Academic journal article Cithara

Old Testament Theology, Revisited: R.W.L Moberly and Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture

Academic journal article Cithara

Old Testament Theology, Revisited: R.W.L Moberly and Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture

Article excerpt

Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture. By R.W.L. Moberly. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014. Pp. xiv, 333. $ 34.99. Old Testament Theology, Revisited: R.W.L Moberly and Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture

Introduction

Old Testament Theology (OTT), like so many other areas of specialization in the contemporary scene, is one which is both fiercely contested and open to an emerging plurality of perspectives. Several recurring questions have inspired no little amount of soul searching with regard to this "genre": what is the relationship between history and theology in this ancient collection of disparate texts? What is an appropriate methodology or approach when undertaking a study of the Old Testament's theology? And, in a field dominated by Christians, what is an appropriate Christian approach to reading Jewish texts?

As one might imagine, there have been various approaches to dealing with these queries (helpful overviews of the field can be found in Ollenburger 2004 and Janowski 2015). Thus, in the twentieth century we have had contributions to OTT that methodologically center on particular issues (such as covenant [Eichrodt 1961] and election [Preuss 1995]); those which give attention to the unfolding relationship of history and religion (von Rad 1965; Wright 1952); approaches which highlight the multi-vocal (Brueggemann 1997) or plural (Gerstenberger 2002) nature of OTT; contributions which focus on the canonical form of the texts as they have been received (Childs 1986); not to mention robust engagement with and critique of the entire enterprise (Childs 1970; Reventlow 1985; Barr 1999). And, much to the surprise of some, the genre lives on: along with more focused accounts exploring theological dimensions of particular issues or parts of the canon (Kaminsky 2007), recent years have also witnessed significant contributions from important voices in the field that have offered more traditional full-scale theologies of Israel's Scriptures (Rendtorff 2005; Goldingay 2003).

Moberly's Old Testament Theology

This broader context needs to be kept in mind when approaching R.W.L. (Walter) Moberly's recent contribution, Old Testament Theology: Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture. Indeed, what Moberly has in view is a work that is recognizable as OTT, but one that departs from the norm in important respects: "In terms of the main title, Old Testament Theology, I am contributing to a familiar genre of biblical scholarship, while at the same time modifying it in a way that seems appropriate at a time when biblical scholarship is open to new possibilities" (1). We will return below to the nature and significance of these "modifications."

The volume is structured around eight chapters, each of which presents a close reading of a particular biblical text or texts that are seen as representative of a specific theological issue or theme. There is also a canonical flow to the collection (or at least one resonant with the Hebrew canon), as the volume moves broadly from Torah, to Nevi'im (Prophets), to Ketuvim (Writings), which is the canonical structure of the Hebrew Scriptures in the Jewish tradition.

Chapter One, "A Love Supreme," begins with an exploration of the Shema, Deut 6:4-9. After guiding the reader through some of the interpretive difficulties of this passage, Moberly offers a reading of his own, unpacking some of the complexities faced by Christian appropriation of the Shema, and finally exploring the relationship of these verses to monotheism and the concept of idolatry. As in much of Moberly's work, there is more than one thing going on here: while he explores issues of God, devotion, and idolatry, he is also reflecting on what it might mean for Christians to read the Old Testament as Scripture, as well as on the practical, "real life" dimension of theological reflection. Indeed, he notes at the conclusion of the chapter that "part of the point of starting the studies in this book with the Shema is to see that issues of allegiance and life priorities together with corresponding moral and symbolic practices are at the heart of what it means to understand, and be able to appropriate, the Old Testament's portrayal of God" (40). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.