A New Thematic Approach on the Old Testament Theology

Routledge, Robin, Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), pp. 384. $32.00. ISBN 13: 978-0-8382-896-8.

In his ten chapters long book, Routledge tackles the OT from the perspective of its most significant theological theme, namely God, and gives full attention to God’s dealings with other gods, his creation, his people, future, and the nations. As expected in a thematic approach there is little OT material to be left unclassified.

Although Routledge refrains himself from giving credit to a single theme to circumvolve all OT themes, one theme stands out as in the case of Theodore C. Vriezen’s Outline of Old Testament Theology: God’s communion with his people. As a matter of fact, one third of the book (pp. 159-260) deals with this topic by approaching traditional theological topics such as covenant, worship, instruction, kingship, and ethics.

In the first chapter, Routledge surveys a plethora of methodologies starting from John Cassian in Antiquity to Brueggeman and Goldingay in postmodernity, and defines his method following Grant Osborne’s four stages interpretative process counting exegesis, biblical theology, dogmatics, and homiletics. He argues in favour of a balance between the historical critical method and the canonical method.

Discussing the core of OT theology, the doctrine about God, Routledge precedes his talk on God’a nature and being with a material on divine names and monotheism, taking the time to interact with theories on the raise of monotheism. The nature of God is noticed t be personal and spiritual, whereas holiness, righteousness, faithfulness, and wrath are said to describe God’s very being. A section on the Spirit of God and angels concludes this chapter.

In chapter three on God and creation, the story of creation is told in comparison with ANE variants. It is a theological interpretation of reality and bespeaks of God’s transcendence, immanence, authority, and redemption. The creation of humankind in the image of God implies that human beings share spiritual characteristics with God, with whom they enjoy a relationship and from whom they receive authority over the world. The Fall means the disobedience of the first couple generalised. Human personality, described by four Hebrew terms – nephesh, ruah, leb, and bashar – is seen as a whole: not as a bipartite or even less as a tripartite entity.

The relationship between God and His people is determined in terms of election and covenant (chapter 4). Undisturbed attention is given to the Abrahamic and Sinaitic covenant. The covenant with Noah is mentioned in passing and the covenant with David is treated latter in chapter 7. Although election is based entirely on grace, the beneficiaries of the covenants are expected to respond in obedience: build an Ark, get circumcised, fulfil de requirement of the Law, respectively.

Worship and sacrifice (chapter 5) implies discussions on the place of worship, clergy, religious festivals, sacrifices, prayer, music, and singing. Pleased to see a balanced, though brief, view on prayer in relation to God’s sovereignity. Receiving instruction (chapter 6) is meant to cover the prophetic and wisdom literature, but it is not clear how does prophetic ministry fit with wisdom, since the former has a revelatory character and the latter is rather a human construct on the divine presence in the world.

Chapter seven deals with Kingship in Israel. The ruler is meant to represent God in Israel, in administering justice, but also leads the people in worshiping the Lord. As well as the Israelite king is the best representation of a ruler king David epitomizes the kingship in Israel. The last chapter on the section on God and His people (chapter 8) treats the issue of ethics. Routledge adopts Wright’s theory of ethics as a reflection of the triangular relationship of God with community and land. Ethics are viciated by some misunderstandings due to anthropomorphisms, delay of God’s judgment, God’s hiddeness and inscrutability.

The longest chapter is the ninth on God and the future. Hope is that which shapes the future. An unrepentant Israel is not to stand on the mere unconditional promise given to David, but it will be rebuilt on the basis of a renewed covenant, wherein access to God is not mediated any longer but direct. The future is envisaged by means of three key concepts: Lord’s Day, God’s battle with the chaos, and Zion. Other discussions on the Messiah, Sheol, death, and ressurection are also included here.

The last chapter concluded the book by recalling an early theme, that of God’s dealings with the Gentiles, and the subjacent one, that of the OT relevance for Christianity. Since the Gentiles were part of God’s dealings with Israel right from the outset of history it is natural that the OT is rightly considered the heritage of Christianity as well.

Revelation is not a forgotten topic but it is rather spread thin alongside various theological themes. It would have deserved a better place, at least in an evangelical theological frame, where it has the place of honour.

Judging from its structure and content, this book seems to have been written having William Dyrness’ Themes in Old Testament Theology as a springboard, reacting to John Goldingay’s two volumes Old Testament Theology, and paying a great deal of homage to Walther Eichrodt (whose name is Americanized into Walter). Unexpectedly for an evangelical work as this, the theme of revelation is not given a place of honour, but is mentioned only in passing.


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