Tag Archives | Old Testament

First and Second Samuel | Walter Brueggemann

The cover of Brueggemann's First and Second SamuelThe books of Samuel describe a critical shift in the life of Israel.

When the book begins, Israel had suffered through a series of increasingly impotent judges. The loose confederation of tribes increasingly wandered from God and did what seemed right in their own eyes. Into this world Hannah struggled and conceived a child—Samuel. When the book ends, Israel is a monarchy under the rule of King David, the second of two Kings Samuel anointed.

Here is the critical shift: Israel has gone from being a nation under YHWH to a nation under human kings.

Brueggemann’s commentary is excellent. He presents a close reading of the story of Samuel, Saul, and David with an eye for detail. All the political nuances which might escape the casual reader of scripture are brought to the forefront for consideration.

In Brueggemann’s reading, the heroes and villains of scripture are no one-sided caricatures. They are complicated, as human beings always are. David is no mere Sunday School hero—he is at the same time politically shrewd and spiritually attuned. He is human, warts and all.

The Interpretation commentary series is not overly technical. I would encourage any thoughtful Christian with a love for scripture to pick up this gem and read it alongside the text.


Brueggemann, Walter.  First and Second Samuel. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990.

Mandate to Difference | Walter Brueggemann

The cover of Brueggemann's Mandate to DifferenceThe world is dark. Brueggemann describes our current situation as “technological, therapeutic, military consumerism” (63).

  • Technological: We blindly accept new technologies which give us a sense of invincibility.
  • Therapeutic: We are obsessed with “pain-free, death-free, inconvenience-free existence at the expense of the neighbor” (63).
  • Military: We put our faith (and our money) in military power.
  • Consumerism: We buy in order to achieve happiness.

In the midst of this dark world, the Hebrew Scriptures offer hope. Mandate to Difference is a collection of essays and sermons that offer an alternative way of living based on God’s Word.

All of Brueggemann’s favourite themes are found here: the necessity of Sabbath, the call for justice, and the challenge to imagine a different future that challenges the current ideology. Since this is a collection, many of the ideas are repeated in different forms, as Brueggemann admits in the preface. This doesn’t take away from the work, it reminds the reader of what is important.

If you cringe at the boisterous, cocky new sound of religion in politics, if you worry about the divisiveness of “red” and “blue,” and if you are vexed that too many people claim to be speaking directly for Christ … (1)

… then read these essays and accept Brueggemann’s invitation to be different.

—Walter Brueggemann, Mandate to Difference: An Invitation to the Contemporary Church (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007).

New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes | F. F. Bruce

The cover of Bruce's New Testament Development of Old Testament ThemesI cut my theological teeth on F. F. Bruce. I can still remember warm sleepy afternoon classes on the upper floor of my Bible College discussing Bruce’s Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free.

New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes is an expansion of the Payton Lectures Bruce delivered at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1968. Unsurprisingly, given the title, these lectures explore how some of the grand Old Testament themes such as the rule of God, the salvation of God, and the servant Messiah are developed in light of Christ.

Bruce’s knowledge of the culture surrounding the development of the Old Testament inform these lectures at every step. For example, it’s inspiring to hear Bruce talk about Yahweh’s victory over the ancient powers of chaos which come to light in the Rahab creature of Job 26:12.

These are the sort of lectures that help you grasp the grand contours of the Biblical canon. You’ll come away from this book with a bigger appreciation for God’s sovereign plan.

—F. F. Bruce, New Testament Development of Old Testament Themes (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985).

An Introduction to the Old Testament | Raymond B. Dillard & Tremper Longman III

While I don’t often read reference books cover-to-cover, I made an exception with this volume. I treated this book as a supplement to my regular Bible reading. Every time I read a different book in the Old Testament, I read the introduction to that book as well. For the last year or so, Dillard and Longman have been my dialogue partners as I read through the Hebrew Bible.

The book is laid out simply. After a brief introduction there is a chapter on every book in the Old Testament. This makes it a great work to jump in to and out of as needed. Each chapter follows the same form:

  1. Historical Background: Who wrote the book in what setting?
  2. Literary Analysis: What genre is the book and what is its literary merit?
  3. Theological Message: What is the book trying to say?
  4. Approaching the New Testament: How is this book used in the New Testament?

A few things set this work apart from the scores of Old Testament primers out there. Dillard and Longman are evangelical in perspective yet they have no problem interacting and dealing honestly with historical-critical perspectives. This is refreshing to see. I also appreciate the broader canonical perspective of the authors.

If you’re a thoughtful evangelical Christian looking to expand your understanding of the Old Testament as you read through it, I would encourage you to read this book.

The Politics of Jesus | John Howard Yoder (Ch. 4)

 

Chapter 4: God Will Fight for Us

Summary

1972: Here Yoder surveys key moments in Israel’s life where God fights so they don’t have to. This motif is grounded in the Exodus where Israel did nothing to destroy the Egyptians (Exodus 14:13). It continues on, being especially prevalent in 2 Chronicles. Even after the Exile, Ezra returned to Jerusalem without soldiers for protection because he trusted God (and was ashamed to ask).

We need to consider how the Jewish people in Jesus’ day would have reflected on these accounts. While we modern readers question the inconceivability of a God scattering foes while his people stand and watch, this is precisely what the pious Jews in Jesus’ day would have expected. The apocalyptic literature they read and wrote didn’t refer to out-of-earth experiences, but God acting on Palestinian soil. Continue Reading →

Old Testament Theology | Walter Brueggemann

This book is a godsend for those of us who don’t live close to a theological library. Patrick Miller has collected 15 different articles Brueggemann has written for various theological journals between 1978 and 1990 and organized them loosely into two categories.

The first articles discuss theological method. Brueggemann interacts with the major figures in Old Testament studies from Von Rad to Terrien to Childs while pushing their insights to new heights. He spends a lot of time working out the implications of Childs’ canonical criticism. It’s next to impossible to summarize a collection of essays, but Bruggemann’s main thought is this: there’s no one thing at the core of the Old Testament: there a dialectic. You can call it “Structure Legitimization” meets “Embrace of Pain” or “Hurt” meets “Hope”. This is what gives Old Testament faith its vibrancy and drive.

The second category of articles are examples of his method worked out exegetically. He tackles Genesis, Samuel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah all in his distinctive voice.

Whether you agree with everything he has to say or not (and what thinking person ever agrees with everything someone else has to say?), Bruggemann has been a steadfast voice of Christ-centred Old Testament scholarship for decades. This set of essays was invigorating to read.

Key Questions About Christian Faith | John Goldingay

John Goldingay is one of our time’s leading Old Testament scholars. To oversimplify his method, Goldingay prefers to allow the text to dictate its own needs and concerns, rather than to read modern questions and worldviews back into scripture (in contrast to Brueggemann, as John Hobbins succinctly pointed out).

His style of Old Testament theology makes this book’s title a misnomer—although the content remains strong. The title and chapter list leads you to believe that Goldingay took a modern question and searched out just what the Old Testament had to say about it. That’s not the case. The chapters in this book are collected essays from Goldingay’s career, repackaged with interesting questions for titles.

Don’t get me wrong—this book is thoughtful, engaging, and important for modern Christianity. In a world where many Christians view the Old Testament as a take-it-or-leave-it prologue to their Bible, solid Old Testament exegesis is a breath of fresh air. Goldingay’s one of the most reliable guides we have. His breadth of knowledge on the Old Testament is simply astounding. I just think the reader should know what he or she is getting into before starting the book. (I suppose it could have been Baker Academic that chose the form of this book, not Goldingay himself.)

Some of the highlights include:

  • “What Does it Mean to Be Human?” where Goldingay reflects on the image of God in the disabled, including a moving reflection of his own wife’s struggle with illness.
  • “Is God in the City?” where Goldingay reflects on the dialectic between Garden and City, particularly in Genesis.
  • “How Does Prayer Work?” where Goldingay quite bluntly lays out God’s plan of cooperation with his creatures through intercession.

Unfortunately, some of the most interesting chapter titles like, “Does God Care About Animals” (originally published as “Covenants and Nature”) and “Should I Tithe Net or Gross?” (originally published as “Jubilee Tithe”) didn’t fit the content therein. The article on animals in particular demonstrates Goldingay’s refusal to read modern issues into the ancient text. Here’s the first sentence of that chapter:

The most interesting, creative, illuminating, dangerous, and misleading exercises in reading the First Testament happen when people study it in light of some new question or conviction that they bring to the text.

The book is well worth your time. At an average of 14 pages per chapter, it’s a great book to grab when you have a free hour to consider how the Old Testament should inform our lives today.

 

Mission in the Old Testament | Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Israel had a purpose before the days of Jesus that was more than simply living contentedly in their Country and hurling prophetic judgment at foreigners. There is a consistent theme running through the Old Testament that God’s choice of Israel was intended to benefit the world. Kaiser takes this theme seriously and points out a number of places where we see it come to light.

This book is no where near comprehensive. In fact, I was a little disappointed that even the scriptures he chose to focus on seemed quite random. If you’re interested in this theme, Kaiser’s little book will whet your appetite.

I was unpleasantly surprised by one of his theological assertions. He suggested that Nahum wasn’t genuinely converted. Here’s Nahum’ words:

Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel. (2 Kings 5:15, NRSV)

I’m not sure whether we should understand that as conversion or not, but what bothered me was Kaiser’s criteria for conversion in the Old Testament. Building on the New Testament theme that there is salvation in no other name but Jesus, he teaches that conversion in the Old Testament required a belief in the seed of Abraham that would come to eventually crush the serpent’s head (read: Jesus). That argument seems anachronistic and nit-picky to me. Is not faith in YHWH enough in the Old Testament? Do not the forms of worship foreshadow the sacrifice of Jesus?

This book got me thinking about an important theme—Old Testament mission—but left me searching for more.

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