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Modern readers of the Bible often find the Old Testament difficult and even disturbing. What are we to do with obscure prophecies of long expired nations? Why should we read and study ancient laws that even the New Testament says are eclipsed by Christ? How can we reconcile Jesus' Sermon on the Mount with the Old Testament's graphic narratives of sex and violence? What doe Modern readers of the Bible often find the Old Testament difficult and even disturbing. What are we to do with obscure prophecies of long expired nations? Why should we read and study ancient laws that even the New Testament says are eclipsed by Christ? How can we reconcile Jesus' Sermon on the Mount with the Old Testament's graphic narratives of sex and violence? What does the Old Testament offer that is not surpassed and even made irrelevant by the New Testament? John Walton has spent a career engaging deeply with the Old Testament's text and ancient context. He has studied, taught, and written about the issues. His signature approach can be introduced in one sentence: The Old Testament was written for us but not to us. We must not conform it to our own understanding. We will fully grasp the Old Testament and its theology only when we are immersed in the ancient cultural current of Israel within its broader cultural river of the ancient Near East. In Old Testament Theology for Christians, John Walton invites us to leave our modern--and even inherited Christian--preconceptions at the threshold as we enter the world of the Old Testament. He challenges us to see it anew--as if for the first time--as guests in a strange and fascinating foreign land. Then we will rediscover its testimony to God's great enterprise. In this capstone to a career of studying and teaching the Old Testament, Walton unfolds a grand panorama of Yahweh and the gods, of cosmos and humanity, of covenant and kingdom, of temple and torah, of sin and evil, and of salvation and afterlife. Viewed within its ancient Near Eastern cognitive environment, the text takes unexpected turns and blossoms into fresh and challenging insights. No matter how you are accustomed to viewing the first testament of the Bible, Old Testament Theology for Christians will challenge and sharpen your perceptions.


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Modern readers of the Bible often find the Old Testament difficult and even disturbing. What are we to do with obscure prophecies of long expired nations? Why should we read and study ancient laws that even the New Testament says are eclipsed by Christ? How can we reconcile Jesus' Sermon on the Mount with the Old Testament's graphic narratives of sex and violence? What doe Modern readers of the Bible often find the Old Testament difficult and even disturbing. What are we to do with obscure prophecies of long expired nations? Why should we read and study ancient laws that even the New Testament says are eclipsed by Christ? How can we reconcile Jesus' Sermon on the Mount with the Old Testament's graphic narratives of sex and violence? What does the Old Testament offer that is not surpassed and even made irrelevant by the New Testament? John Walton has spent a career engaging deeply with the Old Testament's text and ancient context. He has studied, taught, and written about the issues. His signature approach can be introduced in one sentence: The Old Testament was written for us but not to us. We must not conform it to our own understanding. We will fully grasp the Old Testament and its theology only when we are immersed in the ancient cultural current of Israel within its broader cultural river of the ancient Near East. In Old Testament Theology for Christians, John Walton invites us to leave our modern--and even inherited Christian--preconceptions at the threshold as we enter the world of the Old Testament. He challenges us to see it anew--as if for the first time--as guests in a strange and fascinating foreign land. Then we will rediscover its testimony to God's great enterprise. In this capstone to a career of studying and teaching the Old Testament, Walton unfolds a grand panorama of Yahweh and the gods, of cosmos and humanity, of covenant and kingdom, of temple and torah, of sin and evil, and of salvation and afterlife. Viewed within its ancient Near Eastern cognitive environment, the text takes unexpected turns and blossoms into fresh and challenging insights. No matter how you are accustomed to viewing the first testament of the Bible, Old Testament Theology for Christians will challenge and sharpen your perceptions.

30 review for Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief

  1. 5 out of 5

    Neil R. Coulter

    Wow. Some books about biblical theology are okay, some are very good, and just a few transform the way I see the Bible, the world around me, and my own faith. Even though I’ve read John Walton before, this book brought a lot of clarity to me. I love the new perspective that Walton brings to the story of the Bible by focusing especially on the way the writing would have been received and understood by its original audience. As Walton says, the Bible was written for me, but it was not written to me Wow. Some books about biblical theology are okay, some are very good, and just a few transform the way I see the Bible, the world around me, and my own faith. Even though I’ve read John Walton before, this book brought a lot of clarity to me. I love the new perspective that Walton brings to the story of the Bible by focusing especially on the way the writing would have been received and understood by its original audience. As Walton says, the Bible was written for me, but it was not written to me. It was only written to the original audience, in a time and place far removed from where I am. He sees contemporary Christians reading the Old Testament as though it is almost all universally applicable anywhere and anytime, and our job is to search it for those things that aren’t universally applicable. He counsels his readers (the intended audience is not the generally curious, nonreligious reader, but Christians who already accept the Bible as a unique book) instead to assume that the Old Testament is mostly particular to its original audience, and our job is to seek out those things that are universal. It’s an interesting distinction, and Walton’s book has helped me see the story of the Old Testament much differently than I had before. I appreciate that Walton is a theologian with a pastor’s heart. He doesn’t want his perspective on the Old Testament to weaken any Christian’s faith—quite the opposite: he believes (and I agree) that viewing the Old Testament within its original cultural context is actually the more faithful approach. He wants to help Christians love this collection of documents that so often seems unsettling and awkward. As Walton writes in the conclusion,These days it seems that the reaction to the Old Testament teeters between heated controversy and utter neglect. Controversies arise when God’s actions or instructions seem either odd beyond comprehension or morally reprehensible. Neglect results when the Old Testament strikes readers as either irrelevant or so confusing that they throw up their hands in despair, frustrated at its perceived impenetrability. Yet amid the extremes of vitriol and dismissiveness, people continue to propose moral principles from its pages and garner proof texts to resolve the issues that arise in society by offering the “biblical view.” The result is that both Christians and skeptics regularly abuse the Old Testament, as it is misrepresented and misunderstood, and its true message too often lies either fallow or trampled underfoot. (268)Walton believes that the Old Testament has much to offer Christians even apart from the ways that its pages may anticipate the arrival of Jesus in the New Testament and the development of Christian theology in the early church. For the people who lived and heard the Old Testament, there was no specific expectation of so much of what we came to know later on: personal, individual salvation; eternity in heaven with God; forgiveness of sins through the cross; and much more. If the original audience wasn’t thinking about all of those things, then what was their theology, and what did the events and teaching recorded in the Old Testament mean? Setting the Israelites’ faith against their cultural backdrop of the Ancient Near East, Walton draws out what we should celebrate and be astonished by in how God reveals himself throughout the Old Testament. It also leads to the New Testament, certainly, but on its own the Old Testament is a tremendous gift to us, too. I’ve read one of Walton’s Lost World series, and I think this book is kind of a bringing together of those volumes (he often references those books, pointing the reader to them and other resources for more detailed discussions). I now look forward to reading more of that series, to dig deeper into Walton’s fascinating historical and cultural studies. For now, my mind is still a little dizzy from all I’ve learned in Old Testament Theology for Christians. It is a lot to think about, and it was the perfect book to read as I begin a year-long read-through of the Bible. I will be seeing my daily readings more clearly.

  2. 4 out of 5

    John Coatney

    This is an outstanding explication of Old Testament theology examined primarily through the lens of its Ancient Near Eastern context. I find immense value in better understanding how the human authors and their intended audience would have read these texts, and John Walton does a superb job explaining and defending just that. While my hermeneutics differ in terms of how to read and interpret the OT as a Christian, I do agree that we must start here, with the sort of readings that Dr. Walton desc This is an outstanding explication of Old Testament theology examined primarily through the lens of its Ancient Near Eastern context. I find immense value in better understanding how the human authors and their intended audience would have read these texts, and John Walton does a superb job explaining and defending just that. While my hermeneutics differ in terms of how to read and interpret the OT as a Christian, I do agree that we must start here, with the sort of readings that Dr. Walton describes. Learning to read the OT in this way from Dr. Walton has been a delight and a gift, and this book is an outstanding summary and reference for me of the things that I learned from him during my time at Wheaton College.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joel Wentz

    Walton's work is a gift to modern Christianity. Here we have a serious Old Testament/Ancient Near-East scholar who is able to navigate evangelical-theology, challenging and stretching our traditional ideas and categories. This book is a summation (of sorts) of his previous work, and serves as an amazing reference for Old Testament concepts. Some of the themes that Walton develops, like the idea of the Great Symbiosis relationship between ancient people groups and their gods, or the "cultural rive Walton's work is a gift to modern Christianity. Here we have a serious Old Testament/Ancient Near-East scholar who is able to navigate evangelical-theology, challenging and stretching our traditional ideas and categories. This book is a summation (of sorts) of his previous work, and serves as an amazing reference for Old Testament concepts. Some of the themes that Walton develops, like the idea of the Great Symbiosis relationship between ancient people groups and their gods, or the "cultural river," significantly help frame ancient Jewish practice to the modern reader. The chapters on Sin & Torah, as well as the Afterlife, are eye-opening to someone with a conservative-reformed-type background. The dialectic relationship between Old and New Testament ideas, as well as the intervening development of Jewish theology between the testaments, become much clearer after reading this book. Overall, as a reference and an academic tool, this is outstanding. As a reading experience, it's certainly slower and more demanding than Walton's "Lost World" books, as it is also punctuated by frequent sidebars and excursus sections. Fans of Walton will love it, and evangelicals who tend to neglect or skim deep understandings of the OT (let's be honest, that is probably most of us!) will benefit from this. Just don't expect it to be a quick, enjoyable, beach read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michael Philliber

    To help Christians read, and grasp, what the Old Testament says and doesn’t say, John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School, has compiled a new 320 page hardback. “Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief” is, overall, an easy volume to peruse, because it is written for those who have little or no specialized background in Old Testament studies. If a reader is unfamiliar with Walton’s program in his “Lost World” series, To help Christians read, and grasp, what the Old Testament says and doesn’t say, John H. Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School, has compiled a new 320 page hardback. “Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief” is, overall, an easy volume to peruse, because it is written for those who have little or no specialized background in Old Testament studies. If a reader is unfamiliar with Walton’s program in his “Lost World” series, this is a great entry point. Most of Walton’s central ideas are mapped out and visited in these pages. Outside of the introduction and conclusion, the work covers six Old Testament foci: Yahweh and the Gods, Cosmos and Humanity, Covenant and Kingdom, Temple and Torah, Sin and Evil. Each chapter methodically works through its subjects from the Hebrew Scriptures. Though Walton gives extra time and energy to how the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) world addressed each of these subjects, he pays very little attention to the way in which the New Testament writers read and employed these earlier sacred writings. As the author asserts: “we should be willing to look at Old Testament theology independent of New Testament theology” (20). What the author sees as the primary theme that progresses throughout the Old Testament, “is the establishment of God’s presence among his people” (26). Though he doesn’t see it as the center of the Hebrew writings, he does note how it dominates and diffuses across covenant, promise, Torah, and kingdom. Walton will happily circle back to this major theme throughout the document. Coupled with this primary theme, he will capitalize on the distinct difference between the ANE world’s view of the gods and Israel’s approach to YHWH. The ANE world saw the relationship between people and gods as the “Great Symbiosis” where “the people took care of the gods,” whereas YHWH’s relationship with his people is the “Great Enterprise” in which God protects and provides for Israel and gives them a role in his plans and purposes (112). Walton’s unpacking of this primary theme, and the difference between the “Great Symbiosis” and the “Great Enterprise” is his most helpful contribution to reading the Old Testament. Walton’s approach in “Old Testament Theology for Christians” is to attend “to the historical place and setting of the Old Testament literature, but I will not be stopping at historical inquiry. I will instead seek to use historical inquiry to uncover the enduring theological revelation that remains God’s Word to the church today” (25). It becomes clear, as one advances through the book, that the emphasis is on what “remains God’s Word to the Church today” after the author has peeled away much that has historically been thought to be affirmed in the Old Testament. Since the author reads and hears the Hebrew Scriptures through the filter of ANE’s cultural stream, he can’t lean on the text as factual or historical, but he can only glean from the text what he presumes is revealed about God’s mission: “The message transcends culture, but it is given in a form that is fully ensconced in the ancient cultural river of Israel” (76). Therefore, for the author, the Old Testament has nothing to say about the Trinity, does not mention a reward or judgment in the afterlife, has no concept of original guilt passed on from Adam to the rest of humankind, presents no developed notions of Satan, has no mechanism for salvation from sin, does not recognize the indwelling Spirit, and does not prescribe evangelism (286-293). “Old Testament Theology for Christians” was a hard book for me to swallow, not because of any technicality, but because of the author’s working premises. I’ve noted above what I found valuable, and some of what I found problematic. If you need to delve into Walton’s “Lost World” project, this volume would be a good starting place to familiarize yourself with what he’s up to and why. If you’re looking for a good book to help you read and understand the Old Testament, I would recommend you go elsewhere. Thanks to IVP Academic for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

  5. 5 out of 5

    John

    John H. Walton is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. Walton received a Masters in Old Testament Studies from Wheaton and a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College. Walton is a household name in the arena of Old Testament studies and a respected voice on the ancient Near Eastern context of the biblical world, contributing to several influential reference works and authoring over two dozen books. Most recently, Walton has provided readers a John H. Walton is Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. Walton received a Masters in Old Testament Studies from Wheaton and a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Cognate Studies from Hebrew Union College. Walton is a household name in the arena of Old Testament studies and a respected voice on the ancient Near Eastern context of the biblical world, contributing to several influential reference works and authoring over two dozen books. Most recently, Walton has provided readers a theological exploration of the Old Testament which embodies a lifetime of reflection and unites the scholarly engagement and scope characteristic of his previous works. Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief offers a fresh and unique theological exploration of the Old Testament that is both contextually informed by the environment of the ancient Near East and hermeneutically sensitive to the authorial intent of the biblical authors. Walton is convinced that the Old Testament is both relevant and useful for Christians today, though rightly recognizing that a massive chasm exists between contemporary readers and the ancient world. Walton develops a persuasive portrait of the Old Testament which presents itself as more than a Christological precursor centered on the person and work of Jesus. Rather, the Old Testament is revealed as a contextual expression of an enduring theological worldview ever capable of penetrating the hearts and minds of readers today. Old Testament Theology for Christians appropriately begins with an introduction that provides a detailed discussion of Walton’s hermeneutical consideration, which becomes the foundation for the entire book. Walton is understandably clear about his approach and readers are encouraged to evaluate the presuppositions therein. The book is ordered thematically around six corresponding concepts: (1) Yahweh and the gods, (2) Cosmos and Humanity, (3) Covenant and Kingdom, (4) Temple and Torah, (5) Sin and Evil, and (6) Salvation and Afterlife. Each chapter is saturated in comparative analysis of the ancient Near Eastern thought as it relates to these biblical concepts, and Walton does a tremendous service to the reader by bridging such gaps with both clarity and precision. My overall impression of the book is favorable. I admit that Walton has challenged my thinking on several occasions in the past, and Old Testament Theology for Christians was no exception. It is quintessential Walton in every respect—engaging, readable, and occasionally controversial—and each chapter overflows with an intentional goal of understanding the Old Testament as an ancient person. It can be theologically uncomfortable to follow at times because it is so different than our contemporary context of a developed Christian theology, but Walton does an excellent job synthesizing the content into a theologically timeless and meaningful package. Throughout Old Testament Theology for Christians readers will discover numerous sidebar discussions and excursus sections, as well as several tables displaying comparative material across the cultural divide. In short, Walton has effectively brought the Old Testament to life by breathing a fresh sense of worth upon its seemingly devalued theological bones, and readers emerge with a new appreciation for the God revealed therein. Old Testament Theology for Christians: From Ancient Context to Enduring Belief by John H. Walton is the culmination of a lifetime of reflection on the ancient Near East as the contextual backdrop to the Old Testament. Walton is readable, engaging, and controversial enough to keep your interest captive. I honestly couldn’t put it down. If you are looking for an Old Testament theology that takes the Old Testament seriously, then Old Testament Theology for Christians is the next book to set on your nightstand.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mark Taylor

    John Walton is an expert at reading the OT against it's ancient near eastern background. Often this approach generates fresh and provocative readings of familiar, foggy, or troubling texts. Walton is not afraid to push back against conventional interpretations or to challenge certain theological conclusions. But mostly, he calls us to let each part of the Bible speak for itself. For the OT, this means reading it as an ancient text and not through the theological lenses of the NT and church histo John Walton is an expert at reading the OT against it's ancient near eastern background. Often this approach generates fresh and provocative readings of familiar, foggy, or troubling texts. Walton is not afraid to push back against conventional interpretations or to challenge certain theological conclusions. But mostly, he calls us to let each part of the Bible speak for itself. For the OT, this means reading it as an ancient text and not through the theological lenses of the NT and church history. The OT, Walton says, certainly contributes to Christian theology, but it does not contain all the full-blown conclusions that were developed later. For example, no ancient Israelite would have discovered the Trinity in the OT; this truth was only revealed when the divine Son of God stepped on the scene and when God subsequently poured out the Holy Spirit. At its heart, the OT tells us that God has a plan and purpose--a Great Enterprise--that he wants to get us in on. He doesn't need us, but he made us to live in his presence and participate in his purpose of wisely ordering of his creation. This is a vision and a vocation worth waking up to and getting in on! Thanks, Dr. Walton, for illuminating this good news from God's great story.

  7. 5 out of 5

    A.J. Mendoza

    Walton goes through major theological topics with only utilizing Old Testament viewpoints. He does this by recreating the Judaic worldview by revealing the "cultural river" or the cognitive environment of the ancient Mediterranean and Egyptian societal norms. This is done to reveal misconceptions a contemporary Christian might have when reading the Old Testament today. The reason why it is not a five star review is two fold. One, the title is somewhat misleading. The "Christian" it is referring t Walton goes through major theological topics with only utilizing Old Testament viewpoints. He does this by recreating the Judaic worldview by revealing the "cultural river" or the cognitive environment of the ancient Mediterranean and Egyptian societal norms. This is done to reveal misconceptions a contemporary Christian might have when reading the Old Testament today. The reason why it is not a five star review is two fold. One, the title is somewhat misleading. The "Christian" it is referring to is a somewhat educated Christian. Even with five years of Bible college, I had a hard time keeping up with the train of thought. Definitely not recommend for the everyday layperson. With that, the second reason is the dramatic conflict with modern understanding of what the Old Testament is saying. The concluding chapter contains a bulleted list of all the misconceptions Walton believes he has disproven about the Old Testament that, if read aloud to a group of congregants today, would cause strong resistance. This makes it difficult to consider how to apply the research given in this book in Evangelical circles. Besides those two points, was a wonderfully engaging book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    With each new book of his I read, John H. Walton impresses me with his commitment to the cultural context of the scriptures and logically breaking down what it means for us as modern readers. The Bible was not written as history, science, or even theology or metaphysics; it is the story of a relationship (covenant) between the eternal invisible and humans (in particular in the "old" testament with the people of Israel). This story is embedded in the culture of the middle east and its understandi With each new book of his I read, John H. Walton impresses me with his commitment to the cultural context of the scriptures and logically breaking down what it means for us as modern readers. The Bible was not written as history, science, or even theology or metaphysics; it is the story of a relationship (covenant) between the eternal invisible and humans (in particular in the "old" testament with the people of Israel). This story is embedded in the culture of the middle east and its understanding of an uneasy symbiosis between the gods and humans, but it goes much further to explore a unique understanding of God whose nature is holiness, and hir intention to be understood and to be in a relationship with humans. And how these humans are graced to share in the state of holiness if they will trust in God's balance of mercy and justice, enabling a partnership with a shared purpose for the future. This book disentangles a theology of the old testament from the new testament and underscores the importance of this foundation to what comes after without contaminating it with anachronistic concerns. I recommend any of Mr. Walton's works.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Andy Witt

    I found myself consistently frustrated with this book. The early chapters were very good, and got my hopes high. But over and over again Walton would make wild claims for the meaning of different elements in the OT with little to no textual justification. The cultural river was the meaning, not the text itself. There were times, in fact, when it was hard to figure out just how the OT is actually for Christians. In this book, the only things for Christians are really his "enduring beliefs" at the I found myself consistently frustrated with this book. The early chapters were very good, and got my hopes high. But over and over again Walton would make wild claims for the meaning of different elements in the OT with little to no textual justification. The cultural river was the meaning, not the text itself. There were times, in fact, when it was hard to figure out just how the OT is actually for Christians. In this book, the only things for Christians are really his "enduring beliefs" at the end of each chapter. For me, this is probably one of closest OT theologies I've read that fits the original paradigm laid down by Gabler. I've read and enjoyed other Walton books, but was disappointed by this one. It would have been with more textual discussion, providing more solid reasons for his conclusions.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abbey Walker

    Walton is like the modern day father of Old Testament backgrounds. Very academically rigorous, be prepared to learn about the ancient Near East haha. He uses ancient Near Eastern history, literature, and archaeology to reach conclusions about theology.... ones that, as an archaeology student, I find both fascinating and, at times, radical. 100% worth the read though.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Adam Godbold

    It began well, was a bit dull and disappointing in the middle chapters, and then ended on a high note. Overall, it was quite helpful and very informative; however, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that, rather than learning more about the OT as “our“ book, I was simply learning information about the OT as “someone else’s“ book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brad Strelau

    A great read, challenging ways I’ve interpreted, approached and been taught Old Testament reading since I was a child! A great help in understanding the religions and worldviews of the ancient Near East at the time Yahweh revealed himself to Abraham, and walked with the people of Israel.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joy Coe

    Not nearly as good as his other books and more difficult vocabulary to work your way through, but it was interesting.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Renee Fisher

    I made so many highlights, and I can't wait for class to start this week on Old Testament Theology. So many things to chew on in this book! I made so many highlights, and I can't wait for class to start this week on Old Testament Theology. So many things to chew on in this book!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Seth

    Good but could use some trimming Good content. Liked the in-depth look at Ancient Near Eastern thought and practice. I found it helpful in increasing my understanding of the old testament. My biggest complaint is that this was a bit dry and longer than it had to be. Walton has an annoying habbit of repeating himself multiple times to hammer his points home. I believe that this book could have been significantly shorter than it was without losing any of the quality content. Overall, well worth read Good but could use some trimming Good content. Liked the in-depth look at Ancient Near Eastern thought and practice. I found it helpful in increasing my understanding of the old testament. My biggest complaint is that this was a bit dry and longer than it had to be. Walton has an annoying habbit of repeating himself multiple times to hammer his points home. I believe that this book could have been significantly shorter than it was without losing any of the quality content. Overall, well worth reading despite the extra padding. I would recommend it for anyone wanting to learn more about the old testament.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Trevor Sutter

  17. 4 out of 5

    Abel

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carly

  19. 4 out of 5

    Logan Carrigan

  20. 4 out of 5

    Richard Flournoy

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Faltynski

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Weaver

  23. 4 out of 5

    Neil Bassingthwaighte

  24. 5 out of 5

    R.J. Lemyre

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Oxford

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kim Zimmerman

  27. 5 out of 5

    Zane Feemster

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alex S

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