Treasures Old and New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch

Treasures Old and New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch

Treasures Old and New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch

Treasures Old and New: Essays in the Theology of the Pentateuch


The Pentateuch is one anchor of the Western religious heritage, a rich source of theological and spiritual instruction that can be plumbed again and again. In "Treasures Old and New" accomplished biblical scholar Joseph Blenkinsopp engages several interesting topics in dialogue with texts from the Pentateuch.

In keeping with the view that the Pentateuch is far too multiplex to be encapsulated in a single theological system, Blenkinsopp has written "Treasures Old and New" as a bsketchbookb of theology in the Pentateuch. This fruitful approach allows him to consider themes that easily fall through the cracks of more systematic works of biblical theology. Among the many subjects that Blenkinsopp pursues are the role of memory in the construction of the past, the dependence of Christianity on Judaism, the close connection between sacrifice and community in Old Testament Israel, the proper meaning of human stewardship of the world, and belief (or lack of belief) in a meaningful postmortem existence.

Blenkinsopp also explores well-known texts from less-well-known angles. The Garden of Eden story, for example, gains in resonance when read together with "Gilgamesh," and the laws governing diet and cleanliness become clearer in the light of current ecological concerns. Readers will also learn from Blenkinsoppbs novel approach to such important yet enigmatic stories as the Creation, Cain and Abel, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, the Call of Abram, and Sodom and Gomorrah.

Blessed with an extraordinary ability to transmit complex issues in concise and lucid fashion, Blenkinsopp shows that serious engagement with biblical texts, while sometimes demanding, can be intellectually andreligiously rewarding.


This little sketchbook of biblical theology represents a selection of essays of more general biblical-theological interest published over the last four decades or so. Electronic digitization and publication have made it easier for us to shed the illusion that what we write carries the stamp of finality. I have therefore had no qualms about revising these sketches, in some cases fairly drastically. They have no unifying theme; they have in common only the aim to engage topics I presume to be of interest to thoughtful people today, and to do so in dialogue with texts from the Pentateuch. In that sense, they could be considered as a companion to my contribution to the Anchor Bible Reference Library, The Pentateuch: An Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1992).

It will be obvious that this is not a theology of the Pentateuch, much less of the Old Testament. After reading a great number of theologies of the Old Testament, several of which are the subject of a brief comment in the second of the sketches, I arrived long ago at the by no-means-sensational conclusion that, notwithstanding claims made by the authors, all such attempts are necessarily perspectival, and therefore selective and incomplete. I even arrived at the point of wondering whether the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament is capable of generating a theology. The creation of any theological system, biblical or otherwise, begins at a specific starting point dictated by the agenda of the writer and the interest groups to which the writer belongs. What it says or leaves unsaid will also generally be determined by a ruling concept chosen in advance of writing, the choice dictated by the presuppositions and prejudices, conscious and unconscious . . .

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