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Philip E. Friesen, The Old Testament Roots of Nonviolence: Abraham's Personal Faith, Moses' Social Vision, Jesus' Fulfillment, and God's Work Today.

Philip E. Friesen, The Old Testament Roots of Nonviolence: Abraham's Personal Faith, Moses' Social Vision, Jesus' Fulfillment, and God's Work Today. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2010. Pp. 151. $20.00, paper.

Jon D. Levenson, Abraham between Torah and Gospel. The Pere Marquette Lecture in Theology 2011. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2011. Pp. 80. $15.00.

The mixture of revelation and history is noteworthy in Hebrew Scriptures. In the basic creed of the Shema ("Hear O' Israel") and in the fundamental teaching of the Decalogue, the Torah inscribes that the Children of Israel are a people held together by religion and nationality. In the long stream of biblical history, fed by a wide range of events affecting the person and polity, an eclectic wellspring of worldviews emerged, including doctrinal, ethical, ritual, and social. The books under review explore aspects of biblical ideology in a cross-cultural study of Jewish and Christian biblical belief and practice.

The volume by Friesen surveys human existence in times of war and peace and proposes, for the present era, social justice and change informed by the fullness of the nonviolence directive expressed in the believer's faith of Abraham, grounded in the Mosaic vision of a "kingdom of priests, and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6) and fulfilled in the teaching of Jesus. Missiological in purpose and hermeneutic in style, chapters 4-7, the "seed, root, stem, flower" of nine tersely written chapters, underscore indecisive Israelite action and God's concessions in maintaining the post-Deluge Rainbow promise in a dysfunctional Ancient Near East world. These chapters present a brief mark-up and analysis of the conflict and strife during the monarchy era and the prophetic vision to restore social order, sovereign stability, and peaceful existence and co-existence. For the Anabaptist author, this messianic expectancy is realized neither in state (secular or theocratic) nor institutionalized church, but in the advocacy of God's nonviolence, realized in the incarnate God in Jesus. However, Friesen's treatise on biblical nonviolence avoids biblical criticism and open discussion of the multiple Second Testament passages that suggest strongly the militant nationalism of the party loyal to the King of the Jews. In Second Temple Judaism, weapons of pietism and quietism to fight imperialism and societal violence need to be documented.

The effort of Levenson to assess the image and value of the biblical Abraham in the traditions of Jews and Christians is distinguished by a dual accomplishment. A careful reading of the hermeneutics at the center of Avraham avinu ("Our Father Abraham") requires an interaction with classical Jewish teachings, in the context of biblical myth and saga, rabbinic mindset, medieval commentary and mysticism, and contemporary rational thinking, which impugn a parochial Hebraic-Judaic Abraham. Second, the Pauline understanding of 'av hamon goyim ("father of a multitude of nations," Gen. 17: 5) is the outreach to gentiles who are justified before God, not by doing "cursed acts of the law" but by following Abraham's unfaltering faith in God (Gal. 3:6-14 and elsewhere). Levenson adroitly analyzes, in text and context, the nexus of the Apostle Paul's salvific mandate to the Nations, justification by faith, and redemption by the atonement death of Christ. However, in the culture and language of Judaism, the faith of Abraham embraces continuity of the chosen people, land, and Torah, symbolized by the rite of circumcision, the external sign of the Covenant between God and Israel. Criticism and tradition permeate Levenson's reading of Abraham in Torah and Gospel. A slight direction in textual variants can bring forth alternate theology. E.g.,, Gal. 3:11, "The one who is righteous will live by faith" (Hab. 2:4), is reconstructed to "the one who is righteous by faith shall live," etc. The end result is that evolved biblical and traditional views of Abraham within a singular faith affirmation differ profusely between communities of faith.

Zev Garber, Los Angeles Valley College, Valley Glen, CA
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Title Annotation:Abraham between Torah and Gospel. The Pere Marquette Lecture in Theology 2011
Author:Garber, Zev
Publication:Journal of Ecumenical Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2013
Words:645
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