Book Reviews

Review of The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Violent Old Testament Portraits of God in Light of the Cross by Gregory Boyd
Book Reviews , Old Testament , Theology / August 23, 2019

Boyd, Gregory A. The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Violent Old Testament Portraits of God in Light of the Cross. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2017, pp. 1,492, $59.00, paperback. Christians are largely united in the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the supreme revelation of God’s character given to humans, whose person and works fulfill the highest aspirations of the Old Testament (OT). Christ reveals a God who teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves and shows us how to love by dying an undeserved criminal’s death not only for those who return his love but also for his enemies. However, this picture of a perfectly loving God appears to be incompatible with the brutally violent images of Yahweh found in the OT. Among other things, the OT command to kill every man, woman, and child in a given region plainly seems to contradict Jesus’ teaching to love all persons, even one’s enemies, as oneself. The 1,500 page tome, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Violent Old Testament Portraits in Light of the Cross, from pastor-theologian Gregory Boyd aims to reconcile, or at least refocus, these opposing visions of God. In short, the proposal is that,…

Review of Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar by Russell T. Full and Kyoungwon Choi
Book Reviews , Old Testament / August 6, 2019

Fuller, Russell T., Kyoungwon Choi. Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2017, pp. 528, $64.99, hardback. Building upon the foundation laid in Invitation to Biblical Hebrew: A Beginning Grammar, Russell Fuller and Kyoungwon Choi present an intermediate grammar which leads students of Biblical Hebrew (BH) towards internalization and mastery. The text is unique among similar intermediate grammars in its use of traditional Arabic/Semitic linguistic categories and pedagogy, while ignoring modern linguistic jargon.  Most directly stated, this means analysis presented from linguistic scholars like Elizabeth Robar, Jan Joosten, T. Muraoka, Cynthia Miller-Naudé, and others is not incorporated in favor of traditional Semitic analysis.  This makes the text accessible to most intermediate students, yet confusing for those who have been exposed to the more modern syntactical terminology. Invitation to Biblical Hebrew Syntax: An Intermediate Grammar is divided into three sections, each working together using the pedagogical method put forward in the introduction.  The first main section is titled “Syntax” and consists of grammatical explanations and categories with examples throughout.  Each chapter ends with extensive exercise questions to reinforce the concepts, as well as drills for identifying grammatical categories and constructions from the Hebrew Bible. A detailed…

Review of Interpreting the Old Testament Theologically: Essays in Honor of Willem A. VenGemeren edited by Andrew T. Abernathy
Book Reviews , Old Testament / July 30, 2019

Abernathy, Andrew, T, ed. Interpreting the Old Testament Theologically: Essays in Honor of Willem A. VanGemeren. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018, $33.99, hardback. The present volume is a Festschrift in honor of Willem A. VanGemeren, Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. To honor his legacy, as indicated by the title, the focus of the essays is the theological interpretation of the Old Testament, a task over which VanGemeren has labored for decades. The movement known as Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS) has garnered more widespread support in recent years. VanGemeren is, in many ways, a forerunner of this movement—a point noted by several contributors. Following an introduction by the editor (pp. 17–21), this volume’s 21 essay contributions are divided into three sections: 1) Theological Witness Gleaned Through Interpretive Practices, 2) Theological Witness in Specific Old Testament Books, and 3) Theological Witness Amidst Community. Both a Scripture and an author index follow the essays. The group of contributors is composed primarily of Old Testament scholars, but also includes one New Testament scholar, one systematic theologian, and one former seminary president who now occupies a pastoral position. Each contributor was asked to allow the following Christological…

Review of Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament by John D. Currid
Book Reviews , Old Testament / July 18, 2019

Currid, John D., Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament. Wheaton, Il: Crossway, 2013, pp. 153, paperback. John D. Currid (PH,D., University of Chicago, is the Carl McMurray Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.  He lectures worldwide on biblical and archaeological topics. He serves as Pastor of Teaching and Preaching at Sovereign Grace Church (PCA) in Charlotte. He has authored many books and journal articles. The title of the book Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament (AG) is an accurate statement of the contents.  In the prologue, he acknowledges that the main content of the book was presented at a conference at Reformed Theological Seminary—Charlotte in 2007.  He states that: “the book is about the relationship between the writings of the Old Testament and other Ancient Near Eastern literature.”  “And so, the question for modern minds in this regard is, what precisely is the relationship of the Old Testament to Near Eastern Literature?” The book is divided into 11 chapters: A Brief History of Ancient Near Eastern Studies. The Nature of Polemical Thought and Writing. Genesis 1 and Other Ancient Near Eastern Creation Accounts. Ancient Near Eastern Flood…

Review of Das Alte Testament als deutsche Kolonie. Die Neuerfindung des Alten Testaments um 1800 by Simon Wiesgickl
Book Reviews , Old Testament / June 7, 2019

Wiesgickl, Simon. Das Alte Testament als deutsche Kolonie. Die Neuerfindung des Alten Testaments um 1800. Beiträge zur Wissenschaft vom Alten und Neuen Testament (BWANT), Band 214. Netherlands, 2018, pp.262, €75,00. The main point of this book is that both Orientalism and colonizing in practice were driven by German biblical scholarship of the OT. There is a need for a critical history of commentary, which this book seeks to meet. Roland Boer has pinpointed Martin Noth but the problem goes further back; German scholarship has not been self-aware (cf. E. Stegemann).  We see it already well documented in recent histories of philosophy, e.g. Hegel’s Master-Slave derived from discussion of slave trade in Haiti. When Schiller observed that less developed peoples remind us of childlike love, this is part of the same ‘primitivism’ to which the likes of Herder and the Humboldts subscribed. Despite being a fascinating account there are times when the book ‘jumps’ or even doubles back on itself, repeating or expanding points already half made elsewhere. Secondary literature is rather dealt with as it goes along, like more flavouring thrown into the soup as it simmers,  and usually added uncritically. In Search of the Hebrew People. Bible and Nation in…

Review of Basics of Classical Syriac: Complete Grammar, Workbook, and Lexicon by Steven C. Hallam
Book Reviews , Old Testament / May 3, 2019

Hallam, Steven C. Basics of Classical Syriac: Complete Grammar, Workbook, and Lexicon. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, pp. 318, $49.99, paperback. Steven C. Hallam is Assistant Professor and Chair of the General Studies department at Alaska Christian College in Soldotna, Alaska. He earned his PhD from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and has taught courses in Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac. His Syriac grammar is the most recent addition to Zondervan’s language series of grammars and workbooks, and its stated aim is to get students reading the Syriac Peshitta as quickly as possible (p. 10). The grammar follows a standard layout, with specific sections on the nominal system (chapters 1-6), the G-stem of the verbal system (chapters 7-11), the derived stems of the verbal system (chapters 12-16), and weak verbs (chapters 17-23). Each chapter concludes with a vocabulary list specifically relevant for interpreting the New Testament Peshitta and a set of exercises. Hallam also includes several appendices that recommend resources for further study, provide a summary of all relevant paradigms, and that presents a comparison chart of the three Classical Syriac scripts. Syriac literature, of course, is written in three main scripts: Esṭrangelā, Western, and Eastern. Hallam takes a unique…

Review of Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors by Paul D. Wegner
Book Reviews , Old Testament / May 1, 2019

Wegner, Paul D. Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching: A Guide for Students and Pastors. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Academic, 2009, pp. 176, $19.99 paperback. In Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching, Paul D. Wegner provides current and former students of biblical Hebrew with the necessary tools and ample encouragement to maintain and use their knowledge of biblical Hebrew. Wegner currently serves as the Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Gateway Seminary in Ontario, CA. He is also the author of other works that may be familiar to many seminary students: The Journey from Texts to Translations and A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible. Wegner writes Using Old Testament Hebrew in Preaching with a certain audience in mind: seminary students who have taken at least one year of Hebrew and pastors who need encouragement to maintain their Hebrew knowledge (p. 8). Observing the lack of Hebrew resources—compared to the abundance of Greek resources—Wegner provides his readers with practical tools for using biblical Hebrew in sermon preparations (p. 8). In the first chapter, Wegner answers the question of how Hebrew is helpful in ministry. In the second chapter, he provides his readers with the “crucial tools” for…

Review of Life in Kings: Reshaping the Royal Story in the Hebrew Bible by A. Graeme Auld
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 12, 2019

Auld, A. Graeme. Life in Kings: Reshaping the Royal Story in the Hebrew Bible. Atlanta, GA: SBL Press, 2017, viii + 321, $39.95, paperback. A. Graeme Auld is Professor Emeritus of Hebrew Bible at Edinburgh University. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including I and II Samuel: A Commentary in the Old Testament Library series (WJK, 2011) and Kings without Privilege: David and Moses in the Story of the Bible’s Kings (T & T Clark, 1994). Life in Kings opens with a statement about the focus of the book, a history of interpretation, and two brief case studies that start the argument of the book. Auld opens by stating Life in Kings “is about writing and rewriting the biblical book of Kings—it is a book about words and their use and their reuse, about meanings and changes in meaning . . . our principal concern is with the words themselves” (p. 1). After this thesis Auld summarizes the works of “the Fathers” who have explored the compositional history of Kings (as well as Samuel and Chronicles). These include de Wette, Wellhausen, and Noth from previous generations and also some more recent scholars. After tracing his own progression…

Review of Moses, David and the High Kingship of Yahweh: A Canonical Study of Book IV of the Psalter by Michael G. McKelvey
Book Reviews , Old Testament / April 9, 2019

McKelvey, Michael G. Moses, David and the High Kingship of Yahweh: A Canonical Study of Book IV of the Psalter. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias, 2014, pp. 358, $50, paperback. Michael G. McKelvey is an assistant professor of Old Testament at the Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) in Jackson, Mississippi. He received his M.Div from RTS (2005) while receiving his Ph.D from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland (2008). McKelvey is also an ordained Presbyterian minister and has served as a pastor for numerous years in various locations.  As such, almost all of McKelvey’s publications are written in a style that bridges the academic with the ecclesiastical [see, for example, “Ecclesiastes” in A Biblical-Theological Introduction to the Old Testament: The Gospel Promised (2016) and “The Table of the Showbread” in Table Talk (2017)]. Moses, David, and the High Kingship of Yahweh is the publication of McKelvey’s doctoral dissertation. Within this work, McKelvey seeks to evaluate the nature of three literary figures—Moses, David, and King Yahweh—within the context of Book IV of the Psalter (Pss 90–106). This analysis follows a canonical approach to reading the Psalter. In McKelvey’s utilization of this approach, he has been primarily influenced by the work of Gerald Wilson (The Editing…

Review of David, King of Israel, and Caleb in Biblical Memory by Jacob L. Wright
Book Reviews , Old Testament / March 19, 2019

Wright, Jacob L. David, King of Israel, and Caleb in Biblical Memory. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014, pp. 271, $29.99, paperback. Jacob L. Wright teaches Hebrew Bible and Jewish studies at Emory University. He has also conducted research on war commemoration. Wright proposes a fascinating thesis, namely that a major influence on the evolution of the Hebrew Bible was what he terms ‘war commemoration’. He argues that this phenomenon can be found in many cultures, both ancient and modern, and is used to serve a number of distinct purposes. In particular, the way in which key protagonists in a battle are remembered will shape both the cultural attitude towards those individuals, and the extent to which their descendants are viewed as worthy members of the community. David and Caleb are identified as prime examples of these warriors. Wright subscribes to a form of the supplementary hypothesis (the current form of the biblical text stems from an original base text which was then supplemented by subsequent texts in successive stages), and suggests that at different stages in the development of the Hebrew Bible the authors/editors had differing agendas and used ‘war commemoration’ to serve the contemporary need. This accounts…