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The Bible as Christian Scripture

The Bible as Christian Scripture: The Work of Brevard S. Childs

Christopher R. Seitz
Kent Harold Richards
with editorial assistance from Robert C. Kashow
  • Book Info
    The Bible as Christian Scripture
    Book Description:

    This memorial volume both displays and evaluates the canonical approach of Brevard S. Childs, whose attention to history through time animated his interest in the Bible’s use in the church through the ages up to and including the present. Just as Childs wrote on a wide range of topics canonical and theological—both Testaments, Isaiah and Exodus, the Pauline letters, the history of biblical interpretation, biblical theology, and historical, theological, and methodological questions—the contributors to this volume, seasoned colleagues as well as younger scholars who studied with Childs, offer an international collection of historical, theological, and New Testament essays as well as contributions focused on the Old Testament. The contributors are Stephen B. Chapman, Brevard S. Childs, Don Collett, Daniel R. Driver, Mark W. Elliott, Leonard G. Finn, Mark Gignilliat, Bernd Janowski, Jörg Jeremias, Leander E. Keck, Neil B. MacDonald, David L. Petersen, Murray A. Rae, C. Kavin Rowe, and Christopher R. Seitz.

    eISBN: 978-1-58983-714-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Christopher R. Seitz
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Works of Brevard Springs Childs
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  5. Tribute to Brevard S. Childs, at the International SBL Meeting in Vienna, Austria
    (pp. 1-8)
    Christopher R. Seitz

    Upon return from his customary spring residence in the United Kingdom, Brevard Springs Childs took a serious fall at their Connecticut home, from which, after a week in the hospital, he never recovered. He was eighty-three years old and had suffered from the after-effects of Lyme disease for many years, but was in reasonably good health and had just finished a manuscript project in Cambridge, England. So it was a shock to those of us who knew him and stayed in touch with him to learn of his death. SBL Executive Director Kent Richards very kindly asked me to pay...

  6. Brevard Childs and Form Criticism
    (pp. 9-20)
    David L. Petersen

    To those casually familiar with biblical studies, the name of Brevard Childs is often associated both with an assessment of the biblical theology movement and with “canonical criticism.” Such a response is understandable. However, I leave it to others to reflect on those features of Childs’s work. The purpose of this essay is to assay Childs as one who worked from the perspective of form criticism, which, I shall suggest, is linked to his readings of biblical literature from a canonical perspective.

    When Childs graduated from Princeton Seminary in 1950, the discourse of form criticism was not regularly prominent in...

  7. The Wrath of God at Mount Sinai (Exod 32; Deut 9–10)
    (pp. 21-36)
    Jörg Jeremias

    Characteristically, Brevard S. Childs’s preface to his Exodus commentary begins: “The purpose of this commentary is unabashedly theological. Its concern is to understand Exodus as scripture of the church.”¹ Yet, he adds at once, “a rigorous and careful study of the whole range of problems” that historical-critical reading of the Bible had developed since the eighteenth century should be prerequisite. His training in Basel under Walter Baumgartner had prepared him excellently for such exegesis, but the theological impetus was his own. It implied “a continuous wrestling with the history of interpretation and theology,” including “rabbinics, New Testament, patristics, medieval and...

  8. The Contrastive Unity of Scripture: On the Hermeneutics of the Biblical Canon
    (pp. 37-62)
    Bernd Janowski

    “Toward Reading and Understanding the Christian Bible” is the subtitle for our symposium on the hermeneutics of canon. The problem indicated is as old as the Bible itself. Consider what Philip asks the unnamed Egyptian court official who reads from the book of Isaiah on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza. When Philip hears him reading he asks, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30). The text of Isa 53:7–8¹ is so obscure to the Ethiopian that he asks in return, “About whom does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”:

    Then an angel...

  9. Brevard Childs as a Historical Critic: Divine Concession and the Unity of the Canon
    (pp. 63-84)
    Stephen B. Chapman

    The great contribution of historical criticism of the Bible has been its identification of diverse biblical traditions and its precision in sketching their distinctive profiles. “The God of Job is appreciably different from the God of the Deuteronomist, and either from the God of Daniel,” observes John Collins.¹ Such statements are routine and uncontroversial in modern biblical scholarship, even theologically oriented scholarship.² Rarely asked is where the limits of such thinking might lie.³ Surely the tradents of the book of Daniel did not actually conceive of their God asabsolutelydifferent from the God who figures in either Job or...

  10. Theological Interpretation, the Historical Formation of Scripture, and God’s Action in Time
    (pp. 85-102)
    Neil B. MacDonald

    Brevard Childs was unyielding on the question of the relationship between biblical studies and systematic theology. He did not take refuge in the politics or poetics of “postmodern” rhetorical (therefore foundationless) performance. Rather, he sought quietly and effectively to make the case for the reintegration of the aforementioned disciplines on the basis of good old-fashioned dialectic, or more simply put,argument. Yet in systematic theology at least—and among those who likewise endorsed the theological interpretation of scripture—Childs’s particular tenor on this subject, when heard (infrequently!), was at best greeted with casual uncritical agreement, but rarely if at all...

  11. Faith Seeking Canonical Understanding: Childs’s Guide to the Pauline Letters
    (pp. 103-118)
    Leander E. Keck

    The focus of Brevard Childs’s 2008The Church’s Guide for Reading Paulis stated succinctly in its subtitle:The Canonical Shaping of the Pauline Corpus.¹ Thus the book is about the only Paul that now is, the New Testament Paul, not the Paul who once was, whom critics keep trying to reconstruct and portray. “Canonical shape” is one of Childs’s formulations, forged in his previous studies of canon.² Unlike Wellhausen, who focused on the Gospels when he sensed that he had made his contribution to the understanding of the OT and “late Judaism,” Childs turned to the NT in order...

  12. Childs and the History of Interpretation
    (pp. 119-136)
    Mark W. Elliott

    This paper will attempt to lay out the main lines of a contribution made by Brevard S. Childs to the role of the history of biblical interpretation in exegesis and theology. It will first consider his achievement in the Exodus commentary, where the findings of precritical interpreters become grist for the mill of Childs’s own theological interpretation. Then it will treat the work from 2004 on the history of interpretation of Isaiah, in tandem with his 2001 commentary. Lastly it will consider, by way of comparison, the need that Childs demonstrates that exegesis be fully theological and nothing less than...

  13. Biblical Theology and the Communicative Presence of God
    (pp. 137-154)
    Murray A. Rae

    After surveying the several attempts made by Brevard Childs to establish a foundation and a method for biblical theology, I am struck by two things in particular: by Childs’s concern to study the Bible as the Word of God and by his acute awareness that those who have sought to develop what has been called “biblical theology” have not been able to settle upon a method for studying the Bible as God’s Word. In what follows, I propose to support and explore Childs’s first concern and then to suggest that the problem with method is in fact a function of...

  14. The Doctrine of God Is a Hermeneutic: The Biblical Theology of Brevard S. Childs
    (pp. 155-170)
    C. Kavin Rowe

    One of the advantages of writing an invited essay is the chance it affords to explore new ways of thinking without worrying too much about the “field” for which the piece should be written.¹ This is particularly welcome in the case of an essay about the thought of Brevard Childs, who did not really have a “field” in which he worked. It is true, of course, that he was an Old Testament scholar. But it is no less true that he was a scholar of the New Testament, of the history of interpretation, of dogmatic theology, of theological ethics, and...

  15. A Shared Reality: Ontology in Brevard Childs’s Isaiah Commentary
    (pp. 171-184)
    Mark Gignilliat

    This essay suggests that a significant feature of Childs’s Isaiah commentary is its explicit and implicit challenge to think through the theological dimensions of Isaiah in light of its shared subject matter with the New Testament. Our attention will focus on this aspect of the commentary via two points of entry. First, this essay will critically engage a few aspects of Hugh Williamson’s published reviews of Childs’sIsaiahandThe Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture. Williamson’s stated concerns about Childs’s approach help to clarify what is at stake in theological exegesis. Then our attention will focus on a...

  16. A Tale of Two Testaments: Childs, Old Testament Torah, and Heilsgeschichte
    (pp. 185-220)
    Don Collett

    With these words Brevard Childs sought to describe the distinction between Old Testament Torah and the law of Christ within the overarching theological context generated by the dialectical relationship of the two Testaments. In his many publications as a Christian OT scholar, Childs maintained a high view of and theological appreciation for OT Torah in both its broad and more restricted senses.² To cite but one example, in a summary reflection on the theological implications of OT law, Childs writes: “The Law of God was a gift of God which was instituted for the joy and edification of the covenant...

  17. Reflections on the Rule of Faith
    (pp. 221-242)
    Leonard G. Finn

    In his recent book on Brevard Childs, Daniel Driver described the rule of faith, theregula fidei, as “the most central plank in canonical figuration.”¹ Ironically, however, one does not find an explicitly detailed and developed understanding of the rule in Childs’s major work. Driver’s own extended discussion of the rule and what it specifically means for Childs is instead derived more from a study of Childs’s influences—the work of Hans von Campenhausen and particularly Bengt Hägglund—than from any detailed statements by Childs himself.² Yet in recent decades the idea of the rule of faith has become a...

  18. Childs and the Canon or Rule of Faith
    (pp. 243-278)
    Daniel R. Driver

    Locating the work of Brevard Childs (1923–2007) can be difficult.¹ A great deal has been written about what his canonical approach amounts to, not all of it sympathetic, not all of it helpful (critics can of course be either one without being the other). The fact that many of the portraits on offer do not much resemble Childs’s self-presentation tends to obscure the scholar’s actual voice, and it exacerbates the attempt to situate his contribution. Nowhere is this truer than in the multitudinous detractions of James Barr (1924–2006), who charges that “canonical criticism [sic] … is simplistic,” that...

  19. Psalm 34: Redaction, Inner-Biblical Exegesis and the Longer Psalm Superscriptions—“Mistake” Making and Theological Significance
    (pp. 279-298)
    Christopher R. Seitz

    Some forty years ago theJournal of Semitic Studiespublished an essay by Brevard Childs entitled “Psalm Titles and Midrashic Exegesis.”¹ Childs recognized the difficulty of using the postbiblical term “midrash” for inner-biblical exegesis, but he wanted to argue that later the expansions of Davidic ascription—at Qumran, and in the lxx, Syriac Apocrypha, Targums, and Peshitta—were consistent with and had their roots within the biblical period itself.² Psalm titles were not supplied on the basis of independent historical information; neither was that the claim they sought to make for the psalms. Rather, the process pointed to “a learned...

  20. Allegory and Typology within Biblical Interpretation
    (pp. 299-312)
    Brevard S. Childs

    Perhaps an initial word is in order as to how and why I arrived at this topic. During the last decade or so I have been working on an Isaiah commentary. As I drew near to completing it, it began to dawn on me with some sense of anxiety just how much I had left undone. Above all, I had not expended much time or space in considering the history of interpretation, that is, how the book of Isaiah had been received by both Jews and Christians over the centuries.

    Then I saw announced a new publication by John Sawyer...

  21. Contributors
    (pp. 313-316)
  22. Index of Ancient Sources
    (pp. 317-322)
  23. Index of Modern Authors
    (pp. 323-326)