Christian theologians rarely study the Old Testament in its final Hebrew canonical form, even though this was very likely the Bible used by Jesus and the early church. However, once read as a whole, the larger structure of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) provides a “wide-angle lens” through which its contents can be viewed.
Stephen G. Dempster argues that, despite its undoubted literary diversity, the Hebrew Bible possesses a remarkable structural and conceptual unity. The various genres and books are placed within a comprehensive narrative framework, which provides an overarching literary and historical context. The many texts contribute to this larger text, and find their meaning and significance within its story of “dominion and dynasty,” which ranges from Adam to the Son of Man, from David to the coming Davidic king.
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“A key purpose of genealogies in some contexts is to show a divine purpose that moves history to a specific goal.” (Page 47)
“It is the thesis of this book that, when the Hebrew Bible is read and reread (that is, viewed with a wide-angle lens), the faces of the biblical Rushmore—‘the purposeful pattern’—will be seen clearly, rather than the ‘textual patchwork’ in the face of the mountain.” (Page 30)
“The goal of Exodus is thus the building of the Edenic sanctuary so that the Lord can dwell with his people, just as he once was Yahweh Elohim to the first human beings.” (Page 100)
“They show that Sinai, not Egypt, is Israel’s largest roadblock to Canaan” (Page 101)
“Another way of describing this emphasis on human dominion and dynasty would be by the simple expression ‘the kingdom of God’. The earth is created for human dominion and rule, which reflects the divine rule. For human beings to function as the image of God they need a territory, a domain to rule over. And to have the land without human beings is also pointless, for the kingdom needs a king, the dominion a dynasty.” (Page 62)
Dempster’s reading of the storyline of the Old Testament is fresh, provocative, helpful—and doubtless will prove to be the stuff of many sermons and lectures. His closing chapter points to some of the links that bind the Old and New Testaments together, an obviously urgent goal for the Christian preacher and teacher.
—D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
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