In Part Three, [David] Strawn asks “What, if anything, can be done to prevent the untimely death of the Old Testament?” A major part of his answer, of course, lies in reintegrating Old Testament passages and themes into our preaching, teaching, public reading of Scripture. He also makes a helpful call for further training in Old Testament languages, not only for teachers and preachers, but also for ordinary believers ill-served by the New Atheists, Marcionites, and Happiologist prosperity preachers. Especially encouraging, to me, was Strawn’s compelling vision of Christian community where both testaments are valued, “equally yoked, as it were.” And he provides an excellent discussion of Deuteronomy, showing not only how the book shapes the rest of the Old Testament but also how it offers a model for teaching Scripture (repetition, practice, performing, and singing).
Yet I can’t help thinking that Strawn could have done more to emphasize signs of hope that the dying patient can be revived. For instance, I would have appreciated seeing Strawn comment on how Psalm 119 could motivate us to delight in God’s laws like riches (v. 14), to enjoy them like honey (v. 103), and to treasure them more than silver or gold (v. 72, 127). Strawn could have reminded people who love the Gospels about how Jesus, during his time in the wilderness, feasted on the Word of God and used it to resist Satan’s attacks—“Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4, Deut. 8:3), “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matt. 4:7, Deut. 6:16), etc. We have it on no less an authority than Jesus himself that Christians who ignore the Old Testament are starving themselves.
As a fellow teacher of the Old Testament, and one who has attempted to address some of the obstacles Strawn has observed, I’m deeply sympathetic toward his project in The Old Testament Is Dying. I’m committed to doing my part to bring the language of the Old Testament back to life. Part of me wonders whether most readers of this book will be like me, people who already love the Old Testament, making the book essentially a sermon preached to the choir. I hope and pray, however, that this is not the case. Because in the end, when we make a commitment to regularly read, teach, preach, and sing the Old Testament, we’re doing more than nursing a dying language back to health. We’re also connecting personally to a living God.