Book Reviews

Book Review: The Elder Testament (Christopher Seitz)

Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: I receive a percentage of revenue if you buy from Amazon on my blog (at no cost to you).

The Elder Testament Chris Seitz Review

Christopher Seitz intends The Elder Testament to be a “theological introduction to the canonical unity of the Scriptures of Israel.” Christopher Seitz has written many books and commentaries over the years. He has spent a lot of time within the realm of critical methods on the OT, so he knows them in and out. In TET he doesn’t intend to do away with those methodologies, but to supplement them with a canonical reading of Scripture. The canon of Scripture, particularly the OT, provides much of the commentary we need on understanding the OT.

This book is a “commentary on critical method,” looking at various interpretations of the OT, such as canonical and theological interpretations (4). The “Elder Testament” is made up of 39 books which all tell the story of Israel serving the one true God. The ordering of the OT is important, even though it differs between the Hebrew (MT) and Greek (LXX) texts (think, in some ways, Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty or Goswell/Lau’s Unceasing Kindness).

All the Scriptures, both old and new, both “elder” and younger, speak of Christ. Here Seitz draws together old and new and examines the Trinity, wisdom, time and creation, Christ’s “speaking” in the letter to the Hebrews, and theophany. The OT is not old and outdated (how we often use the word “old” in English), but it is older than the New Testament. Yet this “Elder” of the two testaments speaks of Christian theology about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the New Testament authors drew upon it. 

There are three sections to Seitz’s book. In part one, he presents the perspective of reading the OT canonically and in part two shows how the Law, Prophets, and Writings are to be read canonically (chapters 9-11). Chapter five looks at how the book of exodus doesn’t give us all the details we wish to have. Who is the destroying angel (Exod 12:23), and who is the angel with God’s name on him (Exod 23:23-33)? Exodus doesn’t give us the details we want. Rather than trying to reconstruct what “really happened” and figure out the different sources, a canonical reading lets the gaps stand and, examining at the text as a whole, looks to see the God it represents. Chapter six looks at the fate of JEDP, and both chapters six and seven look at different textual uses of elohim and Yahweh. 

Seitz says part three “will introduce the reader to the ontological pressure exerted by the Old Testament texts that gave rise to the earliest expressions of Trinitarian reading in the Christian church, indeed before a formally analogous scripture arose bearing the now-familiar name ‘New Testament'” (7). What he means is that before there was an official “New Testament” that contained all 27 letters that we have in our NT, Christians would read the OT and see how it pointed to Christ because of what the OT is. Its canonical shape is one which speaks of God, his character, his work, his desire for mankind to be saved and image him, and it is fulfilled in Christ as seen in the NT. Because of what the OT is, Christians could read the OT and rightly show its fulfillment in Christ. Seitz looks at the Trinity, Proverbs 8, Ecclesiastes, Hebrews, and more.

Recommended?

Perhaps there will be some who would enjoy this. Maybe you’ve read Seitz’s other works and have been fascinated by them. Perhaps you are a scholar or a doctoral student researching the OT’s witness and influence as canon. Or perhaps you’re like the rest of us. Ironically, in his interview on the OnScript podcast, Seitz stated that he found the writings of his fellow college Ephraim Radner to be very difficult to follow. Yet personally, I found much of Seitz’s writing style to be confusing and convoluted. I simply couldn’t follow his line of thinking for much of the book. I often found myself rereading paragraphs and still not comprehending what Seitz was actually writing. I’m no genius, but if I couldn’t find this book relevant or interesting, the average layperson won’t either. Scholars and researchers may find interest here.

Lagniappe

  • Title: The Elder Testament: Canon, Theology, Trinity
  • Author: Christopher Seitz
  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press (July 15, 2018)

Find it on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baylor University Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

3 comments

    1. Thanks for your comment, Lindsay. It does make me feel a bit better. I’d seen others (Nate Claiborne being one) comment on two of his other books, and I wondered if he always writes that way. Unfortunately, it appears to be so.

Leave a Reply