Dr Walter C. Kaiser Junior has lived a long successful life. He is the parent, along with his wife Marge Kaiser, of one daughter and three boys and are now the grandparents of two grandsons and four granddaughters. Kaiser attended school at Wheaten College where he received his A.B. and succeeded in becoming a member of the Wheaten College Scholastic Honor Society. From there, he moved onto Wheaten Graduate School earning a B.D. Finally, he received his PhD at Brandeis University in Mediterranean Studies.
Following his education, he became a professor at Wheaton College, where he taught Archeology and the Bible. From there, he moved and became the Dean and Vice President of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Illinois. In 1997 Walter Kaiser became the third President of Gordon and Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, replacing Dr. Robert Cook who served as president for sixteen years. Along with his presidential responsibilities, Kaiser serves on the boards of numerous ministries.
Throughout his career, Walter Kaiser has written over thirty books and commentaries along with many entries into articles and journals. These books include "Hard Sayings of the Old Testament," that covers sixty-eight of the most misinterpreted sayings found in the Old Testament. "The Messiah in the Old Testament," was published in 1995 and reveals the character, prophecy, and promise of God to send Christ in the Old Testament. He also co-wrote with Silva Moises, "Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics,"that discusses how to properly read and interpret the Holy Scriptures. Other books include, "Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament," "Revive Us Again: Biblical Insights for Encouraging Spiritual Renewal," "Toward Old Testament Ethics," "A History of Israel," and many more. His commentaries include "Ecclesiastes: Total Life," "Malachi, God’s Unchanging Love," "Proverbs, Wisdom for Everyday Life," and "Psalms, Heart to Heart with God." Some of his other writings he contributed to include, "Christianity Today," "Journal for the Study of the Old Testament," and numerous more.
The purpose of "The Old Testament Documents," is to present the Old Testament to the reader the events, customs, places, and people are reliable. Did these people and customs really exist? Did these events really happen? Throughout the book, Kaiser shows that the Bible is reliable and should be taken as the Holy Word of God.
The second issue he wishes to address is the question, is the Old Testament reliable to the believer today? Is it still important? Throughout the book, the author shows the reader that the God of the Old Testament is the same now as He was then (Hebrews 13:8). Kaiser manages to reveal that the wisdom writings, the Torah, and the Prophets are all relevant today. We can learn from their stories and writings.
Kaiser’s ultimate goal in writing this book is to show that all 66 books, especially the 39 Old Testament books, are God’s Holy Word. Over the years, people have inexhaustibly tried to disprove the Bible and it’s claim of being from God. The author attempts to show that the Bible is God’s Word, and we should read what He wrote. To do so, Kaiser presents a book that shuts it’s critics and shows it reliability. It is accurate in every way possible. And, it still affects us. It can still teach us things after thousands of years. These two truths, hopefully, would prove that the Bible is what it claims to be.
Walter Kaiser makes it clear in whom his audience is. He tells us in his introduction that he is writing to students, seminaries, scholars, and critics. He wishes to write to the critics to show that they are wrong because the Bible is real and true, and should be taken as the Breath of God. At the same time, he wishes to strengthen the faith of the believers. To do so, he presents the Bible in a way to show that they are believing in what is right and true. In fact, Kaiser encourages any professionals and scholars to read his book. By making that challenge he shows his confidence in it’s contents. As a result, the believing reader has confidence in the writer and that he truly believes what he has written.
Kaiser begins his book with an introduction. Within the introduction, Kaiser reveals his purpose, audience, and thesis. The author then breaks the contents of the book into 4 sections. The first being a discussion on whether or not the Canaan of Scripture is reliable. With this first group he includes the discussion of how we got the Old Testament which consist of 3 chapters. Part 2 discusses if the Old Testament is historically accurate or not. Within part two, the six chapters are found. Next, part 3, the author takes on whether or not the Old Testament message is reliable. Here, Kaiser has three chapters. And finally, Kaiser ends his book with the question of is the Old Testament still reliable today? This question is answered in four chapters. In all, the book is 16 chapters, plus an introduction and an epilogue. Following this, he includes an glossary, author and subject index, and a scripture index.
Chapter 1 discusses three aspects of how we the Old Testament originated. To explain this process, he breaks it down into three sections; inspired utterances, inspired books, and collections of books. The first section, inspired utterances, addresses how the writers knew what to write down. The answer to this is that the writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit. On top of that, the writers do not hide the fact that they used other sources, Chronicles alone uses at least 75, so that they would be accurate and correct in everything they wrote down. Over 5,000 times in the Old Testament the phrase, "Thus says the Lord," is penned telling it’s reader that what they are reading is from God, and not man.
Secondly, how do we know that the books are inspired? First, as mentioned earlier, the authors used other sources, such as previously inspired books, while writing their book or psalm. In the case of Moses, he told the people not to add to his books because they were inspired by God, at least until Joshua added parts to the Torah. He even went as far as putting them by the ark of the covenant. Also, we know that God Himself wrote the Decalogue. Also, many of the writers quote books that were already considered inspired. For instance, Daniel quotes Jeremiah in his book. So we are able to know that those books before were already considered to be scripture. This refutes the thought that the early church decided what was inspired in the Old Testament and what wasn’t.
Finally, there’s the collection of the books. The first section is the Pentateuch, which is the first five books in the Old Testament, most likely written by Moses containing the Mosaic Law. Then there is the early prophetic books who seem to continue one story. The end of one book is the beginning of the next book. Next, is the psalms and proverbs. These are sayings and psalms collected over a period of many years. Finally there is the Nehemiah collection. This is debated whether or not to consider the account found in 2 Maccabees to be true or not, but, if true, it shows that Nehemiah had a collection of books that were considered inspired.
The next chapter discusses how we know which books should be considered in the Old Testament canon. The first question is, what do we mean by the word "canon." Canon in the Hebrew and Greek simply means a rod or measuring stick. But when we refer it to scripture, it meant to describe the books that considered to be inspired by God.
Next it’s discussed why some books are considered in the canon. The Roman Catholic Church, along with other religions, consider the 13 extra Apocrypha books as Scripture, whereas the evangelical Christian does not. But the main reason the 39 books were accepted after a period of time as they spread throughout the generations. Over time, the books were viewed as Scripture. For example, Daniel considered the book Jeremiah as Scripture, and Jeremiah treated Micah as inspired.
Finally, what are the evidences that the 39 books are the true canon. The main evidence, outside of internal evidence, is the writings of Josephus. Josephus’ claims about the Old Testament include all of the books in our current Old Testament. Secondly, there is the evidence that comes from the Dead Sea Scrolls written by the Essenes. Every Old Testament book is accounted for except for Esther possible because of the Essenes negative bias towards women. Then there is the apparent evidence of the Nehemiah library previously mentioned. With these, and more, it is possible to date the canonization of the Old Testament books to approxiametly 400- 350 BC.
The next chapter explores how well the Old Testament documents were preserved. To do so, it is broken down into three major findings of Old Testament manuscripts (mss). The first is the Masoretic Text which is probably the greatest of all three findings. The Masoretic Text is basically mss written very carefully by priest and scribes. They developed ways of checking and rechecking their copying to make sure that they writing exactly what Scripture said.
Secondly, there is the Samaritan Pentateuch. After being separated during captivity, the Samaritans were born who only follow the Torah. Those these documents are important, it should be noted that they did make changes in the Torah. The biggest change is that they added a new commandment to the 10 commandments, and combined two of them. The new commandment was that they must worship on Mount Gerizim. These mss date around the 2nd century BC.
Third and finally, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) have made a great impact on the quest for the accuracy of the Old Testament. Within the caves near the Dead Sea more than 800 scrolls were found containing every book of the Old Testament, except Esther. These scrolls were copied by the Essenes between 200 BC - AD 135. After careful study of these mss, it is noted that 60% of the contents match the writings of the Masoretic Texts, and those things that don’t match rarely make any doctrine changes to the book.
These great discoveries ultimately teach us that the Old Testament as we know it is accurate and, as far as we know, match almost precisely with the autographs. Ninety percent of all of the mss are in agreement, while the other ten percent have no affect on the meaning of the text
Chapter 4 talks about the reliability of Genesis 1-4. The first eleven chapters of the first book of the Bible have been in constant attack over the years, and a man name Hermann Gunkel attacked it greatly giving six problems with the book of Genesis. The first three are mentioned in this chapter. The first is the question of whether or not the things in Genesis come from oral tradition. It should be noted, again, that the authors of Scripture used sources, one of which could include oral tradition, including the writer of Genesis. Within these first few chapters we are given several hints of this.
Next Gunkel believes that historical events can’t accurately be told by the telling of specific families. This issue can quickly be crushed for several reasons. The first reason is that the Bible does not attempt to describe world politics or problems unless they deal with God’s people. That is the focus of the Bible. Secondly, we know much about this time period because of countless tablets found telling of the Hittites, Babylonians, and the Egyptians to name a few.
Finally, people ask whether or not the Genesis account is taken from other mythical stories. One of these, and probably the most popular of all, is the common parallels between Noah’s Ark and the Gilgamish Epic. There are many similarities and many point to the common occurrence of the opening of a window and letting a bird fly out. There are a few problems with this specific issue though. The main problem is that the earliest mentions of the Gilgamish Epic do not mention this event in the flood account. Also, those instances where it does are dated after the writing of Genesis, therefore it is probable to say that the Noah account was the original and not the Babylonian account.
Next, Kaiser discusses the reliability of Genesis 4-11 by addressing the rest of Gunkel’s objections to Scripture. The first objection raised in this chapter is whether or not the first eleven chapters of Genesis is scientifically factual. Those who deny that the Bible is without error first point out that the Bible records that iron was being used before what scientist believe it was. But, in short, archeology has proven otherwise. More than likely, iron was in use very early in civilization but somehow, possibly the flood, man lost the skill of working with iron.
Another objection of raised is that critics claim that the Bible says that the earth is flat, by pointing out that Bible says, "the four corners of the earth." But they neglect other verses that show that the Earth is actually round. Next, they are quick to point out the "Sons of God," and the "Daughters of men." They say that it is ridiculous to claim mankind mixing with angelic beings producing giants. Kaiser suggest another explanation. He says that it is a sociological mixed marriages from kings and aristocrats as they lusted after power and wealth. Finally, on the issue of science in Genesis 1-11, they say that the possibility of the Tower of Babel. The facts show that there may have been a common language among all men and likely the Tower was a Ziggurat.
To end chapter 5, Kaiser discusses the literary form of Genesis 1-11. For the most part, these chapters are in a narrative form, not a poetic narrative, like many of the prophets. It does contain other literary forms, and they must be interpreted right, but for the most part, it is a narrative that tells of real people and of real events. In short, Genesis 1-11 is without error in every way possible. When everything is interpreted right, the Bible will be proven to be correct.
Next, Kaiser moves on to the issue of whether or not the patriarchs are historically accurate or not. To do this, he looks at the life and culture of the patriarchs and sees if it matches what has been found. The most noteworthy archeologist are Albright, Gordon, and Speiser. Together, they have proven the fact that everything recorded on the patriarchs are accurate. For example, we are uncertain in the exact location of Sodom and Gomorrah and the other three cities that were destroyed, but evidence has shown some cities covered with ash suggesting that they were destroyed with great fire and brimstone, thus, matching the Biblical account. Also, the names of the patriarchs match the kind of names that match that time period. The same can be said of the different places mentioned in Genesis 12-50. Finally, archeologist continue to show that the account of Joseph in Egypt was accurate and true. Evidence of similar stories, the great drought that extended to Canaan, and other things help show us that the story of Joseph is historically correct.
Chapter 7 asks the question of whether or not archaeology can prove that the Bible is reliable? To answer this questions, Kaiser breaks it down into three section; missing persons, missing peoples, and missing places. The first category, missing persons, discusses the people mentioned in the Bible in whom for a long time, remained undiscovered by archeologist. One of these persons is Belshazzar. For a long time, archaeologist and historians believed that Nabonidus was the king during the fall of Babylon. In a way this is true, but, in fact, Nabonidus had left the kingdom and left his son Belshazzar as king, thus, proving the fact that Belshazzar was ruling at the time of the fall of Babylon.
The second category, missing peoples, again, shows the reliability of the Old Testament. One of the most famous missing peoples is the Hittites. For years, people said that there were no such people group called the Hittites. But, in 1906, they were proven wrong when thousands of clay tablets declare the existence of a nation called the Hittites, a nation found in the Bible. Similar to the Hittites, many doubted that there was a peoples called the Horites, but, once again, there has been archaeologists who have proven otherwise.
Finally, Kaiser discusses missing places. One of the more famous places is called Ophri who was wealthy and came in contact with King Solomon. Like the previous issues, many doubted that the Bible was wrong on this account of this nation. But, as time continued, the town was found, along with evidence that they had great wealth, similar to that of the Biblical account of Solomon’s contact with the nation.
The next chapter discusses whether or not the exodus and the conquest of the land of Canaan can be historically proven. This is a very long and difficult process that can be confusing at times. To sum it up, there have been many different views on the Biblical account of the wall of Jericho. Many archaeologist have studied the site and came up with different conclusions, but the most likely solution parallels itself with the Biblical account. In the case of the exodus, many claim an earlier date than that of the Biblical account. But as archaeologist look at different pieces of evidence, they begin to affirm the Biblical account. The city of Ramases, the pharaoh at the time of the exodus, how Canaan fell, who conquered the land, and many other things must be taken into considerations. Ultimately, as time continues, the Biblical account will more than likely be proven to be true, just like everything else in the Bible.
Chapter 9 explores if the Old Testament kings chronologies were correct. There have been many to attempt to sort out all of the information that is given to us in the history books, but Kaiser uses Thiele primarily. Thiele has been the one scholar who has been able to line all of the information together, and has successfully showed that internal and external evidence show the reliability of the Bible chronologies. The first thing he did was figure out when Israel broke into two kingdoms, which, he concluded, followed the death of Solomon in 931/930 BC. The next problem he faced was the overlapping reigns, in which Kaiser mentions nine of them. The historical writings of the Bible constantly change between each kingdom frequently. But, at the end, Thiele showed that his study matched the findings of archaeological findings.
Next, we move on to whether we can trust the entire Torah or not. The previous chapters have covered much of the contents, but this chapter discusses the Torah as a whole. To begin, Kaiser mentions the Passover and Abraham. Needless to say, critics will do everything to discredit the Bible, but in the end, their efforts are futile. Then, Kaiser moves on to the problem with Exodus 6:3. It’s a long and drawn out discussion about whether or not God revealed Himself as Yahwe to the Patriarchs or not. Many theories of why are presented, but ultimately hours have been spent debated over such needless things that get us nowhere. Even with source criticism, no one has been able to logically disprove the Torah.
In chapter 11, Kaiser begins discusses the wisdom writings which include Proverbs, Job, Son of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes. Within these books, many sometimes break verses down into five collections, parallel, chiasmic, catchword, thematic, and inclusion. The theology of these wisdom writings can be found in Genesis 1 and 2 because God is seen as Creator and Maker of all things, thus we rely on Him for wisdom. Wisdom is not limited to any certain kinds of people and should be given by parents to their children.
The following chapter discusses whether or not the prophets can be trusted. Kaiser can only mention a few, but assures his readers that we can. The majority of this chapter discusses the prophet Jeremiah. Over the years, archeologist have uncovered a number of bullas. As we read and study these bullas, we are able to prove the reliability of the book of Jeremiah. In fact, we can go as far to say that we have the very fingerprint of Baruch. From there, Kaiser mentions the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel. Both are reliable for many reasons, namely their use of words and places mentioned. Finally, we can trust the prophetic writings because their prophecies have come true. Most discuss judgement or redemption of Israel, but also of Jesus Christ who fulfilled all of the prophecies.
Chapter 13 shows us how we can trust the Old Testament Narratives. One of the biggest questions people ask is how can we gain anything from a story thousands of years ago? Kaiser shows that throughout the Old and New Testament, teachers, apostles, prophets, etc. use narratives from the past to illustrate what they are teaching. We can do the same today. The best way to interpret these stories is to view the narrative through the eyes of the author. But some people say that you can’t declare something history if it involves a supernatural being, such as God. These critics are wrong because history has shown that the things in these narratives are historically accurate, and therefore should be considered as history. Also, we know that the writers of the Bible used sources, both from the Bible, and outside the Bible. This is clearly seen in Chronicles.
Next we ask the question, is the Pentateuch relevant today? To answer this question, one must understand that the Torah lays the foundation for the rest of the Old Testament because it shows the character of God and how He deals with His people. The law shows believers in God how to live and how to conduct themselves. Paul declared that the law was "good." These five books will be relevant forever for they were a foreshadow of the New Testament.
Understanding the New Testament would be difficult without understanding the law.
In chapter 15, Kaiser moves on to show that the Old Testament Prophetic writings are still relevant today. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that the prophets called for repentance. They called the people they were speaking to, to turn away from their sins, repent, and return to God’s calling. This teaching is continued in the New Testament. Secondly, the prophets urged social reform. Some of the Jews would love God, but neglect the poor, the hungry, etc. The prophets then, and now, call for believers to love God and to show love to those in need. Thirdly, the prophets had to announce coming judgment. But, one can not neglect the truth that they would include, and that is salvation. Every prophet preached salvation, just like ministers should preach today. Finally, the prophets would predict future events. Many of these prophecies would be fulfilled in Jesus, but there are many that refer to the end times, in which have yet come to past. Thus, these prophecies are very important as we wait for the Lords return.
Kaiser finishes his book discusses the relevancy of the wisdom books. One way they are relevant is by showing us the beauty and enjoyment of marriage and sex. This is seen the most in the book of Song of Solomon. Sex is beautify when performed within a marriage between a man and a woman. Also, the wisdom books show us the wisdom fearing the Lord. In addition to that, Psalms, especially, shows us the importance of praising God. Psalm 148 continues to tells us to "Praise the Lord." In short, these books teach us how to sing, pray, worship and many more.
These are things that all believers of all time have and will relate to.
Of all of the Old Testament books that I have read, this is probably the most practical and important one. The reason for that is because many Christians do not understand why we still have and use the Old Testament. Many assume that we can gain nothing from books written thousands of years ago, as if assuming that God has changed over the years. This book tackles wrong assumptions. Also, it reveals to the reader that the Old Testament text is historical, scientific, and archeologically correct. Therefore, it can be trusted as accurate and true.
While reading the book, the reader will not be confused on the basis of vocabulary. There are times when Kaiser uses Hebrew words, but always explains what they mean. Also, Kaiser presents all of the different opinions after carefully researching these views. But, at the same time, he reveals to the reader that those opinions in which contradict Scripture are wrong, thus, in turn, showing the reliability of the Old Testament. As a result, the author accomplishes his goal.
Walter Kaiser has written a book that can be helpful to all believers. But, baby Christians should probably learn more about the Bible and read easier curriculum first, then return to this book. This book would strengthen the ministry of Pastors and teachers, and encourage stronger faith in the Bible to all believers and even unbelievers. This book presents the Old Testament in a way that shows the ignorance of critics who fight against it reliability and relevancy.
The reviews that I came across were strikingly different from my own. The majority of reviews believe that the book is good for an introduction to the Old Testament, but it fails in different areas. One problem commonly mentioned is that Kaiser doesn’t go into much detail with each topic. After considering their views, I would have to say that I agree, but then one must realize that Kaiser’s purpose was not to go into great detail with every little issue. Kaiser does this in his book "A History of Israel." Here, the author goes into great detail all of the major issues surrounding the Old Testament. The reader must realize that Kaiser’s goal is prove to the reader that when they read the Old Testament, that they are getting the very Word of God. He desires to show that it is accurate and true, but doesn’t want to bore the reader in doing it.
The second thing these reviews mention is that Kaiser spends little time discussing the Old Testament. This statement, like the first, is true. Kaiser does spend much time on needless discussion that could have been omitted. Ultimately, I believe, Kaiser constantly reminds the reader the purpose behind each of his discussions. For example, he tells the reader that he cannot discuss every prophet in the Old Testament, but, he tells us, he will mention some of the major ones, and show that they are reliable. By doing this, the reader isn’t bored and able to stay focused. The portions of the book where the relevancy is discussed does seem to remove the reader from evidential study of the Old Testament because this is what Kaiser wanted. For a few chapters, after discussing archeology, Kaiser shows the reader what to do with the reliability of the 39 books. It’s one thing to know that they are true and reliable, but Kaiser wants to ensure the reader that they should be read. In his presentation, Kaiser explains why Christians should take the dusty Bible off the shelf and read it because it still applies to our lives today.
There are many who had critical thoughts toward the book, but all agreed that it was a good book and one that should be read by early students of God’s Word. The majority of them tell us that the information is good and important and shows the reliability of the Old Testament. What they forget is Kaiser’s purpose and reason for writing it. So in final word, the reader must understand Kaiser’s purpose and the fact that he limits himself as to not to bore or confuse the reader.