Paul and the Faithfulness of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God. By N. T. Wright. 2 vols. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013. Xv + 1,696 pp., $89.00 paper.

N. T. Wright continues to be amazingly productive. In this two volume work on Paul, Wright, resumes his multi-volume work on “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” The book is divided into four parts. Wright begins by exploring the religious, social, political, and cultural world in which Paul lived (chapters 1-5). He then investigates the worldview of Paul, focusing on symbol and praxis (chapters 6-8). The third part zeroes in on Paul’s the­ology under the themes of monotheism, election, and eschatology (chapters 9-11). Finally, he considers how Paul’s theology interfaces with both the Greco-Roman and Jewish world of his day (chapters 12-15). The last chap­ter discusses Paul’s aims and intentions (chapter 16).

Another angle on the plan of the book helps us to see what Wright is try­ing to accomplish. Paul’s worldview (chapters 6-8) precedes the explication of his theology (chapters 9-11), since Wright believes that Paul’s theology flowed from his worldview. In addition, chapters 12-15 return to the dis­cussion of the historical, cultural, social, and religious world discussed in chapters 2-5. In these final chapters, Wright unpacks how Paul’s theology relates to its first century context. Wright’s work is grounded in history. He has no patience for those who attempt to do Pauline theology apart from the historical context of the day, and in this he is exactly right.

A short review cannot do justice to Wright’s contribution, and I will pick up on a few items of interest. The book is launched with a fascinating discus­sion of Philemon, comparing Paul’s perspective on the runaway Onesimus with Pliny’s response to the runaway slave of Sabinianus. What is particular­ly striking is how Paul’s response differs from Pliny’s, and we are introduced to Paul’s theology as he encounters a practical situation in everyday life. One cannot read this chapter without being struck anew with Wright’s creativity and genius. In some ways the whole of the book is in this first chapter, for we see, according to Wright, how Paul’s theology explains and sustains his worl­dview. The symbolic praxis at the heart of Paul’s worldview was the unity of the people of God, and hence Paul exhorted Philemon to be reconciled to Onesimus, for they were brothers in the same family.

What were the symbols and praxis in Paul’s world? The Jews focused on Temple, Torah, land, family, zeal, prayer, and scripture. The boundary mark­ers of Sabbath, circumcision, and food laws separated them from Gentiles. All of these matters were reconfigured and redrawn by Paul: the temple was the people of God, the land pointed toward the new creation, the family of Abraham consisted of both Jews and Gentiles and the boundary markers of the Torah which separated Jews from Gentiles were no longer in force. Ev­erything was shaped by Paul’s monotheism which included Jesus Christ in the identity of God, by the election of both Jews and Gentiles in the church of Jesus Christ, and by the hope for a new creation.

When it came to the pagan world, Paul taught that idols were dehu­manizing and robbed human life of its fullness. Even though Paul does not mention the Roman Empire specifically, his focus on the one God, on his rule over the world in Jesus, on Jesus as the true son of God and on the church as the true Israel, subverted the pretensions of empire. In particu­lar, the church in its holiness, unity, and witness stands out as the central symbol of Paul’s thought. Paul trumpeted the one family of God, the true temple in the world.

Paul needed to do theology, says Wright, because his worldview was rad­ically different from both Jews and pagans. Wright unpacks Paul’s theolo­gy under the themes of monotheism, election, and eschatology, reworking each theme in relationship to Jesus as Messiah and the Spirit. Wright main­tains that the common polarities in Pauline theology are integrated when we rightly grasp the narrative and story characterizing his thought, and thus apocalyptic should not be played off against salvation history, nor is the forensic opposed to the transformational and participatory. Wright rightly opposes false dichotomies here. All these themes fit into the larger story of Paul’s covenant theology. Paul believed his theology or philosophy was superior to paganism because it truly led to human flourishing, and Jesus’s lordship put the lie to Caesar’s claim to be the world’s true lord.

Much discussion has poured forth on Paul’s understanding of the human dilemma. Did the plight precede the solution, or did Paul see the solution and then argue for the plight? Wright says there is truth in both notions. Certainly Paul already saw a problem since the promises were not fulfilled and Israel was still in exile. Clearly something was wrong in Israel. At the same time, Paul’s recognition on the Damascus Road that Jesus was the cruci­fied Messiah provoked him to reassess the plight of Israel. He now perceived in a deeper and more profound way that Israel was also in Adam, that Israel was also captive to the power of sin.

If Israel was as bad off as the Gentiles, if it too was vitiated by idolatry and self-serving, what becomes of Israel’s election, of God’s promise that Israel would be the means by which the world is transformed? In using the word election the focus is on the purpose of Israel’s election, the promise that Israel would be the means of blessing for the entire world. Abraham, in other words, was called to undo the curses introduced into the world by Adam. As God’s elect and saved people, Israel was to be a blessing to the world. What God commanded Adam to do was promised to Abraham. Here I demur a bit from what Wright says, for the story of Israel shows that Israel would not and could not be the means of the world’s blessing. Perhaps there is some common ground in that Jesus Christ is the true Israel, and he is the answer to the human dilemma.

God’s righteousness, says Wright, is his faithfulness to his covenant, but God is not only faithful to the covenant but also to creation, to his creational intentions in manifesting his righteousness. God’s righteousness, his cove­nant faithfulness, testifies that he will fulfill his promise of a new exodus, but his righteousness also includes his covenant justice, his punishment of those who flout his law. Against Wright, God’s covenant faithfulness, his righteousness, cannot be equated with his mercy, his steadfast love, or sal­vation, even though it includes all these notions. Defining righteousness as covenant faithfulness is not convincing. God’s righteousness fulfills the cov­enant, but it shouldn’t be defined as covenant faithfulness.

Wright also considers here the issue of supersessionism with respect to election. He categorically rejects such an idea, for calling Paul’s theology supersessionist is as silly as calling the Qumran community’s theology su­persessionist when they saw themselves as the new Israel. No, Paul believed his theology of election represented a fulfillment of what God promised in the Old Testament. Wright’s appeal to Qumran to support his contention is illuminating and persuasive.

Paul believed that the election of Israel is fulfilled in Jesus, for he is the true Israel. Wright maintains that monotheism and election both meet in the person of Jesus. The promises made to Israel are fulfilled in Jesus’s death and resurrection since he has conquered death and all God’s enemies. So, Jesus is the faithful Messiah of Israel, the one through whom God has shown himself to be faithful to his covenant promises.

Wright rejects imputation in 2 Corinthians 5:21, a verse which is often ap­pealed to in defense of the teaching. He finds three problems with such an interpretation: 1) the text speaks of God’s righteousness, not Christ’s. 2) Paul does not say that righteousness is reckoned or imputed to us but says we “be­come” God’s righteousness. The verbal language hardly fits with imputation. 3) Paul discusses his own ministry here, and hence it does not fit to inject the idea of imputation into the context. What Paul teaches instead is that the cov­enant faithfulness of God is embodied in his ministry as an apostle. Wright’s interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:21 should be rejected, for God’s righteous­ness is ours in union with Jesus Christ. Wright over-reads the verb “become,” and imputation appears to be present since we are righteous because we are united with Christ. Finally, it is quite doubtful that the first person plural here is restricted to Paul, for it most naturally refers to all Christians.

According to Wright, justification was not a major theme in first century Judaism. Paul reshaped and rethought the theme because of inaugurated es­chatology, a new definition of the plight of Israel, the new work of the Spirit, and the equality of Jews and Gentiles in the people of God. Hence, the fun­damental question was not how to get saved, for salvation and justification do not mean the same thing. God will rectify and solve the problems of the world through the covenant, so that the sin and idolatry and corruption of the world will be made right. Wright mistakenly reads justification funda­mentally in terms of ecclesiology instead of soteriology. Yes, justification and salvation do not mean the same thing, but they both address the ques­tion of the final judgment. Salvation asks whether we will be delivered at the last judgment and justification whether we will be declared to be right before the judge. The final judgment, says Wright, will be according to the life one has lived; it will be a judgment based on works. Still, the judgment of the last day is declared in advance, so that Christians are now declared to be in the right. Wright is almost right! The word “based” does not accord with Paul’s teaching that justification does not come via works of law or via works. Hence, it is better to say judgment is according to works instead of based on works.

Still, Wright helpfully says that justification is not transformative but cre­ates or confers a status. The judge’s declaration actually creates a new status. It is a speech-act, just as a boss saying “you are fired” or a minister saying, “you are husband and wife” create a new status. Even if someone was noto­riously wicked, the new status declared by God as the divine judge creates a new reality. Justification does not occur because of a character change in the human being. A person is in the right because of God’s verdict, the sovereign announcement and declaration of the covenant God. Wright’s definition of justification here and his incorporation of speech act theory are quite helpful.

Wright also discusses eschatology, arguing that Israel’s eschatology grew out of its monotheism and election. In the resurrection of Jesus, Israel is redefined. He briefly discusses the return of Jesus where heaven and earth will be one and judgment will be meted out to those who disobey. I was sur­prised that the discussion of Jesus’s return did not receive more attention, for it is a major theme in Paul’s thought and questions have been raised on Wright’s own view on the matter given his reading of the alleged second coming texts in the Gospels.

The interpretation of Romans 11:26 has long been contested. Wright ar­gues that “all Israel” here refers to the church of Jesus Christ, and thus all Israel being saved does not prophesy a future salvation for Israel. Wright argues that if salvation were promised for ethnic Israel in the future, Gen­tiles would have concluded that they could simply sit and wait for God to act. Space is lacking for a full exegesis here, but seeing a reference to both Jews and Gentiles does not fit with the flow of the argument. In the previous verse (11:25) Israel clearly refers to the Jews, and it is hard to see how the referent changes in v. 26, especially since Paul continues to speak of ethnic Israel in v. 28.

Paul’s mission was not simply to see souls saved but to see the whole creation renewed, which meant that rulers (like Rome) would be unmasked for the frauds they are. The church would express its worship of one God as a united body. In order to sustain the unity and holiness of the church Paul taught his “philosophy” or theology to unpack and explain what it meant to be one in the Messiah. Wright’s larger vision is helpful, but at the same time it should be added how crucial it is for people to be saved, for if they are de­stroyed at the final judgment they will not enjoy the new creation.

The entire vision articulated by Wright is summed up in Ephesians, for in Ephesians the church is God’s temple indwelt by the Spirit. The goal is to see the world transformed, to experience a new creation, to see individuals reconciled (like Onesimus and Philemon).

We can be thankful for Wright’s significant and helpful contribution to scholarship, even if there are areas of his thought which are not persuasive.


Thomas R. Schreiner
James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Biblical Theology
Associate Dean of the School of Theology
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. By Thomas Nagel. New York: Oxford, 2012, 128 pp., $24.95 cloth.

Thomas Nagel, professor of philosophy and law at New York University, is an avowed atheist. In Mind and Cosmos he struggles to solve one of the chief inadequacies of atheism—its materialist conception of the uni­verse, which cannot explain such fundamental aspects of human expe­rience as consciousness, reason, and morality. But as an avowed atheist (95), he simply cannot allow theistic arguments into the conversation. Though he shows great respect for Christian philosopher Alvin Plantin­ga, he confesses he does not share Plantinga’s sensus divinitatus (12), so he does the best he can without it. Nagel refuses to entertain the reality and agency of God. He thinks a secular theory is cleaner and intellectu­ally more desirable (66). The frank recognition of the inadequacies of materialist notions of the universe is welcome, but in the end Nagel is no closer to explaining how human consciousness, reason, and morality are possible.

As Nagel sees it, the big problem is the reality of consciousness, a Rock of Gibraltar, if you will, on which the waves of “psychophysical reduction­ism” (4) have pounded without effect through the years. Try as material­ists might to deny the existence of mental states or to give them a strictly behaviorist account, they fail at the irreducibility of “the way sugar tastes to you or the way red looks or anger feels” (38). Descartes knew this to be the case, arguing, for instance, that matter was extended and mind was not. (You can use a ruler to measure a brain but not to measure sadness.) Alas, Descartes was a dualist, and Nagel prefers a leaner ontology, some form of monism (56)—but not just any old monism, for he is only slightly more patient with Bishop Berkeley’s “eliminative idealism” (37) than with the “eliminative materialism” of most Darwinists.

Nagel’s feisty game is wonderful to watch. It’s radically counter-cul­tural, given the materialist culture of the academy, where, in the field of biology, “physico-chemical reductionism … is the orthodox view, and any resistance to it is regarded as not only scientifically but politically incorrect” (5). Looking beyond the guild, he also grants that his reserva­tions will “strike many people as outrageous” because “almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science” (7). In the face of such scientific hegemony, he dares to confess, “For a long time I have found the materialist account of how we and our fellow organisms came to exist hard to believe, including the standard version of how the evolutionary process works” (5). He even puts in a good word for the intelligent design theorists, expressing appreciation for “the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the ortho­dox scientific consensus” (10).

When he gets down to the business of explaining consciousness, he says we need two components to our account (54)—one “constitutive” (the what) and one “historical” (the how and when). The former can be either “reductive” (with “protopsychic” elements written into all matter) or “emergent” (with mental features showing themselves at a certainly level of material complexity). The latter, the historical, can tell one of three sto­ries—the “causal” (with a sort of falling dominoes version of what came next); the “teleological” (with direction written into the primordial stuff); and “intentional” (with God engineering the whole affair at the outset, and perhaps along the way).

Though he is far from dogmatic, he thinks that some sort of “panpsy­chism,” with “protomental” powers at play in the earliest matter, will do the trick (52, 65). (In this, he does not jettison evolution, but rather just tweaks it [123].) In sketching out his “overarching psychophysical theory” (52), he tips his hat to process philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, who held that even electrons should be understood “as somehow embodying a standpoint on the world” (58). But he identifies most closely with Aristotle and his teleological “fourth cause,” whereby, for instance, acorns “contain” oaks (66, 93). But when he says that the universe “is gradually waking up to itself” (85), is becoming “aware of itself” through us (124), and is naturally “biased toward the marvelous” (92), the account sounds right Hegelian, with its self-refining Weltgeist.

Nagel is particularly hard on the causation account of consciousness, which flies in the face of Leibniz’s (and others’) principle of sufficient rea­son, which says that things do not just happen—in this case, consciousness just popping into existence at some point along the evolutionary string. (43) He says that you need a why behind a “this came next”—a significant explanation of why such a development might have been expected (45).

He uses, for example, a calculator, which displays the numeral ‘8’ after the figures ‘5,’ ‘+,’ and ‘3’ have been keyed in. It’s not enough to say the keying caused the ‘8.’ Rather, you need to put it all in mathematical and electronic context (48). But this is the sort of thing the Darwinists do not sup­ply regarding consciousness, if they acknowledge its existence at all. They just stipulate a material cause, a move Nagel ironically and deliciously calls “Darwinism of the gaps” (127), and leave it at that. Not so his own “overar­ching psychophysical theory.”

Nagel then moves from consciousness, which is passive, to cognition, which is active (84). He agrees with Plantinga that while evolution may account plausibly for such basic behaviors as fighting, fleeing, feeding, and reproducing, it cannot account for reason, logic, reflection, and such. While perceptual accuracy is important in sizing up physical dangers, and you might give an evolutionary pedigree for emotional and appetitive behavior (72), you need something more to account for the pursuit of truth in the theoretical and moral sense (82). Indeed, you cannot argue the truth of evolutionary theory on the grounds that it is a deliverance of evolution, for this is to run in a circle (81). Besides, we search for ac­curacy (80) rather than genealogy when justifying our claims (80). And regarding the canons of reason, “avoiding contradictions” is not the same as “avoiding snakes and precipices” (83).

Indeed, the fiascos of politics, business, courtship, and even the mod­ern university, suggest that candor and devotion to unvarnished truth are inimical to success. Power, profit, romance, and promotion are as much at­tributable to sophistry, pride, smoke and mirrors, ambition, treachery, and political correctness as to the dogged pursuit of and unwavering defense of verities. So whence the children of Socrates, with their irritating dialogical hunt for transcendent answers? And how do you get a philosophically fear­less Nagel out of mere matter? After all, this book might well have stymied his quest for tenure had he written it as a junior professor.

Moving to ethics, he makes a similar claim, that we are seeking objective moral truths which are more than shorthand for our subjective feelings and desires, a view he attributes to David Hume (98). He then quotes New York University colleague Sharon Street to say that Darwinism is incompatible with “moral realism,” so, by her lights, that is too bad for moral realism; he agrees on the incompatibility of the two, but takes the opposite tack—too bad for Darwinism (105).

As with the pursuit of truth, the pursuit of virtue is problematic for materialists. For one thing, it’s unlikely that the ability to “detect mind-in­dependent or evaluative truth” about morality makes any “contribution to reproductive fitness” (107). Jihadist terrorists, celebrity libertines, and atheistical tyrants seem to have no have difficulty in attracting and impregnating mates, if not veritable harems. So why should evolution give any value to self-denying honesty, justice, loyalty, and compassion (113)? Nagel cannot find a reason for it, the sociobiological blandishments of a Richard Dawkins notwithstanding.

His alternative is a simple grasp of moral reality, not reducible to likes and dislikes, to pain avoidance and pleasure seeking. In this, it seems to me he shows kinship to the moral intuitionism of atheist G. E. Moore: You simply see rights and wrongs, duties and impermissibilities on the face of things, once you know the facts. In Nagel’s case, these connect to the foundational, teleological nature of things, to which humans and thus the universe have awakened as we and it have grown up together. (This would seem friendly to some sort of natural law theory of ethics, but I do not think that he is ready to go there.) Thus, practical reason becomes one of our cognitive faculties (116), whereby we can control our behavior “in response to reasons” and not just impulses (117). And yes, he takes a hard free will stance, distancing himself from compatibilism, which, in his opinion, fails to undergird moral responsibility (113-114).

Noting that human good is different from the good of bees, he de­clares himself a “value pluralist” (119). It all depends on what kind of thing you are. He observes, for instance, that bacteria have a telos of their own, but, no doubt to the frustration of some environmentalists, he says rocks lack a telos (117).

Nagel’s reliance on the notion of the “psychophysical” character of the universe is unconvincing. If the prime ingredients of reality were both some­how “psycho” (even if only “proto”) and physical, how can we count them as neutral and monistic, as he wishes to do? Has not the book demonstrated that the two elements are irreducible? So is he not guilty of the charge he has leveled against the materialists, that of papering over a constitutive crack in the wall? I know that Peter Strawson and other neutral monists have given it a go, but I just cannot see how it works. The only monism I understand is Berkeley’s, but it is not neutral.

What’s his problem with accepting or at least crediting this view? He mentions the problem of evil (25) and faults the creationists for teaching, in effect, that “biological and mental organization are no more part of the nat­ural order … than airplanes or telephones are” (95). If only he could be dis­abused of these confusions with careful application of, in the first instance, the free-will defense or a soul-making theodicy, and in the second, with a sermon on how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the “image of God.” But he has heard it all before.

Perhaps, though, he is not far from the kingdom, a hopeful case on the order of Antony Flew, who died before he could complete his journey from atheism to theism/deism to Christ. Nagel certainly has the requi­site impatience with physicalism and an admirable modesty in saying he is simply working in the realm of “relative plausibility,” (126) and not smug certainty. Were he to go at his Aristotelian answer hammer and tongs, the way he goes at materialism, I think he would find its relative plausibility sinking below that of the theistic creationist account. Perhaps he has an ir­reducible commitment to metaphysical parsimony (monism vs. dualism) or a desire to persuade his secular colleagues on their own terms. But, as he admirably argues in his book, personal preference and public relations are not ends in themselves when you are pursuing truth.

Over all, Nagel’s critique of Darwinian, psychophysical reductionism is a delight. How refreshing it is to hear an atheist say that this hallowed perspective is “antecedently unbelievable—a heroic triumph of ideolog­ical theory over common sense” (128). Unfortunately, his alternative is both implausible and unnecessary, given the fact that God has creat­ed men with consciousness, cognitive capacity, and the wherewithal to grasp moral reality.


Mark Coppenger
Professor of Christian Apologetics
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom. By Candida Moss. New York: HarperCollins, 2013, 310 pp., $14.99 paper.

Candida Moss’s The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Sto­ry of Martyrdom is written for a readership with a taste for conspiracy theories in which sinister elites manipulate history for their own das­tardly ends. In this case, according to Moss, it was the fourth-century Christian bishop Eusebius of Caesarea who invented most, if not all, of the martyrdom narratives of the first three centuries to reinforce what he regarded as a tradition of orthodoxy (215-246). Moss, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, has the scholarly credentials and knowledge to make her case sound con­vincing, though in the final analysis, her thesis is far from compelling. She is right to maintain that the experience of the ancient church was not one of relentless persecution. This is not however a new or startling insight—even Eusebius agreed with this. As respected historian Everett Ferguson has noted, “Christianity was occasionally repressed in sporad­ic persecutions, but there was no general effort to root it out” (Church History, Vol. 1 [Zondervan, 2009], 160). What is new and startling is her remarkable contention that only six of the early church’s martyrdom accounts have any semblance of authenticity (92). The six martyrdom accounts are those regarding (1) Polycarp of Smyrna, (2) Justin Mar­tyr, (3) Ptolemaeus and Lucius—all three in the middle of the second century—(4) the martyrdom of Pothinus, bishop of Lyons and other believers in southern Gaul around 177, (5) the Scillitan Martyrs in 180, and (6) Perpetua and her companions in North Africa at the turn of the third century. In fact, by the time that even these accounts have been subjected to Moss’s withering criticism, there seems to be virtually no evidence of persecution in the early centuries of the church.

Rather than examine each of these accounts, this review is focused on one martyrdom story, namely that of Polycarp of Smyrna, to see what re­sponse can be made to Moss’s thesis. Charles E. Hill has recently reiter­ated the statement of Helmut Koester that Polycarp of Smyrna, bishop of Smyrna and one-time disciple of the Apostle John, was “doubtlessly the most significant ecclesiastical leader of the first half” of the second cen­tury (From the Lost Teaching of Polycarp [Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck], 1). The letter by Ignatius of Antioch—also a martyr—to him would have made his name known throughout the eastern Mediterranean since collections of Ignatius’s letters circulated widely. And in the account of his martyrdom, his pagan persecutors described him as “the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the destroyer of our gods” (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 12.2).

In Moss’s main discussion of the text of his martyrdom, which has been reckoned to be an eyewitness account of the death of the aged Poly­carp in the mid-150s, she argues that the story of his death is probably a third-century invention (94-104). Her reasons for coming to this con­clusion are essentially four-fold. First, there are elements of the account that seem to be like a repetition of the gospel accounts of Jesus’s death: “Polycarp retreats outside the city [of Smyrna], prays there, enters the city on the back of a donkey, is betrayed by someone close to him, is arrested at night, and is opposed by a figure named Herod and by blood­thirsty Jews (98).” Then, there are a couple of miraculous events—the heavenly voice that is heard when Polycarp enters the stadium in Smyrna where he will die and the smell of his burning flesh as he is martyred, “like (hōs) bread baking or like (hōs) gold and silver being refined in a furnace” or the odor of frankincense (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 15.2)—that raise suspicions in Moss’s mind that the entire account is a fabrication (95-97). Third, Moss finds the text’s emphasis on the relics of Polycarp’s body and the explicit rejection of the concept of voluntary martyrdom to be anachronistic (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 18.2-3, 4.1). According to Moss, the devotional interest in relics and the condemnation of people volunteering for martyrdom are both part and parcel of the third-cen­tury church scene rather than the middle of the second century when the martyrdom of Polycarp is supposed to have happened (100-104). Finally, Moss argues that the Martyrdom of Polycarp is supposed to be “the first text to recognize the category of martyrdom and develop a real theology of martyrdom,” but everything in the account seems to assume that martyrdom already exists as a developed concept in the life of the Mediterranean churches. This must mean that the text has been written well after the events it purports to describe (101-102).

Moss’s first reason for regarding the Martyrdom of Polycarp as a fabri­cation deserves careful consideration, for it is not unreasonable to ask whether the parallels with the life of Christ were contrived. Literary art in itself does not however demonstrate that an account is inauthentic. As Clayton Croy notes, Moss’s contention is that if there have been any edi­torial emendations or literary devices used at all, then the whole account is worthless as history. He rightly argues that “surely literary flourishes versus historical information is a false dichotomy. The same is true for allusions to the Gospels, alleged anachronisms, and other peculiarities. Some of these are hardly as compelling as Moss thinks; others, even if valid, scarcely require us to dissolve the account into sheer fiction” (Re­view of Biblical Literature 10 [Oct. 3, 2013]). The fact that this account of Polycarp’s martyrdom has certain stylized literary features does not mean that Polycarp did not die as a martyr or that it did not happen sub­stantially as the account describes.

Moss’s approach to the miracles in the Martyrdom of Polycarp is typical of New Testament scholars who approach the canonical scriptures with a hermeneutic of suspicion. Miracles simply do not happen, they be­lieve, hence any account of them renders the document containing them suspect. It is also noteworthy that with regard to one of the miracles—Polycarp’s burning flesh being like the smell of baking bread, of gold and silver being refined, and of incense—the use of the term hōs indicates that a series of analogous comparisons are being made. As Polycarp was consumed by the flames, it was as if the smell issuing forth from the flames was like bread in an oven, or like gold and silver in a smelter’s furnace, or like burning incense in a temple. The author is indicating that Polycarp’s death was well-pleasing to God and is similar to passages in the New Testament that speak of elements of the Christian life being a sweet-smelling aroma to God—like Ephesians 5:2: “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacri­fice to God.” As for the mention of preserving the remains of Polycarp’s body, Moss’s contention that this is anachronistic and redolent of third or even fourth-century practice seems somewhat arbitrary. A practice has to start somewhere, and this may well be an early expression of what would become a major feature of piety in the early Middle Ages after the collapse of the western Roman Empire.

The same reasoning can be made with regard to the rejection of vol­untary martyrdom, which is indeed a leading feature of the Martyrdom of Polycarp. Martyrdom according to the gospel is not voluntary martyrdom. This became a major problem for the church after the rise of Montanism, which took place in the 160s, a decade or more after the death of Polycarp. And although Montanism arose in Phrygia, where the volunteer martyr, Quintus, hailed from, as noted in the Martyrdom of Polycarp 4, this does not mean Quintus is being identified as a Montanist. If Quintus was be­ing identified as a Montanist, any text written after the rise of Montanism would have made this identification explicit. Could it not be the case that Quintus was actually from Phyrgia? And could it not be the case that the church in Phrygia had a tendency in this regard even before Montanism emerged in the region?

Finally, as for the Martyrdom of Polycarp being the first text to develop a theology of martyrdom, this belies the evidence of a number of other late first and second-century texts, which Moss well knows, but omits discuss­ing as they would damage her argument. Which texts? The reader should consider the account of Revelation 2:13 (the martyrdom of Antipas), the letters of Ignatius, written by common reckoning in the first decade of the second century and all of which breathe the air of martyrdom (especially his Letter to the Romans, 5.3), and the Odes of Solomon, a number of which speak explicitly of violent persecution (see Odes, 5, 28, 29).

Moss advances similar arguments for each of the other five early mar­tyrdom accounts. She rejects them as largely inauthentic. They more or less bear witness to occasional violence perpetrated against the church by the Roman state. Moss is correct that such violent persecution was episodic rather than constant. Historians have long recognized this. But Roman persecution of Christians was no light and momentary burden, as Moss would have us believe. Modern Christians are not wrong when they remember that from the beginning the church has often gone the way of her Lord along an ignominious path of societal and cultural ostra­cism that has ended in violent death.


Michael A. G. Haykin
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. By G. K. Beale. Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2012, xv + 173 pp., $13.17 paper.

G. K. Beale serves as the J. Gresham Machen Chair of New Testament and Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. This volume offers a practical guide to interpreting Old Testament citations and allusions within the New Testament. It found its genesis in a class that he taught about this issue in 1985 at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (ix). In it he provides a sketch of the method used by the commentators in the Com­mentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (xvii). The intended audience is “serious-minded Christians, students, and pastors,” but he seeks to fill a gap in scholarship by offering a coherent methodology and pointing the reader to necessary sources (xvii).

In chapter 1, Beale surveys the field, introducing the reader to the ma­jor debates within the study of the New Testament’s use of the Old Tes­tament. For example, he surveys the influence of Jewish interpretation on the New Testament writers and the definition and nature of typology. Beale concludes this survey by arguing that modern readers can and should “re­produce the exegesis of the New Testament” (27). He emphasizes that these debates impact both method and theology.

In chapter 2, Beale considers the first step that one must take when ana­lyzing the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament: identify quotations of and allusions to the Old Testament within the New Testament. Here, Beale defines an allusion as “a brief expression consciously intended by an author to be dependent on an OT passage” (31). Beale explains and adapts Richard Hays’s criteria for determining allusions and echoes, stating that his work provides “one of the best ways to discern and discuss the nature and validity of allusions” (34). Beale also suggests that the term “inner-bibli­cal exegesis” or “inner-biblical allusion” should replace the term “intertex­uality” since the previous two terms are “less likely to be confused with postmodern reader-oriented approaches of interpretation, where the term ‘intertextuality’ had its origin” (40).

Chapter 3 is a key chapter. In fact, Beale elaborates chapter 3 in sub­sequent chapters. He offers a nine-step approach to interpreting the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament (54). However, he acknowledges that there is no “airtight method” to insure a correct and comprehensive inter­pretation (41). The steps are listed below:

1. Identify if the OT reference is a quotation or an allusion.

2. Analyze the broad NT context where the OT reference occurs.

3. Analyze the OT context.

4. Survey the use of the OT text in early and late Judaism.

5. Compare the texts, including the textual variants.

6. Identify the form of the text used by the NT author.

7. Analyze the author’s interpretative use of the OT.

8. Analyze the author’s theological use of the OT.

9. Analyze the author’s rhetorical use of the OT.

In chapter, 4 he addresses the seventh step in his interpretative pro­cess, analyzing the author’s “interpretive” use of the Old Testament. Beale maintains that categorizing the way the New Testament authors use the Old Testament is important because it gives the interpreter a frame of ref­erence to use when analyzing these texts (55). He describes thirteen ways the New Testament authors use the Old Testament. He acknowledges that these ways do not exhaust the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, but he suggests that they are the primary ways. This chapter is especially helpful.

In chapter 5, Beale further develops the eighth step of his hermeneutical process: analyzing the New Testament writer’s theological use of the Old Testament. He states that one’s understanding of the New Testament au­thors’ presuppositions is essential because this method helps one perceive how they interpreted the Old Testament within its original context (95). Beale assumes that these presuppositions are rooted in the Old Testament, serving as a heuristic guide for its interpretation. Consequently, he main­tains that any issues raised with the New Testament authors’ interpretation of the Old Testament must be redirected toward their presuppositions.

In chapter 6, Beale addresses the fourth step of his hermeneutical ap­proach, determining the relevance of Jewish backgrounds. He argues that this literature is essential to the study of the New Testament because of the shared body of literature. He further develops this step by providing both annotated bibliographies on Jewish sources and examples where the overlap between these bodies of literature is exegetically significant.

Finally, in his seventh chapter, Beale examines the use of Isaiah 22:22 in Revelation 3:7 to illustrate his proposed method. This chapter is particular­ly helpful because it provides the reader with a model of how to apply the entire method within one contained example.

Beale has written a remarkably helpful guide, affording much insight and expertise. Naturally, in a matter this important and complex, I long for more. I would profit from a more extensive explanation of Beale’s distinction between an allusion and an echo (31-35). I also would have benefited from specific examples of scholars who hold the various po­sitions that Beale discusses in his first chapter (1-27). I would like to see also a more extensive bibliography, especially to include some of the more recent works in the areas of Jewish backgrounds and Septtu­agint studies.

Beale’s work on the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament is a timely, well written, and unique contribution to this important topic. This resource will greatly benefit readers who seek to interpret the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. The value of this work is demon­strated in the unique contribution it makes to the study of the New Tes­tament’s use of the Old. Beale’s method is immensely helpful, and he provides the reader with many exegetical tools by which to understand the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. Beale’s work should pro­vide a tremendous service to students, pastors and scholars interested in this field.


Michael T. Graham Jr.
Ph.D. candidate
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Early Evangelicalism: A Reader. By Jonathan M. Yeager, ed. New York: Ox­ford University Press, 2013, xiv+404 pages, $35.00 paper.

As anyone familiar with the American cultural and social landscape of the past half-century knows, evangelicals have been a potent force for change or impediment to change, depending upon your point of view. Not surprisingly, there have been in recent years a good number of excellent studies by both British and American scholars of the origins and history of evangelicalism. However, this new volume by Jonathan Yeager, currently teaching religious history at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, fills a definite lacuna for there has been no truly comprehensive text of primary sources that covers all of the permutations in the formative era of evangelicalism in the eighteenth century. In part, this lacuna existed due to the fact that up until recently many scholars discounted the importance of religion in history, for such religiosity had no parallel in their own experience and the maudlin excesses of Victorian evangelicals especially made the exploration of religious sensibility somewhat embarrassing. But times have changed and religion is increasingly, and rightly, seen as an important factor in our cultural past.

Excerpts of sermons, tracts, revival accounts, and hymns by all of the major evangelical figures are here, including the Moravian Nicholas von Zinzendorf, George Whitefield, the Wesley brothers—the leading Anglican evangelists of the century—hymn writers William Williams Pantycelyn and John Newton, American theologian Jonathan Edwards, Francis Asbury, the father of American Methodism, the Baptist missionary William Carey, and the English abolitionist William Wilberforce. But Yeager rightly includes writings from a host of “lesser” figures since at its heart evangelicalism has ever been a popular, grass-roots movement. So we find, for example, a se­lection of poems by the African-American poet Phillis Wheatley, including her delightful “On Virtue” where she argues that true Christianity issues in the moral transformation of character: for “the heav’n-born soul,” the born-again evangelical, “virtue is near thee” (278). There is an admonition from the Mohegan preacher Samson Occom to his fellow Native Americans about the abuse of alcohol (268-270). There are excerpts from the diary of Esther Edwards Burr, third daughter of the famous Jonathan Edwards and mother of the infamous Aaron Burr, Jr., including a fabulous piece in which she re­counted her silencing of a Mr. Ewing, a man with “mean thoughts of Wom­en,” when he stated that “he did not think women knew what Friendship was, they were hardly capable of anything so cool and rational as friendship” (202). Not surprisingly, Yeager includes a piece by the Scottish evangelical Presbyterian John Erskine, whose life and thought Yeager has recently ex­plored in his Enlightened Evangelicalism (Oxford, 2011). And I was thrilled to find selections from three of my Baptist “heroes”—Anne Steele (included here is the hymn “God the only refuge of the troubled mind” recently re­prised by the music group Indelible Grace), Andrew Fuller and John Ry­land, Jr.—the latter two both correspondents of John Erskine.

While every reader might wish for a favorite who is not included in this selection (I would have included a selection from the Baptist Oliver Hart, pastor of Charleston’s First Baptist), the range of authors selected is quite impressive. No denominational body influenced by evangelical­ism in the eighteenth century is left out and there are a goodly number of women and non-Europeans (about a quarter of the sixty authors in the book). Also, while most of the authors selected held to Reformed Prot­estantism or Calvinism, there are a number here whose theology did not fall entirely within this tradition: Zinzendorf, the Wesleys, John Fletcher and his wife Mary, Henry Alline, and the American Methodists Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke.

Guiding Yeager in his selection is the now-famous definition of evangel­icalism that British historian David Bebbington developed in his inductive tour-de-force Evangelicalism in Modern Britain (1989), namely, that the main characteristics of evangelicalism are “the need for conversion, a high regard for the Bible, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross as the means of salvation, and missionary involvement” (2). In particular, Yeager points to conversionism as “the distinguishing mark” of eighteenth-century evangelicalism (3). The evangelical authors and activists found in this book, however, would proba­bly consider the highlighting of conversionism as their key conviction as far too simplistic and far too narrow. Yeager himself notes that a statement of faith like that of John Ryland, which was firmly grounded in Nicene Trini­tarianism and Chalcedonian Christology and deeply imbued with the sote­riology of the Reformation (294–299), represents “most of the doctrines early evangelicals believed” (294). Nevertheless, Yeager is surely right—here following the path trodden by scholars like David Bebbington and Mark Noll—in arguing that evangelicalism is “a distinct religious movement within Protestant Christianity” (2), though the Bebbington quadrilateral may not be the best way of explaining it.

In recent days, a number of historians have lamented the path taken by evangelicalism, regarding it as a regrettable dumbing-down of the doctrinal richness of the Reformation. But Yeager’s collection speaks better things—it reveals a powerful movement, theologically rich with true af­fective interiority, that brought about a profound transformation of life and culture in the trans-Atlantic world.


Michael A. G. Haykin
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Archbishop Justin Welby: The Road to Canterbury. By Andrew Atherstone. Lon­don: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2014, viii+152 pages, $20.00 paper.

What drew me to this unauthorized biography of Justin Welby, the 105th (and current) Archbishop of Canterbury, was frankly the author, Andrew Ather­stone, currently Tutor in History and Doctrine at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. Hav­ing profited greatly from books that he was written in the past, I looked for­ward to the same in this sympathetic biography.

Welby was born into wealth and was very successful in the world of fi­nance—he was a treasurer in the oil industry and had a salary of £100,000 per annum in 1989; but the compulsion of the Spirit and constraints of the gospel led him to train for vocational ministry at Cranmer Hall in Durham. During the early days of his Christian life after a distinctly evangelical conversion he was deeply shaped by the Vineyard movement as it found expression in the ministry of Holy Trinity Brompton.

His first ministerial charge was at Chilvers Coton in the diocese of Cov­entry. This diocesan locale proved to be important for Welby’s long-term ca­reer. The destruction of Coventry and St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1940 during World War II had led to the formation of the Community of the Cross of Nails (so named because of three medieval nails from the destroyed cathedral that were fused into a cross after the bombing), which came to focus on recon­ciliation projects in trouble spots around the world. In time, reconciliation became a defining hallmark of Welby’s ministry.

From Chilvers Coton Welby went to Southam, Warwickshire, as the rec­tor of Sr. James, where he became increasingly concerned for parish renew­al, the relationship between theology and ethics, and the ministry of rec­onciliation. The latter frequently took him to Africa, where he faced mortal danger more than once, especially in Nigeria where violent clashes between Muslim and Christian were becoming more and more frequent in the 2000s.

Welby has insisted that he is “an orthodox Bible-believing evangeli­cal,” for whom Scripture is “my final authority for all matters of life and doctrine” (p. 90). But his concern for reconciliation has also led him to seek to preserve the unity of the Anglican communion despite recent deep divisions over women’s ordination and the question of same-sex marriage. There is no doubt that the latter issue will severely test his abilities as Archbishop, for, in the final analysis, same-sex marriage is incompatible with a high view of Scripture.

Three things in particular struck me in Atherstone’s story of Welby’s life thus far: Welby’s concern for unity. In his own words, it is an “absolute essen­tial” (p. 113). Sadly, because unity has all too often in the past century been the prevailing concern of ecumenical types with a low of scriptural authority, evangelicals have not paid the matter the attention it deserves. But such an attitude is in tension with both scripture and the tradition of evangelicalism. The critical question, of course, has to do with the dynamics of making it hap­pen. Then, there is Welby’s early experience with the charismatic movement and Third Wave theology that seems to have given him a life-long desire for revival, which, he would argue, is rooted in the resurrection: “Our hope of re­vival is based on the resurrection. Again and again in church history churches far worse off than us have, with clear leadership, found new life, and finding it have seen astonishing growth. Personally I believe passionately that it is pos­sible” (p. 131). To be honest, I did not expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to speak in such terms. Yet, his words are welcome and wise.

Third, it is clear that while Welby’s roots are evangelical, he has moved beyond the boundaries of evangelicalism in his practice of the Christian life. For instance, Atherstone notes Welby’s deep indebtedness to both Benedic­tine and Ignatian spirituality (pp. 94–97, 143). Reading this, it struck me that Welby typifies so many other evangelicals who have turned to other traditions of piety to enrich their faith. To be sure, it is not the case that we evangelicals have nothing to learn from these traditions. But the questions lay burning in my heart long after I had finished reading this biography: do we not have a tradition of piety that can nurture the deepest recesses of the believer’s heart (forsooth we do) and why is it not being retrieved and taught?


Michael A. G. Haykin
Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary