“My Lord! There is no one like you among the gods!”
Attempting to describe the nature of God often prompts the exclamation of the psalmist—that God is unlike anyone or anything else. And yet the claim is not simply the overflow of an adoring heart: God’s incomparability is a truth lodged deep within Christian Scripture. In The Incomparable God, Old Testament scholar Brent Strawn offers thoughtful insight into this theological mystery.
This volume collects eighteen of Strawn’s most provocative essays on the nature of God, several of which are published for the first time here. Strawn covers the following topics:
• the complex portrayal of God in Genesis
• God’s mercy in Exodus
• poetic description of God in the Psalms
• the Trinity in both testaments
• pedagogy of the Old Testament
• integration of faith and scholarship
Encompassing close readings of Scripture, biblical-theological argument, and considerations of praxis, The Incomparable God is essential reading for Old Testament scholars and students.
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Part 1: Readings
1. From Imago to Imagines: The Image(s) of God in Genesis
2. Yhwh’s Poesie: The Gnadenformel, the Book of Exodus, and Beyond
3. Keep/Observe/Do—Carefully—Today! The Rhetoric of Repetition in Deuteronomy
4. Slaves and Rebels: Inscription, Identity, and Time in the Rhetoric of Deuteronomy
5. The Art of Poetry in Psalm 137: Movement, Reticence, Cursing
6. Revisiting Elisha and the Bears: Can Modern Christians Read—That Is, Pray—the “Worst Texts” of the Old Testament?
Part 2: Biblical Theology
7. And These Three Are One: A Trinitarian Critique of Christological Approaches to the Old Testament
8. “Israel, My Child”: The Ethics of a Biblical Metaphor
9. What Would (or Should) Old Testament Theology Look Like If Recent Reconstructions of Israelite Religion Were True?
10. The Old Testament and Participation with God (and/in Christ?): (Re)reading the Life of Moses with Some Help from Gregory of Nyssa
11. Tolkien’s Orcs Meet the Bible’s Canaanites: The Dynamics of Reading Well. . . or Not (Or, How to Critique Scripture and Still Call It Scripture)
12. Docetism, Käsemann, and Christology: Can Historical Criticism Help Christological Orthodoxy (and Other Theology) After All?
Part 3: Practice
13. Is God Always Anything?
14. On Pharaohs: Egyptian and Otherwise
15. Designated Readers: Deuteronomy’s Portrait of the Ideal King—or Is It Preacher?
16. On Priesting
17. Four Thoughts on Preaching and Teaching the Bible—Mostly the Old Testament
18. On Not Bifurcating: Faith and Scholarship in the Life of a Bible Professor
“The ample, rich, deep gifts that Brent Strawn possesses are fully on exhibit in this collection: he is a master of textual detail borne of care and patience; he is at home amidst the riddles of ancient Near Eastern culture; and he has read and critically absorbed immense amounts of scholarly material that range from Tolkien to Gregory of Nyssa to the boy-mauling bears of Elisha to Trinitarian perichoresis. Still further, he evidences an acute theological sensibility. These gifts offer, in turn, two gifts to Strawn’s readers. First, you may expect to become freshly familiar with a great number of biblical texts. Second, you may expect to witness a model of reliable, informed interpretation that waits to be replicated. On all counts this is a grand articulation from one of our most generative interpreters.”
—Walter Brueggemann, William Marcellus McPheeters Professor Emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary
“I’m sure I’m not the only one who has wondered about the secret Strawn sauce, its intriguing ingredients and high production rate. Cornell and Walker have finally provided us the recipe: biblical theological reflection, drawing from a host of interests and expertise, has been marinated with various great minds—including its dedication recipient, Walter Moberly—and inspired by the ever-yielding staple ingredients, divine and scriptural incomparability. Throw in the odd garnish of a rarely used or difficult text and you have a unique dish that serves both the academy and the church.”
—Brittany N. Melton
Palm Beach Atlantic University
“This collection is itself, in many ways, incomparable. The sheer range of topics by one author is astonishing in our day, in which narrow specialization prevails. Yet each essay in its own way displays disciplined competence (a seeming omnicompetence) with panache. And as the editors have it, the essays ‘are oriented toward God and the life lived before God.’ The result is a collection that offers a feast of the finest of biblical scholarship, spreading before the hungry reader a meaty and robust fare along with occasional delicacies, all for the nourishment of the mind, and for the receptive reader, for the heart as well. Strawn has emerged as a leader among all who seek to exegete Scripture responsibly, and one will find here several examples of the best and highest goal for Christian scholarship.”
—Bill T. Arnold
Asbury Theological Seminary
“In his wide-ranging conversations with Scripture, Brent Strawn masterfully demonstrates that the Old Testament not only survives but thrives from engaging critical scholarship and multiple disciplines, from ancient history to literary studies and ethics. This collection is a breath-taking demonstration that is equally integrative, judicious, and impassioned. For Brent, to read all of Scripture is to scrutinize every ‘nook and cranny’ with eyes wide open, refusing to look away and yet finding something redemptive even in the ‘worst’ of texts. A rarity in the field of biblical scholarship, Brent is a binary-breaker in his refusal to bifurcate the life of faith and the life of scholarship. He is an incomparable scholar, a biblical theologian in the best sense.”
—William P. Brown
Columbia Theological Seminary
“Brent Strawn has long been recognized for his attention to exegetical detail, his keen interest in theological interpretation, and his profound concern for matters of Christian practice and belief. This collection of essays, carefully curated by Collin Cornell and Justin Walker, reveals the remarkable range of Strawn’s work, as well as its depth. This volume will challenge scholars to expand their interpretive frameworks, to find fresh and creative ways of engaging Scripture following Strawn’s lead. More importantly, these essays will inspire students and pastors to take up Scripture, to read it with critical eyes, and to encounter the incomparable God with hearts full of faith.”
—Joel M. LeMon
Candler School of Theology, Emory University
“This excellent collection of articles showcases Strawn’s deep exegetical insights. Strawn challenges us to ponder God’s incomparability and encourages us to explore how the metaphoric language about God in the Hebrew Bible together fashion varied, often conflicting, yet always wondrous images of God. At the same time, this collection is deeply Christian in character, where many of the articles emphasize the canonical relationship between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.”
Örebro School of Theology, Sweden