Long Ago God Spoke: How Christians May Hear the Old Testament Today

Long Ago God Spoke: How Christians May Hear the Old Testament Today

Long Ago God Spoke: How Christians May Hear the Old Testament Today

Long Ago God Spoke: How Christians May Hear the Old Testament Today


How can we get beyond perceived barriers and find in the Old Testament the speech of God for today? Is there something more than antiquarian interest in these ancient writings? What do we do with the battles, the worldview, expressions of the whole range of human emotions, patriarchal assumptions, genealogies, signs and wonders, the wrath of God, prophetic oracles, sacrifices, and predictions of disaster?
William Holladay offers clear and sage guidance for these and a host of other questions and topics in this useful book, which functions as an innovative introduction to the Old Testament and its theology.


The Christian churches have rarely been comfortable with the Old Testament. the good news of God is plain in the New Testament, but the word from God seems much more muffled in the Old—and this in spite of a torrent of books about the Old Testament that pour from our presses.

A young pastor in my office admitted recently, “Frankly, I’m scared of the Old Testament.” It is to try to relieve this fear that the present book has been written, for I am convinced of the crucial importance of the Old Testament for Christians.

Let me mention here two works that have influenced my own thinking, one a quarter-century old, one just published. the first is John Bright’s The Authority of the Old Testament,1 a book that began as lectures to pastors at the divinity school of Duke University in 1959. This work helped me to ponder how even the narratives of the battles in the book of Joshua might be preached. the second is Brevard Childs’s Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments? I do not share Childs’s perspectives at every point, but his work is a magisterial analysis of the ways the Old Testament and New Testament inform each other.

This book is more modest. in comparison with Bright’s work, I take it for granted that the Old Testament is authoritative for Christians in some sense; in comparison with Childs’s work, I do not try to rethink a whole array of biblical questions theologically. On the other hand, I am not simply issuing a collection of sermon ideas from the Old Testament. I aim instead for a middle ground, offering a manual of theological considerations that can stimulate a reading of the Old Testament for listening—an expectant listening that heightens the possibilities for hearing God. I want to suggest some paths from the then of ancient Israel to our now, paths that can help preachers and teachers, Protestants and Roman Catholics, clergy and laypeople alike, to find their way with more grace within that looming long first section of the Bible. But readers must not expect an airtight set of proposals: I offer one set of suggestions for thinking about Edom and Babylon in Chapter 9 . . .

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