Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
PRJ 3:1 (January 2011) p. 365
Mark J. Boda. A Severe Mercy: Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2009. 622 pp., $59.50, hardcover.
The title and subtitle of this significant work by Mark J. Boda are suggestive and promising. The book aims to give a detailed analysis of the theme of sin and its remedy throughout the Hebrew canonical Scriptures. Despite the many valuable things this volume has to offer, it ultimately requires a careful and discerning eye. In what follows we will briefly survey Boda’s methodology before highlighting several of his good contributions to this field of study and then cite some areas where readers should be cautious.
While mapping out, briefly, the contours of contemporary biblical theological study, Boda simply states that “the present work is canonical- thematic, tracing the presentation of the theology of sin and its remedy in the canonical form and shape of the Old Testament” (4). He is clear that his “Christian theological convictions” have perhaps influenced his reading, and at least in words, gives credence to the Scripture as Scripture (4, 10).
Notwithstanding this, Boda attempts to enter into the “imaginative world” of the Old Testament canon to let it speak on its own terms regarding sin and its remedy. This, for Boda, requires the canonical form as opposed to precanonical levels developed by criticism. In entering this imaginative world, Boda borrows from Kevin Vanhoozer the idea of “word views” and “literary shapes” (6). All he intends on conveying with these two concepts is that his approach is to understand the words’ meanings as they are dependent on specific contexts — namely, their arrangement in the literary units of the Hebrew canonical Scriptures. Boda is examining this motif through a synchronic approach: understanding of specific contexts give rise to different emphases (sur-
PRJ 3:1 (January 2011) p. 366
face structure to deep structure); paying close attention to the “variety of lexical, imagistic, and conceptual frameworks” (7, emphasis mine). Boda’s aim is to get at the discrete and perhaps unfiltered understanding of sin and its remedy without being synthesized through a New Testament lens, however useful he deems the New Testament to be.
Boda’s treatment of sin and the remedy throughout the Hebrew canonical Scriptures serves to show readers the variety of linguistic frameworks that the biblical authors use to describe sin and the remedy. Sin is seen in a variety of ways, whether breaking moral prohibitions, ritual observances, conscious sins, unintentional sins, or the sins of fathers being passed onto their children.
Likewise, he sees the remed...
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