Modern readers of the Bible often find the Old Testament difficult and even disturbing. What are we to do with obscure prophecies of long expired nations? Why should we read and study ancient laws that even the New Testament says are eclipsed by Christ? How can we reconcile Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with the Old Testament’s graphic narratives of sex and violence? What does the Old Testament offer that is not surpassed and even made irrelevant by the New Testament?
John Walton has spent a career engaging deeply with the Old Testament’s text and ancient context. He has studied, taught, and written about the issues. His signature approach can be introduced in one sentence: The Old Testament was written for us but not to us. We must not conform it to our own understanding. We will fully grasp the Old Testament and its theology only when we are immersed in the ancient cultural current of Israel within its broader cultural river of the ancient Near East.
In Old Testament Theology for Christians, John Walton invites us to leave our modern—and even inherited Christian—preconceptions at the threshold as we enter the world of the Old Testament. He challenges us to see it anew—as if for the first time—as guests in a strange and fascinating foreign land. Then we will rediscover its testimony to God’s great enterprise.
In this capstone to a career of studying and teaching the Old Testament, Walton unfolds a grand panorama of Yahweh and the gods, of cosmos and humanity, of covenant and kingdom, of temple and Torah, of sin and evil, and of salvation and afterlife. Viewed within its ancient Near Eastern cognitive environment, the text takes unexpected turns and blossoms into fresh and challenging insights. No matter how you are accustomed to viewing the first testament of the Bible, Old Testament Theology for Christians will challenge and sharpen your perceptions.
John Walton is one of the leading Old Testament scholars of our generation. I am always informed and stimulated in my own thinking whenever I read his work. He is rightly sensitive to the ancient context of the Old Testament as he pursues its continuing significance for our lives as Christians. Old Testament Theology for Christians presents his most wide-ranging analysis yet. I recommend this book enthusiastically to all who want to think seriously about the Old Testament.
—Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College
John Walton, a longtime leader in Old Testament and ancient Near East studies, sets himself to a large task in his latest book: to use historical inquiry to discover the Bible’s enduring theological revelation for the church today. He does this by what he calls ‘cognitive environment criticism,’ which allows him to integrate history and theology within a confessional context so as to read the Old Testament ‘from an Israelite perspective’ with a focus on God’s plans and purposes. Walton’s weighty goal, coupled with his capacious approach, means that readers of all stripes will find much here to both agree and disagree with. What cannot be debated in the least, however, is that Walton has covered immense ground, categorized a vast range of data, and offered us a treasure trove of information and reflections that will repay reading and rereading.
—Brent A. Strawn, professor of Old Testament, Emory University
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