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Fall 1993 · Vol. 22 No. 2 · pp. 103–4 

Book Review

The Flowering of Old Testament Theology

ed. B. C. Ollenburger, Elmer A. Martens, and G. F. Hasel. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1992. xii + 547 pages.

Reviewed by Robert L. Alden

The first two editors of this anthology are from Mennonite seminaries; the third is from the Theological Seminary of Andrews University.

As the subtitle indicates, this is a collection of readings in OT theology that range from 1930 to the present. An appendix contains Johann Gabler’s 1787, “Oration on the proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology and the specific Objections of Each.” Many consider Gabler the father of biblical theology because he defined its independence from systematic theology.

“Part 1: Setting the Stage” consists of three essays. The first, by Ollenburger, traces the course of OT theology from 1828 to 1930. The other two contributions are from Otto Eissfeldt (1926) and Walther Eichrodt (1929) who set the stage for the debate between the historical (i.e., scientific) and theological (i.e., faith) approaches to the Bible.

“Part 2: Sampling Old Testament Theology” is the largest part and contains 15 chapters of about 20 pages each from various writers. The editors first provide a “Theological Synopsis” of the given author. Then follows a select bibliography listing pertinent books and articles by and about the author. Next comes the author’s “Approach to OT Theology,” which is usually from the introductory chapter of the author’s own book, followed by a reproduction from the author focusing on some aspect that the editors determined is central or unique to that particular theologian.

The writers represented and the chapter titles the editors think encapsulate their approaches are as follows:
Walther Eichrodt, “Covenant”; Theodorus Vriezen, “The Nature of the Knowledge of God”; George Ernest Wright, “God the Warrior”; Gerhard von Rad, “Eighth-Century Prophecy”; Edmond Jacob, “The Spirit and the Word”; John McKenzie, “Cult”; Walter Zimmerli, “Life Before God”; Ronald Clements, “Law and Promise”; Walter Kaiser, Jr., “Promise”; Samuel Terrien, Jr., “Presence in Absence”; Claus Westermann, “God’s Judgement and God’s Mercy”; Elmer Martens, “Land and Lifestyle”; Brevard Childs, “Canon”; and Paul Hanson, “The Community of Faith.”

“Part 3: The Way Forward: OT Theology in the twenty-first Century” is a collection of six essays that the editors deemed valuable because {104} of the influence they are currently having on the field. They are:
Gerhard Hasel, “The Future of OT Theology: Prospects and Trends”; Hartmut Gese, “Tradition History”; Walter Brueggemann, “A Shape for OT Theology”; Jon Levenson, “Creation and Covenant”; Phyllis Trible, “Overture for a Feminist Biblical Theology”; and Rolf Knierim, “Systematic OT Theology.”

The book is fascinating reading, but probably too technical for the average layperson in the church. The Germans, even in these English translations, are particularly abstruse and recondite. The ones that cite Scripture often are the most perspicuous and helpful, e.g., Wright, Clements, Kaiser, Martens, and Childs. Most of the contributors evidence some degree of commitment to the documentary hypothesis, and this radically alters their understanding of the historical development of any theology in the Old Testament. The variety sampled here clearly indicates opinions on what is the center or the development of Old Testament theology differ widely.

Robert L. Alden
Professor of Old Testament
Denver Seminary, Denver, CO

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