Book Reviews

Book Review: “Interpreting the Prophets” by Aaron Chalmers

ip-chalmersAaron Chalmers’ Interpreting the Prophets is an introduction to, well, interpreting the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. He notes that readers are often turned off of the prophets for a number of reasons, whether it is the difficulty of these writings or their seeming irrelevancy for our time. Against these reasons, he argues for and puts forward a relevant and practical guide to reading the Old Testament prophets and coming to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

The book is laid across 6 chapters, each with a focus on a central aspect of interpreting and applying biblical prophecy. These are: (1) What is a prophet and what is a prophetic book?; (2) The historical world of the prophets; (3) The theological world of the prophets; (4) The rhetorical world of the prophets; (5) From prophecy to apocalyptic; and (6) Guidelines for preaching from the prophets.

There are many insights which will be valuable for both those wishing to engage with the prophets as laity and those interested in drawing out deep exegetical insights from the text. Chalmers’ work serves as a guide for reading without telling readers exactly what various passages are supposed to mean. It is the kind of text that encourages readers to move to the Word and explore it for themselves, laying a solid foundation for interpretation beforehand.

One example of the insights Chalmers provides is his critique of those who would see the prophetic literature as speaking primarily to our time. He notes that this approach of trying to match up biblical prophecies one-to-one with newspaper headlines is mistaken for a number of reasons, including making the texts largely irrelevant to its contemporary hearers. Throughout the book, there are a number of insets that highlight various additional details, like the Ancient Near Eastern background of the text or specific views about things like the dating of a book.

Interpreting the Prophets would best serve as an introductory text for those interested in learning more about and reading the prophetic literature of the Old Testament. It comes recommended.

The Good

+Excellent insets provide background information into the world of the Bible
+Incisive critique of some popular approaches to reading the prophets
+Practical advice for readers of the Scripture, pastors, and professionals alike

The Bad

-Very brief on several important points

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book by InterVarsity Press. I was not required to provide any specific kind of feedback whatsoever, nor was the publisher involved in this review in any way.


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Aaron Chalmers, Interpreting the Prophets (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).



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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


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