Book Review: The Future of Land in the Pauline Epistles

The Future Inheritance of Land in the Pauline EpistlesThe Future Inheritance of Land in the Pauline Epistles by Miguel G. Echevarria Jr.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There are not many resources that deal particularly with this subject, and especially the New Testament aspect of it. The author is clear about that and interacts with what is available. Of necessity, some of the material he interacts with comes from commentaries on relevant passages, so those aren’t as robust as a long form treatment, like James Hester’s for instance. As he interacted with different scholars, he was clear where he agrees or disagrees with them and why. He managed to do so without being insulting or condescending, and without misrepresenting them. Echevarria has done some good work here.

There are a number of things he does well in this book that provides a needed correction to the classical Augustinian system. The book starts very strong as he works through the Old Testament, noting the shape and tangibility of inheritance promises beginning with Abraham. He demonstrates from the prophets and historical books how those promises have never been fulfilled or realized by Abraham’s descendants. This is a line he maintains through the end of the book and does a good job refuting the neoplatonist idea of an already/not yet inheritance that spiritualizes tangible and territorial promises to have some sort of fulfillment presently. He plainly and effectively argues that land promises have in no way or in no sense been fulfilled already and the fulfillment is entirely future. Here he breaks with the classical Augustinian typological interpretation that leads to understanding tangible, physical entities as somehow being fulfilled in immaterial, spiritual ways, but the break is not as clean as it might seem. In this, he is downstream from some of the new wave interpreters like Hoekema who moved away from spiritual fulfillment toward new creation, physical fulfillment.

Apart from a few wobbles, he rolled through the Old Testament nicely, but the wheels came off in the intertestamental pothole. Surprisingly, he adopted the erroneous New Perspective hermeneutic, and quoted liberally from the usual suspects of Wright, Dunn, and Sanders. Of course, N. T. Wright has also broken with the classical Augustinian system with his emphasis on physical new creation fulfillment, so this isn’t entirely surprising. The New Perspective uses the apocalyptic literature of second temple Judaism to reinterpret, recontextualize, reframe, transcend, transform, etc. the Old Testament. A lot of different terms are used for this maneuver, and many practitioners want to avoid words prefixed with “re.” A horse by any other name still can’t be made to drink the water, and despite the protests, this hermeneutic changes the original contextual meaning of prior revelation. I’m aware of the protests and all the nice sounding talk about greater fulfillment and such, but it’s the same difference.

Echevarria makes use of the second temple literature to expand the land of Canaan promised to Israel as Abraham’s descendants to include the whole earth, and then reads that back into the Old Testament to transform the original promise. He concludes, “the original promised land was never meant to be the place where God would reign permanently over Israel.” Once he reinterpreted the Old Testament by the Jewish literature, he proceeds through the rest of the book as if that is what the Old Testament meant. He uses the Jewish corpus to reinterpret the Old Testament before he ever gets to Paul’s letters, which is the target of his whole study. He takes non-Scripture writings and interprets the Scripture by them, so he effectively values these writings as progress of revelation. So the break with Augustinianism is not clean as he still ends up changing the original promise, though he holds a physical rather than spiritual fulfillment. He faults from start on Paul’s writings because he comes to Paul with a reinterpreted Old Testament and the presupposition that Paul uses the reinterpretation in his own writing, rather than the original contextual meaning.

This is getting longer than I intended, so let me end with a glaring neglect in this study. Echevarria argues for the expansion of the original land inheritance promise based on the apocalyptic Jewish writings of the second temple period. It’s undeniable that second temple Judaism envisioned the Jews inheriting not just Canaan, but the entire earth. That’s a key point for this study. However, second temple Jews did not envision an expanded or new Israel that’s mainly Gentiles that would inherit the entire earth. No, their vision of the future was decidedly Jewish. Echevarria gives no explicit explanation for this glaring inconsistency. On the one hand, he adopted their view that the original promise was expanded to include the entire earth, but on the other hand he doesn’t adopt their view that the inheritors were most definitely the ethnically Jewish people.

This book and study is valuable. I disagree with his conclusions, but especially his method of arriving at those conclusions. He has done a lot of good work in this book and it’s worth reading.

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Book Review: Eternal Israel: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Studies that Uphold the Eternal, Distinctive Destiny of Israel

Eternal Israel: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Studies that Uphold the Eternal, Distinctive Destiny of IsraelEternal Israel: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Studies that Uphold the Eternal, Distinctive Destiny of Israel by Barry Horner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a follow up to the author’s earlier book, Future Israel. He interacts with some of the feedback from the first book and continues to blend writings from history to current times. Horner is right about the pervasive nature of supersessionist theology, though I know most do not like that term and would rather play games with words to cover their replacement theology. Horner not only covers the writings of supersessionists, but also their politics. Horner also deals with some of the problems with dispensationalists in reference to Israel. Horner also points out the pride of supersessionism that is exactly what Paul warned against in Romans 11:17-21. Of course, Horner presents the inevitable conclusion, supersessionism must be repented of and turned from. I’ve been surprised to see replacement popping up in the preaching of supposedly premill adherents that acknowledge some place for Israel, but see the “church” superseding Israel in place and importance.

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Book Review: New Creation Eschatology and the Land: A Survey of Contemporary Perspectives

New Creation Eschatology and the Land: A Survey of Contemporary PerspectivesNew Creation Eschatology and the Land: A Survey of Contemporary Perspectives by Steven L. James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the off, this book is true to the title and is a survey of contemporary views concerning the continuity of present heaven-earth space-time and future new heaven-new earth space-time. Some may find the copious quotations and footnotes laborious. Those citations and notes are necessary in a book of this nature. The author honestly presented various sources in their own words to survey their views. James was transparent about his goal to show inconsistency on the part of new creationists who use Old Testament restoration texts to inform their eschatological reality of eternal ages with the present earth being renewed, rather than obliterated, and yet they deny particular territorial promises in those same texts concerning the Nation of Israel (twelve tribes, etc.) and territorial land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The author’s main goal was to demonstrate the hermeneutical inconsistency, though he does offer some counterpoint. His conclusion points out different areas where more work and thought needs done. This book isn’t the explanation and defense of a holistic new creationist view, which views the restoration texts of both testaments to inform a continuity in the eschaton with the present earth being renewed and particular national and territorial promises to Israel being fulfilled as part of the renewed earth. Overall this is a helpful book and I hope it will be widely read.

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Book Review: The Time Between the Old and New Testament

The Time Between the Old and New Testament: A Zondervan Digital ShortThe Time Between the Old and New Testament: A Zondervan Digital Short by Henry H. Halley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a concise overview of the intertestamental period. It is an excellent summary to bridge the gap between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Many things changed during those four centuries and understanding that helps understand the setting of the Gospels and the land of Israel during the life of Jesus.

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Book Review: Has the Church Replaced Israel?

Has the Church Replaced IsraelHas the Church Replaced Israel by Michael Vlach
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent study on the relation of Israel to the New Testament church. Vlach deals fairly with opposing views and examines a number of key verses.

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