Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament – Review

This review is of the Kindle edition of Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament edited by Vanhoozer (print edition here).

In terms of the layout of the text, everything in the Kindle version is pretty user friendly.  The Table of Contents is all linked up nicely, which makes the text easier to navigate in many ways than a paper-based version.  However, there are still no page numbers.  I’ve not looked into whether or not there will ever be any attempt to remedy this is Kindle versions, but this is a bit of a problem if you ever need to cite the text in a paper.  If you know how to use Google Books, you can often times get around this by searching for a quote in Google Books.  Even if the particular page is not included within the preview, you can still get the page number you need for a citation.

In terms of the contributors, they seem to represent some of the most widely known evangelical scholars, such as Wenham and Longman, but also some I’ve never read before.  There’s even a biblioblogger among the contributors.  Chris Brady wrote the chapter on Lamentations.  With this in mind, I don’t feel that the evangelical commitments of the authors would make the text problematic for readers of different backgrounds.  Obviously, you are probably not going to enjoy it so much if you are secularist, but even for someone with more moderate views than are accepted in some evangelical circles, I think it would not be overly troublesome.

The contents cover all of the books in the Protestant Old Testament.  As a Catholic, this for me is somewhat par for the course.  Even for the Protestant who does not accept the deuterocanonical books as part of the canon, an understanding of their theology can be helpful for one’s understanding of the New Testament, etc.  Yet aside from that, the text does seem to give fair treatment to each book in the Protestant Old Testament, even the more obscure books, such as Obadiah.

In terms of positives, some of the chapters are excellent.  I would specifically mention Raymond Van Leeuwen’s chapter on Proverbs.   There is a tendency, that I admittedly fall into sometimes, to oversimplify the theology of the Book of Proverbs by boiling it down to the doctrine of retribution. Yet Van Leeuwen pushes the reader to look beyond that, though the doctrine of retribution does play a role in the Book of Proverbs.   Wenham’s chapter on Genesis is very good as well, among others.

In spite of this, I must say that the book did feel a little uneven in places.  For example, after reading Van Leeuwen’s chapter on Proverbs, I felt a little disappointed by the chapters on Job and Ecclesiastes.  It is not that they were terribly bad.  They were just okay.

Another issue that cropped up in certain spots was a failure by some of the authors to actually engage in doing theology.  Rather, they spent more time focusing on giving a history of the theological interpretation of a particular book.  This is not to say that a history of theological interpretation of a particular book is not helpful, but they sometimes failed to move past that.

Overall, I think the book achieves its aims.  And, so I would recommend it.  Some of the problems noted above may have more to do with me as a reader than with the book itself.  It is, in fact, intended to be an introductory text, not necessarily for the more advanced reader.  Perhaps some of the disappointment I felt in reading particular chapters may not have been felt by an introductory level student encountering some of the information for the first time.

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