The Open Door: Variations on Biblical Themes

Written by Gerd Theissen, trans. John Bowden Reviewed By Richard S. Hess

Twenty-five sermons by the Heidelberg professor of NT include four from the OT, 13 from the gospels and the remainder from other NT texts. The nine pages of notes at the back provide the particular contexts and concerns in which each of the sermons was preached. While the popularization of scholarship and especially its pastoral application are always matters of interest and importance, the tendency of Theissen to identify in the biblical accounts an existentialist base and then to build upon that base sometimes results in a method of exegesis not particularly satisfying, valuing more the events of the day than the spiritual needs of the people. Is the key point of Jeremiah 29:1, 4–14 to do good in the world and retain hope, or to hold firmly to your traditions, or not to feel worthless? It seems that the message should have something to do with faith in God’s promise of redemption and living in the world in the light of that promise. Nor is it clear that the primary intent of Luke 17:20–21 and a proclamation of the kingdom of God in our midst is an argument against anti-Semitism. Even so, gems exist, as in the story of the lost sheep in Luke 15:3–7.

Richard S. Hess

Denver Seminary, Denver