When I was in college, I ended up taking three different surveys of the Old Testament (OT). You’d think that I would have a better understanding of the Hebrew Bible, but sadly, I was actually more confused. My professors ranged from approaching the OT as being all but obsolete to taking an extremely “liberal” perspective, and the textbooks weren’t much better. So over the the past fifteen years, I’ve purchased a number of OT surveys and theologies in the hopes of having a better understanding of the Scriptures that Jesus and the apostles had. Unfortunately, most of them haven’t helped much.
All of that has changed with What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible, edited by Jason S. DeRouchie.
What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About‘s approach is the perfect blend of scholarly and devotional, which I would suggest is a thoroughly evangelical approach! Before looking at what DeRouchie says his book is, it’s helpful to understand what he says his book isn’t:
- A history of Israelite religion;
- A summary of the events of history;
- A synthesis of the sources behind the text;
- A review of the characters in the text;
- A theology of the Hebrew Bible on its own;
- A systematic theology;
- A reflection of the reader.
So what is this work about? DeRouchie states in the preface that it is a survey, with contributions from seventeen different authors, that “attempts to present the essence of what is revealed in the Old Testament, with a conscious eye toward the fulfillment found in Jesus as clarified in the New Testament.” DeRouchie seeks for Christians to read the OT as part of the progressive revelation that God has self-initiated, acknowledging that the “Bible portrays the New Testament like an answer key in the back of a math textbook” so that “it provides a check to ensure we are correctly and fully interpreting all the equations.” The book overview explains that,
“What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About is a manageable, message-driven, multi-author, book-by-book, gospel-saturated, theologically rich, thematic survey of the Old Testament written from a conservative, evangelical perspective, targeted toward college and seminary students and local churches, and designed to unpack the lasting message of the initial three-fourths of the Christian Scripture.”
Yes, that’s a lot! And, in my opinion, that is an accurate overview. Readers may differ on some minor issues such as dating or thematic issues found within each contribution, but by and large, this is consistently a “conservative, evangelical perspective,” as the editor claims. What’s unique about this work is how it takes a decidedly “Christian interpretation of the Old Testament.” How does each book of the Bible unfold God’s redemptive purposes that culminate in the life and ministry of Jesus? What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About often answers this question and shows how the Bible connects together and centers on Jesus. This is to be commended. In many ways, I could see this accompanying Williams’ How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens.
What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About would, in my opinion, serve as a phenomenal survey of the OT for an undergraduate class. It has plenty of helpful figures and maps interspersed within the text to keep the attention of young students. In other words, in regards to the layout, readers will have plenty to keep their interest. Throughout the text there are small blue boxes that either ask insightful questions, make important clarifications, or point out helpful historical facts. Their placement is, in my eyes, very important. Furthermore, professors will likely appreciate the numerous figures and maps as well as the readability.
Yet What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About will also serve pastors as a go-to resource. For example, if a pastor is preaching through the Minor Prophets, consulting Stephen G. Dempster’s chapter would be especially helpful in understanding the historical context in which these twelve prophets ministered. Figure 14.1, “The Biblical and Chronological Sequences of the Twelve,” demonstrates that our English Bibles often make understanding the overall story of the Bible difficult because the order of the books of the Bible are not ordered either chronologically or thematically. A pastor preaching through one of the Minor Prophets would certainly have a better understanding of how that book of the Bible fits into the grand narrative of redemption after reading this work.
Furthermore, What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About will likely be a springboard for pastors to get into the Bible itself! That, in my opinion, makes it all the more worthy. Plus, through the chapters, there are many recommendations for further reading.
So if you have struggled to read the Old Testament or find it overwhelming, this book is for you! I can’t imagine anyone walking away from it without a desire to open up the Scriptures that Jesus had and loved. This is highly recommended.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review*