The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation - RevMarple
{jcomments on} Sailhamer, John H. The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009.Brief Overview of the Book (Theme, Perspective, Approach):This 612 page (plus indexes) magnum opus has several concerns. One is to make sure that we do not relegate the Old Testament to a substandard status in comparison with the New Testament. He even goes so far as to say that the Old Testament was the early church's New Testament. Unlike the factions within Judaism, Christianity did not create its own form of the "Hebrew" (portions in Aramaic) Scriptures but accepted it as their Scriptures and added more books to it. This complements his argument that the Old Testament is about a coming Messiah King from the tribe of Judah and the New Testament identifies that Messiah as Jesus. He does not want to read the New Testament back into the Old Testament but rather to read the Old Testament into the New Testament. This means includes seeing how the Old Testament interprets itself before moving to the New Testament. And it is worth noting (as he has a whole chapter about it) that when we are talking about meaning we are speaking about the meaning of the words of Scripture. His focus on the words of Scripture complements the focus of the words of Scripture on the words of Scripture (i.e. Joshua 1 and Psalm 1, cf. Neh 8:8).As you can already tell, the book is about much more than the meaning of the Pentateuch. Sailhamer discusses the way the prophets and Psalms interpret the Pentateuch. This leads him to describe the compositional strategy and seams of Jeremiah (see pages 404ff and 494ff) and the Psalms (Psalms 1-2, 72, and 145) as he earlier had done the same with the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures. The seams of the Hebrew Scriptures even led him to highlight Daniel and the end of Chronicles (two of the last three books in the Hebrew canonical order with Ezra-Nehemiah in between). The book has one major thesis: the canonical Pentateuch is actually the Second Edition or Pentateuch 2.0 that highlights themes already present in the First Edition. And many sub-theses concerning its interpretation in light of the strategy of the authors. One concerning the theme of faith is that the Pentateuch employs the same strategy as the lament pattern to highlight the importance of faith: emergency, promise, faith, certainty (Gen 15, Exo 3-4 and in reverse as Num 14, and highlighting unbelief in Num 20). One concerning the theme of law is that the various written laws were added after major transgressions. The covenant at Sinai was originally to resemble the one with Abraham -- living by faith one would walk according to the stipulations written on the heart. Throughout the discussion Sailhamer looks to the intertextual "learned quotations" and these patterns to see the "intelligent design" of the human author.