A Biblical Itinerary in Search of Method, Form, and Content

A Biblical Itinerary in Search of Method, Form, and Content

Long, Burke O

EUGENE E. CARPENTER (ed.), A Biblical Itinerary in Search of Method, Form, and Content. Essays in honor of George W. Coats (JSOTSup 240; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997). Pp. 194. L30, $50.

This collection of essays honors George Coats who, because of recent illness, retired from his post at Lexington Theological Seminary. The authors write out of personal and collegial admiration, and, by addressing many of Coats’s interests and contributions to Old Testament study, they offer gracious tribute to his productive years of teaching and research

Rolf Rendtorff(“Some Reflections on the Canonical Moses: Moses and Abraham,” pp. 11-19) describes how readers or hearers understood Moses in canonical context as successor to Abraham. Malcolm Clark (“Biblical and Early Islamic Moses,” pp. 2038) explores Islamic views of Moses in relation to the Bible and Coats’s own characterization of Moses as “heroic man.” Trent Butler (“Narrative Form Criticism: Dead or Alive?” pp. 39-59) assesses classical form-critical studies of biblical narrative and finds them still valuable in limited ways. John W. Roffey (“Beyond Reality: Poetic Discourse and Psalm 107,” pp. 60-76) criticizes form-critical work on biblical psalms that has “betrayed” literary and poetic discourse in search of cultic origins and historical reference.

Lawson G. Stone (“Redaction Criticism: Whence, Whither, and Why? or, Going beyond Source and Form Criticism without Leaving Them Behind,” pp. 77-90) argues for redaction criticism which incorporates “historical, literary, human, and, by the grace of the Spirit, divine” dimensions into holistic interpretations. Eugene Carpenter (“Exodus 18: Its Structure, Style, Motifs and Function in the Book of Exodus,” pp. 91-108) views Exodus 18 as a “major hinge” between the canonical ordering of chaps. 1-17 and 19-40. Joseph Blenkinsopp (“Structure and Meaning in the SinaiHoreb Narrative [Exodus 19 34],” pp. 109-25) studies Exodus 19 34 as a paradigmatic Deuteronomistic composition in which the religious history of Israel is viewed “from the other side of disaster.”

John van Seters (“From Faithful Prophet to Villain: Observations on the Tradition History of the Balaam Story,” pp. 126-32) examines the tradition history of attitudes toward Balaam. James L. Crenshaw (“The Missing Voice,” pp. 133-43) describes the widespread absence of a student’s voice amidst the parental teacher’s speech in wisdom literature. Gene M. Tucker (“The Futile Quest for the Historical Prophet,” pp. 144-52) argues that the search is worthwhile if positivistic assumptions are given up, but is secondary to the critical study of documents from which the past is reconstructed. Rolf P. Knierim (“On the Task of Old Testament Theology,” pp. 15366) offers a systematic statement of proper theological method in which the OT “defines its own agenda,” even in relation to the NT. Roy F Melugin (“Scripture and the Formation of Christian Identity,” pp. 167-82) considers how the Bible and biblical scholars can better serve the needs of Christian communities while mainstream churches are in decline. A bibliography of George Coats’s publications (pp. 183-84) completes the volume.

As is evident from my summary, this tribute to George Coats exhibits no unifying theme. Although, for the most part, the authors traverse well-trodden paths. they nonetheless at times offer keen, new insights. In their diversity, the contributors reflect various literary, historical, and theological concerns that animated much of Coats’s career. In this sense the book is a most fitting homage to his standing and influence in the field.

Burke O. Long, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME 04011

Copyright Catholic Biblical Association of America Jan 1999

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