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Moberly, Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 2013.
This unique volume by one of Old Testament scholarship’s leading voices approaches the subject of a Christian reading of the Hebrew Bible in a novel and interesting way. It isn’t a stale ‘Christ under every rock’ fundamentalist reading and neither is it a stoic stringent Eichrodt-ian systematic. Instead, it blends themes into a cogent narrative. I’ll explain. First, by citing the table of contents: Introduction 1. A Love Supreme 2. A Chosen People 3. Daily Bread 4. Does God Change? 5. Isaiah and Jesus 6. Educating Jonah 7. Faith and Perplexity 8. Where Is Wisdom? Epilogue Indexes The reader familiar with the contents of the Old Testament will recognize right away the fact that Moberly will here deal with the concepts of covenant, election, providence, theodicy, the Old Testament’s relationship to the new, the problem of doubt, and others. But unlike Eichrodt and others he rejects the Aristotelian method of categorization. And that is a good thing, as it frees Moberly to discuss in a lively way how the Old Testament sees these issues and how Christians can learn from the Hebrew Bible in a still thoroughly Christian way without importing into the texts meanings that are not there.
For example, Moberly writes I try to model a way of doing Old Testament theology that is built around a dialectic between the ancient text and contemporary questions, within a Christian frame of reference that is alert to other frames of reference (p. ix). Not only does he model this method, he exemplifies it. Resultantly, when he expounds the ‘repentance’ of God he can write … no attribute causes greater problems than the concept of God’s ‘repentance’ because it suggests fickleness’ (p. 107). To put it mildly! And then he brilliantly explains how God’s ‘repentance’ is rooted in his love. In an excursus on the ‘contradictions’ of the Old Testament, Moberly shows himself to be an intelligent and articulate defender of the faith. Here no shadow or ghost of fundamentalism can be found but rather wisdom and seriousness mixed with an abundance of learning. Perhaps that can be attributed to a thorough knowledge not simply of exegetical hermeneutics but systematic theology as well: Karl Barth, for example, says: “If ever there was a miserable anthropomorphism, it is the hallucination of a divine immutability which rules out the possibility that God can let Himself be conditioned in this or that way by His creature. God is certainly immutable. But He is immutable as the living God and in the mercy in which He espouses the cause of the creature (p. 113). Moberly continues, pointing out that there is … a difference between contradiction and paradox. … for example: God is transcendent, and God is immanent; God is sovereign, but humans have free will… (p. 114). So how is the ‘repentance’ of God to be understood? Jeremiah 18:1-12 is the passage which unlocks the question for our understanding: I propose that the axiomatic nature of this formulation makes this passage the passage whereby all other depictions of divine repentance elsewhere should be understood, when one is reading the Old Testament as canonical scripture (p. 116). And then he carries out his exposition in the sort of masterful way one expects of a seasoned exegete. The entire volume is a work of art and theological artistry. It is the most satisfying exposition of the theology of the Old Testament since John Goldingay sent along his huge 3 volume magnum opus several years back. The scant and slight excerpts above are offered for one reason alone: to
whet the appetites of potential readers in hopes that they will acquire, devour, and ingest this valuable tome. It will not simply be sweet in the reader’s mouth, it won’t turn bitter in the reader’s stomach.
Jim West Quartz Hill School of Theology