Major works by and about the scholar

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Canon as Rule and Guide: Collected Essays (2023)

The fifty-two essays collected here span half a century of biblical scholarship. Together they provide a view into the history of Old Testament studies from the vantage of a scholar who worked to integrate his command of it with several cognate disciplines, including New Testament, Biblical Theology, and the history of interpretation. Canon is a rule and guide: this is a ubiquitous concern in the work of Brevard Childs. As he argues, scripture has been shaped with frameworks for interpretation, guidelines built into it through a complex editorial process that resulted in a multifaceted canon with two Testaments. Scripture is a canon and rule of faith that in turn shapes the church’s confession and life of faith. This approach to scripture entails a holistic view that touches the Bible’s composition and reception histories as well as its enduring claim on living communities of faith.

Published in English and German.

Table of Contents

  • Abbreviations
  • Editor’s Introduction
  • Part I. Early Studies (1958–1967)
    1. Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Study of Contemporary Hermeneutics
    2. Jonah: A Study in Old Testament Hermeneutics
    3. The Enemy from the North and the Chaos Tradition
    4. A Study of the Formula “Until This Day”
    5. Interpretation in Faith: The Theological Responsibility of an Old Testament Commentary
    6. The Birth of Moses
    7. Deuteronomic Formulae of the Exodus Traditions
  • Part II. Canonical Reformulations (1969–1980)
    1. Psalm 8 in the Context of the Christian Canon
    2. A Traditio-historical Study of the Reed Sea Tradition
    3. Psalm Titles and Midrashic Exegesis
    4. Midrash and the Old Testament
    5. The Old Testament as Scripture of the Church
    6. A Tale of Two Testaments
    7. The Etiological Tale Reexamined
    8. Reflections on the Modern Study of the Psalms
    9. The Sensus Literalis of Scripture: An Ancient and Modern Problem
    10. The Canonical Shape of the Book of Jonah
    11. The Canonical Shape of the Prophetic Literature
    12. The Exegetical Significance of the Canon for the Study of the Old Testament
    13. On Reading the Elijah Narratives
  • Part III. Canon and Biblical Theology (1981–1992)
    1. Differenzen in der Exegese: Biblische Theologie in Amerika
    2. Some Reflections on the Search for a Biblical Theology
    3. Wellhausen in English
    4. Anticipatory Titles in Hebrew Narrative
    5. Gerhard von Rad in American Dress
    6. Death and Dying in Old Testament Theology
    7. Die Bedeutung des jüdischen Kanons in der alttestamentlichen Theologie
    8. Die theologische Bedeutung der Endform eines Textes
    9. Biblische Theologie und christlicher Kanon
    10. The Struggle for God’s Righteousness in the Psalter
    11. Analysis of a Canonical Formula: “It Shall be Recorded for a Future Generation”
    12. Critical Reflections on James Barr’s Understanding of the Literal and the Allegorical
    13. Karl Barth, the Preacher’s Exegete
    14. Die Bedeutung der Hebräischen Bibel für die Biblische Theologie
  • Part IV. Recovering Theological Exegesis (1994–2005)
    1. Biblical Scholarship in the Seventeenth Century: A Study in Ecumenics
    2. Old Testament in Germany, 1920–1940: The Search for a New Paradigm
    3. On Reclaiming the Bible for Christian Theology
    4. Old Testament Theology
    5. Retrospective Reading of the Old Testament Prophets
    6. Interpreting the Bible amid Cultural Change
    7. Toward Recovering Theological Exegesis
    8. Does the Old Testament Witness to Jesus Christ?
    9. Jesus Christ the Lord and the Scriptures of the Church
    10. The Nature of the Christian Bible: One Book, Two Testaments
    11. The One Gospel in Four Witnesses
    12. The Genre of the Biblical Commentary as Problem and Challenge
    13. The Almost-Forgotten Genesis Commentary of Benno Jacob
    14. Hermeneutical Reflections on Campegius Vitringa, Eighteenth-Century Interpreter of Isaiah
    15. Allegory and Typology within Biblical Interpretation
    16. Critique of Recent Intertextual Canonical Interpretation
    17. Speech-Act Theory and Biblical Interpretation
    18. The Canon in Recent Biblical Studies: Reflections on an Era
  • List of First Publications
  • Index of Scriptural Sources
  • Index of Authors
  • Index of Subjects

Chronological list of books by Childs

Title links are to copies that can be borrowed through Internet Archive. Trailing links are to copies that may be for sale.

Chronological list of books about Childs’s scholarship

The list includes some earlier books that played a role in shaping Childs’s reception by supporting the idea that the canonical approach was methodologically incoherent and thus in need of critical reconstruction. (My own study contests this idea and approach to Childs.) The list also includes the two Festschriften and the memorial volume for Childs (their titles are linked to online versions). However, it includes only a selection of the studies that interact with Childs in connection with biblical texts and themes, and virtually none of the many titles that use or build on his scholarship in other ways.

  • Barr, James. Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.
  • Barton, John. Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1984.
  • Oeming, Manfred. Gesamtbiblische Theologien der Gegenwart: Das Verhältnis von AT und NT in der hermeneutischen Diskussion seit Gerhard von Rad. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1987.
  • Tucker, Gene M., David L. Petersen, and Robert R. Wilson, eds. Canon, Theology, and Old Testament Interpretation: Essays in Honor of Brevard S. Childs. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.
  • Brett, Mark G. Biblical Criticism in Crisis? The Impact of the Canonical Approach on Old Testament Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Scalise, Charles. Hermeneutics as Theological Prolegomena: A Canonical Approach. Studies in American Biblical Hermeneutics 8. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1994.
  • Noble, Paul R. The Canonical Approach: A Critical Reconstruction of the Hermeneutics of Brevard S. Childs. Biblical Interpretation Series 16. Leiden: Brill, 1995.
  • Steins, Georg. Die “Bindung Isaaks” im Kanon (Gen 22): Grundlagen und Programm einer Kanonisch-Intertextuellen Lektüre. Herders Biblische Studien 20. Freiburg: Herder, 1999.
  • Seitz, Christopher R., and Kathryn Greene-McCreight, eds. Theological Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Brevard S. Childs. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
  • Harrisville, Roy A., and Walter Sundberg. The Bible in Modern Culture: Baruch Spinoza to Brevard Childs. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.
  • Lyons, William John. Canon and Exegesis: Canonical Praxis and the Sodom Narrative. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 352. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2002.
  • O’Neal, G. Michael. Interpreting Habakkuk as Scripture: An Application of the Canonical Approach of Brevard S. Childs. Studies in Biblical Literature 6. New York: Peter Lang, 2007.
  • Driver, Daniel R. Brevard Childs, Biblical Theologian: For the Church’s One Bible. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2.46. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010.
  • Xun, Chen. Theological Exegesis in the Canonical Context: Brevard Springs Childs’ Methodology of Biblical Theology. Studies in Biblical Literature 137. New York: Peter Lang, 2010.
  • Seitz, Christopher R., and Kent Richards, eds. The Bible as Christian Scripture: The Work of Brevard S. Childs. Atlanta: SBL, 2013.
  • Poulsen, Frederik. God, His Servant, and the Nations in Isaiah 42:1–9: Biblical Theological Reflections after Brevard S. Childs and Hans Hübner. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 2.73. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2014.
  • Shepherd, Charles E. Theological Interpretation and Isaiah 53: A Critical Comparison of Bernhard Duhm, Brevard Childs, and Alec Motyer. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 598. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
  • Sumpter, Philip. The Substance of Psalm 24: An Attempt to Read Scripture after Brevard S. Childs. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies 600. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.
  • Seitz, Christopher R. Convergences: Canon and Catholicity. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2020.
  • Brown, Robert G. Childs’ Canonical Approach: A Critical Assessment. Studies in Biblical Literature 182. New York: Peter Lang, 2023.

Brevard Childs, Biblical Theologian (2010, 2012)

In pursuit of the oneness of scripture’s scope, Brevard Childs ranged across the Christian Bible, writing Introductions to the Old and New Testaments before attempting a landmark Biblical Theology of the same. For him the canon is a christological rule of faith, though perceiving the “family resemblance” in its historic formation and impress in the life of the church as well as, mysteriously, the synagogue, is always a great struggle. Yet Childs’s argument for final form exegesis rose out of his form-critical training: Hermann Gunkel is a crucial antecedent. Childs’s work has been much discussed, and in the wake of James Barr’s criticism much misunderstood. Driver gives its total profile for the first time, from its background and controversy to its later development, analyzing all published titles and filling out this record with a number of previously unseen letters and papers.


This work advanced through several stages.

  1. It started as a PhD thesis with a different title, defended in October 2008. The final submission is superseded but available from the University of St Andrews research repository.
  2. The Mohr Siebeck edition got a new title, in part to reflect the revisions that were pursued in response to questions from examiners and editors, and to the review of some new material.
  3. Baker Academic commissioned a translation of all the German cited in the book, and published it in an expanded North American edition.
  4. A recapitulation of one of the work’s main findings, drawn from chapter one of the book, appears in SBL’s 2013 Gedenkschrift. You can download it here.

Excerpts from Reviews

Daniel Driver has written a significant and subtle book which does justice to the complex and much-misunderstood oeuvre of one of the twentieth century’s greatest proponents of biblical theology…. I would judge that Driver’s book is entirely successful on its own terms. The questions with which Childs wrestled are important ones, and Driver wishes us to wrestle with them, which has necessitated clearing out a huge amount of problematic secondary literature, striving diligently to capture a whole host of key conceptualities in careful language, and tracing once again the interwoven range of theological questions which occupied both biblical scholars (von Rad, Gunkel…) and systematicians (Barth, Frei …) through much of the last century. Life is always easier when one collapses complex tensions one way or the other. Childs resisted such a path, and Driver calls us to stay with his work long enough to feel the force of the tensions for ourselves. One thus finishes the book eager for the sequel: where next for the biblical theologian? —Richard S. Briggs, Ecclesiology 9.1 (2013): 122–125

Driver offers rich and suggestive probes of the way in which Childs continued to think about midrash as a category for the text of the New Testament, engaged Jewish theological traditions (reflected especially in his Exodus commentary), urged the possibility of serious Jewish-Christian dialogue, and eventually voiced his understanding of the “mystery of Israel.” Driver’s judgments are sound, his learning is impressive, and his attentiveness to nuance in Childs’ work is reassuring. —Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation 67.1 (2013): 79

Driver has done a remarkable amount of research, examining Childs’s work, including early student papers, lectures long buried in library audio archives, and personal letters. What Driver uncovers through this meticulous investigation is a general conceptual coherence among the various elements of Childs’s work and a good deal of continuity throughout Childs’s career, hopefully ensuring that future work will evaluate Childs on his own terms rather than in caricature. —Nathan Chambers, Bulletin for Biblical Research 23.2 (2013): 261–263

This detailed critique by D explores the historical course of the debate, provides a comprehensive bibliography of the most relevant sources, including important reviews, and traces as closely as possible the points that have aroused sharpest contention. The result is a book that is indispensable in showing why, since World War II, historical and theological approaches to the Bible have found it difficult to establish a common ground. It is part biographical and part methodological, looking beyond the work of one scholar to examine major questions about the use and interpretation of Protestantism’s iconic book. It will certainly remain an essential work of reference for a while to come. —Ronald E. Clements, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 35.5 (2011): 17

This brief overview of Driver’s book cannot begin to do full justice to the richness of its subject matter. For this reason I strongly recommended that readers interested in these topics pursue the book for themselves. —Don Collett, International Journal of Systematic Theology 16.4 (2014): 470–473

Sammantaget är Brevard Childs, Biblical Theologian en lärorik bok och rekommenderad läsning för var och en som vill få en inblick, inte bara i en produktiv och ibland provokativ exegets bibelteologiska brottoing under närmare femtio år, utan i hur en forskare genom konsttuktivt nytänkande och ifiägasättande av hävdvunna åsikter försöker finna nya vägar att bearbeta gamla frägor. —LarsOlov Eriksson, Svensk exegetisk årsbok 78 (2013): 212–214

In sum, this book gives a very detailed and extensive presentation of Brevard Childs’s life work. Driver demonstrates clearly Childs’s deep rootedness in German-speaking historical-critical exegesis as well as in the Barthian stream of the Reformed tradition. He clearly lays out Childs’s lifelong struggle for a whole-biblical theology that on the one hand takes historical-critical work seriously but on the other hand also can make a distinctive and prescriptive contribution to a decidedly Christian theology. As a biblical theologian, Childs is very hard to pin down, thanks to his detailed processing of the positions with which he interacted: his lifelong critique of the history-of-religions school, the unfortunate (because based on misunderstanding) criticism of James Barr (and others), and Childs’s delimitation of his own approach from apparently similar but actually opposed narrative-critical and intertextual Bible-reading strategies that run afoul of sound literary-critical method. Overall, this stimulating book presents Child’s impressive and influential work to exegetes and theologians as an inspiration and encouragement to consciously differentiate and actively represent their Christian theological positions. —Aaron Schart, Theologische Literaturzeitung 137.1 (2012): 36–38

This is an ambitious, multifaceted, and demanding study—much like Childs’s own writings over the decades…. All with an interest in biblical interpretation that does justice to both critical and confessional realities are in Driver’s debt for the most thorough breakdown to date of Childs’s remarkable achievement in historical, exegetical, theological, and spiritual reading of Scripture. —Robert W. Yarbrough, Bulletin for Biblical Research 23.3 (2013): 450–451