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A Severe Mercy
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A Severe Mercy

Sin and Its Remedy in the Old Testament

by Mark J. Boda 1
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The biblical-theological approach Boda takes in this work is canonical-thematic, tracing the presentation of the theology of sin and its remedy in the canonical form and shape of the Old Testament. The hermeneutical foundations for this enterprise have been laid by others in past decades, especially by Brevard Childs in his groundbreaking work. But A Severe Mercy also reflects recent approaches to integrating biblical understanding with other methodologies in addition to Childs's. Thus, it enters the imaginative space of the ancient canon of the Old Testament in order to highlight the "word views" and "literary shapes" of the "texts taken individually and as a whole collection." For the literary shape of the individual texts, it places the "word views" of the dominant expressions and images, as well as various passages, in the larger context of the biblical books in which they are found. For the literary shape of the texts as a collection, it identifies key subthemes and traces their development through the Old Testament canon. The breadth of Boda's study is both challenging and courageous, resulting in the first comprehensive examination of the topic in the 21st century.

Product Details

Publisher: Eisenbrauns
Publication date: 2009
Bibliographic info: x + 622 pages
Language(s): English


Cover: Cloth
Trim Size: 6 x 9 inches



"A diligent, resourceful, and productive expert takes the reader on a guided tour through the Hebrew canonical writings, examining and explaining one after the other (with few exceptions) each individual book of the Old Testament. He points out a “dominant concern” of canonical Scripture for the theological topic of “sin and its remedy” (4; the formula occurs an estimated five hundred times in the course of the study). The reader stands aghast at the volume and depth, variability, and sternness of this theme."—Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Philipps Universität in Review of Biblical Literature, April 2010

"This first volume of Eisenbraun's new Siphrut series on literature and theology of the Hebrew Scriptures sets a high standard. It is refreshing to read a work which seeks to uncover the distinctive nuances and development of the biblical theme rather than the purported agendas of competing sociological groups behind the text. I am quite impressed with Boda's command of the literature as well as his exegetical instincts. For whatever else this book is, it is a book with great exegetical and theological value. It sets texts within their immediate literary and historical contexts and provides clear and sound explanations, while at the same time noting emerging principles and patterns in the larger canonical storyline. Despite the book's daunting size and comprehensive scope, Boda's writing and organization keep the big picture from being lost in all the detail. Numerous charts and tables contribute to the study."—Steve Dempster, Crandall University in Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, Volume 10 (2010)

"[T]his is a fine thematic study with which all future discussions of the topic will need to engage."—P. P. Jenson in JSOT 34.5 (2010)

"This first volume in the series Siphrut: Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures, and "first phase in a larger work" by the author (p. 11, n. 28), exemplifies the sustained interest in biblical theology during a time in which methods of biblical interpretation are especially varied. Mark J. Boda, a prolific writer who is Professor of Old Testament at McMaster Divinity College and Professor in the Faculty of Theology of McMaster University, offers a thorough work marked by clarity of style. His goal is to articulate a "normative description" (p. 5) of sin within the Old Testament canon with a view toward "the task of Christian theology" (p. 10)."—Warren C. Robertson, M. Christopher White School of Theology in Review and Expositor 107, Spring (2010)

"The value of such a vast survey is that it prompts one to think about certain texts again, as in the above examples. Overall this is an informative contribution to the biblical theology of sin; it is Boda’s first phase of a larger project (11, n. 28)."—Mark A. O’Brien, St Dominic’s Priory in Australian Biblical Review, 58

"Readers should be grateful to Boda not only for treating this prominent biblical theme thoroughly, but also for doing so in a way that respects the integral features of each book. While this makes the tasks of integrating and systematizing the biblical testimony regarding sin more challenging, it simultaneously equips one to do so in a way that honors the rich diversity of Scripture."—Daniel C. Timmer, Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi at The Gospel Coalition Reviews

"Those who are interested in literary and narrative analysis, biblical theology, and canonical interpretation will find much from which to profit."—Bradley C. Gregory, University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, in Catholic Biblical Quarterly 72 (2010).

"A Severe Mercy is an extensive study, including much close work in the selected texts, reflection of wide reading, and regular interaction with current scholarship in both the running content and in substantive content footnotes throughout. Boda's typical method is to provide a summary introduction of a given book, then move to consider what that book contributes to the study of his theme by examining it in smaller divisions . . . One of the stimulating aspects of Boda's work is his attention to differences of perspective and presentation in the different canonical materials and sections. One interesting example is his suggestion that Nahum reflects the content of Exodus 34:6-7, but for the purposes of highlighting the opposite of God's gracious action--unmitigated judgment on Nineveh (pp. 324-25)."—Walter E. Brown, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, LA, in Journal of Evangelical Theological Seminary 53/3.

"There is a huge amount to reward the careful reader, and Boda regularly lines up all the key issues in a lucid manner. . . . [T]his excellent presentation of all the data will serve well all those who wish in turn to reflect on the topic."—Richard S. Briggs, St. John's College, Durham, in Biblical Studies Bulletin 57 (September 2010).

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