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In this important work, Child’s thesis is that a canonical approach to the scriptures of the Old Testament opens up new possibilities for exploring the theological dimensions of the biblical text. Rather than seeking the sources, redactors, or communities “behind” the text at the expense of the text itself, the canonical approach seeks to understand the theological message of the Old Testament as a unified book through its canonical shape. After providing an introduction to the history and development of biblical theology, Childs presents major sections and themes in the Old Testament and the insights gained from viewing them in their canonical context.
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“I would suggest that careful attention to the shape of the Christian canon provides some initial guidelines for overcoming this dilemma. The Christian canon maintains the integrity of the Old Testament in its own right as scripture of the church. However, it sets it within a new canonical context in a dialectical relation with the New Testament. In my judgment, the task of biblical theology is to explore the relation between these two witnesses, whereas the task of Old Testament theology is to reflect theologically on only the one portion of the Christian canon, but as Christian scripture.” (Page 9)
“but it should not be forgotten that the Septuagint was a Jewish translation, not a Christian one.” (Page 7)
“A canonical approach takes the Hebrew scriptures seriously because of its confession that Israel remains the prime tradent of this witness.” (Page 10)
“The final canonical literature reflects a long history of development in which the received tradition was selected, transmitted and shaped by hundreds of decisions. This process of construing its religious tradition involved a continual critical evaluation of historical options which were available to Israel and a transformation of its received tradition toward certain theological goals. That the final form of the biblical text has preserved much from the earlier stages of Israel’s theological reflection is fully evident. However, the various elements have been so fused as to resist easy diachronic reconstructions which fracture the witness of the whole.” (Page 11)
“Not least of the disagreement turns on how theological reflection on the Old Testament relates to the prior, analytical study of the biblical text which is generally subsumed under the rubric of the historical-critical study of the Bible. It is my thesis that a canonical approach to the scriptures of the Old Testament opens up a fruitful avenue along which to explore the theological dimensions of the biblical text.” (Page 1)
Brevard Childs has provoked more passionate response than any American Old Testament scholar of his generation. Like Childs’ previous books, this one meets with its share of criticism because it is both provocative and interesting. It deserves to be widely read.
—The Christian Century
As much, if not more than any other scholar, Childs knows the issues which historical criticism has pointed out. But his emphasis is on the attitude and doctrines that come from the Hebrew Bible as a whole . . . He points out a way that is both provocative and challenging.
—Roland E. Murphy, former George Washington Ivey Professor of Biblical Studies Emeritus, Duke University
. . . packed with responsible help for preachers . . . a treasure house of suggestions for weaving together the various canonical witnesses.
—Biblical Theology Bulletin