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Chosen and Unchosen
Conceptions of Election in the Pentateuch and Jewish-Christian Interpretation
by Joel N. Lohr
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Winner of the 2011 RBY Scott Award from the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies/Sociťtť canadienne des …tudes bibliques
The God of the Bible favors a national people, Israel, and this is at the cost of the other nations. In fact, not being Israel usually means humiliation or destruction or simply being ignored by God. Reading the text "with the grain" or placing oneself within the chosenís perspective may seem very well until one considers the unchosen. There is much regarding the unchosen that has not been explored in scholarly research, but in this important work, Lohr attempts to make sense of the question of election and nonelection in the OT as a Christian interpreter and with a concern for the history of interpretation and Jewish-Christian dialogue.
He also corrects a Christian tendency to read election and nonelection as love and damnation, respectively, a perception that is altogether foreign to the OT itself. The unchosen are important to the overall world view of Scripture and, although election entails exclusion, and Godís love for the one people Israel is a love in contrast to others, it does not follow that the unchosen fall outside of the economy of Godís purposes, his workings, or his ways. The unchosen often face important tests of their own and have a responsibility to God and the chosen, however much this idea defies modern-day notions of fairness. It is a central idea of Scripture that already appears in the original call of and promises made to Abram and something that, if ignored, places our larger understanding of God at risk.
Equally important, if contemporary faith communities (both Jewish and Christian) form their understanding of "the other" on a faulty reading of Scripture regarding the unchosen, chaos and hatred can ensue. The political and religious climate of our contemporary world has never presented a more important time to get this matter right. Scholars and students alike are finding Chosen and Unchosen to be an indispensable resource as they mull over these difficult questions.
Publication date: 2009
Bibliographic info: xviii + 254 pages
Trim Size: 6 x 9 inches
"The concomitant of the idea that God elects some is that there are others whom
God does not elect or even places under judgment. This provides the theme of
this revision of a 2007 Durham University PhD thesis, completed under Professor
Walter Moberly whose formative influence is readily recognizable. L. writes from a
confessedly Christian theological perspective, working primarily with a narrative-
and canonical-critical approach; yet he also has an explicit interest in Jewish
exegesis and the possibilities of dialogue between this and Christian exegesis.
He approaches the topic through four test cases of interaction between chosen
and unchosen figures or groups: Abraham and Abimelech, the role of Pharaoh's
daughter ('unchosen') as agent of the Exodus redemption through Moses, Balaam
and Israel, and the Deuteronomic theme of Israel and the nations. These are
prefaced by an analysis of Christian treatments of the primary theme, particularly
through 'theologies' and 'theological dictionaries', and by a much fuller one of those
by four key Jewish interpreters (Kaminsky, Novak, Wyschogrod, Levenson). A final
chapter seeks to reach a positive understanding of the theological problem, partly
through the now-conventional appeal to 'responsibility to "the other"'. A lengthy
appendix treats the idea of herem, which has emerged as particularly challenging.
This is a sensitive treatment of an important subject from which even those not
committed to the presuppositions will learn much."—J. M. Lieu in JSOT 34.5 (2010)
"This study is the revision of a doctoral dissertation written at the University of Durham under Walter Moberly. It is a credit to the scholars and to the school...
"Lohr is a congenial writer. While he is critical of many scholarsí sins of commission and omission, his tone is free from rancor and self-righteousness. Admittedly, his study leaves one uncertain as to how flawed oneís position is, but one is glad not to be excoriated in public.
"As one of the authors Lohr reviews and critiques, I have to agree that there were aspects of the concept and the way to approach it that I overlooked entirely. Indeed, I had simply not thought about the psychology and responsibility of the unchosen. Kaminski, Levenson, and Lohr have enriched our perspective on the subject. Moreover, it is right to guard against supersessionism."—Dale Patrick, Drake University in Review of Biblical Literature, September 2010
"Lohr's book is a welcome contribution to biblical-theological study. Lohr's exegesis is insightful, his critiques of scholarly positions are cogent and valuable and his conclusions largely compelling. Though I have a few quibbles here and there and am left with some nagging questions, I would say up front that I highly recommend this book as a work of high scholarship. "—Paul S. Evans, McMaster Divinity College in Journal of Hebrew Scriptures Volume 10 (2010)
"Lohrís book is generally clear, well-written, and well-documented. It achieves its purpose to analyze some of the most obscure texts in the Torah related to the unchosen. Lohrís thoughts on chosen and unchosen in Scripture may be relevant to not only biblical scholars but also theologians. It is a signifi cant contribution to the growing fi elds of theological interpretation of Scripture, history of biblical interpretation, and Jewish-Christian dialogue, as well as provides an enduring resource for scholars engaged in research of Old Testament theology."—Igal German, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto in Biblical Interpretation 18 (2010)
"The project is L.'s attempt to make sense of election and nonelection in the
OT. He believes that if both Jewish and Christian faith communities form their
understanding of the "other" on faulty scriptural readings on those topics,
chaos and hatred ensue. In the religious and political climate of our world
today it is important to get this matter straight (pp. xii-xiii)."—Betty Jane Lillie, S.C., Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary's Seminary, Cincinnati, OH, in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 73 (2011).
"Lohr's book is a welcome contribution to biblical-theological study. Lohr's exegesis is insightful, his critiques . . . cogent and valuable and his conclusions largely compelling."—Paul S. Evans, McMaster Divinity College, in Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 10 (2010).
"Lohr's book is generally clear, well-written, and well-documented. It achieves its purpose to analyze some of the most obscure texts in the Torah related to the unchosen. Lohr's thoughts on chosen and unchosen in Scripture may be relevant to not only biblical scholars but also theologians. It is a significant contribution to the growing fields of theological interpretation of Scripture, history of biblical interpretation, and Jewish-Christian dialogue, as well as provides an enduring resource for scholars engaged in research of Old Testament theology."—Igal German, University of Toronto, in Biblical Interpretation 18 (2010).
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