Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gerhard Von Rad's "Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1:" Preliminary Musings

Von Rad, Gerhard. Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1962.

Miscellaneous musings:

• Hefty endorsements from G.E. Wright (Harvard), H. H. Rowley (Past President of the Society for the Study of the Old Testament) and the Catholic Biblical Quarterly

• Professor of Theology, University of Heidelberg

• Primary sources for Old Testament are—whala—the Old Testament...but...

• But, the Old Testament has “succumbed to the onset of Biblical criticism” [code = our presuppositions, “assured conclusions,” and theorem-upon-theorem-by-more-theorems]

• The Hextateuch is “far from the actual historical course of events.” It is, Von Rad says, “particularly difficult for us today” to discuss the “unilinear schema” which is “unhistorical.” [Yet, he’ll go ahead straightway and talk quite knowledgeably and infallibly—despite the difficulties—about what is historical and what is not…it’s the usual hubris of the German Lutheran theologians, again.] This criticism, he notes, has been “destructive” (5).

• Using Formegeschicte, or form criticism, the smaller units of forms [=ably distilled by the infallible theologian...although they have 100s of permutations they can't agree on...dreary monotony is right, as Prof. E.J. Young once opined] must undergo historical view: who wrote the small unit, what was the point of view, the theology of the small unity, where does it go in the process of transmission, how was it “reminted” amongst the “masses of traditions?” This is an exact parallel of methodology used in desconstructions of the Gospels by liberals, e.g Rudolf Bultmann.

• The Documentarian-Formgeschisters tells us infallibly: three different names, e.g “God of Abraham,” the “Fear of Isaac,” and the “Strong One of Jacob,” means three different sources. Oh really? Two references: H.H. Rowley’s From Joseph to Joshua and Martin Noth’s History of Israel. We are tracking on the latter.

• An interesting note about Moses, mediator of the covenant, and attendant to every difficulty in the wanderings. It states it’s “impossible to underestimate the impulse of connection which he imparts” (13), an insightful turn of phrase worth reviewing. Mr. Von Rad works backwards from the central and repeated reminiscences of Sinai that dominated the memories, e.g. Psalms, Prophets

• Also, interestingly, the impact of the surrounding culture and worldviews that were not purged at Sinai, in the wanderings, or in the Conquest. Joshua near the end of life called upon the nation to “put away the foreign gods.” In other words, like the ever-facile Roman parasites in the guise of Tractarianism in the Anglican context, there were “Roman Trojan horses” in the “mixed multitude” that came out of
Egypt. There was a “cultic antagonism,” Von Rad’s words.  It would appear to be both external and internal.

• The Cannanites, like the sacral leagues of Greece and Rome, had community sanctuaries, harvest festivals, sacrifices and religious pledges and vows. The shrines were often associated with markets, buying and selling, a place for courtships and betrothals, courts, disputes and other rhythms of life. It’s an interesting note by Mr. Von Rad, but no documentation. Nonetheless, it warrants further review. The life, worldviews, geography, religion, etc. of the Canaanites.

• Von Rad raises a good point worth pursuing, to wit, locations of the tabernacle where able: from the Conquest until Jerusalem. (1) Bethel, Judges 20.18, 26ff., (2) Shiloh (1 Sam. 1.1ff.), (3) Gilgal, near Jericho. However, he notes “how slight is our knowledge of these things” (21).

• “High places” as Canaanite shrines of local significance were widespread. They were fertility cults, both agricultural, religious and sexual. The rain was the “generative powers” brought by the “sperm of rain.” The human body “entered this” by “imitating this.” “Cultic prostitution” was an essential characteristic with “sacred prostitutes” who lived at “the sanctuaries.” 1 Kings 15.12; 2 Kings 23.7; Dt. 23.18. We would suggest that perhaps this was what began corrupting Eli’s sons during Samuel’s ascendancy.

Mazzeboth, stone pillars (Gen. 28.18; Ex. 23.24; Dt. 16.22), or wooden poles, Asheroth (Judges 6.25; Dt. 16.21), may have been phallic symbols

Astarte was a goddess of fertility imported from Babylonia to Syria and Palestine.

• Dagon was also a vegetation-deity (1 Sam. 5.2ff). Anatoth and Beth Anath may have been place names of shrine-sites.

• A wonderful statement by Mr. Von Rad re: Israel’s antagonism with Baalism, to wit, “Saying `No’ to the Canaanite cult had come to be the articulus stantis ed cadentis ecclesiae” (25).

• Brief comparison of the “Book of the Covenant” with the Code of Hammurabi, allegedly, expressive of a “homogeneous jurisprudence” in the Ancient Near East. The former has private and public jurisprudence while the latter was more state-oriented (according to Mr. Von Rad).

• The “Book of the Covenant” had “equal rights for all before the law,” “the idea of common solidarity,” and the “ethic of brotherhood” as expressive of the “neighbourly nomadic clans"

• Upholders of the law were “elders.” They were the “maintainers, superintendents, and proclaimers of this law” (32). There were “lesser judges” (Judges 10.1-5; 12.7-15) in different clans who “judged” Israel. Samuel rode the circuit of Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah.

• An interesting note on ANE magic: a “technique, a way of actually influencing the world…to maintain himself against the world…a primitive threshold of technology” (34). One hears a hint at TBN. However, Jehovah, was immense with His own will, making His ways “incompatible with magic” (34).

No comments: