Hebrew Scriptures

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Book Review: “Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness” by John Lennox

Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness addresses one of my all-time favorite Bible stories. I may be a bit biased, as my name is Joseph, but I’ve always loved this narrative. I also had it assigned as a narrative to translate from Hebrew in college, which only deepened my love for this story. Lennox’s title says it: this story has it all. But what of this book? I was excited to dive in to find out what John C. Lennox, a rather famous man in some Christian circles, would have to say about this narrative.

Lennox is a somewhat strange choice for a book on Joseph on the face of things. A search of “John Lennox” with terms like “Joseph” and “Bible” brings up a number of videos of Lennox discussing this narrative, however, showing something of a longstanding interest in the topic. Lennox’s training is in mathematics, though he has written extensively in the fields of apologetics in particular as well as science-faith topics. Where this becomes relevant is when Lennox delves more deeply into the background of texts. He leans heavily on other thinkers for this, and seems particularly reliant upon Kenneth A. Kitchen. These include citations from a text from 1966, along with the more recent On the Reliability of the Old Testament (2006). Kitchen is an excellent scholar with impeccable credentials, but again, the heavy reliance on other scholars by Lennox makes any background here seem superficial.

Nevertheless, Lennox does provide quite a bit of background for readers. He begins not with the start of the Joseph narrative, but with an overview of the structure of Genesis, including a re-reading of many of the Genesis accounts. Though this may seem somewhat unnecessary, Lennox does this to give a real sense of place, time, and setting for the Joseph narrative, making it feel even more alive and fresh than it might otherwise. Lennox is keen throughout the book to show that God’s judgement, mercy, and sovereignty are in play throughout the narrative.

Lennox gives plenty of context for readers, but mostly follows an totally expository path, deviating little from the content of the story itself. Where he does deviate, it sometimes goes into strange territory. For example, when discussing “Joseph’s rise to power,” Lennox goes on a tangent about confidence, which leads to a discussion about Christianity in “the West.” In the midst of this discussion, Lennox cites others noting that “there has been a collapse of Western self-confidence…” He then goes on to link this loss of confidence to a rise in trust in science as over and against Christianity. Following previously cited authors, Lennox argues that “confidence in God and in the Lord and the Gospel is being shaken as never before” (154). Then, Lennox just brings Joseph back in. Joseph was just “a single individual, with no other human group supporting him, yet such was his conviction of the truth of the message he had… that he influenced the future of an entire nation. That is the sort of confidence in God… that is necessary in order to stand up and reverse the trend of weakness and lack of conviction and authenticity that characterize far too much of that which calls itself Christian” (155). Frankly, I am baffled by this rabbit trail. Apart from the strangeness of demanding that Christianity be characterized by strength and authenticity rather than being humble (Ephesians 4:2, for example), it also seems very much like a grasp by Lennox to make an application in a section that he has thus far done little to make practical theology happen.

The story of Joseph, of course, features prominently at least one woman: Potiphar’s wife. Lennox goes over the story of Potiphar’s wife attempting to seduce Joseph in detail. Once more, Lennox is keen to make applications to today from the story, including arguing that sexual activity “including pornography” is encouraged in “our contemporary world.” In contrast, Lennox argues, this leads to bitterness and anti-social behavior. To combat this, we ought “to make God the center and focal point of our morality, not our desires, or feeling that it is so right” (128). Later, when discussing Potiphar’s attempt to frame Joseph, Lennox appeals not to the Bible but to the common proverb “a woman scorned” to make his point (129), attempting an appeal to what he seems to think is a shared agreement–women, right? This movement from an individual woman–Potiphar’s wife–to all women: “a woman scorned,” is surely overdone and not a little insulting. Lennox’s implication seems to be that Potiphar’s wife’s attempt to frame Joseph is just what we ought to expect from a woman who was trying to seduce a man like Joseph. But this is the very kind of generalizing from abusive behavior to excuses that has led to so many problems in the world and church around the topic of abuse. I was surprised to see this, but then Lennox follows it with another disappointing statement, saying that Potiphar’s wife “denounced Joseph to the other servants, playing the race card” (129). This “race card” was that Potiphar’s wife blamed Joseph due to his being a Hebrew (Genesis 39:13-15). But the use of “race card” in this way is clearly pejorative. Lennox doesn’t give any further context for this statement, but this kind of terminology is often used to denounce those who point to real, current abuses happening due to people’s race. What makes it particularly odd is that Lennox puts this apparent condemnation of lumping whole groups together right next to his own action doing the same (“race card” means calling Joseph Hebrew to denounce him is bad, but in the very same paragraph Lennox uses “a woman scorned” to reference the “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” proverb that implies all women act in this manner). It’s an alarming and disappointing series of discussions from Lennox in this section.

Joseph: A Story of Love, Hate, Slavery, Power, and Forgiveness is a competent look at a beautiful story. Lennox gives much by way of background, but derives most of the details from other sources. When he makes contemporary applications, they are quite uneven. The theological leanings of the reader will most likely be the determining factor in one’s enjoyment.

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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Sunday Quote!- Reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture

jd-earlEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Reading the Old Testament as Christian Scripture

Douglas S. Earl’s The Joshua Delusion is an attempt to approach the Old Testament in such a way as to understand it as Christian Scripture. For Earl, what this means is reading Scripture in a way that reflects Christian teaching in the New Testament. Moreover, it may mean that we need not read the Bible the same way contemporaries read it. One of the criteria Earl suggests is the notion of “fittingness” in our reading of Scripture:

[F]or a Christian reader of a biblical text ‘fittingness’ is a criterion for interpretation that relates both to what the text was originally trying to achieve, and to how it is received and used in the canon of Scripture, and subsequently in the Christian tradition. (103, cited below)

Thus, the original intent is set alongside a canonical perspective of reading the Bible, and ultimately set against Christian reading of the Bible. This has wide-ranging implications for how Earl suggests we read the Old Testament, including, often, undermining the historicity of the text in favor of a more allegorical reading.

The Joshua Delusion is a challenging read in many ways. Ultimately, I think Earl takes his position too far–to the point that it becomes difficult to see exactly how interpretation ought to be done. Moreover, his thesis allows Christians to effectively dismiss the original intent and meaning of the text. Is that a truly plausible way to read the Bible? It seems to me that if a view entails the rejection of how a text may have originally been intended, that means that we have lost a deeply important aspect of interpretation. Of course, Earl anticipates this objection and responds to it, thus leading to an engaging book. Interested readers ought to check the book out.


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Douglas S. Earl,  The Joshua Delusion (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010).


Sunday Quote!- Modern Warfare and the Power of God


Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Modern Warfare and the Power of God

I’ve been reading through Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem, a collection of essays about the problem of war in the Bible. One of the essays was by Stephen Chapman and had a number of powerful quotes and ideas sprinkled throughout. I particularly enjoyed one part about modern warfare:

Modernity is arguably no less brutal than the ancient world for conducting a secularized, technologized, indiscriminate form of war that excludes God from the kill zone on principle, thereby seducing the strong into believing that they are masters of their own destiny. Indeed, the biblical witness unblinkingly confronts modernity most sharply right at this point: “Assyria will not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God’ to the work of our hands'” (Hosea 14:3) (66, cited below)

The so-called secularization of war has not somehow cleansed it of evil, but rather made the work of our hands the sole credit and often reason for war. Salvation comes not from others, but we turn to the work of our hands–cruise missiles, drone strikes, and the like–to wage war for resources, land, money, and the like. Has war become more or less justified? Is it somehow sanctified through “secularization”? I think this quote speaks powerfully to these notions. I’m about 1/3 of the way through the book now and I really have enjoyed it. It hasn’t quite been about the topics I expected, but it’s been more challenging and expanding in its vision for that reason.


Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)


Stephen Chapman, “Martial Memory, Peaceable Vision: Divine War in the OT” in Holy War in the Bible: Christian Morality and an Old Testament Problem (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013).


What a Surprise! Christianity defamed, Islam respected. And, guess what, the Bible likely older than the “experts” thought

Alright, school has started again. I managed to crank out at least a few things over break, and I have a number of 1/4-1/2 completed articles that I’ll hopefully finish some time, but for now back to easy posts, like random news stories.

Before we get into that though, go to Google (or your Google search bar) and [note: some curse words and offensive language will show if you follow these instructions, if you would not like to be subjected to that, simply read my article as I’ll describe it] type in “Christianity is…” and check out the suggested searches. Wow, those are some strong terms! “Christianity is b*******” is the first suggestion. Others include “Christianity is not a religion” [what?] and “Christianity is a lie.” That’s some strong stuff. Not very respectful of Christianity, obviously. But now try that same thing for “Islam is” and look at the suggestions. Oh wait, there are none. It’s perfectly fine to defame, attack, insult, and otherwise attack Christianity, but try to talk about Islam and you’ll come up empty. We should certainly not insult Islam. We wouldn’t dare to insult the religion of “peace.”

Google, of course, says it’s a database problem. How convenient. Check out this news story for more annoying facts (and a proof pic, if they ever “fix” the “database problem”).

So, as usual, insulting and attacking Christianity is accepted, but we dare not attack or insult Islam. Why is that?

But I digress. Another news story I found interesting was the discovery of some shards of pottery that suggest the Bible was perhaps written earlier than the “experts” thought! What a surprise! Current “scholarship” attempts to suggest the Hebrew Scriptures were not as old as tradition holds (usually dating them around 6th or 7th century B.C. (that’s Before Christ, by the way), but this evidence shows that, shock of all shocks, Hebrew writing existed longer before than was thought possible (this is, of course, not to mention that it is likely the Hebrew Scriptures were written in an even more ancient form of Hebrew script, but the “experts” are so “spot on” at all times it’s hard not to trust them [massive sarcasm]). The archaeological, historical, philosophical, experiential, and other evidences for theism and Christianity continue to increase in number and veracity. Not that this is surprising to anyone but the so-called experts (note that I’m not trying to insult genuine Biblical scholarship, only the radical, relativistic, super-critical scholarship that the media and anti-theists tend to try to cling to).

Well, back to school work.

Edit 1/17- Another news story on the Bible being older (same thing).


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