Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament

Theology in the Service of Biblical Exegesis

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The Old Testament offers a rich palette of ideas, images, and narratives that help us unpack some of the more compact and opaque theological ideas of the New Testament. In conversation with both Christian and Jewish interpreters, prominent scholar Gary Anderson explores the exegetical background of key Christian doctrines. Through a deeper reading of our two-Testament Bible, he illustrates that Christian doctrines have an organic connection to biblical texts and that doctrine can clarify meanings in the text that are foreign to modern, Western readers. Anderson traces the development of doctrine through the history of interpretation, discussing controversial topics such as the fall of man, creation out of nothing, the treasury of merit, and the veneration of Mary along the way. He demonstrates that church doctrines are more clearly grounded in Scripture than modern biblical scholarship has often supposed and that the Bible can define and elaborate the content of these doctrines.


Part 1: "Who Is a God Like You?"
1. Apophatic Theology: The Transcendence of God and the Story of Nadab and Abihu
2. The Impassibility of God: Moses, Jonah, and the Theo-Drama of Intercessory Prayer
Part 2: "In the Beginning"
3. Creation: Creatio ex Nihilo and the Bible
4. Original Sin: The Fall of Humanity and the Golden Calf
5. Election: The Beloved Son in Genesis and the Gospels
Part 3: "The Word Became Flesh"
6. Christology: The Incarnation and the Temple
7. Mariology: The Mother of God and the Temple
8. Christology: Tobit as Righteous Sufferer
Part 4: "Conformed to the Image of His Son"
9. The Treasury of Merits: Faith and Works in the Biblical Tradition
10. Purgatory: Sanctification in This Life and the Next


"Gary Anderson is a rare creature among biblical scholars. A savant of the historical-critical method and a serious student of theology, he is also at home in the history of biblical interpretation. All three skills are on display in Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament, and readers will delight in tracking Anderson's march through the Scriptures with high theological concepts in hand. There is a freshness and originality here that few biblical scholars can match."

Robert Louis Wilken, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity Emeritus, University of Virginia

"In this profound and engaging volume, one of the keenest theological minds of our time explores the Old Testament foundations of major Christian doctrines with great respect both for Judaism and for the original context of the Scriptures he discusses. The book is a rarity in scholarship and a major achievement from which anyone with an interest in Christian theology or the Old Testament can profit."

Jon D. Levenson, Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies, Harvard University

"Creative, profound, even startling, these studies by Anderson open up fresh vistas for reading the Old Testament through the resources both of Jewish tradition and of historic Christian theology. A game-changing work of scholarship."

Walter Moberly, Durham University

"Modern biblical criticism has frequently sought to drive a wedge between historic Christian doctrine, especially Catholic doctrine, and the right reading of the Bible. Here Gary Anderson does more than show that rigorous critical exegesis and Christian doctrine can get along together, important as this is. His splendid achievement is to show, in one case after another, that a nuanced grasp of Christian doctrine actually enables us to read the Bible better than we otherwise could."

Bruce D. Marshall, Lehman Professor of Christian Doctrine, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

"Whether locating Mary in the Old Testament or seeing types of Christ in Genesis or Tobit, unlocking unexpected biblical dynamics of merit or uncovering unexpected hints of purgatory, this is radical work from a biblical scholar and theological master provocateur. For Anderson, the key to the biblical text lies in recognizing how it is that the Jewish Bible continues to function as Scripture for Christian readers ever since antiquity. Doctrine, he claims, has an uncanny way of unlocking exegesis. Allow yourself to be provoked!"

Markus Bockmuehl, Keble College, University of Oxford

"Part of Anderson's genius, along with a commanding prose style, is his generous capacity to mediate the best of a number of voices from different traditions. 'Sheol' is explained according to Levenson, Genesis 1:2 is made clear through Isaiah 60:19-20 according to Zakovitch, and ideas of figuration are set forth according to Seitz on Isaiah. But there is more--a calm, reasoned, yet strong voice that pursues an insistent theme: theology in the service of exegesis is the handmaiden to the apostolic foundations of the church's faith and, behind that, Israel's. As he himself puts it, 'Jesus cannot speak in persona Israel if there is no vox Israel to assume!' After reading these essays, one feels better informed, better encouraged, simply better."

Mark W. Elliott, professor of historical and biblical theology, School of Divinity, University of St. Andrews

"Gary Anderson has long been among the preeminent Catholic biblical scholars in the world. Yet, if I am allowed to rephrase 1 Samuel, is Anderson also among the theologians? This sparkling book shows that the answer is a resounding yes, and Anderson is such precisely through his historical-critical exegetical mastery, enhanced by wide reading in the theological tradition. Here Catholic theologians can rediscover how the Old Testament, interpreted with deep sensitivity to its original contexts and meanings, should--and indeed must--function in Christian theological reasoning. Anderson luminously displays what it means to affirm that Scripture, and thus scriptural exegesis, is the soul of theology."

Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"Wow, Gary Anderson thinks that the Old Testament may help us understand Christian doctrine, and vice versa! What a marvelous series of studies, full of connections one hadn't made before and full of informative footnotes!"

John Goldingay, David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"In this deeply learned yet surprisingly accessible book, Anderson creates a dialogue between what many regard as incompatible pursuits: the close reading of biblical texts in their ancient settings and postbiblical theological discourse. He shows that biblical exegesis and the study of Christian doctrine, pursued with honesty and without preconceptions, can enlighten, enliven, and deepen each other. This book encourages dialogue in another important way: Anderson attends to doctrines of particular interest to Catholics, but he constantly draws on Protestant and Jewish thinkers. Anderson's catholicity of reading grounds and enhances his Catholicity in belief, even as both allow him to teach us Jews a good deal of torah."

Benjamin D. Sommer, professor of Bible and ancient Semitic languages, Jewish Theological Seminary

"Christine doctrine and the Old Testament is a topic on which few scholars write well. Often the simplistic nature of the interpretative models is as much cause for worry as for anything else. Not so in the case of Gary Anderson. Anderson's work is rich, wise, and theologically deep. He neither skates across the surface of the biblical texts nor gets down too far in the weeds. Instead, he weaves together exegetical insights with history and doctrine in a way that elucidates the inseparable intersection between biblical interpretation and ecclesial reasoning."

C. Kavin Rowe, professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School

The Author

  1. Gary A. Anderson

    Gary A. Anderson

    Gary A. Anderson (PhD, Harvard University) is Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana, and is a past president of the Catholic Biblical Association. He is the author or editor of more than ten books,...

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