My guess is that most of my readers have experienced one of those "Edison moments" in class or church when the light came on. Two that I remember clearly in my days in grad school at Maranatha were in ecclesiology when I realized that the typical Baptist church's polity bears little resemblance to the biblical pattern (albeit more than the other denominations) and when in Romans we hit chapters 6–8, which promptly demolished all I had ever heard preached in my life about the necessity of a dedication/surrender decision subsequent to salvation.
Well, incorporating Sailhamer's Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach into my thinking has created a constant stream of those Edison moments. I hope to blog on some of those in a series that should stretch over some time as I continue to digest these thoughts and delve into The Pentateuch as Narrative over the summer. As I progress, I will be trying to rebuild my own OT hermeneutic in light of what I have learned.
You may be thinking, "Why should I read what some guy has to say about the OT? We're no longer under law. We're under grace. The OT was for Israel."
That's precisely why you should be reading.
I seriously doubt that I am alone in experiencing gnawing frustrations with the dispensational system that I have learned. By any account, I am and will continue to be a dispensationalist, but my dissatisfaction crystallized when I was teaching through Romans in Sunday School about four years ago. When we got to 4:13-18, my brain overheated.
13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.I will probably deal more extensively with this passage later, but for now suffice it to say that this passage supplies evidence of a greater continuity between believing Israel and the Church than I had seen or heard before. Stunningly, none of the required (and classic) texts on dispensationalism from my academic career dealt with this passage. I'm talking about Ryrie's Dispensationalism, Showers' There Really Is a Difference, and McClain's Law and Grace and The Greatness of the Kingdom. (McClain does briefly allude to verses 15 and 17 three times in his two books, but the allusions are completely irrelevant to the dispensational implications of the passage.) Now, I know these men are familiar with the book of Romans, because they cite chapter XI frequently to defend their distinction between Israel and the Church.
14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified;
15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
16 ¶ For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
17 (as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist.
18 In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.” [NASB]
All that to say this: Sailhamer's work has supplied missing pieces to the dispensational puzzle. It has been caulk to stop up the leaks in my mind (at least the ones related to Dispensationalism). I will not be his most skilled defender. My purpose is simply to whet your appetite and hopefully convince you to read his books for yourself. And I'm not alone. In the past three months I've talked to three brilliant minds in independent Baptist institutions of higher learning who expressed substantial appreciation for his work, and I've heard second-hand of two more.
Lord willing, more explanation will be forthcoming. In the meantime, check out his NIV Compact Bible Commentary. It's a very handy pocket-size book that will give you a great reference for some of the passages I'll mention.