Friday, March 28, 2014

Forget ‘Noah’: Here’s a Clear and Readable Introduction to the Old Testament

Some time ago, Steve Hays wrote, “When I was 16, going on 17, I felt led to read the Bible. I began with the OT, but at that time it was like a thicket. Impenetrable. So I stopped reading the Bible” (Steve Hays and James Anderson, eds, “Love the Lord with Heart and Mind”, self-published ©2008, pg 52).

With “Noah, the Movie”, drawing mixed reviews, I thought I’d take an opportunity to give a plug to a resource that I believe would be far more valuable, and lasting, than spending the money to see this movie.

T.D. Alexander’s work “From Paradise to Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, (2012 Third Edition), is one of the finest and most accessible works I’ve read dealing with the Old Testament. The “thicket” is made clear, and a path forward is defined.

The work falls into two main parts: Part 1 provides a brief (and accessible) introduction to the history of Old Testament criticism, including an account of the rise and fall of the “Documentary Hypothesis” (or, the J.E.D.P theory) – which I skimmed over, but which was very enlightening as to what “the thicket” is all about.

Part 2 provides an introduction and literary analysis of the first five books of the Bible (and indeed, it treats the account running from Genesis to 2Kings as one long, single narrative). Themes are broken out topically, including God’s Temple City, the Royal Lineage in Genesis, (only a brief section on “the Flood Narrative”), The Covenant at Sinai, The Tabernacle, The Sacrificial System, “Be Holy”, Clean and Unclean Foods, “Why Israel?”, and more. Each chapter in Part 2 contains “an Old Testament Summary” and “New Testament Connections”. In that regard, it makes a great book-end to G.K. Beale’s “A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New” – studying that theme from the front end of the book.

Longer-lasting, more edifying, and more satisfying than a movie. A good bit less expensive, too.

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