Pastorate, Preaching, Reviews, Theology
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What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About — A Review

[DeRouchie, Jason. What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2013.]

INTRODUCTION

Jason DeRouchie is the editor and primary contributor of this “multi-author, book-by-book, manageable, thematic survey of the Old Testament” (23). The stated thesis of this book from the very beginning is to present a “gospel-saturated and text-based,  portrayal of the Old Testament as foundation for a fulfillment found in the New Testament and celebrating the hope of Messiah and God’s kingdom as it is progressively disclosed in the Old Testament’s literary flow” (23). The seventeen contributors to this work are representative of “fourteen of the finest conservative, evangelical schools across North America” (24). DeRouchie was the Associate Professor of Old Testament at Bethlehem College & Seminary when this survey was created. He has since moved to Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is serving as the Research Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology. In addition to the present volume, DeRouchie has written, co-authored, contributed to, and edited a plethora of books and journals on the understanding and interpretation of the OT such as How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology, Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course Between Dispensational and Covenant Theologies, A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, and many others.

SUMMARY

What sets this OT survey apart from the others in its genre is its demonstration of how the “Kingdom through covenant climaxes in Christ” (30). DeRouchie states that the target audience for this book is college and seminary students and local churches (23). It seeks to avoid getting lost in the weeds and is more of a birds-eye view of the progressive revelation of Yahweh’s covenantal development pertaining to its Christological trajectory. My review of this survey will focus on the lens through which it seeks to offer so that we would read the OT Scriptures with Christian eyes. To summarize the book, it is best to discuss the multi-faceted way in which DeRouchie frames and elucidates the OT by means of the arrangement of the OT books, how the OT and NT parallel one another in proclaiming one grand narrative, and God’s Kingdom building plan in Christ.

First, DeRouchie and others emphasize the arrangement of the OT from the Hebrew tradition and its significance in undergirding the very thesis of this survey. The full title is: What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible. The subtitle provides foreshadowing for what is to come. What is not implied by the subtitle is that the content oF Jesus’ Bible is different than the one we have today. Rather, it is highlighting that unlike most Christian Bibles at present which arrange the OT by Law, History, Poetry, Wisdom, and Prophecy, in Jesus’ day the Scriptures were arranged and structured differently. During Christ’s earthly ministry the same thirty-nine books we have that make up the OT were themselves arranged in a different order and grouped under the following divisions: Law (Torah), Prophets (Nevi’im), and the Writings (Kethuvim). This is why the Hebrew Bible is commonly referred to as the TaNaK.

We can be confident this is the framework through which Jesus himself arranged the OT Scriptures in due to his post-resurrection statement: “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44, emphasis mine). As DeRouchie clarifies, “In most reckonings, Psalms is the first main book in the Writings (though prefaced by Ruth), and in Jesus’ words it appears to provide a title for the whole third division” (42). DeRouchie offers two significant takeaways from this three-division structure that are readily apparent. First, it is both “justified” and “necessary” for the whole Bible to be put together by a historical narrative that is in chronological order (43). In other words, we need to follow the flow of God’s redemptive purposes in space and time and how they unfold from creation. Structuring the OT Bible according to the Hebrew arrangement grants and reinforces this. Secondly, DeRouchie posits that we can read the overarching message of Scripture far more clearly when it is placed within this three-part division as it is the very lens through which Jesus and the apostles preached the message of God’s kingdom (46).

Fascinatingly, DeRouchie argues the following, “Yahweh’s special covenant relationship with Israel, instituted at Sinai, controls the Old Testament’s three divisions. The old (Mosaic) covenant is established in the Law, enforced in the Prophets, and enjoyed in the Writings” (46). He then claims the arrangement of the NT books parallels the Old. He asserts, “the new covenant is established in the Gospels, enforced in Acts and the Pauline Epistles, and enjoyed in the General Epistles and Revelation” (48). Moreover, in order to synthesize the OT’s message DeRouchie demonstrates we need to understand the Bible’s Frame (Content: What?), Form (Means: How?), Focus (Purpose: Why?), and Fulcrum (Sphere: Whom?) (49-50). These questions are asked in the introduction of each survey of individual OT books to display the consistent message throughout the OT Scriptures. DeRouchie synthesizes the message of the entire Bible then as God’s Kingdom (What?), through covenant (How?), for his glory (Why?), in Christ (Whom?) (51). From this understanding, the OT can be read as the foundation of the NT while the NT fulfills the OT.

Before DeRouchie puts forward these arguments regarding the arrangement of the OT Scriptures and how we synthesize their message he gives an overview of the entire Bible’s message using the acronym KINGDOM. It unpacks each stage of God’s redemptive plan (34-40). He begins with the creation, fall, and flood, and how these constitute Kickoff and Rebellion. Next, we see that God by his grace elects and consecrates a people for himself through his Instrument of blessing, namely the patriarchs. Following this we see the Nation redeemed and commissioned through the Exodus, Sinai, and the wilderness. After this Yahweh grants conquest and establishes Government in the Promised Land. This is followed by exile and initial restoration in the Dispersion and return. These first five letters of KINGDOM are the foundation we see laid and revealed in the OT.

The last two letters culminate in the person and work of Christ and his church in the NT. When Jesus came in the fullness of time, he inaugurated the Kingdom of God and from his earthly ministry until his return the Overlap of the ages is in play in which the church lives in the already-not-yet. Finally, upon Christ’s return and kingdom consummation, the Mission will be accomplished. Derouchie takes this acronym and situates the books of the Bible accordingly. What is important about the arrangement of books and the chronological development found in the Hebrew tradition is that when you read the OT with this structure against the backdrop of this KINGDOM overview the flow of God’s redemptive plan in history is made clear.

CRITICAL EVALUATION 

What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About will reshape how one reads the OT. It puts forward a significant argument for Christians to consider reading the Bible with the same framework Jesus did. What I found most edifying and refreshing in reading through this survey was how DeRouchie and the others reframed the way in which their readers encounter the OT. In his opening overview, he forecasts that he will both promote how foundational the OT is in grounding what will be fulfilled in the NT and prove the lasting relevance of the OT through continually making connections to the NT and the twenty-first century (23-24). Throughout the entire survey, it is demonstrated how the Bible is a single text with a cohesive plot structure that culminates in Christ. This birds-eye view thematic survey does not get lost in the weeds as it demonstrates the overarching theme of the OT’s proclamation and anticipation of Christ. However, it by no means is untethered from the text. Rather, it profoundly and convincingly underscores what the text itself emphasizes.

Another remarkable aid this work provides for its readers is its use of over one hundred and sixty sidebars in making these connections between the OT and NT. Additionally, it has almost two-hundred high-resolution photographs, over eighty charts, and tables, and twelve colorful maps (24). This survey is engaging, interactive, and its sidebars and charts help its readers better grasp the underlying arguments.

Again, the underlying thesis of this work is to promote a gospel-saturated and text-based portrayal of the OT and its progressive disclosure literarily in celebrating and anticipating the coming kingdom of Christ (23). Each chapter surveys a book of the OT to determine what its inspired author desired to communicate. To defend its claim, it offers three to six themes of the lasting message of each OT book and how it reinforces the underlying thesis. Through the consistent and repetitive thematic presentation of the OT connecting with the NT it becomes abundantly clear that this survey’s theme is not manipulation of the text, instead it makes plain what the Biblical text says. Christians are to read the OT as Scripture, its story is our story, and when we begin to see the gospel-saturated and Christological nature of the OT we are left in awe at the organic connection between the two testaments of Scripture.

In my estimation, this organic connection is the work’s greatest strength. In comparison to other OT surveys What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About separates itself by its relentless commitment to demonstrate the Messianic-bent inherent to its message. Other surveys in this genre (e.g., Eugene Merrill’s An Historical Survey of the Old Testament and Gleason Archer’s A Survey of Old Testament Introduction) tend to focus so closely on the tree that is a specific OT passage that they miss the forest which is both OT and NT and how that passage integrates with the unified whole. DeRouchie and his team claim the OT lays the foundation for the coming Messiah and then demonstrate this conviction over and over again. Whereas other OT surveys tend to make interesting historical elucidations that can be helpful in understanding specific passages, this survey allows its readers to see the whole picture and how it comes together in Christ.

The only weakness I noticed in reading this OT survey was that due to it being a thematic survey it intentionally avoids some of the hot-button issues that other OT studies may deal with. Readers who would demand a position on matters such as creationism, the Nephilim, or other such specific debates may be disappointed. The focus of this work is to lay the groundwork for the redemptive plan of God culminating in Christ. So, I am hesitant to call this a “weakness,” as this survey is not attempting to be exhaustive.

CONCLUSION

I believe this to be the best introductory OT survey available. Its desire to exalt and savor Christ in laying the foundation for the gospel through this thematic unpacking of the OT is exemplary. I will turn to this survey again in the future and commend it to others who want to make sense of the OT. As new covenant believers, we must read all of Scripture through a Christological lens. I wish I had read this book in Bible college as the surveys I worked through years ago were helpful, but I was often left confused on how to comprehend the text’s impact on the overarching narrative of Scripture. It came across as disconnected and as though I was reading the narrative of a different people, rather than of those to whom I am related by faith in Christ. I would highly commend this survey for college and seminary students as well as pastors and their churches. This survey will go far to help the evangelical church see the Old Testament as the essential part of the Christian Bible that it is.

Filed under: Pastorate, Preaching, Reviews, Theology
Michael Carlino

Michael Carlino is an MDiv student at Southern Seminary where he also serves as the student associate for the Mathena Center for Church Revitalization.

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