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Brevard Childs, Biblical Theologian: For the Church's One Bible (Forschungen Zum Alten Testament 2.Reihe) Paperback – December 31, 2010
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From the Back Cover
"[Brevard Childs] staked out a position and vocation for biblical theology that is sure to reshape our common work and that will require intense engagement by any who dare take up the risk."
--Walter Brueggemann, Theology Today
"Childs inspired a generation of pastors and professors to begin reclaiming the Bible for the church."
--Stephen B. Chapman, Christian Century
Brevard Childs, one of the monumental figures in biblical interpretation in the last half-century, is a founding presence in the current resurgence in theological interpretation of Scripture. He combined critique of biblical scholarship with a constructive proposal related to the canon. Because his work is influential, complex, and contested, it needs and merits clarification. In this full-scale explication of Childs' thought, Daniel Driver takes account of the complete corpus of Childs' work, providing a thorough introduction to the context, content, and reception of his canonical approach.
"The search for a fresh paradigm for a biblical theology resumed with new seriousness in the 1950s, and few scholars contributed more frequently and extensively to this debate than Brevard Childs. . . . This detailed critique by Driver explores the historical course of the debate, provides a comprehensive bibliography of the most relevant sources, including important reviews, and traces as closely as possible the points that have aroused sharpest contention. The result is a book that is indispensable in showing why, since World War II, historical and theological approaches to the Bible have found it difficult to establish a common ground. . . . It will certainly remain an essential work of reference for a while to come."
--R. E. Clements, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament
"Driver is successful in providing the reader with the necessary background for Childs' theological training, the controversy held in various academic circles throughout America and Europe, and later developments in contemporary scholarship stemming from Childs' contribution to the field of Old Testament studies. . . . This study is by all means a milestone in the contemporary discussion of Childs and his contribution to the study of Scripture."
--Igal German, Theological Book Review --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Daniel R. Driver, Born 1979; 2002 BA in English Literature at Wheaton College (IL); 2009 PhD in Divinity at St Mary's College, University of St Andrews (UK); since 2008 Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Old Testament at Tyndale University College in Toronto.
Top customer reviews
I give this work four stars rather than five only because it still reads too often like a dissertation. The author feels a need to cover all the bases and to deal with all the critics and sometimes, as in his elaborate discussion of Gunkel, digresses, even if what he writes is of interest for its own sake.
To sum up: No one who is inclined to speak, teach, or write about Brevard Childs can afford to ignore this important book.
After surveying Childs' life and the history of the canon debate, Driver divides his analysis into three main parts. In part one, Driver gives a sort of reception history of Childs' work both in English and German contexts. In part two, he exposits Childs' canonical approach itself and examines its internal coherence. According to Driver, Childs makes two major shifts or turns in his career. The first is Childs' movement from a focus on "form" to a focus on "final form." In part three, Driver examines the second major shift in Childs' career, which relates to his reflection on the relationship between the Testaments. Childs' concern in this area is to affirm that Christ is the subject (the res) that both the Old and New Testaments witness to in their own discrete voices. After providing a test case for the issues raised throughout his discussion (on the scope of Psalm 102), Driver concludes with an epilogue that surveys recent work on the canon and suggests its relevance to Childs' approach.
One of the consistent criticisms of Childs is that he is inconsistent and that his approach is in need of reconstructive surgery. This perception was encouraged by James Barr's biting criticism of Childs throughout his career. According to Driver, this critique in particular has helped generate a "bi-polar Childs" in much secondary literature (36-50). On the one hand, Childs champions a focus on the final form of the text, but on the other he engages in various forms of historical criticism in his treatment of biblical material. Many critical biblical scholars would decry a privileging of a final form, which they view as arbitrary, and many evangelical biblical scholars would balk at the use of critical methodology, which they view as dangerous.
For Driver, what is missing in the contemporary discussion is the historical Childs, or better, the canonical Childs. Though one might surely still take issue with elements of Childs' work, Driver maintains the importance of recognizing that for Childs, there is an internal logic to his version of the canonical approach. Driver points out that the "missing link" many critics neglect is the notion of canon-consciousness (71, 144ff) and that Childs sees an integral connection between the "pre-canonical" forms of texts and traditions and the shape they take in the canon as part of the church's Scripture. Driver's articulation of Childs' "career thesis" is that "the historically shaped canon of scripture, in its two discrete witnesses, is a Christological rule of faith that in the church, by the action of the Holy Spirit, accrues textual authority" (4). Driver's overall contention is that Childs' approach is complex but ultimately coherent.
Evangelical and historical-critical scholars alike who are wary of all things "canonical" would do well to situate Childs in his academic context. Driver demonstrates that throughout his career, Childs reflected on the relationship between historical-critical and biblical-theological methods and assumptions. And there are important differences between his application of these critical tools and "business as usual" in the scholarly guilds. In a sense, the burden of Driver's volume is to answer thoroughly the question, "What happens if Childs' work proves to have a logic of its own, even if it is a logic one finally chooses not to enter?" (59).
It is this suggestive yet balanced approach that makes Driver's volume an instructive hermeneutical guide for reading Childs.