From Exegesis to Exposition: A Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew by Robert B. Chisholm Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I recommend this book, but I also consider it has serious shortcomings. The title, though not exciting, is clear about its purpose. Chisholm writes to help people use Hebrew in the move From Exegesis to Exposition.
Where it’s strong is the exegesis – using Hebrew.
Where it’s weak is the exposition – writing sermons.
First, the strength. I have a little knowledge of Hebrew, and benefit from the Bible software that aids interaction with the original languages. The great usefulness of From Exegesis to Exposition is building on that basic knowledge. It’s not an introductory text, not the book to use to start learning Hebrew.
If you have some biblical Hebrew, you might be tempted into this book by reading some of the chapter sub-headings: how words work and play, basics of Hebrew syntax, the basic structure of Hebrew narrative and poetry. These are matters I would like to know better – and Chisholm helps me. Along the way, he is always providing examples from the text. These show him as an attentive reader who is careful to let the text itself shape his understanding.
Such care in reading is also exhibited in the eight sermon texts he provides. So, while I have concerns about the sermons, Chisholm’s love for the Hebrew Bible is very clear all the way through his book.
So to the weakness: exposition. From Exegesis to Exposition is less useful from Chapter 8, ‘Putting It All Together.’ He starts with a series of seven steps. (From ‘Step 1: Viewing the Forest’ to ‘Step 7: Viewing the Forest Again.’) Unusually for a book published in the US, these steps are not as well formatted as they could be. But that’s a relatively minor matter.
The most serious issue with the process is the end product – the eight example expositions – are all rather pale and tend towards behaviour improvement. They are not legalism, but their feel is definitely that of spiritual-moral improvement.
The underlying cause is a lack of whole Bible integration. Or, simply, there’s not enough Gospel of Jesus. The Old Testament passages are read as if answering the question, ‘What does this tell me about being a Christian?’ It’s the wrong question! Better is, ‘What does this tell me about Christ?’
Jesus taught that all the scriptures point to him and his ministry (see John 5:39-40, Luke 24:44-47, 2 Corinthians 1:20). Therefore Old Testament exposition, to be a true exposition, must also point to Jesus and his ministry. The Old Testament is for Christians indirectly, because we are in Christ, rather than directly (with the notable exception of Jewish followers of Jesus, of course).
This work needs to be strengthened with a more gospel-centred approach to the pre-Christmas scriptures. Perhaps by reading the work of Graeme Goldsworthy, or something similar.
My final recommendation: read From Exegesis to Exposition to learn how to use Hebrew better, read something else to gain skills in turning that Hebrew understanding into Christian teaching.