An Intriguing Synthesis
History of the Old Testament, by Claus Schedl (five volumes, Alba House, 1973, 2,071 pp., $45), is reviewed by Carl Edwin Armerding, assistant professor of Old Testament, Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.
This monumental work by an Austrian Redemptorist priest and professor will be of special interest to evangelical Christians because it represents current conservative Roman Catholic scholarship. Schedl has assembled in five volumes the result of a lifetime of research, combining a full awareness and acceptance of critical scholarship with a theological and almost devotional approach to the Word of God. His foreword, which is repeated in each volume, should be read by anyone who has struggled with the proper relation between what the author calls “profane exegesis” (philology, literary criticism, archaeology, and historical study) and a recognition of the divine inspiration and resultant “spiritual” interpretation of the Bible. Schedl affirms wholeheartedly that the exegete must be concerned with the former and claims (rightly, I believe) that “the personal religious conviction of the investigator plays no role in this.” But the Christian scholar must not, yea cannot, stop at this level. He must go on if he is going to recognize the “inexhaustible reality of the Bible word.” He must recognize the grand unity of the whole. “The words are all oriented toward the Word. The Old Testament is the ‘educator towards Christ.’ Thus, if you tell how you look at Christ, I will tell you how you read the Old Testament.” The foreword closes with a quote from Origen that retains its freshness to this day.
First and foremost, Schedl is a supernaturalist. He has no fear of seeing a God who, in history as in the Bible, intervened in his creation in a special way. No less a figure than J. Gresham Machen claimed that this was the real watershed between an evangelical and a liberal view of Scripture. In a day when the “inerrancy” debate continues to fragment the evangelical world, we would do well to remind ourselves of this much more basic distinction. Schedl, whose use of critical methodology, though very restricted and cautious (conservatives will like much of what he says on critical issues), goes well beyond what is considered “kosher” in evangelical schools, clearly affirms the supernatural as follows:
For the God of the Bible, the miraculous is the most natural thing in the world. The God who has created all the universe … truly has the power to supply his representatives on earth with the credentials of miracle. The God of Israel is a God of miracles, a God who can always, and everywhere, do anything he wills” [IV, 50].
It is only in this context, according to the author, that distinctions between legend and history or novel and biography can be worked out.
In specific matters of critical methodology, Schedl is representative of the more moderate Roman Catholic scholar of today. He quotes Pontifical Commissions more than once (this is one of the few specifically Catholic features of the work) and seems to try to work within their guidelines, in a day when many of his brethren seem to make the language of such bodies mean the opposite of what it says. In actual fact, Schedl seems more dedicated to the principle of literary and form criticism than to the use of either. Literary and form-critical principles are used to determine the genre of the stories in Genesis 1–11 and the cycles of Elijah and Elisha, but never is a narrative divided into its component documents nor are various strata dated by means of Sitz im Leben. This, in a book that pays lip service to the results of current scholarship, is most surprising and will certainly draw negative response from critical reviewers. A good example of what the author means by form criticism is seen in Volume I, a section beginning on page 277, in which the existence of both a Yahwistic and an Elohistic document is questioned. Instead, Schedl affirms the study of the structural unity of the passage (Genesis 3, in this case) according to formal principles of its final production. That this is not form criticism in the traditional sense is apparent to anyone who has worked in Old Testament; what Schedl is committed to, both in literary and in form-critical terms, is a methodology not unlike that followed by some theologically conservative Protestants.
The books are a veritable library of intriguing suggestions and conclusions. Before examining some of these in detail, we should look at the general scope and purpose of the work. The History of the Old Testament is much more than just a history (à la Bright, Noth, or Bruce). It is rather a comprehensive, theological-expositional library of biblical studies, fitted around and into a narrative history of biblical times from Abraham to the conquest of Jerusalem by Pompey in 63 B.C. Although bibliography and footnotes are directed to the scholar, the body of material seems prepared with the parish priest or intelligent layman in mind. The tone is pietistic and sometimes even sermonic (e.g., II, 138, “In the antithesis between Moses and Aaron we also note the distinction between true and false leadership …”). Theology as well as history form the subject matter, and one could do worse than use the set as a theology textbook. P. Heinisch, O. Procksch, and W. Eichrodt top the list of Schedl’s favorite theologians. The work of G. von Rad, which had not appeared when the earlier volumes were issued, is discussed in Volume III and following, but that author’s historical skepticism is generally rejected.
The translation is not always smooth, and there are such differences between Volume I and the remaining volumes that one can hardly recommend the entire set for any given purpose. As a detailed, though slightly outdated, history of Israel, which beautifully integrates the study of biblical sources with its narrative, the last four volumes can be used as a text. While the work lacks the concise quality of the works of Bright and Bruce, it is not wordy or repetitious. It simply covers more; to write a history cum theology cum commentary in less space is impossible. Little in the work belies its Roman Catholic origin, and I predict a useful life for the set within Pentecostal circles. The price, though steep, is not unreasonable in today’s market. More care might have been taken in such a production to avoid small errors of translation and spelling, and the binding should have been stronger for a reference set.
Volume I deserves individual treatment, as it has been totally revised from the German edition and stands alone both in methodology and in subject matter. Everything from a review of ancient Near Eastern history to a full discussion of the origins of the world and man is included, set in the context of an exposition of Genesis 1–11. In the former section, the work could have been written by any well-informed student of the field, and the conclusions are fairly standard. Schedl does depart from the norm in dating Abraham to ca. 1500 B.C. (following C. Gordon), a conclusion that is inconsistent with his later (though written earlier) volumes (see II, 29).
In the field of human origins (Gen. 3–11) the author is less interested in questions of science and Scripture than in the literary and theological meaning of the text. He blames the scientist for finding error in the text when its “methodology is essentially different from that of the natural sciences” and the biblical scholar for capitulating “far too quickly in face of the ‘clear findings of natural sciences’ ” and seeking to “save the Bible by harmonizing and concordizing.” The creation narratives are seen as a simple and straightforward credo of faith that, when set over against ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies (stories of world origins), tell us clearly what God intended us to know. A long discussion of evolution rejects Darwinian philosophical presuppositions (Darwin “transgressed the boundaries of a natural science”) and even questions the whole theory on the basis of certain open questions in paleontology, biology, philosophy, theology and ethnology. But Schedl is no classic fundamentalist, for it is with man and his purpose rather than with science and its limitations that he is concerned. He is content with the formulation of Teilhard de Chardin that “man has entered into existence noiselessly,” but for man’s purpose and destiny he feels that the word of the Bible is loud and clear. Much of the book is concerned to answer the theological questions that determine a Christian view of man.
At once the most intriguing and also the most disturbing part of Volume I is its preoccupation with numerology. I have purposely saved this for last as the book has great merit even apart from the dominant place given to this subject. Furthermore, the remaining volumes in the set show no evidence that the author had in fact discovered this theme or been gripped by its importance prior to his latest revision of the opening volume. In short, the first volume is completely obsessed with a kind of cabbalistic notion that the number of words, letters, and phrases has a mystical significance, the unlocking of which is the key to understanding. The task of biblical theology (says Schedl) is to work with the present form of the text (I, 278 ff.) (contra form criticism), and the method is to determine the principles of “wisdom” by which the Spirit of God led in the formulation of the structural unity of the section. This is illustrated in some detail in a study of Genesis 1:1–2:3, and Schedl seeks to show (following the Jewish scholar Gershom Scholem) that the symbolic value of the numbers comes, not from the Middle Ages as cabbalistic inventions, but from the final period of biblical history itself. That this final period, in the case of Genesis 1, is as late as the post-exilic Jewish community, is no problem for Schedl, for he sees in the final as well as the earlier stages the superintending work of the inspiring Spirit of God. Schedl is convinced of the importance of the number 11 (10 plus 1) in this “pre-cabbalistic Judaism” of the second-temple period, and attempts to show how it influenced the structure of Genesis at every point. For many a reviewer this will be the determining factor in his rejection of the entire set; on the other hand, the work is sure to attract a host of admirers for whom this kind of research is considered basic Bible study. I hope that neither admirers nor detractors will be so influenced by the author’s numerology that they miss whatever else he has to say.
Volume II, which appeared originally in 1956, is unrevised in translation and covers the period from Abraham to the Judges. Conclusions are generally conservative, and the author is heavily influenced by the results of archaeological research done by such men as W. F. Albright and N. Glueck. The patriarchs are affirmed as historical personages and the narrative is constantly treated as a basic, reliable source. Much is made of ancient Near Eastern parallels. Moses is seen as the “primary author” of all the narratives, together with the legal material attributed to him in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, though much flexibility is allowed for post-Mosaic additions to the text. The Exodus and Conquest are maintained as historical, though the manna incident is explained naturalistically (but its having been withheld on the seventh day is a miracle!). Mosaic law is favorably contrasted to that of Assyria and Babylonia, and harmonistic solutions are given to such nagging critical problems as the origin of tabernacle and sacrifice. Through it all, Schedl’s primary interest is unquestionably for the reader to see God at work, through his ancient servants, beginning and furthering the process of education toward the final coming of the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.
The third volume treats the period of Samuel, Saul, David, and Solomon. Again, critical problems tend to be simplified and harmonized (though clearly not ignored), and there is a good theological discussion of the whole. The ambivalence of the text of Samuel toward kingship is interpreted as God’s work, using an idea that was originally contrary to his will to bring about the great institution (kingship) that would ultimately define the role and function of God’s own Son.
Sections on Psalm and Wisdom research round out the volume. Luther’s break with medieval tradition on the Psalms is discussed, together with subsequent Protestant and Catholic efforts, and Schedl takes a position closer to Luther than to either medieval Catholics or liberal Protestants. The material on Proverbs and the Song of Solomon is also most useful, and positions taken are quite consistent with current Reformed scholarship.
Volume IV, entitled The Age of the Prophets, treats the divided monarchy through the exile. Basic to the presentation is the thesis that the cult-worship of Israel was originally unified at one site (Shiloh), and that it was only after the destruction of that city that the problems of plural shrines and non-Yahwistic worship entered. The powerful “Queen-mother” office in Judah is seen as responsible for much of the trouble (a thesis that rests on slender foundations, especially in the north, where little consistent data regarding queen-mothers is given). Both Elijah and Elisha are seen as historical figures who performed actual miracles, though the account of each is amplified in the process of time. Theologically, Elijah is presented as a second Moses, with various parallels intriguingly drawn. Schedl seems a bit shaky in his analysis of the Baal cults and their role vis à vis the bull cult of Jeroboam. It is not clear whether corrupt Yahwism or pagan Baalism is envisaged, particularly in the period following Elijah (e.g., in the days of Amos and Hosea).
The volume has a chapter on each of the important prophets. Analysis of Isaiah finds collections of that prophet’s own preaching in chapters 1–35, while later chapters are the result of preaching by one or more of his later disciples. Schedl’s hermeneutical principles are illustrated by his handling of the “ ‘almah” passage in Isaiah 7:14, together with the servant passages of “Deutero-Isaiah” (in Volume V). Unlike liberal scholarship, which finds no original reference to the Messiah in either, Schedl sees in each an original historical reference that, though important for interpretation, can never give the full import of the passage. This comes only with the New Age, the time of fulfillment, when a new prophet, also inspired by God, could see in the former passage a virgin birth and in the latter a picture of the suffering Christ.
A final volume, entitled The Fullness of Time, brings the history down to 63 B.C. but devotes most of its attention to an analysis of various post-exilic books. Too much attention is given to Daniel (36 pp.), Judith (21 pp.), Esther (22 pp.) and Tobit (20 pp.), and too little to “Second” Isaiah (16 pp.), Haggai and Zechariah (6 pp.), and Malachi, Obadiah, and Joel (7 pp.). Daniel is considered a book with two or three stages, the first of which contained the visions of a genuine historical figure named Daniel living in Babylon in the sixth century B.C. The last stage is the Maccabean reinterpretation of the earlier visions, making their message contemporary to its own needs. The author’s historical analysis of the Daniel phase is unique: Darius the Mede is equated with Darius the Great, to whom the title “The Mede” was given, not for genealogical or ethnic reasons, but because he defeated the revolting Medes in a contest for power in 521 B.C.! Even the Nebuchadnezzar of chapter two is not the Nebuchadnezzar with whom we are familiar but a Nebuchadnezzar IV, who revolted against the Persian empire in 521. All of this requires a fair degree of textual and historical shuffling, including even a claim that Daniel was born in exile and reared in the Babylonian court rather than having been involved in a deportation as Daniel 1:1 suggests. One final note on Daniel: his four kingdoms of chapter seven are seen as four kings of his own day, which were reinterpreted to be the kingdoms of Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece only at a later time!
Esther is also given full treatment. Arguments against the historicity of Esther are rejected, and Schedl affirms that the theological lesson must grow out of the historical event. The point is this: Israel, separate from the nations, was always a mystery to itself and its surroundings, and it remained such until the concept passed over into the new Israel.
Treatment of Ezra and Nehemiah produces no surprises. Ezra’s coming is dated to the thirty-seventh year of Artaxerxes, in a now-popular emendation of Ezra 7:8. A fine introduction to the Wisdom of Ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) is followed by a somewhat ineffective defense of the orthodoxy of the Wisdom of Solomon, and the closing statement shows how Daniel (obviously a favorite of the author) is really the prophet who binds the testaments together.
As can be seen from the preceding remarks, there is much that seems erratic in the work of this gentle Austrian theologian and exegete. To some the erratic will appear brilliant and creative, while to others it will be a stumbling block. To me, however, the dominant impression of the whole is not to be summed up in its weaknesses. I prefer to see in the work an example of what can be produced when a dedicated Christian scholar, who loves God and his Word, sets out to produce a synthesis between his own studies, his church and its teaching, and the work of contemporary scholars from every tradition. If the result is not fully satisfying to any one group (and it certainly does not fully satisfy me as an evangelical), that seems almost inevitable. But we are the richer for Professor Schedl’s efforts, and I wish for his labors a long and fruitful life. It would be nice to think that the first edition will soon be sold out so that a new edition can correct the printing and translation errors, making the books even more useful for the English-speaking audience.
Dictionary of Christian Ethics, edited by Carl F. H. Henry (Baker and Canon [1014 Washington Building, Washington, D.C. 20005], 726 pp., $16.95). Nearly 300 evangelicals contribute hundreds of essays, long and short, on seemingly every conceivable ethical topic. Essential for the library of every preacher and Bible teacher, and should be recommended to one’s local high school, college, and public libraries.
A Yankee Reformer in Chile: The Life and Works of David Trumbull, by Irven Paul (William Carey [533 Hermosa St., South Pasadena, Cal. 91030], 155 pp., n.p., pb). Trumbull was a nineteenth-century missionary to Valparaiso. His impact was not limited to the church but was evident also in educational and political concerns.
The Gospel of Matthew, by William Hendriksen (Baker, 1,015 pp., $14.95). A major addition to a highly regarded New Testament commentary series by one man, a retired Christian Reformed pastor and seminary teacher.
Readings on the Sociology of Religion, edited by Thomas and Janet O’Dea (Prentice-Hall, 244 pp., n.p., pb). Twenty-six selections on religion old and new, east and west.
Where the Love Is, by Gordon McLean (Word, 123 pp., $3.95). A Youth for Christ director relates Bible themes to life. Underlined by engaging and dramatic accounts of young people whose lives were transformed by meeting Christ.
The Seduction of the Spirit, by Harvey Cox (Simon and Schuster, 350 pp., $8.95). The celebrated author of The Secular City offers a book of theological reflections fused with autobiography. His stress is on “the people’s religion” as distinguished from that of the elite.
American Religious Groups View Foreign Policy: Trends in Rank and File Opinion, 1937–1969, by Alfred O. Hero, Jr. (Duke University, 552 pp., $9.75). Extensive surveys and sensible analysis provide valuable insights into clergy and congregational attitudes. However, the section “Toward More Effective Churches” assumes that effective churches will reflect the foreign-policy views of liberal theologians. Worth reading, nonetheless.
How to Study the Bible, edited by John B. Job (Inter-Varsity, 110 pp., $1.95 pb). Provides direction for the serious student of the Bible. The emphasis is on personal work by the individual. The writers suggest possible approaches, such as “Analyzing a Book,” “Word Study,” and ‘Theme Study,” with examples of each. An excellent guide.
Knowing God, by J. I. Packer (Inter-Varsity, 254 pp., $5.95). An excellent volume coming out of the conviction that a profound ignorance of God—both of his ways and of communion with him—“lies at the root of much of the church’s weakness today.” Originally written as a series in a British periodical, the book offers excellent biblical exposition in restating scriptural doctrine as well as in application to the needs of our age.
Did I Say That?, by John McKenzie (Thomas More [180 N. Wabash, Chcago, Ill. 60601], 222 pp., $7.95). A leading American Catholic theologian’s free-wheeling thoughts and challenges on almost any subject. Originally published as magazine articles, topics range from “The Deluge Myth” and “Academic Freedom” to “The Historical Jesus of Superstar.”
New Testament Fire in the Philippines, by Jim Montgomery (William Carey Library, 209 pp., $2.50 pb). The field director of Overseas Crusades in the Philippines analyzes the mushrooming success of Foursquare Pentecostal missions in that land. He refrains from debating usual points of diversion in an attempt to grasp the principles at work. Conclusion is a challenge for evangelicals to review and revise present methods.
True or False?, edited by David Otis Fuller (Kregel, 295 pp., $2.95 pb). Four essays defending the textual variations underlying the King James over against the views of the great majority of evangelical biblical scholars.
Schleiermacher: Life and Thought, by Martin Redeker (Fortress, 221 pp., $4.50 pb). Translation of a general introduction to Schleiermacher that combines thorough biographical material and the development of his philosophical-theological systems. A clear presentation of this formative liberal theologian.
More Newly Published, page 36.
Family Devotions With School Age Children, by Lois E. LeBar (Revell, 253 pp., $7.50, $3.95 pb). More than 100 suggested devotions with various biblical passages correlated with contemporary examples and questions for discussion. Arranged by subject, but a good index enables parents to select material especially suitable for that particular day. Most applicable for older elementary and junior-highs.
Ways of Being Religious, edited by Frederick Streng, Charles Lloyd, Jr., and Jay Allen (Prentice-Hall, 627 pp., $9.95). Three Southern Methodist University professors have arranged a hundred selections into eight distinct “ways” of traditional encounters with the holy and mysticism to various non-transcendent forms such as “social gospel” and drug ecstasy. Each “way” has excerpts from advocates, interpreters, and critics. Commendably includes the great hymn “Amazing Grace,” and excerpts from Paul of Tarsus and C. S. Lewis.
Winds of Change in Christian Missions, by J. Herbert Kane (Moody, 160 pp., $2.25 pb). Honest, almost critical look at missions as they exist today by a professor at Trinity Seminary. Presents a realistic appraisal of what has happened with missions and what lies ahead.
Take Her, Mr. Wesley, by John W. Drakeford (Word, 142 pp., $4.95). The story of John Wesley’s early ministry and his love for Miss Sophia Hopkey. Factually related but filled with warmth and understanding.
The Heart of Healing, by George Bennett (Judson, 125 pp., $2.50 pb). The author, a minister with the Church of England, believes that “the heart of healing is the heart of the gospel; and the heart of the gospel is the victory of Christ.” Cases of both physical and spiritual healings are recounted.
An Hour to the Stone Age, by Shirley Horne (Moody, 208 pp., $2.95 pb). A fast-moving, well-written account of the missionary work among the Dani people of the West New Guinea Central Highlands. Traces the effort from the postwar conception to the present-day indigenous church.
The Evangelical Renaissance, by Donald G. Bloesch (Eerdmans, 157 pp., $2.95 pb). An analysis of the resurgence of evangelical theology since the fifties and of the hallmarks of evangelicalism. The author, who calls himself both evangelical and ecumenical, stresses the need of reconciliation in the Church fostered “through a common rededication to the message and imperatives of Holy Scripture.”
Union With Christ, by Norman Douty (Reiner Publications [Swengel, Pa. 17880], 274 pp., $7.95). A thorough treatment of a central doctrine in the New Testament by an evangelical minister. Sometimes devotional with practical applications.
The Salvation Tree, by John Killinger (Harper & Row, 169 pp., $5.95). In terms of contemporary images, literature, and issues the author contrasts modern modes of salvation (education, political revolution, technology) with the promise of the future kingdom that Jesus gives. Reflects Moltmann’s theology. Perceptive of the message of contemporary culture, weak in biblical orthodoxy.
The Lion of Judah in Never-Never Land (Eerdmans, 141 pp., $1.95 pb) and C. S. Lewis: Mere Christian (Regal, 242 pp., $4.95 and $2.95 pb), both by Kathryn Ann Lindskoog. Interest in Lewis, who died ten years ago, shows no signs of abating. The first book is a study of the seven Narnia tales, which were ostensibly written for children. The second attempts to present systematically various theological views of Lewis drawn from the whole range of his writings.
The Barnabas Bible, by Graham Jeffrey (Harper & Row, 256 pp., $4.95). No, not another translation! Rather it is a series of cartoons that paraphrase certain scriptural events, parables, and sayings. The intention is to drive home the point more forcefully while evoking a chuckle.
A New Joy, by Colleen Townsend Evans (Revell, 124 pp., $3.95). Sensing the need to have Scripture “come alive” in her own life, the author relates her adventure of discovering the Bible’s relevance to daily experience. A refreshing application of the Beatitudes to the life-style of a modern woman.
Defusing Clergy Conflicts
Clergy in the Cross Fire, by Donald P. Smith (Westminster, 1973, 232 pp., $7.50, $4.95 pb), is reviewed by Russell Chandler, journalist, teacher, and pastor, Columbia, California.
If you are a harried minister in today’s age of identity crises, caught in the cross fire of conflicting expectations, cheer up. You are not alone. Only one-sixth of the labor force in the United States is free of job tension, according to a survey on role conflict and identity cited in this book. And the minister’s role problems are often more severe than the average worker’s.
So says Donald P. Smith, as he takes a Jeffrey K. Hadden-type (The Gathering Storm in the Churches) look at the rift between pulpit and pew. Smith, general director of the Vocation Agency for United Presbyterians, uses ample research as the basis for a probe of “relevant concepts of ministry” and the clarification of its ambiguities. Next, he examines role theory and some results of studies on the “management and reduction of role conflict.” A third section deals with ways to help clergymen ease conflicts. And finally, he helpfully explains goal-setting and performance review.
Smith goes at his task from the perspective of social psychology, which in itself is valid. But the fact that he does not refer to Scripture or suggest that prayer and searching the Word may help a confused cleric will be for evangelicals a disappointment, if not a near-fatal flaw in the book.
Recurring themes are Smith’s findings that ministers tend to have a giant distaste for administration and an intense thirst for more effective communication, both with ministerial colleagues and with parishioners. The section on goal-setting, borrowing heavily from expertise developed in industry and professional organizations, is the most enlightening part of the volume.
Smith reasons thus: Clergy and laity frequently have differing understandings of what the minister ought to do; there is great need for dialogue so that laymen and ministers can understand each other; it is important to make role conflicts visible so they can be dealt with, and discussion of clergy roles appears to be an effective method of bringing clergy and laity closer together; in the face of role conflict or ambiguity, people tend to withdraw rather than increase their efforts to communicate; an active stance on the part of the clergy—rather than passivity—is needed to reduce role conflict.
Smith pleads for “a more conscious, careful, and concrete setting of goals that are informed by a knowledge of the minister’s calling, his particular gifts, and the congregation’s sense of mission within its particular constellation of opportunities and problems.”
The author then gets specific. His discussion of minister as employee vs. minister as autonomous professional goes to the heart of much ministerial agony. The autonomous-professional concept will be more to the liking of many ministers, Smith declares, but it’s inadequate. The clergyman also has an organizational type of accountability that makes him different from other professionals.
Clergy in the Cross Fire would have been improved by more specific anecdotal material and the use of dialogue. Few, if any, noted evangelicals were consulted, and programs and statistics from smaller and predominantly evangelical bodies are conspicuously lacking, both in the body of the work and in the eleven appendixes.
And though Smith does refer to the minister’s calling of God, the reader is left to wrestle anew with the question, Does the Lord put a premium on success or on faithfulness?
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