Ten years ago, Peter Enns published the first edition of Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. At the time, it brought with it much controversy for Enns regarding his position at Westminster Theological Seminary (click here to read the documents produced by WTS regarding Inspiration and Incarnation). The book ultimately led to Enns’ suspension from WTS because it was determined by the powers at WTS that it went beyond the Westminster Confession of Faith in some of its assertions (click here for information on Enns’ response to critics).
As a graduate student in biblical studies (studying the Old Testament heavily), and a hopeful Old Testament scholar-to-be, I think that situations like this are unfortunate to the field of biblical studies. I am an orthodox Protestant Christian, who grew up in the home of a minister, and I hold the Bible to be authoritative, etc. etc. But, in situations like these, dogmas stifle academic exploration. In my opinion, that is certainly not the ideal interaction between the church and the academy.
“God honors our honest questions. He is not surprised by them, nor is he ashamed to be our God when we pose them. He is our God, not because of the questions we ask (or refrain from asking), but because he has united us to the risen Christ.” -Peter Enns, p. xiv
Anyway, I was happy to learn that a second edition of Inspiration and Incarnation was being released by Baker Academic as a 10th anniversary edition. I certainly don’t agree with everything that Enns has said or written, but I do agree with the overall premise of this book: Just as Jesus was both human and divine in his incarnation, so the Bible has both human and divine attributes in its “incarnation” (see ch. 1).
The Book. The “meat” of the book is broken down into three primary topics:
1) Chapter 2 explores the OT and similar ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature.
Enns’ analysis of ANE similarities to the OT is well done, in my opinion. His point is that the OT was at home within its culture, and that an evangelical doctrine of Scripture that doesn’t engage with that fact is inadequate to understand the nature of Scripture. Because the OT is tied up in ANE culture, and our theology is tied up in our culture, generation after generation must determine how God speaks to them in and through the Bible. It is not a “timeless, contextless how-to book” (p. 56).
2) Chapter 3 explores theological diversity throughout the OT.
Enns considers the theological diversity as complementary, rather than contradictory. For him, this diversity is, in light of the incarnational analogy that he has chosen to present, “bear[ing] witness to God’s revelation rather than detract[ing] from it” (p. 99).
3) Chapter 4 explores the way in which the OT is interpreted by the authors of the NT.
Here, Enns places the Apostles and Apostolic hermeneutics within their context of Second Temple Period hermeneutics.
In these explorations, Enns is not after the question of “whether the Bible is God’s word but to see more clearly how it is God’s word” (p. 9). That is the key to this book–it delves into questions that many would prefer to leave unanswered, in order to begin working toward a better understanding of what Scripture is.
Differences between the fist and second editions. There are very few differences between the two editions. The revisions within the text are minimal, aiming at clarification. The bibliography is obviously expanded to include works within the past decade. And, there is a postscript subtitled “Some Comments on the Purpose, Reception, and Prospects of Inspiration and Incarnation.”
The issues that Enns raises in Inspiration and Incarnation are ones that we must deal with. Ten years later, the goal is the same: “to bring an evangelical doctrine of Scripture into conversation with the implications generated by some important themes in modern biblical scholarship” (p. 1).
I recommend Inspiration and Incarnation to Christians who want to engage with biblical scholarship and the questions that are raised in that realm of study. I leave you with a snippet of an endorsement of the first edition by Dr. Bill Arnold, whom I have had the opportunity to learn from in seminary: “Written for a popular audience, this book nevertheless makes a contribution to what may be considered the maturation of evangelical scholarship and at the same time is an ardent appeal to allow that maturation to continue.”