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The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation Paperback – November 15, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


"Sailhamer illustrates the kind of fresh and creative thinking on the OT that is possible for an evangelical scholar." (Joe M. Sprinkle, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, December 2010)

"Sailhamer has made a valuable contribution to both Pentateuchal studies and the larger field of biblical theological studies." (Roger D. Cotton, Enrichment, Winter 2011)

"An interesting evangelical position in language accessible to all." (James Chukwuma Okoye, The Bible in Review)

"For years John Sailhamer has been pressing toward a comprehensive work on the Pentateuch, preparing the way with such works as his The Pentateuch as Narrative and a host of periodical publications on the subject. At last the magnum opus has appeared under the title The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation. In typical Sailhamer fashion, he has left no stones unturned in any language necessary to get to primary and secondary sources, while at the same time offering fresh insights into the biblical texts and compelling invitations to the reader to view them in more holistic and integrative ways. Careful reading of the book will inevitably call for a reexamination of the issue of the Pentateuch's antiquity and its deliberate compositional strategy, a reassessment that will help to rehabilitate Torah as not the end product of Judaism but as the foundation of Israelite faith and practice." (Eugene H. Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

About the Author

John H. Sailhamer is professor of Old Testament at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Brea, California. He is the author of several books, including Introduction to Old Testament Theology and The Pentateuch as Narrative.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 632 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830838678
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830838677
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer (IVP, 2009, 632 pp.) is the most stimulating and insightful book on the Bible that I have read in the last decade. Sailhamer boldly goes where some fear to tread in his proposal about the textual composition of the Pentateuch and the entire Hebrew Bible - as well as their implications for a theology of the OT. He argues for a two stage composition of the Torah (styled Pentateuch and "Pentateuch 2.0"), with Moses the arranger/author of the vast part and an unnamed prophet/author at the end of the OT period who brings the Pentateuch into the realities of the time that had elapsed since Moses. This author provided the textual updating needed for some anachronistic place names ("Dan" in Gen. 14) but went further by the arranging key poems at significant seams in the Torah (Gen. 49; Deut. 33) which explain previous poems and make Messianic connections clear. Not only does Deut. 34 describe the end of Moses' life, but the later author acknowledges that the promise of a Messianic prophet in Deut.18:15-18 had not yet been fulfilled by the end of the "OT era" (Deut. 34:10-12).

Sailhamer argues that the three fold division of the Hebrew Bible into the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (Torah/Nevi'im/Ketuvim) was theologically intentional rather than simply reflecting a historic development. The author latched onto the references to meditating on the Torah day and night in Josh. 1:8 and Ps. 1:2 as appropriate locations in the seams between the first and second and between the second and third divisions. Furthermore, all three sections end on a Messianic note with the hope of a prophet unfulfilled in Deut. 34:10, the promise of the Messiah's forerunner Elijah in Mal. 4:5 and the lack of a final fulfillment of Cyrus' decree in 2Chron. 36:23.
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Format: Paperback
The Meaning of the Pentateuch by John Sailhamer

Mark Driscoll said it was for "theological uber geeks." John Piper said "no, no, no," to Driscoll and said that it was easily readable. After making my way through over 600 pages, I lean slightly in Driscoll's direction. This review will be more of a reference for those who are around my age, and have a similar level of theological understanding. Feel free to compare and contrast to me.

About Me:
Age: 28
Education: Bachelors' Degree from a Liberal Arts College, not in seminary but I have taken 4 seminary classes
Christian Academic Books I Have Read in the Past: Not many, but I read 2-3 hours a day.

Difficult Aspects of the Book:
1) Each chapter begins with a brief introduction, followed by Sailhamer reviewing several points of view on each subject. Some names may be familiar, depending on one's level of education (i.e. Calvin, Vos, Schleiermacher), but most of the people mentioned in the book were people I had never heard of. This proved to be a disadvantageous to me because of the fact that I did not know anything about their theological backgrounds. I know that he quoted many conservative theologians (i.e. Calvin), but he also quoted several liberal theologians (i.e. Schleiermacher, Childs). For those who I didn't know much about, it all just blended in together. After reading the book, I cannot recall the views of most of these people.

2) Most of the chapters were like mini books in themselves. Ranging from around 50-75 pages (except for a few chapters), it was easy to get lost and to break my concentration. Since my aim was to read each chapter in one sitting, it would take me upwards of four hours to read one chapter, leaving me pretty exhausted at the end.
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Format: Paperback
I hate to be the first non five-star review, but I cannot honestly give this book a perfect score. Considering that it was the insights in Sailhamer's Pentateuch as Narrative, The that inspired me to pursue post-graduate degrees in Old Testament theology, it should be understandable that my expectations for this book were high. Let me begin with the positives and then move to my critiques.

First, Sailhamer excels in his analysis of the theological trajectories in the compositional strategy of the Pentateuch. This book merges the ideas in Pentateuch as Narrative, The and Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach. Whereas I do not feel that Sailhamer treads new ground in this regard, it does bring the key ideas in both of these previous works into one work. This is beneficial to those who teach Old Testament from an evangelical, canonical approach and formerly would have suggested purchasing both volumes.

Second, the discussion on divine revelation (both historically and within the pages of Scripture) was excellent. The discussion of the scriptural text as revelation in and of itself as opposed to serving merely as a pointer to historical referents highlighted many of the errors inherent in contemporary Old Testament theologies.

Third, the content of Chapter 9 "Is There a 'Biblical Jesus' of the Pentateuch" alone justifies the purchase of the book.
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