Much thanks to Jim Baird and Holman & Broadman Academic for this review copy:
When I began to read this theology, I really didn’t know what to expect. But one thing has been made quite clear to me: the Old Testament must be mined for the wealth it contains (I encourage pastors and Bible students to invest in the study of the Old Testament, for you’ll be better off if you did).
This theology is divided into Five Parts: 1. God: His Person and Work; 2. Mankind: The Image of God; 3. The Kingdom of God; 4. The Prophets and the Kingdom; and 5. Human Reflection on the Ways of God. As you would expect, each part is further divided into chapters: for example, Part One, God: His Person and Work is divided into Four Chapters: 1. The Autobiography of God; 2. The Revelation of God; 3. The Works of God; 4. The Purposes of God.
Chapter One: Introduction: The Origins, Nature, and Present State of Old Testament Theology made me want to read this theology even more. Professor Merrill surveyed the “History of the Biblical Theology Movement” since the 18th century, offering the theologians take on the OT text itself and their approach to its contents.
After a brief mention of most theologians approach to Old Testament theology, Dr. Merrill offers Genesis 1:26-28 as the key text of the Old Testament and upon which his theology is built (p. 27).
The first and perhaps grandest of the descriptions that characterize the God of the Old Testament in the Genesis record is that of his sovereignty. Upon this facet of his nature rest all subsequent descriptions of him and, in our understanding, the whole edifice of Old Testament theology. This is implicit in both his work as Creator (“In the beginning,” Gen. 1:1) and in the mandate he issued to mankind to have dominion over all things as God’s own image (Gen. 1:26-28). (p. 42)
Regarding the New Testament to the Old Testament as one attempts to do an Old Testament theology, the professor admits:
The intent in this work is to provide an Old Testament theology, not one of the whole Bible. But the approach will be biblical; i.e., it will pursue the method of biblical theology. Thus, content will create constraints upon the material to be covered, but method will break those constraints to the extent that the Christian theologian must recognize that his work cannot end at the end of the Old Testament canon, for the Old Testament itself is open to something beyond itself, namely, the New Testament. (p. 32).
Some may object to the following: regarding the Christian theologian or anyone for that matter:
He cannot read the Old Testament apart from the deep impress and impact of the New Testament upon his psyche to say nothing of trying to present a coherent, objective theological construct devoid of any input from the New Testament. (p. 649)
Professor Eugene Merrill’s eschatological bent also comes through this theology ( I guess such is inevitable), given the fact that Old Testament does have an eschatological element to it (pgs 161, 470), not least the Davidic heir of 2 Samuel 7.
This theology is solid and well-balanced. Merrill’s interaction with other theologians is quite evident but not at the expense of his own contribution to the discipline.