Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Habets, The Anointed Son: Book Review Part 2

[Following on from Part 1.]

Habets' next two chapters deal with both the NT scholarship and Habets' own appropriation of NT Testament theology respectively.

4 Interpreting the Evidence: Christology in New Testament Scholarship

The fourth chapter begins with a brief summary of approaches to NT Christology, especially regarding how the different Christology of the NT corpus are to be reconciled (or not) to each other.  From the beginning Habets suggests that one of the reasons scholarship has struggled with this question, to the extent it has, is that it has presupposed a Christology from above and then tried to read that back into the NT accounts instead of seeing "how and why the earliest communities of faith came to a belief in the deity of Jesus Christ in the first place" (p89).  Habets claims that Spirit Christology can provide the "integrative framework" that can be used to hold together all the "NT Teaching on the identity of Jesus" (p102).

The rest of the chapter is then spent arguing for and outlining a "retroactive hermeneutic" and the role of the Spirit in the interpretations of the present (p103).  For Habets "The canonical authors are consciously writing to and for Spirit-inspired readers" (p105).  He argues that just as the Gospels are examples of reinterpretation of the life of Jesus from the perspective of the believing community so we must read them retroactively, conscious of Christ's presence with us now by the Spirit (p116).  As arguing for this hermeneutic is really the function and bulk of the chapter, its title is somewhat misleading.  Notwithstanding, the chapter makes a number of important and provoking assertions regarding the role of the Spirit in interpreting and appropriating scripture today, exposing essential issues for anyone who comes to the scriptures from a perspective of faith.

5 Explaining Jesus: The Testimony of the New Testament Writers

This chapter again suffers from something of a title confusion.  At 70 pages it is the longest chapter in the book, yet 66 pages are devoted to the Gospels and Acts, 3 to Paul and the rest of the NT barely gets a look in, although Hebrews does receive some mentions.  After exposing the diversity of NT Christology in the previous chapter it was a shame not to have it play a fuller part in this one.

The great strength of this chapter is the amount of ground it covers and the depth of the references to secondary literature.  Each section of the chapter would function well as a starting point for research into a particular facet of Jesus' life and work.  This gives the book its potential to function admirably as a text book for students looking for research topics.  Due to the amount of ground covered Habets has to deal quickly with a number of contentious points which he does not have space to argue thoroughly.  This leaves plenty of room for debate and exploration on some finer points, especially around the role of the Spirit in the death and resurrection of Christ.  However the overall thesis of the chapter, that the NT conceives of Jesus Christ's identity in pneumatological terms, is not undermined.

The chapter takes the reader on a tour of the Gospels from the point of view of the Spirit and provides some fascinating insights.  For example, in discussing Jesus' temptations in the wilderness Habets concludes, "The temptations were not levelled at his human weakness but rather aimed at his relationship to God," (p141) and Habets demonstrates the integral connection between Christ and the Spirit using a discussion of the unpardonable sin (p160).

The final instalment of the book review to come soon! Watch this space.

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