2591 cvr 14.inddWhen the first century Christians read the Old Testament how did they understand them? Moreover, how did they read them in light of Christ? How did Christ understand and teach them in light of Himself? Understanding the Old Testament as a whole and its many books the same way Jesus would have has been the goal of Christians and the life work of scholars like N.T. Wright. Christians cannot, and should not, read the Old Testament as if Christ had never come.

In 2008, under the editorial leadership of Kenneth Berding and Matt Williams, Kregel released What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Their Writings. Following this book five years later, Jason S. DeRouchie has edited What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible. DeRouchie earned his PhD from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is associate professor of Old Testament at Bethlehem College and Seminary. He is joined by a team of amazing contributors like Stephen Dempster, J. Daniel Hays, Preston M. Sprinkle and Daniel J. Estes. The goal and interpretive lens through which this book is written is summed up in the first paragraph:

Jesus never read Romans or Revelation. He never heard sermons on Matthew’s Gospel or Peter’s epistles. Indeed, the New Testament was not written in Jesus’ day, so his only Bible was what we call the Old Testament. It was books like Genesis and Deuteronomy, Isaiah and Psalms that shaped Jesus’ upbringing and that guided his life and ministry as the Jewish Messiah. It was these Old Testament “Scriptures” that Jesus identified as God’s Word, considered to be authoritative, and called people to know and believe so as to guard against doctrinal error and hell. Jesus was convinced that what is now the first three-fourths of our Christian Bible “cannot be broken”, would be completely fulfilled, and called for repentance and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in his name to all nations. All this Jesus summarized as “the good news of the kingdom of God.” If we want to know Jesus as best we can, we must saturate ourselves in the same Scripture he read – namely, the Old Testament! (28 – Scriptures removed)

Overview of the Book

Taking cue from Jason Meyer’s, DeRouchie summarizes the central message of the Bible as “God’s kingdom through covenant for his glory in Christ.” (51) This answers the what (God’s kingdom), the how (through covenant) and the why (his glory in Christ) questions for biblical theology. The overall structure of the book is viewed through the lens of KINGDOM:

  1. Kickoff and Rebellion – Creation, Fall and Flood: God creates, mans sins and God responds with worldwide judgment, though He extends mercy and grace to Noah and his family.
  2. Instrument of Blessing – Patriarchs: God elects to create a people for Himself through which He would bless the world.
  3. Nation Redeemed and Commissioned: Exodus, Sinai and Wilderness – God brings His people out of bondage in Egypt, reveals His glory and Law at Sinai, though His people respond in sin and they are sent in exile in the wilderness.
  4. Government in the Promised Land – Conquest and Kingdoms: God leads His people in the conquest of Canaan and the establishment of kings. Though Israel fails many times God promises a future coming righteous king through David’s line.
  5. Dispersion and Return – Exile and Initial Restoration: God casts Israel out of the promised land because of their sin. He later restores them to rebuild the temple though most of them are still cold-hearted towards God.
  6. Overlap of the Ages – Christ’s Work and the Church Age: God sent His Son Jesus, the promised king of David and suffering servant of Isaiah, to  deal with the sin of His people and begin restoring the world as God’s kingdom. God’s people are now identified as the church.
  7. Mission Accomplished – Christ’s Return and Kingdom Consummated: God sends His Son again to exact judgment on those who rebel against Him, to gather His people from all over the world, to remove sin and complete the reestablishment of His kingdom rule on earth as His people are ushered into eternity with God.

It is the theme of kingdom that runs throughout the Bible and through which we (1) understand God’s relationship with man through the various covenants and (2) are pointed to the glory of God as displayed in Christ.

The Old Testament books are categorized into three groups: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. These three groups are summarized as follows:

  1. The Law – “The Pentateuch was designed to highlight the establishment of the old covenant, which provides the literary lens for understanding the Prophets and Writings and anticipates the need for the redeeming work of Messiah Jesus.” (57) This follows the KIN sections of the Kingdom structure of the Bible.
  2. The Prophets – “The Former Prophets provide a narrative history that clarifies God’s perspective on what happened to Israel from their conquest of the Promised Land to their exile from it. The Latter Prophets then offer prophetic commentary that develops why Israel’s story went the way it did.” (163) This follows the G section of the Kingdom structure of the Bible.
  3. The Writings – “The Writings provided guidance to this [the loyal remnant] faithful few, still in ‘slavery’ (Ezra 9:8-9), who remained resolute in their confidence that Yahweh was on the throne and would one day right all wrongs through a royal redeemer.” (320) This follows the D section of the Kingdom structure of the Bible.

Overview of the Chapters

Each of the three main sections begins with an overview of the content as connected with the KINGDOM overarching structure. The chapters on each book of the Old Testament have the same layout. There is a one page introduction to the book answering who wrote it and to whom, when and where it was written and why it was written. At the beginning of each chapter the authors select a few passages from their respective book which they believe encapsulate and summarize the message of that book. For example, in summarizing Genesis, Stephen Dempster selects Genesis 1:1 to point to creation, Genesis 3:15 to point to the promise of a redeemer, Genesis 12:1-3 to point to the covenant with Abraham and Genesis 15:6 to point to salvation from God as found in faith in God.

Each chapter has more charts and pictures than you will most likely find in any other Old Testament introduction book. Initially I found this to be distracting as I wanted more comments from the contributors. The further I reflected on their presence the more I feel they accomplish as much or more than more explanation would. The charts help to summarize content which remove distracting or unnecessary discussion that the reader might get lost in. Some examples of more helpful charts include “Yahweh’s Mighty Acts Against Egypt” in Exodus (86), the camp arrangement of the twelve tribes of Israel around the tabernacle in the wilderness in Numbers (130), a detailed chart on the “Old Testament Yahweh Wars of Judgment” in Joshua (182-83) and the “Mosaic Covenant Blessings, Curses and Restoration Blessings” in Ezekiel (270). The many pictures help to bring the discussion and Scripture alive as the reader is reminded that the Christian faith is embedded in time and history itself. They tell us that these events really happened and here is what it might have looked like. Additionally, there are sidebars throughout the book which give more information about people, places and events. These are similar to study notes in a study Bible. Each chapter has an “At a Glance” chart which summarizes the book in short statement with corresponding chapters, key words and concepts to review at the end of the chapter as well as resources for further study.

Conclusion

All total, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About is a solid survey of the Old Testament by a team of conservative evangelicals committed to the authority of Scripture and its redemptive focus. The audience aim college and seminary students as well as local church leaders. I readily agree with this. My only recommendation would be that while it may be sufficient as a foundational textbook for seminary it would need to be supplemented with other more in-depth Old Testament works as well. For college and laymen this is almost a one-stop-shop for an Old Testament survey. Further, this book guides the reader in their understanding of the Old Testament in light of Christ and not despite it.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Kregel in return for an honest review of the book. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.

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