Book Reviews

Book Review: Old Testament Theology (Paul House)

Paul House, Old Testament professor at Beeson Divinity School, has provided a clear understanding of the Old Testament’s theology (OTT) for Christians. In his first chapter, Old Testament Theology: History and Methodology, introduces the problems readers today face with reading the OT. Besides understanding the creation of the world, the creation of Israel, and God’s relationship with Israel and the world, the OT shows us that “pain and suffering” is “inherent in human life” (11). But God sustains and heals the hurting and judges the wicked. Yet the OT is not an easy read. It is long. It is, well, old. Its characters lived 3,500 to 2,500 years ago. Cultures around the present-day world are different enough, but the culture of Ancient Israel and the surrounding countries is far different from our own. What are we to think of God’s love and of his wrath? How were people saved? Now that we have the New Testament, do we need the Old? What does the Old Testament say to us today?

Then House presents a history of OTT. He acknowledges the various places one could start, but he begins with Johann Gabler, the “father” of the disciple of biblical theology (1787) and ends with Ralph Smith’s work on OTT (1993). House’s own methodology is that the OT is historical, and we have to take it according to its own terms (and not our own constructed histories). As a part of Christian theology, there has to be some connection to the NT. Yet House takes a canonical approach–how does the OT understand itself? He approaches the OT according to the Hebrew order, allowing for inner-canonical connections between the books. The theme House focuses on is “the Old Testament’s insistence on the existent and worship of one God” (56). However, House admits this isn’t the main theme, only a main theme.

This book is “God-centered, intertextually oriented, authority-conscious, historically sensitive and devoted to the pursuit of the wholeness of the Old Testament message” (57).

The titles of each chapter center around “the God who” does:

The God Who Creates – Genesis
The One God Who Delivers & Instructs – Exodus
The God Who Expects Faithfulness – Numbers
The God Whose Word Shapes History – 1-2 Kings
The God Who Enforces the Covenant – Jeremiah
The God Who is Worth Serving – Job
The God Who Defines Meaningful Living – Ecclesiastes
The God Who is Righteous Faithful – Lamentations
The God Who Protects the Exiles – Esther
The God Who Elects, Chastens Restores – 1-2 Chronicles

House walks us through each book, a few chapters at a time, finishing with a “canonical synthesis.” For example, in his chapter on Exodus, House summarizes the whole book in a few pages. He then summarizes the first part of Exodus (chapters 1-18) in one paragraph. Then breaks that down further:

  • Exodus 1-2: the God who sees and remembers,
  • Exodus 3-4: the God who reveals, calls and promises,
    • Canonical Synthesis: Moses’ call
    • Canonical Synthesis: Moses”I AM”
  • Exodus 5:1-15:21: the God who sets Israel free,
    • Canonical Synthesis: The exodus and divine deliverance
  • Exodus 15:22-18:27: the God who sustains the redeemed,

The canonical syntheses examine an aspect of the text in relation to the rest of the OT and often to the NT as well. Concerning the golden calf, House points us to Deuteronomy 9:11-21, 1 Kings 12:28, Ezekiel 20:8-9, and Psalm 106:19-23 as all mentioning the golden calf incident. It is often to remind Israel of their history and the destructive force of idolatry. Idolatry exchanges the glorious God for a grass-eating cow. God saves his people. The idols makes them blind.

*House’s book was first published in 1998, and though this book has a new cover, this is still the same book as the one published in 1998. 


If you’re a pastor, teacher, or any layperson, pick up this book. House presents a conservative approach that views the Bible through the lens of Bible. Scripture interprets Scripture. House has written numerous books and commentaries, has an excellent grasp of the OT, and is a clear writer. This is a hefty book, but don’t let that turn you away. You can read a few pages at a time while you read through the OT. House is a clear and trusty guide.


  • Author: Paul R. House
  • Paperback: 655 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (September 4, 2018)
  • Listen to Dr. House’s lectures on Biblical Training

Buy it from Amazon or IVP Academic!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. 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

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