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Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach Paperback – October 14, 1999
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CONTENTS Part 1: INTRODUCTION Chapter 1 Introduction PART 2: THE METHODOLOGY OF OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY Chapter 2 Methodology Chapter 3 Text or Event Chapter 4 Criticism or Canon Chapter 5 Descriptive or Confessional Chapter 6 Diachronic or Synchronic PART 3: A CANONICAL THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT Chapter 7 A proposal for a Canonical Theology APPENDICES Appendix A The Mosaic Law and the Theology of the Pentateuch Appendix B Compositional Strategies in the Pentatuech Appendix C The Narrative World of Genesis Appendix D 1 Chronicles 21:16: A study in Inter-Biblical Interpretation
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From the Back Cover
Part 1: INTRODUCTION
PART 2: THE METHODOLOGY OF OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY
Text or Event
Criticism or Canon
Descriptive or Confessional
Diachronic or Synchronic
PART 3: A CANONICAL THEOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
A proposal for a Canonical Theology
The Mosaic Law and the Theology of the Pentateuch
Compositional Strategies in the Pentatuech
The Narrative World of Genesis
1 Chronicles 21:16: A study in Inter-Biblical Interpretation
About the Author
- Publisher : Zondervan Academic; Illustrated edition (October 14, 1999)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 332 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0310232023
- ISBN-13 : 978-0310232025
- Item Weight : 14.7 ounces
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #840,521 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995. 327 pages. Reviewed by Josh Engen - March 30, 2016
As Sailhamer provides his presuppositions in his introduction, I thought it equally wise and beneficial to mention my own presuppositions in reviewing this book. I, as Sailhamer, am a “conservative evangelical” who believes the Bible (OT, NT) is the inspired Word of God. I am familiar with Sailhamer’s views through the influence of professors, fellow students, and his other books. Not only am I familiar with his proposed canonical approach, I have been persuaded and convinced that this is the best approach for OT theology. Aware of these presuppositions, I assessed Sailhamer’s approach on the preponderance of evidence and logic provided for his argument to the best of my ability.
Sailhamer defines OT theology as “the study and presentation of what is revealed in the Old Testament” (117). Mentioned in this thesis is the foundational and most convincing aspect of Sailhamer’s approach: his focus on the text of the OT for his theology. At first glance this may not seem profound or distinctive for an evangelical, but Sailhamer effectively shows how some evangelical theologians have strayed away from the locus of the text to instead the locus of the event behind the text. Sailhamer’s approach hinges on this high view of Scripture that is derived from passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16. Once convinced of the Divine inspiration of Scripture, the evidence and arguments for Sailhamer’s approach and conclusions are even more appealing.
Many of the Sailhamer’s arguments are rooted in the inter-textuality, canonical redaction, and con-textuality of the OT (237). The strongest and foundational argument for Sailhamer’s approach is the evidence of the poetic seams that tie the whole OT together (210-212). His evidence is convincing because he employs the use of the original languages, argues from the intention of the author/editor, and uses the context of each seam to strengthen his observations. His value on the text of Scripture also leads Sailhamer to present his theology diachronically along the same structure of the OT: The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (239). This method is appropriate because it best accomplishes Sailhamer’s goal: “to understand the theology of the OT in its own terms” (237).
Another reason his approach is so convincing is that he is mainly making observations. This is a strength and weakness of Sailhamer’s approach. It is a strength because he strives for the author’s intended meaning and does not input his own theology on the text. It is a weakness because his theology seems to lack application for the reader today. Sailhamer does include some application by arguing that the original author’s intended meaning is the same as the spiritual, messianic meaning (154). Sailhamer’s application is also evident in his confessional approach to OT theology, which is to be practiced “within the context of one’s person faith… not merely to describe the meaning of the text but also to stand under its authority” (170). The appendices do include practical aspects for believers today, such as in his section on law and faith, but overall the application could have been more explicit.
Sailhamer also employs the use of good examples to make his point more clear. For example, he describes a picture of a tree as only representing a real tree, just as Scripture represents a real event (45). He uses philosophical and logical arguments to strengthen his approach. For instance, since the text has an author and the author has intention in his writing, we can look for textual guides to see the purpose of the author, such as repetition. Sailhamer explains this well by elaborating on how language and communication work in the related field of oral/auditory communication (48). Additionally, he has numerous arguments against event-focused exegesis, the strongest being that “no event is self-interpreting” (56). Sailhamer’s inclusion of other approaches such as the event-based exegesis gives this book even more credence because it shows that he is addressing real theological concerns of today.
A negative critique is that in his section on exegesis, he seems to contradict himself when describing the circle of understanding. At first he says that one should understand the parts before the whole, but then he says in order to understand the parts there must already a sense of the whole (18). However, Sailhamer makes this point more clear when describing a similar idea of “hermeneutical circle” (176). This theory is also rooted in the text of Scripture and provides practical advice on how to better understand the Bible. With the hermeneutical circle, Sailhamer argues for a study method of reading and rereading the text of Scripture to gain a better understanding, which is helpful and applicable (176). Additionally, Sailhamer should have connected these ideas with his discussion of Analogy of Faith because it clarifies and elaborates on a similar concept.
A view that sets Sailhamer apart from some evangelicals is his belief that the OT has its own identity and does not need the something “added to it before it can be understood” (23). This approach is helpful in safeguarding “against arbitrarily reading the New Testament interpretation of the Old back into the theology of OT” (176). It also safeguards against historical event information shaping the interpretation of the text. Even though Sailhamer argues for the OT’s own identity, it would have been helpful to explicitly connect the author’s intention and structure of the canon to this argument. Nonetheless, his overall argument of letting the OT speak for itself is very persuasive. For example, based on the principle that authors expect their readers to understand the text they have written, they will give sufficient information in their text alone to understand it (51). This belief also plays itself out practically in his exegesis found in the appendices. He sticks with the text and uses clues from other OT biblical texts to understand the passage, instead of using historical event information or imposing NT information.
Sailhamer’s view of the canon and inspiration lead him to focus on the “canonical text of the OT rather than a critically reconstructed one” (222). I agree, but Sailhamer asks an insightful question concerning the issue of canon that I believe he does not sufficiently answer: “Where does the process of text formation end and transmission begin?”(223). Even though he does not go into detail about textual criticism, he does show its importance by looking at the difference between the MT and the LXX (204-205). Nevertheless, more information on this foundational aspect would be helpful.
A beneficial and distinctive feature of Sailhamer’s approach is that he does not claim it to be the only way to do OT theology. Instead, his approach is eclectic by bringing different approaches into a singly theory (197). This is helpful because Sailhamer presents other approaches in this book, their history, and the pros and cons of employing them in one’s OT theology. After reading this book, the reader will have the tools and information to make an informed decision on how they will form and practice their own OT theology.
A paragraph on page 154 of Sailhamer's "Introduction to Old Testament Theology" provides a concise summary of his proposal:
"As part of the overall proposal for an approach to OT theology offered in this book, we strongly urge the consideration of a return to the notion that the literal meaning of the OT may, in fact, be linked to the messianic hope of the pre-Christian, Israelite prophets. By paying careful attention to the compositional strategies of the biblical books themselves, we believe in them can be found many essential clues to the meaning intended by their authors - clues thaat point beyond their immediate historical referent to a future, messianic age. By looking at the works of the scriptural authors, rather than at the events that lie behind their accounts of them, we can find appropriate textual clues to the meaning of these biblical books. Those clues, we also suggest, point to an essentially messianic and eschatological focus of the biblical texts. In other words, the literal meaning of Scriptue (sensus literalis) may, in fact, be the spiritual sense (sensus spiritualis) intended by the author, namely, the messianic sense picked up in the NT books. Such a view of the meaning of the OT is quite similar to that of the apostle Paul in Romans 16:25-27. There Paul speaks of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which, though hidden in ages past, 'has now been revealed and made known through the prophetic writings.' Paul notes three things about the gospel in these verses: (1) it was formerly a hidden 'mystery' in 'long ages past' (v. 25); (2) it has now been revealed (v. 26); and (3) it is 'made known through the prophetic writings' (v. 26)."
On the same page, Sailhamer further says, "Paul is not suggesting that these revealed mysteries come from outside the text or must be read into the text . . . . For Paul, the 'mysteries' about Christ and the Gospel were there all along in the OT text. They merely had to be discovered."
Paul is specifically mentioned twenty-three times in the book, with frequent references to his understanding of the Christology (i.e., messianic themes) of the OT.
I highly recommend Sailhamer's "Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach."
The Mosaic Law and the Theology of the Pentateuch, Appendix B: Compositional Strategies in the Pentateuch. Also, there is an Appendix C and D
see page numbers on PC version. I checked the settings but there is no setting.
There's nothing wrong with the book but minor inconvenience using Kindle PC version.