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Central Themes in Biblical Theology

Author: Scott J Hafemann and Paul R House (Editors)
Published By: Apollos (Nottingham)
Pages: 330
Price: £19.99
ISBN: 1 84474 166 3

Reviewed by Chris Skilton.

The subtitle of this book, “Mapping unity in diversity”, aptly describes its task. Seven American Conservative Evangelical scholars have identified what they see as the key themes that unite the Old and New Testaments - The Covenant Relationship, The Commands of God, The Atonement, The Servant of the Lord, The Day of the Lord, The People of God, The History of Redemption. The seven authors share the conviction that “biblical theology seeks its content and coherence in the final propositions and basic ordering of the Old and New Testaments read in their entirety, in their final form, and in concert with one another” (p.17).

I am sure that those who want clear, lucid, propositional, biblical faith will find the book well argued and delivered, although inevitably with some chapters more stimulating than others. However, I have to say that I would have preferred a book that “celebrated the diversity in unity” of the rich variety of biblical texts. For their treatment of the New Testament, the chapters are inevitably short on their use of the gospels and focussed on Paul (although defiantly silent on the New Perspective on Paul). Only the chapter on “The Servant of the Lord” tried to take the concept of narrative in Scripture seriously.

To affirm the over-arching themes of Scripture can be a helpful way of pointing to the way around a complex body of material. However, I found the book altogether too reductionist in its approach. For instance, not everything that can be said about the covenants of the Bible can be subsumed under a common three-fold structure, and I find it difficult to believe that it’s possible to talk about the covenant without any discussion of the Last Supper narratives. Again I found the chapter on “The Day of the Lord” to be highly individualistic at the expense of any sense of the judgement and renewal of the world.

If you want a highly ordered, safe and schematised account of these great themes, then you will probably read this book (and if you do, you might ask that future editions have subject and author indices as well as a Scriptural one). If you don’t, then you won’t!!

Chris Skilton

Archdeacon of Lambeth and Board Member of Ministry Today

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You are reading Issue 42 of Ministry Today, published in March 2008.

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