylistic verve. Fredriksen never goes beyond where she perceives the evidence leading her (e.g., “I lack sufficient evidence to conjecture why John the Immerser and, following him, Jesus of Nazareth thought that God’s kingdom was at hand,” p. 28). Even where I do disagree with her (especially in the final section on history and theology, pp. 33–35), her essay makes for compelling reading. Following this, James H. Charlesworth helpfully suggests 4Q541 might illuminate the thought-world of Jesus’ eschatological parables, whilst James Crossley’s study of English millenarian prophet John Ball offers a fruitful parallel to the eschatological dimension of Jesus’ teaching.

Next, Paul Foster demonstrates that eschatology is not confined only to Matt. 24–25, but is a consistent theme throughout the entire Gospel. There is much more that Foster could say here (understandably, due to the size of his essay), and I very much hope that this line of enquiry is pursued further in subsequent publications. Foster’s discussion leads neatly into Lidija Novakovic’s comparison on Matthew and Paul on Torah observance. I find Novakovic’s reading of Matthew on Torah observance in particular to be less than convincing. Her claim that “all Gentiles who come to Jesus show reverence for Judaism” (p. 114) may indeed be accurate, but this is not to say that these figures are portrayed as Torah observant, either before or after their encounter(s) with Jesus, and her claim that “Matthew presumes that Gentile Christ-followers should observe…circumcision” (p. 116) goes far beyond what the text permits us to say, to my mind.

In the section’s penultimate essay, Edith Humphrey offers a series of helpful and measured reminders about the New Jerusalem in Revelation. In doing so, Humphrey manages successfully to walk a narrow path to offer something that is at once both exegetically astute and theologically sensitive. Humphrey manages to cover much varied ground, without her work appearing rushed or shallow, much to her credit. Finally, Jared Ludlow offers a survey of conceptions of death in ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman literature, focussing in detail on the Testament of Abraham. He convincingly argues that the Testament of Abraham offers a reversal, of sorts, of Job: “rather than seeking death to avoid suffering and mortal trials, Abraham refuses death so that he might continue his mortal experience and learning” (p. 155).

Part two is concerned with intertextuality and begins with Joel Marcus tracing a series of ironic intertextual twists on Psalm 8 by Job 7.17–21, 4 Ezra 8.30–36, and Matt. 8.19–20 // Luke 9.57–58. Marcus’ essay is simply a magnificent work of scholarship. In equal strokes learned and creative, here Marcus delivers a real treat, manoeuvring through a dizzying array of primary texts and secondary literature with seeming ease. Like the earlier essay from Humphrey, Marcus manages to be both exegetically nuances and theologically rich. There is much to commend about his essay, and (along with Fredriksen’s piece) it is the high point of the volume. This is followed by a study from Chris Keith on Matthew’s reception of the Markan incipit, where ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγέλιου (Mark 1.1) is changed to βίβλος γενέσεως (Matt. 1.1), furthering Allison’s work in his famous ICC commentary, and Keith’s own recent work on the textualization of the early Jesus tradition. Robert Gundry then offers a topographical examination of the Matthean birth narrative, convincingly arguing that the typology of the birth narratives serves Matthew’s Christology in a manner consistent with the rest of the gospel. 

In the second half of this section, Matthias Konradt undertakes an intertextual analysis of the agape ethics found in Paul and Ephesians (here considered non-Pauline), with Konradt concluding that Eph. 5.2 gives this agape-centred ethics a Christological foundation not found in the corresponding passaged in the undisputed Pauline epistles. Thus, for Konradt, in the authentic Pauline epistles, Paul does not offer a christologically grounded agape ethic but one that is formed “on the basis of Jewish ethics and the ethical teachings of Jesus” (p. 232), whilst Ephesians signals a marked point of development in this ethical system. Craig Evans uses 4QMMT as a springboard to compare James and Paul on the works of the law to argue that James supplements (and does not contradict) Paul on this point, as well as offering some reflection on Allison’s work on the authorship of James (pp. 250–52). Finally, John Kloppenborg’s essay, “Verbatim Citations in James,” concludes the intertextuality section with a well-reasoned argument against the notion that James only knows Jewish scripture through Paul.

Gerd Theissen opens the final part of the Festschrift (on reception history) by taking up recent advances in social memory theory within the quest for the historical Jesus and applying them to Jesus’ ethical teaching, in what is a very welcome reminder that de-modernising Jesus can be as dangerous as modernising him. In a similar vein, Rafael Rodríguez mines the earliest reception of the Gethsemane tradition to attempt to say something about what may or may not be traced back to the historical Jesus himself. Particularly noteworthy here is Rodríguez’s use of Hebrews to trace the impact and reception of the historical Jesus, a much-neglected source in this field, and one that I hope Rodríguez’s work encourages Jesus historians to reconsider. Following this, Mark Goodacre demonstrates the ways in which Matthew’s redactional reception of the so-called ‘harder sayings’ found in Mark have controlled the interpretation of Mark itself, acting as “a commentary and reading guide that prevented many a reader from noticing Mark’s oddities or developing its peculiarities” and ultimately “sav[ing] Mark for orthodoxy … alongside Matthew in the fourfold canon” (p. 334).

In the second half of this final section, Alicia Batten explores the relationship between James and ancient Jewish liturgical traditions. It is a shame, however, that at just over 10 pages, Batten’s essay is not longer. (Foster’s article is 26 pages, by contrast.) Her assertion that Jas. 1.17a may derive partly from such liturgical traditions is a prospect that may leave the reader wishing Batten, one of the world’s leading scholars on James, might say more. Nancy Klancher’s essay explores the portrayal of “God’s participation in Mary’s conception, birthing, and lactation of Jesus” (p. 351) in Odes of Solomon 19, and Sibylline Oracles 8, wherein she argues these are influenced by (and thus form part of the reception history of) the portrayals of miraculous conceptions in Genesis. There is a genuine dearth of scholarship on Odes of Solomon in particular, and so it especially encouraging to read Klancher’s excellent contribution on the portrayal of Mary in this text. The volume’s penultimate essay comes from Brant Pitre, who traces the modern interpretive history of the Christological ‘thunderbolt’ of Matt. 11.25–27 // Luke 10.21–22. For Pitre, Allison’s work on the ‘thunderbolt’ in his 2010 Constructing Jesus offers a framework within which it might be reasonable to trace this saying back to the historical Jesus himself. The final essay, by Stephen Patterson, explores the impact of Bultmann upon North American historical Jesus scholarship. Here Patterson notes an irony, that whilst Bultmann rejected the possibility of saying anything meaningful of the historical Jesus, it was his own existentialist demythologizing programme that laid the groundwork for the subsequent explosion of historical Jesus research in 20th-century North American scholarship. 

Festschriften often allow scholars to produce shorter form pieces of writing without the hinderance of the travails of the peer-review system. For better or for worse, the result is often that scholars can write with greater freedom, producing arguably more interesting pieces than one might find in the average journal article. In the case of the present Festschrift, this is certainly for the better. I find it impossible to conceive of any biblical scholar working today who would not find genuine value and intellectual stimulation amidst the pages of this volume. This is a magnificent collection of essays that examine a great variety of issues and texts with rigour and creativity. It is a fitting volume, therefore, to honour a man whose work has so consistently evinced these same qualities.

Jonathan Rowlands
St Mellitus College
jonny.rowlands [at] stmellitus.ac.u
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