Tremper Longman IIIBaker Books / 2019 / Trade PaperbackOur Price$5.004 out of 5 stars for Confronting Old Testament Controversies. View reviews of this product. 11 Reviews
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The Bashful Bunny5 Stars Out Of 5A Must for Old Testament ScholarsMay 10, 2021The Bashful BunnyQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5I have studied the Old Testament for many years and find this book most helpful. It will be a great addition to anyone's library. It is very well written and easy to read.
JK Turner5 Stars Out Of 5Must read for people across the spectrum of understand the BibleNovember 18, 2019JK TurnerQuality: 4Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5My Rating Must Read
Level Moderate difficulty (good knowledge of OT and history, but written for popular audience), medium length (about 300 pages)
The content of the book is straight from the title, reviewing controversial passages from the Old Testament. Longman is an Old Testament scholar, so there is much of his own research and writing on his view, but he interacts with at least 2-3 opposing views/books on each subject.
The lay out of the book is the introduction (un-paginated, but y'all need to read it) then the four controversies (Creation & Evolution, History, Divine Violence, Sexuality) and then an epilogue (he titles 'Final Word'). Each chapter is broken into three or four subsections with a conclusion at the end and an excurses or two along the way. The other chapters are probably clear, but 'History' refers to the Exodus and the Conquests.
The only real critique I have is probably an issue for the publisher, the subtitle list Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence which neither matches the order of the chapters, nor is it in alphabetical order. Not sure why they chose they order they did, and maybe it doesn't bother anyone else, but here we are.
I think books like this will only become more important as we move further in our post-Christian world (at least in the West). The subtitle of Enns' The Bible Tells Me So really explains our situation: 'Why defending Scripture has left us unable to read it'. This was the way I learned about the Bible in high school, and I hear much of this way of thinking form people today. This is especially true for the first two chapters (Creation & Evolution, and History). People want to rush to defend it in a modern way against modern critiques and ignore what the point was (and still is) from a theological perspective when it was written thousands of years ago. I should note if you like Enns, Longman was his professor at one point and interacts with his book in this book.
I believe strongly that everyone should have this book for the first two chapters alone. I fear one reason we argue the way we do about Genesis and early books is it is just simpler. We don't want to reason, or read, or understand something beyond the basics, most 'literal' understanding. This book would do well to challenge both people 'for & against' some of the readings of the early books of the Bible.
The Divine Violence section was maybe the weakest, but I think it is still an important one. Some of the most basic attacks from New Atheists are based on things like the so called genocide and cosmic child abuse. While this isn't as strong as other sections, it is well worth interacting with, if for no other reason than learning more of the other side. Similarly, there probably isn't much new for most people about Sexuality. The Bible is pretty clear, and most arguments against this perspective come down to personal preference (E.g. I think it is fine if they love each other, who cares?, etc.) However, this section does give some good verses as well as the whole picture throughout the Bible. Maybe more interesting than that, it also puts the spotlight back on us and challenge the fact of polygamy in the Bible, which was fairly challenging.
As I mentioned above, this really is a must read for anyone who wants to take the Bible seriously. If we care about the Bible and want to understand it (and views against it), we need to interact more with controversies and other hard aspects that challenge our understanding or reading of the Bible.
More reviews at MondayMorningTheologian.com
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Bob on Books4 Stars Out Of 5A Well-Stated Conservative Discussion of Four Controversial QuestionsSeptember 2, 2019Bob on BooksQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4This work took a certain amount of courage to write. I suspect there will be a number who read it who applaud what the author says in some places and vehemently disagree elsewhere. Throughout, the author seeks to offer a reading of scripture, particularly the Old Testament that engages the text as a whole and seeks to listen to its overarching message, that engages scholarship, including scholars, some friends, with whom the author disagrees, and seeks to exercise pastoral care, even for readers who may disagree.
The four issues the author addresses are the controversy of how we read the creation accounts of scripture in light of evolution; whether we can trust that the exodus and Canaanite conquest are historical events, despite claims that they did not happen; how we should think about the claims of divine violence in scripture; and what the Bible teaches about same-sex relations and the pastoral implications of this teaching. My brief summaries of the author's responses to these controversy should not substitute for a careful reading of his responses, especially if one thinks one differs with the author.
1. On evolution, he both argues against "wooden reading that would lead us to think that it was the intention of the biblical author to provide us with a straightforward description of the how of creation" and equally against those who would deny "a historic fall and concept of original sin." He contends that the Bible is interested in the who and why of creation while science addresses the how.
2. On history, he affirms the historical reality as well as the theological import of the exodus and conquest narratives.
3. On violence, he believes that attempts to claim God didn't hurt anyone or that seek to minimize the harm, do not do justice to the biblical text, which, consistent with the New Testament portrays a God who fights against, and finally defeats evil. He actually suggests that the violence of the Old Testament, first against the nations, and later against Israel herself, stand as forewarnings of God's final judgment.
4. On sexuality, he affirms the historic view of the church affirming sexual intimacy within the boundaries of a marriage between a man and a woman. He thoughtfully deals with key texts and alternative readings. While he holds to what is now called a "traditional" view, he contends he speaks only to the church here and that there are implications of the Bible's teaching about sexuality that challenge every believer. He opposes crusades against same-sex marriage or the withholding of business services to LGBT persons offered to others.
What I most admired are the gracious ways in which Longman engages and charitably differs with scholars, including one who was a former student, and another who is a close friend. I affirm the ways he shows pastoral concern without compromising theological integrity, modeling a belief that love and truth, story and principle need not be at odds. Finally, I appreciate the thoughtful, nuanced yet concise, responses to four controversies, each of which have been the subjects of multiple complete books. What each have in common are that they represent shifts from historic understanding, arising both from scholarship and other cultural forces. Longman offers a thoughtful restatement of the biblical teaching that weighs the counter arguments and finds them inadequate to justify abandoning historic understandings shared by most of the church through most of its history.
The work serves as a good starting place for someone who wants to read a well-stated "conservative" view (although some conservatives and some evolutionists alike would be unhappy with Longman on evolution) on the four controversies addressed by this book. The documentation points people to the full range of scholarship on each of the questions. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter may help both with personal reflection and group discussion. Most of all, the work models a spirit in desperate need of recovery, that can both speak unequivocally about one's convictions yet shows charities toward one's opponents.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 35-44Gender: Male5 Stars Out Of 5These are the questions worth asking, and better answers will be hard to find.July 26, 2019Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 35-44Gender: MaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Since at least the time of the Enlightenment, it has been fashionable to subject the Bible to criticism and judge it outdated and inferior to the wisdom of the age. In the last several decades, critics have used an increasingly shrill voice that was rare in previous generations. The Bible is denounced as not only inferior but evil. It runs contrary to the sexual ethics of the day. Science has freed us from a savage need for a deity. "God is not good," the new atheists declare. And within evangelicalism, the Church is giving ground. Evangelicals are for the first time openly siding with the higher critical views espoused by liberal theologians on such matters as denying the historicity of the Exodus, seeing Genesis 1-11 as myth, and disagreeing with the violence condoned by the Old Testament God (who is claimed to be inferior than the New Testament presentation of Jesus). Some evangelical leaders are even pressing for a reinterpretation of Scripture when it comes to homosexuality.
It is against this backdrop that Dr. Tremper Longman III offers his mature reflections in "Confronting Old Testament Controversies: Pressing Questions about Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence" published by Baker Books (2019). In this important book, Longman helps the reader engage with each controversy as he traces out what the Bible says and weighs that against what both those inside and outside evangelicalism are saying. He deals with each question from a confessional standpoint and yet resists an approach that demonizes "opponents" or sees everything as a simple black-and-white matter. He is not afraid to ruffle feathers and take on the errant views of others (even his friends), but he prizes a charitable and irenic discussion that respects those who conclude differently. Personally, Longman has experienced loss of academic positions over his views (as he recounts in chapter 1) and you can tell from reading this that he has thought long and hard over these very challenging questions facing the Church today.
I will be honest, going into this book I wasn't sure exactly where Longman was going to conclude. I agreed with him that these are the four most pressing questions surrounding the Old Testament today, yet I knew he was friends with Peter Enns who had been dismissed from Westminster Theological Seminary over his questionable views. I had also read Enns' eye-brow raising "The Evolution of Adam" and was concerned with his denial of the historicity of the Exodus and dangerous views about how to understand Adam and Eve and the Fall. So when I picked up Longman, I had some reservations.
When I first picked up this book I thought, "The questions are the right questions: I am hoping Longman will give me some solid answers." I can now say that Longman literally blew me away. I appreciated his candor and forth-right treatment of each issue. Having read a lot on the creation/evolution question, and some on the other topics, I greatly benefited from Longman's approach of unpacking what other evangelical authors are saying and interacting with them. He distanced himself from Enns on both the Fall and the historicity of the Exodus. He discussed John Walton's views on divine violence (another friend of Longman's whom I've read extensively with both appreciation and some consternation). Walton's book "The Lost World of the Canaanite Conquest" presents some novel approaches to viewing violence in the Old Testament, and Longman interacted gracefully and helpfully with that approach (ultimately rejecting it). Longman's conclusions in some respects are tentative and there are some areas where I may not completely agree with him (or wish he was perhaps more forceful), but the breadth of scope and the path that is taken in handling each issue is unmatched. I am certain his book will be a benefit to those who are being confronted with these questions. He will help you in your own grappling with these issues.
On the evolution question, Longman sides with the BioLogos position on evolution that the Bible is not directly addressing that subject, and that believers can affirm this as a mechanism used by God in creation. After discussing Genesis 1-2 and other creation accounts (Psalm 74, Proverbs 8:22-31, and Job 38:8-11) he concludes:
"[W]e have seen that the most natural reading recognizes the use of figurative language and the interaction with ancient Near Eastern creation accounts. There is no reason we should expect the Bible to provide us with a factual report of the process of creation, and it is a grave mistake to treat the opening chapters of the Bible as such a report." (p. 48)
He goes on to raise a concern over those "in the Christian community who suggest that the theory of evolution is in crisis". They are "misleading their audiences" (p. 58). He continues:
"To try to deny evolution because one is trying to defend the Bible is unnecessary because the Bible is not at odds with evolution. To do so in light of the overwhelming evidence in favor of evolution is putting an unnecessary obstacle to faith." (p. 59)
The natural questions that evangelicals have concerning original sin, the image of God and the historicity of Adam are carefully addressed and he takes pains to clarify his position:
"Interpretations that assert that human beings created in the image of God were never morally innocent, or state that the sinfulness of human beings is an inherent trait of humanity rather than the result of human rebellion against God (thus denying a historical fall), do not take the biblical account seriously, denying an essential theological teaching of the Bible." (p. 64-65 he sites Enns' Evolution of Adam as one example of such interpretations).
His discussion on this question is the clearest I've read, and yet I still have reservations and questions. He points out the absence of the concept of "original sin" (as an inheriting of a sin nature) in the Old Testament (p. 66) and ultimately rejects the Augustinian "'inheritance' model (that we inherit sin from Adam like a genetic disease)" noting that "there are other ways to account for our relationship to Adam's first sin" (p. 71, 72). He maintains that the Fall is a historical reality (p. 69), however, and affirms that "Adam and Eve's sin so disrupted the cosmic and social order that it is not possible for those who come after them not to sin" (p. 72).
On the evolution question, Longman agrees with the evangelicals who are abandoning the once widely-held view of young-earth creationism (I should point out, however, that he looks to B.B. Warfield and other early evangelicals as supporting his own view). On the next three topics, though, Longman speaks for conservatism and resists a call to abandon the historic evangelical position. He holds to the essential historicity of the Bible's narrative accounts (such as the Exodus), he upholds the Old Testament's claim that God uses violence in His dealings with humanity, and he defends the universal witness of Christianity that considers homosexual acts as a perversion of God's good creation design.
On each of the issues above, Longman interacts with real evangelical authors and their actual positions on these matters. He appreciates the motivations (in some cases) behind said positions, but unpacks the Scriptural witness that compels him to stay where he is. His discussion of divine violence as an important theme in both the Old and New Testaments is helpful and yet he ultimately has no satisfying answer but bows to God's sovereignty. His thoughts on historicity are encouraging, and his charity with respect to the homosexual problem is exemplary. He does think change is needed in how we think of and interact with homosexuals, but ultimately the Bible forbids homosexual practice.
This book is not the be-all-end-all volume with regard to these matters. Nor is it presented as the "final answer" to all your questions. Instead it stands as a model of charitable Christian dialogue on important matters and it represents an effective and helpful answer to those who take such controversial points as opportunities to abandon Christianity altogether. I cannot recommend the book highly enough. These are the questions worth asking, and better answers will be hard to find.
This book was provided by the publisher. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
Jon GibsonAge: 45-54Gender: Male4 Stars Out Of 5Tackling tough issues of the BibleMay 16, 2019Jon GibsonAge: 45-54Gender: MaleQuality: 4Value: 4Meets Expectations: 4For anyone who considers themself to be a Christian, they have most likely encountered a verse, a passage, a story, or even a book of the Bible that has had them scratching their head, wondering whether or not it's true or just how they should be interpreting it. For centuries, people have come to these passages from a variety of different viewpoints.
How do we approach the Bible? What do we do with the sections that seem fairly controversial to us? What happens when parts of it seem to be out of date or irrelevant? What happens when the dominant culture pulls away from what had become the societal norms conveyed in the pages of Scripture?
With his latest book, "Confronting Old Testament Controversies - Pressing Questions about Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence," Tremper Longman addresses some of the questions most frequently asked about the Bible and all that is found within its pages.
To start, Longman states in his introduction that, "this book is written for the church and not the broader culture." This is a helpful statement knowing that he would be writing with a very different approach had his book been targeted at those who did not necessarily subscribe to the Bible's teachings.
Longman tells his readers what he will be addressing within the book. Creation and evolution. Historicity. Divine Violence. Sexuality.
Longman spends some necessary time addressing the notion of inerrancy. He writes of interpretation and intended meaning of authors. Basically, he gives a high level overview of hermeneutics. He does a good job of giving this overview as he also addresses context and seeing Scripture through the eyes of those for whom it was originally intended.
God speaks, Longman writes, through nature and through the Bible. While those things are inerrant, our interpretations of both of those may not always be true.
From here, Longman goes on to dig into Genesis. He addresses various teachings that have occurred over the years on the first chapters of the Bible. How should we be interpreting it based upon other writings similar in style to it? Is there figurative language used that is trying to be read more literally than it was intended?
As he lays this all out, Longman writes that Genesis 1 is not giving the reader, "a blow-by-blow account of how God created everything but is using the standard workweek...as a literary device..." He reminds the reader that genre triggers reading strategy. So, we are in error to be reading poetry or analogy as history.
He compares the creation account found in the Bible to other creation accounts found in the ancient near East. He concludes the section saying that there is no reason, in his scholarly opinion, to think that what is found in the pages of Genesis gives a factual report of the specific process of creation. Considering evolution or other secondary causes, Longman suggests, does not undermine God's role as the divine Creator. He goes on to address the fall of humanity, Adam and Eve, and other ramifications that his interpretation may reveal.
After creation and evolution, Longman addresses the historicity of various sections of the Bible. Did they really happen? If they didn't happen, does that undermine the validity of Scripture? What do we do when Scripture makes reference to these elsewhere or when Jesus himself makes reference to them?
In this section, Longman, who considers himself a part of the evangelical camp, is critical of evangelicals saying that, "evangelicals have a tendency to treat the Bible as if it were all one genre." While he addresses a story like Job and says that it did not actually happen historically, he also addresses the exodus and says that the historicity of that story is crucial to establishing a track record for the God of Israel.
Longman gets fairly technical, addressing some of the historic finds that have brought into question the validity and historicity of the Bible. His bottom line is that not all of the sections of the Bible need to be interpreted as having literally and historically taken place in order for the message that is conveyed to be true and important.
He then moves to the section on divine violence. As he enters into this section, he gives his reader the bottom line thesis saying that both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible give a consistent, coherent, and unified picture of God. He addresses the concern that many have had in trying to reconcile the wrath of God shown in the Old Testament with the love of God identified within the New Testament.
He does a good job of conveying his viewpoint as well as contrary viewpoints. He gives reasons for his difference and supports his argument. As he speaks of death, pain, suffering, and violence, Longman reminds his reader that death and suffering were not the purpose or goal of Jesus' mission but instead that his mission was accomplished through death and suffering.
While there are certainly uncomfortable sections and events in the pages of the Bible which describe the wrath and violence of God, Longman says that we need to interpret God based on his revelation of himself in those pages rather than trying to soften the sections that make us uncomfortable or with which we disagree.
The final section of Longman's book may very well be the most anticipated and controversial. It seems that the traditional Christian stance on sexuality has become outdated and flies in sharp contrast and opposition to where culture and society are today.
Longman addresses the controversy and argument that many have made regarding the publicness of sex. He writes, "Sex and marriage are public, social acts, not private acts, even if the sexual acts are done behind closed doors." He also addresses gender and sexuality dysfunction, saying that everyone is sexually dysfunctional at some level.
While Longman addresses the standard laws that have been used in the argument against homosexuality, he also brings focus back to creation and speaks of God's original intent for things. He reminds them that creation, as we are experiencing it, is not as God originally intended it to be. Therefore, we need to be cautious about not considering that as we look at everything.
He addresses the standard argument of the three types of laws found within the Old Testament: ceremonial, moral, and civil laws. He makes his case that ceremonial and even some civil laws may have been fulfilled but that there is no indication in the Bible that the moral laws that were originally given to the people of God were ever made null and void anywhere in Scripture.
He hits on arguments and questions that have been made by some who support an affirming lifestyle. He writes, "Our problem is that we, as modern Westerners, believe that love should allow us all as individuals to find our own personal happiness in the here and now. But personal happiness is not the greatest good in the Bible." Ultimately, Longman lands on the traditional side of this argument.
Longman addresses each of these topics in its own chapter, making the chapters fairly long. Each chapter has discussion questions for use by the reader to spend time mulling over these various sections. Some sections get a little heady and he may lose some of his readers in these technical sections. Of course, I could imagine him simply suggesting that readers skip to the sections of which they are most interested.
I was so curious coming to this book as to where he would stand on these four important topics. As I read through the first section on creation and evolution, I was somewhat surprised at where he came down with his conclusion. Then, after reading the first three sections of the book, I was rather surprised to come to Longman's section on sexuality and read his stance. I had expected, based on what I had encountered in those first three sections, that Longman would be vying for a non-traditional approach towards sexuality and marriage.
Longman treated these topics with academic care, as would be suggested by someone of his educational and professional background. While there were times when he seemed to be belabor the point (in my opinion), I think he did a sufficient job of covering his bases, laying out arguments for and against his case, and clearly giving his final analysis on these topics.
Readers may not hang on for all the depth that Longman gives them in this book. While he comes from the academic world and, at times, he dives fully into that in his writing and explanations, he does a good job not getting too overly academic and is still understandable by the average person.
Longman did not seem to have treated all four of these topics consistently. While there were some sections where he would bring in viewpoints of others, he did not always do that. While I would not say that this impacted his treatment of any of these topics, it would have been nice to have been given some names and viewpoints together rather than going through the bibliography and looking up books and authors individually.
"Confronting Old Testament Controversies" is worth the read. While it may not be for everyone, those who do read through it from front to back, regardless of whether they agree or not, should find themselves walking away having learned something along the way.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)