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How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
by N. T. Wright
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.82
96 used & new from $4.61

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Christ died for our sins" becomes "Christ died for God to become King", September 28, 2015
SUMMARY FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT LIKE LONG REVIEWS

When I first started reading one of Wright’s books I came across an Amazon comment to the effect that Wright has an aversion to any mention of our sin, God’s wrath and the need for our sin to be dealt with before being acceptable to a Holy God.
Now that I have read several of his books I tend to agree with the comment.

Take for example his statement in “Simply Good News” pg 65, referring to the belief that Jesus took my punishment, “this ASSUMES, first, that I DESERVE IT, and second, that BECAUSE JESUS TOOK MY PUNISHMENT I THEREFORE GO FREE”. Assumes?

Yes, Wright repeatedly claims to agree with the fact that Jesus “somehow” died for our sins and that that is important, but systematically side-lines it to oblivion – a very, very effective technique. An extreme form of “damning with faint praise”.

In this book Wright quickly sets aside all the relevant and explicit passages and punts “Christ died for our sins” out of the ball park as not being the main theme of the New Testament.
Instead, in spite of the lack of explicit Scriptural teaching and based on "hints" that Wright discerns in the structure of the Gospel narratives and on "paradoxical" statements to the contrary, he deduces that the main theme of the NT is that “Christ died so that God became King”

It boils down to what Scriptures explicitly states versus what the world’s greatest NT scholar discerns.
“You pays your money and you takes your choice”.

DETAIL FOR THOSE INTERESTED

# PART 1: Side-lining “Christ died for our sins”

• The Goal of the Gospels

Wright effectively side-lines the “Christ died for our sins” aspect of the message as not being the main theme of the gospels as the gospel writers do not go on and on about atonement on every page.

“Atonement and justification were assumed to be the heart of ‘the gospel’. But ‘the gospels … appear to have almost nothing to say about those subjects” pg 6

He claims that if aspects of the traditional Gospel were as important as everyone over the past 2000 years (especially the last 500) has believed, the Scriptures (rather, the Gospels, as Wright is setting aside Paul’s epistles) would have been much more explicit in these areas.
“If that is what they were trying to say, you’d think they would have made it a bit clearer. ..
Again we have to say, if that’s what the gospels were trying to tell us, they didn’t do a very good job of it” (pg 51)

Wright appears to be totally oblivious to the extreme irony of his statements.

What everyone over the past 2000 years (i.e. many millions of Christians since and including the early Church) HAS understood from the Scriptures is, according to Wright, NOT sufficiently clearly stated in Scripture (i.e. Gospels).

Yet, in extreme contrast, what he alone has observed in 2000 years is apparently explicitly, clearly and repeatedly presented in Scripture – but went totally unnoticed by everyone on the planet!

An extreme example of the pot calling the polished, shiny metallic kettle black!
[Apparently the expression comes from the idea of the pot seeing its black reflection in the shiny reflective kettle and thinking that it is the kettle that is black. In effect the pot accuses the kettle of a fault that only the pot has.]

Do the Gospels go on and on about “Jesus died for God to become King of the Earth” on every page?
Do they even state that explicitly anywhere?
If everyone over the past 2000 years missed this, one must conclude with Wright that “you’d think the Scriptures would have made it a bit clearer, they really didn’t do a very good job of it”

Although the gospel writers do not go on and on about atonement on every page, that was not their purpose, they are NOT theological expositions but, as pointed out by Wright (pg 62-63), biographies of the life of Christ.

The significance of the details of Christ’s life and death, as presented in the Gospels, is specifically unpacked and explained in detail for us in the epistles, but Wright chooses to ignore these Scriptures in this book, preferring to unpack the Gospel story himself.

For the most part, the gospel authors present things in a quasi-chronological order, as events occurred, from Christ’s birth to His death and resurrection.
They, and everyone else, even John the Baptist, expected Messiah to become King and physically sit on David’s throne and rule. God was to restore Israel (all 12 tribes) as an independent kingdom which would rule over the Gentile nations. The wealth of these nations would flow into Jerusalem and gentile nobility would serve Israelites.
That is what was prophesied.
Messiah came and all that did not happen, leaving everyone bewildered, including the Gospel writers.

As Wright himself puts it “Even Jesus’ closest followers, however, cannot begin to see in the strange events of his arrest, trial and death any kind of fulfillment” of the prophesies concerning Messiah and his work.
“They had been living in the currently prevailing version of the Jewish story, and it certainly wasn't supposed to end with the violent death of God's anointed” (pg 76).

To be fair to them, Jesus (initially) went out of His way to hide His identity and His mission; forbidding demons, those He healed and His disciples from revealing who He was and speaking to the people in parables about the Kingdom so that they would NOT understand.
Even though He later explained the parables to His disciples they still did not grasp that Messiah had to die for our sins rather than become King.
As Wright puts it “it is not something that casual readers (of the OT) can see at a glance. .. People would need to ‘search the scriptures day by day to see if what they were hearing was indeed the case (Acts 17.11)” pg 77

The writers largely present the story as it happened without too much “hindsight theologizing”. They keep the reader in the same suspense as they experienced by (generally) not fast-forwarding the story and overtly revealing the twist at the end that caught everyone by surprise, including Satan.

They tell how Messiah came and presented Himself as King (though generally avoiding the titles “Messiah” or “King”, preferring the less obvious Messianic title “Son of Man” of Daniel 7), how He was rejected and crucified and how, VERY belatedly, they came to understand that this had all been part of God’s plan.
It had in fact even been prophesied in the OT that Messiah would die for our sins to enable us to enter His Kingdom.

The Gospels do however present the clues Christ gave them that He had to die for our sins (see below), which they did not pick up on at the time until their minds were opened (Luke 24:44, 45).

Like any good film or book, the unexpected twist at the end has to be credible and fit with clues scattered earlier throughout the story. Suddenly, little details in the story that we (and they) initially ignored all come together and we see, with admiration, how it all fits together beautifully.

In the Gospels the twist does not come out of nowhere, the writers have liberally scattered such ‘clues’ throughout their accounts, some of them rather explicit.

So, no, it is not “Atonement, Atonement, Atonement” on every page, but it is very much present from beginning to end, MUCH more so than “Christ died so that God could become King”.
It is also very present in the (ignored) "official", Scriptural unpacking of the story by Paul

Wright’s total side lining of “the central and vital statement that Messiah died for our sins” is somewhat surprising given that he stresses the “centrality of ‘Jesus died in my place’” in Simply Good News” (pages 66 & 68).
It the present book, our sin and Messiah dying for them does not even figure as one of his four themes or “speakers”. He specifically argues against this view (pg 66 & 67). In fact, “forgiveness of sins” becomes in Wright’s hands “the end of Israel’s exile” (which did not in fact happen, see later)

• Wright’s stated grounds for side-lining “Christ died for our sins”

Wright points out that although the gospels do indeed include passages which specifically mention Messiah having to die for our sins, he concludes that the gospels don’t really make this their main theme (pg 7).

Surprisingly, he only mentions a couple of passages including Mark 10:45 which quotes Daniel 7 and Isaiah 53 (pg 7) and which clearly explains that Messiah came as the “servant of the LORD” “to give his life as a ransom for many”.
“For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (serve), and to give his life a ransom for many.” See Isa 53:10,11.

A bit of a “give away” clue! It is therefore extremely clear from this Scripture why Messiah came. He came to die for our sins. It says so explicitly.
Note that in the above passage it is Jesus Himself who is interpreting his death as the death of the servant in Isaiah who took upon Himself our sins and was punished for them.
In contrast, He and Scripture never state that He died to become King.

Wright, however, sets aside such explicit Biblical teaching, by Messiah Himself, and somehow concludes that there is a “problem” with this passage/conclusion as, .... wait for it ..., Luke in his Gospel leaves out the phrase “to give his life as a ransom for many” when he mentions that Jesus referred to Himself (on a separate occasion) as a “servant” (22:27).

Apparently, in Wright’s logic, if “Christ’s dying as a ransom for many” was really that important, Luke would have also mentioned it in his Gospel on “this” occasion. As he did not (according to Wright), Wright can conclude that it is not that important!!
[Does he apply the same logic when searching in vain for a(ny) passage which explicitly states “Christ died for God to become King”? .. Not that I can see]

But let’s look more closely at the passage that Wright uses to punt “Christ died for our sins” out of the ball park – well, out of his book.

First of all, Luke 22 mentions Jesus describing Himself as a “servant” within a totally different context, in a different location and at a different time. So you would not necessarily expect the same quotation.

However, even in Luke 22, where Messiah is describing His impending death and is presiding at the “last supper”, He DOES describe how *His body will be given for us* (verse 19) – Isaiah 53 again!!!.

So, Yes, Messiah is indeed, once again (in Luke’s Gospel as well) alluding to Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. The fact that He will “give his life as a ransom for many” is made crystal clear in the preceding verses.
Where therefore is the claimed “problem”?

It gets even better! Luke further quotes from Isa 53:12 in this same passage to drive the point home, hopefully for good.
“For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, ‘And he was *reckoned among the transgressors*’” Luke 22:37.

And now for the source of this quote
“After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my RIGHTEOUS SERVANT WILL MAKE MANY RIGHTEOUS, AND HE WILL BEAR THEIR INIQUITIES. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was *numbered with the transgressors*. FOR HE BORE THE SIN OF MANY, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isa 53:11, 12

I suggest that that is clear.

I suggest that Wright has set aside the explicit teaching of Messiah Himself on the grounds of an imaginary problem he has with Luke’s account.

Wright, however, in an intriguing example of foresight, presents a fall-back argument in case his above claim is somehow not found convincing.
“Even if Luke had reproduced Mark’s phrase exactly, it doesn’t look as though the gospels really make ‘atonement’, in the sense the church has come to use that word, their main theme” (pg 7).

OK, let’s stick with Luke and see how Jesus Himself, after His resurrection, summed up His mission and the message we should preach

“Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS SHOULD BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke 24: 45-47.
Note: We don’t have to preach “God is King” but “Repentance and Remission of Sins in Jesus’ Name”

Bit of a “slam dunk”?
However, Wright alleges on Pg 8 that such passages have to be “prised out of their context” to get them to refer to the saving death of Jesus and the Pauline doctrine of justification!

• Some other early “clues” to the purpose of Christ’s coming and Death

- Mat 1:21.
Imagine going to a film called “The murder of Joe Bloggs”. I suggest that you would not be altogether caught by surprise if Joe Bloggs gets murdered in the film.

Similarly, the person we call Messiah has had many titles (Word, Emmanuel, Son of man, Lamb, etc..) which in effect describe His role in the Godhead at different periods as He has acted as the interface between the Godhead and mankind.
God is Spirit and invisible, one cannot see Him. Everywhere in the OT where God is seen the passages are in effect describing the pre-incarnate “Jesus”.

The name “Jesus” was given to this member of the Godhead when He came to Earth as it describes the role he was to play; it was in effect the title of His Earthly mission.
Jesus (meaning “Jehovah the Saviour”) is Jehovah who came in human form to Earth to die to save us from our sins
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: *for* he shall save his people from their sins” Mat 1:21.

I was very surprised that Wright records his contempt for one of his colleagues who was so ignorant as to use this text in his Christmas sermon (pg 23)!
In Wright’s opinion, this ignoramus did not know “what the gospels are there for” – they are certainly not there to tell us that Jesus died to save us from our sins. Wright claims his colleague was using “random material in Scripture” (pg 23), “prised out of context” (pg 8), to illustrate the idiot’s fixation with the “saving death and resurrection of the divine Saviour”.

However, the colleague appears to be in very good company as, according to Wright, the Church has apparently got it similarly wrong from the very earliest times, from before the creeds, to the reformation, to the present day (pg 38).
In two thousand years, only Wright has correctly understood the message (pg 37).
A lesser man would hesitate faced with such a statistic.

On page 71, Wright re-interprets this passage (Mat 1:21), with the assistance of his special “1st Century Jewish” view point.
As Judah was sent into exile in Babylon as a result of sin, therefore when the angel told Joseph that Jesus would save “His people from their sins” this MUST mean that “Israel’s exile”, i.e. Roman occupation, will end. It is not principally talking about individuals obtaining personal forgiveness.
In, what I consider, a breath-taking example of a non sequitur argument, Wright concludes “Exile is the payment for sin, SO forgiveness of sins means the end of exile”
[Wright uses the same “save from sin” = “save from exile” argument on pg 96 ]

Note #1: In the passages cited by Wright, Isaiah 40:1-2 and Lam 4:22, it is stated that JUDAH (i.e. the two southern tribes) paid in full the penalty for these exile-resulting sins, NOT Messiah.
Messiah did not die to rescue Judah from exile.
Judah went into exile for not keeping the Sabbath and Jubilees years’ rests (Lev 26:27-35.). God exiled them and enabled the land to rest for the seventy missing years (2 Chronicles 36:15-21). Judah indeed paid the price for their sin.

Note #2: When Jesus sends His disciples into all the nations to preach the gospel (Mark 16: 15-16), in a parallel passage in Luke 24:47 He states that
“..repentance and FORGIVENESS OF SINS will be preached in His name to all the nations”.
Given the context, “to all nations”, it is obvious that “forgiveness of sins” is not referring to the ending of Judah’s supposed exile. It means “forgiveness of sins”
[Nor is "repentance" referring to "abandoning your dreams of nationalist revolution"; nor is "Gospel" referring to "an announcement of a royal enthronement" - as Wright has claimed elsewhere.
I now believe that Wright has a very powerful arsenal of "dodgy definitions" with which, once uncritically accepted (as appears to be generally the case), he can use to great effect to reinterpret the meaning of any Scriptural passage]

Note #3: In introducing the subject of Messiah’s promised coming, Wright cites, but then ignores the awesome passage Dan 9:24 (pg 69-70): “Seventy weeks (i.e. 490 years) are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy.”
It’s more than an end of Judah’s imagined exile. It is dealing with their ongoing inability to keep the first covenant - by dealing with their sin problem, once and for all, and by bringing in the New Covenant which would in effect keep them. All this was prophesied at the time of their earlier (real) exile.

Note #4: The same passage, Dan 9 vs 26, states that, far from the Roman occupation coming to an end, Messiah would be killed and Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed – as happened!
“And after threescore and two weeks shall MESSIAH BE CUT OFF, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall DESTROY THE CITY AND THE SANCTUARY…”

Note #5: Did Judah’s Roman occupation end? NO. Was the angel therefore lying?
Or, instead, did Messiah die for our sins as attested by the whole NT?

- John 1:29
Another early, rather explicit clue was John the Baptist’s prophesy that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29, 36; see also 1 Pet 1:18-20).
[Once again the "taking away of sin" is not referring to the ending of the imagined exile of Judah]
However, even John himself did not fully grasp the significance of what he was prophesying and evidently expected Jesus to reign as King (Jn 11:2-3), not die on a cross.

Note that when it was prophesied that John would prepare the way for Messiah (Mal 3:1-3), the way he did this was by getting the people to come repent and confess their sins in order to obtain forgiveness (Matt 3:2,6,8,10; Mk 1:4,5; Luke 1:16, 17; 3:3,7-9, 17) because the Kingdom was at hand and judgement was coming (see also the context of Mal 3 “Where is the God of judgment?”).

I note that Wright stresses the coming Kingdom in this passage (pg 74-75) but ignores the judgement, sin and the requirement for confession and repentance. He simply “cherry picks” the phrase “the time is fulfilled” out of its context.

Another interesting point was made by Messiah Himself when He asked, given that John/Elijah had prepared the people in this manner for His coming, why was it prophesied (referring to Isaiah 53 etc) that Messiah had to be rejected and suffer rather than be crowned King? (Mark 9:12, see also Mat 17:12).
People had to confess their sin to enter the Kingdom; however Messiah still had to suffer and pay for their sins as prophesied.

• Israel Suffering for our sins?
In the present book, Wright appears to believe that Israel’s role or “servant vocation” (Isaiah 53) was to suffer and that Christ simply took over that role on their behalf (pg179).
“IF, then the gospel writers are, as WE SUGGESTED earlier, offering the story of Jesus as the completion of the story Israel, in what sense is it now complete? .. The answer SEEMS to lie .. in the dark strand that emerges at various stages of the tradition of ancient Israel. .. there emerges a strange and initially perplexing theme: Israel itself will have to enter that darkness. .. ISRAEL’S OWN SUFFERING WILL not simply be a dark passage through which the people have to pass, but ACTUALLY PART OF THE MEANS WHEREBY THEY WILL — perhaps despite themselves! — FULFIL THE ORIGINAL DIVINE VOCATION” Pg 179. See also pgs 183,

May I suggest that that is total Baloney?

Israel’s vocation, as presented clearly in Scripture, was to be a Kingdom of Priests (Exodus 19:6). Through them He would bless the entire world (Gen.18:18). Any suffering for sin involved the animals which were sacrificed, not the people of Israel!!

Israel was to be God’s special nation. If they lived up to the contract they would be abundantly blessed, if they did not, they would be cursed and suffer the consequences, including exile (Deut 28)
Hence Israel’s vocation was to be a Kingdom of Priests and to be greatly blessed by God – NOT to suffer, that was the consequence of their sin.

Although Wright then tries to play down the importance of this issue, it is of paramount importance in highlighting and understanding the role of Jesus the Messiah and how God laid on him the iniquity of us all so that we might go free – i.e. penal substitutionary atonement, the doctrine that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners, which is apparently a bit of a taboo subject for Wright.

In the NT this OT passage is key in proving that Messiah had to die for our sins. Acts 8 clearly states that it IS indeed Jesus who is described in Isa 53 and several passages in the New Testament refer to parts of Isaiah 53 when referring to Jesus, even by Jesus Himself (e.g., Matthew 8:17; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:37;1 Peter 2:24).
The church fathers also took Isaiah 53 as referring to Jesus.

Even many Rabbis before the time of Jesus, and some much later, believed that this passage referred to Messiah (The Messiah Texts, by Raphael Patai (a Jewish scholar), Avon Books, 1979).

The present Jewish view is that the passage refers to the suffering of the nation of Israel, obviously it can’t be about Jesus.
It is somewhat surprising that an eminent Christian scholar, in spite of Jesus’s own teaching on the passage, shares the view of, for example, Jewish “anti-missionaries” virulently opposed to Jesus as the Messiah.
Christ crucified is indeed still a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Greeks (i.e. scholars)

Although Wright concedes somewhat half-heartedly that “the suffering SEEMS to be focused on A PARTICULAR FIGURE” (pg 179), he stresses that this is not really that important (it is!) and, wait for it, then continues to build on his “Israel’s-vocation-is-to-suffer-claim”
“It is ultimately futile to enquire whether the ‘servant’ is Israel or Israel’s representative. In all sorts of ways it is both, EVEN THOUGH in the end it APPEARS that THE SUFFERER IS ONE upon whom the faithful in Israel .. gaze in a mixture of horror and gratitude” pg181

No, it’s not that Wright is trying to deny that Jesus is the Messiah. He does however appear to want to play down the importance of what Messiah’s death achieved on our behalf by setting Israel’s suffering (for their own sins), and our persecution as Christians, on a par with Messiah’s atoning death. He appears to believe that we share in Christ’s vocation, in His redemptive suffering (pgs 198-9; 201; 203).

By being very vague about what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross, and thus undervaluing it, Wright can side-line the importance of “Christ died for our sins”.

Observe what he says on Page 244.
“*IF* the cross is to be interpreted as the coming of the kingdom on earth as in heaven, centering on SOME KIND of messianic victory, with SOME KIND of substitution at its heart, making some sense through SOME KIND of representation, THEN the four gospels leave us with the PRIMARY application of the cross NOT in abstract preaching about ‘how to have your sins forgiven’ or ‘how to go to heaven’, BUT in an agenda in which forgiven people are put to work, addressing the evils of the world in the light of the victory of Calvary” (Pg 244).

Note the “SOME KIND of messianic victory, with SOME KIND of substitution at its heart, making some sense through SOME KIND of representation”. Rather vague.
Anyway, as a result, it is not of primary importance.

Note also the “IF” and “THEN” in the statement. The conclusion is based on the initial assumption. Effectively he is saying “IF the cross is about the coming of the kingdom on earth, THEN the cross is primarily about the coming of the kingdom on earth and the Kingdom work we have to do – and, of course, NOT about Christ dying for our sins”.
This is termed “begging the question”, a form of circular reasoning where one assumes what one is supposed to be proving while stating the premise.

Further note that Wright sets aside the clear and repeated Biblical teaching that Christ died for our sins. According to Wright, based on his questionable reasoning, that is NOT the primary purpose of the cross.

As pointed out previously, Christ Himself, after His resurrection, stressed “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day. And REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS WILL BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME to all the nations” (Luke 24:46, 47).
Note: He died not to become King but for our sins and this is what we should preach!

It would appear that Wright disparages even Christ’s own teaching on the subject and describes it as “abstract preaching about ‘how to have your sins forgiven’” pg 244

Wright then delivers the ultimate put down for those who are simple enough to believe the Gospel message that Christ came to die for our sins – according to the Scriptures – to enable us to get back into the Kingdom
“‘Yes, God made the world, but we are sinners, and so God sent Jesus to save us from our sins’. Creation, sin, Jesus. That is the implicit narrative of millions of Christians today – and it GUARANTEES THAT THEY WILL NEVER, EVER UNDERSTAND EITHER THE OLD TESTAMENT OR THE NEW” (pg 260-1)

Is it possible, perhaps, that it is the world’s leading New Testament scholar who has a massive gaping hole in his understanding of the Old (and New) Testament?

Surprisingly, he appears unaware of the major theme running through Scripture of our sin which got us expelled from God’s Kingdom in the first place; the means God provided in the Tabernacle and Temple, models of the Garden of Eden, for man to approach Him once again via the sacrifices and the necessity for the shedding of blood for our sins and how these all illustrated how Messiah was eventually going to solve our Kingdom-excluding-sin problem by being both High Priest and the sacrificial lamb who takes away the sin of the world.
Oh, and all the passages in the OT that Jesus and the Apostles referred to which stress the need for Messiah to suffer for our sins.

Wright seems to only note in the OT the promise, quite late in the story, once Israel rejected God as their King, that the promised Saviour would be a descendent of David and would sit as King on David’s throne and rule in the midst of His people Israel in Zion – still to occur.

It is indeed important that “forgiven people are put to work, addressing the evils of the world in the light of the victory of Calvary” (Pg 244) – BUT FIRST THEY HAVE TO BE FORGIVEN! That is the “the PRIMARY application of the cross”.

• Conclusion of Part 1

The message we are to preach, from the mouth of Messiah Himself after His resurrection.

“And REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS WILL BE PREACHED IN HIS NAME to all the nations” (Luke 24:47).
Note context “to all nations” - “forgiveness of sins” is not referring to Judah’s supposed exile.
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and PREACH THE GOSPEL to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be SAVED, but whoever does not believe will be CONDEMNED.” (Mark 16: 15-16)
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. Matt 28: 19-20

To be continued
Comment Comments (22) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2016 7:30 PM PDT


Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good
Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good
by N. T. Wright
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.87
77 used & new from $12.94

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Who gets to define God’s “Gospel”?, May 2, 2015
• First the conclusion !

I note that many people don’t like long reviews. So here are the conclusions first. If you are sufficiently interested, you can read the fuller account below and in the comments section as I get time. :-)

Although Wright goes under the name N.T. Wright (rather than “Tom Wright”) for this book, the name he apparently uses for his solid, “academic” publications, this work is extremely light on Scripture and relies squarely on Wright’s story telling. Remove the stories and there is not much left.

Using this approach, Wright verbally leads us into imaginary corners, well away from the traditional gospel message he systematically caricaturises and then demolishes.

First, without going to the Scriptures, HE defines what the Biblical Gospel should comprise based on imaginary conversations on what constitutes “good news”, in English, down in his local pub (OK, his local café!). Surprisingly the traditional gospel message does not fit the “pub” definition.

He next explicitly excludes the traditional gospel message based on HIS personal definition. It can’t be good news as it involves people having to make a decision – hence it is only “good advice” and not “Gospel”.
However, throughout the NT, people are called to decision/action when the Gospel is presented to them.

Next Wright claims that in Rome the Gospel was solely/principally the announcement that someone had become King/Emperor and that the early Christians copied the Romans by claiming “Messiah is King” as their gospel.
However, neither the Romans nor the Christians used the word Gospel solely/principally as a Royal announcement of someone’s enthronement - it meant news of good things..
Christians even appear to have coined/used a new word to differentiate THE good message from Roman “good messages” – later copied by the Romans!

Wright replaces “Jesus-is-Saviour” who died for our sins by “Jesus-is-King” by simply inserting the word “Royal” everywhere, by translating the word “Messiah” by “King” and by presenting an alternative Gospel backstory which misses out the first half of the OT.
When Paul says that Messiah came to die for our sins, this effectively becomes "Paul, the Royal herald, is making the Royal announcement of the coronation of King Jesus".

Somewhat surprisingly, Paul and Peter never refer to Jesus as King in their epistles. In fact, Jesus is never referred to as King between His rejection on the cross and His coming as King of Kings. [YES, He will be King and there will be a Paradise Earth!!]

Playing down “Jesus-is-Saviour” to promote “Jesus-is-King” leaves Wright (and the reader) with a potential problem: how does one get “in Christ”, “into the Kingdom”..?
Surprisingly, he does not clearly say. Good News?

** PS. Sincere thanks to those who have been so quick to vote down my detailed review. You have helped me prove a point and win a friendly wager. May God bless.

************ DETAIL FOR THOSE INTERESTED ********

Based on years of discussing with people in the cults, I came up with a very simple rule – it is OK to reason ON scripture (as best you can, assisted by expert research on the meaning of the Greek/Hebrew), it is not OK to reason INSTEAD of Scripture.

In my experience, you know that you are heading for trouble when someone refuses to first check all the passages in Scripture to see what the Bible says on a subject but instead insists on telling you what he thinks the Bible should have said.

I was therefore gob-smacked when Wright, the world’s leading New Testament scholar, according to the book cover, did not go first to Scripture (or at any stage in the book) to establish what the Bible means when it uses the word “Gospel”.
[Update: I note he does the same for "repent" in his other books, he first establishes a definition based on a carefully chosen and rather embellished secular passage and then imposes it on all of Scripture]

• Wright’s Local Café definition

Instead, Wright took us in our imagination to our local cafe to agree a definition of the English words “good news”. By cobbling together all of the scenarios that Wright chooses to present in this imaginary café, he concludes on pg 23 that
“for something to be (good) news, there HAS TO BE
(1) an announcement of an event that has happened;
(2) a larger context, a back story, within which this makes sense;
(3) a sudden unveiling of the new future that lies ahead; and
(4) a transformation of the present moment, sitting between the event that has happened and the further event that therefore will happen. (Elsewhere, on pg 4, he describes this part in the following terms “it introduces a new period of waiting that changes our expectations”)
That is how news works“

Even in English," good news" does NOT have to include all of those aspects to constitute good news. "News" comes from the Middle English "newes", new things. "Newly received or noteworthy information". Good news = information on good new things

More importantly, however, instead of going to Scripture for God's definition of His Gospel, Wright is painting us into an imaginary theological corner of his making. In choosing his café scenarios, he has very neatly removed the traditional gospel; simply by this verbal sleight of hand.
Surprisingly people seem to fall for it.

• The Traditional Gospel of Sin & Salvation is only Good Advice, not Good News

Here is one good news scenario Wright unfortunately omitted to include in deriving his café definition of “good news”.

Let us imagine that Wright’s daughter has a very serious genetic disease which will involve her dying very painfully (God forbid). It is considered “incurable”. However, someone bursts into Wright’s café and informs him that a Dr Christian from the Jerusalem Research Hospital, after spending his life researching this terrible disease, recently came up with a successful cure. Dr Christian sadly died not long after his successful breakthrough but left all of his vast wealth, accrued from his many patents in other areas and from his huge family fortune, to provide the treatment of this disease free of charge to all suffers worldwide. The treatment is now available at Wright’s local hospital.

Is that not good news? Everyone on the planet would say yes, Wright and his family must be ecstatic.

But no, Wright says that is NOT good news!

According to Wright’s personal definition, that is only “good advice” not “good news”!!??
On pg 4 he states “the whole point of advice is to make you do something to get the desired result … News is an announcement that something significant has happened”.

Apparently, if I announce that someone, on the other side of the planet has found a very expensive cure for the disease, according to Wright, that could be classified as good news(?) – it is “an announcement that something significant has happened”.

However, if I say that it is available, free of charge, down the road at the local hospital, that is NOT “good news”, that is only “good advice”, as Wright and his daughter would need to believe the message and act upon it – by going down to the hospital and getting the free treatment – rather than continuing with their own home remedies or remaining in denial.

On this absurd basis, Wright rejects the traditional gospel message that Christ died for our sins and that we can now be “born again” and thus equipped to enter God’s wonderful Paradise Kingdom as “it is only good for the lucky ones who heed the advice” pg 6.

Again remember that we did not go to the Bible for its definition of “Gospel”, we are now being sucked into accepting Wright’s rather bizarre personal definitions of what constitutes “good news” – and into rejecting the historical Gospel.
That’s what happens when very smart men, such as Wright, reason INSTEAD of Scripture rather than ON Scripture. “The wisdom of men” .. and all that.

• People had to respond to the Original, Roman and even Wright Gospels

Wright’s Gospel definition appears to be somewhat like the announcement that fluorine is now incorporated into our drinking water and the health of our teeth is going to improve, rather than there is now a fluorine-based toothpaste freely available which we are free to use or reject. You don’t have to do anything, just express your gratitude... and smile!

Good news, even in Wright’s hands, however demanded a response from the people. It was not simply an announcement that required no action on the hearer’s part. The world was not just going to get better as Wright tends to indicate.

Wright tells of Herod who was on the wrong side when Augustus (formerly Octavian, see below) became emperor. The “good news” of Augustus’ victory was therefore bad news for Herod and he had to think fast and to quickly make peace with the new emperor or die (pg 12). This “created a challenge to which he responded by casting himself on the mercy of the one who would now become king”.

The “good” news of Augustus’ victory forced Herod to make decisions and take action.
“Good news creates a new situation and calls for new decisions” (pg 12) - but that is "good advice" not "good news" according to Wright!?
Herod had to do something to get the desired result; it was not automatically “good” news if you did not respond appropriately.
In fact, for Herod, and for us, the news can be bad.

Note that the Bible also talks of us being God’s enemies, that is why Christ died on our behalf to reconcile us to God, to present us as sinless and to save us from the coming wrath (Rom 5:10; Col 1:20-23). That is the GREAT news, if we accept by faith this free gift – it calls for a decision.... and yes, we get to live in Paradise Earth with King Jesus.

Strangely, given his claim that Herod and Augustus are a “perfect historical example”, Wright insists that this reconciliation between us and God, which rectifies what got us thrown out of God’s Kingdom in the first place and which now lets us back in, is NOT the main point of the Gospel (pg 19) - whereas the Bible states explicitly that it is Col 1:23.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.. This IS the GOSPEL that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven”.

Wright calls this a low-grade caricature of the Gospel, a distorted Gospel, the Gospel in the wrong context, ,..

Later, however, when Wright discusses Paul’s preaching (pgs 18, 19), he points out, citing 1 Thes 1: 10, that there is a coming wrath that Jesus can deliver us from and, as a consequence, “people were now faced with a challenge (like Herod faced with Octavian’s victory): If this is the new reality, where do you stand in relationship to it?”.

When Paul/Peter preached the Gospel, they too presented the coming Judgement of Messiah and therefore called people to repent and receive the forgiveness of their sins achieved through the death of Messiah (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 5:31; 10: 42-43; 17: 18, 30, 31; 13:38; 26:18).

The Gospel message had to be preached, heard, believed, accepted and obeyed, or else we have to face the coming judgement - Rom 10: 14-16; 1Pe 4:17, 18; 2 Thes 1:7-10.
“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.”

Sounds very much like the traditional Gospel message that Wright removed with his personal definition of “good news”? Yes there is a Paradise Earth, but you will not be in it if you do not obey the Gospel message.
**It was indeed only good news for those that heeded the message**.

The Gospel was not just an announcement that something significant has happened, people were called to do something to get the offered benefits. They had the choice to reject the offer of forgiveness, many of them did reject it.

I suggest that Wright appears to be indulging in sophistry and word plays to remove the historical gospel message that Christ died for your sins, if you now repent and accept His free offer of forgiveness, God will equip you to enter into his Kingdom - if you don’t, you will remain excluded and you’re in trouble, His wrath is coming. Much like the situation of Herod and Augustus presented by Wright.

The only way the Gospel is solely “good news”, as per Wright’s personal definition, i.e. “an announcement that something significant has happened” that does not require action on your part, is if everyone is automatically “saved”/”born again”/”in Christ” and going to Heaven/paradise Earth as a consequence of Jesus dying for our sins.

The Gospel is simply the announcement of that fact. All that is left for us to do is express our gratitude.
Great news indeed, but I do not believe that Wright is a Universalist, though he does sometimes sound like one. Is he?

• The Gospel; the Emperor’s New Clothes

Wright claims that “Good news” (Greek “euangelia”, gospels (plural)) was used by Roman emperors (and copied by Christ and His followers) to announce that they had come to power and how good life would be as a consequence.
Later, Wright gradually drops the reference to the blessings that the Emperor was to bring, i.e. the “good news” in the message, and states that the Greek word for “good news” simply meant the announcement that someone had become King/Emperor, a “Royal Announcement”.

Once again, Wright is painting us into an imaginary corner.
“Euangelia” meant any really good news and it was originally the term for the reward that a rich man would pay to a messenger who brought him news that made him very happy (there was no CNN or internet in those days!) – news of the death of his enemy, a friend being acquitted in a trial, success in business, a victory in battle, etc.. Messengers would rush with the news in the hope of getting a substantial “good messages ‘tip’” (euangelia, e.g. 2 Samuel 4:10 LXX).

In those days, if I brought news of a cure for Prof Wright’s imaginary sick daughter, he, in his delight, as a very rich and generous man, would have rewarded me handsomely – in spite of his “news” vs “advice” non-sense.

“Euangelia” then came to mean a message that made one happy, news worth paying for and/or celebrating it was that good.

Wright, and now Scot McKnight, makes a lot of Augustus’ use of the term “euangelia” to “prove” that it simply/only meant a Royal Announcement and that early Christians copied this Roman use of the term to define God's Gospel.

Proconsul Paulus Fabius Maximus engraved on stone at Priene (9 BC) a piece of political flattery concerning Augustus Caesar and all his achievements over the previous two decades, arguing that the calendar be changed to commence on the 23rd September, Augustus’ birthday.
“And in his coming, Caesar has surpassed the expectations of all of the preceding gospels [euangelia], not only surpassing the preceding benefactors, but not even giving any hope that those who follow him might surpass him. And this god’s birthday inaugurated the gospels [euangelia], which came about because of him, for the sake of the world.”

Even in this much vaunted passage, the gospelS referred to are NOT the announcement of Augustus’ birth nor of his enthronement. [Augustus refused to be crowned Monarch (Rome was a Republic), see later comment]. His “birthday INAUGURATED the gospelS, which came about because of him, for the sake of the world”.
His birth is not the gospelS, his birth led to the gospelS – the good things he did.
Note the mention of “previous gospels”. “Gospels” refers to the NEWS OF GOOD THINGS brought about by benefactors, not their enthronement.

Wright’s whole replacement/side-lining of the traditional Gospel is built on his baseless redefinition of the meaning of “good news”.
Yes, the enthronement of a BENEFACTOR could indeed be described as good news, but so could any of a wide range of pleasant, joy-bring news. "Good news" is the news of good things (sounds rather silly to have to spell it out).

• Christ’s and NT’s use of “Gospel”

Wright claims that Romans used the term “euangelia” (plural, “gospels” or “good messages”) principally/solely to describe a “Royal Announcement” of a Caesar’s enthronement. Additionally, according to him, early Christians copied the Roman use of the term, replacing the name of the Caesar with that of Christ; "`the gospel' itself, strictly speaking, is the narrative proclamation of King Jesus".

Actually, Christians didn’t have to borrow the word from the Romans, the term “euangelia” existed in the LXX version of the OT, long before the Roman Emperors ever used it. Christ quotes from related passages in the OT to describe His “gospeling” ministry.

Even more interesting is that it would appear that the NT writers coined/adopted a new/different form of the word, euangelion, (singular, in every occurrence in the New Testament and very rarely used outside the NT) to describe their good news and to differentiate it from any other.
“The sudden, frequent, and invariable use of the singular [euangelion] in the NT to designate the divine proclamation and the complete absence from it of the contemporary plural use [euangelia], is quite remarkable”. (Donald Robinson).

Romans used the Greek word “euangelia”, gospelS (plural), to describe any of a wide RANGE of good news scenarios – NOT just the announcement of a new Emperor (AND all the associated blessings).
Christians had a SINGLE good message in mind and sought to differentiate it from all others.

They went further in differentiating their GOSPEL from general good news, Roman or otherwise. They presented it as ‘THE’ Gospel, i.e. most often with the definite article. Paul was not using the language/mentality of Roman propaganda and simply replacing "Caesar" with "Christ." If anything, he was contrasting it and and stressing the differences.

The Gospel (singular) was apparently only used by Rome two centuries later (after 235 AD) to describe the good news concerning the proclaiming as Emperor of Gaius Julius Verus Maximus Augustus.
Who copied whom?

At the heart of Rome's propaganda, according to Wright, was the enthronement of some pretentious would-be benefactor and the blessings that would supposedly result from this event. In the Christian Gospel, the revolutionary centre of the message is the death of Messiah and the blessings that would result from this event.
Everyone expected a Conquering King, an Enthroned Emperor - instead they got a Martyred Messiah (Pg 40)
1 Cor 1:23 .. but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

Although Christ's death is the centre of the Gospel, its revolutionary distinctive aspect, the "eternal" (Rev. 14:6) Gospel encompasses all of God's redemptive plan, through the work of Messiah, in restoring God's Kingdom on Earth, with God as King and us in it (Rev 22: 1-5).
Again to paraphrase Scot McKnight: The Gospel is "the Story of mankind as resolved in the Story of Messiah"

• The Original Backstory to the Gospel Message

In Genesis there was a King, a Kingdom and we were in it. However, we were thrown out because of our sin. That is the backstory to the Messiah and His work. What was started in the early chapters of Genesis will be rectified by Messiah by the last chapters of Revelation.
In fact, that is the Gospel message.
To paraphrase Scot McKnight: The Gospel is "the Story of mankind as resolved in the Story of Messiah"

First and foremost, God had to deal with our sin. Israel was to function as a Kingdom (with God as the King) of Priests (Exodus 19:6), through which he would bless the entire world (Gen.18:18; 22:18). They would intercede on behalf of the world, offering sacrifices and standing as intermediaries between the nations and God.
“He called them and made them special, so that through them he could rescue the world” (pg 24)

The (original) divine rescue operation was to deal with our Kingdom-exclusion problem. What Israel could not achieve with the Temple, the Priesthood and the sacrifices, Messiah achieved through His sacrifice and by creating a new Temple and Kingdom of Priests in Himself.
The Tabernacle, the Temple, the Priesthood, the sacrifices, etc., the things which Wright totally ignores, illustrate how God Himself would eventually solve our Kingdom-exclusion problem, once and for all, through the death and sacrifice of Messiah.

Wright, in trying to present a different backstory to the original one, lets slip that what he is presenting as the true backstory is in fact a matter of “rescuing the rescuers, and getting the whole plan back on track”.
Indeed .. “the people who were supposed to be carrying forward this divine rescue operation needed rescuing themselves”.
So what was the original rescue plan, the one predating the "rescue of the rescuers" presented by Wright?

Elsewhere (Paul and the Faithfulness of God) Wright also correctly points out that what was needed, for God's original plan to work out, was “a rescue operation for the rescue operation”. According to Wright in this case, it is as though Israel, a fire engine, were to become stuck in a ditch on the way to rescuing people from a burning building, so that the fire engine would itself need rescuing in order then to proceed on its way to the original rescuing mission.

Hence, the original backstory is not rescuing fire engines (Israel), but is saving people in a burning building (people separated from God and in danger of Gehenna) - by Christ, the ultimate Israelite, undertaking and fulfilling Israel’s "fire-fighting” (i.e. sin-solving) role in Himself, once and for all (Daniel 9:24).

In effect, Wright now misses out the 1st half of the story and of the OT and starts the rescue story at 2 Samuel 7:1-13 (and 1 Chron 17. 7-14) where God promises David that the prophesied Saviour/Messiah will be a descendant of David, humanly speaking, and would sit as King on David's Throne – thus rectifying Israel’s earlier rejection of God as their King (1 Samuel 8:7).

This is one of the later instalments of the Bible's redemption story. Messiah (the original rescue plan and His sacrifice, Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20) existed long before Israel had a human King or was promised a special descendant of David. Messiah was the pre-incarnate Word, or Jehovah God who was seen/described throughout the OT (Jhn 1:18), long before this later "twist" in the story (Micah 5:2).

According to Wright, Messiah came to be crowned King; he argues this in spite of a myriad passages throughout Scripture that categorically and clearly state that Messiah came to die for our sins.
Yes, He is the rightful King, however Israel rejected Him (yet again) and its that rejection and His crucifixion which, to everyone's surprise (even though it was prophesied), enabled God to deal with our sin-kingdom-exclusion-problem. He will indeed become King and He will reign in His Kingdom on David’s throne as promised, when we are made fit to be in it.

Scripture is very clear that Jesus (Jehovah the Saviour) came to Earth to die and save us from our sins (Mat 1:21; 20:28 ), he was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29, 36; 1 Pet 1:18, 19).
Messiah had to die for our sins, not to become King (1 Cor 15: 2-7).
However, with Wright’s special Backstory, this and (m)any other passage(s) become an announcement that Jesus the Messiah is already ruling (pg 25-26).

For example, Rom 4 explains how Abraham was justified by faith and that he would be heir of the world. He is the father of us all who have faith “—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”.
Gal 3:8 says the same thing “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’”.
Somehow, in the hands of Wright (pg 71) this becomes, not a story of Messiah dying for our sins and our justification, but one about the coronation of Jesus – Jesus coming as Messiah, as Israel’s rightful, long-awaited king.

Simply by changing the backstory, translating the word Messiah as King, copiously inserting the word “Royal” throughout his passages (Paul is a Royal herald, making the Royal announcement about King Jesus..), Wright changes any passage describing Messiah dying for our sins into an announcement of Messiah’s coronation.
The Gospel “heralded” (kerusso) by Paul and others was NOT “Christ crowned as King”, but “Christ crucified” (1 Cor 1:23).

What is truly amazing is how much explicit scripture Wright appears to ignore and set aside to conclude that “for Paul the story of the gospel is much more like a coronation than a sacrifice”
McKnight says something similar: “for the Apostles it was all about King Jesus ... To Gospel was (and is) to declare the royal truth about KING Jesus" (TKJG pg 123)

However, very surprisingly, Paul and Peter never refer to Jesus as King in their epistles. In fact, Jesus is never referred to as King between His rejection on the cross and His coming as King of Kings. Strange.

• Update: ReWrighting the Gospel, Tom’s Tactics

I have now read two books by Wright and many of his articles. I notice a few simple tactics that he uses to awesome effect when seeking to rewrite the Gospel by redefining key words such as “Gospel”, Repentance”,..

First, he simply ignores the many occurrences of a given word in Scripture and instead seeks to find an example in any other writing that suits his needs, often with some/considerable massaging. Finally, and most illogically, he then imposes his new definition of the word on all the passages in Scripture.
Most words, even in English, have several meanings and one needs to study the context to determine which meaning applies. On the basis of the posters during war time stating "your country needs you", I cant seriously insist that the young bride who whispers "I need you, Honey" to her TV addict spouse is wanting him to go and get himself killed - well, not yet.
Surprisingly, Wright uses this level of logic.

In the present case, Wright ignored the many occurrences of the word “Gospel” (and related words) in Scripture and went to the story of Augustus to “establish” the definition of Gospel as a “royal announcement of someone becoming king”.
It is even more surprising to note that the Priene inscription does NOT support Wright’s imposed definition. Additionally, reading up on Augustus’ life shows that he was never crowned King, as claimed by Wright in the book.
Instead, Augustus periodically engineered his re-election as head of the Roman state (a Republic) by the senate.

[Wright does the same thing with the word “repent” by defining it based on a slightly distorted version of an encounter between Josephus and a brigand chief who had been paid to murder him. Ignoring Scripture, he concludes that “repentance” has nothing to do with confessing and giving up sinning, nor is it about a personal religious conversion experience, but has to do with changing political allegiance. Even in this cherry-picked example, the brigand had planned to kill Josephus and Josephus indicated that he knew of it and was prepared to forgive him (and spare his life) if he in effect confessed, repented and promised to be loyal to Josephus in future - rather than continue trying to kill him.
Additionally, Josephus threatened the Sepphorites (who sent the brigand to kill Josephus) if they did not abandon this conduct - he was not talking about their political views regarding Rome (the brigand was anti-Rome, the Sepphorites pro-Rome) but their involvement in his attempted murder.
"I .. told him that I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived against me, nor who were his employers; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would show repentance and prove his loyalty to me. All this he promised, and I let him go... The Sepphorites I threatened to punish if they did not abandon their unreasonable conduct."]

Its truly amazing what one can conclude the Bible really means when one ignores it.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2015 6:15 AM PDT


The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited
by Scot McKnight
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.29
89 used & new from $3.21

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why MUST Scot have a "1 Cor 15 only" four-lined Gospel?, January 4, 2015
I put this book on my Christmas list because I agree totally with Scot's point that the Church is largely ignorant of the OT and that knowledge of the OT is necessary to fully understand the NT and all of the aspects of Christ, His life, His works, His Titles, His sacrifice and the salvation it brings; i.e. to fully understand the Gospel (good news).

Why is He called "Son of Man", "Son of God", "Son of David", "Redeemer", Messiah, .. ? How can he be God? What were the prophesies concerning the Messiah, His person and His Work? What relevance has the year of Jubilees? What is the relevance of the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Law, the sacrifices? Etc., etc., etc.

I not only totally agree with Scot on this matter, I appear to believe it even more strongly that he does as his summary of the OT "Gospel" at the end of the book is in my opinion rather light and misses out many of the key topics necessary to a full understanding of the salvation that Christ accomplished.
In any case, I agree with him on the need for an understanding of God's work throughout the OT.

Initially, after reading the introduction and first chapter or so I concluded that "this is THE book I have been looking for which explains everything simply, great!" I put the book down and was going to order, there and then, 4 or 5 copies to send to family and friends.

As you can see from my 2-star rating of the book, however, something then happened to tarnish my glowing view of the book.

A (now) relatively minor point, highlighted by many reviewers, even by those who give it a 4- or 5-star rating, is that the material in the book is very badly presented. There are many negative comments in the reviews pointing out that the book appears to be a first draft, it resembles a student's rushed mid-term paper or an unedited lecturer's class notes; the presentation is random, repetitive, etc. Rather than presenting the material in a systematic and logical manner, Scot instead fills up far too much space presenting comments from his students, from his friends and from (imaginary) Pastors. Etc. etc..

My problem, upon further reflection, now goes much further than Scot's presentation skills, or lack thereof.

*********** "1 Cor 15 only" and the four-line Gospel

Scot states (correctly) that the story of Jesus (and the Gospel) belongs to the story of Israel and only makes sense in that story, we therefore need to go back to the OT. The reason most Christians don't know the OT is because the gospel they hear in their churches does not need the OT (Pg44).

Scot then commences chapter 5 by telling us that we need to start in the right place if we are to understand the (real, true, full) Gospel.
He illustrates this by telling the story of how he once played on an un-signposted golf course, did not start at the start of course but somewhere in the middle and got totally confused.
The take-home message is that "golf courses (and the Gospel) don't make sense unless you start at the right place" (Pg 46). Agreed
Note in passing that Scot has the instructor say that one must start at the "right place" rather than the more obvious and correct "at the start" - this becomes relevant, sadly.

So, where is Scot going to start expounding the Gospel in terms of Israel's Story? Obviously at the start of the OT.
After all, that is what Scot does when he (eventually) sketches out the `full' Gospel at the end of the book on pages 148 - 153.
That is what Scot stresses (Pg 110) Jesus did in Luke 24:25-27 ` Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?' And BEGINNING AT MOSES and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself."
That is what the targeted evangelists, with their watered-down Soterian-only Gospel, fail to do.
Obviously Scot is going to set that aright.

But no, he does not. He ignores the OT, Christ, the Gospels and plumps for 1 Cor 15!
Very strange. That's in the middle of the "Gospel Golf Course", why ever start there?

"The best place to begin is the one place in the ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT where someone actually COMES CLOSE to defining the word gospel. First Corinthians 15 is that place" (Pg 46).
Note that he, just like the people he is criticizing, has ignored the OT.
Note also that 1 Cor 15 only "comes near" to defining the Gospel. Bear that in mind when he starts to build on this basis. It is NOT the total/full definition of the Gospel, but it only comes close.

So Scot ignores for the time being the OT, Christ, the Gospels and picks on this passage, to the exclusion of all other passages on the Gospel in the Apostolic writings or in the Bible as a whole.
Why pick this passage and ignore all others on the Gospel?
Very strange way to tackle a problem. Would you do this, say, to study the Deity of Christ?
Would you not start by studying all the relevant passages, or at least all the key ones?

However, according to Scot we do not need to study any other passages on the Gospel because this is THE apostolic Gospel clearly and fully set out. [Note, it no longer only "comes close"].

To justify this illogical and self-contradictory cherry-picking of a passage in the middle of the Gospel "golf course", Scot uses two key arguments

1) He claims that in 1 Cor 15 Paul gave this clear definition of the full Gospel "when he was asked to set out the `gospel'".
DEFINITELY NOT, that is plain wrong, he was not asked in this passage to set out the gospel.
Paul is addressing the matter of the resurrection and the incorrect views of some of the Corinthians, as is made extremely clear in the passage. Paul is referring to his Gospel message which HE gave them at the beginning and pointing out that a key part of that involves the resurrection of Christ. If there is no resurrection, your faith (note, not your works, more later) is in vain.
This is not (necessarily) a full definition of the Gospel, that was not the purpose of this passage.

2) He claims that Paul is presenting here the Apostolic Gospel tradition.
I don't really have a problem with that, but Scot appears to claim that this is the (only?) "full" definition of the gospel.
It trying to establish this point from Paul's teaching on the resurrection, Scot once again in my opinion twists scripture and overplays his hand.
He repeatedly states that Paul is NOT expressing the Gospel that God communicated directly to Paul; instead, Paul is "towing the line" and simply reciting the "tried and true gospel of the church's tradition" (Pg 47).
Scot then gives us a lesson on the Greek word for "received" and argues that this refers to the authorized tradition of the apostles and which Paul received (from them) and passed on.
Unfortunately, this masks the fact that the same word (and the words Gospel and preaching that Scot also comments on) is used in Gal 1: 11-12 where Paul says " I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the GOSPEL I PREACHED is not of human origin. I DID NOT RECEIVE it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I RECEIVED it BY REVELATION from Jesus Christ." [Scot even mentioned Gal 1 on Pg 47 but misdirects us to verses 13 to 16, rather than to the more relevant verses 11-12].
Similarly, we have the same point made by Paul a little earlier in the same letter, in 1 Cor 11:23.

Scot in trying to make this passage into "the" full clear definition of the Gospel, cherry-picks it out of its context and misrepresents it. He even uses two totally flawed arguments to justify the choice of 1 Cor 15 to the exclusion of even considering all the others in deriving the definition of the Gospel.

Scot is either a well-meaning Christian who is not very knowledgeable of Scripture, who has innocently presented a mishmash of ideas which I am trying to read too much into OR Scot is bright and there is something else going on - but what?

I reread the first few chapters and concluded that Scot, although disorganized, is bright, that he has chosen 1 Cor 15 as it is vital (somehow, which escapes me) to his belief system and that he "therefore" (feels that he) has to defend it at all costs - even by using such flawed arguments and by ignoring all of the Gospel texts until he has defined the Gospel in a way that suits his purposes.

Then I read chapter 6 and, lo and behold, Scot says that that is indeed the case!
"We began this journey with Paul. I admit that it may sound backward to go first to Paul and only then to Jesus and the Gospels" [Note that he still does not mention the OT, you know, the subject that all the fuss is about].
"..I knew that that what I would emphasize would sound strained until we had encountered how centrally Jesus is in the gospel of 1 Corinthians 15. But now, in light of what Paul says about the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, we have a whole new angle on the term."

Sadly, I have no idea why Scot's theology MUST be pinned on a faulty explanation of 1 Cor 15, I can however conclude that it is built on a flawed foundation. I suggest therefore that arguments (whatever they are) built on this must therefore be strained and that the "whole new angle" that Scot has on the Gospel is probably questionable.

That it is vital in some way to Scot's belief system to define the (full) Gospel on 1 Cor 15 (and it alone, viewed in isolation) becomes crystal clear from several of his comments
"The gospel is found in Paul's own words in 1 Corinthians 15, it is the gospel of the Gospels, it is the gospel of Jesus himself, it is the gospel of Peter, and it IS THE GOSPEL OF PAUL" (Pg 133)
"If we don't begin here, we will make a BIG MISTAKE" (Pg 46).
On a blog Scot has stated "1 Cor 15 is the gospel. Flat out simple. Paul defines it there; or he states it there. EVERY TIME PAUL SAYS `GOSPEL' HE MEANS WHAT HE SAYS IN 1 Cor 15"
"Every time Paul mentions `gospel' in his letters (and he does so some seventy-five times), he is REFERRING TO THIS FOUR-LINE GOSPEL. .. HE ALWAYS MEANS THIS GOSPEL -- the gospel of the full, saving Story of Jesus resolving the Story of Israel, the one we found in shorthand in 1 Corinthian 15" (Pg 61).
"If we begin here, we will both find the meaning of the `gospel' and WE WILL HAVE A MAP THAT WILL SHOW US HOW TO NAVIGATE THE REST OF THE NEW TESTAMENT AND CHURCH HISTORY!" (Pg 48)

**THIS FORM OF REASONING IS TOTALLY FLAWED AND VERY DANGEROUS**.

Scot has defined the word Gospel from a passage taken out of context and which he has misrepresented, he has insisted on viewing it in isolation and excluded all other relevant passages to draw up a "whole new angle" interpretation, he then uses his "whole new angle" to (re)interpret all of the other passages on the unsubstantiated claim that when they mention the word `Gospel", they MUST mean "Gospel" as Scot has now defined.

This approach to handling scripture is much used by and is a characteristic of a CULT. It is totally unacceptable for a Christian Scholar.

Scot's approach has been tried and tested by cults over many decades to great effect. It goes like this
- Never study all the key verses on a troublesome topic. First start with a fringe verse or passage (to be fair, Scot picks a relevant passage), preferably out of context, determine your `truth' based on this passage (throw in a few faulty twists of logic) and then systematically work back through all the key troublesome passages you initially ignored, one by one, (re)interpreting them to align with your "established truth".
For example: The WTBTS and the deity of Christ

Why is an intelligent Christian scholar using such an approach to reasoning and Scripture?

I get the impression, based on my total ignorance of the issues involved, that the importance to Scot of 1 Cor 15 and its "four-line Gospel" is that it omits certain things that other passages on the Gospel include, things which would undermine some (undisclosed) aspect of his theology.

An additional problem with this "four-line Gospel", as pointed out by several reviewers, is that it does not even include many of the key aspects of Israel's history (or of Salvation) that Scot views as important. He overcomes this by simply levering the word "Scriptures" in 1 Cor 15 to insert the OT history aspects He believes should be there. [Sean McGever in "The Search for the Gospel: 1 Corinthians 15 as the Foundation of the New Testament Kerygma and Creed of Nicaea"]

Scot concedes that Paul's Gospel should also include the ascension of Jesus, the second coming of Christ and the final consummation of the kingdom when God becomes all in all. That makes a seven-line Gospel (when added to His Death, Burial, Resurrection and Appearances)
By implication, he reasons that it should also include the incarnation and Christ's life.
Although in Scot's hands the "four-line" Gospel is TARDIS-like, capable of expanding to include all that he wants included, one cannot seriously argue that it is a complete story of Christ and His work.
What about Christ pouring out the Spirit to create the new Body of Christ of which we Gentiles are part, Paul's Gospel par excellence. Does that not count as part of the Gospel? Did poor Paul forget to mention that too?
Scot's "capsule" Gospel is just not adequate as a full definition.

Scot stresses over and over again that the Gospel is the Story of Jesus resolving the Story of Israel. Sounds OK and I have agreed wholeheartedly. However, when dealing with the cults, one has to beware of agreeing with things that sound OK. No, I'm not saying that Scot is in a cult, he does use their form of argument, but the principle applies to all discussions.
With the Mormons, for example, they will get you to agree to several fairly innocuous statements which sound OK and then you will find that you have agreed to your need of the prophet Joseph Smith and the benefits of the Mormon church - "How did I get here?"

Why do we have to agree with Scot on the cherry-picked "four-line Gospel" which Scot can unpack/add to as he sees fit?
What is the point? I feel that I am being led up the garden path and I don't know why.

So, Scot, I don't necessarily agree with your claim that the Gospel is the Story of Jesus resolving the Story of Israel. It depends on what you mean by that and what you are trying to build on your new definition of a four-line Gospel. "Scot McKnight says that the Gospel is the completion of Israel's story. That's technically correct, but it is not the whole story" (Stu2).

Christ resolved the Story of Israel in ways that were totally unexpected and involved new twists and "additional bonuses" that benefit us Gentiles in particular; twists that caught Satan, the Jews and even the Jewish Christians by surprise.
They expected a King who would come and set up His Kingdom.
The twists to the story involve the death of The King, His Resurrection, His Ascension to Heaven, His pouring out of His Spirit to thus create something totally new, His Body, a living Temple of Spirit-filled individuals, including Jews and Gentiles.
The rules were changed. Unlike the original "Kingdom" message, Gentiles no longer need to move to Israel, convert to Judaism, get circumcised, partake in the Sacrifices, keep the OT Law,.etc.
We Gentiles, as Gentiles, are saved through faith and incorporated into this new Body of Christ.

THAT IS THE (aspect of the) GOSPEL REVEALED DIRECTLY TO PAUL, the Mystery he talks about, hitherto never revealed to man. We don't have to join Israel, we join something new, the Body of Christ.

This aspect of the Gospel was NOT communicated to Paul by the apostles. Quite the contrary, they had to play catch up and embrace this Gentile-friendly Gospel (e.g. Acts 15).

So, if that is what you mean by the Gospel, then yes I agree with you.
You do mention many of the words above but you do not present the Church, the Body of Christ and its Gentile-friendly "bonuses" in a clear systematic manner.
This is surprising in a book on the whole Gospel, you don't spell out clearly the aspects that pertain to us Gentiles.
You appear to confuse the Kingdom with the "new bonus", the Church. OK, I'm arguing from silence, but it is a rather deafening silence.

*********** Scot and the "soterian" Gospel

A straight forward reading of (most of) the book (an exception is Chapter 9) would tend to indicate that there is nothing wrong with the Soterian Gospel, it is after all the goal or end point of the Gospel message. What is wrong with some presentations of it is that they do not give a sufficiently long introduction on the Jewish background to the Gospel. Obviously, that could be easily remedied by good bible studies after conversion or, of course, rather long outreach sermons!

However, although you repeatedly stress that you agree with the "soterian" Gospel and that it is part of the "total" Gospel that we should all know about, one still comes away with the feeling that you have somehow replaced it (Ch 9).
This is pointed out by many reviewers, even your supporters.

Here is a quote from E. Ritzema, one of your 4-Star supporters "Also, and this is not really a fault of the book, but I am concerned that as a result of McKnight's argument there may be people who get an impression that the gospel is "either/or": that is, it is either the story of Jesus fulfilling the story of Israel, or it is salvation. In reality, salvation is part of the gospel."

Some other similar observations.
"It seems that Dr. McKnight over-emphasizes the difference between salvation and gospel this makes the reader to assume that personal salvation is NOT part of the Gospel."
"He seems to deemphasize and even knock a focus on atonement and justification throughout"
"I find his distinction between the gospel announcement and personal salvation a little disturbing. And also the lower role of justification by faith he assigns in the gospel message. In his excellent exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, 20-28, he tries to separate them but instead of either/or, I wonder if it should be and/plus. The gospel message aside from the telling of the Israel and of Jesus should also include personal salvation and justification by faith. It will be useful if McKnight examines other Scriptures that explain the gospel message and share his thoughts on them."

I believe that the problem is that although you say one thing, repeatedly, in your presentation you act the opposite, hence the wide confusion.

You achieve this throughout the book, wittingly or otherwise, by generally ignoring, playing down, and/or even attacking the personal gospel and its proponents. You often present the Gospel passages without their Soterian aspects.
You also vilify the "soterian" Gospel preachers, lump them all together and present them as complete ignoramuses who not only don't know the OT, they don't even know the NT - again much commented on.

I suggest that you are effectively like Mark Antony who, at Caesar's funeral, repeatedly called Brutus an "honorable man" yet succeeded in motivating the crowd to try to lynch Brutus.

If disparaging the "soterian" Gospel was not your intention, then rewrite the book and present the full Gospel in a more positive manner. Everyone, as far as I can see, agrees with your stated goal - just not with how you go about it.

*********** What am I missing ?

Still, I can't see why you have stream-lined the Gospel to four lines when you are wanting to present the full Gospel. It's a contradiction, you are doing what you accuse others of doing. It contradicts "..McKnight's repeated insistence that you cannot distil the gospel down to a few points."

It also contradicts what Scot said about this passage in 2008 on the "Jesus Creed". Commenting on 1 Cor 15 he stated "The question that constantly rotates in my mind: Why does this definition of the gospel get all the attention and not others?" Amen!

I sense that I am being led down the garden path and I can't see why, certainly not from the book.

Benjamin Morrison points out in his review out that "while (Scot) does not deal with his views on justification directly in this book, (Scot) really looks to NT Wright as a mentor of sorts and espouses his dangerous view of justification which is based in a synergistic way on our own works. Knowing this makes many of his disparaging comments about justification unsurprising."

Similarly, Christopher R. Horton points out that Scot appears to follow N.T. Wright with his apparently rather unorthodox views on Justification and Paul's theology and that it is important to understand "what you are getting into" when you read Scot's book.

Well, I for one don't know what I am letting myself into, I really don't know why an intelligent biblical scholar would stoop to using such flawed, self-contradictory logic and hang his belief system on a distorted view of 1 Cor 15.
I can't see why he is unable/unwilling to use a broader-based definition of the Gospel. What does he lose in doing so?

A quick search of the internet reveals that 1 Cor 15 is used to underpin the theology of NT Wright as well as that of Scot.

Would some kind, knowledgeable soul please explain (simply) what aspect of Scot's theology must be underpinned at all costs by 1 Cor 15's "definition" of the Gospel? Justification was mentioned, how are his views on this underpinned by 1 Cor 15?
If 1 Cor 15 is not the "full", "official" definition of the Gospel, as Scot claims, how seriously does that affect Scot's theology?

UPDATE
Just before posting this review, while discussing with Greg Johnston under Jacob Sweeney's Review, I came across the following statements by Scot a few minutes ago

"In fact, in every judgment scene in the Bible humans are judged not by a singular act of faith but by works. .. we may be saved by faith but we are judged by works. Of course, this is a complex issue but I believe the soterian gospel forces a reading of these texts that is not natural, while the apostolic gospel, what I call the The King Jesus Gospel, does not have the slightest trouble with the routine NT observation that ***we will be judged by works (and this is not about rewards but about destiny)**"
".. the evidence is clear: Jesus and Paul believed in the final judgment by works."

So, now you know what you are letting yourself in for when you buy/read this book, why the "soterian" Gospel has in effect been removed in spite of the profuse claims to the contrary.

Now you know why Scot MUST have a stream-lined "1 Cor 15 only", four-line Gospel.
Scot loves it because, in effect, it says very little, he can add to it what he wants and he uses it to ignore/rewrite Paul's full description of the Gospel which includes salvation through faith in Christ.

With apparent satisfaction, Scot points out on Pg 134 that His "1 Cor 15 only" Gospel differs from the Soterian Gospel in that it does not (directly) include the atonement, being reconciled to God, being declared righteous, God's wrath being pacified, our being freed from sin, God's Love, God's Grace..

Imagine having a debate with a cultist on the Deity of Christ. Imagine at the start of the discussion the cultist asks you to assume for the moment that all the verses on the Deity of Christ are removed from the Bible. Puzzled but intrigued you say yes, OK.
The Cultist then looks up at you innocently and says "You see, there are no verses in the Bible on Christ's Deity". Are you impressed?

We are being conned into accepting a "stream-lined, four-lined, redefined" Gospel. As always, since the beginning, the new Gospel is based on works. Nothing ever changes, just the packaging.

Sadly I was right when I recognized the machinations of the cult.
I wholeheartedly agree with Scot's stated goal, as probably everyone else does, however I dont agree with his undisclosed agenda and the way he has conducted himself in this matter.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 22, 2015 7:32 AM PDT


Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs (Westminster Bible Companion)
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs (Westminster Bible Companion)
by Ellen F. Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.66
72 used & new from $9.78

4.0 out of 5 stars More please on Song of Songs!, October 27, 2014
Prof Davis' commentary on SoS is excellent. I gave only 4/5 as the commentary is very short and I am hoping that she will one day expand upon it. I'm keeping the 5/5 for that!

Additionally, I am very grateful to Professor Davis for drawing my attention, in her book, reviews and in personal correspondence, to other recent works on the "intertexual" approach to understanding Song of Songs (SoS). These include LaCocque's "Romance, She Wrote" and Sister Edmée's "The Song of Songs and the Eros of God, A Study in Biblical Intertextuality".
Ellen Davis' book is the most readable and clearly organised commentary on the subject. The other two books, although they provide considerable additional material, are more concerned with expounding on themes of interest to the authors than on (solely) presenting a structured commentary. They are good, but I recommend starting with the present book.

As mentioned above, I am hoping that Prof Davis will one day expand further upon her short but very profound commentary on SoS. After all, it was written almost 15 years ago.
At any rate, if you read the works of Ellen Davis, Sister Edmée and André LaCocque, you have a vast amount of material to sort through and should be able to produce a fairly substantial commentary on most of SoS based on the intertextual approach. Go to it!!

As I layperson, I was surprised to note that all three of the above renowned theologians appear to agree that there is no overall plot to SoS, it's just a random series of disjointed scenes. LaCocque, for example, says there is progression from beginning to end, but no plot. Even Davis, who believes that SoS "really is, in large part, about the love that obtains between God and Israel" and who refers the reader to various events in the history of Israel as she works her way through SoS, however concludes .. "there is no narrative .. no story..". "The Song has no clear story line". "The Song of Songs is, more than anything else, like a dream transcribed. The scene shifts constantly and without apparent logic".
"Therefore it resists simple decoding and invites us instead to ponder, puzzle, draw connections and push beyond what we thought before".

She then warns "anyone who thinks to explain it has understood neither its nature nor its invitation to us".

In spite of that warning, as a foolish/foolhardy layperson, may I tentatively "rush in" where knowledgeable theologians wisely fear to tread?

******Be advised, if you disagree with me you are in very good company!*****

I agree that, within each of the scenes, we have a kaleidoscopic montage of words and images that can appear dreamlike and, in some cases, even rather grotesque or nightmarish. "Yet the images, though jumbled together and sometimes bizarre, are not random" (Davis).

Imagine that I put together a collage of images, quotations, songs, video-clips, etc. that sum up each of the decades - the 60s, 70s etc. I would create a kaleidoscopic scene for each of the decades. For those who did not live through these decades, my chef-d'oeuvre would look a child's meaningless and, possibly, rather hideous "cut and paste" montage gleaned from random sources. A picture apparently without rhyme or reason.
If I had pasted the individual elements to form another reasonably attractive macroscopic picture, say of a person's face, some viewers would possibly admit that the child had some talent.
Those of you who are older and who look more closely at the individual elements that compose my "60s" picture, for example, would recognize with nostalgia (?) iconic details of that era and, possibly(!!), acclaim it as a work of genius. Andy Warhol eat your heart out!
My picture would indeed invite you to pause, ponder, puzzle, remember,.. and possibly cringe!

[It is my impression that such collages where in fact used, often with a significant dose of irony, as part of the "Pop Art" movement in the late 50s and early 60s, led by artists such as Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi.]

I suggest that the author of SoS produces collages for the key periods in God-Israel's relationship. However, (s)he does more than simply produce a montage of key words and images from, or reflecting on, each period. (S)he subversively (to quote LaCocque) forces us to reassess these periods looking beyond the superficial facts, forcing us "to draw connections and push beyond what we thought before" (Davis)

So, to summarise. I believe that the ancients, allegorists, were essentially correct in believing that SoS was a (chronological) history of God's relationship with Israel. However, the allegorical approach often runs into difficulties trying to explain the apparently random details presented within each kaleidoscopic scene. The intertextual approach appears better suited to the unpicking and the analysis of the embedded message(s).

May I put my neck on the chopping block and by way of illustration make the following comments regarding one of the scenes which appears in SoS 3:6-11?

Almost everyone appears to agree that this passage is referring to Solomon and the Temple complex. Some note that the passage is rather disparaging of Solomon, emphasizing "loads-a-money" rather than relationship, the latter being the main theme of SoS.

People have found it strange that, according to SoS, Solomon was crowned by his mother (SoS 3:11). He was. A careful reading of I Kings makes it clear that David was conned by Nathan and especially Bathsheba into crowning Solomon. The promised person was to be raised up AFTER David was dead (2 Sam 7:22, 23) which is probably why David had not appointed anyone to replace him, creating the vacuum exploited by Nathan and Bathsheba ["Berit Olam: 1 Kings" by Jerome T. Walsh].

SoS says Solomon was crowned twice (SoS 3:11). He was, once as a quick fix to counter Nathan's claim that Solomon's brother Adonijah had already been crowned (1 Kings 1:28-40) and later, officially, on the day of rejoicing (1Ch 29:9)

SoS says that Solomon built his exotic contraption (palanquin) "for himself" of the wood of Lebanon (SoS 3:9). He did. That is also made clear in I Kings 7. Solomon, who already had his Dad's new palace, decides to add to David's Temple plans (2 Cron 2:1) and build an even bigger complex for himself, increasing the time required and the costs involved. So much so that he ended up in debt (1 Kings 9:11) and forcing his people to work on his project (1 Kings 9:15, 12:4, 14) - in total contrast to the tabernacle which was funded and built willingly by the people without outside help, forced labour or loans. Initially, under David, the people gave willingly (and abundantly) for the Temple project (1Ch 29:9), but that changed under Solomon with his additional glorious building projects.
Perhaps, under the circumstances, the writer is being facetious when he says that the midst of the palanquin was paved with love (SoS 3:10)?

If I mention "Solomon" and "silver" what do you immediately think of? Yes, Silver was worthless in Solomon's eye, he would not have it in his house (2 Chron 9: 20, 27), it was as common as the pebbles on the street. So, why does SoS say that Solomon had silver in the supports of the exotic "palanquin" (SoS 3:10)?
I suggest that the provocative writer is drawing our attention to the fact that, although David provided 262 tons of refined silver [7,000 talents, 238 metric tons] to be used specifically in coating the stones of the Temple (1Ch 29:4), we have no record of Solomon using the silver in the Temple. In fact, it is recorded that after he completed the Temple, he stored the silver dedicated by his father, i.e. unused (1Ki 7:51).
Silver was used in the Tabernacle and was associated with redemption (Exod 38:25-27). It acted as a buffering layer between the gold posts of the Tabernacle and the common ground (Exodus 26:25). Is it not strange that it is absent in the description of the Temple?

Ok, you will most probably not agree with all that.

Still, I suggest that the writer is, indeed, as pointed out by Davis, inviting us "to ponder, puzzle, draw connections and push beyond what we thought before"."... the images, though jumbled together and sometimes bizarre, are not random".
After all "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings." (Prov 25:2)
I believe, as did some of the ancients, that SoS is not a book whose key has been lost, but a book which is key to the rest of Scripture. Just a rather difficult one!

Where I disagree with Ellen Davis is in my belief that each iconic montage represents a given period in Israel's history and that the scenes in this drama are presented chronologically.
I have difficulty seeing how we can claim that the author of SoS created an intertextual masterpiece involving many aspects of God's relationship with Israel/mankind and yet argue that the author then randomly cobbled the song's scenes together without any structure.
I suggest that the periods can be deduced, not only from key features within a given collage, but also from the phrases which serve to frame the scenes and indicate the sudden changes in action or setting. These "movements", I believe, mirror the vacillations in Israel's relationship with God.
The ancient allegorists where correct in this regard, just that their approach was often not well suited to deciphering the kaleidoscopic scenes themselves. That is where the intertextual approach has great potential; a potential already demonstrated in the works of Ellen Davis, Sister Edmée and André LaCocque.

I am hoping that Ellen Davis, or some of her students, will continue the work. Or perhaps you, the reader?


Romance, She Wrote: A Hermeneutical Essay on Songs of Songs
Romance, She Wrote: A Hermeneutical Essay on Songs of Songs
by Andre LaCocque
Edition: Paperback
Price: $26.00
20 used & new from $19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars EROS He Wrote, March 11, 2014
I have long been interested in Song of Songs (SoS) and came to the conclusion that the story reflects the history of the love affair between God and Israel. Although the stages in the story mirror, in my opinion, the various stages of God's relationship with Israel, within each of the story's scenarios there is not a "one-on-one" allegory. Rather, the author uses and reassembles words and motifs from that and related periods of Israel's history to create an exquisite montage to form beautiful and provocative descriptions of the lovers, their attire and surroundings. As Ellen Davis recently put it "the Song's most prominent literary feature is the extraordinarily high incidence of words and phrases that echo other parts of Scripture and yet in their creative reuse here become imbued with fresh and unexpected meaning."

Until recently, I thought I was the only one who had noticed this feature throughout SoS. Others have commented on sections of SoS, noticing, for instance, the high number of words used in describing the lover which come from passages describing the sacrificial system. Others have noticed the link between the Beloved's clothes and the materials used in the tabernacle, etc. I thought I was alone in believing that this collage or tapestry of words and themes from Israel's history is used throughout the work.

Recently, however, I stumbled across the work of Ellen Davis (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs) and that of André LaCocque who make the same point. The only difference is that they are skilled theologians and experts in the Hebrew language - I am not.

Both authors uncover a wealth of links between passages in SoS and the rest of Scripture. "Every passage in the Canticle refers to well-known Israelite traditions.."

****** In spite of the comments I am going to make on LaCocque's interpretation of the text below, I strongly recommend that the interested reader buy and compare the books by Davis and LaCocque for best potential benefit. I note that Davis, even though she disagrees with LaCocque's interpretation, has her students study both books together************

* LaCocque's Hermeneutics

The love of a man for a woman is used as an analogy of the love of God for Israel throughout the Old and New Testaments. Hence, when we see the same picture in SoS, the idea immediately comes to mind that the poet is also illustrating Israel's relationship with God. Ezekiel, for example, before he extends the analogy to highlight Israel's unfaithfulness to her God/husband, starts off in much the same vain as SoS. Ezekiel (16:6-14) describes her beauty, naked, and uses a collage of words/motifs from Israel's history to describe God's actions towards her when taking her out of Egypt and the "clothes" that he gives her. In SoS, I suggest we have much the same sort of collage, where Israel, a mare, is surrounded and eventually chased by Pharaoh's lusting stallions, while exiting Egypt she is given clothing, gold and jewellery (Exodus 3:20-22; 32:1-4) and lives in leafy tabernacles (Leviticus 23:40-43), etc.
[Deut 32 tells the same story using a different metaphor]

Ezekiel, given the disaster which had befallen his country, focusses on the spiritual adultery of the establishment which caused it. He and the Prophets point to a future time when the relationship will be re-established. In contrast, SoS focusses mainly on the romance with the troublesome periods largely, but not quite, expunged. SoS and the Prophets, in my opinion, dove-tail together to give the full picture.

LaCocque does not accept this view. Instead, he believes that the author of SoS is "putting out her tongue at the establishment" (including the Prophets), making fun of it. SoS is "a defiant, irrelevant, subversive discourse, which at times constitutes a satirical pastiche of prophetic metaphors and similes", a "quasi-blasphemous satire". LaCocque argues that the author of SoS is subverting (to seek to cause the downfall, ruin, or destruction of) the message of (much of the rest of) Bible, the opinions of the sexist Patriarchs and Prophets, and is instead praising Eros or "free love" independent of marital bonds and without societal license, a love "undisciplined", a "love without roof or rule".

Quoting Ricoeur, and describing Eros, he states that "it belongs to the nature of its demonism to threaten the institution - any institution, including marriage". Wherever there is this type of free love between any two humans, there is God (pg 66), he claims.
According to LaCocque, "what is shameful is not to make love with false gods, but not to make love" (pg 155).
Whatever has been attributed to God and His love for Israel is now attributed to human Eros. Eros enables us to enter God's Kingdom, it overcomes death and Hell...
One can see why LaCocque's view of SoS could indeed be described as "quasi-blasphemous".

LaCocque later, once or twice in the book, slips in words such as "commitment" (pg 107) or "exclusivity" (pg 207) when describing or comparing this "free love". So it is not as "undisciplined" and "free" as one might have assumed from the language used. LaCocque argues that "Gomer" was only expressing freedom (from her contractual commitment to her husband) "in a totally faithful attachment to her one lover".
Later, however, he lets slip that she had several lovers (pg 116).
So, commitment, in what form and to whom?

LaCocque uses the charged word "Eros" and the equally charged term "free love" to describe the love in SoS. However, Eros is a Greek word and is obviously not used in the Hebrew OT; nor is it used in the Greek LXX translation of SoS, as LaCocque acknowledges (pg 206 - 208); nor is it used in the NT. Surprisingly, LaCocque never really justifies this transference and he appears to have his own definition of "Eros" (page 16, foot note 32).

The Hebrew word used in SoS, "'ahab", can describe a wide range of forms of love, including sexual love. In the LXX it is translated by the Greek word "Agape", not "Eros". LaCocque chooses to stress his version of Eros. That coupled with the fact that only a few passages in the Old or New Testaments, as (re)interpreted by LaCocque (e.g. Ruth and Esther), can be construed to agree with his Eros "free love" hypothesis, it is therefore up to LaCocque to put forward a very strong case indeed.

LaCocque identifies the two keys to his hermeneutics on pages 34 and 35

* * Key no 1. SoS MUST be subverting the Prophets - because they encouraged the mistreatment of women.

LaCocque, quoting Weems' book "Battered Love", appears to agree with her that God is an evil wife-abuser and that the Prophets, male sexist pigs, side with this male god (sic) as he "strips his wife naked, exposes her pudenda for all to watch, beats her, humiliates her, exposes her to every outrage". According to LaCocque, it is evident that these "images reflect a real societal conception of man and woman" and are not just a (rather distorted version of the) metaphor used by the Prophets to shock the male establishment who are represented here as God's adulterous wife.

Quoting Weems again he states "the point of the marriage metaphor ... is to justify the violence and punishment the subordinate endures and to exonerate the dominant partner.."
"No woman..", he continues, "could condone such rhetoric that prophets and sages took for granted and justified.
The author of SoS MUST therefore be a woman protesting against the sexist prophets by taking their message and subverting it.

There are many things wrong with LaCocque's arguments. Starting with the relatively trivial last points first. LaCocque's theory assumes that the author of SoS is a woman. I don't necessarily disagree, but it is an assumption and it is an assumption made before he even discusses possible authorship. Later he concedes that that there is no conclusive evidence for his claim. One must be careful of assumptions, especially when we build assumptions on top of assumptions

He next assumes that no woman with a functioning brain could condone the claimed abuses perpetuated by God and human husbands, as presented and justified by the Prophets and others. However LaCocque himself refutes this assumption. He elsewhere pointed out that "it is not often enough noted that women have as great an interest in female chastity codes as men, and are often the greatest policers and enforcers of the code". ".. women as much as men (and sometimes a great deal more than their male companions) are censorious of `cheap women'.."

Now to the allegation that God's claimed abuse of Israel was used as an example to legitimize the abuse of one's wife. LaCocque, once again, refutes this himself, albeit half-heartedly and indirectly in a foot note; "note however, the reservations of Frymer-Kensky, who calls attention to the fundamental distinction between the all-powerful God in Israel's understanding and the limited range of human husbands' rights towards their wives" (pg 34, 35).
LaCocque is an expert on the Old Testament, he knows better than anyone the rules governing the treatment of wives and the rules regarding infidelity and divorce (Deut 24: 1-4). One can't, especially under these explicit circumstances, "ricochet" back (as he puts it) from God's alleged behaviour (more later) and try to argue that men were allowed at that time to strip their wives naked, expose them for all to watch, have them gang raped, etc.

Frymer-Kensky, in the referenced passage, made this point crystal-clear and blows LaCocque thesis out of the water. In doing so, she made some interesting points regarding such "ricocheting".
A man, once he had divorced his wife, could not remarry her, yet Jerimiah states that God will remarry Israel.
In Ezek 23, after Israel splits into two, God effectively ends up married to two "sisters", daughters of His initial "wife". One obviously can't "ricochet back" this aspect of the marriage/sexual metaphor (Lev 20:14).
God and the children of Israel with one day marry Zion, yet a man and his son were not allowed to lie with the same woman. Etc, etc.

At this point (pg 34) LaCocque throws into his argument (and moves on very quickly) the emotive passage in Judges 19 describing the disgusting behaviour at Gibeah of the Levite towards his concubine. LaCocque singles out the butchery by the Levite of his concubine's body (Jud 19: 29) and concludes that "there is not much progress towards gender equality!" However, as the next verse points out "Everyone who saw it was saying to one another, `Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Just imagine! We must do something!'"

Just because the Bible, or the New York Times, reports a crime does not make it OK. This passage is sandwiched between two verses which make the situation clear "in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit". Both Levites (in this chapter and in chapter 17, the stories are linked by the subversive author of Judges) behaved atrociously within their respective contexts. Just about everything they, and everyone else involved did was wrong. The Judges did not judge or act correctly in either of the cases, as the passages show. Hence the clearly identified need for God himself to rule Israel as King (1 Sam 8: 6-22) - instead they eventually end up with Solomon (more later).
[At least the tribes wanted to execute the rapists; over 40 thousand of them died trying]

LaCocque, a specialist on Biblical "subversion" and OT Hebrew, should have noted the author's deliberate parody of Gen 19 in describing the Levite's vile behaviour and the depravity to which the people had descended (e.g. "The Triumph of Irony in the Book of Judges" by Lillian R. Klein).
The other tribes in this story sin in not checking out the Levite's version of events (which was deliberately inaccurate to hide his own terrible behavior towards his concubine) and in not checking with God at the very start. [They also sin in not dealing at all with the spiritually parallel behaviour of other Levite (chapt 17) and the tribe of Dan (Deut 13: 12-15)].
As a consequence, they are also punished, losing more men in their war than the tribe of Benjamin they sought to punish.

Before dealing in detail with the claim that God abused his wife Israel and thus set this terrible example for human husbands, let's first look at Hosea's example towards Gomer which was to illustrate God's dealings with Israel.

Did Hosea, one of the vilified Prophets, following God's orders/example, strip his wife naked, expose her for all to watch, have her gang raped, etc.?
NO, the allegation is obviously false, on all levels. It could not be further from the facts. As LaCocque states elsewhere (pg 39) "Gomer will never be stripped naked" - at least not by Hosea.

Hosea let his wife go with her lovers and, as a result of her actions, she was exploited and did indeed end up in servitude. Hosea mustered up as much money as he had (15 shekels of silver), half the price of a female slave, and topped it up with all he had in kind (barley) to buy back his wife. God did the same, Messiah being valued and sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zech 11:12-14; Matt 26: 15), hence the illustration.

There is a fundamental problem with metaphors which involves taking them beyond their limits, as LaCocque acknowledges elsewhere is his book. One obviously can't apply all aspects of a human relationship (the metaphor "vehicle" or "source") to God's relationship with Israel (the metaphor's "tenor" or "target"). Metaphors only apply to the aspects being compared in the context.
Additionally, a metaphor "allows some freedom to depart from the rules that apply to the domain of the vehicle". As we saw above, one can't "ricochet back" all aspects of God's relationship with Israel and apply them to human relationships. If I try to explain to my grandson the concepts of motorways and service stops using his wooden toys, one obviously can't "ricochet back" that he needs to tax and insure his toys and periodically fill them with petrol.

God is not a man and does not take his "wife" Israel down to the local H&M store to buy her clothes and to the local supermarket to buy her food. God provides for his "wife" by protecting her from her enemies and blessing her crops. Modern Israel is, I suggest, a good though not perfect illustration. Enemies surround her who would exterminate her if they could. Miraculously, against all odds, they cant. Not only that, modern Israel has been blessed in business and agriculture. What would happen if God suddenly removed his protection?

When a man divorces his adulterous wife he does not strip her and have her (gang) raped by her boyfriend(s) - how could he? She and they will continue to have sex without his involvement.
Instead he stops paying for her clothes and food, as per the Law (Deut 24: 1-4). Her new husband/lover takes over that responsibility. In God's case however, when he removes his protective care, her harvest blessings cease and she is effectively left "naked", unprotected, vulnerable to attack from surrounding enemies, her assumed allies/lovers. In this case the human husband-wife metaphor breaks down.

"Expose your nakedness" in this context is conveniently explained for us so that there can be no confusion and faulty extrapolation or "ricocheting" by LaCocque of a metaphor. Gen 42:9, 12 shows that one of its figurative meanings is when a nation's defenses etc. are exposed/removed and hence vulnerable to attack, "exposed part, where it is unfortified, easy of access."

If LaCocque really wants to "ricochet back" aspects of God's behavior towards Israel and apply them to human relationships, he could consider the following legitimate example. In the Patriarchal society it was felt that a man had to divorce his wayward wife, otherwise it was assumed that he was a pimp or complicit in some other way in her behavior (a "co-addict" in modern parlance) - see the planned actions of righteous Joseph (Matt 1:19). In contrast, God (and Hosea), delays/pleads as long as possible and eventually forgives his wife and takes her back. In fact, to be able to remarry her and not break the law, God (in the form of Messiah) had to die to enable the new marriage covenant. Not at all the gruesome picture LaCocque painted.

It is interesting to note that LaCocque later claims, in contradiction to the above, that the much maligned prophets' comments were just exaggerations "ab absurdo", never to be taken literally. "Israel will never be rejected ... the covenant will never be cancelled for unfaithfulness ... Never ever will God lay his people bare for everyone around to see her shame." (pg 39).
So why then did LaCocque just build his case for a subversive SoS author on this?

* * Key no 2. SoS MUST be subverting the Prophets - because they made people feel guilty, especially women

LaCocque has a second key reason for believing that SoS is a subversive attack on the Prophets and most of the Scriptures. In his mind the prophets, in calling the people to repentance, powerfully contributed to promoting a sense of guilt. He believes that the anti-Semitic assertion that guilt and shame are a "Jewish" teaching is not without substance and formed one of the main rationales behind the Nazi annihilation of the Jews.

I can see why the Bible's teaching on, and definition of, sin and repentance could conflict with LaCocque's mission to promote free love outside of all boundaries. LaCocque, speaking through the writer of SoS, somewhat begrudgingly concedes that "guilt before God is perhaps theologically sound; so is the need for repentance". However, it is effectively to be discarded as, according to him, it has resulted in one group being designated as so much guiltier than another group and this latter group may feel exonerated in comparison. A very interesting sidestep. We are not to talk about guilt and repentance because it may have been arguably one-sided in the past.

LaCocque then alleges that "sin is universal, but, according to a prevalent patriarchal interpretation, the initiative in evildoing is Eve's; the naÔve Adam is dragged into it by his cunning wife". Unfortunately, the relevant "prevalent patriarchal interpretation", which the author of SoS was fighting against, is not identified. The only person who argued this in Scripture, as far as I can find, is Adam himself, and in so doing he tried to blame God for giving him Eve (Gen. 3:12). God would have none of it, nor did any other writer in Scripture - the blame was firmly laid on Adam's shoulders; it was Eve who was naÔve and fooled, Adam sinned deliberately. The maligned Prophets did not blame Eve.

According to LaCocque (Gen 3:16), a consequence of sin is that women sexually desire their husbands and, as a result, this gives men power over these poor lusting women (pg 37). "The woman's Desire becomes the man's Dominion" (pg 48). I suggest that, apart from being a rather outlandish male fantasy, this is a misinterpretation of the words "desire" and "rule" as used in Genesis. Their meanings are explained in Gen 4:7, a parallel passage. Sin's Desire certainly did not become Cain's Dominion.
[Later in the book (pg 156), LaCocque indicates that he is in fact aware of the meaning of the Hebrew word for desire in these texts and its negative connotations.]

Surprisingly, LaCocque, in places, appears to believe that the "original sin" in Genesis was sex. In the "Genesis myth", he states, "what is coveted is `to become like a god' ... through sexual knowledge put on a par with wisdom" (pg 159). In other places he appears to repudiate this suggestion, .. "human guilt, if any, does not belong to the sexual order, in spite of a perennial interpretation of the Genesis myth by moralists of all times" (pg 116).

At any rate, LaCocque would have us believe that the Prophets, and probably most of the Bible, were anti-sex; they were repressed and repressive. The author of SoS was rebelling against this repression. "Canticle 4 describing female nudity in ecstatic terms starkly contracts with the uniformly negative prophetic evocations. Canticle 4 is the only place where naked woman is praised and admired without restriction (pg 36)"

Wrong. Gen 2: 21-25; Ezek 16: 6-14; Prov 5: 18-19! Note in Ezek 16:7, her developing naked body is described as "ornament of ornaments", a superlative (much like "Song of Songs") of grace and beauty. The Bible, including the Prophets, talks very favorability about female naked beauty, and the pleasures of sex - after all, God designed it and said it was good.
However, LaCocque tries to make us believe that only the author of SoS " magnifies .. nature, courtship, eroticism, all things that prophets and sages found objectionable" (pg 56). He then lists supposedly conflicting passages that show the Prophets frowning on aspects of the good old sex and sensuality described in SoS. However, upon inspection, the Prophets are condemning spiritual and/or physical adultery, not great sex in marriage. Yes, the Prophets don't agree with LaCocque's "free love", but he can't misrepresent them in this way.

Much later, after he has "established" his hermeneutical approach in the Introduction, LaCocque eventually concedes that "Israel's sages glorify gender relations only when they occur within the bonds of legitimated unions (cf. Prov 5.15-20; 30.19)" (pg 192). So, those old puritans do actually "glorify gender relations" after all, albeit within marriage. They just don't glorify LaCocque's "free love".

LaCocque elsewhere (in fact earlier on pg 17) admits that Israel was in fact sexually "remarkably well adjusted" throughout its history. Here he concludes that SoS must have been a protest against a mentality prevailing only when SoS was written - during the late second Temple period, according him. He postulates that it was a protest against only a few people in the establishment during this period, in an effort by the author of SoS to return things to the happier, well-adjusted state that prevailed in earlier times (when Genesis and the maligned Prophets were written and read?).
How then can he argue later that the early writings of Genesis and the Prophets were sexually very negative and that their "images reflect a real (negative) societal conception of man and woman"? Were they sexually well-adjusted at the time or were they not? Was the problem with the Prophets and their peers or was it with people who (much) later chose to misrepresent their metaphors? If the latter, why does he vilify the Prophets?
His arguments appear to be somewhat contradictory and circular. SoS MUST be a protest against a male sexist establishment because there must have been a few male sexists at the time that SoS was written.

Etc., etc., etc..

LaCocque's hermeneutical approach is based on his assumption that the author of SoS is trying to promote free love and subvert the rest of Scripture with its claimed negative view of sex. The proof for his hermeneutical approach is his presupposition that it is so.
Ellen Davis expresses this diplomatically by stating that "it is evident how important is the element of subjective judgment".

* General Comments
The problem in all this, getting back to the subject in hand, is that the Prophets were largely ignored, insignificant, irritating "little runts" taking on the power of the "prevalent patriarchal" establishment; they were not part of it. They were not giants of the establishment attacking poor individual defenseless women, but fleas lambasting the elephantesque establishment with nothing more than their mouths and metaphors.
True Prophets only told what God instructed them to say (1 Kings 22:14). False prophets, on the other hand, told the establishment and the people what they wanted to hear (Judges 18: 4-6; 2 Sam 7: 1-3; 1 Kings 1: 11-14, 24-27; 22:6, 23) and were very popular.

The Prophets are the "subversives" (by that I mean "critics") of the "prevalent patriarchal" establishment "par excellence". LaCocque wants us to believe that SoS is trying to subvert these banes of the establishment.
LaCocque does later acknowledge that "in the Bible we do also find a subversive literature of protest against reactionary complacency at oppression of foreigners, women, and disfranchised classes of the population" (pg 58). YES, we find that in the Prophets (Isa. 1:21-23; 10:1-2; Jer. 7:4-8; Ezek. 22:6-7, 25, 29) and in other writings that LaCocque so maligns.

The Prophets fight against the leaders, including the Priesthood, for the rights of the underdog. In some cases the Prophets attack the way husbands treated their wives (Mal 2:13-16). Ironically, Hosea (9:9; 10:9), who is much maligned by LaCocque as being one of the sexist pigs, specifically condemns all of the behavior by the "prevalent patriarchal" establishment described in Judges 17 to 21, not (just) the tribe of Benjamin but also that of the Northern tribes who punished them, Ephraim in particular (9:9). Micah, with his false gods and renegade Levite (Judges 17), and the despicable Levite (Judges 19) were both from Ephraim.

What LaCocque fails to grasp, I suggest, is that Scripture in general is "subversive" (i.e. "critical") of Israel's powers-that-be, they are all "singing from the same hymn sheet". SoS is subtly critical of them, the Prophets are more up-front.

For example, LaCocque rightly points out that SoS is disparaging of Solomon. So is the rest of Scripture. In the NT, Solomon is compared unfavourably with the "lilies of the field" - echoes of SoS!?
In SoS, LaCocque (and others) noticed that the sections describing Solomon emphasize crass wealth whereas SoS emphasizes relationship, "money can't buy me love" (SoS 8:6,7). However, the rest of Scripture says the same thing (e.g. 1 Kings 9:6 - 9).
[see "Subversive Scribes and the Solomonic Narrative: A Rereading of 1 Kings 1-11" by Eric A. Seibert. Perfect Title!.
An even better book is "Berit Olam: 1 Kings" by Jerome T. Walsh].

LaCocque is puzzled that in SoS, Solomon is crowned by his mother (pg 101). Close study of "subversive" 1 Kings 1 shows that David was conned into crowning Solomon as his promised heir (who was promised to appear AFTER David was dead, 2 Samuel 7:12). It is now clear why David had not appointed a successor up to then. He was conned by the Prophet Nathan, not known for accurately representing God, and, in particular, by Bathsheba. As a result, David, whom we are repeatedly told "knows nothing" (LaCocque describes him as "senile", (pg 145)), is surprised and thankful that God has generously "let him live to see the promised one sitting on his throne today" (1Ki 1:48). He could have seen Solomon on his throne any day if, as claimed, he already knew that Solomon was to be his successor and had promised this to Nathan/Bathsheba. David obviously hadn't indicated to Nathan who would succeed him (verse 27), nor had God. God did nothing special that day, the Prophet Nathan and Bethsheda did.

LaCocque points out the parallel between SoS 3:7-10 and Solomon building the Temple complex, however, he misses an additional "subversion" by the author in SoS 3:9 which states that that Solomon "made (all this) for himself". Think about it. David got a brand new beautiful palace - courtesy of the King of Tyre (a Biblical Bogey man - one of the "lovers" who ends up assisting in the rape of Israel (Amos 1:9)). David, generally a good guy, feels guilty and wants to build God a nice home. God said no, repeatedly; He does not want to live in a gold box, He prefers tents so that He can move around with His people. "But" (says "subversive" Stephen just before being stoned to death for saying so (Acts 7:46-50)) Solomon goes ahead anyway, and, to crown it all, builds himself a brand-new, mega Palace complex, even better than the Temple he built for God. But wait a minute; Solomon already had a new Palace....
The poor guy even had to build yet another palace for his favorite wife, the daughter of Pharaoh (another Biblical Bogey man, a "lover" who was harboring Solomon's enemy (1 Kings 11:14-22)), as she was not spiritual enough to live in David's Palace (2 Chron 8:11). So why, immediately upon becoming king, did he "make himself Pharaoh's son-in-law" (1 Kings 3:1), as the subversive scribe puts it in the original? Alarm bells? Pharaohesque Solomon in effect causes his people to return to Egypt and to their bondage (Deut 17:14-20).

The point I am making is that just about all of Scripture is "subversive" of Israel's Kings (especially of Solomon) and of "the establishment", not just SoS. They are the ones who are attacked and held responsible for Israel's woes, future and past, not poor individual women.

* Conclusion
In reviewing "Le Cantique des Cantiques" by Robert, Tournay and Feuillet, a book he appears to cite in particular (worth buying?), LaCocque concluded "I think that it mobilizes a formidable scholarship to establish the validity of an erroneous thesis".

Regrettably, I conclude the same regarding LaCocque's Subversive "Eros" thesis (you probably gathered that by now!).
I bought the book to study his inter-textual insights; his other opinions were initially of little interest. Lots of people believe SoS is about love and sex, they are right. However, I was really totally surprised by the logic shown in the Introduction in establishing the key points underpinning his hermeneutics. I had great difficulty getting past the Introduction.

Who am I to disagree with such a renowned Biblical scholar? I am puzzled.

[Update: I note that the late Paul Ricoeur, world renowned philosopher and hermeneutic phenomenologist, much quoted by LaCocque and coauthor with LaCocque of the book "Thinking Biblically", does not agree with LaCocque's "sexual subversion" theory. He takes LaCocque to task on several of the points above.
Its not just me then.]

The good news, of course, is LaCocque's formidable scholarship and inter-textual insights. I therefore recommend the book for those.
It is to be regretted that he opted NOT to give a systematic treatment of the Canticle but chose instead to highlight, here and there, passages he believed illustrated the author's subversion of the rest of Scripture. However, he does cover a lot of ground nonetheless.

There still remains a need for a systematic treatment of SoS taking into account this "inter-textual" dimension. Hopefully, LaCocque and/or Davis will produce one soon so I can depart in peace (Luke 2:29).


Fellow Heirs: Jews & Gentiles Together in the Family of God
Fellow Heirs: Jews & Gentiles Together in the Family of God
by Tim Hegg
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from $4.49

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as expected., January 10, 2013
Interested in finding out more about "one Law" Messianic beliefs, I ordered this book and "One Law for All: From the Mosaic Texts to the Work of the Holy Spirit" by J.K. McKee. As McKee's book was in Kindle format, I received it first. However, I decided to wait for Hegg's book (he is the more senior and widely published of the two) and read it first.

Although I am aware from the internet that Hegg, it is claimed, suffers from the occasional theological "senior moment" or logical lapse, I have so-far liked the various publications I downloaded of his. I don't agree with everything he says, however he appears to be an original thinker and I find that stimulating. Arguably Hegg is a less mainstream version of Peter Leithart, the latter generates more original/intriguing ideas per square inch than you would normally get in a complete book; even if you end up disagreeing with 25 to 50% of his suggestions you are better off and your mind has been stretched in the process - assuming that you do not mind reading something that you occasionally disagree with. Hegg's alleged "logical lapses" are probably examples of him being a bit too innovative with the text.

I was therefore very disappointed with "Fellow Heirs" when Hegg failed to engage key passages (unlike McKee who meets them head on, to his credit) and tended to fudge the issue, hiding in vagueness and using "Argument by Repetition" (repeating an argument or a premise over and over again in place of supporting evidence). I was initially at a total lose to understand his tortuous approach and his many sudden and surprising changes in direction when he had just started an interesting/promising subject.

After much rereading of the text and reading other articles by Hegg on this area, I came to the realisation that Hegg's zigzaging and (non) presentation and ordering of the facts makes sense when you understand his underlying belief - though that should not have influenced his systematic presentation of Scripture (as per the claims made in the introduction of the book). He believes that in the NT, when Paul forbids adult circumcision, Paul is NOT forbidding adult circumcision per se (and other Torah observances) but rather the unbiblical (according to Hegg) Rabbinic conversion ritual (involving circumcision) which it was claimed turned the proselyte into a Jew. The fact that Paul is talking to people who are already converts and that he bans circumcision, "period", without any of Hegg's nuances, does not appear to discourage Hegg in his belief - one of the reported "logical lapses".

Hegg therefore has to convince the reader that

1 Circumcision was not associated with conversion/assimilation of Gentiles in the OT.

Hegg tackles the importance of circumcision in the OT by simply ignoring all of the key OT texts discussing this subject (e.g. Exod 12), at least in the early chapters until he has "convinced" the reader by repetition that conversion involving circumcision was a recent "Rabbinic" invention. "Of course, the scriptures nowhere contain a ritual of conversion, since this was a later rabbinic innovation."

Hegg does make a promising start in Chapter 1 with a presentation of the OT's use of the term "Ger" to describe Gentiles living within the Israel who can have varying degrees of integration (only to drop it rather abruptly, leaving lots of aspects unexplored). This section is very useful for further study and the footnotes list the various passages involved. Hegg concludes that "in the end, the term ger can only be interpreted within its immediate context. Accompanying words often help to determine the precise meaning of the word, which may denote either a foreigner passing through Israel, a foreigner who has taken up permanent residence in Israel, or a foreigner who has joined Israel as a covenant member".

Although no expert, I have deduced 3 similar, very broad categories.

a) One group, let's call them group A (Dt. 14:21), who were free to eat meat which was prohibited to those in groups B and C below. These people appear to have been Gentiles who just happened to be in the land with no/little interest in "Judaism".

b) Group B, lived among the "Jews" as Gentiles and had to observe the same 4 regulations (Lev 17: 8, 10, 12, 13, 15; 18:26 ) as those mentioned in Acts 15.

c) A more integrated group, group C, were circumcised, obeyed the same laws as the "Jews" and were allowed to partake of the Passover etc. (Ex. 12: 48, 49). They were Gentiles who had converted to Judaism, were bound to all the doctrines and precepts of the Jewish economy, and were considered full members of the Jewish people.
McKee, for example, quotes this key Scripture and states "a ger, a sojourner who joins himself to Israel, was required to be circumcised if he were to keep the Passover. If he were circumcised, then not only could he eat the Passover, but upon declaring his faith in the God of Israel, would be considered as though he were a native of the Land .. (Exodus 12:48). On the basis of this verse, Judaism derived its formal practices for conversion as one converting to Judaism must be physically circumcised."

A Gentile who wanted to participate in the Passover was effectively identifying Israel's exodus-history as his own.
McKee appears to believe that it was the first Passover observance (with the prerequisite circumcision) that was key to a Gentile fully joining the people of God - like how baptism and confirmation/first Communion are seen, in some denominations, as bestowing full membership upon the recipient.

The key point is that in the OT there did indeed exist some form of basic "ritual" (definition: "a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order") associated with full Gentile integration into the people of God. Hegg in "Circumcision as a Sign: The Theological Significance" refers to circumcision repeatedly as a ritual. If a Ger had to undergo circumcision to be able to participate in the Passover and be included in the covenant (see below), then obviously the Gentile did indeed have to undergo some form of ritual of conversion/integration involving circumcision.

Hegg does not study Exod 12 until later in the book (Chapter 4), after he has "convinced" us that circumcision, as part of a Gentile's "conversion", was purely a Rabbinic invention and "hence" unBiblical. "There is no indication whatsoever that a ritual of conversion existed in the time of Moses".. etc. He does state that only after the Ger and his family "are marked as covenant members" (i.e. circumcised) can they observe the Passover "as one whose ancestors were redeemed from Egypt" - yet he argues in the same breath that circumcision is not a means of entering the covenant and that "there is no change in heredity".

However, Hegg has elsewhere (Circumcision as a Sign: The Theological Significance) argued that "this sign or mark (circumcision) speaks so clearly to the heart of the covenant that it may stand as a metonym for the covenant itself .. `and it (circumcision) will be my covenant in your flesh for an eternal covenant'. The text is very clear that INCLUSION IN THE COVENANT IS DEPENDENT UPON THIS ACT OF CIRCUMCISION: to circumcise is to accept the covenant, to not circumcise results in being cut off .. ".
Note Hegg also applies this to BEING circumcised as well as to circumcisING one's children.

According to Hegg, therefore, and scripture, you cant be part of the Covenant and not be circumcised, it is a "rite of passage".

2 Conversion involving circumcision was a Rabbinic invention.

Hegg seeks to convince the reader of this by repetition, repetition, repetition throughout the book.

He concludes chapter 2 by stating that "the proselyte ceremony is not ancient, but a later invention. As Schiffman notes: `Y. Kaufman is PROBABLY CORRECT in ASSUMING that there COULD NOT have been an institution for religious conversion at this time [pre-Maccabean]. ACCORDING TO HIM, conversion was originally accomplished by attachment to the land and collective fate of the people of Israel'".

Someone's reported assumption forms the basis for Hegg's belief system.

Interestingly, Hegg runs into a problem trying to prove that in Rabbinic Hebrew new words were invented, based on the term ger, to denote to "become a proselyte", "to make a Jew" etc. The latter, hityahad, however occurs in Esther 8.17 showing that the concept of a ritual of conversion existed during the Persian area. The LXX helpfully clarifies the text by translating it as "were circumcised".

However, Hegg, although he pointed out the above facts, argues that it could mean that the Gentiles "sided with the Jews" or "pretended to be Jews" .. in fact any alternative explanation to the clear statement in Scripture. Not only has Hegg not dealt (yet, we are in Chapter 2) with the key scriptures, has not established that circumcision was a "recent" Rabbinic conversion invention, he is even arguing against the clear meaning of the facts he has chosen to present to "support" his case.

3 In the OT, conversion did not involve Gentiles becoming "Jews".

Hegg claims that Gentiles remained Gentiles, foreigners although they were partakers in the Covenants. ".. nor do the Scriptures ever suggest that when one attaches himself to Israel or to the God of Israel, his ethnic status changes. Thus, the `ritual of conversion' was a rabbinic idea, not a biblical one".

Hegg does however point out that, for example, the mixed multitude which left Egypt (Exod 12:38), descendants of Israel accompanied by foreigners who were obviously sufficiently keen to join with the former and march through the desert, i.e. "proselytes", was later collectively designated the "Children of Israel" (Exod 12:51). That these circumcised (Joshua 5.5) Gentiles are described as "Children of Israel" appears awesome to me and shows that they experienced some form of ethnic/national change in status, no matter what Hegg elsewhere claims to the contrary.

CONCLUSION

Hegg is a free thinker and generates many original ideas. That can be refreshing, I came across several good suggestions in the book and some that I am still mulling over. I mentioned Peter Leithart earlier. I note that many people feel very strongly about Leithart's sometimes questionable suggestions. In Leithart's case, I find his suggested similarities, say, between Solomon's Temple and the Church harmless, even if I eventually disagree with them. However, when Leithart engages his freethinking on NT topics, doctrine, rules of living etc then I have to agree with his critics that such artistic license with scripture can be very dangerous and irresponsible.

Unfortunately Hegg's innovations concern, for the most part, fundamental doctrine. Scripture warns that teachers will be judged more severely. I therefore suggest EXTREME CAUTION in advocating that a Gentile believer should be circumcised given that Scripture appears to stress that people who teach such things should castrate themselves (Galatians 5:12), calls them by such unflattering names as dogs, evil doers, "false circumcision", etc. (Phil 3), calls their teaching a "different gospel" and says that they are accursed (Gal 1:6-9). I believe that Hegg's grounds for this belief are not sufficiently convincing to justify the risk.

In my opinion, J.K. McKee's book on the One-Law, from what I have read so far, is a better defence of the One-Law position.

ADDENDUM
I have never really understood why Paul/scripture gets so het up about this matter. It is repeatedly stated that circumcision, food etc are totally irrelevant. If someone, the weaker brother (sorry, not my words), feels that they are important and does them unto God then it is ok, God looks at the heart (Rom 14). At worst therefore they are harmless.

However, the seriousness of this issue finally dawned on me today while reading Ambrosiaster's (4th century) comments on Philippians 3. We are filled with the very nature of God. We are supposed to be totally emptied of ourselves and indwelt/filled with God's Holy Spirit, "remote controlled" by God to do his work at any/every instant. Not only guided, this nature transplant is to change us into the image of God's Son and to empower us, we are to evolve into millions of Christ-like Christians, literally, changing the world.. imagine!!.
[Perhaps it is just a question of emphasis, but in the books/correspondence I have read so far by "One-Lawers" the full significance of the revolutionary nature of the New Covenant and the Body of Christ, the living Temple of God, appears to have been missed. One gets the impression that the NC is just a continuation of the Old Covenant with the SAME set of instructions (Torah, Mosaic in this case) somehow printed on one's heart, the latter element being the only difference. Exactly the same contract, just written on different material. Hopefully I am wrong].

Paul therefore concluded that everything/anything else is worthless in comparison with the paramount goal (Phil 3: 8) of truly knowing Christ, being IN Him and experiencing His power operating through us. Not only is circumcision, food, etc., totally irrelevant, if they take our eye of the real goal then they are a snare used by Satan to con us. Instead of focussing on the key goal, we have been diverted to focus on the irrelevant. Even if of themselves they are "harmless", we have lost the battle.

Be circumcised and keep the Mosaic Torah if you like, but the moment we focus on such things, teach others they have to do so and believe that we are "better" for doing so and that others are sinning for not doing so (Rom 14.3), our "harmless" behaviours (there are many others we all use to feel "more spiritual" than others - praying in old English, the Bible version we use,..) are not only totally irrelevant, but a successful ploy keeping us from focussing on what God really intends for us to do/be in Christ (Gal 5) - and of course a cause of discord in the Body, destroying the mission of the Church (back to Acts 15). This way of thinking is worldly. No wonder Paul got so agitated.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2014 10:25 AM PST


The Distortion: 2000 Years of Misrepresenting the Relationship Between Jesus the Messiah and the Jewish People
The Distortion: 2000 Years of Misrepresenting the Relationship Between Jesus the Messiah and the Jewish People
by John Fischer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.99
36 used & new from $3.88

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Time to improve on this commendable first effort, July 10, 2012
The book appears to have been (hurriedly?) produced in 2004 to counter the offence to Jews caused by the release of Mel Gibson's film "the Passion" earlier the same year. This fact helps explain the book's positive and negative features.

It is a good, albeit superficial (very short book), overview of anti-Semitism over the millennia and I can imagine that it would have been effective when handed out shortly after the film. As time has passed since the film, the book would need to be revamped and refocused. The message is still important; it's just that the film should now be less of a primary target. People now do not really need a detailed description of Gibson's choice of headgear for the Temple guards or of the lighting and size of the rooms in Herod's Temple.

In rewriting the book, the authors could expand on the material in the other chapters. These were presumably rather rushed in producing the book to counter the film and tend to lack any real depth. Most chapters are short, interesting overviews of the material without much critical analysis by the authors who have doctorates and appear to lecture in seminaries. I am sure that they could do better given more time. The material presented is interesting, its just that they simply document several key points, for example in the history of Christian anti-Semitism, without trying to explain the how and why. The authors however claimed in the introduction that they would explain how it happened - unfortunately they didn't in this edition.

Racists have often argued that as the "Jews killed Jesus, we are entitled to kill the Jews". The authors' response to this is to conclude that "vicious, cruel Pilate .. was responsible for his (Jesus') death, not the Jewish people". Although very PC and a worthy effort at countering racism, such a superficial treatment of the matter would, I suggest, be easily dismissed by a racist. A fuller, better reasoned argument is given, for example, by Tony Pearce in an article called "Who Killed Jesus" on his Bridgelane website (as a result, I have just bought one of his books). As I have already stated, what the authors are trying to do is very laudable, they should now take time to more fully develop the various chapters and points they make.

I very much enjoyed chapter 7, "God's Master Plan for Humanity", which outlines God's plans throughout the old Testament to eventually bring in salvation in the person of the (Jewish) Messiah. Unfortunately the chapter peters out at the crucial part (for me, at least) dealing with the relationship between the old and new covenant and between the Jewish nation and the Church. I largely bought the book in the expectation that these key issues would be explained.

My working hypothesis (I have not really studied this area) is that the Church suddenly found itself, unfortunately, as the state religion, attracting very unspiritual people who were motivated by power and politics rather than being "born again" spiritually. In a position of power, the Church (or Christendom, emphasis on the "dumb") got to imagining that the promised Kingdom of God had arrived on earth and that they had therefore replaced God's people the Jews. Like any monarch who has usurped his brother's throne, he tends not to appreciate having his brother hanging around. Just a suggestion, based on my ignorance of Church history - hence my purchase of this book and my disappointment with its lack of depth in key areas (for me).

It is interesting to note that Satan's persecution of the Jews did not end with the (first) coming of the Messiah; in fact, he continued to seek their annihilation (even using the Church), indicating that his task was not over and that God's plan still revolves around the Jewish nation. The Church did not replace them. The NT (and OT) predict that He, Messiah, will indeed return for/to his people the Jews.

Although the authors do not really deal with these subjects, alarm bells did ring in my head when they stated that the new covenant COULD be called the "renewed" covenant and then proceeded to call it that. One assumes that they mean that it is the old covenant with a few additional "bells and whistles". However, Jeremiah 31. 31-32 clearly states that it is NOT the old covenant. I do not know, but I suspect that the authors may have a quirky (undisclosed) view of the new covenant.

A major shortcoming of the book, even if it was by necessity rushed to counter the effects of Gibson's film, is the academic sloppiness in the referencing of material. In several places they quote someone in the past as saying something anti-Semitic, only to reference a recent book rather than the original author. For example, Hitler is quoted as saying something in Mein Kampf and the reference is given as Dawidowicz 1976. In other words the authors did not check the original source to see if it was correct, they just repeated what someone else said. There are several instances of this sloppiness which, for academics, is equivalent to the "unpardonable sin". How can we expect the average person to research for themselves, stand up and question anti-Semitism rather than blindly follow what they are told, if the authors, teachers in Seminaries, don't bother to check their facts but blindly regurgitate what other recent authors have said? The authors' goal is very commendable, however, they must lead by example. Unfortunately, possibly as a consequence of such lack of academic rigour, many seminaries, the doctorates they bestow and the research they undertake are often looked down upon by the wider academic community.

It is time that the authors address the original edition's short comings and produce a more in-depth study of this vital subject area.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2015 10:30 PM PDT


Russian Bohemia
Russian Bohemia
DVD ~ Moscow Male Choir Conducted by Valery Rybin
Price: $24.95

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather Disappointed, December 31, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Russian Bohemia (DVD)
I bought this after trying in vain to find a DVD of the St. Petersburg Male Choir and on reading the earlier rave review for this DVD.

Unfortunately, I deduce the rave review refers largely/solely to one song on the DVD - that of the "The Kremlin Capella" singing the "The little bell". It is indeed outstanding. However sadly that is the only song they sing on the DVD.

The DVD is mainly based on the Moscow Male Choir Conducted by Valery Rybin. They are good and they sing a couple of good songs but, in my opinion, they are not as good as the St. Petersburg Male Choir.

It is my impression that the producers of this DVD had insufficient material of the Moscow Male Choir and decided to cobble together a range of other "Russian" material to produce a DVD on the cheap. Very fortunately they included "The little bell". They included footage of Russian people in the snow etc which is a nice touch.

In fact, having just done a bit of research on the internet, the producers (Storyteller productions) appear to make documentaries and one gets the impression that this compilation was made originally for TV and then put out as a DVD. The DVD starts with a male voice saying that "tonight we are going to present". I am guessing that the present DVD is a blend of two film/documentaries, one called "Russian Bohemia" (presumably containing the Moscow Male Choir material) and a second called "Secret Treasures of the Kremlin" (which appears to have included the exquisite Kremlin Capella song). This may help explain some of the DVD's features, or lack thereof. The producers point out that this is "more than a performance video (?), it is a rare opportunity to feel the pulse of this country". That is a more positive way of describing the DVD and its contents.

Further update, on YouTube StorytellerMedia state that the material is from their two documentaries Secret Treasures of the Kremlin and Russian Bohemia. I should have been a detective.

Even more recent update. StorytellerMedia have the whole of the DVD on YouTube under the title "Our World: Russian Bohemia" so you can judge the DVD for yourself before buying it.

The DVD looks very cheaply made, so much so that when I received it I checked my order to see if I had ordered a second hand copy - worse, it looked like a cheap rip-off copy. The box is very poor quality, as is the sleeve which looks like a simple photocopy and says very little on the DVD's contents and on the performers. No dates. Inside there is no booklet with further information. The DVD itself has no menu, so you can't pick the song you want to hear or set anything. Once started, you can't skip to the next song, so you have to listen to all of the choirs, including a few folksy groups, while waiting to get to the Kremlin Capella singing the "The little bell" or the couple of very good songs by the Moscow Male Choir. A thought just came to me - the mention of "video" on the sleeve possibly indicates that the material, rather old, was originally released on VHS and that they have released it without even changing the sleeve, just copying it. It also probably explains the poor picture quality in places.

Conclusion: If you really want to buy the DVD you can first watch it on YouTube (why would StoryTeller try to sell it while having it free on YouTube??). Otherwise, listen to The Kremlin Capella singing the "The little bell" on YouTube and, if you like it, download it from Amazon if you live in the US. It is the highlight of the DVD and is outstanding. I would also suggest that you listen to and buy a St Petersburg male choir CD - eg "The Male Choir of St. Petersburg". It has several outstanding songs - The Evening Bell; The Twelve Brigands; Do not reject me in my old age; Like a Nightingale in Flight; Eternal Counsel; The Repentant Thief; Steppe, Endless Steppe.. so good in fact that my wife had previously stated that she wanted "Evening Bell" played at her funeral, now she wants "The Little Bell". Lots of bells!!.

Suggestions to StoryTeller: Why charge so much (25 USD) for a poor quality DVD when you have the material on YouTube for free? Please improve the quality and give us more of the Kremlin Capella. Although variety of content is great in a documentary, its not so wonderful when you want to dim the lights, light a few candles and listen to truely wonderful music after a stressful day only to have to jump from your seat to quickly turn off/down the volume when the DVD suddenly changes to a (relatively) very loud Russian version of a thigh-slapping barn dance. Ruins the mood big time.
:-(
Another update. If like me you cant find the "Kremlin Capella" and any of their (other) material its because they are in fact (now) called "Capella of the Moscow Kremlin Museum" or similar. Hence check out the "Kremlin Museum" or similar searches to find their music
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2014 7:27 AM PST


The Principles and Practice of No Hands Massage: Zero-strain Bodywork
The Principles and Practice of No Hands Massage: Zero-strain Bodywork
by Gerry Pyves
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from $4.62

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars will whet your appetite for No Hands Massage but will not satisfy it, June 2, 2011
I thought very long and hard before writing this review. I found it hard to separate my views of the book, No Hands Massage and the author Gerry Pyves. Well, the review is supposed to be about the book, so here goes.
The book is a great disappointment. There, I said it. It will whet your appetite for No Hands Massage but will not satisfy it. I believe that is the purpose of the book.

Apparently there are over 70 techniques/strokes in No Hands Massage. Part 3 of the book, however, presents just 7 strokes, generally nothing very revolutionary/novel - rub down the back with one forearm, rub down the back with two forearms, etc. The strokes are neither well illustrated nor described. There is a single (nice) line drawing for each stroke, NO photos. [Note: (only) the same 7 or so line drawings are used extensively on all No Hands material]. The descriptions are rather brief and the chapters padded out under headings reflecting Mr Pyves' "Postural Principles" - `Hara', `flow', `falling', etc. Although some of this is relevant/interesting, much of it is largely irrelevant filler at the expense of more detailed descriptions and illustrations.

It is interesting to note that better material/illustrations do exist, just you are not going to get them in this book, you have to attend a course to get the informative material. "Each course includes a stunningly professional manual with full descriptions of strokes and subjects taught alongside studio photographs."
My impression is that Mr Pyves is a very astute business man. By revealing very little information on the techniques involved, you are forced to attend his courses. His organisation is very effective at broadcasting, free of charge, many booklets highlighting the problems facing massage therapists and glowing reports on NO Hands Massage, thus hyping up their potential market. In contrast to any other form of massage where you can search on youtube and get a very good idea of what is involved (try searching for Val Guin's forearm dance or Auth method of Massage, two comparable forms to No Hands Massage), you will search in vain for anything informative on No Hands Massage - just glowing testimonials from accredited pupils.

Back to the book. The first part, explaining how Mr Pyves discovered No Hands Massage and the problems experienced by therapists, you can get free of their internet site.

Part 2 deals with Mr Pyves' "Postural Principles". On the book cover, Mr Pyves "describes himself as a `maverick and a revolutionary'" and I have the impression he cultivates a Tai Chi Grandmaster persona. Harmless enough. However, this maverick oriental genius mystique, commented on by those who have attended his seminars, comes through in large doses in Part 2 of the book. There is much talk of earth and water elements, Chi, Chakras, energy draw up through the feet, etc. If this was a course for the general public one could argue that such pseudo-oriental claptrap was harmless enough. However, the No Hands Massage courses are apparently for qualified Massage Therapists - this does not give a good impression of the profession.

Just because something is old and foreign does not make it correct. For several thousand years we in the west also believed in our version of "energies". We believed that in the universe there were four elements - fire, air, water and earth - and that in the living body there were four corresponding humours - black bile, yellow bile, sanguine and phlegm. Excess, deficiency or a misproportion of these humours were believed to cause disease. By restoring the correct proportion, diseases were to be cured - funny enough this was achieved by lots of bloodletting (the other humours are rather difficult to access!!) as well as the use of enemas and purgatives. Fortunately, with an increased knowledge of anatomy and physiology, such hocus pocus was eventually discredited, though I note that Mr Pyves still talks about elemental Earth and Water.

The supreme irony, however, is that while we were ignorant and bleeding people to death, the Chinese were performing detailed human dissections where they carefully studied the body. These dissections helped Chinese physicians to discover the phenomenon of continuous blood circulation 2,000 years before it was discovered in the west.

Unfortunately, European non-medical translators of Chinese acupuncture texts, because of their medical ignorance, have obscured such advanced Chinese medical knowledge. De Morant, a French bank clerk, published an important treatise, "L'acuponcture Chinoise", that became the source for all of the textbooks used in western schools of Chinese medicine. He mistranslated the terms qi (he believed it was identical to the Hindu concept of prana) and took the word mai and incorrectly translated it by the French word "meridian". He did this in spite of the fact that there was no word for meridian in the ancient Chinese language. Almost all of the misunderstanding about Chinese medicine revolves around these mistranslations. "We've been told that Chinese medicine involves mysterious energy called "qi" circulating through invisible "meridians" in the body. When the flow of qi through our meridians becomes blocked, illness results". "The commonly accepted idea in the west that Chinese medicine is an energetic, metaphysical medicine was singlehandedly created by a French bank clerk with no training in medicine or ancient Chinese language." Just as there is little similarity between true Indian food and what passes for "Indian" in UK restaurants (called "British Indian Restaurant" food - which I like by the way), there is little similarity between true Chinese medicine and that bastardised in the West and regurgitated by Mr Pyves.

Back to the book. Although it could be argued that belief in this mis-translated, pseudo-oriental claptrap is harmless, even for accredited massage therapists; I find one statement in the book totally unacceptable - "bodyworkers who can feel each movement in the soles of their feet are so attuned and self-aware that it is virtually impossible to do harm either to themselves or to their clients". I heard practically the same thing during a course of (Western) "Chinese Massage". "If you care enough, you can't hurt the subject". One guy on the course had a broken back.

Conclusions.
* Don't buy the book until a better, more informative version, based on the course manual comes out.
* If you can, go on a course. Setting aside the opinions of No Hands Massage practitioners and disciples, the views of unbiased attendees is that the No Hands Massage is good, the instructors are excellent and that the courses are well organised. Their advice tends to be "ignore any cultish stuff"
* If like me, you can't go on a course, I suggest that while waiting for a better version of the book or a DVD on the subject, you buy DVDs on the Auth method of Massage and Val Guin's forearm dance


Therapeutic Chair Massage (LWW Massage Therapy and Bodywork Educational Series)
Therapeutic Chair Massage (LWW Massage Therapy and Bodywork Educational Series)
by Ralph Stephens
Edition: Paperback
Price: $54.64
101 used & new from $8.21

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent massage book, August 30, 2010
Although this is a book on chair massage, it is excellent as an introduction to massage in general and is one of the best massage books I have read.
I normally "cut to the chase" and skip all of the introductory chapters of verbiage to get to the "routines" or techniques. In this case I read the introductory chapters, got out my yellow highlighter and highlighted much of the text.
The book presents in detail the anatomy involved with the aid of fantastic LWW artworks and describes clearly and logically the purpose of the techniques used. Hence, rather than mindlessly using a "routine", the reader gets a clear understanding of what massage is (or should be) all about and is then free to massage the subject as appropriate. This is in contrast to much that I have read, seen on the web or even in massage classes. A really great book


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