The OT in 7 Sentences? Really?
Wright, Christopher J. H. The Old Testament in Seven Sentences: A Small Introduction to a Vast Topic
The Old Testament is a big book by any means of measuring. The Christian Bible is about 77% Old Testament. It is nearly 900 pages in a thin-line Bible, and in a study Bible is over 1500. But more than page count, the OT (Old Testament, Hebrew Bible, First Testament, etc.) is immense in content, covenants, and theological texture. It can feel foreign, overwhelming, and disorienting. The cultural distance from 2021 to the days of Moses is often discouraging to modern Christians trying to read it. Add to it the contemporary (very modern) idea of ignoring the OT, and it is little surprise that many Christians ignore it at best and are ignorant of it at worst.
What if there was a book that helped Christians get the big-picture without sacrificing the richness of God’s word? What if I said that such a book could be funny, insightful, approachable, and by a reliable scholar? Well, Christopher Wright has done just that. I think he has written the best introduction to the story of the OT. Period. I have read many books on the OT and many introductions to the OT. But Wright’s is by far my new favorite.
Wright draws readers into God’s great story without falling into the Charybdis of pedantic details or the Scylla of watering down the message. Wrights easily brings readers into the wonderment “that is essentially what the Old Testament (and indeed the whole Bible) is—the great story of the universe” (p. 2). This wonderment is often lost on readers and books who focus on a particular theme, be it covenant, canon, creation, redemptive history, prophetic background, or otherwise. Wright explains well why the big story is essential:
“it keeps us attached to the way God has chosen to give us the Bible itself—not merely as a book full of promises, rules, or doctrines (there are plenty of these in the Bible, but these are not what the Bible actually is), but in the form of a grand narrative with a beginning and an ending (actually a new beginning) and the whole redemptive plot in the middle … it shows us just how important the Old Testament is and how utterly wrong, misleading, and dangerous are those who tell Christians that they can happily ditch the Old Testament. This idea, which has become popular again (partly through sheer ignorance of the Bible and partly because of some high-profile preachers saying so)” (p. 6).
As a pastor, I highly recommend Seven Sentences. The flow of the writing is excellent, and the message is remarkable. It teaches the OT in ways that I believe it was intended to be taught and is much needed today. Let me end with one more great line. Wright rightly claims, “Looking at the Bible, we could say that Genesis 12–Revelation 22 is God’s long answer to the question set in Genesis 1–11: What can God do about the brokenness of humanity, the earth, and the nations?” (p. 35). If you want God's answer to that question and many more, you need the OT.
Rev. Dr. Chris S. Stevens
John Knox in Ruston