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Preaching the Old Testament: A Lectionary Commentary Hardcover – 16 Mar 2007


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About the Author

Ronald J. Allen is Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Preaching and New Testament at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is the author of numerous books about preaching and about the New Testament, including The Life of Jesus for Today.

Clark M. Williamson is Indiana Professor Emeritus of Christian Thought at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
First things first... 10 Jan. 2008
By FrKurt Messick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I must confess that when I first picked up this book, the title surprised me - `Preaching the Old Testament' is not a phrase I likely would have heard from either of the professors Allen or Williamson during my seminary days with them, as the various implications of the word `old' reflect negatively on the text. I expected to see a discussion of this in the introduction or preface, but it wasn't there. Allen and Williamson do discuss many of the difficulties - that old often contrasts with new in a manner to imply supersession or antithesis, or that even drawing parallels, contrasts, and typological relationships have difficulties - but there is no discussion of use of a phrase like `First Testament' or `Jewish Scriptures' (which admittedly have issues of their own).

This is a commentary, like its earlier companions (`Preaching the Gospels without Blaming the Jews' and `Preaching the Letters without Dismissing the Law'), with an agenda and a context. The agenda is to reduce the not-always-latent tendency toward supersessionism in North American pulpits. This might require some explanation -- supersessionism is a 'big word' not many have encountered. Supersessionism in this context refers to the tendency of looking at Judaism and the Jews of the pre-Christian times as simple prelude and precursors to Christianity -- that the only 'value' of Judaism and studying, tolerating, etc. Jewish texts and ideas is as it relates to (and leads to) Christian texts and ideas. Authors Allen and Williamson (each friends of mine, if truth in advertising is to be maintained) hold that Judaism has an inherent value all its own, as a covenant from God that has not been broken or altered, but indeed is maintained and should be recognised by current and future Christian communities, the power of which often resides in the preaching.

Like the earlier volumes, the actual commentary section follows the Revised Common Lectionary, followed (more or less) by many churches in ecumenical agreement. Allen and Williamson are both academics and ordained professionals within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) -- however, this is a commentary that will have broad appeal. Just as the CC(DoC) church is one the most committed institutions to ecumenical intention, so too are Allen and Williamson dedicated to this broad approach, preferring to see that which draws us together over that which pulls us apart.

The commentary is user friendly. It is not footnote-heavy, jargon-laden, or obtuse and academic as many commentaries can tend to be. This is not a commentary written to impress other scholars, but intended for regular use by 'regular' preachers. To this end, the commentary on each of the Sunday lectionary pieces (three years in the cycle, each concentrating on a synoptic gospel, with John spread throughout in various places) as well as some special days (Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, etc.) is but one to one-and-one-half pages long. Each commentary can be read in a five to ten minute span; for the regular preacher concerned with time, this is a real god-send. Best to read this commentary in advance of others, as it will inform the information of the others. It works most of its power through persuasion and gentle direction (a very process oriented approach, indeed). It is likely a repeat of familiar information, and provides new ways of thinking at the same time.

The commentary is tied to the lectionary, but not to any particular year or sequence. The preacher or reader interested could pick up the volume at any point (just as I have done) and begin reading and use from the particular Sunday now, and go forward for three years. At the end of this time, preaching (or, for the non-preaching reader, listening) will be transformed.

This book could also be used well for those who engage in Bible studies that are tied to the lectionary cycle, particularly if used in concert with the other two volumes of this series. The authors ask that readers keep an open mind when using the lectionary texts as to the relative merits of each piece - sometimes the passage from the earlier text might be more appropriate or theologically satisfying than the particular gospel or epistle passage with which it is paired. These books are offered, as Allen and Williamson write in their introduction, in the spirit of tikkun olam - `the act of mending the brokenness of the world so that people can live together in well-being, love, peace, and justice.'
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