|Review: Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns|
|Written by Dr Rowland S. Ward|
|Sunday, 30 March 2008 00:01|
SPECIAL BOOK REVIEW
Inspiration & Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament
by Peter Enns
(Grand Rapids: Baker 2005) pbk. 197pp $19.95 ISBN 0801027306
Reviewed by Rowland S. Ward in The Presbyterian Banner, May 2006
This book is by the Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. [Enns has left the Seminary as of mid 2008.] He was also editor of the Westminster Theological Journal 2000-05. My initial knowledge of it came through a somewhat abrasively hostile review in New Horizons (the Orthodox Presbyterian Church magazine) last year, which I am surprised was published in that form. At the other extreme a positive, certainly non-critical, review appears in Evangelicals Now! (UK) May 2006, while Bruce K. Waltke of Regent College and Reformed Theological Seminary gives one of the blurbs on the back cover. I confess my own reading of the first few chapters was a positive experience, but as I went further on I revised my opinion somewhat. Let me explain.
In five chapters Enns outlines his vision for a more adequate appraisal of the OT. Chapter 1 (pages 13-22) suggests that adequate attention has not been given to the human character of Scripture whereas we should, says the writer, use the model of the incarnation to stress that Scripture is truly human and truly divine. B.B. Warfield’s excellent 1894 essay on the Divine and human in the Bible is cited. The difficulty perhaps is that your initial comfort with this idea is dispelled somewhat because Enns, unlike Warfield, does not adequately develop the aspect of Scripture as truly Divine as well as truly human, and to that extent his incarnational model breaks down. In Enns’ hands the emphasis on the humanity of Scripture seems imbalanced.
His Chapter 2 (pages 23-70) sets out the challenge to the nature of Scripture from its setting in the ancient near east. For example, the OT text has similarities to Akkadian and Babylonian creation and flood accounts, similar customs in the tablets discovered during the 20th century at Nuzi, similar laws in the Code of Hammurabi, who predates Moses, and it seems to borrow wholesale from the Egyptian book Instruction of Amenemope in Proverbs 22:17-24:22, and so on. Enns does not want to conclude that the Bible is just a bunch of stories derived from ancient cultures, or that its similarities to these other books reduces its inspiration or that the Bible is dependent upon these other accounts. However, he does say there is a ‘conceptual similarity’, that as the OT was given in the ancient world’s cultures, all of which had myths of origins, it is understandable that the OT would have its own myth, defined as ancient, premodern, pre-scientific ways of addressing questions of ultimate origins and meaning in the form of stories (p.50). It is surely right of Enns to insist God speaks to man in his real-life situation. It is surely right to insist that Genesis does not address modern questions of a scientific nature. (No one will accuse me of rejecting that proposition!) Of course he is also right to insist history is always interpreted history, always selecting and presenting with a purpose in mind. Yet one cannot help feel that Enns leaves us in some ill-defined area where we can concede lack of fundamental historicity, and indeed where we have such a bias in the history that our conclusions can only be provisional.
Note: Enn's connection with WTS ended mid 2008.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 November 2008 07:21|