This review appeared in the Jan-Mar 2011 vol. 168 no. 1 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Old Testament Theology: A Thematic ApproachIVP Academic, Downers Grove, IL December 6, 2012
To the flurry of publication of Old Testament theologies can now be added this latest venture by a British evangelical scholar. The subtitle “A Thematic Approach” well describes the intended methodology, one carried out with great faithfulness. God as a relational or covenant Being is clearly at the center of the work as its chapter titles demonstrate: (2) God and the “gods”; (3) God and Creation; (4) God and His People: Election and Covenant; (5) God and His People: Worship and Sacrifice; (6) God and His People: Receiving Instruction; (7) God and His People: Kingship in Israel; (8) God and His People: Ethics and Ethical Questions; (9) God and the Future; and (10) God and the Nations. Chapter 1, “Approaches to Old Testament Theology,” is a lengthy (pp. 17–80) discussion of the Old Testament as Christian Scripture, a brief historical overview of the discipline, and the authority of the Old Testament. This chapter, like all the others, is lavishly documented with important literature on the subject, especially from the past fifty years.
As is characteristic of British and Continental evangelical scholarship, Routledge is comfortable with such notions as the patriarchs’ ignorance of God as Yahweh (p. 94) and lack of evidence for pre-Mosaic monotheism (p. 98), statements to the contrary being assigned to later redactional activity. On the other hand his description of the God of the Old Testament (pp. 101–17) is superb, based properly on God’s chief characteristic, namely, His holiness (p. 105).
The author’s understanding of creation is that the biblical account differs more from ancient Near Eastern traditions than it resembles them. (Striking by their omission by Routledge are references to the works of Alexander Heidel in this respect.) He says very little about the “Bible-science debate,” being content to view the Creation narratives as they stand as literary artifacts. He correctly describes the imago Dei as consisting of human derivative authority as well as spiritual resemblances between God and humankind. His section on anthropology, while offering little that is new, is well articulated (pp. 143–47).
After discussing the concept of covenant (early, in his view), Routledge traces the history and peculiarities of the various covenants beginning with the Noahic and then continuing with the Abrahamic (unconditional), Mosaic (which he says is also unconditional!), Davidic (unconditional, p. 233), and New (everlasting, p. 271). Covenant demanded worship, elements of which Routledge treats with great respect for the text. Thus the tabernacle, temple, priesthood, festivals, sacrifice, prayer, music, and singing all receive due attention. His discussion of prophetism and the prophetic office also is standard and judicious, as is his overview of wisdom and the wisdom literature.
The monarchy, especially under David, is viewed here very positively, David being seen as the viceroy of the Lord and qualified also to undertake cultic leadership. However, the author’s reference to Melchizedek as the Davidic model of kingship lacks depth of discussion (pp. 234–35). The chapter on ethics exposes the fallacy of “open theism” (pp. 251–53). Strangely Routledge neglects what is perhaps the most troubling ethical issue in the Old Testament, that of so-called “holy war” and its requirement of human extermination. Next follows a well-thought-out presentation of God and the future, though the author fails to deal with the important issue of supersessionism, presumably viewing it as a New Testament issue. Among the topics here are eschatology, messianic expectation, apocalyptic, death, and the afterlife.
Chapter 10 concerns God and the nations under the rubric of divine purpose in history (pp. 311–15). Here Routledge addresses such topics as salvation for all nations, mission to the nations (with appropriate deference to J. C. H. Wright, The Mission of God [Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006]), and biblical universalism.
This Old Testament theology, while not groundbreaking, is the product of much reflection on God and His ways. As opposed to many others of its genre, it is reverential in its treatment of these topics while being clearly in touch with the broader field of efforts along this line.
—Eugene H. Merrill