REVIEW: THE BEGINNING AND END OF WISDOM by DOUGLAS SEAN O’DONNELL

Perhaps the most familiar genre of biblical literature to the average layperson is the epistle.  Given our Western propensity toward the practical and the immediate, the letters of the New Testament provide us with straightforward statements about what Christ has done and how we are to live in response; so it’s no wonder many of us initially flip to these sections of the Bible in our daily reading.  But how do we fare when it comes to the literature of the Hebrew Bible?  Apart from the familiar narratives that most have experienced, at the very least in their Sunday School days, the Old Testament still remains a mystery to many gospel-believing Christians.  And given the lack of familiarity and confidence in handling much of the Old Testament among many followers of Christ, it’s likely that a portion of that may be due to the fact that many pastors could use a refresher when it comes to rightly handling and preaching the Old Testament.

In light of this reality, I am thankful for the growing number of resources that aim to assist believers in understanding and developing a Christ-centered, gospel-focused, redemptive-historical hermeneutic for reading and interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures.  After all it was Paul who began his letter to the Romans indicating that “the gospel of God” was something God “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son” (Romans 1:2-3, ESV).  Jesus, as well, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets…interpreted to [the disciples on the Emmaus Road] in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV, emphasis mine).  Certainly “all the Scriptures” includes the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible, and Douglas Sean O’Donnell has provided us with a very helpful example of effective Christ-centered preaching from this portion of God’s Word in his, The Beginning and End of Wisdom: Preaching Christ from the First and Last Chapters of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job (Crossway, 2011)(Talk about a Puritan-length title!)

The Beginning and End of Wisdom is a collection of a handful of O’Donnell’s sermons from the Wisdom genre as he seeks to initially instruct the reader/preacher through demonstration in practice.  I was thoroughly encouraged by the posture taken by O’Donnell as he approached his task.  Noting the primacy of Christ he states, “Life does not come through Bible literacy.  Life comes through Jesus.  And a right understanding of Scripture comes through knowledge of Jesus and trust in him.”  As O’Donnell approaches this genre of biblical literature he reminds the student of Scripture of the “demeanor” one must take, that is: “that God remain large and we remain small.”  O’Donnell displays, what I believe to be, a genuine reverence for Christ and his word, a serious approach to his task of interpretation, and a passion to see the gospel elevated and hearts awestruck by the God of the gospel in the Old Testament Scriptures.

I particularly enjoyed O’Donnell’s sermon in from the first chapter of Job (1:1-12).  With his aim set on the gospel, O’Donnell’s honesty allows the gospel to rest sweetly on the ears of the hearers of the text as he reminds us, “We come to a book (Job) that will teach us that God’s love for us is bigger and broader than sentimentality and sympathy and that his will for our lives is vaster and grander than our personal happiness or success.”  In light of Job’s life situation and response to the suffering from God’s providential hand, O’Donnell notes in Christocentric terms, “When Jesus walked the earth, he called everyone, as he still calls them, to put him and his kingdom above possessions, family, friends, and reputation, and to accept, if necessary, suffering, persecution, and the loss of home job, money, or even life.”  Thus, O’Donnell gets to Christ without rushing with hermeneutical irresponsibility toward a connection, preaching and teaching the text responsibly.

Before two appendices on “Preaching Hebrew Poetry” and “Book Summaries and Suggested Sermon Series”, O’Donnell moves from the finished product to show the readers the tools necessary to get there.  This is a bit of a different route to take as many would think to start with the materials and method before considering the finished product.  However, in his chapter entitled “How Shall Wisdom Be Preached?” O’Donnell gives careful hermeneutical consideration and instruction to that which his has just demonstrated in his sermons.  For the person who lacks acquaintance with the art of preaching Christ from the Old Testament, this order serves to effectively immerse the reader in the manner, style, and practice of preaching Christ from the wisdom books so that the dots will likely be more quickly and readily connected through, “Yeah-I-see-how-you-did-that…” moments.  The chapter on hermeneutics is incredibly helpful, especially in O’Donnell’s inclusion of charts that connect Wisdom Literature text with like texts from the New Testament.

Overall, with a reverence for the God of the Word, and a desire to see Christ exalted as the gospel is proclaimed, The Beginning and End of Wisdom is a excellent book to consider adding to your library as it relates to Christ-centered hermeneutics!  I recommend it!!

*The publisher, at no charge, for the purpose of review, provided a copy of the aforementioned title.  I was under no obligation to write a favorable review.

BOOK DETAILS

Read inside (PDFs):Sample Pages

Publisher: Crossway/Good News Publishers
Author: O’Donnell, Douglas
ISBN-10: 1433523345 | ISBN-13: 9781433523342
Binding: Paperback
List Price: $17.99
BUY NOW at Westminster Bookstore: $11.73 – 35% Off 

CLICK HERE to check out O’Donnell’s recent article in Themelios entitled, “The Earth Is Crammed with Heaven: Four Guideposts to Reading and Teaching the Song of Songs”

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One thought on “REVIEW: THE BEGINNING AND END OF WISDOM by DOUGLAS SEAN O’DONNELL

  1. Pingback: Reviews, Interviews, Authors and Books to Note Across the Web « Theology for the Road

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