Deeper Waters Podcast 4/13/2019: Jonathan Greer

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Those who do not learn from history are often condemned to repeat it. At the very least, they are condemned to misrepresent it. In our day and age, it’s incredibly easy for internet atheists to proclaim themselves experts on the Old Testament because they can read it.

Sadly, Christians can do the same thing. It’s easy to just lift up a text from somewhere and treat it as a prooftext. It’s easy to confuse law and gospel and the relation between the two. Even worse, it’s easy to make a Gospel presentation where you have the fall of Adam and Eve take place and then jump straight to the story of Jesus because, you know, the history of Israel really has absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. Right?

The Old Testament is a difficult work to understand because it takes place in a time and a culture that is so foreign to what we live in. When they wrote the text, they assumed that the culture was understood by the readers. For us, it isn’t. We don’t know many of the places and many of the terms or the language or the culture.

In order to better understand the culture then, we need the work of those scholars who have invested in the culture. Fortunately, there are several of them who are also committed to Jesus. Even better, many of them have worked together in a volume that has been compiled by three such scholars to help us. The work isĀ Behind The Scenes of the Old Testament and one of those editors is joining us tomorrow and his name is Jonathan Greer.

So who is he?

According to his bio:

Jonathan S. Greer is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Director of the Hesse Memorial Archaeological Laboratory at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Cornerstone University. He holds M.A. degrees in Old Testament and Biblical Languages from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University where he focused on Hebrew Bible, ancient Near Eastern studies, and archaeology. He is also the Associate Director of archaeological excavations at Tel Dan, Israel, and has published a number of works on the relationship of the Bible to the ancient world.

We will be discussing the way the Old Testament world was and why it matters to us. We too often understand the Old Testament just through the lens of the New Testament instead of understanding the Old Testament on its own entirely. We need to approach the work on its own. The book covers so many of the minor details of life in the Ancient Near East, far too many to cover in even two hours. This is how massive the world is and hopefully, you will get a better understanding of it.

I hope you’ll be looking forward to the next new episode. We’re working on others. We have had some issues, but they are being worked on. Please also go on iTunes and leave a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Behind The Scenes of the Old Testament

What do I think of Jonathan S. Greer’s, John Hilber, and John Walton’s book published by Baker Academic? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’d be tempting to think that this book is purely nerdy academic stuff and material that no one can understand. Topping in at 514 pages of content, it would make sense. Such a thought would be wrong. While this book is scholarly, it is also very layman-friendly. It is a read that if you want to pick it up and read a chapter, you can walk away informed.

Granted most people will probably not do what I do as a reviewer and that’s read it straight through. If you do, you will be blessed. If you don’t, but you just read the chapters relevant to what you’re studying, you will still be blessed. These chapters are collected from a wide array of scholars.

Something else interesting is very little Biblical interpretation goes on. You won’t find a chapter on what this prophecy means or on the age of the Earth or the scope of the flood. The material is to help you be able to interpret the text better, but the book does not do the job of interpreting the text for you.

There are also over sixty chapters here and all of them touch on different aspects. One I found particularly interesting was on slavery in the Old Testament world. This is a frequent favorite of critics of the Christian faith and if anyone is struggling with this, reading this chapter will be a benefit to them.

Really that is the kind of work this book is. It looks at what was going on in the world of the Old Testament. What was daily life like? What were simple things we take for granted like food production and music like? How are we to understand the role the Law played? What about marriage and family?

The book is also not preachy. You’re not going to get an essayist who is going to go and try to squeeze Jesus into the text. Even with a chapter on God, the book is surprisingly not very theological, and that could be a good thing. The book is not meant to give you the nature of God, but rather to introduce you to how the gods were seen in the world of the Old Testament and then apply that to Israel in its own proper way.

Also, the book points to several other resources which is always a plus. If you want more information on any one topic, you know where to go. You can either see what else the writer of that essay had to say elsewhere or look at the material that he or she cites.

I would have liked to have seen a little bit more on the world of honor and shame in the Old Testament. This would also include the client/patron system. Such a system I think is also behind the suzerainty treaty that I see Deuteronomy as. This way of thinking is common in much of the world, but completely foreign to modern Americans.

This is the kind of book Christians who want to understand the Old Testament need to read. It’s also the kind of book that most critics of Christianity who use the Old Testament will not dare read. In conclusion, it ultimately is the kind of book anyone serious about the Old Testament, and thus the rest of Scripture, needs to read.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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