Bible Review 3:4, Winter 1987

Bible Books

The People Called: The Growth of Community in the Bible

Paul D. Hanson (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986) 576 pp., $31.95

Attempts to write biblical theology have traditionally moved in one of two general directions. In some cases authors have abstracted general theological principles from the Bible and then arranged them according to some sort of logical system. This approach has the advantage of presenting the material in an intelligible way so that it can be used by the modern church or synagogue, but it runs the risk of imposing on the text theological concepts that are not biblical and ignoring the historical settings in which the Bible’s theology grew. In other cases authors have tried to take seriously the Bible’s claim that God is revealed through historical events and have traced the historical growth of theology during the biblical period. This approach has the advantage of being true to Jewish and Christian views on the historical character of revelation, but it runs the risk of becoming simply a historical study of ancient religion that has little relevance for modern communities of faith. In The People Called, Paul Hanson combines these approaches, drawing upon the strengths of both while avoiding their most serious weaknesses.

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