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Contours of Old Testament Theology

By Bernhard W. Anderson

Publication Year: 2011

In this masterwork, one of America's leading biblical scholars takes a fresh look at the theology of the Old Testament. Anderson cuts his own path and provides us with creative new insights on all the major sections of the Old Testament. He illuminates the nuances of the various covenants and theological shifts in a highly readable style. His conversation partners include the formative contributors from both the Christian community (Eichrodt, von Rad, Childs) and the Jewish community (Heschel, Herberg, Levenson) while interacting with the most recent developments in the field, especially Walter Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

This book is addressed primarily to the church: the believing and worshiping community. It is an introduction to biblical theology of the Old Testament, intended mainly for theological students, ministers, religious educators, missionaries, and laypersons who seek a better understanding of the biblical foundations of Christian faith. ...


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pp. ix-x

Preliminary Considerations

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1. The Old Testament in the Christian Bible

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pp. 3-8

Theology is faith seeking understanding.1 Standing within the circle of faith, a theologian articulates and elaborates the faith of the believing and worshiping community so that members of the community, or others interested, may understand who God is, God's relationship to the world and all that is in it, ...

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2. The Relative Independence of the Old Testament

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pp. 9-15

Early Christians, we have seen, regarded the scriptures of Israel as their scriptures too, in which they perceived the unfolding purpose of Cod since creation and in which they found clues to the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. But this appropriation of the Old Testament proved to be difficult. ...

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3. Old Testament Theology in the Twentieth Century

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pp. 16-27

For centuries there was no separate discipline of biblical theology; rather, the issues of biblical theology were dealt with in the context of church dogmatics or the system of Christian doctrine. A modern example of this would be Karl Barth's multivolume Kirchliche Dogmatik (Church Dogmatics), which, when dealing with the various rubrics of doctrine ...

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4. An Experimental Approach to Old Testament Theology

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pp. 28-36

This period of uncertainty, if not confusion, in the biblical theology field is a good time to experiment with various approaches. That is what I am offering: an experiment in Old Testament theology. This experiment, however, is based on "laboratory tests" in teaching Old Testament theology, ...

Part I. Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel

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5. The Experience of the Holy

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pp. 39-47

In the last section of the introduction I raised the question: Where do we go from here? The hermeneutical issues are so complex, and the disagreements are so great, that only the bravest, or perhaps the most foolhardy, dare to enter the fray. ...

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6. The Name of God

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pp. 48-55

Holiness is not impersonal power, "It," but is manifest as "Thou," signified by a personal name, Yahweh, which people use in the "I-Thou" relationship of prayer and worship. Walther Eichrodt, an eminent twentieth-century Old Testament theologian, writes: ...

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7. The Characterization of Yahweh

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pp. 56-62

We have seen that the God revealed to Israel is not an ineffable, inscrutable, unknowable "It" but a "who," as expressed narratively in many ways, for example, "God who brought Israel out of Egypt," "God who created heaven and earth." God, the Holy One, chooses to have identity, to be an I in relation to a Thou, to know and to be known. ...

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8. Yahweh and the Gods

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pp. 63-73

One of the tasks of Old Testament theology, as noted earlier, is to show the distinctiveness or integrity of Israel's faith in relation to the religions of the environment. There has been such tremendous advance in the study of the history of religions in the twentieth century, beginning particularly with the work of Hermann Gunkel,1 ...

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9. The People of God

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pp. 74-78

We have seen that the exposition of Old Testament theology begins with the self-disclosure of the holy God who chooses to enter into relationship with a particular people. This community is to be God's "treasured possession out of all the peoples" (Exod. 19:5) and to be the agent through whom divine blessing is mediated to other families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). ...

Part II. Yabweb's Covenants with the People: A. The Abrahamic Covenant

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10. The History of God's Covenants

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pp. 81-86

When one seeks to understand the theological perspectives of the Bible, much is to be said for starting at the beginning, with the book of Genesis, and following the canonical sequence. Of course, many readers have bravely tried this approach and have often gotten bogged down, usually in the book of Leviticus. ...

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11. Creation and the Noachic Covenant

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pp. 87-97

The first segment of the periodized history of God's covenants (Genesis 1-11) sets before us the spacious vista of creation. The story extends from the creation of heaven and earth (the universe) to the near return of the earth to primeval chaos in the time of the flood, then on to the new beginning afterward, ...

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12. The Promissory Covenant with Abraham

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pp. 98-105

In the history of God's covenants the second in the sequence is the covenant made with Abraham and Sarah, the ancestors of the people of God, Israel. This covenant looms large in the period of biblical Judaism, beginning with the Second Temple, that is, the postexilic era of reconstruction. ...

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13. The Tabernacling Presence

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pp. 106-115

Owing to the literary artistry of Priestly interpreters, the Torah presents a marvelous vision of a history that extends from creation in the beginning to the revelation at Sinai, when Israel was established as a cultic community, a worshiping people. ...

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14. Priestly Theology of Sacrifice and Atonement

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pp. 116-121

We turn now to the priestly sacrificial system set forth in the Priestly sections of the book of Exodus: Exodus 25-31 and 35-40 and the book of Leviticus. The service of worship described here is paralleled, with some differences, in Ezekiel 40-48, which envisions the new temple to supersede the one destroyed in 587 B.C. ...

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15. The Life of Holiness

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pp. 122-127

Looking back over the ground traversed thus far; we have seen that the Priestly interpreters imaginatively construe a world in which the holy God, creator of heaven and earth, chooses to be present in the midst of the community of Israel. ..

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16. Prophecy in Priestly Tradition

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pp. 128-134

The message of the great, but enigmatic, prophet Ezekiel belongs essentially to the symbolic world portrayed in priestly imagination. To be sure, there are major differences between Ezekiel's vision and that of the Priestly writers (P). First, Ezekiel does not present a comprehensive view that begins with creation; ...

B. The Mosaic Covenant

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17. At the Mountain of God

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pp. 137-141

In the preceding section (II.A, chapters 10-16) we have found that in the Pentateuch the Priestly theology of the "everlasting covenant" presents a distinctive pattern of symbolization: the Creator of heaven and earth enters into special relationship with the people Israel and condescends to tabernacle in their midst. ...

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18. Salvation and Obligation

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pp. 142-154

The symbol of "the mountain of God," where God meets with the people in a theophany of earthquake, wind, and fire, and enters into covenant relation with them, does not stand by itself. In the book of Deuteronomy it belongs to a larger pattern of symbolization that is characteristic of the Mosaic covenant. ...

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19. Covenant and Law

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pp. 155-164

As we have seen, the Abrahamic covenant is a promissory covenant, one that guarantees the promise of land and posterity, whereas the Mosaic covenant is primarily a covenant of obligation. The giving of commandments by Yahweh, who graciously delivered the people from Egyptian bondage ...

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20. History Viewed in Deuteronomistic Perspective

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pp. 165-170

Just as the Priestly perspective is dominant in the final form of the Torah, so the canonical unit known as the Former Prophets is governed by the theology of the Mosaic covenant, set forth preeminently in the book of Deuteronomy. Indeed, the book of Deuteronomy has a pivotal position in the canon. ...

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21. God and War

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pp. 171-180

Before turning to prophecy in the Mosaic tradition (Hosea and Jeremiah), a major theme of the Deuteronomistic history demands attention: God's involvement in war. The book of Joshua begins by assuring the new leader that Yahweh has given the people the land of Canaan ...

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22. Prophecy in the Mosaic Tradition

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pp. 181-192

We have seen previously (chapter 16) that the Priestly view of history, with which the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis 17 is associated, provides the basic perspective of the Priestly prophet Ezekiel. Now we shall see that the Mosaic covenant is the platform of the great northern prophet, Hosea, ...

C. The Davidic Covenant

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23. The Promises of Grace to David

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pp. 195-208

So far we have considered two major covenant perspectives found in the Old Testament: one associated with Abraham, and one with Moses. On the one hand, the Abrahamic covenant, we have seen, is unilateral in the sense that it expresses God's absolute commitment to a people, unconditioned by their behavior. ...

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24. The Cosmic Rule of Yahweh in Zion

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pp. 209-217

No covenantal perspective is more prominent in the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New, than the one associated with David. To be sure, it is not found explicitly in the Priestly Torah, though, as we have noted, there are affinities between the everlasting covenants made with Abraham and with David. ...

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25. History Viewed in Davidic Perspective

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pp. 218-223

We turn now to a major presentation of the Israelite story: the Chronicler's history, especially 1 and 2 Chronicles. This important theological writing has unfortunately been out of bounds for most modern biblical readers. Earlier generations, however, who read the Bible from cover to cover, were influenced by this portion of Scripture. ...

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26. Prophecy in the Zion Tradition

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pp. 224-236

Like the Abrahatnic and Mosaic covenantal perspectives discussed previously, the Davidic covenant also had a profound influence on prophecy, as evident from the message of the eighth-century prophet, Isaiah of Jerusalem. As pointed out earlier, it is significant that each of the three major covenant perspectives has its chief prophetic spokesman: ...

Part III. Trials of Faith and Horizons of Hope

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27. The Crisis of Covenantal Theologies

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pp. 239-250

We have found that three covenantal perspectives govern much of the literature of the Old Testament: the Priestly, the Mosaic, and the royal. In major bodies of Scripture each of these is associated with an outstanding figure: the promissory covenant with Abraham and Sarah; the covenant of law with Moses, Miriam, and Aaron; ...

A. From Torah to Wisdom

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28. Rejoicing in the Torah

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pp. 253-259

We have found that the exile, and everything associated with it, was a time when faith was put to the test. In the time of the eclipse of God, how do the people of God live? How do they retain a sense of orderly community when powers of chaos threaten to pull them apart? ...

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29. The Way of Wisdom

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pp. 260-267

Much of the literature of the Old Testament concentrates on Israel's peculiar experiences of the presence of God, centering in the exodus and Sinai, and in Zion and the Davidic king. The key term is "covenant," that is, God's relationship to the people, and the people's relationship to God, summed up in the formula, ...

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30. Wisdom in God's Creation

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pp. 268-274

In the previous study we have seen that, in a broad sense, wisdom theology is creation theology. The social order is secure, free from the threats of chaos, when it is in harmony with God's ordering of creation. It is not surprising, then, to find in the book of Proverbs, among exhortations to seek wisdom, a testimony to God's primordial creation: ...

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31. The Justice of God

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pp. 275-286

Israel's sages displayed two attitudes toward the quest for wisdom. According to some, wisdom—when based on the fear (awe) of Yahweh—is not limited to instruction on the right course of action; it can also provide some understanding of the divine order of things. Even though a great gulf is fixed between the holy God and the human world, ...

B. From Prophecy to Apocalyptic

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32. Prophecy in a New Idiom

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pp. 289-301

We have seen that Israel's sages sought to discover the divine secret of creation only to realize finally that it is inaccessible to human wisdom. Another approach to the cosmic secret was set forth in prophecy, especially the new idiom of prophecy known as apocalyptic (from Greek apokalypsis, meaning "revelation"). ...

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33. The Dominion of God versus the Dominion of Evil

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pp. 302-311

We have found that the justice of God is a burning issue in the Old Testament, especially in the literature reflecting the homelessness and struggles experienced in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Some have even suggested that Job "symbolized exiled and restored Israel,"1 ...

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34. Life, Death, and Resurrection

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pp. 312-324

We have Seen that in the apocalyptic vision human history moves toward the inevitable triumph of the dominion of God over all the forces of evil. Discussion of the grand finale would be incomplete without considering one of the major contributions of apocalyptic literature to biblical theology: the hope for the resurrection of the dead. ...

Conclusion: From the Old Testament to the New

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35. The Apocalyptic Triumph of Jesus Christ

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pp. 327-336

In the Christian Bible, as we observed earlier, the Old Testament has a relative independence, justifying works on "Old Testament theology" or more properly, biblical theology of the Old Testament.1 This point has been made forcefully by Brevard Childs in his Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments. ...

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36. Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King

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pp. 337-342

In the light of God's "apocalyptic triumph" in Jesus Christ, the Christian community rereads the Scriptures of Israel: the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. These Scriptures "were written down to instruct us," Paul wrote to the Christian community at Corinth, "on whom the ends of the ages have come" (1 Cor. 10:11). ...

Appendix 1. Biblical Theology of the Old Testament: A Course Précis

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pp. 343-344

Appendix 2. The Relevance of Biblical Archaeology to Biblical Theology: A Tribute to George Ernest Wright

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pp. 345-352

Index of Subjects

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pp. 353-364

Index of Authors

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pp. 354-355

Index of Ancient Sources

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pp. 356-358

E-ISBN-13: 9781451404241
E-ISBN-10: 1451404247
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800698348
Print-ISBN-10: 0800698347

Page Count: 372
Publication Year: 2011