For the Faculty: James T. Dennison, Jr. (Editor), Scott F. Sanborn, J. Peter Vosteen
Typing and formatting: Tin L. Harrell
Adam D. King
Charles G. Dennison
Marcus J. Renkema
James T. Dennison, Jr.

KERUX is a publication of Northwest Theological Seminary and appears three times each year (May, September, December). Editorial offices are located at 17711 Spruce Way, Lynnwood, WA 98037-7431. Correspondence should be directed to the editor at this address. Subscription rates for one year are: $20.00 (U.S. and Canada); $25.00 (Elsewhere). All remittances should be made payable in U. S. Funds. KERUX is: abstracted in New Testament Abstracts, Cambridge, MA, Old Testament Abstracts, Washingon, DC and Religious and Theological Abstracts, Myerstown, PA; indexed in ATLA Religion Database, Chicago, IL and the Elenchus of Biblica, Rome, Italy.

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ISSN 0888-8513
Vol. 20, No. 3
December 2005

[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 2-10]

Our Incomparable God1

Psalm 113

Adam D. King

The church has a unique treasure in the Psalms. All revelation is unified by the fact that it is the record of God's intervention from heaven in human history to bring salvation to his people. All Scripture is a revelation of God himself. But the Psalms contain an element unique in revelation. In them, we have not only the revelation of God acting in history for the salvation of his people, but also the response of those people—those who have been touched by the mighty working of God in history—who have experienced his salvation in their own lives—and thus give voice to their praise of God. But not only is the Psalter the response of the people back to God, it is an inspired response, one that itself is a revelation of God.

Psalm 113 is no exception. It reveals God's working in the life of the psalmist and the psalmist's inspired response to God's intervention in history. But it is also participatory. The psalmist gives his inspired response back to God because he has participated in the reality of which he sings. And this Psalm (like all the Psalms) is participatory for all the people of God who have likewise experienced God's working on their behalf. The Christian, reading and singing Psalm 113, is brought into the drama of which the psalmist sings.


1 This article, derived from a sermon preached by the author, is indebted to the theological insights on the Psalms by Geerhardus Vos in his Eschatology of the Psalter and the structural insights of J.P. Fokkelman in Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible: at the Interface of Hermeneutics and Structural Analysis, vol. 1 (Van Gorcum Press, 1998) 8-16.


And like the psalmist, the Christian must take these words in his own mouth in praise to God.

At the beginning and end of the psalm is a literary bracket; it is framed by the imperative, hallelujah! In this way the text explicitly makes known the response it demands. The bracket does more, however, than mark the beginning and end of the psalm; it draws the singer down into the drama contained within the bracket. The singer, drawn into the song, finds his heart at the exact center of the text: Who is like the LORD our God (5a)? It is obvious that this question demands the answer that no one is like the Lord! The whole structure of the passage is designed to answer this question. The first half of the psalm, verses 1-5a, responds that no one is like the Lord our God as the peerless object of praise. The second half of the psalm, verses 5a-9, answers that no one is like the Lord our God as the peerless acting subject.2 Each section will be considered in turn.

Verses 1-5a

The first four verses of Psalm 113 are unified by the sevenfold repetition of the name, Yahweh. With the exception of the concluding bracket, it is used exclusively in this first section. By the constant repetition of the name of the LORD, the psalmist does not allow the reader to stray from the fact that it is Yahweh alone who is the only object of praise. In every verse we are reminded of this fact. This emphasis is furthered by the frequent use of the imperative which has the effect of focusing the reader's attention on the object of all the imperatives: the LORD. The very grammar of the first section stresses the unique status of Yahweh who alone is worthy of praise.

However, the importance of the use of Yahweh's name extends farther than its mere repetition. The psalmist has purposely arranged his use of the


2 It should be noted from the foregoing divisions that 5a serves as a hinge by its inclusion in both sections. The first four verses lead up to and culminate in the question, whereas the second section begins with the question. It is part of the first section by virtue of its use of "the LORD" and it is included in the second section by providing the subject for the verbs that follow.


name in a descending pattern. Excluding the initial bracket, in which the abbreviated form "Yah" is used, we find that vv. 1-2 use Yahweh three times, vv. 3-4 use Yahweh twice and there is one occurrence of Yahweh in verse 5. As the use of the name of the LORD descends while nearing the end of the section and the center of the Psalm, the LORD's name becomes more prominent. In verse 5a, there are three Hebrew words with Yahweh occupying the center place. Through this intentional literary pattern, the author is again quite purposefully disallowing us to focus on anything else but Yahweh himself.

The psalmist is also emphasizing the uniqueness of the LORD by simultaneously causing the singer's attention to follow another pattern—this one ascending. Spatial and temporal elements are combined to lift the eyes of the servants of the LORD gradually above the vast expanse of creation to Yahweh himself. The name of the LORD is to be praised forever—his praise is to fill all time (v. 1). The name of the LORD is to be praised from the rising of the sun to its going down (v. 2). The singer's gaze is directed above the linear reaches of time to the march of the sun across the canvas of the sky. His gaze is elevated still higher as the LORD's glory is above all the nations of the earth (v. 4a). The glory of God is above the sphere of the globe and all the nations that dwell on it. Higher still than all the earth, the LORD's glory is above the heavens themselves (v. 4b). At last, the psalmist ends with the LORD himself in the question of verse 5a. Yahweh is so high and exalted that he alone is above all things.

With his descending and ascending lines, the psalmist reaches the same point. There is none like the LORD our God because he is the peerless object of praise. Yahweh stands by himself at the center of the text because there is none to be compared with him. And the centrality of Yahweh in this text reflects the centrality of Yahweh for the psalmist. The psalmist cannot conceptualize a heaven or earth in which the LORD is not central. He cannot imagine any other sharing the praise of the servants of the LORD. The incomparable God completely dominates the psalmist's mind and praise in these first five verses. And unless the matchless glory of God controls your thinking and worship as well, you will not worship like the psalmist because you have not laid hold of that which has laid hold of him. The all consuming passion for the glory of God is abundantly displayed in the Psalms. It is as David sang else-


where—"One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD…" (Ps. 27:4). Such an enthrallment with the glory of God is what the text reveals as the only possible response from a servant of the LORD who has beheld that glory.

The imagery of the first half of this Psalm is also very concrete. This is not a call to praise an abstract God. The glory of God is objectively real and it is has been manifested in history. The descriptions have been purposefully chosen by the author to highlight that the incomparable God, who is enthroned above the heavens, is the God who is king in redemptive history. His praise is called forth from the servants of the LORD (v. 1). This term is used in the Bible to describe those who "stand by night in the house of the LORD" (Ps. 134:1). The servants of the LORD are those who dwell in his presence and worship him. The scene is similar to that in Revelation 4-5 where God, seated on his throne, is surrounded by the twenty-four elders and all the host of heaven who ceaselessly praise him.

In verse 2, the LORD's name is to be praised now and forevermore. What is in view is not merely a long period of time, but eternity. The Hebrew term, in the Psalter, has taken on a technical sense referring to the eternity of the eschaton. Such a command can only be fulfilled by the servants of the LORD in the endless reaches of heaven's eternity.

In verse 3, the expression "from the rising of the sun to its going down" carries with it the sense given to it by the prophets. Isaiah describes a day in which the Lord, finding no savior for his people, girds himself and brings salvation by his own mighty arm. In that day, when he saves his people and punishes his enemies, all will fear the LORD from rising of the sun to its going down (Is. 59:15-19). Malachi uses this expression similarly. God condemns the worthless and hypocritical worship of Israel but declares that there will be a day when even the Gentiles will worship God in purity as he is reverenced from the rising of the sun to its going down (Mal. 1:11). In both these cases where this language is used, it is with reference to the universal fear and worship of God that takes place in the future. The worship projected is the worship of God who has completed redemptive history by vanquishing his foes, saving his people and is glorified among them.


The unparalleled God who is to be worshiped is the God who is glorious in redemptive history and into eternity. None other has done what he has done in history; none other will reign as king forever. The unrivalled God is the God of the eschatological arena who will be worshiped there forever. But it is interesting to note that this eschatological worship has begun already in history. The psalmist is singing of God in his eschatological splendor now. In fact, this eschatological worship of God, in addition to lasting forever is also to be heard "now" (v. 2)! Just as the God who is praised is not abstract, neither is the praise offered to him. The song of heaven has intruded into history and because the psalmist is consumed with the glory of God his glorious praise is to be heard emanating from his lips. Like the psalmist, as many of us as have been affected by the glory of the matchless God who is the eschatological king offer up to him again his own eschatological psalm! Just as we do not praise an abstract God, our praise of him cannot be abstract.

Verses 5a-9

After everything in the first section has culminated in the question of verse 5a, the Psalm "shifts gears". The name of the LORD, so prominent in the first half, is not used again in the second half. This in no way suggests, however, that God has disappeared from the song! Rather, the peerless object of praise has become the acting subject. The seven-fold use of Yahweh's name has been replaced by seven verbs with Yahweh as the subject of each. In the Hebrew text, each verb appears in the hiph'il form, indicating causation. The God who is revealed as the matchless LORD worthy of all praise, is now the subject who acts mightily and effectively.

It is not only the grammar that has changed in this second half of the Psalm, however; the line has reversed as well. To this point, the gaze of the servants of the LORD has been directed upward even to God himself. But after verse 5a, it is Yahweh who looks—down. This is reflected by a literary reversal in verses 4 and 5 around the central question. The LORD is above all nations, above the heavens, yet he looks down upon the heavens and the earth. The LORD from his glory above the heavens looks down on everything until his gaze terminates on the lowest of the low.


The first individual on whom the LORD is pleased to look is described as being in the dust and ash heap. The language reflects one who is in the most wretched state of grief and agony. Recall Job, who sat in the ash heap scraping himself with a potsherd for all his suffering. But beyond even this the Bible uses this language of one dwelling in the dust to refer to death (e.g. Dan. 12.2). And Yahweh looks down on the poor man in all his misery and even in his death, and Yahweh acts. The LORD causes the poor man to be raised out of the dust! The line changes once more. The vector is reversed for this needy one. He is raised out of misery. He is raised out of grief. He is raised from the dead! And Yahweh raises him toward himself. He is raised out of his lowly state and lifted up to where the LORD dwells in the heights.

Furthermore, the text says that the LORD seats him (v. 8). The line changes again. But we must not imagine that this is a case of the LORD raising the poor man up only to set him down or aside. A better translation for this word here would be "the LORD settles him." The poor man is settled by Yahweh in a glorious place, with the princes of his people. This needy one has been raised from the lowest state to the highest glory by the powerful action of God. He has been raised from death to life.

The LORD acts for another in this text as well—a barren woman. There have been many such in redemptive history: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah.3 The barren woman in Israel bore shame for her inability to conceive a son. Hannah bore mocking from her husband's second wife and grief. But much like the poor man of verse 7, the barren woman also bears death in herself. No life can come from her dead womb. Both shared in misery, wretchedness and even in death.

But as the LORD acted for the poor man so he acts for the barren woman. The term "he seats/settles" in verse 8 is precisely the same word for that which Yahweh does for the barren woman in verse 9. But this settling for the barren woman can only come if she, like the poor man, has experienced new life—resurrection. She experiences life proceeding from her formerly dead womb as she is settled as a joyful mother of sons.


3 Note the marked similarity of vocabulary between Psalm 113:7-9 and Hannah's prayer of I Samuel 2:5 and 8.


After considering these two individuals then, do you see how the question of verse 5a is answered? Who is like the LORD our God? Who else humbles himself to behold the lowly? Who else intervenes on their behalf? Who else can bring life out of death? There is none except Yahweh alone.

This article began by claiming that all of Scripture is a revelation of God acting in history for the salvation of his people. This action is centered in the person of Jesus Christ. And who cannot see our Savior in this Psalm?! Jesus, who being in the very form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant and humbling himself to death is the peerless God of whom the psalmist sings (cf. Phil. 2:6-11). He not only stooped so low as to behold the misery of his people, but he took their nature, wretchedness and death to himself! Jesus dwelt in the grave for three days before being raised up. Jesus, very God of very God, did not abhor to be born out of a virgin womb. He took all this to himself that he might bring to his people his life as he draws them heavenward, to himself. Consider how Paul describes this very thing: "But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:4-6). He does not only identify with you in your misery and death, he brings you to himself.

And so we return once more to the question in verse 5 and notice the beautiful pronoun contained in it. Who is like the LORD our God? He is not a God far removed from us. He is not a God who acts but keeps his people at arm's length. He is a God who stoops low that he might bring them up high to have fellowship with him. For the word "settles" in verses 8 and 9 is the same Hebrew root describing God's own enthronement on high (v. 5). That great resurrection which Jesus has effected for all his people is a resurrection unto God and life and fellowship with him in heaven where he will be your God and you will be his people and he will dwell with you.

It is because of their participation in this great reality that the poor man, the barren woman and the psalmist are all made the servants of the LORD (v. 1). They are the servants who stand by night in the heavenly courts of God, forever. And there with the formerly poor man and the formerly barren woman


and the psalmist, you too—as many of you as have known this grace of God—must offer up your own eschatological and eternal "Hallelujahs"! Praise the LORD!

Who is like the LORD our God—indeed!

Lynnwood, Washington


[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 11-14]

Last Theologian

Charles G. Dennison

along dark streets
mind bandaged
he fled the light
and left no shadow!

Each blow
took its toll
cast out
ex communicato
only the form of Cain
with no city built
and none in view.

Their Christ
in their midst
they claim for him
two or three
they say
standing on their book


"We have a quorum."

They offered sop
he partakes
he speaks
"It's all so clear now
they've made
their own upper room."

tables chairs
come in boxes
the splinterless cross shines
contrived communion
inflatable fellowship
all the brand names

with no bite
or too great
the label read
the magic bread
walks on the table
if not on the sea.

heaping wounds


they called their lord
knives at their wrists.

Revealing their formula
demanding contrition
they beckon their god
but every step forward
he receded two more
a Narnian figure
a dream
maybe a ghost
but holy to be sure.

His voice an echo
a chambered choir
an unknown tongue
this Christ speaks Plato.

"I don't understand"
the dark man confessed
and rushed for his book
they caught him mid-air
slashed at his wrists
while one swept
a knee to his side.

strength gone
a recently shorn Samson


forced to their feast.

In the darkness
he feared
despair too great
and too late to rearrange
there was only time to die . . .

But place my hands
at the weakness in these walls.


This poem was dedicated to Professor Norman Shepherd. While Charlie indicated it is not about him, it does portray what the poet described as "the severity of the struggle" that replays itself down through the history of redemption (Cain, Judas, Catholicism, Elijah, Plato). We are reminded by the Samson figure that even the heroes of the past may be shorn of their fidelity to the truth. As Milton wrote, let us trust that Samson shall "quit himself like Samson" and truth will arise, as it were, via resurrection from the rubble of error. The resurrection of our Lord is certainly the key to that justification—a life, a death, an empty tomb, an eternal session.


[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 15-24]

Biblical Theology and Counseling:

I John 4:7-211

Marcus J. Renkema

I have been tasked with the assignment to speak on Biblical Theology and counseling. I John speaks of the centrality of love in the life of the believer. As such it is especially essential to Christian counseling. As we look at our subject, I would have us consider Christian love as that which undergirds all biblical pastoral counseling.

1 John highlights the centrality of love in the lives of those who are of the Lord. It brings us back to the calling to love one another. It is not the first time the topic is brought up in this short epistle. We are repeatedly exhorted to love the brethren. We must of course come away with the impression that the apostle, and more significantly God himself, must place a high premium upon this attribute in the lives and hearts of God's people. It is an attribute not to be ignored for the Scriptures do not seem to let us depart from this constant refrain: "Love one another."

This message needs time to sink in. I would suggest that it needs to be brought continually before us because our tendency is to so quickly forget about it. Love one another. I mean—love one another. Again love one an


1 This is the revised version of an address delivered at the Kerux Conference, May 2005. Rev. Renkema is Adjunct Professor of Pastoral Theology at Northwest Theological Seminary and pastor of Trinity Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Bothell, Washington.


other. With each reminder we are brought deeper and deeper into the nature of the love to which God is calling us. Until it becomes part of us; until it consumes us; until it typifies all of our actions towards our brothers; until the mind of Christ and of God is reflected fully in our characters as his image bearers, as imitators of God—we are not there yet and so we are compelled yet again to love one another.

Such love is not a love that arises out of a vacuum. It is not self-engendered. It is not widely understood or practiced. It is unique and profound. It finds its source in God and nowhere else. It is uniquely Christian. It is of heaven not of the earth. It is a love that you are called to practice in relationship with one another, with fellow believers and with those who are lost. It is to fill you as ones who know the God of love.

Unfortunately this calling of love for the brethren finds few takers even within the walls of the church. It is often not faithfully lived within the bounds of our own homes. Fights between spouses, bickering between brothers and sisters, disrespect of one's parents are not consistent with the love to which we have been called. We see it also in the church. We can hear it in the harsh criticisms of one another, the failure to respect one another, the gossip that goes on behind the backs of others, the contempt toward our leaders or the abuse of leaders over the sheep in their charge. Conversations, thoughts in our minds frequently betray a heart that is not in tune with the injunction in our text to love one another.

But our text, does not beat us over the head for our constant failures. It does not tell us simply to try harder. It brings us to the cross of Christ. It is only in looking to him that we can know and manifest this love. We want to once again look at God's command to love one another by examining three things:

I. First, we want to look at the exhortation to love

II. Secondly, we want to see the evidence of the loving nature of God.

III. Finally, we want to think about how this love ought to be manifested specifically in the area of counseling.


I. The Exhortation to Love

As we examine the exhortation to love one another, I want to draw your attention to the way the exhortation begins. The apostle refers to the readers of the epistle as his 'beloved.' The same word is picked up again in verse 11 where the exhortation to love another is repeated. It is not by accident that these words are used. The apostle is drawing attention to his own love for the brethren. He is, in essence, reminding them of his deep love for them. They are his friends—his beloved. He cares for them. As he does so, he is indirectly encouraging them to a similar attitude towards each other. He is saying to them: 'Imitate me as I imitate Christ.'

Beyond this I also want you to see that though the exhortation to love one another is a message that is repeated throughout the book, it is not simply repeating the same thing over and over again. There is, in fact, progression in the texts as we move through the epistle. In chapter 2 where the command is initially given, love is regarded as a duty in that it is portrayed as the new command of Christ. In chapter 3, exhortation is given to highlight the contrast between the children of God and the children of the devil. Christ's example is set off against the example of Cain. In our text, we are taken to the top of the mountain so to speak. John can climb no higher to demonstrate the love we are called to and its basis in our lives then he does in our text. He takes us to the very nature of Christ and of God—the God who dwells in the hearts of those who are his.

It is a love that is, in its essence, eschatological. That is, it belongs to the realm of heaven. The argument that is being made in our text is that love is the unique possession of God and therefore those who are of God necessarily share in it as God abides in them. Those who do not love do not know God. Those who are indwelt by the Spirit of God and thereby know God, by the very fact that they are possessed of God, must reflect his character. Their nature reflects his. Love is of God and God is love. This is also true of us who believe in him because of our relationship to him.

When you think about this text and what it teaches us about the nature of God it makes sense. God is love. It is a characteristic at the core of his being.


Think of where God dwells—in heaven and you think about the atmosphere of heaven, a place of perfect love. There is no place there for bitterness, for unrighteous anger, for hatred, for hurting others, for unkind words. These things run contrary to everything we think about heaven. Such things find no place in the presence of God. Love is the air we breathe in heaven—between God and us and our fellow saints. Jesus' summary of the law to love God and to love our neighbor is the law of heaven itself. And as Ephesians 1:13-14 states the Spirit of God is the down payment of that heavenly inheritance. God's presence already now is abiding in our hearts. Therefore the nature of God is to be reflected in us already now, though presently imperfectly. If it is not, then we do not know God.

The other thing that is taught here is that love is uniquely Christian. Its source is God himself. The unbeliever does not know love. He does not recognize the greatest expression of love as seen in the sacrifice of Christ. He cannot know or give expression to the self sacrificial nature of the love of God. While the unbeliever may have the appearance of being loving, we may say that to some degree they may still reflect the image of God in the arena of common grace. We may also say that their love is always deficient in that natural human love is that which finds it origin in something of our liking, something that is rewarding to us. But God's love is different. His love is giving to the unworthy and the unattractive. Christian love does not have selfish ends but is given freely to others regardless of benefit to us and entirely for the glory of God not of men.

The exhortation to love is rooted then in the very nature of God himself. As God is love, we also are to love for we are of God. But the text goes on to demonstrate and give evidence of the nature of God's love. We are shown the love that we must emulate.

II. The Evidence of God's Loving Nature

Our text focuses specifically on the love of God as it is manifested in the self sacrificial work of Christ. What does Jesus do? He humbles himself, becoming a man and taking on human flesh. He stretches out his arms on the cross. Dying! Suffering! Enduring mockery and intense pain! Jesus suffers


for us the cruel death. He goes knowingly and willingly on his march to the cross. There he will bear the full brunt of God's wrath for our sin. One perfectly innocent of all wrongdoing is crucified. He endures suffering and shame, not for his sin but for yours and mine. There he bears the curse that we deserve.

Yes, it is in the cross of Christ that we find the love of God manifested. It is in Jesus, who is the propitiation for our sin, that we see God's love revealed. God is loving not only in words, but he is loving in deed. He gives us his only begotten son. Here it is important that we understand the eternal bond of the Trinity. God is giving of his most precious treasure—the only begotten of God. He is giving of himself. He sends Christ into the world so that we might be given life. He sends him into a world that is hostile to him, a world that will largely reject him and gives him over to those who will kill him. He sends him into the world for the sake of the undeserving, the unworthy.

It is in the sending of Christ that we see the love of God. According to verse 10, love cannot be measured or comprehended in our love for God. If you think about it, our love for God is expected. After all, we owe our very existence to him. He is the giver of every good thing. Everyone ought to have a love for God. It is the absence of such love among men that is the aberration. It is to our shame that we do not love God more and that even the love that we do have is a love that is placed there by God himself. No, neither our paltry love for God nor any other human love can be the defining example of love. That definition is found in the fact that God loves us.

What have we done to deserve God's favor? Nothing at all! In fact the opposite is true. We have done everything to earn his displeasure. We have sinned against him and rebelled against him. We have dishonored him. We are unworthy, unlovable, despicable creatures.

God's love is manifested in the fact that in spite of this he gives his Son. The price was not light or easy. Jesus was sent to be the propitiation for our sins. That is, he was to bear himself the punishment for sin that we deserved. What was that punishment? It was the wrath and curse of God. It was the torment of Hell itself, endured by one entirely innocent of all sin. It was suffering for us and the misery we had earned. There is no greater love. The just


dies for the unjust. Such is the nature of the love of God. As Robert Law states in his commentary, "It is love that shines forth in its purest splendor upon the unattractive, the unworthy, the repellent."

When we look at the cross of Christ, when we see the intensity of his misery in the garden of Gethsemene, we cannot help but be impressed at the selfless expression of love demonstrated by his sacrifice. This is genuine love. There is no higher love. This is the love of God. This is that eschatological love we are speaking of. This is the love that abides in us as believers.

III. The Manifestation of Love

The text in I John 4 draws our attention to the love of God demonstrated in Christ Jesus for a reason. We are to see that love is the essence of God's being. He is love. His love was manifested. Now as those who are indwelt by God, we are to reflect that kind of love in our own relationships with one another. As God's love is made manifest and actively demonstrated toward us, so we are called to manifest the love of God actively toward one another.

In some ways, this exhortation comes as a surprise. One would almost expect after being shown the love of God for us, that there would be an appeal for us, to respond in gratitude in love toward God. But instead, we are told to love one another. Our text compels us to love each other. God's nature is reflected in our nature.

The implications for Biblical pastoral counseling are in many ways self-evident. As Christ, the true shepherd, has manifested his love for us, we who are under-shepherds of his flock ought to manifest the love of God to those who come to us for counseling. It is the love of Christ to which we must draw them so that they see their lives hidden in his. It is in counseling that we seek to bring the counselee to the warm embrace of Christ's forgiveness, compassion and care. It is here that we instruct them in how to reflect the loving character of Christ in their own lives as they are molded into the image of Christ.

The impact of love on Christian counseling may be seen in two distinct areas. First, it affects the attitude and heart of the counselor toward the coun-


selee. Second, we see it as the critical component in the content of our counseling.

The counselor must begin with the same attitude as the apostle in the text. The counselee is 'beloved.' He must be moved with a genuine spirit of compassion and care for the individual coming to him for aid. He must have the mind of Christ. In lowliness of mind, he must esteem others better then himself, looking out not only for his own interest but for the interest of others. He is to be a humble servant not a domineering taskmaster. How easy it is to become arrogant in the presence of those whose lives are messed up.

Beyond this, it also affects the way we view our counselee. He is not a computer that has malfunctioned. It is not as though all you need to do is type in the right things and he will be fixed or that he simply needs reprogramming. He is a person made in the image of God. People are complex. They are affected by the circumstances of life both positively and negatively. This fact calls for us to listen, to be understanding, even as we lovingly lead them to see their lives hidden in Christ. We have a concern for the whole person.

It affects the language we use in our counseling. The words we speak are not demeaning or condescending. Christian love is kind and respectful. It conveys a spirit that truly cares. We speak the truth, but we speak the truth in love. We display the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.

Love for the counselee calls for longsuffering and patience. Anyone who has done much counseling knows the need to bear with one another. It can be extremely frustrating. Your advice and counsel may not be followed. It can be misinterpreted. It can lead to a host of other problems rising to the surface. But we must be ready to forgive one another. We must persist in working patiently with people as they continue to struggle. There are not always quick resolutions to complex issues. Again our attention can be drawn to the love of God and of Christ for us. We also fall into sin and are dependent upon the patient forbearance of our God.

Christian love also affects the content of our counseling. Where do we start? What do you do when you greet a new counselee? Where is the starting point? Where do you begin? The starting point of all pastoral counseling is


the love of God. The love of Christ is the starting point. We want people to understand that, if they believe in Christ, they have the benefits of his warm, embracing love. We want them to respond to that love in kind. But how can we ask them to love the Lord and his people unless they have first tasted the love of Christ? It is here that they must first learn of the loving mercy of the Savior.

Many of the problems that come to us in counseling are directly related to a lack of biblical love either in the character of the counselee or in others. Those who come in with marriage problems can be directed to Ephesians 5, which speaks of marriage in terms of the love of Christ and his church. The mystery of Christ's love for his church, as Paul calls it, is the starting point. The husband is called to love his bride as Christ does his church. As Christ has loved them so they must love their spouse. We can discuss with them the implications of this. Wives are called to loving submission to their husbands who love them and care for them. Marriage issues are ultimately resolved as husbands and wives bring their lives into conformity with the image of Christ and love one another.

Pornography, one of the sins that plagues our day and age, is a lack of love to one's spouse. It is love perverted. It is glorying in the shame of another. It is the opposite of the faithful love of God for us. It is self-centered as opposed to the beautiful gift that God has given to us in marriage.

This is the counseling that we also give to our children. They are called to love their parents as God, the Father, has loved them. As we are called to honor the Lord in obedience and love for him; we also call our children to love and honor their parents.

It is the solution when we talk about conflict in the church. We drive them to Christ. Look at how God has forgiven you. Yet you are willing to hold on to the sins of others and not forgive them. Look at the love of Christ, how he has born with you through your own rebellion and sin. Yet he loved you and sent his Son for you. But you are going to hold on to your petty differences—your bitterness and anger. Love those, even those, who are the most difficult to love.

In the variety of counseling situations, the key to each is teaching them to


see the love of Christ. As they behold his love, we can encourage them to love as Christ has loved.

When our love is seen in light of the love of Christ, it is clearly found wanting. Our love cannot compare. We always fall short. Not one of us comes close to faithfully expressing this love toward one another. What love we have is the love God works in us.

It would be easy for us all to leave here with the great weight of our failures upon our shoulders. To leave here as those who are overwhelmed with the guilt of our shortcomings. But then I would have failed in the proclamation of the gospel. We are indeed guilty of not loving as we ought. But the guilt of our sin drives us once again to the cross of Christ. There at the cross, we once again bask in the love of Christ who again graciously, mercifully forgives our sins. Once again the love of Jesus overwhelms our callous hearts—we, who are unworthy, unlovable creatures. Christ dies for us. Then having tasted afresh the love of Christ, we go forward loving as God has loved us. It is in knowing God's love that we can express God's love. For in seeing God's enduring patience with us, his readiness to forgive, his great mercy, his sovereign care for us, we begin to do the same for others. Without this knowledge of God we cannot love.

Finally, I would like to address some misconceptions of love. There are several ways in which the concept of love has been distorted. The first one I want to address is the idea that love is either strictly an emotion or feeling and its erroneous counterpart, namely that love has nothing to do with feelings, it has to do only with actions. Both assumptions do not adequately reflect the Biblical perspective of what love is. Love is more than the stirring of emotions in our hearts. It is not simply the warm fuzzies for another person. It cannot be reduced to simply caring about someone. Genuine Christian love goes beyond the feelings and acts upon them. We certainly see this in Christ, who loved his people not from a distance, but by coming to pay for our sins. His love is evident in what he does. This is also seen clearly in I John 3:18. We are not only to love with word or tongue, but in our deeds as well. James 2 echoes this also. Faith without works is a dead faith. Love gives evidence of itself through our actions. But love cannot be reduced to actions either. There is an emotional component to Biblical love as well. We see it in Christ, whose


heart is moved with compassion for the people. We see it when Christ weeps for his friend Lazarus. He genuinely cares for and is drawn to those he loves. Christian love is reflective of this as well. We are drawn to one another. We care about the well-being of one another. We have an affinity toward one another that desires what is best for that person.

Another mistaken notion of love is that it is non-confrontative—that it simply accepts people the way they are and the way they want to be. It is this kind of love that the secularist seeks to impose upon us as Christians. By their definition of love, Christians are unloving because we insist that there is right and wrong and we call people to live by that standard. We do not simply accept all religions as truth. We do not ignore those who teach false doctrines. We confront those who are living in sin and call them to repentance and faith. Genuine Christian love is rooted in truth and loving others implies calling people to live by that truth. Ignoring their sin is to leave them on the path that leads to judgment and destruction. At the same time we must understand that when such confrontation is necessary then we must conduct ourselves in a loving manner. We must be kind. We must respect the other person. Our love and compassion for them ought to be evident to them.

Genuine love is also more than helping those who are in need. For many in the liberal denominations of today, this is the definition of love. All we must do is help people with their physical and emotional needs. This concept of love is very much centered upon this earth. Little concern is shown for the person's spiritual well-being. But when we look at the ministry of Christ, it is much different. His love for the people goes beyond providing the physical needs of those who are suffering; it is also accompanied with the call of the gospel and their need to have their sins forgiven in him. Providing for one's earthly needs apart from their spiritual needs is not loving. What does it profit a person to have all his earthly needs met, but then to lose his soul to hell? But again we must not be smug as conservatives, for we are often guilty of the opposite. Calling people to repentance and faith, but not being willing to help those in need. Genuine love calls for both.

It is my prayer that all of our counseling be a manifestation of the love of Christ. May it be done in love for one another. May it draw people to see how wide and deep the love of Christ is. May it call people to live lives that manifest that love toward one another.


[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 25]


John Donne

Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb,

Now leaves his well-beloved imprisonment,

There he hath made himself to his intent

Weak enough, now into our world to come;

But Oh, for thee, for him, hath th' Inn no room?

Yet lay him in this stall, and from the Orient,

Stars, and wisemen will travel to prevent

Th' effect of Herod's jealous general doom.

Seest thou, my Soul, with thy faith's eyes, how he

Which fills all place, yet none holds him, doth lie?

Was not his pity towards thee wondrous high,

That would have need to be pitied by thee?

Kiss him, and with him into Egypt go,

With his kind mother, who partakes thy woe.


[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 26-38]

Tiberius Caesar

James T. Dennison, Jr.

Vicisti Galilaee!—"Thou has conquered, O Galilean!" These are reputed to be the last words of Julian, emperor of Rome from 361 to 363 A.D. At least, the patristic historian, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, reports them as Julian's last words. Julian allegedly uttered them as he died in battle with the Persians on the eastern border of the Roman empire.

Julian had earned the nickname "The Apostate" because, having been raised a Christian, he converted to paganism when he was about twenty years old and adopted the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon as his own. In his enthusiasm for his 'rebirth' into the rites of ancient paganism, he wrote a book against Christianity entitled Contra Galilaeos ("Against the Galileans") in the year before his death. In that book, Julian describes his Christian phase as darkness; in fact, a kind of 'sickness'. But his new-born pagan affirmation, he describes as 'light'. The new devotion to the ancient and traditional gods gave Julian a mission; in fact, made him a missionary of paganism—his purpose, to reclaim the world for the gods. In writing his refutation of the New Testament, the gospels especially and the life of Jesus in particular, he acknowledges that the events of the life of Christ are alleged to have occurred in the reign of the emperor Tiberius. But he dismisses the history of Jesus as fiction because, so he argues, none of this history is mentioned by Greco-Roman historians. Christianity is therefore clearly an aberrant superstition, of no significance because unnoticed.

Julian's rejection of the historicity of the life of Jesus and the facticity of the New Testament has been echoed and re-echoed by unbelievers before and


after—the high-water mark being the rebirth of ancient paganism in the 17th century (the rise of English Deism) and the 18th century (the age of the Enlightenment). Modern liberal fundamentalism agrees in principle with Julian the Apostate (as J. Gresham Machen demonstrated in Christianity and Liberalism): according to these liberal fundamentalists, the historicity of the gospels, especially the life of Jesus, is problematic—even fiction; or to paraphrase Voltaire, the record of the life of Jesus in the New Testament is a trick we play with the dead.

Julian the Apostate was not the first pagan to attack the historicity of the gospels and the New Testament record. If the modern Jesus Seminar echoes some of his observations, we learn that with respect to unbelief, there is nothing new under the sun. The bane of the Enlightenment hangs heavy over the modern—even the Reformed—church; and the dialectic of history versus faith continues to undermine the integrity of the God-breathed Scriptures. Notice, I did not write the synthesis of history and faith, but the dialectical paradox—true to faith, false to history. Thank you, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing!

Luke and History

If Luke anchors his third gospel in concrete, objective history it is because that's how it happened. What Jesus said and did actually happened in concrete, objective history. Luke is not writing fiction; not manufacturing religious words and deeds; not proposing religious matters to be philosophically deconstructed; not a pen name for a religious community creating the portrait and the words of Jesus for ulterior motives—but real time-and-space event and speech.

Now Luke advances this record of objective historicity in a number of ways. But I want to direct your attention to how he does this in Luke 2:1 and Luke 3:1. In Luke 2, he mentions the reign of emperor Caesar Augustus. In Luke 3, he mentions the reign of Tiberius Caesar. These two emperors form the bookends of the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. Augustus is the Caesar of our Lord's birth; Tiberius is the Caesar of our Lord's death. Luke too knows of the history of the words and deeds of Jesus during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius—but for Luke this history is no fiction.


Tiberius and Pilate

I want to consider Tiberius Caesar and the threads which weave his story into the biblical narrative; or perhaps more aptly stated, juxtapose his name and his story with Luke's story of Jesus. Beginning with Luke 3:1, we notice the conjunction of Tiberius and Pilate. The historical point is subtle, yet significant. Pontius Pilate was appointed governor or prefect (not procurator) of Judea in 26 A.D. by Tiberius Caesar. I make a point of the term prefect not procurator to correct the mistake of Josephus (first century Jewish historian) and Tacitus (first century Roman historian). They labeled Pilate a procurator. But an inscription discovered in Palestinian Caesarea in 1961 reads: Pontius Pilatus Praefectus Iudaeae. The governor of Judea was called a prefect, not a procurator during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius Caesar. That Pilate was sent off to Judea in 26 A.D. is well choreographed in William Wyler's magnificent film "Ben Hur". You may recall the scene—the festal celebration of Ben Hur's adoption by Quintus Arrius and his introduction to Pilate who says, "It seems the wilderness needs my particular talents." Pilate's particular talents had been recommended to Tiberius by Lucius Aelius Sejanus (or Sejanus for short). Sejanus was the powerful commander of the Praetorian Guard, the Roman equivalent of the Secret Service, only decidedly more ruthless. Pilate and Sejanus will play a role once more at the end of Christ's life. So the bookend recurs: Augustus at the beginning of Jesus' life; Tiberius at the end of Jesus' life; Pilate at the beginning of Jesus' public career; Pilate at the end of Jesus' public career. Luke is not only an accurate historian; he is a gifted writer foreshadowing the end of his story of Jesus in the beginning.

The emperor Tiberius is mentioned only here in the New Testament. You will find a city called Tiberias in John's gospel (6:23). This lavish city on the west side of the Sea of Galilee (or Sea of Tiberias, as it is called in John 6:1 and John 21:1) was erected by Herod Antipas (the Fox) in 20 A.D. as a tribute to the reigning Roman emperor. It was to serve as Herod's new capital. New emperor? build a new capital in his honor. Now you will notice, the Herod mentioned in Luke 3:1 is the very same Herod Antipas who ruled Galilee from 4 B.C. to 39 A.D. He distinguishes himself by taking Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, beheading John the Baptist for objecting to his adultery and


hoping Jesus would perform some magic tricks when he was dispatched by Pontius Pilate the night before his crucifixion (Luke 23:8). Herod and his brother, Philip, mentioned here in 3:1 along with Lysanius (about whom we know nearly nothing) were all Roman toadies—sycophants eager to do Rome's bidding in Jewish Palestine.

The rule of Jewish Palestine in the 1st century A.D. was no picnic. There was the climate; there was the religious fanaticism; there was the factiousness of the social classes; and there was the Old Testament with its prognostication of a Messiah. Pilate, like Herod Antipas, in an attempt to honor his emperor Tiberius in Jerusalem, ran afoul of Jewish sensitivities. The historian Josephus tells us that Pilate erected standards or ensigns in Jerusalem with the effigy of Tiberius etched into them (Antiquities, 18.3.1). The Jews objected to the image of the emperor in their holy city and though Pilate threatened them with death, they prostrated themselves, bared their necks and said—'Do your worst!' Pilate relented and removed the standards to avoid a bloodbath.

There is a denarius of Tiberius undoubtedly circulated in Palestine during his procuratorship. It may well be the coin presented to Jesus in the famous case of "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Luke 20:25; Mt. 22:21; Mk. 12:17). This coin not only bore the emperor's image, but it was inscribed Tiberius Caesar divi Augusti filius Augustus ("Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the divine Augustus").

There is another famous incident in which Pilate exacerbated the sensitivities of his Jewish subjects. He dedicated some gilded shields in honor of Tiberius at his gubernatorial residence in Jerusalem. Philo, the first century Jewish philosopher, tells this story (Legatio ad Gaium, 299-305). The shields evidently bore a dedication to the emperor which Pilate ostensibly knew would irritate the Jews (there is some evidence that Pilate and his Roman patron, Sejanus, harbored anti-Semitic tendencies). Tiberius was not complimented by the deed or the shields—especially when it was reported that the Jews were in an uproar over them. Tiberius ordered Pilate to remove the offending objects from Jerusalem and transfer them to Caesarea. Pilate could have lost his job over this incident, but Tiberius permitted him to stay on in Judea. Whew!!


But Luke tells us even more about the character of Pilate. He records a reference to the "Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices" (13:1). Apparently, Pilate had executed some Galileans when they presented their sacrifices to God—perhaps when they came to Jerusalem for Passover. Pilate had avoided bloodshed in the matter of the ensigns and shields, but he did spill the blood of these devout Galilean pilgrims. And we know he did once more—in the matter of the Jerusalem aqueduct. Josephus records Pilate's plan to build an aqueduct in order to bring fresh water to Jerusalem. Nice public works project! But to pay for it (here is the bureaucrat in Pilate), he raided the Temple treasury and seized the funds (Antiquities, 18.3.2). The ensuing protest resulted in death for many of the protestors. Thus, by the time we arrive at Good Friday, we should not be surprised that Pontius Pilate is complaint in shedding innocent blood. Now to Tiberius himself.

Tiberius's Career

Tertullian, second century Christian author from Carthage in North Africa, alleged that the emperor Tiberius Caesar presented evidence of Christ's divinity to the Roman Senate following our Lord's crucifixion. When the Roman Senate rejected the imperial proposal to favor Christ, Caesar allegedly threatened wrath against all accusers of Christians. Tertullian's story about Tiberius is interesting, but incredible. He goes on to point out that Nero was the first emperor to persecute Christians. Skipping Caligula and Claudius, who followed Tiberius, it is true that Nero did persecute Christians—even made night-lamps out of their crucified bodies by smearing them with tar and setting them aflame so as to pass the blame to the hated Christians for the flames that destroyed nearly twenty percent of the city of Rome in 64 A.D. Nero fiddled while Rome burned—fiddled and executed hundreds of Christians in order to shift the blame for Rome's inferno to someone other than himself. Tertullian contrasts the vicious Nero, destroyer of Christians, with the altruistic defender of Christ, Tiberius. But Tertullian, though basically right about Nero, is wrong about Tiberius. No one else—Christian or pagan—describes Tiberius Caesar as a defender of the divinity of Christ.

Tiberius became Caesar on the death of Caesar Augustus in 14 A.D. He would rule Rome for twenty-three years—dying away from the eternal city in


a villa at Misenum on the Bay of Naples in 37 A.D. His fifteenth year—mentioned by Luke in Luke 3:1—would be 29 A.D. The span of Christ's life—his birth and death—is marked by the name of Rome's two Pax Romana emperors. The Pax Romana—the new order of Rome; the new order of the world. Luke anchors Christ's history in the history of the Roman Empire—even to the very year of his baptism in the Jordan River.

As with all the Roman emperors from Augustus on, Tiberius was declared a son of a god (divi filius) and the savior of the fatherland. The divine Tiberius was the son of the deified Augustus and as such was guaranteed a place of reverence in the imperial pantheon upon his own death. But though described on inscriptions as a son of the divine Augustus—though extender and continuer of the Pax Romana ("Roman Peace"), Tiberius Caesar was not a happy man. In fact, Tiberius's reign as emperor opened in unhappiness and Tiberius's reign as emperor ended in unhappiness. So happy were the citizens of Rome when the news of his death reached their ears that they took to the streets shouting "To the Tiber with Tiberius!" To the Tiber—the famous river flowing through the fabled city of the seven hills; "to the Tiber"—a slogan, an expostulation of disgust and contempt; "to the Tiber"—a place for the disposal of a corpse—the corpse of criminals and vagabonds. "To the Tiber with Tiberius"—the emperor of Rome, not much lamented, not much liked when he died in 37 A.D.

How pathetic! This eulogy for the king of the world—the son of the divine Augustus! Well, in truth, he was not the son of Augustus. Tiberius was, in fact, an afterthought, a convenience—indeed, a necessity. Augustus had adopted him only after his legitimate sons and grandsons had died. Tiberius was not the son of Augustus's body—he was the legal heir to Augustus's necessity. Augustus's necessity—how Tiberius was haunted by Augustus and his necessities.

Tiberius and Augustus

It was Augustus Caesar's necessity—necessity for lust—that first brought Tiberius into the emperor's ominous circle. He was four years old; his mother and father happily married; the family circle—father, mother, child—content.


But Augustus wanted Tiberius's mother for himself and what Augustus wanted, Augustus got. Absolute power stops at nothing—even breaking up families for the sake of self-indulgence. Augustus Caesar forced Tiberius's mother and father to divorce so that he could take the now available wife to his own bed. Tiberius becomes a legitimate heir to the Roman throne through the illegitimate divorce of his mother and father.

Was it this dysfunctional family situation that drove Tiberius to the army? to the frontiers of Roman peacekeeping bivouacs in Spain, Persia, Germany, the Balkans? Whatever the reason, these were the only happy years Tiberius knew—away from Rome—away from Augustus—away with the army, the soldiers, the fighting, the preoccupation. And his occasional visits to Rome? to visit his own wife, Vispania, to whom he was happily married.

But Augustus was not finished bringing unhappiness to the life of Tiberius. Augustus's daughter, Julia, was widowed when Tiberius was thirty years old. Augustus once again ordered a divorce—this time Tiberius was to put away Vispania, the wife whom he loved, in order to satisfy Augustus's whim for his daughter to have a husband of prominence. Dejà vu: like mother; like son. Both manipulated by the tyrannical power of the emperor Caesar Augustus.

And the new liaison? Tiberius and Julia? It was a disaster. Julia was a notorious and open adulteress, flaunting her sexual favors brazenly before the Roman public. Tiberius was revolted by her. In 6 B.C., in his unhappy bitterness, he exiled himself to Rhodes (site of the mighty Colossus—the Colossus of Rhodes—one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). Tiberius withdrew to Rhodes for eight years in order to escape—to escape Rome, Augustus, Julia, his misery. For eight years, he studied, devoted himself to the occult, idolized astrology and divination.

Augustus would recall Tiberius to Rome in the year 2 A.D. He had need of him—and Tiberius would once more be manipulated by his nemesis stepfather. Rome must have an imperial succession; Caesar Augustus had no successor—all his primary heirs were prematurely dead. Tiberius was all that was left. And so the left-over stepson, whose mother had been torn from the arms of his natural father (by Augustus); whose beloved wife had been torn from his own arms (by Augustus)—the after thought of an heir was formally adopted to succeed Caesar on the throne in 4 A.D.


Tiberius Imperator

Ten years later, Tiberius became king of the world. His nemesis, Augustus, finally died—but still Tiberius had no peace. His disillusionment with life had already made him slightly paranoid; his disillusionment with life already made him cruel. In 14 A.D., the unhappy and reluctant Tiberius became emperor of Rome. He was to continue and advance the age of gold ushered in by Augustus's Pax Romana. But there was no pax—no peace—in Tiberius's soul. Nor was there peace between the new emperor and the Roman Senate. As if sensing the hesitancy and disillusionment in their new emperor, the Roman Senate responded to him with hesitancy and suspicion. Should they jockey for a remnant of their senatorial privileges—the rights of the old republican aristocracy, so masterfully crushed by Julius and Augustus Caesar? Should they remain figureheads, puppets of their powerful ruler, rubber stamps of his every whim—or should they assert their independence, initiative, constitutional privilege?

The Senate and Tiberius were never quite sure of one another: Tiberius distrusted the Senate and remained aloof from its deliberations. He once spoke contemptibly of the Senators as "men fit to be slaves." The Senate in turn was very cautious—very cautious and deliberate in its relations with the emperor. This standoff between the old republican senators and the new imperialist monarch lasted through the twenty-three years of Tiberius's reign.

Twelve years after ascending the Palatine Hill to receive the imperial laurel, Tiberius quit Rome once and for all. In 26 A.D., unhappy, aloof, isolated, paranoid Tiberius withdrew from Rome for the last time—withdrew from the magnificent edifices of the city of the seven hills—withdrew to the tranquility of the Isle of Capri. And there, on that island overlooking the beautiful, azure blue Bay of Naples, Tiberius secluded himself in a cliff-top villa overlooking the peaceful waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. But in that villa, on that isle of retreat (if we can believe the Roman historians, Suetonius and Tacitus), unhappy, bitter, paranoid Tiberius indulged every perverse lust and aspiration to the full. Was he getting even? Sexual perversity and abuse is so often a way of getting even—a way of self-reward—paying back with abuse the abuse that has been meted out. Our own culture has not advanced beyond


Tiberius in this regard. Unhappiness, disillusionment, bitterness: these often generate vile, vicious abuse. Tiberius, like so many sinners before and after, would find happiness in the abuse of others even as his happiness had been abused.

Tiberius and Sejanus

In that famous year when he left Rome never to return, in the year 26 A.D., Tiberius did something else. He appointed Pontius Pilate governor of Judea. As we have noted, Pilate likely came to Tiberius's attention through the intercession of the commander of the Praetorian Guard—Sejanus. Beginning in 26 A.D., Sejanus would have more and more influence in Roman politics—more influence after Tiberius's departure for Capri than Tiberius himself. As commander of the Praetorian Guard, Sejanus controlled the most powerful fighting force in Rome. Every soldier in the Guard had worked his way up the ladder through long, hardened endurance in military service. This elite corps was sworn to protect the emperor, and in his absence, Sejanus became the power broker.

Tiberius trusted Sejanus implicitly—at least at first. But little by little, Tiberius—paranoid Tiberius—grew increasingly suspicious of the most powerful soldier in the empire. Five years after departing for his villa and leaving Sejanus in command of Rome, Tiberius was convinced that his vicar on the Tiber was plotting a rebellion—a rebellion in which he would execute Tiberius and elevate himself to the throne. The sword of Tiberius was swift and deadly—even from a distance. Sejanus was arrested, beheaded and disgraced. And the bitter, unhappy Tiberius fed his bloodlust to the day of his death by a vicious witch-hunt in pursuit of every ally of Sejanus's conspiracy. For six years, from 31 to 37 A.D.—the year of his death—Tiberius hunted, arrested, tortured, executed hundreds of men and women whom he accused of complicity in the treason of his former ally.

Luke 3

I want to return from Tiberius's 23rd year (37 A.D.) to his 15th year. I


want to return to Luke 3 verse 1. In this passage, Luke is giving us a date; he is dating the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan. Fifteenth year of Tiberius's reign. Now when did Tiberius come to the throne? (14 A.D.) And his 15th year would be (14+15) 29 A.D. There we have it! A fixed date in the life of Jesus. In 29 A.D., Jesus of Nazareth enters his public ministry with the proclamation that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand." A very different kind of kingdom—a very different kind of king than Tiberius Caesar.

We have previously noticed who comes next in Luke 3:1—who stands alongside Tiberius in the text: "in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea." Pilate became governor of Judea in 26 A.D. In 29 A.D., he has already been in Jerusalem for three years. Pilate has been ensconced in Jerusalem already for three years, when Jesus begins to preach the kingdom of heaven.

The life of Tiberius and the life of Pilate would be intertwined by more than Luke's inscripturated narrative. Perhaps Luke knew about Pilate and Tiberius and the gilded shields. Luke certainly knew about Pilate's ruthlessness in the matter of the deaths of the Galileans (13:1). Did he know about the debacle over the aqueduct; the about-face in the matter of the standards? We do not know.

But we do know that if Jesus is baptized in 29 A.D. and his public ministry is about three years in length, he is crucified some time after 31 A.D. Now what happened in 31 A.D.? Sejanus was executed. And who recommended Pilate as governor of Judea? Sejanus. With Sejanus and his co-conspirators in trouble in Rome after 31 A.D., Pilate is very careful not to arouse suspicion or provoke riots again in Jerusalem. Imagine the chill which must have shot up Pilate's spine when the mob demanding Christ's crucifixion hurled these remarks at him: "If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar" (non es amicus Caesaris). No friend of Caesar—Tiberius Caesar! Shudder! My friend, Sejanus, recommended me to Tiberius Caesar and now my friend Sejanus is dead! Double shudder!! No, if the Jewish mob wants to crucify its messiah, Pilate will simply wash his hands of the matter rather than risk his precarious political future with a paranoid emperor bent on a bloodbath for disloyalty in Rome and beyond. Pilate had already been rebuked for one riot by Tiberius; he was not going to risk another clash with the emperor over a peasant from Nazareth.


Jesus, the King

So, over against Tiberius, king-maker, imperial power player of the world in which Jesus was raised; over against Pontius Pilate, Tiberian appointee—gubernatorial power player in Jerusalem (the Jerusalem in which Jesus taught, preached, worshipped—died!)—over against Tiberius Caesar and Pontius Pilate, Jesus. The juxtaposition is jarring—intentionally jarring. No, not in Rome or Capri in the reign of Tiberius; no, not in the Roman quarters of Pontius Pilate, but in a wilderness river, in a tiny village synagogue, on a bloody criminal's cross, in an empty grave: there is where lasting history was made, says Luke. The one born in an obscure village, placed in a manger, baptized by a wild man, crucified as a common criminal—such a one could be of little interest to Rome. Roman tyranny; Roman immorality; Roman cruelty—Rome was little interested in Jesus of Nazareth. But Luke is, and the church to which Luke writes is; and while Luke is most interested in the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture in Christ (Lk. 24:44), Luke is also interested in the broader historical context of the advent of Christ.

I want to conclude by observing the titles and labels accorded to the second emperor of the Roman peace—the new order of the world—Tiberius Caesar. We have noted that he was called a son of a god. This would provide enough justification for considering his role as successor to the august one as somewhat messianic. He once described himself as the "good shepherd" to his Egyptian subjects (Dio Cassius 57.10.5). Valerius Maximus, a contemporary, called him "the savior surest of the fatherland." But a new discovery adds to the grandiose estimate of Tiberius Caesar in his own day.

Tiberius as Paterfamilias

A bronze tablet discovered in Spain and first published in 1996 (Classical Philology 95 [2000]: 318ff.) contains the Senatus Consultum de Consule Pisone Patre, which means "the Senate Decree of the Roman Consul Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso" who was governor of Syria from 17 A.D. until he committed suicide in 19 A.D. The significance of this new discovery is the way it describes the Augustan-Tiberian Imperium—the Roman state in the new age of


the monarchical emperors. I have noted that the new age and the new order dawned in Rome with the succession of Augustus. The transformation in Roman culture brought in by Augustus and continued by Tiberius altered the conception and ideology of the state. Augustus became the paterfamilias—the father of the family. The family became all Romans. In other words, the Augustan-Tiberian age transformed the nation of Rome into a family, the head of which was the emperor himself. The honor due to the head of the family—namely the emperor—was like a religious duty. After all, he was a son of a god and cultic honors were required from all Romans. From this point, a new history of Rome began—a Rome in which all Romans were regarded as adopted into Caesar's family. Piety (pietas) as a family virtue was now transferred to the imperial state—to the emperor. Rome entered a new age of patriotism—patriotism as a virtue to the imperial cult—the imperial state. In this new era, the nuclear family became an extension—an organ—of the state.

Luke the Redemptive Historian

I return to Luke—this amazing historian—objective time-and-space historian. Is the subtlety of his bookends to the Augustan-Tiberian imperium an antithesis of the era and the order revealed from heaven in this one named "My beloved Son" (3:22)? If the new order of the gospel age is a kingdom not of this world; and the family of that new evangelical order is the adoption of sons and daughters of God through the Lord Jesus Christ, by the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit; and the Head of that new order is the everlasting Son of the Father—then is it possible that Luke has introduced Augustus and Tiberius not only for historical reasons (apologetic aim), but for redemptive-historical reasons (soteriological aim)?

The history of redemption is fulfilled in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. The age of salvation dawns at the Jordan River (Luke 3), in a synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4), on a cross at Golgotha (Luke 23) and in an empty tomb (Luke 24)—not in Rome. The 15th year of Tiberius is identified with the life of one whose genealogy—whose history—reaches back to the beginning of history—back to the protological man—the first man—back to Adam (Luke 3:38). Where the sons of Rome reflect the depravity and perversity of the


fallen Adam—this man—this eschatological man—this last man, Jesus Christ, is the true Son of God in fullness, perfection, glory. He is the Head of the family of the children of God; they are his lambs—he is their Good Shepherd. He has transformed them, changing them from citizens of this world to citizens of the world to come.

The 15th year of Tiberius is the beginning of the end of the Roman imperium; but it is the end of the beginning of the eschatological imperium. That heavenly kingdom brought to us by the eschatological King of kings—that imperium has no end. If Luke's gospel mentions Tiberius Caesar but tells the story of Jesus, you know who is more important—more important to every Christian believer—more important to the church—more important to your history. His name is Jesus—King of kings, Lord of lords, very God of very God. Everything else has and will die and pass away. But he—he shall reign forever and ever.


[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 39-41]

Fulgentius of Ruspe

Heretofore, we have not reviewed Ph.D. dissertations in this journal. Gumerlock's1 is the exception and that for two very important reasons. First, his work provides the current definitive review of the previously obscure life of Fulgentius (468-533), whose impact on the Semi-Pelagian debates of the 6th century is foundational. Second, the exegesis of Fulgentius with respect to the controverted texts (Ezk. 18: 4, 32; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) is clearly presented as a post-Augustinian refining and precisionizing of the loci classici. We are in Gumerlock's debt for a thoroughly researched thesis—his bibliography and footnotes include references to English, German, Spanish, Italian and French resources. I do not believe he has left any stone unturned which may hide a reflection on his subject. And our thinking about the disputed biblical texts is considerably sharpened by this exercise in the history of interpretation. From our Reformed point of view, we put down Gumerlock's dissertation convinced once more of the Pauline, Augustinian and Reformed interpretation of the classic textual conundrums. In a clear and most helpful manner, Fulgentius informs our Calvinistic exegesis.

The dissertation consists of six chapters and several appendices. Chapter one positions Fulgentius in contemporary scholarly discussion and provides the most up-to-date biographical sketch of the subject in English (pp. 20-28).


1 Francis X. Gumerlock, Fulgentius of Ruspe on the Saving Will of God. Ph.D. dissertation submitted to Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO (2004). Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertation Services (phone: 1-800-521-3042), UMI Number 3154265. 244 pages. Loose leaf ($38.00); soft cover ($69.00); hard cover ($85.00).


Chapter two outlines Fulgentius's early views (515-518) in which he endorses a universal will of God for the salvation of all mankind (as evidenced in his Ad Monimum and De Trinitate). Chapter three presents the critical catalyst that altered Fulgentius's previous opinion. The Semi-Pelagianism of Faustus of Riez (ca. 405-ca. 490) provoked a revision of Fulgentius's previous universalistic interpretation so that he now concluded (518/519) that "God was not willing that any of the predestined perish." Chapter four is the most adventurous; here Gumerlock advances an explanation for the further precision of Fulgentius's exegesis in response to a letter from a group of Scythian monks sojourning in Rome (519-520). Fulgentius is now indicating that "God wills all kinds of persons to be saved." Chapter five explains Fulgentius's most mature surviving work—De veritate praedestinationis et gratiae (523) ("Concerning the truth of predestination and grace"). There is a work in seven books against Faustus of Riez on the grace of God that unfortunately has been lost; however it is know from references in Isidore of Seville (p. 190) and others. By 523, Fulgentius has come a hundred and eighty degrees from his original position in Ad Monimum (chapter 2). He now affirms "God does not will all to be saved." Chapter 6 is a review of the matter of God's saving will in patristic interpretation and Fulgentius's contribution to the Semi-Pelagian controversy that arose with John Cassian (ca. 360-ca. 435) and others in southern France.2

The Appendices contain six documents never before translated into English: Isidore of Seville, On Illustrious Men 14 (pp. 189-91); Fulgentius of Ruspe, Fragments to Eugippus (pp. 191-96); Faustus of Riez, On Grace 1.18 (pp. 196-99); John Maxentius, Chapters (pp. 199-202); John Maxentius, Booklet on the Faith, 15-18 (pp. 202-207); Caesarius of Arles, On Grace (pp. 207-14).

Inevitably, the reader, student, teacher, pastor of the Word of God comes across Ezk. 18, 1 Tim. 2 and 2 Pet. 3. How to understand these ostensibly universalistic expressions in the light of particularistic proof texts (e.g., Rom. 9:13, 18; John 17:12, etc.) is the resultant challenge. Does God reveal that he wills to save each and every man, woman and child born of ordinary genera-


2 Cf. James T. Dennison, Jr. "Augustine on Grace." Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 18/3 (December 2003): 38-52 for a review of the controversy.


tion since Adam and Eve? Does "all" in Timothy mean each and every person universally and absolutely? Fulgentius originally thought so; but like his great predecessor, Augustine (who modified his position from 'faith earns grace' to 'grace gratuitously grants faith'), Fulgentius was compelled by the whole counsel of God to reject the universal interpretation. The Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian discussions forced him to reconsider his interpretation so as to bring it into accord with the revealed will of God that some persons are not saved—hence could not ever have been willed by God to be saved, else God's will fails of its omnipotent purpose. In the end, God's revealed will was the salvation of his elect people from all kinds of nations, walks of life, circumstances and conditions. Only that particular restriction was consonant with the particular restriction of the will of God to save some from all mankind rather than all from all mankind.

It is to be hoped that Gumerlock's dissertation will be published for wider distribution and edification. It deserves a place in every seminary library as well as a niche in every Calvinist's collection who wishes to own a concrete example of historical exegesis supportive of the Reformed interpretation of the classic texts.

James T. Dennison, Jr.



[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 42-46]

Mark S. Smith, Untold Stories: The Bible and Ugaritic Studies in the Twentieth Century. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2001. 250 pp. Cloth. ISBN: 1-56563-575-2. $29.95.

The aim of this book may be said to be twofold. First, it reviews the history of topics studied and results discovered in the field of Ugaritology, including its bearing on Biblical studies. Second, it provides an account of the personal involvement of many of the most prominent scholars in the field. In this respect, the work reads much like a "Who's Who" in the field of Old Testament and Northwest Semitic philology. The book's title ("Untold Stories") is drawn from the observation that the history of Ugaritic research is not well documented, particularly with respect to the personal stories of individual scholars.

The book is organized along chronological lines, partitioning the history of Ugaritic studies into four periods (corresponding to four chapters): Beginnings (1928-1945), Synthesis and Comparisons (1945-1970), New Texts and Crises in Comparative Method (1970-1985), and Resurgence in Tools and Method (1985-1999). Although some chronological landmarks distinguish these periods, one could say that each phase corresponds approximately to a span of one generation of scholars.

Each chapter in turn is organized partly by prominent topics of study during the given period and partly by the location of scholars in their respec-


tive academic centers, whether by nation or by city. For example, chapter one (Beginnings) includes sections on First Discoveries, Decipherment, and Grammar and Poetry, etc., which are then followed by sections on developments in Europe and Palestine and in the United States. The chapter concludes with additional sections on selected persons and issues of special interest (e.g., W.F. Albright, Monotheism). This organization recurs with each chapter. Chapter two (Synthesis and Comparisons), for example, begins with a section on Text Editions, Language, and Grammar, summarizing the development of tools for textual study. The chapter then proceeds to review developments by location (Europe and Israel, the United States). After this, the chapter moves into a case study of Myth-and-Ritual studies, focusing in greater depth on the question of an enthronement festival in ancient Israel (see below). Chapters three and four continue this pattern of summarizing topics under progress, listing scholars and centers of study geographically, and then focusing on prominent issues of the period.

Smith's contribution is the only book-length treatment of the history of the field. Nevertheless, it should not be mistaken for a textbook on the history of Ugaritic research, because of the extent to which Smith delves into personalities and personal relationships. Instead of tracing the development strictly of ideas and new knowledge, Smith presents a history of scholars, along with salient contributions they made. (Hence, the book's organization follows generations of scholars, not structures of concepts.) On the other hand, Smith's approach yields fascinating accounts regarding the personal side of academia, which after all can have an indirect role in the advance of a field. A noteworthy example described by Smith is the adversarial role E.A. Speiser at times assumed with respect to his student Cyrus Gordon, clearly contributing to Gordon's shifting from Assyriology (his first interest) to Ugaritology (following a suggestion from W.F. Albright). Gordon, of course, went on to produce Ugaritic Textbook, the major and pioneering grammar (Gordon 1998). These sorts of accounts, based on Smith's extensive research into personal letters and unpublished records, give us real insight into the human (and political) side of academic research. It should be noted, though, that this level of anecdotal detail diminishes as the book reaches later periods, resulting in sections that read like mere catalogues.


The application of Ugaritic research to Biblical studies is illustrated by Smith's treatment of the myth-and-ritual school of thought, prevalent in the 1950s and 60s, which viewed both Ugaritic and Biblical texts as written from a setting of cultic ritual. Unfortunately, the approach, resting to some degree on speculation, suffered from lack of sufficient evidence to establish the comparative syntheses claimed (a common problem when drawing literary parallels across cultures). Following points made by Karel van der Toorn, Smith tends to support the thesis, entering into an expression of his own point of view: "Indeed, if we may prune back certain claims ... and adduce further evidence, the core of Mowinckel's rich reconstruction retains merit." He proceeds to defend the theory of a fall New Year's festival (corresponding to the feast of Sukkot), comparable to the Mesopotamian Akitu festival and characterized by a divine enthronement ritual (pp. 85-87). While acknowledging problems with evidence, Smith downplays the difficulties (e.g., p. 87: "Differences are not necessarily an indication of a weak theory.") and leaves us with a generally positive appraisal of Sigmund Mowinckel's synthesis. As the inferences comprising this theory are based on a wide range of assumptions regarding the Biblical text, the religion of Israel, and comparative anthropology (e.g., Frazer's The Golden Bough), this section should be read with caution.

By contrast, Smith's review of Mitchell Dahood's approach to elucidating Biblical texts based on Ugaritic vocabulary is more realistic (pp. 158-165). Dahood is well known for exhibiting a lack of methodological control in suggesting new interpretations to Biblical passages based on alleged parallels in Ugaritic grammatical and lexical forms. (Smith cites colleagues' estimates that at most only about 10% of Dahood's comparative proposals may be correct.) Smith's exposition is helpful in showing how even a judicious use of Ugaritic in studying the Hebrew Bible was subsequently diminished in part by the adverse effects of this one prolific scholar's uncritical mistakes.

One drawback of the book is this unavoidable focus on the application of Ugaritic literature and linguistics to Biblical studies—though this tendency naturally tracks the history of the field. Nevertheless, there is an important relationship between Ugaritic linguistics and the larger field of comparative Semitics, i.e., the historical linguistic reconstruction of the family of Semitic


languages. To be sure, Smith does touch on this at times, for example, in his final chapter when he discusses whether Ugaritic may be classified as "Canaanite" (pp. 195-197). (Yet, even here the question shifts between linguistic classification and the designation of cultures.) The connection with comparative Semitics can be appreciated when we remember that Ugaritic texts are not vocalized, so that accurate linguistic understanding requires one to reconstruct the missing vowels. This task demands the exercise of comparative Semitic reconstruction, which in turn requires genetically classifying Ugaritic among the Semitic languages. Indeed, comparative Semitics and Ugaritic language study cannot rightly be separated. (These issues are not raised when Smith reviews opinions on vocalizing Ugaritic [p. 157].) Moreover, this historical linguistic work is indeed the necessary foundation for any comparative study of Ugaritic and Biblical Hebrew language. The tendency of Smith's survey to focus elsewhere shows itself, for example, in the positive but passing allusions (pp. 131, 157) to Huehnergard's crucial study on Ugaritic vocabulary found in syllabic cuneiform (i.e., Mesopotamian cuneiform, which indicates vowels) (Huehergard 1987), a work that provides an important basis for correct Ugaritic vocalization.

The extensive research that went into this relatively short book (238 pages) is reflected in the great length of bibliographical notes at the end of each chapter, by one tally adding up to 83 pages. It has been observed (Wyatt's review) that these notes would be more useful were they organized into an alphabetically sorted bibliography. In fact, Smith has provided separately (not mentioned in his book) a bibliography pertaining to Ugaritic and Biblical Hebrew grammar (Smith 2004). Currently available on-line, it is organized topically and extends to 152 pages—a useful key to entrance into the field, where so much is scattered in journal articles. The combination of Untold Stories and the Bibliography constitute an essential tool for study in Ugaritic, as well as related areas of Old Testament studies.

Despite some of the cautions expressed here, this book is overall an exceptional reference on Ugaritic studies. The book is doubtless an essential guide to Ugaritology, especially as it relates to the Hebrew Bible. Though the work reflects some of Smith's specific interests and so is not intended as a complete history of ideas, it provides a useful survey of a great many scholars


and their bibliographical output. It should be approached then as a "Who's Who" in the field, rather than an analytical outline of research as it progressed. Given the diverse and scattered nature of the bibliography of Ugaritic studies, this is an important purpose, served well by Smith's wide-ranging research. Any student seeking to become oriented in the main stream of scholarship from the discovery of Ugarit to the present day will find this book (and the companion Bibliography) immensely helpful.


Gordon, Cyrus H. Ugaritic Textbook. Analecta Orientalia 38. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1998.

Hess, Richard S. Review article. Denver Journal 5 (2002). Available on-line (as of 8/1/2005): /0103.php.

Huehnergard, John. Ugaritic Vocabulary in Syllabic Transcription. Harvard Semitic Studies 32. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987.

Hunt, Joel Herbert. Review article. Review of Biblical Literature 07/2003. Available on-line (as of 8/2/1005):

Smith, Mark S. A Bibliography of Ugaritic Grammar and Biblical Hebrew Grammar in the Twentieth Century. May 2004. Available on-line (as of 8/1/2005): (in PDF, Microsoft Word, and RTF formats).

Watson, W.G.E., and N. Wyatt. Handbook of Ugaritic Studies. Handbuch der Orientalisk (Erste Abteilung) 39. Leiden: Brill, 1999.

Wyatt, N. Review of M.S. Smith, Untold Stories: The Bible and Ugaritic Studies in the Twentieth Century. Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 4 (2002-2003). Available on-line (as of 8/1/2005)::

Scobie P. Smith

Redmond, Washington


[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 47-48]

James K. Hoffmeier and Allan Millard, eds. The Future of Biblical Archaeology: Reassessing Methodologies and Assumptions. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004. 385 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8028-2173-1. $26.00.

This volume provides a window into the "biblical archaeological wars." This on-going skirmish pits so-called maximalists (led by William Dever and company) and minimalists (represented by John Van Seters, T.L. Thompson, Philip Davies, Neils Lemche and others). In brief, the maximalists maintain that objective historicity (more or less) is reflected in the biblical text of the Old Testament; the minimalists maintain that the Old Testament text is a pastiche of reconstruction built upon the mythologies of Israel's past as projected backwards from the Exilic era (586 B.C. and later). Hoffmeier and Millard have assembled a team of experts in defense of the (essential) historicity of the Old Testament narrative and that evidenced by the archaeological record. While Dever is the titular champion of the movement, other noted names such as K.A. Kitchen (blurb, footnotes), Edwin Yamauchi and K. Lawson Younger are represented. Dever and his followers are defenders of the Albright (William F. Albright) school. This will leave some conservatives slightly uneasy since Albright favored the late date of the Exodus (against the Bible's own self-witness, 1 Kings 6:1) and hedged accurate biblical historicity on occasion. The absence of John Bimson, Gleason Archer, William Shea and Bryant Wood from this volume testify to the somewhat exclusive nature of the maximalist school.

Notwithstanding this unfortunate slight (open discussion of all viewpoints is an academic and scholarly responsibility, regardless of the ideological bottom line), the present volume is stimulating, insightful and principially opposed to the extreme left in these "wars" (i.e., the biblical minimalists). Of special note is Hoffmeier's essay on the route of the Exodus from the Nile Delta region (pp. 53-66) in which he candidly declares a modification of his previously published views. Now that is maximalism with integrity!

Sampling some of the chapters, we have a lengthy article by Benjamin Scolnic (pp. 91-120) on the identification of Migdol (cf. Ex. 14:2; Num. 33:7;


Jer. 44:1; 46:14) that builds on Hoffmeier's forthrightness. Millard reviews the Amorite question (pp. 148-60); William Hallo revisits "Sumer and the Bible" (pp. 163-75); Harry Hoffner, world expert on the Hittites, compares Israel's literary heritage with texts from Hatti land; Daniel Fleming (pp. 193-232) takes on Van Seters and Thompson re Genesis and the texts from Mari (i.e., authentication of second millennium B.C. milieu for patriarchal traditions); Andrew Vaughn (pp. 368-85) ponders the history of Israel via imagination (minimalists reconstruct Israel's ancient history by imposing current sociological and anthropological models upon them—a methodology inherently revisionist) as contrasted with the history of Israel via the archaeological-historical record (i.e., narrative-historical as in the biblical text).

This volume attempts to set the record straight, to shift the discussion in the direction of objective biblical historicity (as evidenced in the archaeological record). If it falls slightly short in some points, orthodox inerrantists need not despair. We are merely called to work harder at the task of explicating the biblical text by means of all the literary and archaeological data that the Lord God has made available to us. In fine, even some of the maximalist advocates of this volume will be found to be too minimally committed to the absolute trustworthiness of the infallible Word of God. But they have nevertheless significantly strengthened the case for the reliability of the Old Testament.

James T. Dennison, Jr.

[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 48-50]

André LaCocque, Ruth: A Continental Commentary. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2004. 187 pp. Cloth. ISBN: 0-8006-9515-1. $28.00.

Here is the J, E, D, P theory of the construction of the book of Ruth. LaCocque, preeminent French structuralist of the school of Ricoeur ("Dedication," p. vii), Derrida (pp. 151-52) and others, invents the book of Ruth by arguing that it was manufactured in the Exilic era (post 586 B.C.) as a justification for allowing strangers (Gentiles) into the club (Jewish community). His basic thesis is that Boaz and Ruth mirror hesed ("kindness") by going "above and beyond the law" in an era of Israel's history (Exile in Babylon/


Persia) when Jewish particularism was being rejected for a new-found inclusivism. If this reads like 20/21st century pluralism and multi-culturalism imposed on a book of the Bible, you have landed on LaCocque's principal presupposition. If exegesis is the application of the prevailing philosophical approach to modern culture read back on biblical texts, LaCocque is a master of the deceit.

Thus LaCocque's J, E, D, P is not that of the invention of the more famous Julius Wellhausen re the Pentateuch (Jehovist/Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, Priestly writer). Rather LaCocque's source-critical version of this tiny book derives "J" from the Exilic Jurist (but reconstructed in terms of the 20/21st century international World Court); "E" from the Enviromentalist (post-1970s eco-freaks concerned with agrarian "fields" as opposed to industrial capitalist thugs); "D" for the Deconstructionist who reorders Exilic Judaism in a universalistic and inclusivistic fashion; and "P" for the Pornographer who portrays the seduction scene at the threshing floor (Ruth 3) in bold, graphic detail so that we moderns can abandon our Puritanical inhibitions. If LaCocque appears to apply the culture of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s to the book of Ruth and then make the exilic Jews prototypical hippies, left-wing progressives, situational ethicists and worse, you get the picture. This book is not a commentary on an 11th to 13th century B.C. divinely-inspired Hebrew story; it is a socio-political statement of avant-garde 20/21st century French deconstructionism using the biblical text as a pretext. What rubbish! What utter rubbish! Fortress ought to be embarrassed to have wasted live trees and petroleum-based inks on this piece of junk (and that is being too kind). For whatever is of value in LaCocque's work on the Hebrew text may be found elsewhere.1

When, for example, Ruth prostitutes Boaz in a threshing-floor trick (pp. 89-103) so as to experience hesed above and beyond the law (of chastity), we learn that for LaCocque sexual purity is a toy; sexual pleasure is a political trip (Ruth seduces Boaz to get what she wants); sexual relations are restrained


1 The most helpful full commentary is by Robert L. Hubbard. Cf. also this reviewer's 2005 Kerux Conference address, "Ruth: Literary and Biblical-theological Analysis" as well as his four sermons on the four chapters of the book of Ruth (both items available from Northwest Theological Seminary, 17711 Spruce Way, Lynnwood, WA 98037).


by nothing—nothing at all save self-interest. Is this sound theology let alone sound morality? Indeed not!! This is perversion in the interest of 20/21st century self-gratification.

Of course, all this is "the teaching of Jesus" (p. 152). Jesus must serve LaCocque, even as Ruth and Boaz must serve LaCocque. What a travesty! All liberals are the supreme applicationists—reading biblical texts as their own narcissistic self-reflection from the bottom of an agendaistic, reductionistic, tendentious cesspool. Pages 151-54 present a clear explanation of LaCocque's wax nose approach to the book of Ruth. Here he parades his eisegetical presuppositions explicitly; one needs to read no more than these pages to consign this work to the rubbish heap.

The book is an insult: to Ruth and Boaz, to the Lord Jesus Christ, to the Hebrew Old Testament. What is needed after sloughing one's way through this gutter is a truly radical reading of Ruth—she is a heathen convert to the covenant faith; she is transformed by that conversion and conformed to the image of the living God who has married her to himself; she is assiduous in faithful service to her mother-in-law; chaste even in her boldness with Boaz; redeemed by her goel to become his own and the mother of his son, whose greater son is David, whose greatest son is Jesus Christ. So radical is this reading of the book of Ruth that no modern critical fundamentalist of LaCocque's ilk can see it because they are too busy reinventing themselves in the biblical text. What a travesty!!!

James T. Dennison, Jr.

[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 50-52]

Danny E. Olinger, ed., A Geerhardus Vos Anthology. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005. 375 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-87552-618-7. $19.99.

I don't like anthologies. I still remember the time that I bought Bartlett's Familiar Quotations with the anticipation that I could use some of the sayings to spice up my sermons and add color to my everyday conversations. I was supremely disappointed. I found the quotes to be far too short and randomly chosen to be of much value. Therefore, when I was asked to review this an-


thology, I was not too excited. I envisioned the same type of problem all over again. I have read most of Vos's larger works and realize that his argumentation is not easy to summarize into short pithy sayings, much less into clear communication of his thought. I was expecting a quote such as "In so far as the covenant of works posited for mankind an absolute goal and unchangeable future, the eschatological may be even said to have preceded the soteric religion" (The Pauline Eschatology, p. 325). Now, to those who have studied Vos this is a very perceptive saying. But to those who don't know the larger corpus, undoubtedly it would be rather meaningless.

However, I have found this anthology to be quite different from others. This is a very good book. There are several reasons for this. First, the introduction to the book is not a typical introduction. It presents the works of Vos in their historic ordering telling of the difficulty he had in getting them recognized, read, and understood. It was really his famous students, Stonehouse, Murray, and Van Til, who brought them to light. In the development of the introduction, there is a perceptive understanding of his teaching woven into the history. Don't skip the introduction!

Secondly, the quotations are of sufficient length to give you a good idea of the flow of his thought. In addition to that, under the topical heads there are a number of quotes put together in such a way that they develop the thought of that topic. This is very helpful in understanding Vos's concepts.

Thirdly, Mr. Olinger has done us a great favor in choosing quotations that express Vos's thought without using the more obfuscated language for which he is often known. There is a reason his books are not on the most popular lists. His ideas are magisterial. His writing style leaves something to be desired. However, in reading through this anthology you would never suspect his deficiencies. Well done, Danny!

Fourth, all of the quotations indicate the source from which they have been extracted in the full corpus of his writings. Therefore, it is possible when a particular saying intrigues you, to go to the fuller statement and learn more.

So, there you are. I am not going to enter into a long discussion of the various topics. They are many and all worth reading. But I want you to buy


the book. It is too inexpensive and valuable to leave it on the shelves of P & R. Buy it. Put it on the table next to your favorite easy chair. Pick it up and read a section while you sit there. Meditate on what he is saying. You will be the richer for it. And, by the way, buy at least three copies so that you have two to give away to your friends.

J. Peter Vosteen

[K:NWTS 20/3 (Dec 2005) 52-61]

Guy Prentiss Waters, Justification and the New Perspective on Paul: A Review and a Response. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2004. 237 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-87552-649-7. $16.99.

In this book, Dr. Waters presents a historical survey of New Testament scholarship leading up to and including new perspective authors such as E.P. Sanders, H. Raisannen, J.D.G. Dunn, and N.T. Wright. This is followed by his own critique of the movement and his assessment of its inroads into Reformed Christianity. This book is generally well-written (even if a bit repetitious toward the end). Dr. Waters gives us helpful summaries of points he has discussed (e.g., Sanders on Paul, pp. 87-89; Sanders on Rabbinic Judaism, pp. 51-53; N.T. Wright, pp. 148-49; etc.) And he provides a useful bibliography of sources at the end (pp. 213-37). Overall, this book should provide its readers with a good introduction to the subject from a defender of Reformed Orthodoxy.

In addition to treating the specific subject of Paul and the law, Dr. Waters unveils some of the general exegetical assumptions of NPP (New Perspective on Paul) authors. For instance, Dr. Waters has noted N.T. Wright's purely horizontal approach to theology. This is connected with his dislike of traditional dogmatic and metaphysical categories and his this-worldly eschatology with its social agenda. We may note that this has lead Dr. Wright to claim, for instance, that Romans 9 does not talk about election and reprobation in the way envisioned by systematic theology (a la Augustine); rather it speaks of the history of redemption (the patriarchs, the exodus, the prophets). However to pit these things against each other is to deny that horizontal redemptive


history reveals something about the vertical life of God and his people. As Dr. Waters has shown, this is a form of nominalism in which words lack metaphysical referents. We might add that, following the critique of Sabellianism, the church has said that what God does in history reveals something about who he is in his eternal life. N.T. Wright denies this in practice. While Dr. Waters does not explore the philosophical underpinnings of Wright's Critical Realism, he shows that it is a denial of "objectivism," which he implies is a purely Enlightenment phenomena (wrongly we might add).

Wright's views on revelation cause him to pit the horizontal against the vertical, an approach truly at odds with any sound orthodox biblical theology. And the views of Sanders and Dunn are no better.

Dr. Waters's historical sections are among the most extensive on books of the subject. After highlighting the Reformation and its doctrine of justification, he begins a historical description of New Testament scholarship. Here he traces out certain lines of thought (beginning with F.C. Baur) that will be picked up by NPP authors. Baur's antithesis between Pauline and Petrine Christianity will lead to the rejection of Pauline letters that don't seem to contain this tension (p. 5). Thus, Sanders and Dunn don't accept as Pauline the teaching of "works" in Ephesians and the Pastorals which Dunn admits are against his view (p. 167). In addition, Baur's anti-thesis focuses subsequent New Testament scholars on issues of justification, faith, works, and law (p. 6). Wilhelm Wrede's view (that "justification was simply a polemical device to which Paul resorted in his conflict with Judaism" (p. 10) is followed by Albert Schweitzer (p. 12). Then it's picked up by NPP authors who don't believe Paul's doctrine of justification is critical to his doctrine of salvation.

Some of the other historical sections can be seen as a footnote to E.P. Sanders. As a previous student of Sanders, Dr. Waters does an excellent job summarizing his views on Palestinian Judaism (pp. 35-58). His historical survey has brought us to this point. While noting Bultmann's existential twist on justification (p.17), Waters carefully lays out the view of Judaism held by Bultmann that is later rejected by Sanders (pp. 16-17). This view included the belief that one's "merits" would be weighed against one's "demerits" on the day of judgement to determine final salvation. W. D. Davies sets the stage for a reevaluation of this view of Judaism. Davies presents a Paul who is essen-


tially in continuity with first century Judaism. This will be followed by Sander's insistence that the Rabbis didn't really teach merit (p. 41). They taught "covenantal nomism," a kind of Semi-Pelagian covenant of grace (defined in eight points on the top of p. 38).

This provides the background against which Sanders, Dunn, and Wright interpret Paul. As Dr. Waters notes they argue in the following manner: The Judaism of Paul's day did not teach salvation by works. So Paul's polemic against the Judaizers cannot be a polemic against salvation by works. Therefore, Paul's contrast between justification and works of the law must have a different meaning altogether.

Dr. Waters takes this premise to task in at least several ways. First, he shows how Sanders massages numerous Rabbinic texts teaching merit (meriting the land or redemption), and presents a more probable interpretation of these passages (pp. 38-44). He does something similar with Rabbinic passages on "Damnation for one Transgression" and "Salvation for a Single Righteous Act" (pp. 42-47) along with quotes on atonement, repentance, and suffering (pp. 48-51).

Second, he notes that several scholars have questioned Sanders's reassessment of first century Judaism (pp. 152-53). Further, Sanders even fails to see the meritorious implications of his own view of Judaism because of his own Semi-Pelagian interpretation of Paul on the doctrines of electing grace and justification. In this reviewer's opinion, this should be apparent to any Reformed reader of Sanders (e.g., see quotes from Sanders on pp. 38-40) and provide good reason to reevaluate his conclusions. In fact, Waters quotes a passage from Sanders about Rabbinic views that seems to represent pure Pelagianism. "This is not the same as being born in a state of sinfulness from which liberation is necessary. Sin comes only when man actually disobeys" (p. 41).

Third, Dr. Waters points out that our interpretation of Second Temple Judaism cannot be definitive for our understanding of Paul since Paul should be interpreted primarily by comparing his statements with one another. In light of this, he evaluates Pauline passages that discuss the "works of the law." Sanders, Dunn, and Wright essentially agree that "works of the law" in Paul


refer to people's status within Judaism (e.g., by certain badges such as circumcision, sabbath, etc.—so Dunn) rather than their activity. As a result, they claim that Paul is not critiquing the idea that people can attain merit before God through their progressive acts of obedience. While not denying that "works of the law" also refers to status, Dr. Waters shows that these texts clearly include human activity.

We would suggest that Dr. Waters's argument on the "works of the law" as activity is further confirmed by seeing their contrast (justification) within an eschatological context. For the absolute contrast between works of the law and justification that Dr. Waters defends is highlighted by Paul with the relative contrast between the period the law and the present time (Gal. 3:21-4:7). "So that we might be justified by faith" suggests a semi-eschatological newness of justification in the present time (Gal. 3:24 and 23). This newness can be defined using a distinction Dr. Waters implicitly notes against the Auburn Avenue Theology (p. 208), that between the covenant experienced externally (or formally) in distinction from the covenant experienced really. Under the law, those who experienced the blessing of justification really could still be under the curses of the covenant formally (as they were in exile, e.g., Daniel in Daniel 9, cursed and ashamed). But now that Christ has born the curse eschatologically (Gal. 3:10 with its historical consequence of the blessing of the Spirit to the Gentiles, cf. 3:14) the justification of New Testament saints includes deliverance even from the formal curse of God. Thus Paul is not ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) for the time has come in which we have been justified by faith in a new way.

If this relative contrast is true of justification it must be true of the works of the law contrasted to it. (And both display the absolute contrast between justification and sinful works.) Thus Paul is denying that Israel's obedience of accumulated activity (could bring in the semi-eschatological age (involving semi-eschatological justification). This is contrary to the NPP's claim that works of the law refers to "status" only. Though "works of the law" presupposes Israel's unique status (now changed in the new era though semi-eschatological justification), it clearly portrays these works as the historical activity of Israel. In claiming Israel's works could not bring in the eschatological age (Rom. 8:3), Paul denies her historical accumulation of merit.


Instead, only Christ could merit the eschatological age. Dr. Waters's insistence (along with the Reformed tradition) that the law required perfection (Gal. 5:3) may here take on eschatological significance. For if the eschatological age were to come someone must keep the whole law perfectly. This is done only by Christ.

This further strengthens the view that Paul saw in the Judaizers a propensity for works righteousness. For Paul says that Christ is useless for those who seek the Spirit by the "works of the law" (Gal. 3:3) now that Christ has been crucified (Gal. 3:1). Prior to Christ's crucifixion seeking circumcision as obligatory (for instance) would be proper presumably because the recipient could see in it an anticipation of Christ. But now that Christ has been crucified, if anyone takes on the sign they show thereby that they do not see it as pointing to Christ. They are seeking to be justified by law (Gal. 5:2-4). They have absolutized it along with the whole Old Testament administration. Thus, they have absolutized the works of the law (which from the point of view of Old Testament believers) pointed them to Christ. But those who live under the old era after the new has come, absolutize it and treat it like an era of absolute merit. In other words, if they fail to see that the semi-eschatological age has come by grace, then they fail to see that their own personal salvation (which is grounded in eschatological salvation) is by grace. They have absolutized the law as a religion of merit.

In light of this we would ask Dr. Waters to reevaluate some of his exegetical conclusions. First, it seems to us that Dr. Waters denies a connection between the new exodus as a background to the Righteousness of God. This seems excessive to us.

This may arise from another possible tendency in his book, i.e., the undervaluing of backgrounds for understanding Paul's arguments—backgrounds from the Greco-Roman world, first century Judaism, and perhaps even the Old Testament itself (by far the most important, since it belongs to a different order of things—divine revelation). His approach at focusing on Paul's specific arguments undermines the tendency of Sanders, Dunn, and Wright to gloss over Paul's specific arguments as they impose upon Paul their understanding of Palestinian Judaism. Waters's analysis of "works of the Law" is most useful in this regard. Still, the other extreme, as Dr. Waters well knows,


is represented by Sanders when he claims that Paul simply quotes Old Testament texts because they contain the terms that he wants to use for his argument. Dr. Waters makes it clear that he wants to avoid this extreme and we believe he does. Still, Sanders represents an extreme on a continuum for recognizing the significance for Old Testament backgrounds in interpreting Paul. And while Dr. Waters is no where close to that extreme, we feel that he tips a little too close to that side of reducing Paul's arguments to his bare words (understood in their barer meaning).

We would suggest (as Dr. Waters would probably admit) that the meaning of words and arguments are informed by their context. And the organic continuum of revelation in the Old Testament forms the background for Paul's specific arguments. Discovering the proper background for a text can follow relatively objective criteria. The interpreter can discover which strands of previous revelation inform a specific argument in Paul by comparing that argument (with its language, lead words, concepts, and themes) to that of previous revelation. Finding connections with previous strands of Old Testament revelation, the interpreter may further confirm these connections by seeing whether they enlighten Paul's specific argument at hand and allow it to be seen in a slightly new light which sheds even more light on his argument as a whole in that epistle. This is similar to the process leading from hypothesis to theory in the natural sciences.

In light of this, Paul need not say in direct propositional language (clear to any 21st century reader) that he is speaking about the new David, new creation, or new exodus. At points this will be very explicit. At other times associated clusters of ideas, words, and themes will come together to make this clear to those steeped in the Old Testament and its prophetic literature. And it will be confirmed as this Old Testament revelation gives greater clarity to Paul's specific arguments.

On the other extreme of the NPP, when it comes to seeing Old Testament backgrounds in Paul, is N.T. Wright who often doesn't put on the breaks that the scientific method of investigation requires in testing his hypotheses carefully by the specific words of the text. This broad-brush approach fits together with his unorthodoxy and anti-metaphysical perspective—which is not checked by the text.


Dr. Waters rightly critiques N.T. Wright for his broad-brush approach and over emphasis on the new exodus motif. However, in doing so (as we noted), Dr. Waters seems to deny that the Righteousness of God in Romans has any connection to the new exodus (p. 180). He sees this as the "imposition of a foreign biblical-theological model upon the text of Paul." Later, Dr. Waters affirms the proper use of biblical theology. His concern is to see that it is not set at odds with systematic theology. And this is laudable and important in light of Wright's agenda. However, in light of his discussion (on p. 180), we believe he does not see any connection between the Righteousness of God and the new exodus. We would simply ask him to reconsider this point—and that it might strengthen the Reformation's doctrine of justification rather than undermine it.

We believe that the Righteousness of God in Romans refers both to God's own eternal righteousness (revealed most fully in the new exodus) and to the passive reception of that righteousness (merited for us in Christ) and received by imputation through faith alone. Thus, the Righteousness of God is both active (though not the active righteousness by which he judges sinners, a la Gabriel Biel, but the active righteousness by which he judges the sins of his people in Christ) and passive (received by imputation to believers). We believe this undermines (rather than supports) the views of Dunn and Wright.

Several statements and themes in Romans appear to point in this direction. First, Romans 3:25-26 speaks about God demonstrating his righteousness, a clear reference to God's own eternal righteousness actively expressed in redeeming his people. The result of this action is that "God might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Thus, Paul puts God's active and passive righteousness together. And God is said to have "demonstrated" active righteousness at the "present time" (the "now" of v. 21). Dr. Waters notes Romans 3:25-26. But then, dismissing any connection between this and the new exodus, he dismisses the connection between the Righteousness of God and the new exodus (p. 180), and by implication with the eschatological arrival of Christ (whether seen in terms of new exodus or other comparable prophetic themes). In light of the other themes in Romans, we do not see why Romans 3:25-26 may not reflect on God's patience in an eschatological context (e.g., perhaps texts like Isaiah 30:18 or 48:9).


We would ask Dr. Waters to consider that the glorification of God's name in Romans is connected to the semi-eschatological work of Christ (9:17's reflection on the first exodus pointing to the new 9:25-26). And this in turn is connected to the Righteousness of God. The background to God's name being glorified is its being put to shame by Israel (2:24, a quote relating to the exile). Connected with this in the prophetic material is the nations implicit claim that their gods were more powerful than the God of Israel because they captured his people. Thus they judged the name of God. Paul notes that God's name is judged (Rom. 3:4) but he prevails over this judgment. He glorifies his name in a way reminiscent of prophetic texts such as Isaiah 48:9-11, Ezekiel 20:39-44, and 36:16-32. And this new eschatological reversal takes place in the coming of the Gentiles "for his name's sake" (1:5). Paul then connects this to the keeping of God's promises (which results in the praise of his name (Rom. 15:8-9). Romans 3:4 and 7 connect God's righteousness to his truth, and thus we can see this fulfillment of his promises as the fulfillment of his righteousness. This then connects God's righteousness to the theme of his truthfulness throughout the letter.

Admittedly, to substantiate this line of argument would require more detailed exegesis than this review would allow, but it is meant to be suggestive. Still, most critically, we would note that this approach undermines Wright's views of atonement and justification. For the apparent dilemma in Ezekiel (from a human point of view) is 'how will God judge his people in covenant curse and at the same time glorify his name by bringing them into an eternal inheritance forever?' The answer ultimately seems to be that (having freely chosen to save them) he must send his Son to bear their curse eschatologically (propitiation) and he must raise him from the dead forever (no longer to be under the curse). Only then will his people not be put to shame (both actually and formally, Rom. 1:16). And only then will he reveal his eschatological righteousness and power forever.

If they are to receive such a justification, it must be perfect and thus by way of perfect imputation. Anything less would not deliver them (either formally or actually) from the curse. And the eschatological age will not have arrived semi-eschatologically. It is this great salvation that is experienced before the time actually by all the Old Testament saints (Rom. 4:7-8).


In all of this Christ is the hinge point. He is central. And him who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be the righteousness of God in him. Thus he was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25). And he has brought eschatological glory to his church, the glory of righteousness and life in him—yea, in God himself and his own righteousness, now revealed in the fullness of the time in Christ.

On another point of exegesis, Dr. Waters rightly shows how NPP authors have misused Romans 2 to muddle their doctrine of justification. However in doing this, we believe he goes too far when he denies that Romans 2:28-29 refers to New Testament believers. For Dr. Waters, this text simply shows that the perfect standard of the law required perfection inwardly as well as outwardly. To our mind this is mistaken. A view that this refers to New Testament believers need not imply that "Gentile Christians will keep the law and so be justified by this obedience" (p. 177).

At the same time, we believe most of Dr. Waters's exegesis clearly shows the faults of the NPP on not only the works of the law (pp. 158-170), but also justification (pp. 170-75), and the imputation of Adam's sin and Christ's righteousness (pp. 181-183). These arguments are clear, straightforward, and cogently presented. Dr. Wright's analysis of the theological implications of the New Perspective is also to the point (pp. 185-190). His final observation is that "the NPP have forced this dichotomy" [i.e. between justification as an ecclesiological doctrine verses justification as soteriological] "in order to permit rapprochement with Rome" (p. 190). This is the final conclusion of the NPP on justification and it fits in well with N.T. Wright's interest in the Ecumenical Movement.

Finally, Dr. Waters asks why many in Reformed churches are drawn to the New Perspective. He notes similarities between N.T. Wright and many in Reformed churches who are concerned with social activism (pp. 200-01) as well as those who disparage systematic theology in the name of biblical theology (pp. 202). And he correctly notes the ignorance of Reformed orthodoxy among so many men seeking the ministry (p. 2004). May his call be heeded with more of these candidates immersing themselves in the original sources of Reformed orthodoxy.


In addition, Dr. Waters points out the similarities between the Auburn Avenue Theology, Norman Shepherd, and the New Perspective (pp. 204-212). And a number of his observations (of 2004) seem to have been borne out by the Auburn Avenue conference of 2005, in which many of these Reformed men turned their interest away from orthodox theologians to N.T. Wright.

There is far more that could be said about this book. It is well worth reading for its analysis of the historical discussion, its criticism of the NPP, and its defense of the Reformation's doctrines of propitiation and justification. Hopefully it will help hold back the tide of Reformed readers who are turning toward the NPP—and will return them to the centrality of Christ—he alone is our salvation and righteousness. To him alone belongs the glory forever and ever.

Scott F. Sanborn