Posts Tagged ‘OT Theology’

The Rapid Decline of Genesis 4

In a few verses the writer is able to convey a sense of the catastrophic descent of the human race from covering up killing to boasting in bloodletting.  Cain’s nonchalant words and his great-great grandson’s boast frame this genealogy and mark its spirit and its descent into a moral and spiritual abyss.  The irresponsible ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ attempts to deny murder (Gen. 4:9); ‘I have killed a man for wounding me’ glories in it (Gen. 4:23).  This is certainly not the dominion intended for humanity in Genesis 1-2.

Stephen Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty, pages 70-71

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Moreover, the final compilers of the biblical text ensured that the text was to be understood as a unity.  There are not only major groupings of books, but editorial ‘splices’ that join major groupings of books with each other.  Therefore, both theological and literary points are made simultaneously.  For example, at the beginning of each of the major sections of the Hebrew Bible there is an extraordinary emphasis on the word of God.  The Bible begins with the word of God creating reality, and its first work is to create light, thus establishing the rhythm of the day and night (Gen. 1:3-5).  The text proceeds to describe the first human beings and their residence in the garden of Eden, which is maintained only by organizing their lives around the word of God (Gen. 2:4-25).  Joshua, which commences the second major grouping of biblical books, the Prophets, contains an exhortation requiring the new Israelite leader to meditate day and night on the Torah to ensure the success of Israel’s conquest of Canaan, and so be enabled to enjoy the fruits of the new Eden (Josh. 1:8-9).  Near the beginning of the third and last grouping of books, the Writings, Israelites are urged to meditate on the Torah day and night in order to find success and become like trees planted in a garden alongside streams of gushing water (Ps. 1:2-3).  By these links, this writing is conceptually distinguished from other writings, since it is the Word of God.  But it is also distinguished literarily, since an implicit unity has been marked explicitly: it is also the Word of God.

Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, pages 32-33 (italics original)

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From time to time I’ll post short thoughts on books that I’ve read but don’t want to review for some reason.  Hope you find it helpful.

Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach, by Robin Routledge.  IVP sent me a copy of this book, which came out in 2008.  It’s a decent overview of OT Theology, offering thoughts on the variety of themes that pop up throughout the OT (as the subtitle indicates).  If you are looking for one OT Theology to study, this would not be my first choice (perhaps Waltke, or Stephen Dempster’s, which I haven’t read but heard is good).  Routledge gives a solid overview of differing views, perhaps to the detriment of coming down hard one a particular position.  Students will appreciate the footnotes; he gives page numbers for every major OT Theology written to go with each section he is discussing.  All in all, it’s okay, but not my first choice.  Had a thought after I posted this.  Routledge doesn’t show any of the exegesis that goes into his views, which factors into my assessment.  I like to see the exegetical work behind the conclusions, which is one reason why I like Waltke’s book so much.  It’s also interesting given that Routledge has not produced any major commentaries on OT books, unlike Waltke, Brueggemann and others.  At least those authors could say, “check out my commentary for more.”

The Surprising Work of God: Harold Ockenga, Billy Graham and the Rebirth of Evangelicalism, by Garth Rosell.  I read this for my church history class and really liked it.  Dr Rosell is writing as someone who witnessed a lot of the events he writes about and people he knew, as his father was a well known evangelist during the revivals in the 50’s.  I was inspired by the faith of the people involved in the early days of modern evangelicalism,  Rosell offers more on Ockenga than Graham, which I was thankful for, since Ockenga is less well known these days than Billy Graham.

The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians, by D A Carson.  I know, I know, 2 Carson mentions in one day.  I actually read this book last year, but forgot it for my Top 5 of 2009.  It definitely would have made that list had I remembered (and I’d probably not cheat and have Block’s Ezekiel commentary).  I actually think this is the kind of book where Carson is at his best; he offers solid and insightful exegesis alongside convicting thoughts on how we can apply the text to our lives and the church.  There is no doubt that the cross was central to Paul and his ministry; Carson helps us follow that pattern with this book.  Anyone in ministry should read this book.

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Thanks for Chris at Zondervan for a review copy of this book.

This post is designed to be a summary of my thoughts on Bruce Waltke’s excellent book, An Old Testament Theology.  I’ve opted not to cover every detail of this book in my reviews, but have tried to sample a bit of what Waltke does and how I’ve found it helpful.  Because you check out my other reviews (go to the Book Reviews page), I will keep this relatively short and sweet.

Let me approach this critique byOT Theology using the subtitle of the book: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach.  It’s generally a good habit to critique a book based on the goals of the author rather than what the reader thinks they should have said.

The greatest strength of this book is the exegesis contained within it.  Time and time again I came away learning something new and being challenged to rethink some positions I’ve previously held.  In Part II of this review I mentioned his take on the “us” in Genesis 1:26 being the heavenly court.  His grammatical insights are fairly persuasive, in my mind.  His ability to link stories throughout the Old Testament through related concepts (see Part I) helped me realize the internal coherence of the Old Testament.

But one of the great aspects of this book, though, is how the exegesis flows well into theological reflection.  The reader doesn’t simply come away with notes on details of the text, but how the biblical authors were reflecting on the character of God and its impact on the reader.  In Part IV I highlighted his helpful treatments of the post-exilic historical narratives, in particular the Ezra-Nehemiah narratives, and how they highlight the loving providence of God.  Waltke excels in this regard.

As far as the thematic aspect of this book, Waltke focuses on the “theological center” of the Old Testament: “irruption (breaking-in) of the Kingship of God.”  “To put it another way, the Bible is about God bringing glory upon himself by restoring Paradise after humanity lost it through a loss of faith in God that led to rebellion against his rule” (p144).  Thus, the unifying theme is God’s redemption of a fallen world and bringing his kingdom onto this earth.  Thankfully, Waltke doesn’t try to fit everything into this theme, understanding that there are points in the Old Testament where this is not particularly highlighted.  Nonetheless, Waltke rightly sees the theme of God’s rule spread throughout the books of the Old Testament.

My main criticism of the book is in the “canonical” insights, specifically how a theme or story is traced throughout the rest of the Old Testament and into the New Testament.  Waltke openly admits that an NT scholar would be better equipped to discuss the NT developments, but he still ventures to offer some thoughts.  Unfortunately, though, I don’t think he tackles the most important issues and texts.

In Part III of my review, I point out how Waltke doesn’t adaquetly trace the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants throughout the rest of the canon.  Regarding Abraham, he spends most of his time dealing with Romans 9-11, and almost no treatment of how the prophets recall God’s covenant with Abraham.  And when it comes to God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7 and how that helps us understand the coming of the Son of David, Jesus, well… I came away disappointed.  He actually focuses on the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke rather than how God fulfills his promise to David in Jesus.  This seems completely out of place given Waltke’s own goals.  I understand he isn’t a New Testament scholar, but he is as well equipped as anyone to give us some substance to the NT references to these covenants.  The reader is left searching elsewhere for these insights.

But I don’t want to give the impression that this defincency in any way takes away from the important contribution Waltke makes in this book.  I’ve read other Old Testament theologies; I don’t think there is a better and more thorough treatment out there.  It’s true you can’t cover everything, even in a book this size, but Waltke does as well as can be expected.  Don’t let the size (and price) scare you away- An Old Testament Theology is so well structured and written that the reader will find it easier than its size might make you think.

Bruce Waltke is to be commended for his lifelong contribution to evangelical scholarship.  This book reflects decades of wrestling with the text and being challenged to reckon with the God of heaven and earth.  We ought to be thankful that Dr Waltke has given himself to the study and application of the word of God, and be thankful that he has given us such a masterful treatment of the Old Testament.  In the end, one gets the sense that Bruce Waltke has been profoundly changed by the God of the Bible and wants others to be as well.  The fruit of his labor will bless the church for many years to come.

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Special thanks to Adrianna from IVP for a review copy of this book.

Over the last few years of teaching in my church, I have searched in vain for a book to recommend to folks that will help them grasp the (often confusing) content of the Old Testament.  It seems to me that most books simply don’t communicate well enough to satisfy the needs of the church.

Enter Sandra Richter, and her new book, The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament.  Richter is an OT professor at Asbury Theological Seminary (and a Gordon-Conwell grad, so you know this has to be good).  I’ve been looking for exactly this kind of book for some time.  It’s hard for most readers to make sense of the OT; there are violent wars, strange customs, a bunch of funky sounding names, odd chronological arrangement of the books, etc.  The confusion alone makes it seemingly not worth the effort to work through the OT.  And when you add in things like the sacrificial system and the Law of Moses, which are no longer binding in the new covenant, some Christians wonder why it’s worth the time to figure all this out.

What Richter does is demonstrate masterfully not only why the OT is worthwhile (it is part of our story, after all) but how OT works.  She uses the metaphor of a “closet organizer.”  She  notes that for many, the OT is like a messy closet: there are all sorts of items in there, but seemingly little-to-no organizational structure.  Richter comes in to provide order to the chaos, and does so admirably well.

She breaks the OT down into 5 main portions based on 5 main characters: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David.  If you can understand these 5 men and why they are important, Richter claims you can have a good grasp of how the OT works.  Even before she does this she takes the time to explain basic customs of the Ancient Near East, as well as important concepts such as covenant.  Richter does all of this without coming across as dry or academic.  One gets the sense that she’s explained these things in non-academic settings before.

Richter focuses more on content rather than academic debates, but I don’t mean to say that this book is shallow.   She discusses Hittite treaties and how they effect our understanding of Deuteronomy, explains how covenants were made and why Abraham split the animals into 2 halves in Genesis 15,  mentions the disagreements over the date of the exodus (15th or 13th century?) etc.  All this to say, there is not a lack of depth.  But she doesn’t dive into these things merely for the sake of good information; she demonstrates how all these help us understand what is going on in the Bible.  Outside information serves to illuminate and illustrate the biblical text.

Richter includes a glossary at the end of the book, which will be useful for those who are having trouble sorting through all the new vocabulary.  She also added an appendix dealing with FAQs, a unique idea that I wish more books utilized.  The only downfall is that she only answers 2 questions: what role does the Law play in the Christian’s life and what do we make of the current state of Israel?  Those, of course, are big questions (and I happen to agree with her answers) so I can understand why she didn’t include more.

There are, of course, a couple points I would have liked for Richter to handle a little differently, most of which are fairly minor.  A subject index would have been nice, as well as perhaps a recommended reading list (though you can mine the endnotes if you want).  In her discussion on the Image of God (which was too short) she notes that to figure out what is meant by this phrase in Genesis 1:26 one must look at the context, an approach which I applaud.  But in her list she includes “self-aware and emphatic” (p107), which I don’t find in the text at all.

Also, Richter doesn’t say as much as one might like about the prophets.  Sure, they’re sprinkled throughout the book, but there’s no real sense of where they belong in the OT, which in my teaching experience has been an obstacle for many readers.  I don’t think she would have needed to write much, but maybe a subsection under the David chapter (which deals with the kingdoms of Israel and Judah as well) and how the prophets were operating during the time period of the Kings.  I also felt like Douglas Stuart’s emphasis on the prophets as covenant enforcement mediators would have been helpful here, to demonstrate how the prophets were calling the people of God to remain faithful to the covenant as outlined in Deuteronomy.

But those detractions are hardly detrimental to the effectiveness of the book as a whole.  Richter has done exactly what she set out to do, to help Christians make sense of the the storyline of the OT and how it impacts us as Christians (for instance, how God’s original intention as seen in Genesis and God’s final intention as seen in Revelation fit together).  And she has done this in such a winsome manner.  I was impressed again and again how easy this book is to read and how clearly she explained difficult and foreign concepts.  If all Bible scholars could write this well for a general audience, I’d be able to recommend many more books than I currently do.  I have yet to encounter a book that accomplishes so well the goal of organizing the apparent chaos of the Old Testament.  I have and will continue to recommend The Epic of Eden to anyone who is looking to learn more about the Old Testament and how it does actually make sense.   Go buy this book.

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Thanks to Chris at Zondervan for a review copy of this book.

OT Theology by Bruce WaltkeIt has admittedly, and regretfully, been a while since I’ve posted more of my review of this book.  I won’t make excuses, but I’ll reiterate that Waltke’s book is well worth the time it takes to plow through it.  I left off in my last portion of the review with the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants and some of Waltke’s thoughts on kingship in the OT.  In this part, I’d like to summarize Waltke’s treatment of the historical narratives written for the postexilic period: Chronicles, Esther and Ezra-Nehemiah (these constitute chapters 27-28).

Waltke favors a date shortly after the return from exile for Chronicles, written to address the issues of that community.  As one might expect of a community coming out of exile in a foreign land, there were many questions to ask.  For example, Chronciles highlights the Jerusalem temple.  In fact, Waltke follows Pratt in pointing out that 17 of 21 chapters about David are dedicated to his preparations for the temple, which was built by Solomon.  This fact helps lean the reader towards a date around the time of Haggai and Zechariah, post-exilic prophets who were instrumental in getting the temple rebuilt.

It has been noted time and again that the Chronicler “whitewashes” some of Israel’s history, leaving out some of the negative details and including more repentance on the part of certain kings, notably Manasseh.  “His portrait of Manasseh serves as an object lesson for the Judahites and the covenant community at large: God is more concerned with repentance and restoration than with retribution” (p764).

Regarding Esther, Waltke takes the intriguing point of view that Esther and Mordecai are nothing more than “nominal covenant people” rather than heroic figures.  He notes: they do not return from exile, Esther hides her nationality (which would have to include breaking certain Mosaic laws that contradicted pagan practices in order not to be discovered), they do not give glory to God when they come out victorious, etc.  I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, but it’s something I’m going to spend more time studying.  I know Douglas Stuart, one of my former OT professors, takes a similar approach.  If scholars of this caliber agree on something, one would do well to pay attention, at the very least.

As for what the book of Esther teaches about God, it certainly shows his providence and his faithfulness to his covenant people, even using nominal covenant members for his purposes.  There are far too many “timely reversals” in this book for it to recall mere coincidental happenings.  The book of Esther demonstrates God’s behind-the-scenes work on behalf of his people.

Ezra-Nehemiah constitute one book, compiled through official records and the memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Perhaps the most informative aspect of this chapter is Waltke’s careful weaving of the structure of the book- he apparently have never met a chiasm he didn’t like- with insightful comments regarding the content of the book.  The reader comes away with a strong summary of Ezra-Nehemiah and a better idea of how the book coheres.

Waltke also discuss some of the theological aspects of Ezra-Nehemiah.  Again, the reader learns about how God’s providence works to bring his people back from exile.  There is also an emphasis on the need for a pure community wholely devoted to God.  Waltke also detects in the prayers of repentance found in Ezra 9 and Nehemiah 9 a longing for the Messiah, the promised Davidic king, as the people are still enslaved to a foreign nation.  This fits well with the thesis that even in Jesus’ day there was a sense in which the exile had not ended because Israel was not self-governing.

In all, these 2 chapters provide the reader with a strong grasp of the biblical material and how God worked to bring about the restoration of his people.  I found nothing in these chapters particularly disagreeable, in fact, I’d highly recommend them as reliable guides for those wishing to become oriented to the books of Chronicles, Esther and Ezra-Nehemiah.

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Thanks again to Adrianna of IVP for a review copy of this book.

We pick up from part 1 of this review, starting with chapter 3, which covers “evidence elsewhere in the Old Testament.” As a reminder, Beale’s thesis statement is “what people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”  The first review dealt with his introductory chapter (covering assumptions and methodology) and the chapter on idolatry and Isaiah 6.  In this review, we summarize Beale’s treatment of the story of Israelites worshipping the golden calf and idolatry in the Garden of Eden.

Beale shows the verbal connections between Deuteronomy 4:27-28, 29:4- dealing with the earliest history of the Israelite people- and Isaiah 6:9-10 and Psalm 115:4-7.  “Thus the roots of the irony of idolatry are to be found as early as Israel’s first generation that emerged out of Egypt.  And so the wilderness generation and Isaiah’s generation are people who are becoming like the idols they are worshiping, and that likenss mortally injures them” (p76).

Beale demonstrates this in the “golden calf incident” (Exodus 32).  “The point of the comparison between the first generation’s idolatry and that of future generations is that the golden calf idolatry was seen to be paradigmatic of Israel’s future idolatry, so that the latter was patterened about the former” (p77).  We see this in Psalm 106:19-20, in the “stiff-necked” Israelites of 1 Kings 12:25-33 and 2 Kings 17:7-18 (notice in the latter passage “they followed vanity and became vain”), the idolatrous Israelites condemned in Hosea (4:7-17, 8:4-7, 10:5, 10:11, 13:2-3), and in Jeremiah (2:5-11, 7:22-27 among others).  Along with these texts, we see other places where “sensory-malfunction” language is used, the vast majority of which is connected to idolotary (see Ezekiel 12:2).

Even though there are places in this chapter where you have to wonder if Beale is seeing more than what’s there, there’s no doubt that he successfully makes his case that (1) idolatry is prevalent throughout the OT, (2) that the golden calf incident of the wilderness generation is the paradigmatic incident of idolatry and (3) the consequence of this idolatry is becoming like the object worshipped (stiff-necked and stubborn like cattle, “following vanity and becoming vain,” etc).

Beale then turns in chapter 4 to the narrative of Adam and Eve in the garden to discuss the idolatry of the first humans.  He acknowledges that idolatry is not specifically mentioned, but argues that this is precisely what happens.  “Adam’s allegiance shifted from God to himself and probably also to Satan” (p133).  The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is the place where judgment occurs (“knowing good and evil” frequently occurs in contexts of kings exacting judgment, and trees are often places where judgments are rendered), and is precisely where Adam failed to judge the serpent and guard the garden (again, Beale admits that “guard/protect” is never explicitly stated).

Keeping in mind that his thesis is “what people revere, they resemble,” Beale notes that Adam “comes to resemble the serpent’s character in some ways.  The serpent was a liar (Gen 3:4) and a deceiver (Gen 3:1, 13)” (p133).  Technically, I’m not sure the logical connection must be what Beale says it is.  In other words, Beale’s thesis is “a leads to b” but that doesn’t necessarily mean “b must be the result of a.”  With that said, it’s not hard to see the connection when you assume his thesis (which is easily demonstrable from elsewhere in the OT).

Interestingly, Beale appeals to Ezekiel 28 to show how the later prophet understood Adam’s sin.  Ezekiel 28:1-10 and 11-19 are successive judgments on the King of Tyre.  The second is often seen as a judgment on Satan (which I disagree with) or Adam, the stance that Beale takes.  So, the King of Tyre, who is judged because he promotes himself to the level of God (vv 2, 5, 9) is judged like Adam, whose heart is also “lifted up” (v17, see vv 2, 5).  “[T]he king of Tyre’s sin and judgment is seen primarily through the lens of the sin and judgment of the figure of Eden instead of his own particular sin, and the latter’s sin and judgment is viewed as a kind of recapitulation of the primeval sin” (p137).

Thus, what we have here is a development from the theme of worshipping an idol of stone or metal.  The specific form of idolatry here is idolatry of self.  “[W]hen we try to enlarge ourselves and try to bring glory to ourselves, then we are actually reflecting our ego in a greater and greater way.  If this is so, then it fits with the particular idea of idolatry that we have noted earlier: The idol that we revere, we reflect, which leads ultimately to ruin” (p140).

In the next portion of this review, we’ll dive into Beale’s treatment of the relevant NT texts.

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Special thanks to Adrianna of IVP for a review copy of this book.

I mentioned at the end of last year that I had received a copy of Greg Beale’s book We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry and that I was genuinely excited to get a chance to read it.  In fact, I’m so excited that this will end up being a multi-part review, probably 4, if I had to guess.  This first review covers the first 2 chapters.

The first chapter helpfully sets out Beale’s thesis and approach.  His thesis: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration” (p16).  Not surprisingly, Beale starts with the assumption that Scripture coheres, and that biblical writers intentionally pick up passages and themes from previous contexts (sometimes in quotations, sometimes in allusions), and still respect the original context (intertextuality).  He considers himself a “maximalist” in regards to intertextuality, a refreshingly honest admission in a day when spaghetti-spined scholars want to paint themselves as “middle of the road” and “best of all worlds” kinds of guys.

He also openly admits to doing “hyperegesis,” which is “going beyond the Old Testament authors’ conscious original intention, not violating it but trascending it by creatively developing it in the ongoing light of progressive revelation and consistently within the parameters of the willed type of the original utterance” (p32).  Undoubtedly, some will not be convinced by this approach and wonder about its validity.

Two aspects of Beale’s approach are somewhat (though not entirely unique).  First, he tries to see where later OT writers used earlier OT writers.  Since most of the focus has been on the NT writers’ use of the OT, it’s interesting to see someone pick a slightly different path (though Beale isn’t the only one doing this, Douglas Stuart does this is in prophet commentaries).  Second, instead of arbitrarily picking a theme to study in Scripture, Beale opts for a text (in this case, Isaiah 6) and shows how it is developed.

Occasionally, you’ll find annoying caveats like, “I suspect there will be moments in the remainder of this chapter that some readers will have to exercise patience in following my discussion” (p22).  This, to me, is akin to a preacher starting his sermon, “Just a heads-up, this will be long and boring, but if you pay attention, you’ll get something good out of it.”

In one sense, it is odd that Beale opts for Isaiah 6 as his base text.  After all, Psalm 115 (and 135, with almost the exact wording) states his thesis clearly.  But, his point isn’t simply to prove the truth of his statement, but to show its importance for the biblical understanding of idolatry.

More than that, as noted above, Beale isn’t simply trying to trace a theme, but to trace a text (Isaiah 6) and its use in the rest of the Bible.  And Beale’s reading of Isaiah 6 is that it is a judgment of Israelite idolatry, and the punishment is becoming blind, deaf and unable to understand.  Take a second and read this chapter, especially vv9-13, in your English translation and you’ll probably wonder how he gets this reading from these verses.  Well, that’s what chapter 2 is for.

Beale notes that the “sensory-organ malfunction” language in Isaiah is applied to idols and those who worship them (42:17-20; 43:8,10; 44:17-18), as in Psalm 115.  Thus, the similar language in Isaiah 6 shows that the problem is idolatry, and the punishment is becoming like the idols being worshipped in place of God.  Beale also argues that the language in v13 (“subject to burning,” “terebinth,” “stump”) are words linked to idolatry elsewhere (see “terebinth” in Isaiah 1:29-31).  Thus, what we have here in Isaiah 6 is a denouncement and necessary punishment of Israel’s idolatry, becoming like the idols they revere.  I’m leaving out a lot of the discussion, largely because it’s rather dense.  Instead, I’m simply laying out Beale’s thesis and understanding of this passage.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first of this take on Isaiah 6.  But after reading this passage, I really feel that Beale may be on to something.  I would like to see an evaluation of a more established OT scholar, though endorsements on the back cover from Douglas Stuart, Bruce Waltke and T Desmond Alexander do count for something (though we all know endorsements don’t mean wholesale agreement, either).  There are enough connections with other passages on idolatry, both conceptual and lexical, that make his reading plausible, if not probable.

The next portion of the review will cover the next 2 chapters on other portions of the OT.

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I set out this year to read some books from outside my normal genre, biblical studies (especially commentaries), in order to broaden my horizons a bit.  I read a number of books I thought were excellent, some of which have been reviewed (click our “Book Reviews” tab and check them out).  But, I thought I’d point out my favorites from this year.  Note well: these books may not have been published in 2008, but I read them this year for the first time (hence the title “New Reads” rather than “New Books”).  Here they are, in no particular order.

Jesus Made in America, by Stephen J Nichols

I loved this book.  I certainly had some disagreement- the Puritan lovefest, some (but not all) of his criticisms of modern Christian music and movies- but overall Nichols succeeded in showing how American views of Jesus have shifted throughout the generations, often influenced by culture rather than the Bible.  I came away from this book challenged about my own understanding of who Jesus was/is, and not so confident of our own ability to understand Him without cultural baggage making its way into the process.  Jesus Made in America has catipulted Nichols into my “authors I must read” category (in fact, I’m finishing another book of his right now).

An Old Testament Theology, by Bruce Waltke

I’ve been working on a multi-part review of this book for some time, due partly to its massive size and partly to my busy schedule.  Don’t let my last review of this book deceive you, it’s an excellent read and a learning experience well worth the time.  Students of the OT won’t be surprised by this, however, as Waltke’s reputation precedes him.

Neither Poverty Nor Riches, by Craig Blomberg

I’m getting to this book about 10 years later than I should have.  Blomberg, as usual, was informative, challenging and enjoyable.  For anyone interested in ministering to the poor, this is a must read.

Worship Matters, by Bob Kauflin

I’m not a worship leader.  I have no musical gifting whatsoever.  But I’m convinced that worship through music is an integral part of the teaching aspect of the church, so as a Bible teacher I’m fascinated with how we can better use worship to teach people about God.  Bob Kauflin helps us in this area, and gives tons of great insight in practical matters for worship leaders as well. 

Theology in the Context of World Christianity, by Timothy Tennent

This is the only book on this list I haven’t reviewed.  Full disclosure: Tennent was one of my professors at Gordon-Conwell, and one of the finest lecturers I’ve ever heard.  I can’t think of anyone more qualified to write this book.  Tennent is a top-notch missiologist with a strong concern for a theologically grounded approach to missions.  I remember in classes how he would plead for us to listen to the non-Western church and learn from how they “do theology.”  This book helps us do that very thing, by letting us see theology through the eyes of the global church.  This has impacted me in a powerful way; I felt like I never really understood hermeneutics until I studied missions.  It has made me a better student of the Bible.  Anyone interested in theology and/or missions ought to read this book.  I look forward to his next project, a Trinitarian Missiology.

Okay, I’ll stop there.  There were other good ones, to be sure, but these stand out for me.  As for 2009, I have a number of books I’m looking forward to reading, but especially G K Beale’s We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry.  I’ve been jonesing to read this book since I first heard about it, and thanks to Adrianna at IVP, I now have a copy and will be writing a review sometime in the future.  I’m getting excited just thinking about it!

What about you?  What have been your favorite books of 2008?

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Thanks to Chris at Zondervan for a review copy of this book.


In this portion of the review, I’ve opted to focus specifically on Waltke’s treatment of the Abrahamic & Davidic covenants.  I did this for two main reasons: 1) since Waltke’s book is, in part, a biblical theology, I wanted to know how he develops these two covenants and 2) I tell my students every year (ad nauseum, actually) that these two covenants are foundational for understanding the rest of the Bible (more on that as we go along).  



OT Theology by Bruce WaltkeIn chapter 12, The Gift of the Abrahamic Covenant, Waltke shows us how the story of Abraham and his sons (the patriarchs) connects with Genesis 1-11.  “The story of the Fall [Genesis 1-11] poses the challenge; the patriarchal narratives… are God’s definitive response” (p307).  Much of his treatment of Abraham and his sons is terrific.  For instance, he specializes in the structure of the patriarchal narratives (lovers of chiasms will love this chapter) and offers helpful insights into Abraham’s faith (which is not unwavering, but still commendable).


Unfortunately, he doesn’t show how the Abrahamic covenant is so crucial to the rest of the Bible, specifically in the prophets.  How many times do we read about “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”?  How many times do we read prophecies (especially in Isaiah) about the nations being drawn to Israel?  These are bringing us back to the stories of Abraham.  Waltke offers an extended treatment of Romans 9-11, dealing with the relationship of Israel to the church.  I imagine this is in part due to his turn from dispensationalism to covenant theology (one I happen to laud), so he may have felt the need to include this discussion.  But, in the meantime, I felt like an opportunity to do some strong biblical theology was missed.


Waltke deals with the Davidic covenant (see 2 Samuel 7) in its own chapter (chapter 23).  But unlike his treatment of the development of the Abrahamic covenant, Waltke does in fact develop the idea of kingship in chapter 24, The Gift of Kingship.  He leads off by taking on the notion that kingship is actually seen in a negative light in the Old Testament.  For instance, Waltke also argues, persuasively, that Gideon is hardly a credible person in the narrative, so his complete objection to kingship (Judges 8:22-23) can hardly be seen as the narrator’s point of view (p684).  


I highly commend Waltke’s survey of the views of the kingship in the Pentateuch, but I want to move on to how he sees the development of kingship, specifically Davidic, in the rest of the Bible.  He even includes a helpful section on the relationship between the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, noting that “the Davidic covenant fulfills, confirms, and supplements the Abrahamic covenant” (p692).  I’m not sure I totally agree with his use of “fulfill,” since while David’s dynasty does fulfill part of it, we still don’t see the nations of the earth being blessed in David or his sons (until, of course, Jesus).  


Regarding how the Davidic covenant supplements the Abrahamic covenant, Waltke states, “I AM promises unconditionally to both Abraham and David an eternal posterity: to Abraham an enduring nation; to David an enduring dynasty to rule that nation.  Indeed, David’s eternal dynasty mediates the kings who I AM promised to give from Abraham and Sarah’s own bodies” (p693).  


Beginning on p699, Waltke includes a brief survey of how the prophets, psalms and New Testament develop the theme of Davidic kingship.  When I say “brief,” I really mean it- only 2 ½ pages.  I would have liked more, but I’m thankful for what he included, specifically with the prophets.  He quotes Is 9:6-7, 11:2; Jer 23:5-6; and Mic 5:2-5 to point out to the reader how these recall God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7.  Again, while it would have been nice for him to develop this more (and maybe talk about passages like Ezekiel 37:24-28), he gives enough to help the reader make a connection that many of us do not make at all.  But, if we’re paying attention to what Waltke’s point is (that the prophets bring us back to God’s covenant with David) and paying attention when we’re reading the prophets, we’ll begin to see these connections for ourselves.


His treatment of the Davidic covenant in the Psalms and New Testament, however, are a bit more disappointing.  He gives one paragraph to the Psalms; the same goes for “Jesus Christ and the Davidic Covenant.”  And in his discussion of Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1, he actually gives his opinion on why it differs from Luke’s genealogy.  Matthew sets him up for a chance to make a great point for his readers, and he misses it.  Matthew starts with, “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  What more could an Old Testament scholar ask for!  I was waiting for Waltke to knock this out of the park, but in the end, he opted to bunt instead.  


I started this review noting that I wanted to see how Waltke developed these two great covenants.  As you can tell, I came away somewhat disappointed.  What he does say is great, and there’s much to learn from it, but I can’t help but think more could have been said (yes, in a book weighing in at 1000+ pages).  


I’ve thought about whether it’s fair for me to judge Waltke on his discussion of topics that I’m interested in.  But I don’t think it’s simply about my interest level.  The Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are recalled time and time again throughout the Bible.  Every time we read about “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” and the nations being drawn in to God’s people, the biblical authors are reminding us of God’s promise to Abraham.  Every time we read in the prophets about the coming king in the line of David, or the psalmists’ prayers for blessings on the king, or the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David, the biblical authors are reminding us of God’s promise to David.  So, no, I don’t think I’m simply importing my own wishes on Waltke.  Back on p125-126, Waltke states, “Later texts by charismatic figures- be they prophets (such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel), prophets historians (e.g., the Deuteronomist and Chronicler), or an authorized exegete (such as Ezra)- occasionally transform the teaching of earlier texts of charismatic figures (such as Moses).”  This was a chance for Waltke to demonstrate that point; I wish he would have taken that opportunity.

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