Old Testament Theology

Reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture

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Leading Old Testament theologian Walter Moberly probes what is necessary to understand and appropriate the Hebrew Bible as a fundamental resource for Christian theology and life today. This accessible, provocative volume offers a creative example of theological interpretation, modeling a way of doing Old Testament theology that takes seriously both the nature of the biblical text as ancient text and also the questions and difficulties that arise as believers read this text in a contemporary setting.

Moberly offers an in-depth study of key Old Testament passages, highlighting enduring issues in Hebrew Bible interpretation and discussing Jewish readings alongside Christian readings. The volume is representative of the content of Israel's scriptures rather than comprehensive, yet it discusses most of the major topics of Old Testament theology. Moberly is attentive to varying ways of reading Israel's scriptures throughout history and to contemporary challenges in appropriating the content of the Old Testament. He demonstrates a Christian approach to reading the Old Testament that holds together the priorities of both scholarship and faith.

Contents
Introduction
1. A Love Supreme
2. A Chosen People
3. Daily Bread
4. Does God Change?
5. Isaiah and Jesus
6. Educating Jonah
7. Faith and Perplexity
8. Where Is Wisdom?
Epilogue
Indexes


Endorsements

"Walter Moberly is easily among the best and most compelling Old Testament theologians working today. In his latest offering, he builds off of previous work, advancing a reading of Israel's scriptures within a Christian frame of reference such that the claims of the ancient text are repeatedly shown to have lively and enduring implications for contemporary faith. Moberly reads the text with careful attention to both its large conceptions and its detailed philology, offering an interpretation that is at once theological and existential, designed ultimately for lively and faithful performance. More than anything else, this volume distinguishes itself (and its author) as exceedingly wise--something that can be said for precious few books these days. Here is a volume that I will use and return to often."

Brent A. Strawn, associate professor of Old Testament, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

"Old Testament theology in the form of eight exegetical performances. A Moberly omnibus: clear, thoughtful, engaging, and of contemporary relevance."

Christopher Seitz, senior research professor, Wycliffe College, University of Toronto

"A truly exegetical approach! Moberly's signature style is patient, humane, and wise, combining loving attention to representative biblical texts (rather than general 'themes') with probing reflection on what it might mean for twenty-first-century Christians to enter imaginatively into Israel's heritage. The result is at once a deft response to the Old Testament's modern despisers, a sympathetic engagement with Judaism, and a sustained, compelling appeal to reintegrate Old Testament interpretation within the conceptual framework of classical Christianity and the concrete practices of Christian life."

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

"Anyone who appreciates Walter Moberly's writing will appreciate this new work: urbane, focused, careful, learned, nuanced, fearless, independent, rejoicing to look closely at a few trees in the conviction that they will throw light on the nature of the forest, and conservative in the best possible way. When Professor Moberly dives down promising rabbit holes, you never know where they will lead, but you know that the exploration will be engaging, intriguing, and well worth the admission price."

John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Moberly, a pioneer in reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture, presents here an engaging model for appropriating that ancient text for life. Through careful readings of representative texts and informed theological reflection, he demonstrates significant resonances across the canon. This work, however, is no mere academic exercise. Moberly explores the person of God to give realistic direction to faith. This novel Old Testament theology is stimulating--more important, it is useful."

M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas), Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, Denver Seminary

"Insomniacs and those in search of doorstops will be sorely disappointed in Walter Moberly's Old Testament Theology. This is not your grandfather's biblical theology. Moberly has produced a provocative set of probing theological meditations built around a few select Old Testament texts. While carefully engaging the biblical text and the secondary literature, Moberly opens the conversation to a wider audience by honestly and thoughtfully addressing popular critiques of the Bible and religion."

Joel S. Kaminsky, professor of religion, Smith College


The Author

  1. R. W. L. Moberly

    R. W. L. Moberly

    R. W. L. Moberly (PhD, University of Cambridge) is professor of theology and biblical interpretation at Durham University, where he has taught for more than thirty years. He is the author of eight books, including Old Testament Theology, The Theology...

    Continue reading about R. W. L. Moberly

Reviews

A Jesus Creed Book of the Year for 2015

"The book addresses contemporary issues that arise from the Old Testament text. It attempts to solve them while remaining within the evangelical Protestant tradition, leavened through engagement with select historical critical issues and the broader Christian and Jewish exegetical traditions. . . . Recommended. Libraries supporting general readers, researchers, students, and practitioners within the Protestant evangelical tradition."

J. W. Wright,

Choice

"The OT is particularly prone to defamation in the public realm, which makes Moberly's reading of it as Christian Scripture all the more welcome. Moberly, perhaps wisely, does not follow the tradition of providing a systematic account . . . but engages in depth soundings of some key OT texts, with the idea that the texts plumbed are somewhat representative of the whole. . . . This gambit works remarkably well largely due to Moberly's choices of texts and traditions. Moberly's modus operandi is to examine key OT traditions, usually by interpreting one core text that exemplifies that tradition, and then drawing in other related texts as conversation partners. His choices . . . are both important loci of theological reflection in the OT and, not surprisingly, generative for constructive biblical theology. . . . Moberly's work is a rich feast for those who long to hear the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture."

Jacqueline Lapsley,

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"As a seasoned scholar [Moberly] is presenting the fruits of his vast experience and knowledge as Old Testament scholar with an interest in relating the First Testament to people of the Christian faith. . . . This is a very readable book that shows respect for the Hebrew text but also addresses the important need to make the Old Testament relevant and accessible to Christians who take both Testaments seriously. . . . The strength is Moberly's disciplined and thorough engagement of the Hebrew text itself and suggestion of ways to read it honestly and responsibly within a Christian context. This is a book that exudes so much knowledge about matters pertaining to the Hebrew Bible and wisdom about life that it should be read by academics, theologians, seminary teachers, and also ministers in the Christian tradition."

Wilhelm J. Wessels,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Moberly has presented an intriguing method for determining Old Testament meanings and New Testament ties. . . . The volume should prove valuable to exegetical courses and as a secondary text for biblical theology courses. Most of the volume is best suited for discussion among Old Testament exegetes and theologians. We must express gratitude to Professor Mobley for challenging us to tie our theological claims much more tightly to individual texts and for showing how theses may be stated clearly so that readers easily discover the points the author seeks to make."

Trent C. Butler,

Review of Biblical Literature

"The author should be applauded for his call for OT theologians to move their exegetical efforts beyond the historical meaning (the world behind the text), to concentrate in canonical context(s) on the world within the text, for the purpose of ultimately applying the word to the world in front of the text (i.e., to make contemporary application). Moberly's exegetical work is also quite good. . . . Moberly's work is a must-read of a moderate critic who commendably, in the tradition of Childs, is striving to read the Hebrew Bible as Christian scripture and make it applicable to the church in the early twenty-first century."

David Pettus,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"Old Testament Theology draws together, refines and develops earlier studies by Walter Moberly into an integrated volume of superb quality, in which Moberly's distinctive and gently persuasive voice is heard afresh and with clarity. Moberly's approach to Old Testament theology . . . is refreshing because it does not seek comprehensiveness, but treats a selection of passages, each in their own integrity as well as in their wider (inter-textual) resonances, allowing a broader, loose cohesiveness to emerge from the ground up. The result is a powerful flavor of (some of) the distinctive notes of the Hebrew Bible."

Susannah Ticciati,

Modern Theology

"The book's eight chapters cover a stimulating scope of texts and topics. . . . As he approaches each text as part of the whole of Christian scripture, Moberly offers insights well beyond their immediate parameters. . . . Moberly's approach to OT theology . . . is practical and applicative not only with regard to the world of the text, but also to that outside of it. From exegesis to expression, from details to demonstration, from approach to application, Moberly's work exhibits all the qualities and stimulus that one would hope to find in a Christian reading of the Hebrew Scriptures. Adding to this clarity and cohesion which mark all of his writing (much is lost if a reader skips the small-print sections and footnotes!), this review ends with a wholehearted endorsement and a joyful recommendation of Moberly's OT theology."

Samuel Hildebrandt,

Expository Times

"Moberly offers and models a new vision for the literary category of OT theology. . . . Perhaps the highest compliment one can pay a book about Scripture is that it will be genuinely helpful to people of faith. This is patently the case with this work. Often books of great erudition move the mind but not the heart. Moberly is deft at engaging both. That he is well read and a master of his trade is obvious with each chapter. . . . Without a doubt, Moberly's newest contribution to the field is momentous and holds the promise of bearing much good fruit. . . . Moberly offers a highly satisfying book, full of wisdom and wit. Eminently readable, those who are new to the genre of OT theology will find it an accessible and engaging text that will simultaneously challenge and encourage. 'Aha' moments will abound. Scholars will be challenged not only to wrestle with Moberly's particular interpretations but also with his distinctive way of doing OT theology. . . . Moberly's compelling readings of Scripture are gifts of great benefit for both academy and church."

Richard E. Cornell and Tom Holsinger-Friesen,

Journal of Theological Interpretation

"Moberly's book is a superb contribution to the field of Old Testament Theology. It is immensely readable and engaging while being rich and thoroughly scholarly in the depth of its approach. . . . This book is a valuable resource not only for the experienced student in biblical hermeneutics but also, with its clear explanations, for people who want to begin studying the complexity and richness of theology in the Hebrew Bible. The use of smaller font and footnotes enables readers who wish to dig deeper to engage with the subject at a more technical level, while the main text allows for readers new to the subject to follow the main flow of the argument without interruption. Finally, Moberly's hope that this approach may also lead to more fruitful conversations with Jewish interpreters of these Scriptures is valuable."

Jenni Williams,

Theology

"The reader who is conscious that the Old Testament forms an inescapable part of Christian tradition, and who wishes to find out how it has shaped Christian thinking about God and how Jewish thinking relates to this, will be drawn to most of the central issues in the book. This is a readable, engaging and valuable resource, well planned to serve as a textbook and sufficiently wide-ranging in its coverage to raise issues of deep theological significance. I commend it strongly and I hope it will serve a generation well by putting Old Testament theology back onto the theological curriculum."

Ronald Clements,

Journal of Theological Studies

"There is much profound thought and insight in the texts that Moberly studies so that we can truly be grateful. Moberly has made his case for the specific study of key biblical passages with an emphasis on the important relationship that God seeks."

Richard S. Hess,

Denver Journal

"As one would expect from Moberly, his writing style is elegant and pleasant to read. The book is clearly sign-posted, which makes it easy to follow his argument. The breadth of the topics covered makes the book both intriguing and stimulating. . . . The author is able to resist facile and pre-packaged answers to some of the most enduring and complex theological questions. As a philologist, he is very much at home with the historical-critical approach and deeply aware of textual and historical issues. This enables him to qualify judiciously what he does and does not mean in his discussions, effectively preempting some of the potential pitfalls or criticisms that may be legitimately levelled against his studies. . . . It is his creative imagination married with his methodological discipline and critical thinking that produce this stimulating volume. . . . All this culminates in an incredibly readable, thoughtful, imaginative, and exegetically well-grounded work. . . . Anyone who is interested in thinking deeply about the intersection of scripture and faith would benefit from Moberly's thoughtful and honest reflections. The book will also be of great import for interfaith dialogue as it uncovers the logic behind how certain texts are construed and translated into doctrinal formulations."

Kengo Akiyama,

Biblical and Early Christian Studies

"[Moberly] manages to address many important theological topics within the Hebrew Bible by focusing on . . . relatively few texts. . . . Theologically oriented readers will find this work most compelling, and theological libraries will want to procure this reasonably affordable volume."

Tyler Mayfield,

Religious Studies Review

"While historical-critical approaches have provided extraordinary insight into the meaning of Old Testament texts, they have often disengaged such texts from traditional religious understanding of them, whether Jewish or Christian. Moberly seeks to recapture a way of interpretation that includes religious readings. Choosing eight representative issues that follow the sequence of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, he first employs critical approaches. Then, sensitive to both Jewish tradition and Christian interpretation, he shows how the findings of exegesis can develop in very different yet mutually enriching ways. This study reveals Moberly as a skilled exegete and a creative biblical theologian. It is a fine contribution to the new movement in biblical theology."

Dianne Bergant, CSA,

The Bible Today

"Moberly provides readers with a refreshing Christian look into the theologies of the Old Testament. . . . Moberly will force serious readers of the Bible to reconsider her/his approach to Old Testament theology. Moberly's approach is sensible, organized, and accurately portrays the most prominent theologies of the Old Testament."

Jeffrey G. Audirsch,

Review and Expositor

"I am really enjoying Walter Moberly's Old Testament Theology. It is not a comprehensive, 'systematic' theology of the Old Testament, but, rather, a series of theological explorations. What an outstanding thinker and writer--eloquent, cogent, even poetic."

Nijay K. Gupta,

Crux Sola blog (named Old Testament Theology "Best Old Testament Book" for 2013)

"[Moberly shows] that a Christian reader of the Bible can be broadminded, perspicacious, and probing without surrendering fundamental commitments. . . . Each chapter includes idiomatic yet elegant translations of biblical texts and, in smaller print, excurses that enrich the main text without getting in its way, a device that Moberly uses with a deft touch. This wide-ranging study has many merits, not least its command of current biblical scholarship and its willingness to counteract the dominant deconstructionist currents that prefer ironic, subversive readings to those more deeply rooted in the biblical texts and their interpretive histories. Moberly frequently offers important correctives of clichéd readings of the Bible as they appear in some Western circles. . . . The overall work profits from Moberly's close attention to texts, awareness of important contemporary philosophical currents, and engagement with Christian theology. . . . [It] has a freshness about it that should stimulate all sorts of responses, sympathetic and otherwise, thus provoking further creative interpretation of the text. . . . [A] stimulating book."

Mark W. Hamilton,

Restoration Quarterly

"Moberly writes for non-specialists so pastors, theologians, and students will benefit from this work. . . . Old Testament Theology is a brilliant work. It reflects not only mature thinking, but is also clearly written. Moberly is clearly the best practitioner of the theological interpretation of the Old Testament today. . . . Moberly's expertise is on display in the rigor by which he engages the ancient text and contemporary concerns, and by the delicate manner he interweaves them. As such, this work serves as a model of biblical interpretation, Christian theology, and preaching. Moberly's brilliance lies in his ability to be exegetically unconventional while at the same time theologically conventional. . . . Moberly offers an outstanding model for reading the Hebrew Bible as Christian Scripture."

Bo H. Lim,

Themelios

"[Moberly's] respect for the Scripture is refreshing. He understands the difference between a commentary and a work of theology. Moberly tackles the issues that perplex both layman and scholar. . . . Old Testament Theology is both reader-friendly and user-friendly. Moberly writes in a clear and coherent manner. . . . Footnotes grant readers easy access to Moberly's extensive research. In addition, throughout the book, Moberly inserts 57 excursuses, which are opportunities to learn more and to study further. [This] is a valuable addition to Old Testament scholarship and an excellent supplement to a systematic theology."

Ivan Parke,

Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry

"This unique volume by one of Old Testament scholarship's leading voices approaches the subject of a Christian reading of the Hebrew Bible in a novel and interesting way. It isn't a stale 'Christ under every rock' fundamentalist reading and neither is it a stoic stringent Eichrodt-ian systematic. Instead, it blends themes into a cogent narrative. . . . The reader familiar with the contents of the Old Testament will recognize right away the fact that Moberly will here deal with the concepts of covenant, election, providence, theodicy, the Old Testament's relationship to the new, the problem of doubt, and others. But unlike Eichrodt and others he rejects the Aristotelian method of categorization. And that is a good thing, as it frees Moberly to discuss in a lively way how the Old Testament sees these issues and how Christians can learn from the Hebrew Bible in a still thoroughly Christian way without importing into the texts meanings that are not there. . . . The entire volume is a work of art and theological artistry."

Jim West,

Zwinglius Redivivus blog

"Wonderfully clear examples of how to interpret and understand selected portions of the Christian Old Testament. [Moberly's] approach is very helpful, and reading through it should deepen biblical understanding and help strengthen biblical preaching and teaching in congregations and ministries."

Alan Padgett,

Catalyst blog

"Eight passages or themes are selected for detailed discussion. . . . In every case, there are illuminating insights into the contribution that can be made to Christian thinking by serious engagement with the Old Testament text. . . . 'Theological reading of scripture' is now a major movement in biblical studies and systematic theology. . . . Moberly is perhaps the most persuasive proponent of this view in Britain, and this book offers a sample of his most developed work. It will be widely welcomed for its thoroughness and rigor, and its selection of themes and passages for discussion is sure-footed and stimulating. Anyone concerned with the Bible in the context of Christian thought will need to engage with it. Its style is sophisticated but lucid, and it is likely to be welcomed by many who have to preach on the Old Testament."

John Barton,

Church Times

"Recognizing that scholarship of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries distanced the Old Testament from the New, divorcing the Old Testament from Christian usage, [Moberly] seeks to bridge this gap, without rejecting valuable contextual and philological insights from the historical study of the Old Testament."

Logia

"This book would have use in the classroom. It is well documented and deals with major scholars in the field, yet it is also readable by students who have a background in Old Testament study. A second or third-year student, and certainly an experienced pastor, could read this book without difficulty. . . . For those who want an accessible introduction to dealing with theological difficulties in the Old Testament this book would make a good purchase."

Justin Allison,

Southwestern Journal of Theology

"The book makes for very enjoyable reading. . . . The studies that make up the book are written in an engaging style, building on and correcting past scholarship, but never allowing the main lines of the argument to be buried under scholarly minutiae. . . . Moberly also demonstrates an ability to see things in new ways. . . . This is a fine work from Moberly. His conceptual frame is always current, but the discussion never sounds trendy. . . . [This book] is the perfect choice for a supplementary text. Anyone with an interest in the OT will want to consider this book."

John C. Poirier,

Stone-Campbell Journal

"Professor Moberly combines the rigors of biblical scholarship with spiritual, 'attuned' readings of eight key passages in the Hebrew Bible. . . . Moberly liberates the text theologically to allow his readers to see that it is possible to read the Hebrew Bible simultaneously in multiple contexts. The important thing is not necessarily what it might have meant to its authors, but what texts can mean morally and theologically for those who wish to maintain a mindful, faithful relationship with the living God in today's world."

A. Wright,

Common Ground

"Veteran Evangelical Old Testament scholar, Walter Moberly, provides a model of how to do Old Testament Theology, as he seeks to understand the teaching of the Old Testament in a Christian framework in a way that throws light on contemporary issues. . . . Here, then, is a book that brings out something of the profundity of the Old Testament and its usefulness in addressing the perplexing questions of contemporary life."

Greg Goswell,

New Life

"While this is a serious collection of exegetical studies--and Moberly does engage with relevant critical issues throughout--this volume is in many ways a sustained reflection on hermeneutics. . . . The readings offered are sensitive and sophisticated, and invite further reflection on the part of the reader. This hermeneutical focus is stimulating and a real strength and unique contribution of the collection. . . . Moberly's volume is an important addition to the ongoing discussion concerning the shape and future of OTT. The thought-provoking approach, the wide-ranging engagement with textual issues and theological concerns, and the purposeful grappling with hermeneutical significance all contribute to what is a superb study that offers rich fare for a wide array of readers."

Bradford A. Anderson,

Cithara


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