Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
GTJ 12:2 (Fall 91) p. 279
God With Us: A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, by Christoph Barth. Edited by G. W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991. Pp. 403. Cloth.
Christoph Barth, the second son of Karl Barth, devoted a significant part of his life to the theological education of Indonesians. For two decades this volume has been widely used as a textbook in Indonesia, in expanded form. Barth’s death forestalled his translating his writings into English. Through the efforts of Geoffrey Bromiley and Barth’s widow this abridged English version is now available to the West, posthumously.
The author’s approach to the subject reflects his commitment to “listening to the text”—a commitment which does not always guide the systematic theology technique. Obviously oriented more toward biblical theology, Barth has “patiently allowed the Old Testament to surface many of its own concerns, issues and emphases.” This results in the identification of nine theological issues, which constitute the book’s nine chapters: God created heaven and earth; God chose the fathers of Israel; God brought Israel out of Egypt; God led His people through the wilderness; God revealed Himself at Sinai; God granted Israel the land of Canaan; God raised up kings in Israel; God chose Jerusalem; God sent His prophets. He arrived at these as the significant issues of the Old Testament on the basis of two criteria:  they have “significant resonance in the OT literature,” [p. 6],  they “appear as items in the confessional summaries of history in the OT” [pp. 5,7]. The use of such criteria in “doing theology” demonstrates Barth’s predisposition to the text.
Provocative in certain respects because of Barth’s selections and methods, God with Us engages the reader in the contemplation of elements of divine activity that are frequently passed over as commonplace. The chapter titles and the respective discussions combine to remind the reader constantly that the Old Testament is much more than a series of interesting stories; indeed, it is a theological presentation of divine, revelatory activity. Furthermore, in a rather straightforward manner, the writer makes the point that God’s activity, as encountered in the Old Testament, was concentrated upon Israel and her ancestors. This latter point, however, does not lead to a bifurcation between the “testaments;” the author’s discussions demonstrate his devotion the unity of scripture.
An impressive characteristic of the book is the writer’s ability to correlate and integrate biblical data—legitimately. This is true both with respect to the assimilation of the scriptural witness to each of the subjects and with the demonstration of the interrelationsh...
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