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Posted January 6, 2011
Recommended for anyone interested in Biblical Theology.
With God's Glory In Salvation Through Judgment, James Hamilton has waded into the centuries-long debate concerning the center of biblical theology. Hamilton responds to many contemporary scholars who have abandoned the quest for a center to biblical theology with the thesis that God's glory in salvation through judgment constitutes that center. While the beginning and ending chapters discuss the nature of the debate, the greatest portion of the book "highlights the central theme of God's glory in salvation through judgment by describing the literary contours of individual books in canonical context with sensitivity to the unfolding metanarrative" (44). However one views the merits of positing THE central theme to biblical theology, Hamilton's chief contribution is in tracking THIS theme throughout the canonical texts. Hamilton makes a strong case that God's glory in salvation through judgment is, at the very least, one of the primary themes of scripture. A comprehensive biblical theology of this theme is therefore an important contribution towards balancing a big-picture understanding while studying particular books. God's Glory In Salvation Through Judgment could therefore serve as a "big-picture" reference tool to anyone studying the themes of God's glory, salvation, or judgment. Many proposed centers of biblical theology have sunk in the quicksand of the wisdom literature. While Hamilton's thesis sputters a bit in the wisdom literature, it fairs far better than many other purposed centers and remains viable. An example of this viability is Hamilton's observation that the book of Job addresses the "mysterious, hidden nature of the justice and mercy of God" (305). Hamilton's interaction with the Song of Songs is not as strong. He makes recourse to the serpent-seed motif of Genesis and the Song of Songs as a picture of the reversal of "the outworkings of the curses on the land and gender relations" (305). This understanding is problematic because the biblical writer does not employ many lexical links that would clue the reader into this intended connection. Although Hamilton similarly imports the serpent-seed motif of Genesis elsewhere, only in Song of Songs is it an important support for his thesis. The only other problematic aspect of Hamilton's work is he often seems to uncritically accept suggested chiastic structures when outlining a particular book. The most glaring example is in the book of Revelation (544). Although the questionable chiastic structure supports his thesis, in a book such as Revelation God's glory in salvation through judgment is so strong that even reservedly offering such a questionable chiasm detracts from his argument. The above weaknesses aside, Hamilton fastidiously avoids side issues and continually draws the data back to the proposed theme. The result is not only a strong argument but a cohesive work despite its large scope. Readers will benefit from Hamilton's contribution to biblical theology even if they are not fully convinced of his proposed center. Hamilton powerfully argues that God's glory in salvation through judgment permeates the canon of scripture.
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