Volume 36 - Issue 1
God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgmentby James M. Hamilton
Dr. James M. Hamilton is associate professor of biblical theology at the southern Baptist Theological seminary. He has recently contributed a number of seminal articles to the discipline of biblical theology, such as “The Glory of God in salvation through Judgment: The Centre of Biblical Theology?” TynBul 57 (2006): 57–84; “The skull Crushing seed of the woman: inner-Biblical interpretation of Genesis 3:15,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10 (2006): 30–54; “The seed of the woman and the Blessing of Abraham,” TynBul 58 (2007): 257–73; and “The Messianic Music of the song of songs,” WTJ 68 (2006): 331–45. Hamilton’s first book was published in 2006: God’s Indwelling Presence: The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments. His second book, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology, is the object of this review.
Hamilton argues that God’s glory in salvation through judgment is the major theological thread of the whole Bible. This canonically oriented metanarrative holds the literary corpus of the Bible (cf. daniel J. Brendsel, “plots, Themes, and responsibilities: The search for a Center of Biblical Theology reexamined,” Them 35 : 400–412). prior to discussing the core issues at stake, Hamilton provides the reader with an analytical outline and a strategy for reading the book (pp. 11–20; 29–30). in ch. 1, “Can the Center Hold?”, Hamilton highlights the following methodological issue in contemporary biblical theology:
seeking to exposit the center of biblical theology is necessary because many today question whether the Bible tells a coherent story. There are many who do not embrace the idea of a center for biblical theology and yet maintain that the Bible is coherent, but if the Bible tells a coherent story, it is valid to explore what that story’s main point is. (p. 39)
Hamilton’s hermeneutical axis is sought in the narrative of Exodus 34, where Moses asks to see the glory of the Lord who reveals himself as a God full of mercy and justice (see vv. 6–7). it is interesting to notice that according to the Jewish tradition, Exod 34:6–7 counts thirteen divine attributes (including the count of God’s Name). This notion attests to the centrality of Exod 34:6–7 in biblical and postbiblical theologies (see Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel [oxford: Clarendon, 1985]).
Hamilton carries out a detailed theological study of every single biblical book, thus arguing that the Bible has a Grundstruktur. The quest for one theological theme in the Bible is supplemented with some biblical subthemes, such as God’s covenant(s) with humanity, the underlying principle of God’s election, or the Lord’s holiness and “otherness.” All these subthemes are subordinated to the central theme of God’s glory majestically manifested through acts of salvation and judgment. Though Hamilton works out a single biblical theology, he opts for the Hebrew canonical division of the tanak (pentateuch, prophets, and writings). in respect to the Nt, he traces the same theological theme by following the canonical order of the Gospels, Acts, Letters, and the manifestation of God’s glory in salvation through judgment in John’s revelation (chs. 2–7). Finally, Hamilton tackles some of the major objections raised by biblical scholars and theologians to the single overarching theme of God’s glory in salvation through judgment (ch. 8). The book is supplemented with a selected bibliography and general and scripture indexes.
The book is an evangelical scholarly work that should be read by contemporary ot and Nt scholars likewise. The last chapter, “God’s Glory in salvation through Judgment in Ministry today” (pp. 565– 72), underlines some practical implications for Christian implementation. The systematic approach undertaken by Hamilton makes God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology an accessible and readable book for scholars and students likewise. Though much lends itself to further research and debate, Hamilton’s lively discourse with contemporary scholarship is a significant milestone in biblical theology. The study on God’s glory in salvation through judgment reminds us of the challenging quest for a center in the Bible. Thus, i highly recommend reading this monumental contribution to the mounting field of biblical theology.
Wycliffe College, University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada