Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 61:2 (June 2018) p. 367
Being Human in God’s Word: An Old Testament Theology of Humanity. By J. Gordon McConville. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016, 228 pp., $27.99 paper.
J. Gordon McConville is professor of OT theology at the University of Gloucestershire where he has taught for over twenty years. His objective in this volume is to explore the concept of what it is to be human according to the Bible, specifically the testimony of the OT. He asserts that this is a biblical and theological study rather than an anthropology (p. 1). Yet, McConville also describes his book as an exercise in “biblical spirituality” (p. 5). By the term “spirituality,” he means the ways in which belief is turned into all the dimensions of the practice of living. Indeed, as the author explores the expression “image of God” in its biblical context and not just as a theological expression, he applies it to all areas of human existence. Using careful exegesis, wise theological reflection, and dialogue with other scholarly theological voices, the author illuminates the reader’s understanding of what it means to be human in relation to God, to other humans, and to the non-human creation. The challenge is to reconsider the way in which we view ourselves as human beings. The strength of the book is that it is not just another book for Bible scholars but a book to help one be spiritual and to grow into the image of God.
For McConville, Ps 8:4, “What is the human being that you pay attention to them?” is a guiding question. In satisfying this enquiry certain texts are indispensable. Therefore, chapters 1 and 2 focus on the “creation accounts” (McConville adopts the common practice of seeing these as different accounts) in Genesis 1–3. The concept of the “image of God” is defined within the wider context of the ANE world of ideas, recognizing that early Christian theology tended to be influenced by prevailing philosophical categories “and thus have little warrant on the text” (p. 18). McConville demonstrates, through philological analysis, that the “image of God” implies aspects of human rule, representation, and relationality. Thus, humans may be said to represent the presence of God in the world. McConville takes issue with the notion that the image is lost in the actions of the first humans and proposes a view of the image that has both functional and intrinsic aspects (p. 35). He notes, “While Genesis 2–3 has aspects of loss that have led to the traditional reading of it as a narrative of a ‘fall,’ the reading offered here is concerned rather with an exploration of what is entailed in the idea of the human as divine image in the world as it is...
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