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Spring 2004 · Vol. 33 No. 1 · pp. 118–119 

Book Review

Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003. 222 pages.

Reviewed by Lynn Jost

Walter Kaiser, Old Testament professor and president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, Massachusetts, has written this book for preachers with the aim of recovering exegetical Old Testament (OT) preaching. Kaiser pursues three objectives. First, he revisits “the problem of the Old Testament,” defending the OT’s authority and voice for the contemporary Christian church. Second, he reviews OT genres, seeking to provide practical exegetical and homiletic tools. Third, he seeks to deconstruct postmodernism which he identifies with theological pluralism, the primary theological crisis on Kaiser’s horizon.

Part one, The Need to Preach and Teach from the Old Testament, defends the value of the OT for today. Kaiser seeks to avoid what he terms a “flat-book” hermeneutic, e.g., interpretation in which the New Testament sits in judgment on the Old (50-51). He does so by identifying the Hebrew Bible as the powerful Word of God which points to Jesus as Messiah while it deals with life’s questions. The value of the OT rests on its theological center, the promise-fulfillment scheme Kaiser proposed in his Toward an Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 1978), as well as the primacy of grace. He calls for expository preaching as the solution to the silencing of the OT in the Christian pulpit. Kaiser asks that the OT be allowed to stand on its own, criticizing Elizabeth Achtemeier’s instruction that an OT text be paired with a corresponding NT reading.

Just over half the book is given to part two, a review of the primary OT genres of narrative, wisdom, prophets, laments, torah, praise, and apocalyptic. The chapter on narrative is helpful, giving attention to scenes, characterization, plot, and such rhetorical devices as repetition, omissions (gaps), chiasm, and irony. The sheer variety of genres within them makes for a rather cursory treatment of wisdom and prophetic literature. The brief chapter on praise reviews hymn and thanksgiving song genres but fails to treat a primary problem for preachers: developing sermonic tension, the problem the sermon needs to overcome. More {119} troubling is Kaiser’s treatment of Daniel’s seventy weeks in the chapter on apocalyptic texts. The result is a sermon in which the preacher attempts to lay out the historical fulfillment of what he sees as a prophecy of Israelite history. The genre review is a helpful primer for the beginning expositor, though the sample sermons which follow each chapter seem a bit lifeless, perhaps since all but one seem to have been produced for what Kaiser calls “a typical Sunday audience” rather than preached to specific congregations.

Kaiser concludes with two appendices. The first sketches Kaiser’s exegetical method, which is strengthened by a reference to Elmer Martens’ God’s Design, though to be faulted for beginning the exegesis by looking at the canonical context before a study of the pericope. The second is Kaiser’s diatribe against the evils of the postmodern rejection of theological and ecclesiastical authority. In contrast, N. T. Wright in his The Challenge of Jesus (InterVarsity, 1999), welcomes the postmodern opportunity to evangelize a world that needs the Jesus story, rather than decrying the loss of a Constantinian corpus christianum. Surely the approach of Wright is closer to an Anabaptist understanding of our world.

Lynn Jost
Assoc. Prof. of Biblical and Religious Studies
Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas

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