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Book Review: “Bearing God’s Name: Why Sinai Still Matters” by Carmen Joy Imes

The question of what to do with the Old Testament and what to do with the Law specifically is one that has loomed large throughout all Christian history, from questions about the Judaizers of Acts 15 all the way to the present. Carmen Joy Imes works to provide an answer to several questions about Christianity and its relation to the covenant at Sinai specifically in Bearing God’s Image.

Central to Imes’s argument is the notion that “taking the Lord’s name in vain” is a misunderstood commandment. Instead, we ought to see it in the context of being God’s name-bearers, those who carry God’s word throughout the world.

The first part of the book focuses on becoming the people who are God’s name-bearers. Perhaps the central feature of the book is found in this part as Imes notes several major points related to Christian living. First, the question of the Ten Commandments–Imes notes that people assume the Ten Commandments apply in every way to everyone to this day, but in reality they were part of the cultural mandate going along with the covenant with God at Sinai. Additionally, the second commandment about taking the Lord’s name in vain makes it seem as though God’s name is a swear word, which is almost the exact opposite of what it should be seen as. The commandment, according to Imes, truly is about bearing God’s name falsely–that is, it is a commandment not to claim to be of God while not acting as though one is of God. As she puts it, it ought to “change… everything about how we live” (51, emphasis hers).

Going along with this notion of being God’s name bearers, Imes draws on several sources to highlight the way they practiced religion in the Ancient Near East and how that would play out in context of the commandment. For example, the way covenantal priesthood dressed was itself one aspect of this (72-74).

Part two focuses on how we ought to live as God’s people who bear God’s name. This begins with asking what Moses and Joshua themselves made of this way of living. Next, Imes surveys more of the Old Testament to draw out living in God’s name throughout the Bible. Jesus is another way to live out God’s name, as Jesus is the name above all other names (151ff). She draws this same strand through some of the epistles as well.

Bearing God’s Image is written at an introductory level and could serve as a study group book fairly easily. It would help readers get exposed to many ideas related to the Christian use of the Hebrew Scriptures. It’s a solid introduction to a complex topic. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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