Review: The Problem of the Old Testament

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The Problem of the Old Testament: Hermeneutical, Schematic, and Theological Approaches

By Duane A. Garrett (IVP Academic)

We have a problem with the Old Testament. Many people honor parts of it, while avoiding most of it like the 10 plagues in Exodus.

Duane Garrett, professor of Old Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, maintains people approach the Old Testament with a sense of mystique and incomplete hermeneutical methods. Garrett sees problems with the main theological perspectives on the Old Testament—such as seeing differences in how God works in different points of history—maintaining God still has a future plan for national Israel (dispensationalism) or arguing God has worked in the same manner across all time, resulting in the church replacing Israel (covenantalism).

He also critiques the standard methods for reading the biblical text, such as allegory—seeing more meaning in the text than is on the surface—and plain-text reading. In tracing the history of these approaches, Garrett also alerts the reader to contemporary problematic methods in interpretation. He strives to utilize themes and plain reading of the text in its approach.

In his new approach, Garrett takes a view between these positions, seeing a uniqueness for national Israel, with the church and Israel still functioning as one people of God. In his approach, Garrett sees the covenants and God’s election of Israel as foundational for the general overview and definition of the Old Testament.

He concludes with a few case studies in the prophets to apply his new method while also demonstrating the New Testament writers’ faithful use of the Old. In his examples, Garrett’s overarching principle becomes clear: Jesus fulfills the Old Testament and, as a result, the Old Testament can edify Christians.

Garrett often presents theological views and methods of textual interpretation without considering their full breadth. Because of this, his critiques of the views remain unfounded, though he raises valid concerns.

The Problem of the Old Testament offers an approachable way to engage three quarters of our Bible—the Old Testament. Garrett explains complicated content in simple-to-understand language. While communicating in an accessible way, he still conducts a thorough approach covering many facets of the issues discussed. Because of this, a wide range of readers can understand this book.

B. Jason Epps

Heartland, Texas 

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