Jim Hamilton is Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and has an active blog that's on my personal daily-visit list. I know that, yet I keep thinking of Hamilton as an OT guy, because he's made particularly notable contributions in that area. For instance, Hamilton did a detailed, solid grapple/review of Sailhamer's recent opus. Before that, I knew him as author of God's Indwelling Presence, a book helpful to me in writing part of The World-Tilting Gospel.
However, in this terrific book, provided by Crossway for me to review, Hamilton's scope is as wide as the Bible itself. He sallies forth into the already-crowded field of those proposing a "center" for the Bible. Seminarians, particularly of the OT-phile species, will nod knowingly. They will recall the many previous propositions concerning the OT itself or the Bible as a whole, such as Kaiser (promise), Eichrodt (covenant), Terrien (presence of Yahweh), Martens (God's design), and so forth (cf. Hasel's discussion of the field as of 1991). In fact, Hamilton himself engaged the alternatives in a Tyndale Bulletin article in 2006.
In such a populous arena, does Hamilton's contribution stand out? My verdict is an unequivocal "Yes." What distinguishes God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment is a happy conjunction of various valuable features. I'll enumerate, then expand on some of them.
Sparkling and distinctive aspects of this book include:
- Literary quality.
- Lively engagement by the author.
- Clarity of conviction.
One might object, "I don't think Proverbs uses those words." True enough; but Hamilton reminds us here and elsewhere that tracing concepts is more than an exercise in word-study, and it takes more than plugging words like "salvation" and "glory" into a concordance/Bible software program to follow a theme out through Scripture.
Is this an inappropriate goal for a scholar? Affected, bloodless detachment may be de rigeur to many in the Academy, but I've often argued that personal engagement as a Christian academic is far from inappropriate. Look: worldviews are like belly-buttons. Everyone has one. Worldview controls all. To insinuate that one can write from a Weltanschauung-free perspective is a silly conceit, and Hamilton is free of it.
After laying his basic case, Hamilton sets out to demonstrate it by going through every book of both Testaments. In that way, this tome ends up being an extended argument, a Biblical theology of sorts, and a Bible survey. It is full, very useful, and satisfying.
What is more, Hamilton not only writes with clarity, but with style. He turns phrases memorably, seasoning with elements of irony and humor, as well as sharp conciseness. It is not only helpful and informative reading, it is good reading.
Who would profit from this book? Anyone who wants to understand the Bible better. If I were teaching through Bible books in survey fashion or in-depth, I would want Hamilton's opus on my desk. His summaries are as a rule masterful, he captures the flow of the book expertly, and he often brings out themes and patterns that, in thirty years of attentive reading, I hadn't noticed. As an added bonus, Hamilton's footnotes are a rich resource. The man reads encyclopedically, and his notes are direction-signs to other treasure-troves of fuller reference works. It's simply a goldmine.
Did he convince me, and does it matter? Hamilton absolutely convinced me that God's glory in salvation through judgment is a theme-complex that literally runs through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. I am not quite convinced, however, that it was a conscious driving force behind the writing of each canonical book. Maybe my brain is too small. But that truly does not matter a speck in terms of the value or usefulness of the book. Further, Hamilton does not do as some, flattening uncongenial details of books if they fail to further his thesis.
Do I have any quibbles with the book? Significant quibbles, nary a one. Minor ones, sure. The publisher was unkind to us old geezers in using such a small font on the footnotes — but at least they're footnotes, so I'm content to squint. I don't share Hamilton's exact interpretation of this and that, and find myself a good bit more on the not-yet side of the eschatological spectrum than Hamilton is. Our eschatologies may not be identical. So, we have the same marginal distinction that I experience in reading Spurgeon, Owen, Lloyd-Jones, Calvin, Machen, van Til, and a truckload of other brothers who have done me a world of good.
Honestly, we're talking hiccups in a hurricane of wonderfulness. I so profited from the way Hamilton carries forward the Seed-of-the-woman/seed-of-the-serpent conflict themes, keeps identifying intertextual relationships, and a hundred other ways. Heck, I even hustled to insert some interaction into my forthcoming (DV) Proverbs book. Now I'm going back through the book, adding note upon note to the treasures I've already transferred from this book to my BibleWorks notes.
Therefore, I recommend God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment unqualifiedly and enthusiastically. Five matches. You want a better grasp of the Bible's big picture as well as vital small details? Get this book. Dive in. Stay in. Once won't be enough. You will not regret it.
POSTSCRIPT for Kindlefolk: the terrific Kindle deal I mentioned in March is still in effect. Amazing buy.