The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Job  -     By: Douglas Sean O'Donnell
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The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes & Job

Crossway / 2011 / Paperback

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Product Description

The Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament can be daunting to interpret and to preach. But Douglas O'Donnell has successfully linked the messages of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job to Jesus in the New Testament. He shares six Christocentric sermons that reveal the often-overlooked shadow of the cross within this biblical genre, while addressing age-old questions of significance and suffering, the meaning of life and work, and humanity's chief relationship between husband and wife.

Through careful examination of poetic forms, linguistic correlations, and most importantly a profound understanding of the gospel, The Beginning and End of Wisdom will help you connect Wisdom Literature to the wisdom of God found ultimately in the person of Christ.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 240
Vendor: Crossway
Publication Date: 2011
Dimensions: 8.50 X 5.50 (inches)
ISBN: 1433523345
ISBN-13: 9781433523342

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Publisher's Description

O’Donnell opens up the Old Testament genre of wisdom literature through six chapters that look at how the gospel shines through the first and last chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. 

Author Bio

Douglas Sean O'Donnell (MAs, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Wheaton College) is a senior lecturer in biblical studies and practical theology at Queensland Theological College in Brisbane, Australia, after spending nearly twenty years in pastoral ministry. He is currently obtaining his doctorate at Trinity College Bristol through the University of Aberdeen. He is the author of a number of books, including The Beginning and End of WisdomThe Song of Solomon and Matthew in the Preaching the Word commentary series, and Psalms in the Knowing the Bible series.


Douglas O’Donnell writes with infectious enthusiasm about the Wisdom Literature of the Bible. At a time when many Christians wonder how these books ‘fit in’ to the rest of Scripture, O’Donnell’s call to pay close attention to these books and his gripping introduction to them should be widely read.
-Peter J. Williams,
Warden, Tyndale House, Cambridge, England

Rarely does an individual combine the precision of an exegete, the passion of a poet, and the pulse of a pastor. But Doug O’Donnell demonstrates all of these qualities in his most recent book. What is even more impressive is that O’Donnell focuses his attention on the Old Testament Wisdom Literature, one of the sections of the Bible most neglected by scholars and pastors alike. His model sermons and the hermeneutical discussions that undergird them are sure to inspire many others to follow the path that he has blazed so well.
-Daniel J. Estes,
Distinguished Professor of Bible, Dean of the School of Biblical and Theological Studies, Cedarville University

I have long thought that the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament is a good grid on which to introduce our unbelieving and troubled world to the gospel—it is so down-to-earth and practical. Douglas O’Donnell does this in an appealing way. His homiletical exercises in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, conveyed in fresh, conversational prose, leads the preacher from the text to the pulpit to the pew. If a sermon is like a painting, it should always be like a Rembrandt with the famous beam of light that characterizes his portraits. O’Donnell’s model sermons glow with that beaming light of the gospel. And he helpfully instructs his readers in Chapter Seven: ‘How Shall Wisdom Be Preached?’ on the hermeneutical principles that can engage the text and enlighten the preacher for the awesome task of gospel proclamation, yes, even from the Wisdom Literature!
-C. Hassell Bullock,
Pastor, Warren Park Presbyterian Church, Cicero, Illinois; Franklin S. Dyrnress Professor of Biblical Studies Emeritus, Wheaton College

Since these days I am as likely to be sitting in a pew (or preferably, of course, a comfortable chair!) as standing in a pulpit, I am now part of that great hungry multitude hoping for help, heart nourishment for the week ahead, a true word from the Lord that a lively exposition from Holy Scripture can bring, and above all a fresh sense of the greatness of the God we know in and through Christ. These sermons of Doug O’Donnell’s, as well as the practical instructions he provides, have enriched me, as they will surely do for many others.
-R. C. Lucas,
Retired Rector, St. Helen's Church, Bishopsgate, London, England

Doug O’Donnell’s sermons in this volume are all that a preaching commentary should be—analytic of the biblical text, wide-ranging in biblical scholarship, containing a wealth of ‘bridge building’ to everyday life, and stylistically excellent.
-Leland Ryken,
professor of English, Wheaton College; author, The ESV and the English Bible Legacy

The Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament poses one of the most daunting challenges for preachers whose resolve is to preach Christ from all the Scriptures. Pastor Douglas O’Donnell offers invaluable modeling and coaching to help us explore, in practical terms, how to preach Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job in a way that both expounds the biblical texts with integrity and sets them into the larger context of the Bible’s unified witness to Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
-Dennis E. Johnson,
Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Seminary, California

The church very much needs to hear preaching from Old Testament wisdom, and for that preaching to be Christian it must be faithful to the text and also point people to Christ. O’Donnell’s vision for wisdom preaching, and the sermons themselves, will serve as excellent guideposts for those who want to preach through OT wisdom books. They should inspire other preachers to work through the texts on their own with a clear vision for preaching the gospel through the wisdom God has given in Scripture.
-Michael Graves,
Associate Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College

This lively, contemporary introduction to the Old Testament Wisdom books provides an ideal way-in for today’s Christian readers—to share their wealth, learn their secrets and discern the glories of Christ in their pages. For the biblical preacher, it is packed with helpful models and practical advice on how to preach this often-neglected material with fresh power and effectiveness.
-David Jackman,
Former President, Proclamation Trust, London, England

In an age of endless self-help courses, books, and psychobabble there are few parts of the Bible more needed than the Wisdom Literature. Christians need to learn from our creator how to live wisely in his world and, in learning this, discover how this literature leads to the gospel and points to Christ. Doug O'Donnell's book seeks to show how we may know and enjoy the Wisdom Literature and preach Christ from it. Such an enterprise is timely and helpful for those who wish to live God's way in his world.
-Phillip D. Jensen,
Dean, St. Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney, Australia

Product Reviews

4.7 Stars Out Of 5
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  1. Joliet, IL
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    4 Stars Out Of 5
    A Helpful Primer on Preaching Christ from the OT
    April 14, 2012
    Kevin M. Fiske
    Joliet, IL
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 4
    Value: 4
    Meets Expectations: 4
    Perhaps the most familiar genre of biblical literature to the average layperson is the epistle. Given our Western propensity toward the practical and the immediate, the letters of the New Testament provide us with straightforward statements about what Christ has done and how we are to live in response; so it's no wonder many of us initially flip to these sections of the Bible in our daily reading. But how do we fare when it comes to the literature of the Hebrew Bible? Apart from the familiar narratives that most have experienced, at the very least in their Sunday School days, the Old Testament still remains a mystery to many gospel-believing Christians. And given the lack of familiarity and confidence in handling much of the Old Testament among many followers of Christ, it's likely that a portion of that may be due to the fact that many pastors could use a refresher when it comes to rightly handling and preaching the Old Testament.

    In light of this reality, I am thankful for the growing number of resources that aim to assist believers in understanding and developing a Christ-centered, gospel-focused, redemptive-historical hermeneutic for reading and interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures. After all it was Paul who began his letter to the Romans indicating that "the gospel of God" was something God "promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son" (Romans 1:2-3, ESV). Jesus, as well, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets_interpreted to [the disciples on the Emmaus Road] in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27, ESV, emphasis mine). Certainly "all the Scriptures" includes the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible, and Douglas Sean O'Donnell has provided us with a very helpful example of effective Christ-centered preaching from this portion of God's Word in his, The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job (Crossway, 2011). (Talk about a Puritan-length title!)

    The Beginning and the End of Wisdom is a collection of a handful of O'Donnell's sermons from the Wisdom genre as he seeks to initially instruct the reader/preacher through demonstration in practice. I was thoroughly encouraged by the posture taken by O'Donnell as he approached his task. Noting the primacy of Christ he states, "Life does not come through Bible literacy. Life comes through Jesus. And a right understanding of Scripture comes through knowledge of Jesus and trust in him." As O'Donnell approaches this genre of biblical literature he reminds the student of Scripture of the "demeanor" one must take, that is: "that God remain large and we remain small." O'Donnell displays, what I believe to be, a genuine reverence for Christ and his word, a serious approach to his task of interpretation, and a passion to see the gospel elevated and hearts awestruck by the God of the gospel in the Old Testament Scriptures.

    I particularly enjoyed O'Donnell's sermon in from the first chapter of Job (1:1-12). With his aim set on the gospel, O'Donnell's honesty allows the gospel to rest sweetly on the ears of the hearers of the text as he reminds us, "We come to a book (Job) that will teach us that God's love for us is bigger and broader than sentimentality and sympathy and that his will for our lives is vaster and grander than our personal happiness or success." In light of Job's life situation and response to the suffering from God's providential hand, O'Donnell notes in Christocentric terms, "When Jesus walked the earth, he called everyone, as he still calls them, to put him and his kingdom above possessions, family, friends, and reputation, and to accept, if necessary, suffering, persecution, and the loss of home job, money, or even life." Thus, O'Donnell gets to Christ without rushing with hermeneutical irresponsibility toward a connection, preaching and teaching the text responsibly.

    Before two appendices on "Preaching Hebrew Poetry" and "Book Summaries and Suggested Sermon Series", O'Donnell moves from the finished product to show the readers the tools necessary to get there. This is a bit of a different route to take as many would think to start with the materials and method before considering the finished product. However, in his chapter entitled "How Shall Wisdom Be Preached?" O'Donnell gives careful hermeneutical consideration and instruction to that which his has just demonstrated in his sermons. For the person who lacks acquaintance with the art of preaching Christ from the Old Testament, this order serves to effectively immerse the reader in the manner, style, and practice of preaching Christ from the wisdom books so that the dots will likely be more quickly and readily connected through, "Yeah-I-see-how-you-did-that_" moments. The chapter on hermeneutics is incredibly helpful, especially in O'Donnell's inclusion of charts that connect Wisdom Literature text with like texts from the New Testament.

    Overall, with a reverence for the God of the Word, and a desire to see Christ exalted as the gospel is proclaimed, The Beginning and the End of Wisdom is a excellent book to consider adding to your library as it relates to Christ-centered hermeneutics! I recommend it!!

    *The publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of the aforementioned title. I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.
  2. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    Great resource for any pastor!
    March 9, 2012
    Ricky Kirk
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    The Beginning and End of Wisdom is one book every pastor should read! Why? When was the last time you preached an expository series (connecting each sermon to the gospel of Jesus Christ) through Proverbs? Or through Ecclesiastes? Or through Job? I recently preached through the book of Job over the course of a year. While I wouldn't necessarily advocate a verse-by-verse approach, there is no doubt the Body of Christ was served well spending time in this book.

    Many churches rarely hear sermons from these books. Why? In part, pastors tend to shy away from them because of the difficulty in linking these books to Jesus. It is far easier to preach through the letters of Paul, the Gospels, or 'stories' throughout the Old Testament. How do I know this? Because I am a preacher! Preaching through Job, while rewarding, was challenging.

    It is for this reason I believe Douglas Sean O'Donnell has produced a resource for every pastor. Not only does he share six sermons (from the first and last chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job) but he provides extremely helpful tools for those pastors who tend to shy away from these books in our preaching.

    The six sermons are great examples of how a pastor preaches from the Wisdom Literature and successfully links them to Christ. They can serve the pastor as a great springboard for further study and reflection on the rest of the chapters in each book. But what I found most beneficial was the final chapter and subsequent appendices.

    The last chapter, titled "How Shall Wisdom be Preached?" examines several important aspects of homiletical (and hermeneutical) work in studying and preparing to preach from the Wisdom Literature. Covering gospel ethics, gospel types, gospel teaching, gospel illustrations and gospel awe, this final chapter tells the 'how' of preaching the gospel from the Wisdom Literature.

    Appendix A is a brief primer on Hebrew poetry which explores the various ways the Wisdom Literature is written and how to preach from them. Appendix B provides a sample guide for preaching through each of the Wisdom Literature books with an extensive bibliography for each.

    This is a well-written and helpful resource any pastor would benefit from. It not only presents sample sermons but provides the tools to prepare additional sermons. If you, as a pastor, are nearing the end of a series and praying about what you will preach next, consider one of the Wisdom Literature books. As you are lead to one, then go pick up a copy of this book. It will serve you well!

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
  3. Caldwell, Idaho
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Important book on Wisdom Literature
    October 21, 2011
    Dave Jenkins
    Caldwell, Idaho
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    The Beginning And End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job is written by Douglas Sean O'Donnell author and Senior Pastor of New Covenant Church in Naperville Illinois. In this book, Pastor O'Donnell provides six model sermons from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job for Pastors, teachers, seminarians, and laymen to learn how Christ connects to wisdom literature.

    While the book of Proverbs has a perennial place among many Christians, the book of Job and Ecclesiastes are often viewed as being difficult to understand, to interpret and to apply to one's life. In this book, Mr. O'Donnell sets forth in this book to clear up misconceptions about Wisdom Literature by not only providing model Christ-centered sermons, but also teaching how the believer can be understood and preach the Wisdom Literature.

    While all the sermons are excellent in that they provide solid exegesis and Christ-centered application; chapter seven was particularly helpful in my opinion, as it sets forth to explain what the Wisdom Literature teaches, and how to apply the Gospel to its teaching. In chapter seven, the author explains Gospel ethics, Gospel types, Gospel teaching, Gospel illustration and Gospel Awe.

    The Beginning and End of Wisdom is a significant contribution to the field of Wisdom Literature, because it takes sound Christ-centered hermeneutics seriously and applies to preaching. The content taught in this book will help preachers, teachers and laymen to think and apply its teaching to their lives in a Christ-centered way. While the focus of this book is clearly for Pastors, ministry leaders and seminary students, I believe this book should be ready by any and every student of the Bible. I believe this because Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job have much to teach the believer about the character of God, suffering and many other things which touch on vital aspects of the Christian life. I recommend you pick up this book and learn how a Christ-centered approach to Scripture should affect how you understand the Wisdom Literature.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
  4. Wichita Falls, Tx
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Great Examples of using the OT to Preach Jesus
    September 27, 2011
    Chris Land
    Wichita Falls, Tx
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    There has been a resurgence of identifying Jesus in the Old Testament. There has been a growing number of pastor who choose to preach the Old Testament in order to point Jesus to people. In his book, The Beginning and End of Wisdom, Douglas Sean O'Donnell uses the first and last chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiates, and Job as a example of how pastor can use the Old Testament to preach Christ using scriptures from the Old Testament.

    These three books of the Old Testament are from a section in the Bible we call, Wisdom Literature, which contains, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiates, and Song of Solomon. The Wisdom Literature has been known as the most preached section of the Old Testament. This provides the perfect example for O'Donnell to use to give pastors some idea of how to preach Christ from the Old Testament.

    The last chapter of the book deals with how to use the Wisdom Literture to preach Christ. There were even examples of verses from the Wisdom Literature that were taught in a similar fashion in the New Testament.

    This book was a great read and all pastors should read this book. Pastors should use this book as a reference to help get an idea of preaching Christ through the Old Testament.
  5. Wichita, KS
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    Better understanding Wisdom Literature of the OT
    September 21, 2011
    Pastor Dan
    Wichita, KS
    Age: 55-65
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    First of all I would like to thank Crossway Publishing for sending me a copy of this book to review and place on my blog. God bless you Angie and my other friends at Crossway.

    What a unique and wonderful collection of sermons regarding the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. Douglas O'Donnell gives us six sermons from the Wisdom literature. He preaches the first and last chapters of three different books, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.

    The seventh chapter is, "How Shall Wisdom Be Preached?" and is included to help the lay person and pastor evaluate how they will approach the study of wisdom literature and then communicate it to their listeners in an appropriate way. This is the practical chapter and is well written and helps us see how Christ used the wisdom literature to convey New Testament truths to His listeners.

    O'Donnell has two goals in the writing of this book. "1) To help you know and enjoy the Wisdom Literature so that you might preach on it more often; and 2) to show you how to preach Christ from this genre." I believe that he accomplishes his goal. The first six chapters handle his first goal and the seventh chapter and the Appendixes handle the second goal.

    I believe that not only are his two goals met, but I think there are two benefits that the reader will get from this book. Benefit #1 is that you will be encouraged and challenged by the sermons in the first six chapters. Benefit #2 you will find tools that are helpful in your study and understand of the Wisdom Literature and how they relate to the New Testament.

    This is a quick read, if you want it to be. But it is a long read if you take the time to digest all that is said, all that is developed and then you seriously apply the principles that you will learn about teaching the Wisdom Literature.

    Both laymen and Pastors will benefit from this short work and find that it is not overly academic, but instead, highly practical and encouraging.

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