Review: How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament

9781629952451Jason S. DeRouchie is Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College and Seminary. DeRouchie received an M.Div. from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as well as additional studies at Jerusalem University College and Harvard Divinity School. DeRouchie is the author of a number of books, including A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew (coauthored with Duane A. Garrett; B&H Academic, 2009) and What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey if Jesus’ Bible (Kregel, 2013). Most recently, DeRouchie has written a user-friendly and comprehensive hermeneutical exploration of the Old Testament that is certain to dethrone many predecessors as a standard classroom textbook.

How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology is truly a tour de force par excellence. DeRouchie not only uncovers and illuminates every corner of the hermeneutical process of the Old Testament, but he helpfully offers numerous examples for readers to reflect upon while working through the TOCMA (Text > Observation > Context > Meaning > Application) model. The book is divided into five major parts (TOCMA) comprised of twelve foundational steps: Text — [1] Genre, [2] Literary Units, [3] Text Criticism, and [4] Translation; Observation — [5] Grammar, [6] Argument-Tracing, and [7] Word and Concept Studies; Context — [8] Historical Context and [9] Literary Context; Meaning — [10] Biblical Theology and [11] Systematic Theology; and Application — [12] Practical Theology. Readers will appreciate the level of care that DeRouchie has taken throughout the volume to bring the overall implications of the TOCMA model to life and ministry.

The organization and structure of How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament is also a noteworthy aspect of the volume. DeRouchie has provided a detailed analytical outline for reference and each chapter opens with an overview of the content, including a designation of the contents difficulty level (easy, moderate, or challenging). Readers are able to quickly determine how deep they wish to dive into each chapter and can skip around as desired. Another way to look at it is that DeRouchie has effectively written a three-level hermeneutical exploration that offers the beginning student room to grow and the advanced student a reliable source of review. Each chapter incudes numerous tables and charts with relevant information, and conclude with a list of keywords and concepts for review, questions for further reflection, and a resources list for further study. DeRouchie does indicate suggested resources for beginning and advanced students, but it would have been beneficial if these resource lists were annotated with comments about the usefulness of the book for the reader.

It’s difficult to say anything about this volume that hasn’t been said by other reviewers. I mean, the book opens with over fifteen pages of endorsement from respected Old Testament scholars and pastors, such as William D. Barrick, C. John Collins, Lee M. Fields, Peter J. Gentry, Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Tremper Longman III, Eugene H. Merrill, Gary D. Pratico, Bruce K. Waltke, and many more. Prior to DeRouchie, I was regularly using Old Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students by Douglas Stuart (4th edition; WJK, 2009), which is a standard textbook used around the world and an excellent volume that remains useful. DeRouchie has functionally replaced this volume on my shelf, and I imagine others will have the same feeling. The TOCMA model that is put forth in How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament offers twelve steps worth taking if you desire to properly understand, apply, and communicate the Old Testament.

How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology by Jason S. DeRouchie is unparalleled in scope and usefulness. There is simply no other book on the market better positioned to help readers understand and apply the Old Testament. It is informative, accessible, and thoroughly engaging. It is certain to become a classroom standard and should be on the bookshelf of anyone seeking to seriously understand the Old Testament as a faithful follower of Jesus. It comes highly recommended!

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