The Pentateuch is the foundation for understanding the Old Testament and the Bible as a whole. From a career of study, John H. Sailhamer sums up his perspective on the Pentateuch by first settling the hermeneutical question of where we should set our attention. Sailhamer is convinced that the text itself should be our primary focus. He searches out clues left by the author and the later editor of the Pentateuch that will disclose the meaning of this great work. By paying particular attention to the poetic seams in the text, he rediscovers a message that surprisingly brings us to the threshold of the New Testament gospel.
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“I propose that the big idea of the Pentateuch is ‘the importance of living by faith.’” (Page 22)
“What’s wrong with this picture? It identifies the giving of the law with the writing of the Pentateuch. It overlooks that the Pentateuch itself was not written to teach Israel the law. The Pentateuch was addressed to a people living under the law (Deut 30:1–2; Ezra 7:6–10) and failing at every oppportunity (Neh 9:33). The Pentateuch looks beyond the law of God to his grace. The purpose of the Pentateuch is to teach its readers about faith and hope in the new covenant (Deut 30:6).” (Page 26)
“My focus throughout this book is not what the laws meant to ancient Israel at Sinai. Instead, I am asking what the inspired written message of the Pentateuch means to us today, and what the law in the Pentateuch has to do with that.” (Page 13)
“Where could Hannah have gotten a hope in a coming king? Their only explanation is to suppose that a later scribe has rewritten Hannah’s praise hymn to make it conform to the messianic beliefs of the later prophets. They have failed to see, however, that Hannah or one of the later ‘prophetic authors’ could have read the Pentateuch or been aware of the prophetic hope in the poems of the Pentateuch. If understood as an echo of the poetry in the Pentateuch, Hannah’s words make sense.” (Page 16)
“Here is the principle I will follow: the best (most valid) big idea is the one that explains the most and the most important parts of the Pentateuch.” (Page 152)
Sailhamer has made a valuable contribution to both Pentateuchal studies and the larger field of biblical theological studies.
—Roger D. Cotton, Enrichment
Dr. Sailhamer (1946–2017) began teaching in 1975, most recently at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was President of The Evangelical Theological Society in 2000 and published a number of books, including An Introduction to Old Testament Theology, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary, and Genesis: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, all from Zondervan. He contributed a number of articles and book reviews in various biblical journals and delivered several scholarly papers and particpated in several Old Testament Bible translation committees.