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Matthew Elliott: Faithful Feelings


Matthew A. Elliott, Faithful Feelings: Rethinking Emotions in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2006), 301pages, ISBN 0825425455.

This reviewer’s response to Matthew Elliott’s book Faithful Feelings is very positive as it focuses on a matter of personal concern: reading the New Testament as to its emotional content on the part of the writers and on the part of the recipients. The title comes from Elliott’s belief that the “emotions are a faithful reflection of what we believe and value” (p. 264).

At the beginning of the book, Elliott examines both the cognitive and non-cognitive understandings of emotions and acknowledges that biblical scholars have either opted for either one or the other without recognizing the mutuality of the two. The author contends for a feeling content in love, joy, hope, jealousy, fear, sorrow and anger while rejecting a purely non-cognitive approach which considers emotions to be irrational feelings. The intensity of the feelings of the emotions is proportionate to the value placed upon the one who elicits the feeling of love, joy, peace, hope, anger, sorrow or fear.

“[L]ove is not one virtue of many—it is the cornerstone of Christian ethics.”

Matthew A. Elliott

The author, Matthew A. Elliott, hints to both his British background and an Evangelical persuasion. The British background is suggested by his choice of the British spelling of the English language and his training under I. Howard Marshall of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. His acknowledgment of Marshall, and Marshall’s short recommendation on the back cover of the book is suggestive of an Evangelical bent.

Matthew Elliot

After his opening introduction, Elliott proceeds to devote a chapter on emotions as experienced in the Greco-Roman world and another chapter on emotions within Jewish culture and writings. A fourth chapter analyzes love, joy, and hope as seen in the synoptic gospels, the writings of Paul, the general epistles and Revelation. He does the same type of analysis on jealousy, fear, sorrow and grief, anger and hatred, in chapter five. Both chapter four and five end by discussing the appearance of these various emotions within the New Testament. The final chapter consists of a summary statement as to the findings of his research into the emotions as they appear in the New Testament. The summarization includes Elliott’s judgments on what was discovered through the research.

Faithful Feelings can be evaluated as academic, at its best, and also easy reading. Each page of the book is heavy with footnotes but is, nonetheless, easy to follow. He acknowledges an esteem he has for the American preacher-theologian Jonathan Edwards and his book, Religious Affections. Elliott draws upon classical writers, rabbinic authors, Church Fathers such as Augustine and Origen and also Reformers including Luther and Calvin. He acknowledges contributions of Brueggemann, Bornkamm, Joachim Jeremias, B.B. Warfield and Evangelicals such as D.A. Carson, Douglas Moo, I. Howard Marshall, N.T. Wright, and John R.W. Stott, to name a few. He cites Craig S. Keener, a well-known Pentecostal at Palmer University. The thirty-two page heavily documented bibliography is evidence of Elliott’s thorough research.

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2010

About the Author: Woodrow E. Walton, D.Min. (Oral Roberts University School of Theology and Missions), B.A. (Texas Christian University), B.D. [M.Div.] (Duke Divinity School), M.A. (University of Oklahoma), is a retired Seminary Dean and Professor of biblical, theological and historical studies. An ordained Assemblies of God minister, he and his wife live in Fort Worth, Texas. Walton retains membership with the Evangelical Theological Society, American Association of Christian Counselors, American Society of Church History, American Academy of Political Science, and The International Society of Frontier Missiology.

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