Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 68:2 (Fall 2006)
Article: Reviews Of Books
Author: Anonymous

Reviews Of Books

Joseph Blenkinsopp, Treasures Old and New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004. Pp. x + 228. $26.00, paper.

Professor Blenkinsopp, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the University of Notre Dame, has brought together some substantial essays which purpose “to engage topics. .. of interest to thoughtful people today, and to do so in dialogue with texts from the Pentateuch.”

Blenkinsopp begins these essays with a fascinating and sophisticated discussion of the role of memory and tradition in ancient Israel. According to Blenkinsopp, memory served as much more than mere psychological function but shaped the way Israel thought about and even constructed its understanding of the past.

Since Christianity was born in the womb of Judaism, the second essay explores the integral relationship between the two. In this essay Blenkinsopp is particularly interested in tracing the relationship between Jewish and Catholic scholarship and the subsequent birth of an OT theology.

The next chapter is a sober-minded evaluation of the issue of the Bible and ecology. Blenkinsopp correctly recognizes the importance of Lynn White’s influential essay and James Barr’s devastating critiques of his ideas and rightly asserts that the environmental mess in which we find ourselves today cannot be laid at the feet of Christianity. Blenkinsopp demonstrates keen insight into the communicative intent and limitations of the Bible to address social problems extensively when he says that we should be warned against looking to the biblical account for more than it promises to deliver. What he proposes, simply stated, is an “ethic of limitation.”

The purpose of the fourth chapter is to reflect upon non-official sacrifice in the OT while “drawing attention to the ways in which it both reflects and reinforces aspects of social structure and hierarchy” (p. 54). Blenkinsopp ably brings out the important social dimensions of the ritual of sacrifice with its stabilizing influence of inculcating a sense of belonging in the community.

In the fifth chapter, the author’s goal is to trace the emergence of Judaism as a monotheistic faith (and consequently, Christianity and Islam) during the sixth to the fourth centuries B.C.E. More particularly, the author is concerned to examine how Israel’s faith in Yahvism arose in the midst of a polytheistic situation in Canaan and how biblical traditions were consequently affected by that interaction amidst competing religious claims.

From the standpoint of the comparative method in biblical studies, chapter 6 is a fascinating and important essay since it deals with the relationship between Gilgamesh a...

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