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The Old Testament Is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment
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The Old Testament Is Dying: A Diagnosis and Recommended Treatment


Baker Academic 2017

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


The Old Testament makes up the majority of the Christian Bible and provides much of the language of Christian faith. However, many churches tend to neglect this crucial part of Scripture, leading to the loss of the Old Testament as a resource for faith and life.

This timely book shows how the Old Testament is like a language—a language is used and learned or it falls into disuse and eventually dies. Brent Strawn details a number of ways the Old Testament is showing signs of decay, demise, and imminent death in the church and criticizes common misunderstandings of the Old Testament that contribute to its neglect. He also shows that it is possible for a language to be recovered. Drawing fresh insight from recent studies of how languages die and are revived, Strawn offers strategies for renewing the use of the Old Testament in Christian faith and practice. This clearly written book will appeal to professors and students of the Old Testament as well as pastors and church leaders.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Key Features

  • Warns of the coming crisis of Old Testament literacy in the church.
  • Emphasizes the importance of the Old Testament for Christian theology and faith.
  • Suggests a way foward for improving the church's understanding of the Old Testament.


  • Part 1: The Old Testament as a Dying Language
    • The Old Testament Is Dying
    • Initial Testing
    • On Language Growth and Change, Contact and Death
  • Part 2: Signs of Morbidity
    • The New Atheism
    • Marcionites Old and New
    • New Plastic Gospels: The “Happiologists”
  • Part 3: Path to Recovery
    • Recommended Treatment
    • Saving the Old Testament
    • Ways Forward and Not

Praise for the Print Edition

Strawn has written a book of urgent practical theology based on prodigious research, grounded in keen theological sensibility, and addressed to an acute problem in the church, a problem that has immense implications for the wider culture in which the church dwells and to which it addresses itself. The language, effective use, and serious understanding of the Old Testament are ‘on the brink of being lost.’ Strawn shows that the danger runs from Marcion through the Revised Common Lectionary to the likes of Joel Osteen. In response, Strawn wisely urges an intentional pedagogy that includes hymnody, memorization, and sustained didacticism in order to create a ‘cultural-linguistic community.’ The work to be done is not for the fainthearted, but it is nonetheless work that must be done. Strawn shows himself to be a wise hermeneutist, an acute student of culture and of language, and a passionate witness in and for the life of the church. We have no other book like this; it merits wide attention.

—Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

Beautifully and compellingly written! The linguistic analogy that the Old Testament is like a dying language is enthralling in the hands of Professor Strawn. Here we come face to face with the consequences of our pernicious neglect of the Old Testament. Strawn also makes good use of a medical metaphor: the doctor's diagnosis is in, and the patient is dying. For some, the patient has already been laid to rest without proper burial. But resurrection is possible. The good Dr. Strawn has prescribed here an important dose of medicine if the church will merely accept this healing tonic.

—Bill T. Arnold, Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary

Strawn faces the fact that we are losing literacy in the Old Testament, if not the Bible as a whole. Many believers and church goers are unfamiliar with it and often puzzled about it, and people of influence--from atheistic scientists to health-and-wealth preachers--frequently misuse it for their own purposes. Strawn shows how serious the problem is for the Christian faith, threatening it to its very roots. The treatment for this deadly disease will not be easy, but there is a way forward that holds promise for the life and vitality of the believer and the church and the betterment of the world in which we live as salt and light.

—Richard E. Averbeck, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages, director of the theological studies PhD program, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

Product Details

About Brent A. Strawn

Brent A. Strawn (PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary) is professor of Old Testament at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia. He has authored or coedited numerous volumes, including The World around the Old Testament, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law, and What Is Stronger than a Lion? Leonine Image and Metaphor in the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. Strawn also serves as coeditor of the Old Testament Theology series and is on the editorial board of Catholic Biblical Quarterly and Journal of Biblical Literature.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition