Book Write-Up: God’s Mediators, by Andrew S. Malone

Andrew S. Malone.  God’s Mediators: A Biblical Theology of Priesthood.  Intervarsity Press, 2017.  See here to purchase the book.

Andrew S. Malone teaches biblical studies at Ridley College, which is in Melbourne, Australia.  This book, God’s Mediators: A Biblical Theology of Priesthood, explores the concept of priesthood in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

Malone’s treatment of the concept of priesthood in the Hebrew Bible is flatter than his interaction with the concept in the New Testament.  Malone ignores or downplays diversity within the Hebrew Bible, as he maintains a Christian interpretation of it.  Some examples:

—–Malone neglects what many scholars regard as a distinction between the views of P and Deuteronomy on the priesthood, with the former privileging Aaronides and the latter affirming that all Levites can serve as priests.

—-Malone, to his credit, does attempt to support his view that the Hebrew Bible envisions a union of the monarchy and the priesthood into a single office, with interesting arguments.  In doing so, he implies that the Hebrew Bible foreshadows Jesus, the priest-king.  In adhering to this thesis, however, Malone appears to minimize the biblical passages that sharply distinguish between the two offices.  Malone downplays King Uzziah’s illegitimate attempt to usurp a priestly function in II Chronicles 26.  In addition, Jeremiah 13:19-21 seems to treat the restored Davidic monarchy in the eschaton as distinct from the restored Levitical priesthood.  Malone largely treats that passage as an indication that there is hope for the priesthood, notwithstanding its spiritual failures, and Malone probably believes that this hope was fulfilled in Jesus.  Malone neglects the part of the passage about the Davidic monarchy and the priesthood being distinct.

—-Malone argues that Isaiah 66:21 depicts Gentiles serving as priests of Israel in the eschaton.  He believes that this relates to the inclusion of Gentiles into the church in the New Testament.  But what about Ezekiel 40-48, which depicts a restricted priesthood (the Zadokites) in the eschaton?

—-Malone contends that Israel was a priestly nation (Exodus 19:6) in that Israel was to teach the nations about God.  A la I Peter 2:9, Malone maintains that this mantle has fallen to the church, which includes Jews and Gentiles.  Malone attempts to argue that Exodus 19:6 means what he suggests, but there really is not much (if anything) in Exodus that explicitly suggests that Israel’s role as a priestly nation relates to some mission on her part to teach the nations about God.  It could simply relate to Israel’s role as a nation that worships God, an argument that Malone mentions.  Malone is much stricter when deciding whether or not to apply the concept of priesthood to other biblical themes, than he is when he considers Israel’s mission to the nations to be priestly.

In his treatment of the New Testament, Malone is more sensitive to biblical diversity, and he is slow to apply the concept of priesthood where he does not believe it is explicit.  Malone argues against the idea that Jesus performed a priestly function in his earthly ministry, according to the Gospels.  He does not believe that I Peter depicts Jesus as a priest, but rather as the sacrifice offered by the priestly church.  He does not see much of a concept of priesthood, in reference to Jesus or the church, in the Pauline writings.  And he argues that Jesus is the high priest in Hebrews, but that the church does not perform a priestly function in that particular writing.  A lot of Malone’s comments on the New Testament seemed to splash cold water on intriguing ideas, by showing that they do not work.  Still, he is to be commended for his judicious scholarship, in these discussions.

Malone’s treatment of the Hebrew Bible had some bright spots, as his treatment of the New Testament had some dim spots.  His discussion of the Hebrew Bible argued that passages about communicable holiness are not about that at all.  Malone offers a definition of holiness—-as closeness in proximity with God—-that makes sense.  Malone also wrestles with the question of whether Adam and Eve were priests in Eden, and he does not accept a view simply because it is appealing.  In terms of the New Testament, Malone stated that Christians are closer to God than the priests and Israelites in the Hebrew Bible, but he should have explained the nature of that closeness: what Christians have that people in the Hebrew Bible lacked.  Can Christians pray?  So could people in the Hebrew Bible.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  My review is honest.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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