The Debate Continues

Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, edited by Claus Westermann (John Knox, 1963, 363 pp., $7.50), is reviewed by Charles F. Pfeiffer, professor of Old Testament Literature, Gordon Divinity School, Wenham, Massachusetts.

The interpretation of the Old Testament and the relation between Old and New Testaments have been the subjects of lively debate since World War II. Claus Westermann has assembled fifteen essays, originally published in German, to provide a basis for discussion of these important themes. The contributors include the best-known names in German Old Testament scholarship: Gerhard von Rad, Martin Noth, Friedrich Baumgartel, Walther Zimmerli, Westermann himself, and a number of others.

Although the scholars differ among themselves at numerous points, they agree in insisting that the text of Scripture must be studied in the light of contemporary knowledge of history and philology. Westermann seeks to deal with two problems: (1) the relation between the story of the acts of God as testified to by the people of God and the history of Israel as seen by historical research; and (2) the relation of the Old Testament to the New Testament, particularly the search for a valid concept for establishing the unity between the two Testaments.

Zimmerli, writing the chapter “Promise and Fulfillment.” sees faith in Christ as an answer. While rejecting the idea that an apologetic proof for Christ can be derived from the Old Testament, he suggests that the believer may recognize in the Old Testament a book of genuine allusions to Jesus Christ. Rudolf Bultmann in his article “Prophecy and Fulfillment” is more negative in his conclusions. He affirms that the New Testament writers used the same exegetical principles ...

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