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The Theology of the Book of Amos (Old Testament Theology) Paperback – April 30, 2012
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- Item Weight : 10.9 ounces
- Paperback : 238 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0521671752
- ISBN-13 : 978-0521671750
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Publisher : Cambridge University Press; 0 edition (April 30, 2012)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,602,080 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Thus my anticipation ran high in reading John Barton's Theology of the Book of Amos. My expectations and enthusiasm were also heightened because of my appreciation for book-based theologies. I recently read one such work on Acts that illuminated Luke's work and underscored vital themes there. I am persuaded that book-based theologies fill in theological blind-spots often not carefully covered in conventional commentaries, drilling deeply into theological fields lying beyond the scope of a textual commentary's typical purview.
Adding event further to my excitement was my familiarity with this Cambridge theological series, having valued Andrew Lincoln and Alexander Wedderburn's latter Pauline letters work and having referenced others. How disappointing Theology of the Book of Amos instead proved to be. Instead of focusing on,dare I wryly point to the obvious, the theology of Amos, Barton spends most of his work fixating on textual criticism questions, particularly issues regarding the validity of Amos's authorship, the integrity of the book, and its dating. Not to minimize these obviously important matters, but they so overshadow his book on Amos's theology, consuming about 80% of it, that it would have been better to qualify Barton's book as an evaluation of the timing, placement, and authorial source of Amos instead of a theological mapping and assessment of what we now hold in our hands. Barton's is an extremely disappointing effort that wasted a prime opportunity to tackle the serious content of Amos. So ends my review of Barton's effort at theological survey in Amos, he has little to say about the Book of Amos.
Where might he have gone with a more disciplined and focused attempt at the mining the integrity of Amos's message? How might that message have intersected with the durable theological streams of the OT? Let me suggest several potential avenues and to it add my prayer that the assignment of the Amos volume in the Cambridge series finds its way into another writer's hands at some future publication.
First, there is a fascinating theme of Yahweh's judgments on the nations in Amos 1-2. There Yahweh calls them to account for various social and internecine wrongs, insisting that they are no less accountable for their evils than God's people that have received the revelation of his Law. The implications of calling the nations to account before him implies that they by no means are outside of the moral structure of God's universe. Could this be one of the original clamoring of God's universal judgments that so vociferously reverberates in later portions of revelation like the latter portions of Isaiah and Romans 1:18ff? As Amos weaves his woes, his audience may have not anticipated the literary noose that was being tied around Israel's neck as he artfully points to the surrounding geographic neighbors' sins, only to conclude that his own are equally culpable and under the gallows' sentence.
The decrying of opulent sensuality among God's people that is oblivious to the plight of his neighbor. This varies from the sensual, sexual indulgences of the wealthy elite to the ludicrous excesses of those that have allowed their possessions to displace the living God. Their lust for sensuality was combined with an indifference toward the poor and a manipulation of the systems of legal justice. Thus their corruption oozed from their hearts, into their bedrooms, out into their neighborhoods, the marketplace, political structures, and courtrooms. In a word they were entirely compromised and thus thoroughly well fitted for destruction.
A third theme throughout Amos is the precipitous slide into co-opting idolatry that insidiously uses God's chosen, revealed means of worship as a vehicle for turning aside from Yahweh. At one point Yahweh commands them to no longer visit the very places of worship renewal that blessed their forefathers Abraham and David because those locations had become incubators of idolatry. Unsurprisingly the cancer evident in so many parts of their lives has metastasized into all parts of their worship.
Amos, later in his work, returns to his original declarations against God's people and her neighbors by asking rhetorically whether there remains any distinction, any variation in the shades of darkness displayed in his people's lives from those of the pagans surrounding them. They are an indistinct people that forsake an utterly distinctive God. With wry irony Yahweh invites the pagan nations to evaluate his people and see for themselves how far they have departed from Yahweh.
What Amos begins his work with, an assertion of Yahweh's utter sovereignty in judgment, he returns to in his plaintive cry for the repentance of God's people and hope of Yahweh's renewal. Yahweh promises to not leave his chosen in their debasement, but to deliver, renew, and fulfill his promises in them. God who is sovereign over the nations, able to judge them and his covenantal people, ultimately will exert that same sovereign power in bringing a unique people from death to life. No wonder Amos became an important Scripture referent for the early church in understanding the satanic resistance of Jews to the Messiah and orientating early Christians to God's ultimate purposes of calling the Gentiles into his covenant through Christ.
Many more theological assertions could be made from Amos and Barton missed a prime opportunity to make them. I would instead urge you to instead pick up Alec Motyer's fine brief on Amos in the Bible Speaks Today series published by InterVarsity Press for a superior examination of the prophet. There you will see a careful exposition of Amos and profound implications from its coherent message that makes Amos an outstanding, timeless text.
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