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Inspiration and Incarnation, 2nd Edition

Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament

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How can an evangelical view of Scripture be reconciled with modern biblical scholarship? In this book Peter Enns, an expert in biblical interpretation, addresses Old Testament phenomena that challenge traditional evangelical perspectives on Scripture. He then suggests a way forward, proposing an incarnational model of biblical inspiration that takes seriously both the divine and the human aspects of Scripture. This tenth anniversary edition has an updated bibliography and includes a substantive postscript that reflects on the reception of the first edition.

Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition
1. Getting Our Bearings
2. The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature
3. The Old Testament and Theological Diversity
4. The Old Testament and Its Interpretation in the New Testament
5. The Big Picture


"Peter Enns has done the evangelical church an immense service by challenging preconceived notions of what the Bible ought to be by insisting on building his high view of Scripture on what God intended Scripture to be. When the first edition appeared, it started important and healthy conversations about the Bible in spite of efforts to dismiss or marginalize Enns's viewpoint. One does not have to agree with all his conclusions to understand why this book has helped and will continue to help many people to embrace Scripture as God's Word to us. Everyone who loves the Bible ought to read this important book."

Tremper Longman III, Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies, Westmont College

"The first edition of Peter Enns's Inspiration and Incarnation has been a superb resource for helping students of the Bible take the human dimension of this ancient text seriously. Enns's discussion of the Bible's ancient cultural context not only is illuminating but also can deepen the reader's faith in the God revealed in the nitty-gritty of history. This second edition, with its profound concluding reflections on the nature of Scripture after ten years of responses to the first edition, promises to be even more effective in helping students of the Bible appreciate more fully the inscripturated Word made flesh."

Richard Middleton, professor of biblical worldview and exegesis, Northeastern Seminary, Roberts Wesleyan College

"I have used this book to great effect in the classroom. Divinity students welcome Enns's invitation to think theologically about history--how the historical 'problems' of the Bible may in fact be a crucial aspect of its theological witness. Of course, the incarnational analogy can be pressed too far, and there are other models on offer. But Enns's model is traditional, illuminating, hospitable to other models, and urgently needed by Christians still caught in late modern debates about inerrancy, inspiration, and revelation. This book continues to strike a chord that resonates."

Stephen B. Chapman, associate professor of Old Testament, Duke University

"Inspiration and Incarnation was a watershed in evangelical hermeneutics. Written primarily for lay readers and seminarians, it served as a release valve for some and a source of consternation for others. The controversy was to be expected. Enns's argument--that, however highly evangelicals may laud the Scriptures, an honest and serious approach to the text cannot ignore the findings of critical scholarship or the reality of Scripture itself--was as correct as it was forceful. This second edition is warmly welcomed. In a new postscript, he addresses his motivations for writing the book and addresses his critics. Throughout, Enns writes with the insight of an accomplished scholar, the wit of a skilled teacher, and the heart of a concerned pastor."

Chris Keith, professor of New Testament and early Christianity, director of the Centre for the Social-Scientific Study of the Bible, St. Mary's University, Twickenham

"Some of those most dedicated to biblical studies unfortunately begin from inadequate theological presuppositions. If everyone who identifies as a conservative evangelical would read and absorb this book, the field would be better for it--and so might the church and the world."

Christopher B. Hays, D. Wilson Moore Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Peter Enns is to be applauded for the second edition of this important and insightful book. The questions he raised a decade ago continue to demand our careful attention today. In Inspiration and Incarnation, Enns challenges evangelicals (and others) to rethink traditional views of Scripture by considering the implications of the Old Testament's theological diversity, the New Testament's reuse of the Old, and the Bible's similarities with other ancient Near Eastern texts. Enns is a skilled and gracious guide through this difficult terrain, and readers benefit enormously from his expertise. Highly recommended for biblical scholars and general readers alike!"

Eric Seibert, professor of Old Testament, Messiah College

"Peter Enns is a leading voice in a new generation of evangelicalism. Inspiration and Incarnation has already helped guide many both to accept the unexpected content of Bible and to begin to wrestle with what it means to call this surprising set of texts the word of God. Deploying a time-honored incarnational analogy, Enns offers a model for understanding scripture that invites serious consideration of ways in which the divine word is at the same time fully human. While exploring aspects of the Old Testament that many find unsettling at first, Inspiration and Incarnation offers us the good news that God is not limited by our expectations but can and does speak through the Bible we actually have."

J. R. Daniel Kirk, associate professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Peter Enns is one of the most important scholarly voices speaking to Christianity today, and this book is a primary example of why! With technical expertise, intellectual honesty, and an abiding sensitivity to the deep concerns of the Christian faith, Enns tackles three thorny questions that arise from reading the Old Testament in the light of modern biblical scholarship. This book eschews the conservative culture of easy answers and provides a coherent incarnational approach for those who want to take the Bible seriously without switching off their brains. The newly added postscript is particularly useful, as it gives us an inside view into the ways Enns's thinking has evolved in the ten years since the first edition appeared. May this second edition be read as widely and engaged as critically as the first!"

Christopher W. Skinner, Mount Olive College and East Carolina University

Praise for the First Edition

"At last, here is a constructive exploration--by an evangelical scholar with a high view of Scripture--of how to handle seriously the evidence from inside and outside the Bible that sits uncomfortably with classic formulations. Enns's combination of faith and intellectual honesty will bring much encouragement to all serious Bible students who have struggled to face up to these unavoidable issues."

H. G. M. Williamson, Regius Professor of Hebrew, University of Oxford

"Enns has done the evangelical church a great service by emphasizing the human dimension of Scripture. He likens the incarnation of Scripture to the incarnation of Christ: both are truly divine and truly human. He argues, however, that with regard to Scripture, evangelicals tend to commit the same error as the Docetists in that they deny the real humanity of the Scripture. More specifically, he argues that the early chapters of Genesis reflect the mythic world in which they were composed, that the biblical authors represent different viewpoints according to their historical contextualization, and that the apostles reflect the hermeneutics and traditions of the Second Temple period. By basing his book on data that is backed by excellent, annotated bibliographies; by reflecting cogently on the material; and by writing in a clear style with unflinching honesty, Enns has given impetus to evangelicals to discuss the doctrines of inspiration and hermeneutics, and he offers an excellent base on which to develop their understanding of these most important doctrines in the twenty-first century."

Bruce K. Waltke, professor emeritus of biblical studies, Regent College; professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary

"The author has offered an honest and refreshing look at the implications of contemporary biblical scholarship for a Christian doctrine of Scripture. His incarnational paradigm will likely provide an alternative way of reading the Old Testament for many Christians who no longer find traditional evangelical answers satisfying. Written for a popular audience, this book nevertheless makes a contribution to what may be considered the maturation of evangelical scholarship and at the same time is an ardent appeal to allow that maturation to continue."

Bill T. Arnold, professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages, Asbury Theological Seminary

"In this book, Enns explores three aspects of the Bible, and he sometimes raises and reflects upon uncomfortable questions. How is the Bible, especially the Old Testament, divine revelation if it shares the material and, to some extent, even the worldview of its ancient Near Eastern neighbors? What are we to make of the contradictory perspectives and views that the Bible presents? How do we respond to New Testament writers who interpret the Old Testament in ways that we would disallow in a contemporary classroom setting? In sum, how is the Bible the Bible, and how does one read it on its own terms?"

David W. Baker, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Ashland Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Peter Enns

    Peter Enns

    Peter Enns (PhD, Harvard University) is the Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He cohosts the popular podcast The Bible for Normal People (7 million downloads over four years) and has more...

    Continue reading about Peter Enns


"Throughout the book, Enns takes a tone that is balanced and helpful. He aims the book at a popular evangelical audience, and he does an excellent job in presenting material that is both detailed and accessible. Annotated bibliographies at the end of each chapter will benefit those looking to dig deeper. Whichever way one leans on the issues presented, Enns raises compelling and provocative questions that push readers to think deeply about the nature of inspiration. . . . This book probes significant questions and stimulates thoughtful engagement. Christians who read this book with openness, regardless of the conclusions they may draw, will be rewarded by entering the discussion."

Calvin Theological Journal

Praise for the First Edition

"Peter Enns is worthy of admiration for wading into deep theological water to wrestle with challenges left unanswered by evangelicals. . . . This book is helpful in a number of ways. First, Enns is expressly writing a text that addresses the average Christian. He provides a clear overview of the field that surrounds the basic questions, he presents references to and examples of many archaeological discoveries that people may have heard of but never seen, and he breaks down the issues into numbered outlines. Second, Enns has been careful to restrict his field of inquiry so examples can be provided that allow the reader to consider his perspectives in light of actual texts. Third, parenthetical comments and restatement of important points facilitate a lay reader's ability to grasp and retain the discussion. Fourth, the text includes a glossary and references for further reading that will be invaluable, since the arguments in the text invite an ongoing study. . . . The combination of data provided, issues considered, and subsequent questions raised make this monograph a tool of great potential for facilitating important discussions about inspiration and Scripture within the church and within the classroom."

Michael Eschelbach,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Provid[es] a robust understanding of biblical authority that accounts for the nature of the phenomena of Scripture as most evangelical and Reformed biblical scholars see it today. Thus, Enns's Inspiration and Incarnation is to be applauded for its contribution to the formulation of a healthy doctrine of the Bible. . . . This book is a must read for any scholar, particularly evangelical and/or Reformed, who is concerned with biblical interpretation and its relationship with theology. I suspect and hope it will generate debate and passionate discussion."

Tremper Longman,

Modern Reformation

"When an evangelical scholar like Enns . . . writes, 'There do not seem to be any clear rules or guidelines to prevent us from taking [the process of interpreting Scripture] too far,' we must recognize this as an honest and truthful statement of the difficulties rather than an open door to chaos. It means, in the end, that we must take incarnation seriously. . . . Enns encourages us to recognize the Old Testament for what it is: the anteroom of the Incarnation, the practice ground where we are brought nose-to-nose with the true difficulty of believing that God ever came to earth."

Susan Wise Bauer,

Books & Culture

"Peter Enns writes from [a] robustly evangelical perspective. . . . This [is an] excellent and thought-provoking book. Dr. Enns has included some useful annotated bibliographies to encourage further study. . . . Please do read this book for yourself. It's a must for pastors and preachers and profitable reading for any who want to be serious about biblical study and understanding. . . . It is my hope and prayer that this book will promote the charitable and profitable debate it richly deserves."

Peter Misselbrook,

Evangelicals Now

"Enns's insistence on accounting for the actual phenomena of the biblical text is laudable, and this volume clearly shows that whatever 'inspiration' means, it means neither that the Bible must be utterly unique nor that it must speak with one voice on all topics. . . . Inspiration and Incarnation rewards a careful, critical reading and constitutes a very helpful step toward a thoroughly biblical doctrine of inspiration."

R. Christopher Heard,

Restoration Quarterly

"Attempting to affirm the evangelical view of biblical inspiration while regarding the cross-cultural congruency of the OT and Ancient Near East literature, as well as the theological diversity of the OT text, is admirable. Consequently, Enns proposes an incarnational model of inspiration as a way of approaching the divine and human nature of Christian scripture. This sort of intellectual honesty among evangelicals is overdue. . . . This book begins a quest for a more balanced view of inspiration long overdue in evangelical circles."

Randall J. Pannell,

Religious Studies Review

"Enns's book will be most useful in the context out of and for which it was written, where critical biblical studies stands in tension with conservative-minded students. Beyond the confines of conservative Christianity, his work is helpful for the way it urges conversation about the implications of biblical studies for doctrinal issues, not least for theologies of Scripture. Perhaps even more global in importance is his suggestion that 'we should think of biblical interpretation more as a path to walk than a fortress to be defended.' This is counsel appropriate to most anyone."

Joel B. Green,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Inspiration and Incarnation has created heated discussion among biblical scholars. Some feel that Enns has not gone far enough, others find him headed down a slippery slope. Get [this book]."

John W. Haas Jr.,

Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith

"Enns successfully tackles some of the age-old problems that conservative Christians have with the OT. His incarnational paradigm provides a compelling way to read the OT. This book should go a long way toward providing confessional Lutherans with a paradigm that is faithful to OT texts, as well as to their fulfillment in Jesus."

Reed Lessing,

Concordia Journal

"Enns' aim in this book is to mediate to a wider audience the insights of three particular areas of OT study, [which he does] with admirable clarity and a wealth of practical examples. . . . This is a book whose aim is 'not novelty but synthesis.'. . . It is entirely successful. Enns is to be congratulated on an introductory but not simplistic guide which will be of immense use to evangelical students beginning serious Old Testament study. The book is written with a deceptive simplicity and grace, while managing to engage with complex rafts of material in cogent and persuasive form. . . . Old statements need revisiting in the light of new evidence. I can think of few better places to start than here."

Richard Briggs,

Evangelical Quarterly

"Enns masterfully balances Old Testament history and exegesis with evangelical theological commitments. . . . Inspiration and Incarnation is an exceptionally organized and accessible book. . . . Readers who are new to the field are aided by an extensive glossary. . . . [This book makes a] profound contribution . . . to biblical studies."

Adam P. Groza,

Southwestern Journal of Theology

"[Enns] has an approachable, lively writing style that makes his books informative and easy to discuss, but what I love best about Enns' work is that each page betrays a rigorous commitment to preserving both intellectual integrity and faith. . . . He has consistently challenged me to accept the Bible on its own terms, honoring it for what it is, not what I think it would be."

Rachel Held Evans,

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