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Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance" Review by Dr. Edith Humphrey

This review is by Dr. Humphrey, she is an Anglican/Episcopalian and a very good New Testament scholar. (her bible studies are great too)

This is her review of "Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance"

As seen from her website:
"Here is a thorough and thoughtful introductory book to the deuterocanonical/apocryphal writings, offered in a winsome style that is certain to engage its designed audience. The author, indeed, signals his ideal reader both by the title of the book (which employs the term "Apocrypha") and by his introductory rhetorical questions, which admit the suspicion of many regarding these writings and proceed to plead "the value of the Apocrypha." In this manner, and throughout this piece, David A. deSilva addresses a Protestant readership and, more specifically, the Christian who both has a "high view" of the Scriptures and a clear idea of canonical boundaries. This is not to say that he is insensitive to those who not cast in this mould, however. He aspires, indeed, "to move readers past seeing the Apocrypha as one more thing that separates one group of Christians from another and toward seeing these books for what they are in and of themselves and to value them on that basis" (15).

His introduction is rightly given over to preliminary but key questions of definition, general historical context, the contents in their variety and breadth, and the importance of the deuterocanonical/apocryphal books for the Christian tradition. With regard to the latter issue, he attempts to be inclusive and so begins with a statement of the books’ role for the Orthodox and Roman Catholic (and, he might have added, Anglo-Catholic) communions. Quickly, however, deSilva emphasizes the concerns of his specific audience, indicating the "usefulness" (17) of these books for rounding out our picture of history, noting that the authors of the New Testament were highly familiar with them, and reminding us that the books form a common heritage Christians ignore at their peril: "Out of respect for … them [Orthodox and Catholics] Protestant Christians would do well to have a least a basic grasp of these texts’ meanings and an appreciation for their content, as one might for any widely read devotional or inspirational literature" (26).

Here the irenic purposes of the book bow to the author’s doctrinal integrity: the polemic against Oikonomos and deSilva’s construction of an argument against authoritative status dominate here, deflecting the author from his promotion of the corpus. His recommendation thus comes coupled with an expected caveat that bridges the gap between the academic author and his interested Protestant laity. Here deSilva presses into theological service the heuristic categories of his mentor, Vernon Robbins, arguing that the New Testament refers to the Apocrypha only through "recontextualisation, echo and allusion." The strength of his strategy (to quickly clear away the brush so that he can get on with the analysis at hand) is also its weakness, it seems. No one who is not already within his sympathetic readership will be convinced by the author’s avowal that the New Testament never cites deuterocanonical books directly "as Scripture" (21). To insist that the absence of an introductory formula (e.g., "as it says…") counts against a self-conscious treatment of these texts as Scripture is to assume that the New Testament writers had a view of inspiration characterized by verbal precision. Moreover, it implies that they had inherited an already delineated Old Testament canon rather than a fluid group of authoritative texts that they understood as pointing toward the Christ. Many of the examples he quotes, not least the words of Jesus regarding the yoke, go far beyond mere echo or even allusion, though they are certainly recontextualized; of course, similarly recontextualized are most of the explicit citations that the New Testament writers adduce! Though deSilva admits that Jude indeed directly quotes the pseudepigraphal 1 Enoch 1:9 (a citation, not an echo or an allusion), we could add that he employs the quote to establish teaching and introduces it as one might a "scriptural" quotation ("Enoch … prophesied, saying…"). How can one argue for a consistent view of inspiration based on the absence of such formulae from the deuterocanonical citations in the New Testament when one finds in Jude just such a preliminary phrase to a corpus that is even more dubious? The New Testament writings are intransigent, refusing to be squeezed into this mold, because, it seems, their battles about inspiration and canon were not those that we have inherited (as deSilva himself intimates on page 28)."

To read the rest, please visit her website.



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