Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

Chalmers. Interpreting the Prophets, 2015

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 27•15

Chalmers, Aaron. Interpreting the Prophets. London: SPCK, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-281-06904-0

9780281069040There is no lack of books on Old Testament Prophets. Quite a lot of surveys of prophetic books, critical studies and commentaries are in the market. However, it is true that even after acquainting oneself with all the critical knowledge and content of the books students and preachers may still find it difficult to interpret these books.
This book is a beacon of hope in this regard. It is entirely different from the surveys that are currently available in the bookstores. The author claims that his ‘… goal is to equip the readers with the knowledge and skills they need to be competent and faithful interpreters of the prophetic books themselves.’ So, it is not a commentary nor a survey of literature; nor it is a academic work that focus solely on critical issues that leads the interpreter nowhere. However, it is a work that in fact synthesizes the best of scholarship to help the interpreters in their tasks.
To achieve his goal the author deals with four aspects of the prophetic literature. First of all, a general picture of Old Testament prophets is given in the first chapter. This also contains a section of what an Old Testament prophetic book is. This summarizes the movement of the prophetic utterances in oral form to written stage and then the formation of the prophetic books. Second chapter has to do with the ‘historical world of the prophets.’ This is a brief survey of Israelite history from the eighth century to the exile. Two sub-sections of this chapter guides the interpreter as to how to analyze the historical world of the prophetic books and the dangers to avoid in the process. The third chapter deals with the theology of the prophets. He deals with major themes like, Sinaitic covenant, Zion, God as king, the Davidic covenant, etc. This chapter also concludes with suggestions on how to analyze the theologial world of the prophets. The fourth chapter has to do with the rhetorical aspects of the prophetic books. This deals with the literary forms and rhetorical features of the prophetic books.
Two more chapters takes the readers further. The fifth chapter deals with the apocalyptic literature, which is often considered as an extension of the prophetic movement. The author helps the readers to distinguish prophecy from apocalypse and highlights its salient features. This chapter also has a section on guidelines on interpreting apocalyptic literature and the potential problems to avoid.
Readers will find the last chapter ‘Guidelines for preaching from the prophets’ quite useful. This section has quite a lot of useful principles extremely useful to preachers. The author suggests that in interpreting the OT prophets the witness of the New Testament must be taken into account.
There are quite a number of illustrations and the book is complete with additional help with further reading in each section. Scripture index and subject index does enhance the book’s usefulness. This must be a must for any preacher and teacher of the Word.