Book Notice: Canon, Covenant, and Christology: Rethinking Jesus and the Scriptures of Israel

Matthew Barrett. Canon, Covenant, and Christology: Rethinking Jesus and the Scriptures of Israel. New Studies in Biblical Theology 51. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020. 384 pages. $34.00 (paperback).

In Canon, Covenant, and Christology, Matthew Barrett (Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri) addresses the doctrine of the divine inspiration of Scripture as it is expressed in the four Gospels. Barrett asks what can be gleaned from a thorough examination of Jesus and the Gospels concerning this topic in the absence of explicit references to inspiration (in contrast with the writings of Paul and Peter). He argues that “Jesus and the apostles have just as convictional a doctrine of Scripture, but it will be discovered only if one reads the Gospels within their own canonical horizon and covenantal context. The nature of Scripture that Jesus and the Gospel writers presuppose may not be addressed directly, but manifests itself powerfully when one reads the words of Jesus and the Gospel writers within the Old Testament’s promise-fulfilment pattern and typological tapestry” (6). Further, Barrett argues that by looking to the manner in which Jesus accomplishes redemption—that is, his self-conscious covenant obedience to the Scriptures—one also discovers Jesus’s own attitude toward the Scriptures (7).

Barrett begins with an overview of divine authorial intent, canonical unity, and Christological presuppositions (chap. 1); the motifs of covenant and canon (chap. 2); and two case studies focusing on Matthew (chap. 3) and John (chap. 4). Whereas the first half of the book (chaps. 1–4) examines Jesus’s self-identification and climactic role in fulfilling the redemptive promises and types of the Old Testament, the chapters that follow turn to Jesus’s life of obedience to the Scriptures. Barrett analyzes how the Synoptics describe Jesus as the last Adam, true Israel, son of Abraham/David, and Son of God (chap 5). This Synoptic picture is augmented by the Johannine witness to Jesus’s authority as the eternal Son of God (chap. 6). The volume concludes with a rightly ordered definition of inerrancy, showing how biblical theology can move to systematic and dogmatical theology.

Overall, Barrett’s treatment of these timely issues is an encouraging answer to the critics of inspiration and inerrancy. He writes clearly and evidences a strong commitment to the veracity of Scripture. His treatment of Jesus’s offices of king, priest, and prophet is helpful for understanding some prominent Old Testament motifs as well as Jesus’s identity and self-realization as the heir of Israel’s Scriptures. Barrett notably affirms the Matthean emphasis on Jesus as the fulfillment of covenant. Apart from the work of John Nolland, this distinctive of Matthew’s depiction of Jesus is often neglected in contemporary scholarship. Barrett’s study also demonstrates the continuity between the Synoptic and Johannine witnesses. This book is an exemplar of the possibilities when one weds exegesis and theology. In so doing, Barrett produces a penetrating analysis of one of the foundations of evangelical distinctiveness, namely the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. By viewing this foundation through a covenantal and Christological lens, he provides a unique and fresh contribution.

CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. The present book notice was written by Charles Nathan Ridlehoover, Ph.D., a secondary teacher at North Raleigh Christian Academy, Raleigh, NC, and instructor of New Testament courses at Columbia Biblical Seminary.


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