Periodical Reviews -- By: Jefferson P. Webster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 164:655 (Jul 2007)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Jefferson P. Webster


Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty And Library Staff Of Dallas Theological Seminary

Jefferson P. Webster, Editor

“The Trinity in the Bible,” Robert W. Jenson, Concordia Theological Quarterly 68 (July/October 2004): 195–206.

In a review of Robert Jenson’s two-volume Systematic Theology Wolfhart Pannenberg wondered why Jenson had not been accorded his due place at the center of American theology (First Things 103 [May 2000]: 49–53). Today, appropriately, Jenson is widely lauded for his abundant theological contributions, including his roles as cofounder and editor of the journals Dialog and Pro Ecclesia.

Because Scripture offers no formulas of the Trinity, rationalists assume that the Trinity is not in the Bible. Jenson responds that biblical and historical scholarship alike remain overly bound to Enlightenment methods of determining truth. Critiquing the “biblicists,” he writes, “Some, determined to argue that the doctrine of the Trinity is after all in Scripture, scrabble around in the Bible for bits and pieces of language to cobble together a sort of Trinity-doctrine, usually with intellectually lamentable and indeed sometimes heretical results. Others, like many American Evangelicals, take the same tack as some historicists, and say if the doctrine of the Trinity is not in Scripture we need not worry overmuch about it—we never understood it anyway” (p. 196).

To such extremes Jenson responds with a strong affirmation that the doctrine of the Trinity is assuredly in the Bible. He turns to Old Testament narrative to make his case. God made Himself known, he observes, not so much in propositional statements such as “God is merciful” but in His demonstration of mercy in Israel. How then does narrative tell that God exists in three Persons? It does so “by telling a history of God with us that displays three enactors of that history, each of which is indeed other than the other two and yet is at the same time the same God as the other two” (p. 199). First is the Lord God Almighty in distinct relationship to Israel; it is He whom Jesus revealed as the Father. Yet there is also the Spirit of God, who enlivened Creation, raised up judges, empowered deliverers, and spoke the word of God through prophets. The Spirit is the life of God, that which comes forth from God, and yet He is a second enactor in Israel’s history. More subtly the Son’s presence in the Old Testament is found both in the plot structure of Hebrew narrative and in individual accounts in which a divine personal figure bridges from heaven to Israel. Jenson discusses the Angel of the Lord narratives in which the figure speaks and is spoken to as God. Likewise the ...

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