Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament
by Peter Enns
(Baker Academic, 2005, 208 pages)
Old Testament scholar Peter Enns deals with three aspects of Old Testament studies in this book: (1) the relevance of ancient Near Eastern literature for understanding the Old Testament, (2) the diversity of theological views within the Old Testament itself, and (3) the way that the Old Testament is interpreted by the authors of the New Testament. Enns is concerned to ensure that the text of the OT is allowed to speak for itself and that OT scholarship is allowed to shape and impact doctrinal formulation. In order to do this we must have some understanding of the parallels between the OT and other ancient Near Eastern texts, grasping the particular aims and methods of ancient historiography as important context for understanding the aims and methods of the OT authors. We must wrestle with the diversity of theological perspectives amongst OT authors, avoiding a simplistic synthesizing and allowing this diversity to cultivate patience and humility in our attempts to arrive at interpretive conclusions. Finally, we must allow the seemingly odd methods of the New Testament authors in interpreting the OT to shape our understanding of how the OT should be used.
For Enns, the best way to begin approaching the OT text on its own terms is by taking the doctrine of the Incarnation as a starting point, relating the nature of Scripture to the nature of Christ: “as Christ is both God and human, so is the Bible. In other words, we are to think of the Bible in the same way that Christians think about Jesus” (17). This allows us to take seriously the humanity and the contextualized nature of the OT without fear of dispensing with the OT’s status as an “inspired” text. I think that Enns does an excellent job of providing Bible readers with good conceptual tools with which to read well. As an experienced scholar writing for a more popular audience, he conveys the importance of engaging with the original contexts of ancient literature while still acknowledging that the modern reader’s own context does and should play its own part in the interpretive task. Enns is a scholar whose learning has cultivated a genuine sense of humility and generosity – essential characteristics for anyone seeking to read well, especially when significant cultural distance separates the reader from the text. Readers who follow Enns will find themselves better prepared to deal with the complexities of Scripture in a generous and patient way.