Friday, February 10, 2012

Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture by Peter J. Leithart, 2009.

So I guess I am just getting easy to please these days.  On the recommendation of 2 men I have come to greatly appreciate their ministry in my life, I interrupted my reading list and started the book Deep Exegesis by Peter Leithart.  I was first told about this book by Dr. Pennington in my Sermon on the Mount class.  Apparently, that book caught like a wildfire up at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (I can’t bring myself to insert the definite article “The”).  I remember writing out the book info for later reference, but I never did anything with it.  Then I moved to Honduras and came under the teaching ministry of my new pastor, Stephen Jenks (working on his dissertation for a PhD from Marquette University; keep at it Stephen!).  He had the book in his library (which he graciously opened to me on occasion) and told me to read it.  I broke down, and am I ever glad I did!

Leithart is a literary renaissance man.  He is the kind of person that knows something (maybe the more accurate terms is “many things”) in nearly every field and area.  His approach to the text of Scripture is not overly innovative, although he demonstrates a much-needed practice for exegetes – creatively reading the text.  John 9 is the test case that he uses throughout his book.  What I appreciate most about his use of John 9 is that be basically interprets it just as one would interpret OT literature (assuming one knows how to properly interpret OT literature).  He sees allusions that build a biblical theology of new creation.  He utilizes intertextuality, and even better, he demonstrates an intratextual approach to John.  He emphasizes not just a christocentric reading but a totus christus reading where the text deals with both Jesus, as the head of the church, and his body as well.  He is doing things in the NT that many OT scholars have been doing for years… an integrated reading of the text. 

I will warn that those who are thoroughly entrenched in the world of modernity and objectivity will have a hard time with this book (yes, there is a large fundamentalist segment that would be under this classification).  He gives his nods toward pre and postmodern interpretive concepts.  I’ve come to appreciate a pre-critical hermeneutic all the more these days on my theological journey.  Leithart, in just over 200 pages, has opened the world to consider the text in multiple ways, all of which are extremely enriching and will have lasting effects on the reader of Scripture.  I highly recommend this book with 2 hardy thumbs up.

PS—I usually knock a book for using endnotes rather than footnotes.  However, the book arranges the endnotes with page numbers above to help the reader find them much more quickly.  That saved me a great deal of time, since I didn’t have to remember what chapter I was in, find that chapter in the back of the book, then find the note I need.  I could just go to the back of the book and find note #17 from page 127 labeled in the endnotes as “Notes to pp. 110-127.”  So much easier‼!

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