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Item description for Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations by Walter C. Kaiser, JR....
Overview When discussing mission, it's easy to rely on the New Testament and overlook the importance of the Old Testament. Kaiser corrects this tendency by focusing on the missiological importance of the Old Testament and explaining its missionary message.
Publishers Description This capable treatment contends that the missionary mandate does not begin with the Great Commission, but runs through the entire Old Testament.
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Publishers description for Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations...
This capable treatment contends that the missionary mandate does not begin with the Great Commission, but runs through the entire Old Testament.
More About Walter C. Kaiser, JR.
Walter C. Kaiser Jr. (PhD, Brandeis University) is president emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and at Wheaton College. Kaiser is active as a preacher, speaker, researcher, and writer and is the author of more than forty books, including "Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament" and "The Majesty of God in the Old Testament".
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. (born 1933) is an American evangelical Old Testament scholar, writer, public speaker, and educator. Kaiser is the Colman M. Mockler distinguished Professor of Old Testament and former President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, retired June 30, 2006. He was succeeded by James Emery White.
Kaiser was born in 1933. He earned his A.B. from Wheaton College, his B.D. from Wheaton Graduate School, and both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis University. Until 2006, he served as president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS). Previous to his appointment at GCTS he was academic dean and Professor of Old Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he taught for more than twenty years. In 1977 he served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society. A recipient of the Danforth Teacher Study Grant, Kaiser is a member of the Wheaton College Scholastic Honor Society.
Prior to coming to Gordon-Conwell, Kaiser taught Bible and archeology at Wheaton College and taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in several capacities. In addition to teaching in the Old Testament department, he was senior vice president of education, academic dean, and senior vice president of distance learning and ministries. Kaiser currently serves on the boards of several Christian organizations.
Kaiser has contributed to such publications as Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Christianity Today, Westminster Theological Journal, and Evangelical Quarterly. He has also written numerous books, including Toward an Old Testament Theology; Ecclesiastes: Total Life; Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching; Hard Sayings of the Old Testament; Communicator's Commentary: Micah to Malachi; Leviticus in The New Interpreter's Bible; Exodus in the Expositor's Bible Commentary; The Messiah in the Old Testament; A History of Israel; and co-authored An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning.
Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. They have four children and seven grandchildren.
Walter C. Kaiser has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as a Light to the Nations?
Points Worth Pondering Jul 24, 2005
When did God first begin to send the news of Himself and His salvation to the four corners of the gentile earth? Wasn't it in the apostolic age, with Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles? In this book Kaiser goes back much farther. He says that God has always had a missionary heart for the whole world, and desired from the earliest Old Testament times for the whole world to know of the coming Man of Promise-and for Israel to be His active emissary in spreading that news.
Kaiser begins by pointing out that Genesis 1-11 is "decidedly universal in its scope and outlook." Israel was not yet in the picture, and God dealt directly with all inhabitants of the earth until finally choosing Abraham's line. Kaiser's contention is that God didn't forget the rest of the world when He chose Abraham. Instead, God was choosing Israel to be His light and emissary to the rest of the world. In Exodus, for example, God delivered Israel not only for their own benefit, but so that "the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD."
After this promising start, Kaiser looks at: -King David -the Psalms -the stories of Ruth and Naaman -Isaiah's Suffering Servant passages -Jonah, the minor prophets -and the apostle Paul
His studies of the PSALMS and the stories of NAAMAN and JONAH are the most instructive, original, and compelling. Kaiser examines Psalms 67, 96, and 117, showing that God's desire was for the whole world to recognize Him as the only true God. He points out such evangelistic declarations as: "I will sing to You among the nations," and "proclaim among the nations what [Yahweh] has done."
Likewise in the stories of Naaman and Jonah, Kaiser examines God's motive for telling these specific stories. Kaiser says of the Naaman story, "Why spend so much space in the biblical narrative to tell this story?...the divine revelation wanted us to see that Yahweh was truly calling all the families of the earth-even one's enemies-to the same Savior and salvation." Kaiser's exegeses of these two stories are not only insightful, but delightful! He explores them with the interest of a story-teller, in the process discovering God's heart for all nations. I was particularly struck by the contrast Kaiser drew between Jonah (judgmental, selfish, Israel-oriented) and God (merciful to the Ninevites, concerned for them, not just for Israel).
The book is more than worth buying and reading, if only for these three sections (Psalms, Naaman, Jonah; Chs. 2,3,5). Sadly, the rest of the book is less convincing. In his look at the Davidic promise, for example, he tries to show the promise of David's Seed was to be a "charter for humanity," taught to all nations. Unfortunately, "charter for humanity" is his own translation of 2 Samuel 7:19, which differs markedly from most accepted translations. This highlights an effort on Kaiser's part throughout the book to prove that Israel's message of salvation was strictly based on proclaiming a "Man of Promise." But his evidence is weak, as his example of Naaman shows: In one passage, Naaman says "Yahweh" rather than "Elohim." According to Kaiser, this proves a belief in a coming Messiah. In Jonah he also overlooks the fact that Jonah preached only a message of simple repentance.
This points to the book's greatest weakness-Brother Kaiser fails to address the verses and positions that might contradict his thesis. John Piper, for example, believes mission to the Gentiles did not begin until Pentecost, and points to some persuasive verses for this idea (i.e. Acts 15:14-18, Romans 16:25-27, Ephesians 3:4-10). Kaiser provides no rebuttal or explanation for these arguments, which are the majority position in conservative evangelistic circles.
In spite of these weaknesses, Kaiser provides a brief (75 page text) and valuable overview of the Old Testament with an eye for God's heart for mission. The writing is accessable, and the chapters on the Psalms, Naaman, and Jonah challenged me deeply to take a second look at God's heart. From the book I learned that the same God who so loved the world in John 3 was still so-loving the world back then. I'm not so certain that He commissioned Israel as an active outgoing agent for that mission, however.
From a student's perspective Jul 20, 2005
As a distinguished professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and accomplished author, it is clear that Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. has devotedly pursued many themes throughout the Old Testament. In his book, published by Baker Books in 2000, bearing the title Mission in the Old Testament, Kaiser strives to illustrate that the Living God of the Bible is predominantly a missionary God. Kaiser states the crux of his thinking in the introduction to Mission in the Old Testament. The thesis of this work is that the heart of God has always been for the salvation of all mankind, and that the good news to all nations was not meant to strictly be a New Testament doctrine.
It seems as though Kaiser has in mind as his target audience those who are fairly well versed in the discussion of mission in the Old Testament. While Mission in the Old Testament is a short work, it is deceptively so. In order to fully understand the depth of Kaiser's assertions one must do so with scripture in hand, and in order to refute any of Kaiser's claims one must have a solid knowledge of the original Hebrew.
Mission in the Old Testament is not a book for the freshman biblical studies student. Kaiser makes some very strong claims about the person and intentions of almighty God and His plan for humanity. It seems like intense study would be required to challenge his thinking because Kaiser does not support his statements in a way that is friendly to the layperson. He simply states the way the Biblical texts should be interpreted and does not spend much time on the reasoning of opposing opinions. For example, he does not discuss to any satisfying extent why these prophetic statements in the Old Testament should not simply be applied within the new covenant. He talks about the Servant of the Lord (Christ) and the servant of the Lord (Israel), as mentioned throughout Isaiah, but this seemed to be a difficult sell and could have used more support. Kaiser squeezes his appeal for a missionary minded God into a scant 67 pages of analysis.
Overall, Kaiser's arguments needed more time to develop. I felt like I was being rushed through a six point lecture. However, the reason that I desired more structure and support for this thesis is because I personally agree with it and would like a stronger position to defend. I suppose Kaiser opens the door and directs the reader to paths of further individual study, but I worry that all but his opponents will take the time to do so. It seems clear that the Lord of all creation is willing that all should come to a saving knowledge of Him, and this can be seen in numerous examples throughout both testaments. In a western Christendom that is so heavily dispensational I would delight in a text that proved solidly that God's behavior and plan toward man is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Whether or not God wanted the Israelites to be active missionaries makes little impact on my responsibilities and the way I live my life. However, when conversing with non or young believers I anticipate more confidence in explaining the mysteries of the Old Testament. In this way Mission in the Old Testament was a useful text. I especially appreciated the attention given to Naaman and Jonah and the way their lives seem to prove God's heart. I am sure I will never fully understand an unfathomable God, but Mission in the Old Testament has helped to justify what I know of the New Testament God and the God that intercedes in my life, with the image of God in the Old Testament.
An excellent primer and discussion-starter Jul 21, 2004
Clearly, Kaiser did not intend for this little tome to be the last word on the issue. What it is, instead, is a brief introduction to a relatively novel way of thinking about an important theme in biblical theology. Those who discredit this book for its lack of depth fail to realize that Kaiser was not writing for other scholars but for pastors and laymen who have not spent enormous parts of their lives learning languages and jargon.
This is one of the very few cases in which a novel belief is not the result of applying one's own cultural blinders to Scripture, I am happy to report. The result of reading through the OT after this book was somewhat like reading the NT after getting through one of E.P. Sanders' works on the "New Perspective" - I saw things I had never noticed and made connections which previously eluded me.
Buy the book, even if you are like me and have spent a large portion of your life learning languages and jargon. If nothing else, it beats watching network television for two or three hours. ;)
General Treatment of OT mission texts May 21, 2004
This short book treats a variety of familiar Old Testament passages in order to show that "mission", as bringing the message of salvation to unbelievers, was not an innovation of the New Testament church. Kaiser shows the Old Testament precedent for mission and how this led into the mission theology in the New Testament. His book tries to show that the nature of mission in the Old Testament was centrifugal (outward going), rather than centripetal (inward drawing). The few examples he cites, most notably the prophet Jonah, are good, but even after reading the book it remains difficult to see the nation of Israel as a whole actually acting in "centrifugal" mission. Nonetheless he does a good job of showing how the prophets and the Abrahamic covenant set the stage for the worldwide mission that occurred after Christ's ascension. The book is a very cursory treatment of the most significant OT passages on mission, and is by no means exhaustive, but it would serve well as an introduction to Old Testament mission.
A Christian Approach to Jews and Gentiles Sep 1, 2001
The thesis is that the goal of the OT is to see both Jews and Gentiles come to a saving knowledge of the Messiah who was to come. The story begins in Genesis 1-11 where God is a 'God all Nations' (or ethnic groups) and the election of Israel as a kingdom of priests in Exodus provides the basis for the NT doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Gentiles who benefit from the outreach of the grace of God include Melchizedek, Jethro and Rahab, and Naaman is an example of a Gentile conversion. The message finds its climax in Second Isaiah and Paul's mission to the Gentiles which was of course rooted in the OT.
Readers content with an uncritical account of the OT reflecting traditional conservative hermeneutics will enjoy reading it and preachers who begin where Kaiser begins will find helpful ideas. Scholars and serious students may question whether it is possible to adopt such a blanket approach to the phrase 'God of all nations' and some who accept it will still wonder whether this makes Israel a missionary nation.