Last week I was able to knock out The Shadow. I bought this book shortly after its release for two reasons.
First, I know Ryan Dalgliesh. He and I shared the same town (San Angelo, TX) back when I was in college. We've had many edifying conversations about the Bible, and back when I was in quasi-pastoral ministry, I asked Ryan to preach in my stead while I was away. Overall, I can remember some of the discussions, sermons, and Bible-studies that would eventually become this book. Needless to say, I was eager to read it, knowing it would be helpful as well as warmly familiar.
Second, since I've been at seminary, the one thing I find most theologically mouth-watering is Biblical Theology (BT) and learning to preach Jesus from the Old Testament. BT sounds redundant, but it's a technical term that refers to a specific way to study the Bible, namely, by examining redemptive-history as is unfolds from Genesis to Revelation. Over thousands of years, through a multitude of authors, and in the midst of much diversity, the Bible keeps a staggering coherence that seeks to make one simple point: Jesus. The entire Old Testament points to Him in various and sometimes unexpected ways. The more folks become skilled at seeing Jesus in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, the more gospel-centered and edifying our Bible reading (and consequently, our preaching) will be. So, to know that another book is coming out that helps people see Jesus in the Old Testament is a good thing.
The Bible is about Jesus, and The Shadow is about that.
Let me make a few short comments about this book and then turn to hermeneutical issues regarding "seeing" and preaching Jesus in the OT.
First, Ryan is a gifted preacher and writer. Nothing keeps me turning pages better than a well told story; nothing keeps me turning pages better than a great explanation of the Bible. When the two of those make a baby, watch out! Ryan tells and preserves the Bible's stories in a colorful, bed-time story fashion (in a good way!). My imagination was running wild as I imagined the myriad of animals marching towards Noah's ark, or the terror Daniel must have felt in the Lion's den. (I remember Ryan once saying he loved reading Peter Pan and other children's classics. I can tell.) He has done the hard work of imagining what scenes in the Bible would have looked like, felt like, even smelled like. He puts himself in the shoes of the Biblical characters, and has turned Old Testament stories into living, breathing, high-def pictures of God's saving acts. Not something that can be done my many.
Second, Ryan has the ability connect the Old and New Testament in a helpful way. People talk about how advances in telecommunication and transportation have "shrunk the globe." I could be in China, or at least Skype someone in China, with the click of a mouse. With access to such technology, the world indeed seems smaller than it used to. The same thing happens when gifted teachers know the Bible well. The Bible "shrinks" when someone can take an Old Testament text and show how it is linked to the New Testament in a way that is clear and understandable. Ryan has always been able to do this, and he comes through again in his second book.
Finally, Dalgliesh preserves the Bible's message of the cross, namely, penal substitionary atonement. He is faithful in discussions of sin, blood sacrifice, or the substitionary nature of salvation. The end of each chapter includes a call for repentance, and faith alone in Christ alone for salvation. I can only imagine how powerful it would be to hear these chapters preached! Ryan has a high view of God, the Bible, sin, and the gospel, and if one walks away with an deeper understanding of these things, then one can be sure he's read a good book.
Some Subtle Issues
Now, here's the thing. Not everyone agrees on the way in which Jesus shows up in the Old Testament. Too often, people see things that are merely similar or analogous to Jesus' work (take for instance, the story of Rahab and the scarlet cord from Josh. 2:17-19), and mistakenly "see" Jesus where he was never intended to be seen. In effect, one can overread the Bible due to such sensitivities.
At this point, the distinction needs to be made between seeing and preaching Jesus from an OT text and seeing and preaching Jesus in an OT text--the latter being harder but more grounded in the text itself. To be sure, Jesus does say that all of Scripture points to Him (Luke 24:44), but a text that reminds you of Jesus in the OT is different from an OT text that is explicitly pointed to (by the NT writers) as a "type" of the person and work of Jesus. Consequently, this will affect how one reads and understands the OT and the Bible's storyline overall. Similarities can be arbitrary with no organic link between them, but "types" are the historical pointers (people, events, and institutions) that are linked to another and show how God's story is progressing to Jesus. Though Ryan in no way dilutes the gospel in any portion of his book, there is a sense where at times the explicit NT links are missing. Nothing that Ryan has written is theologically lacking, but there seems to be some textual liberty taken due to mistaking similarities of the person and work of Christ for types that the NT writers acknowledge. Typology, not similarity, is the key to understanding the OT.
For more on this issue as well as helpful books on this very topic, see:
Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture: The Application of Biblical Theology to Expository Preaching
Edmund Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology
A Commentary on the New Testament's Use of the Old Testament
On Christocentric Hermeneutics overall, find helpful articles, here.
For an article that is similar to Dalgliesh's approach, see SBTS's Jim Hamilton's works on typology, here.
One final issue pertains to Dalgliesh's chapter on Psalms 22, 23, and 24. The way David penned these pslams is portrayed as if David was merely dictating abstract words about a priori events that were foreign to his own personal experience. True, the OT writers were carried along by the Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21); true, there were things they wrote that at times they themselves did not fully understand (1 Pet. 1:10-12); true, some portions of Scripture are the result of God simply saying, "Write this down" (The book of Revelation); but not all the authors of Scripture, especially David, did not produce their writings in such a way. David most likely wrote Psalm 22 while he was surrounded and threatened by his enemies. His words, though highly metaphorical, correspond to actual events that happened to him personally. The same is true with Psalm 23 and 24. David penned his psalms almost as an inspired journal to his life. His pain, anguish, sorrow, joy, and praise were all real emotions linked to real events that he experienced. Though David was writing of the Anointed One to come, I'm just not sure he did so in the way that Ryan's chapter portrays.
Overall, this book was a fun read. It was clear, accessable, and left me with a desire to go read my Bible. Thanks Ryan for your hard work. You make the Bible, especially the OT, come alive in ways most people can't. I hope your book is read by a lot of people and they come to know their Bibles better as a result.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions?