Today, I will be offering a brief review of a valuable new entry into the discussion regarding Biblical-Theology. A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, edited by Miles Van Pelt, is the first of two volumes devoted to the topic. The second volume is a similar entry on the New Testament, which shall have a review forthcoming in the coming months.
The volume is a collection of edited essays by the Old Testament faculty from the various campuses of Reformed Theological Seminary. And according to the forward, by Ligon Duncan, the purpose of this volume is “to pass along this world-class, faithful, consecrated scholarship to the next generation.” (10)
The book includes essays on each of the books of the Old Testament, with some books being combined (1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, and Esher-Nehemiah). In addition, there is a very helpful introduction by Van Pelt, which lays out various kinds of approaches, and sets the stage for how each essay will unfold.
Van Pelt identifies a few governing considerations for the Biblical-Theological study at hand. First, it states that “Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament.” (25) This is vital, because this consideration is what sets Christian studies apart from non-Christian studies. Second he states that “the kingdom of God constitutes the thematic framework for the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.” (28) One of the concerns throughout Christian history, and one area that I think Reformed approaches to Scripture are superior to others, is the radical continuity between the two testaments. This volume carries on that interpretive approach. Finally Van Pelt rightly identifies that the Old Testament follows a Covenantal Structure in its original Hebrew Bible Order and advocates that we ought to keep this in mind as we seek to read the OT as a whole instead of as disparate parts.
Each chapter follows a repeated pattern. It begins with introductory matters (Authorship, Literary considerations, Dating), and a brief discussion of the history of interpretation, and the structure of the book (focusing on the internal inspired structuring when possible, eg the toledoth pattern in Genesis). It then proceeds to discuss the theological themes of the book, followed by any technical issues which are unique or specific to this book. Finally, it closes by discussing how the book in question anticipates and foreshadows the New Testament. There are also occasional excursus for subjects that are applicable, but not directly related to Biblical Theology (eg an excursus on parallels between Genesis 1-11 and other ANE literature on pp 55-56)
This book is an absolutely invaluable addition to any exegete’s library. Each essay is brief (relatively speaking) and can be read in 30-45 minutes for an average reader. The discussions are technical, but not so technical that the average untrained but well read individual could not follow them. They are intentionally broad, so that a person reading gets a grand overview of each book, and by reading the whole volume gets a grand overview of the whole Old Testament.
Often times, pastors and other exegetes get so myopic as they investigate verb tenses and make sentence diagrams, that they fail to recognize that the verse or passage they are dissecting is part of a grander narrative. This book serves as a helpful corrective to that, and I think the best use of this would be for an individual who is engaging in exegetical studies to read the accompanying essay either prior to their studies, or afterwards. This book would also make a brilliant addition to the required reading for any Old Testament survey course.