John Sailhamer’s Meaning of the Pentateuch: A Review Essay

Here are the opening paragraphs of my review of Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch: Revelation, Composition and Interpretation:

This book received significant electronic attention. Mark Driscoll and John Piper went back and forth over it on Twitter, then Piper blogged on it, followed by a Collin Hansen Christianity Today interview, all linked on Justin Taylor’s Between Two Worlds. Even before the generation of this digital excitement, I had been looking forward to this book for several years. If asked to identify the major influences on my thinking about the Old Testament, Sailhamer is on the short list with T. Desmond Alexander, Stephen Dempster, William J. Dumbrell, and Paul House.

Sailhamer’s Presidential Address to the ETS, later published as “The Messiah in the Hebrew Bible,” was a watershed moment in my thinking about the Old Testament. That address gripped and fascinated me, as did an essay Sailhamer wrote on the connections between Genesis 49, Numbers 22–24, and other texts. I say all this to preface the following points of appreciation, puzzlement, and disagreement.

And here is the outline of the review essay:

1. Introduction (the two paragraphs quoted above)

2. Points of Appreciation

2.1 Impressive Research in Latin and German
2.2 Focus on the Messiah
2.3 Focus on the Final Form of the Text

3. Puzzling Features of the Book

3.1 Incidental Questions
3.2 Repetitions and Redundancies
3.3 Text or Event?
3.4 Sailhamer’s Dialogue Partners
3.5 Typology?

4. Points of Disagreement

4.1 Pentateuch 2.0
4.2 Abraham and Moses
4.3 The Event at Sinai and the Purpose of the Law
4.4 Other Disagreements

5. Conclusion

Thanks to SBJT‘ for generously granting me permission to post the whole thing here.

For those interested in bibliographic details: James M. Hamilton Jr., “John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch: A Review Essay,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 14.2 (2010), 62-76.

Errata: I spotted  at least one typo as I looked back over it. On page 70 I meant to refer to Jeremiah presenting himself “as an installment in a line of prophets” but mistyped the word line as life. Oops!

SBTS students: you will receive an email notifying  you when you may pick up the Journal. Thanks for not pestering the nice man who works in the Journal office.

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