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These five Old Testament books, traditionally known simply as “the Scrolls,” are among the most neglected parts of the Christian Bible. In Judaism, the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther were eventually adopted as lectionary readings for five of the major festivals. In Christian tradition, however, no consensus has emerged about their proper use. Each book presents particular difficulties with regard to how it relates to the rest of Scripture, and how it should be understood as the Word of God for us today.
Barry Webb offers a Christian interpretation of these problematic writings. He allows each book to set its own agenda, and then examines each in relation to the wider Old Testament and to the New Testament gospel with its basic structure of promise and fulfillment. In this way, Webb presents fresh and illuminating perspectives on these five “festal garments” of love, kindness, suffering, vexation, and deliverance.
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“The solution that eventually emerged in Judaism was their adoption as lectionary readings for five of the major festivals: Passover (Song of Songs), the Feast of Weeks (Ruth), the Ninth of Ab (Lamentations), the Feast of Tabernacles (Ecclesiastes) and the Festival of Purim (Esther).” (Page 14)
“The overall movement is from death to life, barrenness to fruitfulness, emptiness to fullness, curse to blessing” (Page 38)
“Qohelet’s most distinctive teaching, that everything is heḇel, must be understood against this background. Heḇel is not simply a brute fact, something which happens to be there without cause or explanation. It is a judgment, a condition, imposed on the world, and on human beings in particular, by God. It is a manifestation of the fall and, positively, of God’s rule as creator and judge.” (Page 104)
“If to read the Song of Songs at Passover is to be reminded that redemption is an act of love, to read Ruth at Weeks is to be reminded that love—loving-kindness—is the fulfilling of the law.” (Page 55)
“In particular, the hiddenness of God that we find in Esther mirrors the world many of us live in today, particularly in the West.” (Page 131)
This volume will not only help thinking Christians understand their Bibles better, and therefore the God of the Bible, but (I cheerfully predict) it will form the substance of not a few sermons delivered by preachers who will for the first time dare expound the Five Scrolls.
—D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
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