Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 47:1 (Spr 1985) p. 108
Christopher J. H. Wright: An Eye for an Eye: The Place of Old Testament Ethics Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983. 224. $5.95, paper.
While noting that no one had recently attempted to provide an overview of the field of OT ethics, both Christopher Wright and this reviewer simultaneously decided (without knowledge of each other’s work) to remedy this situation by making some programmatic suggestions without pretending to be comprehensive or exhaustive. The result? Now we have two seminal evangelical entries in this wide open field that has been so notoriously difficult that all have avoided the subject except for an occasional special study or several highly specialized and topically restricted academic articles. Therefore, it was with great enthusiasm that I welcomed the appearance of this volume. I have already led two seminary classes on OT ethics in reading and evaluating this text.
Wright acknowledges in his preface that he is more concerned with the social aspects of OT ethics and only in the last of his nine chapters does he look at personal or individual ethics. Moreover, his thesis, while difficult to grasp in all of its depth, is nevertheless clearly and graphically laid out in the triangles of his “paradigmatic interpretation.” Thus, almost in Marshall McLuhan terms, Wright announces that the medium (the social shape of Israel) was the message (or perhaps said more fairly to Wright, Israel was an integral part of history and not just a material by-product of their spiritual message [pp. 40, 43]). In his view, the ethical triangle of God, Israel, and the land is best measured from the angle of the land, i.e., “the economic sphere is like a thermometer which reveals both the spiritual temperature of the theological relationship between God and Israel…and also…her status as God’s redeemed people” (p. 59).
Wright’s goal is most commendable: “…no [Old Testament] text is [to be] dismissed just because it doesn’t apply to us…. [It is a matter] of seeing how it functioned within its Old Testament context…, which then in its wholeness is to be interpreted and applied [to us] paradigmatically” (p. 64). But he offers us “three complementary ways of interpreting and applying Old Testament ethical materials” (p. 88): paradigmatic, eschatological, and typological interpretations.
WTJ 47:1 (Spr 1985) p. 109
Since God’s relation to Israel in her land was a “deliberate reflection of his relation to [fallen] mankind” (p. 88) the contemporary church may use Israel’s institutions, social and economic laws as models for directing today’s ethical involvement in modern society (p. 89). However, while taking such correspondences seriously, the eschato...
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