Michael J. Ovey, The Feasts of Repentance

Ovey, Michael J. The Feasts of Repentance: From Luke-Acts to Systematic and Pastoral Theology. NSBT 49; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2019. 173 pp. Pb; $25.  Link to IVP Academic

Michael J. Ovey (1958–2017) served as the principal of Oak Hill College, London, from 2007 until his death. He delivered an early version of this book at the annual Moore Theological College lectures and continued editing the book until his sudden death in 2017.

Ovey argues repentance is a critical element of the proclamation of the gospel, and it is too often overlooked in modern preaching. His theological context is global Anglicanism, but a lack of emphasis on repentance is certainly true for most forms of Christianity. He cites N. T. Wright, who defines the Gospel as the proclamation of Jesus as Lord. This stands in contrast to John Calvin, who held the sum of the gospel comprises repentance and forgiveness of sin (2). More than this, how does repentance work for post-conversion Christian life? For many, an emphasis on living a repentant life leads to a joyless, guilt-ridden Christian life.

RepentanceThis book moves from a biblical theology of repentance (as demonstrated in Like-Acts) to systematic theology (is repentance a necessary component of salvation?) to pastoral theology (is repentance a necessary component of the Christian life?) For Ovey, repentance is a formal necessity and not a “optional extra.”

The biblical theology section (chs. 2-3) examines the preaching of John the Baptist, followed by several examples of Jesus’s feasting with sinners (hence the title of the book). He briefly touches on the repentant thief and the important summary of the gospel and conclusion to the book of Luke in 24:46-48. Luke includes “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” at the heart of Jesus’s post resurrection instruction on what the scriptures said. Repentance is clear in apostolic preaching to both Jews and Gentiles and Paul’s understanding of his own mission. Luke universalizes repentance. Everyone needs to repent of sin before receiving forgiveness.

Chapters 4-6 move into systematic theology. What is the relationship between faith and repentance in the ordo salutus (order of salvation)? For Ovey, if a call to faith omits repentance, it is a defective faith (130). “Repentance, apart from anything else, is needed to Orient us in relationship to the claims of Christ” (130). In Acts especially, Paul calls on gentiles to repent specifically from the sin of idolatry. Ovey defines idolatry “as a perversion or distortion of the relation that exists between creature and creator” (75). Idolatry is a parody of the real relationship humans ought to have with God. In fact, Ovey suggests idolatry is not just one sin among many, but rather it is the sin.

Chapter 7 moves to pastoral theology. If the biblical material universalizes repentance and systematic theology shows it is necessary for genuine faith, what about the unrepentant? Here, he examines two examples from Luke’s gospel. First, the Pharisees are self-righteous and prideful, both in their relationship to God and to each other. They simply do not need to repent. But Jesus sometimes refers to them as hypocrites. A hypocrite knows the truth but is self-deceived. Still, there is no need for repentance. The repentant, on the other hand, demonstrate humility toward God and that leads to repentance. Ovey uses the contrast between the two sons in Luke 15. He draws a connection between forgiveness and justice. There is an obligation for those who repent to show mercy towards those who have not yet repented (Luk6 6:36; 11:4; 17:3-4). Ovey points out how countercultural this is in a (modern) rights-based culture (154). We want our rights vindicated! An obligation to forgive involves a preparedness and willingness to forgive others and demands we forego what we deserve.

Conclusion. Ovey is correct. There is a lack of interest in repentance in modern preaching. Ovey is not interested in this book on the cultural factors, and he is writing from a different perspective than mine. Although it is certainly true modern evangelicals have trouble identifying their own sin and need for repentance, they seem to have little trouble in identifying when other people need to repent! Ovey’s description of the Pharisees is appropriate here. This book is therefore a valuable contribution to an overlooked yet important theological and biblical teaching of Scripture.


NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Samuel Emadi, From Prisoner to Prince: The Joseph Story in Biblical Theology

Emadi, Samuel. From Prisoner to Prince: The Joseph Story in Biblical Theology. NSBT 59; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2022. 188 pp. Pb; $24.  Link to IVP Academic

Samuel Emadi (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as the senior pastor at Hunsinger Lane Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky and is an editor at 9Marks. This book is based on his dissertation, “Covenant, Typology, and the Story of Joseph: A Literary-Canonical Examination of Genesis 37-50” (2016) under the supervision of James Hamilton.  Hamilton wrote an article, “Was Joseph a Type of the Messiah? Tracing the Typological Identification between Joseph, David, and Jesus,” SBJT 12.4 (2008).

The story of Joseph is the climax of Genesis, yet Joseph is hardly mentioned in the rest of Scripture. Many Christians have turned toward typology as a plausible answer: Joseph “a type of the Messiah.” But virtually all studies which claim Joseph is a type of Christ lack methodological rigor. Emadi argues in this book that Joseph “passes the typological test” (3). He says, “Moses links the story of Joseph to the eschatological expectations established in Genesis (such as royal seed) and specifically to the hope of an eschatological king” (4).

Joseph Type of ChristKing and (royal) seed are the two key themes for Emadi’s argument. In order to make this work, he has to argue that kingship is an essential element in the Abrahamic covenant and that Joseph was instrumental to the fulfillment of the Abrahamic seed and land promise. To begin, he follows T. Desmond Alexander’s argument that Adam was given a royal and priestly commission in Genesis 2. This royal priesthood has an eschatological character, after Adam’s failure, genesis develops a hope for a royal restoration genesis 3: 15, and there are several royal- seed promises typologically fulfilled through characters who emerge as “new Adams” (46-47). He then traces how genesis develops Joseph as Abraham’s royal seed. He argues genesis regularly describes Joseph with royal imagery and at least foreshadow his future royal position. “Although Joseph may not have been a king, Moses describes him with royal attributes” (55).

Important to his argument that Joseph’s story ought to be read typologically is Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:8-10. This passage does indeed connect a son of Jacob to the future royal line, but it is “Judah’s son who will be a Joseph redivivus” (63). Using what he calls inner Bible biblical exegesis in numbers 24, he argues Balaam’s prophecy identifies the king of Genesis 49:8-12 with the “enigmatic serpent-crushing seed of Genesis 3:15,” a person who “embodies the Abrahamic covenant who will conquer Israel’s enemies “making the people of God an Edenic paradise” (63-64).

The next section of the book traces Joseph through the rest of the biblical canon. First, chapter 7 surveys the nine other occurrences of the story in the rest of the Old Testament. Exodus only mentions since the people of Israel bought the brought the bones of Moses up out of Egypt when they left. Psalm 105:17-25 briefly summarizes Joseph’s story. To develop additional allusions to the Joseph story, he draws the parallel between Joseph and Daniel. Although he avoids describing Joseph and Daniel as the genre of “court tale” or wisdom literature. Daniel is an example of an exalted Jew in a foreign court, such as Nehemiah, Mordechai or Esther. James Hamilton made a similar argument in With the Clouds of Heaven (IVP Academic, 2014, reviewed here).

Chapter 8 deals with the two passages that mention Joseph in the New Testament: Acts 7:7-16 and Hebrews 11:21. For Emadi, Stephen’s speech in Acts 7, Joseph’s story is “not part of Israel’s story, in some sense it is Israel’s story” (133). He claims Stephen sees Joseph as a type of Christ” (133) and the Apostolic community “interpreted Joseph’s narrative as a miniature betrayal of Israel’s history, culminating in the rejection of Jesus. They saw “in Joseph a prophetic forecasting of the life of the Messiah” (137). This is a minority opinion among interpreters of the book of Acts and seems tangential to the argument of Stephen’s speech.

Although there are several remotely possible allusions to Joseph suggested by scholars in the New Testament, Emadi limits his discussion to the most probable, the Parable of the Tenants (examining the form found in Matthew 21:33-46). He argues this parable is a creative retelling of Israel’s history in order to undermine the present leadership’s understanding of their national identity. Emadi properly recognizes Isaiah 5 as the main Old Testament background. He also understands the citation of Psalm 118:22-23 as a celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from foreign oppressors. However, he does not examine Rabbinic parallels to this parable (see, for example Craig Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 in the WBC series) or the word play using the Aramaic of stone/son as a reference to David as the stone the builders rejected. The original son that was rejected was David. Jesus is the son of David who is about to be killed outside the city.

Emadi’s focus is on the phrase “he sent his son” (ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ in Matt 21:37; but ἀποστείλω σε πρὸς αὐτούς in Gen 37:13, compare LXX Psalm 104:16: ἀπέστειλεν ἔμπροσθεν αὐτῶν ἄνθρωπον). In Genesis 37:13, Jacob sent his son Joseph to his brothers, and he suffered because of their jealousy. The son in the parable likewise suffers because of the jealousy of the tenants. He therefore makes the connection between Jesus and Joseph. Emadi concludes: “Jesus is, in fact, suggesting a typological reading of the Joseph story” (144). Maybe. A serious problem is the lack of verbal parallels between the parable and the LXX version of the Joseph story. It is close, but is it close enough to establish an allusion? I am thinking here of Richard Hays’s criteria for detecting allusions. In addition, there are other (more likely) readings of the Parable of the Tenants which do not interpret the son as an allusion to Joseph. The parable and the citation of Psalm 118 see clear, the son is Jesus! To find an allusion to Genesis 37 seems less like typology and more like allegorizing.

The argument could be improved with some attention to the intertestamental literature. For example, the book of Joseph and Asenath answers many questions Second Temple. Judaism had about Joseph’s time in Egypt, and in this Jewish romance novel an author describes Joseph in language which led David Aune to suggest the description of Christ in Revelation 1 alludes to Joseph and Asenath (Aune, Revelation 1-5, 72). The account of Asenath’s conversion is rich with possible messianic allusions. This Jewish text provides a data point on which a trajectory might be traced from a canonical Joseph story to a Jewish messianic interpretation. This is not typology, however, and may be the reason the intertestamental literature does not appear in this study. So too the Testament of Joseph, which does describe Joseph as a protomartyr, a book “of interest for the early church, since Joseph goes joyfully to his persecution and possible martyrdom. Joseph is a model of how to be a good Christian martyr.”

Conclusion. If you like typology, then you will love this book. Emadi is correct, popular preaching employs typology indiscriminately and does not have any methodological rigor. And Emadi is correct, Joseph “is an example of faith in covenantal promises in the face of death” (121) and “a faith worthy of imitation” (145). But this does not mean the author of Genesis intentionally foreshadowed the messiah in Genesis 37-50. It might be the case that authorial intention is not an important part of a typological method.


NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Book Giveaway Winner: T. Desmond Alexander, Face to Face with God

Commentary on HebrewsThere were fourteen comments from people hoping to win a copy of T. Desmond Alexander, Face to Face with God (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology). Follow the link to read my review. I copied all the name into a spreadsheet, sorted randomly then used random.org to select a winner. And the winner is….Dwight Gingrich. Congrats Dwight, I have sent an email to what I think is your email (a Canadian Yahoo account?) If you do not see that, contact me at plong42 @ gmail.com and I will arrange to ship the book out ASAP.

Dwight said his favorite Hebrews commentary is Gareth Lee Cockerill’s NICNT volume, a fine choice indeed. This was not published when I wrote on the best commentary on Hebrews in 2012. There were very few repeats among the fourteen comments; I expected a few F. F. Bruce votes, but only William Lane’s Word commentary scored two votes. But this is not the Jesus Seminar, so voting does not really count.

Big thanks to IVP Academic for sending an extra copy to pass along to readers of this blog. If you don’t win this book, check back soon for another book giveaway.


Dean R. Ulruch, Now and Not Yet: Theology and Mission in Ezra–Nehemiah

Ulruch, Dean R. Now and Not Yet: Theology and Mission in Ezra-Nehemiah. NSBT 57; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2021. 184 pp. Pb; $28.  Link to IVP Academic

Dean Ulrich has served both the church and academy. His North-West University (South Africa) PhD dissertation was published as The Antiochene Crisis and Jubilee Theology in Daniel’s Seventy Sevens (Oudtestamentische Studiën 66; Brill, 2016). He has also published a commentary on Ruth (P&R, 2007) and served as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Wexford, Pennsylvania. His experience in both church and academy is clear in his Now and Not Yet: Theology and Mission in Ezra–Nehemiah. In this new NSBT volume, Ulrich shows that participating in God’s mission for his world is a key message of Ezra and Nehemiah.Ezra-Nehemiah

As Ulrich describes in his introduction, there are many reasons for academic and pastoral inattention to the books of Ezra-Nehemiah. For many, Ezra-Nehemiah is a legalistic jumble of sources, lacking a coherent theology and littered with obtuse lists. For others, Nehemiah stands as a model for leadership (usually by contemporary writers looking for proof texts for their leadership principles). Ulrich argues Ezra-Nehemiah is a literary unit with rich missional theology which illustrates how God’s people continue to experience his salvation in the post-exilic world.

After a chapter outlining what he means by biblical theology and Ezra-Nehemiah’s contribution to biblical theology, Ulrich works his way through the books thematically (although this follows the order of the books themselves). The first section of Ezra deals with the return from exile (ch. 3), the rebuilding of the temple (ch. 4), and the security of Jerusalem (ch. 6). Throughout these chapters, he integrates the prophets Haggai and Zechariah in order to offer a narrative of the rebuilding of the early community in Judea after the exile.

Most Bible readers associate Ezra-Nehemiah with rebuilding the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem, but Ulrich also points out that the books are interested in rebuilding the people of God (ch. 5). By the time Ezra arrives in Jerusalem, the people have been worshiping in the rebuilt Temple for many years. For most modern readers, the problem of foreign marriage seems strange, and Ezra’s solution seems drastic: divorce foreign wives and exclude them from the people of God! This is even more surprising since there is no evidence the Gentile women were encouraging their Judean husbands to worship idols, as with Solomon. Ulrich admits the measures “may seem harsh, gut the identify and mission of God’s people after the exile were at stake” (94). The new community must take steps to preserve its distinctiveness or it will “transmute into something quite different from the original vision of the founder” (94).

Perhaps another reason for scholarly and pastoral inattention to Ezra-Nehemiah is the books ends unsatisfactorily (156). We know that the post-exilic community continues to struggle, and the tensions present in these books continue through the Maccabean Revolt and into the first century. This is the “now, not yet” from the subtitle of the bool. Although the Temple is rebuilt and the walls of Jerusalem are complete, the people continued to struggle with certain practices such as tithing, Sabbath, and intermarriage. Ulrich draws Malachi into his discussion of the end of Nehemiah, since that late prophet deals with the apathy of the Judeans. The book of Daniel addresses some of these issues from the perspective of those still living in exile. There were faithful Jews living in the Diaspora, even if Judeans struggled with certain practices.

Conclusion. Ulrich’s Now and Not Yet will serve as a theological commentary for both pastors and academics teaching through Ezra-Nehemiah, two overlooked Old Testament books.


NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

Matthew S. Harmon, The Servant of the Lord and His Servant People

Harmon, Matthew S. The Servant of the Lord and His Servant People: Tracing a Biblical Theme Through the Canon. NSBT 54; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2021. 262 pp. Pb; $27.  Link to IVP Academic

Matthew Harmon (PhD, Wheaton College) serves as professor of New Testament studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. He recently contributed Rebels and Exiles: A Biblical Theology of Sin and Restoration in the ESBT series (IVP Academic 2020) and a recent Galatians commentary (Lexham 2021). This new monograph traces the theme of the servant of the Lord through four key figures in the Old Testament and Isaiah’s suffering servant, all of which point towards Jesus as the ultimate Servant of the Lord.

Harmon, Servant of the LordAfter a short introductory chapter, Harmon surveys for examples of individuals identified as a servant of the Lord in the Old Testament: Adam, Moses, Joshua, and David. Adam was the image bearer in the garden who served as a priest in Eden, a temple sanctuary for the Lord. Moses served in both royal and priestly roles with a focus on the prophetic fulfillment of God’s purposes. Joshua seems like an unlikely addition to the list, but Harmon argues he is a priestly character who mediates God’s presence to the nations and intercedes on behalf of the God’s people. David is called a servant king (1 Samuel 23:10-12) and the Davidic covenant calls David a servant ten times. Since much of the evidence for David as a servant of the Lord comes from the psalms, Harmon refers to him as the singing servant” based on Psalm 89.

After surveying these four examples, Harmon turns to a discussion of the suffering servant in the book of Isaiah (chapter six). In the four examples surveyed in the first part of the book, the servant of the Lord ultimately fails in that role. The Lord’s response is to raise up a new servant who will succeed as the light to the gentiles (141). Although he briefly detects a few instances of servant language in Isaiah 1-39, his focus is on the servant in Isaiah 40-66, and specifically Isaiah 40-54. The question has always been: who is the suffering servant in Isaiah? Sometimes, it is Israel as the servant nation of Israel (42:1-9). In other examples, the suffering servant is an individual (49:1-13). The servant in Isaiah 53 experiences the curses that came from Adam’s failure in the garden. This song also looks forward to restoration and blessing after the servant has offered himself as a sacrifice for the sins of his people. He sees a hint of the resurrection. After the servant’s self-sacrifice, he will “see his seed.”

In Chapter 7, Harmon discusses Jesus as the servant of the Lord par excellence. The New Testament uses Isaiah’s servant language and often applies it directly to Jesus. Harmon begins with Philippians 2:5-11, perhaps the earliest use of servant language to describe Jesus. Into the Christ hymn, servant language focuses on the obedience and humility of the servant as he lays down his life. But Philippians also describes the exaltation of the servant as God vindicates him in the resurrection. Harmon detects about a dozen keywords and phrases found in Philippians 2: 5-11 that draw on Isaiah’s servant songs. He then surveys the gospels and finds allusions to the servant songs in the birth, early childhood, baptism, and ministry of Jesus. These allusions are more intense in the death and resurrection of Jesus. When the apostles preach the gospel on the day of Pentecost, they identified Jesus with the Isaiah’s suffering servant (Acts 3:13, for example).

For Harmon, Jesus is the fulfillment of the previous servants. Adam, Moses, Joshua, and David in some ways served as prophet, priest, or king, and he failed in that role. He concludes, “there should be no doubt that the New Testament presents Jesus as the servant of the Lord par excellence” (178). In fact, the New Testament presents the totality of Jesus’s identity as fulfilling the role of Isaiah’s servant of the Lord. Harmon refers Adam as a servant, but also as a prophet priest and king. Likewise, both Moses and David are royal servants who also served in priestly and prophetic roles. To a large extent, servant language was common for prophets, priests and kings in the ancient world, opening the door for the connection to Jesus as “prophet, priest, and king,” similar to Ben Gladd, From Adam and Israel to the Church (IVP Academic, 2019).

The final two chapters of the book discuss the apostles as servants of Christ, highlighting self-designations as “servant” in the epistles. The work of Jesus as the servant par excellence would produce a servant people (201). In Luke 2: 46-49 and Acts 1:8, Jesus transfers his mission as the servant to his people. Much of this material detects allusions to Isaiah’s suffering servant in the New Testament, but sometimes it is not clear that there is, in fact, an allusion. This is the problem with any sort of intertextual study. Once you look for servant language, you find it everywhere. Nevertheless, Harmon demonstrates Jesus as the Lord’s servant becomes a template for how the church ought to serve in the world today.

The book does not have much on slavery or servanthood in the ancient world. There are many other studies discussing of slavery for New Testament studies (which Harmon acknowledges). Perhaps some background on servant language in the Ancient Near east would be helpful since more than half of the book concerns the image of a servant in the Old Testament. Unfortunately, this rich background material is outside the goals of the book.


NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.