Tuesday, January 22, 2008

“My head! My head!”

Here is an excellent book review of Peter Leithart’s commentary on 1 & 2 Kings; it appears in Interpretation, a theological journal published by Union Theological Seminary. Without even opening the commentary, it’s clear from this review that James Jordan shaped Leithart’s hermeneutic. Indeed, reading this makes me cry, “My head! My head!” (2 Kings 4:19).

Review of Peter Leithart’s commentary on 1 & 2 Kings
Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology, 62.1 (January 2008) 98–99

1 & 2 Kings
By Peter Leithart
Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, Brazos, Grand Rapids, 2006.
304pp. $29.99. ISBN 978-1-58743-125-8.

This commentary on the books of Kings by Peter Leithart is part of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. The aim of this series is to produce commentaries that interpret the Bible using the Nicene tradition as the “proper basis for the interpretation of the Bible as Christian Scripture” (p. 10). Commentators are chosen for “their expertise in using the Christian doctrinal tradition,” not for “historical or philological expertise” (p. 10). Commentators use whatever translation of the Bible and method of interpretation suits them. The only unifying element of this series is the premise that “doctrine provides structure and cogency to scriptural interpretation.” (p. 12).

Leithart’s method is rather eclectic. He draws here and there from historical and literary criticism, but typological analysis is clearly his preferred method of interpretation. Typology may have served the early church well, but we are not the early church. Is it really possible to do typology today without the philosophical and hermeneutical underpinnings that dominated the early centuries of Christianity? For Leithart, every use of the number “three” becomes an allusion to resurrection, every body of water a reference to baptism, and every anointing is messianic. The most tenuous of similarities lead to typological comparisons: David/Jacob; Adonijah/Adam; Solomon/Joshua, Solomon/New Adam, Solomon/Christ; Jehu/Christ; sacrificial animals/Israel, ritually clean wild animals/Gentile “God-fearers”; Saul/Ahab; Jesus/Judah; Elijah/Jesus; Elisha/Jesus; Elisha/Joseph; and judgment against Ahab’s house/eschatological judgment of the world/judgment passed against all nations in the cross of Jesus. No quotation better sums up his approach than “Moses is Elijah is John; Joshua is Elisha is Jesus. Yet also, Moses is Elijah is Jesus, and Joshua is Elisha is the church” (p. 172). I was amused to discover that Elisha’s floating ax is a sign of Christ’s resurrection (pp. 200, 203) and that “the inclusion of Gentiles into the new Covenant is signaled symbolically by many of the apostles being [Jewish!] fishermen” (p. 73).

In addition to spurious typologies, Leithart often uses the biblical text to leap into contemporary discussions that defy any logical connection to the book of Kings, e.g., a discussion of church/state/secularity/Locke with the notice that Solomon built other buildings (1 Kgs 7:1–12); modern and Christian views of the self and the condemnation of Solomon (1 Kgs 11:1–43); public/state/church relations and the Queen of Sheba’s visit (1 Kgs 10:1–29); Pope John Paul II’s speech on the culture of death and the Elisha stories (2 Kgs 4:1–44); and rationalists’ views of Jesus and Jehu’s rebellion (2 Kgs 9:1—10:36).

Other problems with this book include: misrepresenting his sources (e.g., Walsh, p. 43; Nelson, p. 69; Blenkinsopp, p. 227); the anachronistic use of the term “Gentile(s)” throughout the book; a superficial discussion of violence and God; an odd discussion of idolatry, chiasms with no point, a frightening view of God as an “equal opportunity trapper” (p. 180), the nature of God and evil; God as trickster, and vengeance against the wicked as “dear to Yahweh’s heart” (p. 223). Space prevents me from elaborating further. I have gained a much greater appreciation of the historical-critical method and of the literal sense of the text from reading this commentary. The literal sense is, after all, what God inspired the author to actually say and it contains enough theological depth that I do not have to imaginatively reconstruct the “hidden meaning” or make artificial connection where none exist. I am also now more firmly convinced that commentaries on the Bible should be left to biblical scholars.

Pauline A. Viviano
Loyola University
Chicago, Illinois

On a personal note, I have several friends who have Peter Leithart’s knife ware stuck firmly in their backs. And they don’t wear it well. Liethart operates as one of Wilson’s silent assassins, befriending members of the Kult who are suspects in Wilson’s paranoid mind. Leithart counsels them. Prays with them. Shows kindness to them. And then reports their every word back to Wilson, who sees to a bullet in the back of their heads, shot in the darkness of Anselm’s basement. Leithart was a primary instrument in this family’s demise. What a friend.

At one time you could say that Leithart brought detergent to Moscow to help sanitize Wilson’s PR, but you can’t disinfect raw sewage without spillage contaminating your person; you can’t bring sanity to the insane; and in the end St. Paul’s axiom holds true: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” If Peter ever had any good, it’s all gone now. So on that note, here’s a king whose end Peter Leithart should contemplate: “And the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes: he slew also all the princes of Judah in Riblah. Then he put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in chains, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.” (Jer. 52:10–11.)

Thank you. (HT: Anon)

9 comments:

Mark Spence said...

Mark,

I've read your site for a few weeks, and I've been troubled by your characterization of Doug Wilson. I know Wilson a bit, and your characterization seems wrong.

However, I know Peter Leithart very well, and you are either completely mistaken or lying through your teeth about this man. Your site revels in its supposed "fully documented" status, and yet you see fit to slander a righteous man with unfounded accusations.

Mark T. said...

Mark,

You have posed a false dilemma that leaves no room for the possibility that your knowledge of these two men may be in error. You state I am mistaken or I am lying. You have not said that you may be mistaken or you may be lying. Furthermore, you have made your “knowledge” of these two the final arbiter of truth, which obviously ignores the mountains of documentation I have furnished (and intend to furnish). So let’s harmonize your “knowledge” with another possibility.

Wilson and Leithart are flaming hypocrites. That’s a fact. You see one side of the hypocrites; I see the other. You see them when they wear their lovely high-church masks and think, “Surely these are righteous men”; I see them sans masks and say, “What a bag of snakes.” The difference between the two of us is that I have documented many of my claims whereas you have simply asserted what you “know,” which is dubious at best. Obviously you are ignorant of what Leithhart did to Duck and the others, and I seriously doubt that you have considered the role of his multiple conflicts of interest in this awful story (Wilson has strings on him, just as he has strings on the others).

So where does this leave us? It leaves you to ignore the evidence while you admire the hypocrites’ good faces and accuse me of slander (BTW: if it’s in print it’s called libel), which has a name as well: it’s called DENIAL SYNDROME because those who suffer from it have blocked out all reason that they may not face the truth. And unfortunately for you, there’s nothing anyone can do for you until you decide to broach responsible arguments grounded in fact.

mark spence said...

Mark,

Allow me to rephrase. As far as I know, you are lying or mistaken. But I’m willing to be proved wrong, and I’d like you to live up to your claim about documentation before you toss this stuff around. You say that I won't listen to responsible arguments. My point is that you haven't made any. If you can prove your accusations about Leithart, that’s one thing. If you can’t, shut up.

And I’d rather not argue about Wilson, not knowing him as well.

Mark T. said...

Mark,

Two things:

First, once again you have made yourself the final arbiter of truth. You have charged me to prove my accusation about Leithart (presumably the one that he rolled on Duck) and you further charged me that if I can’t prove it then I must shut up.

Now let’s apply this standard to you: If can’t support your accusation that I am wrong with documentation then you must shut up. You see, not so easy and not so fair.

Second, you have misrepresented me twice in your last comment, which is a common symptom for those in DENIAL, by attributing to me things I never wrote. Yet you insist that I live up to your standard. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

Now, before I address your specific concerns, please tell me your connection to Leithart. Are you a student at NSA, member of TRC, or what? Do you live in Moscow? If so, how long? In other words, were you around when they whacked Duck?

anonymous8 said...

I'd like evidence that Leithart has had the power of attention to read just one book complete. Just one. Give me the evidence. Now.

This review of his book by Ms. Viviano Mark T. has posted describes what I've seen in Leithart's blog posts. It seems that he sits in his office thumbing through a desk encyclopedia and every now and then throws down a disparate fact or two, and a disparate subject or two, and then lets his followers assume there is some depth and inter-connectedness going on when all that is going on is a shallow intellect is concocting another 'found poem' to be celebrated by his fellow shallow intellects.

And please don't protest that Leithart has earned a doctorate and so on. I hold him to the standard a Christian holds a self-professed Reformed theologian to, not a secular academic. Secular academia is an environment where Al Gore is considered to be a genius.

mark spence said...

Mark,

1) I’m happy to concede that I am involved in a lot of my own judgments, if that is what you meant. What else am I supposed to do, let other people think for me?

2) I'm willing to offer you the benefit of the doubt here, that you actually have some evidence that makes you think that what you have said about Leithart's character is true. Okay, let's see it.

3) So I’m in “DENIAL.” It’s easier to say that anyone who disagrees is in denial than it is to actually back up your accusations.

4) My connections, or who I am, should matter as much or as little as who you are.

Mark T. said...

Hi Mark,

The reasons I asked if you were around when they whacked Duck matters a great deal because if you knew Duck, then you would know all the lies they spread about him are just that — lies. Let me illustrate the point. A couple of years ago after they snuffed out Duck someone posted the HOH minutes on 20/20 and those minutes said something like, “If you have any questions about Duck, come see Wilson” or something to that effect (check the archives for January or February 2005, I think).

Those minutes caused a stir on two fronts. First, they demonstrated Wilson’s resolve to act duplicitously toward the community and, second, they mentioned Duck, which is where this gets amazing. A series of remarkable providences led to a big hitter in town calling a very dear friend of mine who is an ex-member of the Kult. The hitter asked my friend about this person “Duck,” mentioned in the minutes, and a few minutes later he said, “I know that man, he was my roommate in college; he is the purest, most harmless man I have ever met.”

Mark, I know these things because I was brought into the loop and both persons repeated this story to me. And my point is that anyone who knows Duck knows that he is a righteous man, and everyone else who doesn’t know him is simply repeating all the lies that Wilson (with Leithart’s help) spread around about him in order to ruin his reputation.

Therefore, I ask once again, were you around when they whacked Duck? Did you receive the letter? Do you use the Cantus that he assembled to worship on Sundays?

mark spence said...

Mark,

Thank you for the information, but it doesn’t at all show what you claimed in your post. Your post was spent attacking Peter Leithart, and instead you have again reverted into your arguments about Douglas Wilson (which, again, I’d rather not debate at this point). All I wanted was some of the evidence that you trumpet on other sites (“fully-documented!”), but your story does not connect with Leithart. You mention him in passing ("with Leithart's help") but just assert this is true without showing it is. You certainly haven’t provided any documentation at all in that area.

As I said before, my own connections and identity are irrelevant. Surely you can’t complain if someone follows in your own footsteps? :)

Also, I’m done with this subject, since I’ve made my main point pretty clear: prove your accusations about Leithart, or shut up.

Mark T. said...

Mark,

For all your dishonesty, you’re not very bright. My point had nothing to do with Leithart or Wilson. It was all about the man that Leithart betrayed. I don’t give a rip about your identity and I made that point perfectly clear. My question remains, Did you know Duck? Answer me or shut up. (Hey, feigning righteous indignation is kind of fun! You must feel very self-righteous!)