Richard Bauckham. Who Is God? Key Moments of Biblical Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. 128 pages. $21.99 (hardcover).
In Who Is God? Key Moments of Biblical Revelation, Richard Bauckham, senior scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, takes a different approach from his normal extensive scholarly work. The volume exhibits the same scholarly acumen one expects from Bauckham, but in a tidy 100-page format. After orienting the reader to some of his methodological decisions, Bauckham confronts the reader with his main research question—who is God? He argues that one can only answer the identity question with recourse to God’s self-revelation. Thus, each chapter that follows explores different moments of God’s self-revelation.
Bauckham begins in chapter 1 with the revelation of God’s divine presence. After a close reading of Genesis 28, Bauckham begins to explore the implications of God’s presence “with us” and its parallel to Jesus as Immanuel in Matt 1:23. He continues with the evocation of Jesus as the new tabernacle and new temple in John’s Gospel and Revelation. Chapter 2 details the revelation of the divine Name, beginning with a helpful overview of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) and the significance God’s introduction as YHWH in Exodus 3. Bauckham concludes that God’s self-disclosure to Moses is best translated as “I will be whoever I choose to be” or “I am free to be who I choose to be” (p. 42), establishing God as the self-sufficient One. The discussion then transitions to the divine name in the NT, focusing on the Name petition in the Lord’s Prayer and Jesus’s references to God as Father.
Chapter 3 explores the revelation of God’s character, which features a close reading of Exodus 33. Bauckham argues that God’s character is best summarized as merciful, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and faithful (p. 68), which runs contrary to the popular caricature of the OT God as vengeful. After showing how God’s mercy is consistent with other writings in the OT (particularly Joel and Jonah), Bauckham concludes by discussing the recapitulation of Exodus 33 in John’s prologue. Chapter 4, finally, examines the revelation of the Trinity. This chapter focuses primarily on the New Testament, noting three instances in Mark’s Gospel where the Trinity is present: Jesus’s baptism (1:9–11), the transfiguration (9:2–8), and the tearing of the temple veil and centurion’s confession after Jesus’s death (15:37–39). He concludes with the role of the Trinity in the Christian experience of salvation—God is “present to us, with us, and in us in distinguishable ways” (p. 110).
Bauckham’s book is equal parts scholarly and pastoral. The book does an exceptional job examining God’s self-revelation throughout both testaments, offering brilliant insights into the character of God. Readers will notice Bauckham’s preference for close readings of John’s writings throughout the NT sections, but this does not mitigate against invaluable insights from Matthew and Mark. Although it is a quick read, the wise reader doubtless will pause, grab a pen, scribble in the margins, and rejoice at the lifetime of learning Bauckham brings to this work.
CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. CBS book notices are not full academic book reviews. The present book notice was written by Charles Nathan Ridlehoover (Ph.D.), a secondary teacher at North Raleigh Christian Academy, Raleigh, NC, who also teaches New Testament and Greek courses at Columbia Biblical Seminary, Columbia, SC.