A few months back, I requested a review copy of All that the Prophets have Declared (APD) from it’s editor Matthew Malcolm. He graciously sent me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
In the 1950s, C.H. Dodd said that the New Testament’s interpretation of the Old Testament, particularly in terms of the notion of fulfillment seems to”govern the early Christian interpretation of the gospel events.” Understandably, people interested in understanding the Bible and it’s gospel have studied the subject carefully.
In the case of this book, there are several authors. I typically give author background on reviews, but in this case, I’ll simply follow the bad, good, and conclusion pattern.
There are two problems in the book that are simply matters of formatting:
- The book uses endnotes. The worst example of a book doing this is Campbell’s “The Deliverance of God.” APD is much more brief, but do to the rigor of the book it still contains 67 pages of endnotes. That’s nearly 24% of the book. This means that almost every few sentences, if you want to know a source, etc, you’ve got to look in the back. I happen to know that publishers typically make these choices, but it still hurts the reading experience.
- There is no index. This is a minor quibble, but in a brief book that is clearly meant to be a scholarly resource, having an index of authors and Bible verses would make the book much more helpful to pastors or professors at small colleges.
The other problem is the problem with all such compilations. The essays are uneven. When I read the book, I made a point to avoid looking at author names. I was pleased to find that of my four favorite essays, 3 were by people with whose works I have read or with whom I am acquainted. None of the essays were bad, but some of them seemed to rehash old problems with which I was fairly familiar.
The essays try to bridge the gap between hermeneutics and historical work and the faith and practice of the church. This is important. If I weren’t a Christian, I would still find the Bible interesting, but in depth scholarship on it seems nearly pointless unless it is meant to have practical results for believers (if one were an atheist, debunking the Bible’s claims would be practical).
The other good aspects below are insights or good qualities from several of the essays:
In the essay on Galatians, Mark Seifrid observed, correctly, that the focus in Galatians is not on Jesus’ obedience (as in Philippians), but on the salvific quality of the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation (107).
In the essay on Prayer, two insights are given about the nature of prayer in Acts 4 that are meant to carry weight for the believer today. Prayer should be informed by the Biblical story in the Old and New Testament and then that narrative must be owned by those who pray so that they can adopt a biblical mindset regarding their place in history (79).
Roland Deines argued, very well for two ideas (one of which he mistakenly calls an assumption despite the fact that he structures the essay around demonstrating it…making it an inference (42)) that Jesus was expert in his use of Scripture as a member of a culture that was deeply informed by the OT and that Jesus is portrayed in the gospels as claiming to be the Lord of Scripture (42). He speculates at the end of his essay on the ways in which Jesus may have come about his deep knowledge of Scripture (64-70). These speculations are helpful because many do not consider that Jesus learned, was literate, or went through any sort of creative process of Biblical interpretation or sat under any mentors. He also raises the question of whether or not the gospel authors are portraying Jesus as having supernatural knowledge of Scripture. He simply comes away saying that any such discussion must be nuanced but take into account that the Bible portrays Jesus as preexistent. I think that this interesting avenue should have been pursued further, so I wish he hadn’t even mentioned it!
Malcolm’s concluding essay The Appropriation of Scripture in the Emergence of Christianity concludes with similar thoughts to those articulated by C.D. Dodd so long ago, “But the New Testament itself avers that it was Jesus Christ Himself who first directed the minds of His followers to certain parts of the scriptures as those in which they might find illumination upon the meaning of His mission and destiny.” Malcolm similarly concludes that the New Testament writers are “following the lead of Jesus himself” in their reading of Scripture (206). The volume, I think helped to demonstrate this fact.
I would recommend purchasing this book two groups: Students in seminary who have already taken Biblical introductory courses but want to understand this topic more fully and to pastors who find the topic interesting. But because it is an introduction to the topic for people with academic training, I would only recommend that a layperson check it out from a library to avoid buying a volume that may not be particularly enthralling or helpful. Students on the doctoral level or academic professors will likely be able to get the book through ILL or by means of asking their library to purchase it if they are at large schools. This is good for the authors because it is inexpensive enough for people at small schools to buy it themselves and it is useful enough that libraries will likely purchase it.