"Today's Christians know that they do not, as their ancestors did, live in a society where God's presence was unavoidable. No longer does Christianity form the moral basis of society. Many of us now reside in secular communities, where arguments drawn from the Bible or Christian revelation carry no weight, and where we hear a different language from that spoken in church." That is the opening salvo from author Dinesh D'Souza in his new book, What's So Great About Christianity.
D'Souza's book is written, at least in part, as a response to the frontal attacks on Christianity launched by figures such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris. He writes with a clear and uncluttered style and his arguments should attract considerable attention.
D'Souza chides believers for taking "the easy way out," sheltering themselves in Christian intellectual enclaves rather than engaging the issues. They live separate secular and sacred lives without recognizing that this is incompatible with the Gospel.
Here is how he sees the challenge:
This is not a time for Christians to turn the other cheek. Rather, it is a time to drive the moneychangers out of the temple. The atheists no longer want to be tolerated. They want to monopolize the public square and to expel Christians from it. They want political questions like abortion to be divorced from religious and moral claims. They want to control school curricula so they can promote a secular ideology and undermine Christianity. They want to discredit the factual claims of religion, and they want to convince the rest of society that Christianity is not only mistaken but also evil. They blame religion for the crimes of history and for the ongoing conflicts in the world today. In short, they want to make religion – and especially the Christian religion – disappear from the face of the earth.
In fact, the new atheists are frustrated that belief in God has not passed away. They had great confidence that the theory of secularization would promise a new secular age, with belief in God relegated to humanity's past. Nevertheless, this isn't happening. Europe may be overwhelmingly secular, but Americans are still a deeply religious people -- even if this does not represent an embrace of authentic Christianity.
Meanwhile, traditional religion is growing all over the world. The world is not becoming more secular, but more religious in a myriad of forms.
D'Souza sees this in his own personal story:
I have found this to be true in my own life. I am a native of India, and my ancestors were converted to Christianity by Portuguese missionaries. As this was the era of the Portuguese Inquisition, some force and bludgeoning may also have been involved. When I came to America as a student in 1978, my Christianity was largely a matter of birth and habit. But even as I plunged myself into modern life in the United States, my faith slowly deepened. G.K Chesterton calls this the "revolt into orthodoxy." Like Chesterton, I find myself rebelling against extreme secularism and finding in Christianity some remarkable answers to both intellectual and practical concerns. So I am grateful to those stern inquisitors for bringing me into the orbit of Christianity, even though I am sure my ancestors would not have shared my enthusiasm. Mine is a Christianity that is countercultural in the sense that it opposes powerful trends in modern Western culture. Yet it is thoroughly modern in that it addresses questions and needs raised by life in that culture. I don't know how I could live well without it.
The continent of Europe is now the great exception -- the secular continent. D'Souza explains:
Then there is Europe. The most secular continent on the globe is decadent in the quite literal sense that its population is rapidly shrinking. Birth rates are abysmally low in France, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Sweden. The nations of Western Europe today show some of the lowest birth rates ever recorded, and Eastern European birth rates are comparably low. Historians have noted that Europe is suffering the most sustained reduction in its population since the Black Death in the fourteenth century, when one in three Europeans succumbed to the plague. Lacking the strong religious identity that once characterized Christendom, atheist Europe seems to be a civilization on its way out. Nietzsche predicted that European decadence would produce a miserable "last man" devoid of any purpose beyond making life comfortable and making provision for regular fornication. Well, Nietzsche's "last man" is finally here, and his name is Sven.
D'Souza's strongest analysis comes when he considers the true character of the new atheism. It is, he suggests, a "pelvic revolt against God." In other words, it is a revolt against Christian morality -- especially sexual morality. This is not a new observation or argument, but D'Souza makes it exceptionally well:
My conclusion is that contrary to popular belief, atheism is not primarily an intellectual revolt, it is a moral revolt. Atheists don't find God invisible so much as objectionable. They aren't adjusting their desires to the truth, but rather the truth to fit their desires. This is something we can all identify with. It is a temptation even for believers. We want to be saved as long as we are not saved from our sins. We are quite willing to be saved from a whole host of social evils, from poverty to disease to war. But we want to leave untouched the personal evils, such as selfishness and lechery and pride. We need spiritual healing, but we do not want it. Like a supervisory parent, God gets in our way. This is the perennial appeal of atheism: it gets rid of the stern fellow with the long beard and liberates us for the pleasures of sin and depravity. The atheist seeks to get rid of moral judgment by getting rid of the judge.
D'Souza's argument here is very insightful. These atheists are not so much struggling with intellectual doubts but feel limited by moral constraints. They are repulsed by the very idea of divine judgment, so they get rid of the Judge.
Christians will find Dinesh D'Souza's latest book to be both interesting and helpful. His apologetic model is G. K. Chesterton, and he writes with a similar style and verve. I found his argument that Christians should embrace evolution while rejecting Darwinism to be unconvincing and unhelpful. The dominant model of evolutionary theory is just as atheistic and incompatible with Christianity as classical Darwinism.
Nevertheless, the book is filled with interesting and helpful arguments offered by a Christian intellectual who is heavily engaged in the great battle of ideas. What's So Great About Christianity is a helpful addition to our public debate.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
"Jesus did not in any real sense bear the sin of some ancient Briton who beat up
his wife in BC 56, or some mountaineer in Tennessee who got drunk in AD 1917. But he did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins."
- Religious Bigotry
- The Combination of Graft and Political Power
- The Corruption of Justice
- The Mob Spirit and Mob Action
- Class Contempt
These six things are the social evils that killed Christ, "not by imputation, nor by sympathy, but by direct experience." It just a shame that Biblical writers like Isaiah didn't agree (read Isaiah 53:4-6 for example)
Just by looking at this list, one can see how Rauschenbusch gives a voice to modern liberals. The six things he list are still being used and attacked today. It seems that the Social Gospel and Socialism are indeed members of the same family. Both affirm and reject so-called "religious bigotry," "political power," and "class contempt," that is, that the rich are evil and only do evil things while the poor are struggling without any hope.
Within all six of these social evils, there is a level of truth to them. Put to rejected the orthodox, and Biblical, doctrine of imputation and claim that these things are what put Christ on the cross is nothing short of heresy.
If Jesus, the son of God, could not overcome these social evils, how can we? We are hopeless. Why should we even try? To Rauschenbusch, the social gospel, if played out the way he would want, leads to an utopia (a false idea that rises out of a false understanding of sin). I must ask where this utopia is if Christ cannot overcome such societal evils? The reader is left feeling doomed to despair, not encouraged of his erasing of orthodox imputation.
As I was reading his treatment on the atonement, I knew this element was coming: Jesus' death is the ultimate affirmation of His loving spirit. In other words, Christ's death was more about giving up everything for the sake of others and to showcase His love (however you define it), not to save sinners. This argument is still used today. He writes:
"The Life of Jesus was a life of love and service. At every moment his life was going out toward God and men. His death, then, had the same significance. It was the culmination of his life, its most luminous point, the most dramatic expression of his personality, the consistent assertion of the purpose and law which had ruled and formed him."
By going in this direction, Rauschenbusch completely overlooks what put him on the cross (for one, he has already redefined that, as we have seen). What put Christ on the cross was God's wrath on mankind. What Rauschenbusch and fellow liberal "Christians" is that by giving up everything for such wretched sinners, God's love is understood to be even greater than this redefinition of the cross.
What else can explain God's great wrath and, at the same time, His mercy upon the sinner? Only that God is just and righteous. Because He is just, He cannot overlook sin. For who would want a God that overlooked the crimes and many sins of Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, or any other mass murderer or rapists? We wouldn't! Therefore, God's wrath is mandated. If God is holy, then He must punish sin. And He punishes every sinner that has rebelled against Him.
But what about redemption? How does that fit? By pouring His wrath upon Christ on the cross, we can be forgiven. Whenever we trust Christ, God places that wrath on Jesus on our behalf. Therefore, out of His great love for His creation, He has redeemed us and we will dwell with Him for eternity.
Only with a full understanding of God's wrath, and where Christ stands as mediator between us and God's wrath, can we fully understand God's great love. Rauschenbusch, and others like him, erase this grand picture of God's love by turning the cross into something it wasn't. Until we see ourselves driving the nails that punctured Christ, we will never fully understand what real love is.
Jesus did not die because He was a nice guy, but because our Great God of love put Him there for us. Now that's a love story you won't find anywhere else!!!
THE CROSS AND IT'S AFFECT ON SINNERS
Rauschenbusch finishes his discussion on the atonement by asking the question, how does the atonement affect men? The orthodox answer is that it redeems their wretched souls, that is, those who come to Christ in repentance and faith. Rauschenbusch has a different answer. In fact He has three:
- "It was the conclusive demonstration of the power of sin in humanity."
- "The death of Christ was the supreme revelation of love."
- "The death of Christ has reinforced prophetic religion" - by this he means that true Christianity isn't about being religious (like a priest), but rather experiencing God (like a prophet).
And that's it. That's all that Rauschenbusch has to say concerning the atonement. Needless to say, he missed the purpose of the cross entirely. Because of his reinterpretation of sin, he has turned the cross into a sympathy piece, and not a humbling piece. In other words, by Rauschenbusch's definition of the atonement, we are left to exclaim,"what a shame, that Jesus of Nazareth could really have accomplished a lot if his life had been taken away at such a young age" (Rauschenbusch actually suggests that if Christ had lived another 30 years, He would have set up the Kingdom of God, and he defines it, and would have overcome these social evils,), rather than looking upon the cross, beating our chest and crying, "O what a wretched sinner I am."
Such a redefinition of the atonement is damning and neither redeems the soul, nor society. Rauschenbusch misses the fact that society cannot change until individuals change. Looking at the cross as an unfortunate event changes no one's heart, because their soul remains torn. But looking upon the cross and seeing Him bear our sins, breaks our heart and redeems our souls. From there, the true Christian can do nothing but be obedient. If Christ gave up so much for us, how could we not give up ourselves for others.
That's the formula for societal change, and Rauschenbusch's approach and redefinition falls far short of that!
Thursday, November 15, 2007
"It is important to realize that the story of the fall is incomparably more
fundamental in later theology than it was in biblical thought...The original
purpose of the story was not to explain the origin of sin, but the origin of
death and evil...The prophets were deeply conscious of the sins of men, but they
did not base their teachings on the doctrine of the fall." -pg. 39-40
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived
"We have the impulse to live our life, to exercise our freedom, to express and
satisfy the limitless cravings in us, and we are impatient of restraint. We know that our idleness or sensuality will cripple our higher self, yet we want what we want. We set our desires against the rights of others, and disregard the claims of mercy, of gratitude, or of parental love. Our self-love is wrought up to hot ill-will, hate, lying, slander, and malevolence. men press their covetousness to the injury of society. They are willing to frustrate the cause of liberty and social justice in whole nations in order to hold their selfish social and economic privileges. men
who were powerful enough to do so have left broad trails of destruction and
enslavement through history in order to satisfy their selfish caprice, avarice,
and thirst for glory." -pg. 46
Monday, November 12, 2007
Modern liberalism is no different that the type of "Christianity" that Rauschenbusch offers. To him, true Christianity is about experience, not theology. If it makes you feel right, or if you think Christ (however you define Him) would do the same, then it is the godly thing to do. We must do away with commands from Scripture (unless of course they agree with what we feel), for they are outdated.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
This is the latest book, of many, that I have read of Dr. John MacArthur. Dr. MacArthur is by far my favorite current Bible teacher, pastor, and author. He has written many works of which have changed my life and impacted who I am as a minister and person.
In "The God Who Loves," Dr. MacArthur ventures into the pool of God's love, but he doesn't take you where most in pop Christianity does not expect.
What is perhaps most thrilling about this book is how he approaches the subject of God's love. It isn't happy-go-lucky. Not at all. In fact, a good bit of the book looks at God's love in the lense of his wrath, justice, and judgments. MacArthur argues that we cannot understand God's love until we understand his wrath. And that is so true. He goes on to add that by only focussing on His love, as modern evangelicalism does, we can't really enjoy it as much because whenever we realize what we utterly deserve as sinful man, and besides all of that, God chose to save us nonetheless, then we can truly know how much God loves us. It is truly an exciting thing to think about.
Dr. MacArthur also answers many difficult questions that this subject brings up. Such questions include, "since God didn't choose everyone, He does not love those in whom He has not chosen, correct?" Also, "how could a God of love send people to hell?"
In all of these hard issues, the author provides Biblical answers with pastoral gentleness. It is truly a great read to dive into the text and find answers to these difficult questions. MacArthur does a wonderful job.
As you can guess, I highly recommend everyone to read this book. It is a great book, and should be read by all believers worldwide.
Though this book is profound and a classic in it's own right, it does have it's flaws. The main flaw in the book is that it is a book that is solely dedicated to the illustration of sheep, shepherds, and the like, and at times let's that override the Biblical text.
In other words, at times the author ignores context, wording, phrases, etc., in order to continue to describe how the vocation of a shepherd fits into the Psalm. This is very easy to catch if you are discerning enough.
For example, prior to opening the books pages, I had read the Psalm about 10-20 times. I did this in order to get the full picture of what David was trying to say. And as I worked my way through, I kept wondering how the author was going to continue to talk about raising sheep whenever David starts talking about sitting at the table and dwelling in the house of the LORD forever (vs. 4-6). Well, he continued the illustration, thus, robbing the text of it's original meaning.
Although this is an issue that really stuck out in my mind, there is much praise that the book deserves. The reader will clearly come away with a greater appreciation of this Psalm and what it means. Keller is an excellent writer with a profound insight that is very important.
Also, Keller uses the illustration of the text to apply to the readers daily lives. Remember, every Biblical text must be applied. Our first question after reading a text of Scripture should be, "what does this text mean. And how do I apply it to my life." Keller answers both of the those quesitons for us.
Overall, this is a must read for believers. What Christian doesn't love Psalm 23? Likely none. It has inspired, encouraged, and helped more people than anyone could count. And this is a great book that helps us understand why.
The authors break their book down into five parts. The first part discusses the importance of having a world view. One major emphasis here is that Christianity itself is a worldview, and therefore believers must understand what it is they believe so that they can impact the culture with Christ. Also, as the rest of the book will reveal, the Christian worldview is the only worldview that stands up to test of truth, experience, and impact. That is why this book is so important.
The second part concerns creation. In order for a Christian to stand in a world of worldviews, people must understand where they came from. Darwin’s theory of natural selection has had massive implications. Everyone’s worldview derives from this critical issue. Colson manages to destroy the theory of evolution, and instead, reveal the truths of the Genesis account of God creating things ex nihilo. Creation is the foundation on which we must build our worldview.
Thirdly, what’s wrong with the world? Christians call this the fall. The authors reveal how the world has tried to create a utopian idea of this fallen world, claiming that man is ultimately good. Instead, one should understand that man is naturally evil, and only the grace of God can lead him to do good. Also, why is there evil and suffering in the world? The author’s answer is simple and precise: because the earth is infested with sin.
Fourthly, how can we fix this problem? There have many attempts at solving this riddle. The authors mention things such as sex, science, and the new age movement. All of these are unable to solve the question at hand. For example, science and evolution only lead to despair because it shows that there is no hope. The Christian on the other hand, knows the answer to the riddle: Jesus Christ. This is the only thing that can redeem the individual and the society.
Finally, how do we restore society using this worldview? This is the longest and the most practical of the five sections. The authors provide several areas in which Christians can be involved in to change our culture. They include education, politics, sex, true science, crime, media, and many other things. In order to impact our society, we must be infectious in these institutions. And, as they reveal, the way to solve these issues is found only in the Christian worldview.
In terms of critical evaluation, I am very impressed with this work by Colson and Pearcey. Throughout its pages, they not only reveal what the Christian worldview is, but show how Christians can impact our culture. No page is wasted and should go unread.
One of my favorite sections of the book concerned creation. In my opinion, the authors build a strong case against evolution. They reveal the inconsistencies, both scientific and logic. But in addiction to that, they show how a denial of Intelligent Design really shapes a person’s worldview. Everything they believe in begins at creation, thus, showing how critical it is for the
Christian to know what the Bible says about this issue.
Also, I liked the discussion on redemption. The two authors manage to reveal the futility of our societies attempt at solving the problem. People like Kinsey try doing it by sex, whereas many others try to do so by science, which only leads to despair. As a result of these futile attempts, many have turned to Eastern thought and the New Age movement, but even these are futile.
Only the Christian worldview has the power of redemption.
Overall, like Total Truth this is a must read for all Christians. It will help them understand what they believe, and how they can impact their culture. One important note they make is that even one Christian can have a major impact in our society. It is not only theological and logical, but it is also practical, reaching the heart at the real issues in our society.
The first step is to "find the right person." Here, Hollywood teaches that we should just keep our eyes open, and one day we will magically find the person that we were meant to marry and fall in love with. The second step Hollywood proposes is to "fall in love." After finding the right person we simply fall into love. This takes place by constantly thinking about them, buying them gifts with money we don’t have, and do silly things all in the name of "love." "In the Hollywood formula, love is based on chemistry, not knowledge or character."1 As a result of this, many people marry the person that they have "fallen in love" with in a matter of weeks or months.
The third step in this formula is to invest all of the dreams, plans, and hopes on that person. Because "love" is based on feelings, falling in love comes unexpected and unplanned. Therefore, at this point, the person may forget previous commitments (one possibly being marriage). Also, if two people aren’t filling as giddy and excited around each other, then they are "falling out of love." As a result, they can move to step 4. Finally, when "love" has failed, the individual is to start the process all over beginning at step 1. This is why people have had five wives, three step-children, and so forth.
So, what are the results? Does this type of relation seeking guide helpful and flawless? No! The divorce rate in our society is skyrocketing every year. In 1996, over 18 million marriages ended in divorce. Why? Because the "feeling" (what is called love) is no longer there. So we are led to go to step 4, and when he/she’s "love feeling" ends, we can move on to the next person. Also, the aftermath of divorce is haunting. Thirty percent of divorced women live under the poverty level. On top of that, the effects on the children continue through the rest of their lives. Here lies one of the main reasons for why young adults wait so long to get married: they are afraid that the end result will be like that of their parents. As a result they wonder, why make such a commitment that ends in hurt and shamefulness.
In the end, the reader must understand that God weeps to see his creation go through such sin. God wishes to help, and does help if we will follow his way of building marriage relationships. Marriage is a life time commitment, not just a passing feeling.
Chapter 2 - The next chapter in the book is written in story form. Chip Ingram recalls a time in which he taught a course to divorced men and women. He reveals to them that their main problem with their relationships is that they follow the Hollywood format. As already discussed, many follow the Hollywood format and the end result is disastrous, but God has a different plan. His formula is the complete opposite of the media’s. In God’s eyes, relationships should not begin with the physical aspect and end with the spiritual, but there should be an agreement in spiritual matters first, and the rest will follow.
Chapter 3 - Chapter 3 picks up where the previous chapter left off. What are the four Biblical steps for a lasting marriage? The first is, instead of finding the right person, we are to be the right person. To do this, we must "imitate" the love that God has for us. God’s love is forgiving and unconditional. The second step is to walk in love, whereas, Hollywood teaches to fall in love. This means that we are to give our spouse what he/she needs and not always what he/she wants. In short, love is sacrificial and seeks for what is the best for the spouse.
Step three is to "fix your hopes on God and seek to please Him through this relationship."2 (Ingram, 57). Hollywood says to put all of your hope and dreams into that one person, whereas God teaches to put our focus on Him. With this understanding, the couple seek to please God, and by doing that they will live up to His standards. Living by God’s standards prevents a lot of problems, and solves those that arise. The last and final step is like Hollywood’s last step: if the first three fail, then start over to step one. In Biblical sense, the couple begins at step one still a couple. In the media’s format, divorce and breakup are easy options, but in God’s eyes, marriage is a life long commitment.
Chapter 4 - The next chapter discusses the three types of love. The first love is eros love, in which we get our English word Erotic. Eros love is simply love that is romantic and passionate. This type of love should only be acted out within a marriage relationship. The second type of love is phileo love. This type of love is simply brotherly love. Though a person should want to be the "lover" of the other spouse, it is vital that they are also friends. Love based on sex and feelings will not last. But a relationship based on friendship and romance will strive much longer.
Finally, there is agape love, which is unconditional love. This love does what the other two can’t. Agape love will make sacrifices for the other. Walking in the park, letting them control the TV remote, etc. Also, this type of love never gives up. Marriage is a life long process and agape affirms this. When one understands these three types of love, they are ready for the marriage relationship.
Chapter 5 - Chapter five consist of twelve test to see if a relationship is based on true love or just infatuation. The first test is the test of time. Also, there is the test of knowledge, focus, singularity, and security. Then, there’s the test of work, problem soling, and distance. The last four test consist the test of physical attraction, affection, stability, and the test of delayed gratification. Combined, these test will reveal the truth about a couple "love."
Chapter 6 - The next chapter explains the difference between love and sex. Chip writes that many people confuse the two words to mean the same. If you love someone, you should have sex with them. This is totally wrong. To illustrate that, he gives three examples of the dangerous aftermath of couples who got the two confused. He also returns to Ephesians 5 to explain the difference. It is made clear the apparent dangers of immorality, impurity, and course jesting. To prevent such sins in which Paul warns, he tells us to gives thanks to God for the relationship we have. Doing this prevents future problems in the relationship. It is hard to be interested in someone else, whenever we are so thankful for the one we have. This chapter, I feel, is one of the most important and practical ones so far, and the true stories make you realize that sexual sin hurt, and the effects can last a lifetime.
Chapter 7 - Chapter 7 is titled "Why Only One?" But really, this chapter echoes the theme that despite of past sins, relationships, and situations, God forgives. That is why Jesus died on the cross, so that we can be forgiven and live Holy lives. He ends the chapter speaking directly to different people. The first group are those who are single and not in any relationship. He says to set yourself apart from any possible relationship and begin deciding where to draw the lines, and to get right with God before plunging into a relationship. Then he rights to those in a dating relationship. He writes that if they have crossed the line, then they need to resolve the problem. This may include not living together until marriage, not being alone, and other ideas. Finally, he tells those in a marriage that is falling apart because of sexual sin. He tells them to get counseling, and though they may feel like the relationship is over, God can heal the wounds of their marriage.
Chapter 8 - The next chapter helps the reader know how to not break God’s commandment when it comes to sex and love. The first step is to "develop convictions."3 This basically means to make the personal commitment to remain sexually pure until marriage. This conviction is a commitment from the heart. This first step is essential in order to succeed at the other steps.
The second step is to think about the consequences of sexual sin. At the beginning of the chapter he gives a list of dangerous effects as a result of this sin. They include obviously disease and pregnancy, but also, statistics tell us that a relationship that plays with sex before marriage will likely fail. Also, married couples who have waited for sex usually have better and more satisfying sex. These are just some of the consequences that someone should ponder before having sex before marriage.
Thirdly, we should pre-decide our actions. This includes knowing where to draw the line, remove yourself from tempting situations, keep from watching certain movies, telling bad jokes, looking at magazines, etc. After that, we can go on to the final step, and that is to have an accountability partner. For many, it’s hard to remain pure and faithful without someone encouraging you. So, by having a partner to hold us accountable, we are better able to "say yes to love and no to second-rate sex."4
Chapter 9 - To sum up the next chapter, I would say that it was about the end result of doing relationships God’s way, and what a blessing it is. He tells the story of when he went to a couples home and saw the genuine love the two had for each other, and how important God was in their marriage and family. Chip tells the readers to Wake Up and be a man or woman desiring to remain pure until marriage. Towards the end of the chapter, Ingram writes specifically to any virgins who may be reading. He simply says that virgins aren’t weird but very wise.
Chapter 10 - The last chapter of the book is about how to start the second sexual revolution. The difference between this revolution and the one in the 60's is that this time it’s all about God. In this chapter he gives insight on how to do this. They include modest apparel, devotion to God, right decision, courtship, and may more things. The overarching theme is that the revolution can not happen unless we live contagious lives that the world can see. This means changing both the internal and external. Once the world sees that God’s way is the best way, then it’s only a matter of time.
Following his education, he became a professor at Wheaton College, where he taught Archeology and the Bible. From there, he moved onto become 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, "The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable," "Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament," "Revive Us Again: Biblical Insights for Encouraging Spiritual Renewal," "Toward Old Testament Ethics," 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.
"My hope is that this work may stimulate the interest of many others to press on in our research of the historical understanding of the people of this land and book."1 The way Kaiser accomplishes his purpose is by giving the reader plenty of material to work with, encouraging them to study the topic and it’s debates for themselves. One is quick to realize that the historical accuracy of Israel is a broad topic and many have dedicated their lives to studying it. The reader can tell while reading his book that Kaiser has a desire to better understand and prove the perfection of God’s Word.
"Our approach will be to take the Bible on its own terms, just as we have taken all the epigraphic materials from the ancient Near East as reliable - until they were proven to be otherwise."2 Throughout his book, Kaiser is consistently using the evidence that is before us and comping it to the Holy Bible. He makes sure to cover even the smallest of details in the Bible and the archeological evidence. Likewise, Kaiser is sure to mention all of the major views on a certain topic, so that the reader can decide for themselves. By doing this, the reader is quick to see the historical, archeological, scientific, and geographical perfection of God’s Word. Kaiser, by all means, is not bias towards the Bible, instead he treats all information and evidence with equality, thus, in the end, emphasizing the truth about Scripture.
It is evident from the beginning of the book, that this isn’t a discussion for new Christians. Instead, it is for those who desire to know more about the people of Israel and how God dealt with them throughout the Old Testament and up to the Intertestamental Times in great detail. Walter discusses all of the major archeological evidence that relates to the Biblical account found throughout the Old Testament. So his audience would include archeologists, Pastors, and Seminary students.
The basic structure of "A History of Israel," is found in the table of contents. The book contains thirty - one chapters broken down into nine different parts. Each part contains different sections of Israel’s history. For instance, Part 5 is titled, "The Monarchy."3 This part of the book describes the reigns of Saul to Solomon. Kaiser begins his publication with the list of maps found throughout the chapters, along with a preface, abbreviations, and an introduction. At the end of the book Kaiser includes an index and bibliographies.
Walter Kaiser begins his book by mentioning different fallacies argued on why critics say that an accurate history of Israel is impossible. Fallacy one is that in a scientific world, it is considered a myth to consider something a fact if it is miraculous, or supernatural. The second fallacy is that nothing can be considered history if it’s without external evidence. Some scholars take this as far as not beginning the history of Israel until external documentation can support what they are saying. Therefore, they may not begin until the time of the judges or David and Solomon.
Another fallacy declares that focusing on a certain individual’s life cannot accurately portray the nation. The problem with this is that, though the narratives do seem to focus on one person, they discuss how this person affected Israel and how Israel reacted to this person’s decisions, leadership, etc.
Chapter 2 covers the geography of the Bible lands. The land mentioned most in Scripture is Canaan where the promise land was located. The earliest account we currently have of Canaan is from a letter from Mari during the reign of Amenhotep II. Also, there’s Galilee and central hill country. The central hill country and Galilee contain many of the lands we find throughout the Bible such as Megiddo and Samaria, Shechem, Dothan, and Tirzah. Kaiser then mentions the Jordan Rift Valley, or Biblically known as Arabah. What’s interesting is that the Jordan Rift Valley has a fault line that seems to divide the Valley between the Transjordanian highlands and the hill country. Another important Bible land would be the land of Egypt, which was where the people of Israel were in slavery for 400 years. Also, Mesopotamia, is an important Bible land with occupants from the land of Ur, Sumerians, and the Akkadians.
Next he moves to tell about the different periods that surrounded Israel’s history. The first period is the Paleolithic Age (or "Old Stone"), which can be broken down into three time periods which are the Lower Period, the Middle and the Upper Period. Archeologists have discovered that the "great geological Rift Valley system was carved out at this time,"4 as was the industry tool of chipped stone, and the famous site of Abu Khas, located in Jordan. The next age is the Neolithic Period in which the advancements that took place was considered a revolution because man stopped relying on hunting and fishing, and started to farm and started domesticizing animals. Finally, there’s the Early Bronze Age. This age is broken down into Early Bronze Age 1, 2, 3, and 4. In the Early Bronze Age, international relations began. Some of the evidence of this is found with the connections between Canaan and Egypt where they, among other nations, began trading. One of the interesting features during this period is the growth of many cities. Dan, Megiddo, Hazor, Qedesh, Lachish, and others find their beginnings during this period.
Kaiser mentions that the Patriarchs begin with the story of Abram and as a promise fathered the second patriarch, Isaac. Before the birth of Isaac, Abraham, through Hagar, gave birth to Ishmael, who is now the father of the Arab nations. After Isaac comes Jacob (or Israel), who becomes the father to twelve sons who become the twelve tribes of Israel, the most famous being Joseph, the last patriarch. Kaiser explains what life was like during this period. He mentions Kenneth Kitchen who explains that the average payment for a slave, like Joseph, was from ten to fifteen shekels of silver. The Bible also tells us that the patriarchs were shepards and, according to the evidence and Scripture, camels, which are mentioned fifteen times in Genesis 24, were domesticated. Therefore, the patriarchs, more than likely were not Nomads.
Kaiser now focuses on the life of Joseph, who was the favorite son of Israel, and therefore, his brothers hated him and sold him to Midianite travelers who sold him as a slave in Egypt. What’s so interesting about this story is that it is very similar to the Egyptian story called "The Tale of the Two Brothers," Though the two narratives are similar, there are strong contrast that tell us that the two aren’t the same story. While in Egypt, Joseph is given the Egyptian name Zaphenath-Paneah (Genesis 41:45) and married a woman named Asenath, who was the daughter of Potiphera. Though archeologists haven’t found the city, Genesis tells us that the twelve tribes of Israel settled in the land of Goshen. Here in Goshen, the people of Israel grew to be great in number and eventually became slaves.
Chapter 6 discusses the man known as Moses. The issue covered here is who was the pharaoh who "did not know about Joseph?" (Exodus 1:8) The possible answers to this question is that it could be Amosis, who is often rejected for several reasons. Another possibility is a leader of the Hyksos who overthrew the Egyptian government. This would explain the meaning of Exodus 1:9-10. Therefore, since it probably wasn’t Amosis, it would leave Amenhotep I (1546 - 1526) and Thutmose I(1526 - 151) as the possible leaders of Moses childhood. At best guest, Moses’ birth was estimated to be in 1526, the year in which Amenhotep I died and Thutmose I began to rule. It is speculated that the famous woman leader, Hatshepsut was the king’s daughter who was bathing when she discovered the basket with Moses in it. As he grew up in the Pharaoh’s palace, Moses was given the best education possible, therefore, he knew enough to lead the people in the wilderness.
Next we begin to study Moses confronting the Pharaoh, the ten plagues, and the Exodus from Egypt. Some critics try to give credit of the ten plagues to nature, saying that there were comets falling from the sky, a volcano exploded, and other explanations. But what they cannot explain is why did some of the plagues not affect the land of Goshen, where God’s people dwelled? At any rate, each plague was a direct assault on the Egyptian’s false gods and religion. God was proving a point, and that was that their gods weren’t a match for the One True God.
Following the plagues, the Hebrews began their exodus. The problem with the Exodus is dating it. There seems to be much silence in the Bible and in archeological finds to answer all of our questions. Eugene H. Merrill says, "Is it not more reasonable to assume that the reason for the silence is that all interior Canaan was in Israelite hands by this time except Shechem and Jerusalem, the picture given by the Bible itself?"5 This seems to be the best and more likely conclusion.
Chapter 8 discusses all of the events surrounding the time when Israel was at Mount Sinai and where it was located. Some say it is located in Jebel Halal, Hala el-Bedr, Gebel Serbal, but more than likely it was Jebel Musa. Here on Mount Sinai, Moses receives the Ten Commandments, ceremonial laws and the Sinaitic Covenant. This covenant seems to mirror other treaties, but the Covenant contains many differences. From there, the Israelites traveled from Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea. So far, Israel has been in several battles and were victorious the majority of the time. As a result, the king of Moab, Balak hired Balaam to put a curse on Israel, but Balaam became useless. The most famous event contributed to Balaam was the story of his talking donkey, but, in the end, Balaam was dead after an attack on Moab, while Israel marched on.
Chapter 9 includes the narratives of the conquest. Some of the archeological evidence of Joshua 1-11 is found in "daybooks." Though they don’t mention Joshua, one will notice the striking similarities. Kaiser compares the first six chapters of Joshua with the Annuals of Thutmose II, showing the parallels of the two accounts. Next he discusses the story of Rahab and how she aided the Israelite spies helping them get into the city. Roland de Vaux doesn’t believe that this story is accurate, but Kaiser quickly refutes de Vaux, giving evidence on why he is wrong.
What’s worse is the false conclusions of M. Noth and W. Rudolph. They believe that the account wasn’t a story but a Canaanite group called the "house of Rahab" that survived with Israel after the fall of Jericho. Like de Vaux’s beliefs, Noth and Rudolph theories are wrong, without question.
Next we move from Jericho to Joshua’s central campaign. The first location being the land of Ai. The Israelites conquered the land, but, of course, others reject that it was Israel that conquered the land. Most of these critics give the credit to Egypt, but there is a fallacy in there statement. The Eighteenth Dynasty in Egypt was simply not powerful enough to carry out such a campaign in Canaan because they were pursuing the Hyksos. So the only candidate left would be the people of Israel. After that, Joshua begins his southern campaign to finish taking over the land promised to Abraham. However, before they could, their ally, the Gibeonites, ask Joshua for help to defend their land, and Israel did so. Here we have the story of God making the sun stand still, as Joshua defeated his foes with the miraculous help of Yahweh. Finally, the Hebrews finished by winning their northern campaign, and after 40 years, God’s chosen people were ready to settle into the land they were promised.
The next section is a challenge because the book of Joshua is the only source we have that tells us anything during this time period. Here the Jews divided the land into each tribes allotments. Some were east of the Jordan River, Judah, Manaseseh, Ephraim, the cities of refuge, and the rest of the tribes. And at one point, civil war almost came to pass. The men of Gad, Reuben, and Manaseseh returned home and erected an altar at the Jordan River. The other tribes thought that this was an alter for false gods, and refused to allow this in their new kingdom. Before war broke out, Phinehas and ten others gave the three tribes a chance to explain themselves. When they did, the rest of the tribes excepted their explanation and peace remained in Israel.
The first issue in chapter 12 is finding the connection between Joshua and the book of Judges. At first, the reader of Judges may think that there is a contradiction, but in reality, there isn’t. It is odd that the death of Joshua is mentioned three times in Joshua 24:29, Judges 1:1, and 2:8. The reason, despite what critics say, is that there’s a transition from the book of Joshua to Judges.
The book of Judges includes 13 judges from Othniel to Samuel. It is uncertain exactly how long the period of the Judges last because some of the Judges overlap with other Judges. Kaiser relieves any confusion at what the word "Judge" means in the book of Judges. Here, judge means to command and so the Judges aren’t professionals at law, but were leaders that led the people of Israel out of captivity, and ruled over them for some time. The judges were never appointed by the people but by God himself.
The first "commander" is the Judge Othniel who defeated the Mesopotamian Arameans. He died somewhere around 1310 BC. Next is Ehud, a left handed man, who killed the fat king Eglon, king of Moab, and ruled for 90 years. Next is the judgeship of Deborah and Barak. They lead Israel against Hazor. The focus of the story is on Heber who drove a tent peg into the head of Sisera, which ended the oppression in the north. Kaiser goes on to discuss the attempt of Abimelech to become king, which utterly failed, the judges Tolar, Jair, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson.
Chapter 14 tells of a possible "contradiction." The problem is that Samuel told Saul to wait for seven days for him to return to give him more instructions, but in the verses before that, Samuel tells Saul to "Do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you," (1 Samuel 10:7). This is an apparent contradiction and the best possible explanation is "a military challenge from Saul against the Philistine garrison at Bibeah would surely demonstrate his divine designation...Therefore, Samuel issues a second command...Thus...as soon as Saul has done what his hand found to do...Saul was to go immediately to Gilgal where Samuel joined him to offer sacrifices, consecrated him to the conflict that must surely take place, and gave him further instructions."6 Again, no contradiction is found.
Next we learn about Israel’s first king, Saul, son of Kish. The Bible’s first mention of Saul is when Samuel gives him three proofs that Saul would someday be king. Once he gets into office, Saul fails his first test of leadership, that is, to battle the Philistines. But soon, he tried to make up for his mistake by helping the people of Jabesh. Saul gathered an army of 330,000, the most since Joshua, and lead them to victory. Saul showed to be a great man of war and won many victories, but soon would begin to morally turn against God, and cause Samuel to rebuke him. In fact, God had already anointed David as king, and eventually Saul and his three sons would die in battle against the Philistines.
Kaiser goes on to tell that recently archeologist have found an inscription with the words "House of David,"a phrase found in scripture more than 20 times. Before this discovery, many doubted the existence of David, but the critics are now silent. David was anointed by Samuel which caused great hatred from Saul towards young David. Therefore, David had to live as a fugitive until Saul’s death. Throughout the time he was a fugitive, David did all he could to escape death, even if it meant he had to act as if he had gone mad. Eventually, Saul dies and David laments over the man who tried to kill him.
After the reign of Saul, David takes the throne. David, along with Solomon, was one of Israel’s greatest kings, by far, surpassing Saul. David’s reign is filled with what seems to be constant war with the Philistines, and at one victory, the ark of the covenant returns to Israel, and David dances in thanksgiving. Other wars he fought were with the Ammonites, Aram, Moab and Edom.
Next we learn of David’s domestic problems, probably David’s downfall. One problem is his son, Absalom, who rebels against his father and tries to take over him as ruler over Israel. In the end, Absalom is killed in battle when his hair gets stuck in a tree. Other problems include his affair with Bathsheba, and the results of that sin. Although David had many problems, he was still known as a man after God’s own heart, and Nathan prophesied to David that the Messiah would come through his line.
After David, Solomon becomes king. Solomon was gifted with great wisdom, and as a result, Solomon lead Israel to be one of the most powerful and richest nations at that time. Solomon also constructed the Temple, a sea port, stables, and other great building projects. Finally, Solomon began to ignore the law of the Lord.
Following the reign of Solomon, Israel divides into two kingdoms: Israel and Judah. It is hypothesized that at about 930-931 BC the nation Israel had spilt. The first four kings of Judah were Rehoboam, Abijaim, Asa, and Jehoshaphat. On the other side, Israel’s first few kings were, Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Omri, and Ahab.
Jeroboam, the first king of the northern kingdom, introduced pagan beliefs, and ignored God’s law. He reigned for 22 years and had a few construction projects as a result of heavy taxation. Rohoboam was the southern kingdom ruler, who, too, was a sinful king who built Asherah poles and even had male prostitutes throughout the land. By the last 12 years of his reign he improved by humbling himself. The two kingdoms were plague with various battles with each other, neither side gaining the upper hand over the other.
Chapter 22 covers the Omride Era which includes Elijah, Micaiah, and Elisha. King Omri made Samaria the new capital of his kingdom and is considered to be among on of the best ruins of Israel. Ahab, who followed Omri, reigned for 22 years and continued Omri’s building projects. Ahab frequently was confronted with the prophet Elijah of which were usually negative as a result of Ahab’s lack of spiritual dependance on God. Jehoshaphat was the complete opposite of King Ahab when it comes to spiritual maturity. Jehoshaphat was one of Judah’s better rulers. Other prophets included in this section are Joel and Obadiah.
Next comes the Jehu Dynasty. This dynasty was the longest of all of Israel’s dynasties. Jehu’s rule was filled with confrontations and losing the Phoenicians as allies after the overthrow of King Omri. Following him was his son Jehoahaz, and then Jehoash. On the other end Joash ruled over Judah and hated Athaliah because he stood in the way of becoming king. Following him came Amaziah, who was known for his battles against Edom and Israel. During this period come the prophets from the 8th Century which include, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Jonah, and Isaiah.
This chapter covers the great mystery of who was "So king of Egypt?" It has been theorized that it was Pharaoh Tefnakht I, Osorkon IV, or a place in Egypt. Nevertheless, "So" was called for help. During the reigns of Pekah and Hoshea, Israel fell to the Assyrians. The impact this had on Samaria was great and fulfilled the Deuteronomic Principle and the prophecies of Isaiah.
Assyria controlled Judah for 100 years. During this time, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, and finally Amon ruled over Israel. Jotham was a good Godly king that built important temple gates, enlarged cities, added the wall of Phel, and built towers and forts. A king that was a complete opposite of Jotham followed named Ahaz. He made images of Baal, built pagan altars, and sacrificed his son. But Ahaz’s heir, Hezekiah, returned Judah back to the Lord. Hezekiah is known to have rebelled against Sargon and Sennacherib. Following Hezekiah came the rule of Manasseh and Amon.
There is a great amount of archeological evidence of the events that take place in the Bible with Babylon. The prophets during this time were Nahum, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk, many of whom predicted the fall of Israel. A great tragedy hits Israel in the death of their king Josiah who was a man who desired to please God. After his death, Jehoahaz rules Israel, then, following him, is Eliakim and Jehoiakim, brothers of Jehoahaz, and finally Jehoiachin, Josiah’s grandson. It is here, in 597 BC, that the prophet Ezekiel was sent to Babylon. Finally, before the fall of Jerusalem, Zedekiah ruled, even though most did not consider him as their king. But, in the end, Jerusalem fell into the hands of Babylon despite the efforts of Jeremiah and the other prophets to lead Israel into repentance.
Next we begin with the murder of Gedaliah by the hands of Ishmael and the effects it had on the shambled nation. Here in Babylon, the Israelites were scattered throughout the kingdom to keep them from uprising. Babylon was a magnificent city and became one of the greatest in history under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar. Twenty - three years after his death, the Capital city of Babylon was destroyed into the hands of Medo-Persians. Other than Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon only saw 6 or 7 monarchs. Daniel 5 predicts that Babylon would fall that night. The Persians then began to control Israel.
In scripture, the books of Nehemiah and Ezra pick up when the king of Persia let the Israelites return to their homeland. It was Ezra’s job to see that the temple be rebuilt, and this took place in the second year of the reign of King Darius. There is one problem with the chronology of Nehemiah and Ezra. The issue is, according to the wording of scripture, when did the two books take place? It is probable, according to the evidence, that Ezra came first, followed by Nehemiah. Next, in the reign of Xerxes, comes the narratives of Esther, the only book that tells us anything about king Xerxes.
Now we venture into the Hellenistic age which was important to Jewish history. First of all, Jews began hating the Samaritans who were considered half Jew and half Gentile because of their mixing of the Gentile world. This period also introduces the Synagogue which was a place of worship, along with the Temple, that the Jews used. Also, we see the reign of Alexander the Great and his kingdom that follows. Alexander introduced the Hellenism to the Jews, who rejected its pagan customs. Following Alexander, comes the reign of Ptolemy and Seleucid, who were officials under Alexander who eventually ruled over Israel at different points of time. As a result of the Greek influence throughout Israel, most Hebrews could speak Greek better than Hebrew; therefore, the Old Testament was translated into the Septuagint (or LXX).
Eventually, Israel grew tired of rulers trying to turn them into pagans. Therefore, Mattathias
began to rebel against the Syrians. Eventually, due to his old age, he gave the leadership role to his son Judas Maccabee (the hammer), who rededicated the Temple that was desecrated by the King Antochus. The Jewish holiday Hanukkah celebrates this victory. After the death of Judas, Mattathias’ youngest son took over, followed by Simon Maccabees. At last, the Jews were free from pagan influence.
Finally, we come to the end of the book The Hasmonean line began with Simon and ended with Hyrcanus II in 63-40 BC. John Hyrcanus tried hard to please the Romans and, toward the end of his reign, gained control over Joppa. Alexander Jannaeus took control when Aristobulus died. What’s interesting about him, was that Jannaeus was taken from prison, and made ruler over the land. Like those before him, Jannaeus was able to gain control of more land for his kingdom that extended out to Philistine, Transjordanian area, and Egypt. Finally, Aristobulus II was leader, but didn’t really get to rule like his predecessors. He became a puppet of Rome, and eventually Pompey took control over the land. There, in 63 BC, Rome took control over Jerusalem, setting the stage for the promised Messiah to save the world.
Critically, I thought the book was first of all, well researched. Kaiser uses a great deal of books and archeological studies to back up what he says. In some chapters, he may quote over thirty different books and sources. Together the author uses three hundred eighty - one different authors as sources for research, thus, the reader will catch on quickly that they are reading a book that is well researched and well thought out. Therefore, the reader can be assured that the information found in "A History of Israel," is accurate and true.
The problem with this is that the book uses words and evidence that most do not understand. Most don’t know what "epigraphic" means or where Goshen and Tell Beit Mirsim are located. Without carefully studying the text, the reader will be lost and confused from the very beginning, thus causing it’s readers to reread sections, sometimes, chapters of the book to fully grasp what is being said.
On the positive end, Kaiser discusses possible contradictions in the Bible, and looks at it from all points of view which helps the reader to strengthen their belief about the inerrancy of the Bible.
For instance, he raises the issue of who killed Goliath? It is reported in 1 Samuel 17:54 that when Goliath was defeated by young David, that he "took the head of the Philistine, and brought it to Jerusalem; but he put his armor in his tent." On the other hand, the victor over Goliath is given to both David and Elhanan. So, who killed Goliath? Kaiser mentions that there are two possible explanations of this. First of all, Elhanan could be the name of the throne of David, but also, according to 1 Chronicles 20:5, Elhanan really killed Goliath’s brother. And after looking at the evidence, it should be concluded that the copyist of 2 Samuel made a total of 3 mistakes, he misinterpreted the words to make it sound like Goliath, not his brother, was killed by Elhanan, also he misread the word for "brother," and finally, he misplaced the Hebrew word, Oregim.
With this, and other possible contradictions, the Christian reader is affirmed that the Bible is Holy and is the infallible Word of God.
Walter Kaiser believed in the inerrancy of God’s Word, but he was not bias to certain ideas and beliefs, unless they could be proven wrong. For example on the section on "Solomon’s Building Projects," he mentions the theories of James B. Prichard, Israel Finkelstein, David Ussishkin, and Yigael Yadin and declares that due to recent archeological evidence their theory was wrong, even though their theories were accepted by many scholars. He treated each piece of evidence without bias and with equal importance. He believed that correctly interpreting external and internal evidence about the Bible, would prove that it is historically and factorially inspired by God.
I would recommend this book to those who are serious about knowing as much as possible about the historical account of God’s chosen people and aren’t in a rush to read it. If they are, they will dislike the book because it is so difficult to read. At times it is hard to follow due to the fact that there is so much evidence presented and words are used that the average church goer will not understand. So pastors, students, archeologist, and confident critics would greatly benefit from this book. The title doesn’t mislead the reader, the book literally discusses the history of Israel, from the Bronze Age to the Jewish Wars. A book like this proves why Christians should not worry whether or not the Holy Bible is the Word of God. We learn, through this book alone, that science, archeology, and criticism can not disprove the Scriptures.
Other book reviews agree that Walter Kaiser "has carefully researched this subject, assembled the facts, and conveyed his findings in a convincing narrative style."7 (http://christianbookstore.us/info.asp?ISBN=0805462848&Type=&Cat=&SubCat=) The majority of the reviews of "History of Israel," approve of the book discussing how it refutes all bias and critical outlook on the Holy Scriptures. One review says that "A History of Israel," "presents the most convincing proofs for the historical authenticity of the Bible."8(http://ascendmagazine.com/home/material.shtml) All of the Reviews compiled together are mixed between whether they like it or not. Some say that it is boring due to all of the information presented, while, on the other hand, some say that it was one of the best books written because of all of the facts. So it is really just a matter of taste. If one is interested in the specific facts about the Bible, they
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.