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Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Anderson. CONTOURS OF OLD TESTAMENT THEOLOGY (1999)

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 11•08

Anderson, Bernhard W. Contours of Old Testament Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999 pages ix, 357

In the first section titled “Preliminary Considerations” Anderson discusses issues like the place of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible, and the relative independence of the Old Testament. He then does a thorough survey of the problems in writing theology of the Old Testament by examining the contributions made by main figures in the field. This survey begins with Gabler and winds it way through the works of Hoffman, Terrein, Eichrodt, von Rad, and the most recent, Brueggemann. The conclusion of this survey is that we are in a period of uncertainty in biblical theology scholarship. He cashes on this uncertainty because it is the opportune time for experimenting in this area.

In the first section titled “Preliminary Considerations” Anderson discusses issues like the place of the Old Testament in the Christian Bible, and the relative independence of the Old Testament. He then does a thorough survey of the problems in writing theology of the Old Testament by examining the contributions made by main figures in the field. This survey begins with Gabler and winds it way through the works of Hoffman, Terrein, Eichrodt, von Rad, and the most recent, Brueggemann. The conclusion of this survey is that we are in a period of uncertainty in biblical theology scholarship. He cashes on this uncertainty because it is the opportune time for experimenting in this area.

He then offers his own “experimental Approach” to the Old Testament theology. This experimental approach involves, synthesis (an emphasis on the final canonical form), which he think is the shift this discipline has taken in the last thirty years. He acknowledges his indebtedness to the Canonical Approach of B. S. Childs as his concern is the final shape of the canon. However, he also wants to acknowledge the diversity of Old Testament material. He considers that the Torah is the centre of the Old Testament canon and he builds his theology with God of Torah, the Holy One of Israel as the starting point. However, he want to avoid the mistake of the previous generations of scholars who tried to squeeze everything to a central theme, but allows for diversity. He also wants to avoid extreme literalism and extreme historicism since the Old Testament is world construed by poetic imagination. He thus takes clue from the covenant patterns of symbolization in the Old Testament. His methodology also pays attention to the continuity and discontinuity between the two testaments.

In Part I, he discusses, Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. This includes discussions on how Israel experienced the Holy, the Name of God, the Characterization of Yahweh, Yahweh and other Gods and finally the People of God. Part II elaborates on Yahweh’s covenants with Abraham, Moses, and David. Part III is on the crisis of the covenant theologies. He then discusses two lines of development in the third part; one line from the Torah to Wisdom and the other from Prophecy to Apocalyptic.

The conclusion discusses the link between the Old and New testaments by presenting the apocalyptic triumph of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest and King.

There are two appendices, one a course Précis on Biblical Theology of the Old Testament and the other a tribute to George Ernest Wright, to whom this book is presented. This is titled “The Relevance of Biblical Archaeology to Biblical Theology: A Tribute to George Ernst Wright.”

This book is not yet another addition to the list of Old Testament Theologies written in the 20th century but a book that marks a change in direction of the discipline. It is a book that tries to avoid the mistake of previous generations, but still trying to discover the coherence of the Old Testament literature. It is new, useful and original in its presentation.

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