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'Return To Me': A Biblical Theology of Repentance (New Studies in Biblical Theology) Paperback – June 18, 2015
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"This volume [is] an immensely helpful addition to the library of any student, scholar, pastor, or teacher in biblical and theological studies." (Josh Matthews, Review of Biblical Literature, 12/2016)
"Mark Boda begins this book with a great quote from Luther affirming that 'the entire life of believers should be one of repentance.' So repentance is not just for gross wrongdoers or people who have turned right away from God. It is for all of us. Most of the book then treats the biblical material book by book, even passage by passage, which will make it especially useful for Bible study and for preaching. It's not a book to read in one go. Read it section by section and let it draw you to God. But Dr. Boda doesn't stop at the book-by-book treatment, and he is especially illuminating when he stands back and relects on the material as a whole." (John Goldingay)
"In 'Return to Me' Mark Boda has made his immense scholarship on repentance and penitential prayer accessible to all who want to study this critical biblical-theological concept in Scripture. As he moves from Genesis to Revelation, his stimulating study is exhaustive and demonstrates the richness and extensive scope of the theme. All serious students of the Bible, but particularly pastors and seminarians, will benefit from his impressive work. I have learned much from Mark, and you will as well." (Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College)
"In 'Return to Me' Mark Boda does an outstanding job of explicating the oft-neglected theme of repentance, moving across the canon as he demonstrates the important role of this theme within biblical theology. A welcome new addition to the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. I recommend it heartily." (J. Daniel Hays, dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies and professor of biblical studies, Ouachita Baptist University)
"Mark Boda has shown himself to be a master of exegetical analysis and theological reflection. He traces repentance in both its relational and behavioral dimensions, both of which call for faith and trust. As he unfolds the richness of biblical teaching about repentance and its significance, we are called again to 'return to the Lord.' Pastors will be motivated by this book to engage their congregations in a study of repentance and a recommitment to it." (John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College and Graduate School)
"I have not found another book that sets out to treat repentance in quite the way that Mark Boda has: he patiently, thoroughly and effectively works his way through Scripture to learn what repentance means and what it looks like in each canonical corpus, covering not only commonly used words but also the fundamental concepts." (D. A. Carson)
"Boda's book will serve pastors and scholars well in showing that repentance is neither mechanical nor forced upon people in the Bible's presentation; rather, it springs from a deeply personal encounter between sinful people and a holy God." (J. Andrew Dearman, Themelios, December 2015)
About the Author
Mark J. Boda (PhD, University of Cambridge) is professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College and professor in the Faculty of Theology at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. He is the author of numerous books, including Praying the Tradition and A Severe Mercy, a commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles, and studies of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. He is coeditor of the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Prophets and Seeking the Favour of God (3 volumes).
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Boda structures his work by first employing the discipline of Biblical theology and dedicating the first (and majority) portion to allow the Biblical writers to shape and give nuance to the theme. It’s only after finishing with Revelation that he begins to flesh out the theological implications of the findings. And in regards to these implications, I found his rooting of repentance within the Covenant relationship most compelling and without stretching its meaning too far or coloring outside the lines. But I appreciate that he didn’t stop there. I think there can be a tendency to only consider one’s inner orientation while remaining somewhat mealy-mouthed about the practical outward expressions. But Boda fearlessly goes on to say this, “what is clear, however, is that, while repentance is fundamentally an inner reorientation of covenant relationship, external changes in behavior are essential to the biblical vision of repentance, and verbal expressions often accompany it” (emphasis mine). I think Boda is correct in his assertion, that there is in fact a reorientation of one’s inner posture but it ought not negate the necessity for having an outward one. But it seems though, that rather than trying to parse out the individual inner and outer aspects or simply create an unnecessary dichotomy, his intentions and desire are to train the mind to understand the interweaving of both.
With any work, though, there is bound to be something that strikes your fancy and stirs in you a desire for more. So my critique (if you would even call it that) of the book here is not so much what he said, but in terms of how much he said. I would have liked to have seen more written on both the divine enabling for repentance as well as a more rich exposition to the sociological aspects. At the end of both sections I simply had more questions than answers. Also, in terms of the “purpose” for repentance, it would have been helpful for him to speak more to the healing psychological effects that repentance brings. James 5:16 is such a weighty verse and seems that much could be said regarding it. I think it would have been helpful to have had a longer discourse surrounding the theme of “healing.” Nevertheless, this book has been tremendously helpful in forming for me a more smooth foundation. I recommend it to anyone with the caveat that the first portion may be a bit difficult and cumbersome for the laity. It seems to me that perhaps laymen would feel more comfortable in the later sections but I could be wrong. But with that said, I’m sure that it will stand to be both a blessing and an aid to the church for years to come providing for those wishing for a more full understanding of repentance its implications for daily living.
I could go on about how good this book is, but rather than read my review, go get the book! If you're looking for a solid Christian resource on repentance in Scripture, this should be at or near the top of your list! (As a side, if you want a solid and more systematic look at repentance to complement Boda's book, check out Thomas Watson's "The Doctrine of Repentance.")