God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment by James Hamilton is a superb book in so many ways (and only $7.69 on Kindle). If I recall, I think John Piper said that it was one of very few books that he read all the way through without putting it down. Given that it’s 640 pages long, I would have starved if I’d tried that. However, it’s certainly a compelling, and even an exciting read. A terrific amount of work went into this book, and every serious student of the Old Testament should get it and read it (often).
One of my greatest joys in reading the book was an early paragraph that seemed to clearly state that Old Testament believers were saved by grace through faith in a coming Messiah.
At last, I thought, a modern Old Testament theology (it covers the NT too) that does not present Old Testament salvation as a confused mixture of mere theistic faith + works + sacrifices. Here we have a Christ-centered view of Old Testament salvation, in line with the historic Reformed, Presbyterian, and Baptist confessions.
Or do we?
Hmmm: “The prescribed sacrifices really will atone for sin?” Surely some mistake? Let me read on….
O dear, we seem to be back to theistic faith + works + sacrifices again. Maybe (hopefully) I’m reading this wrong. Then a few pages later…
Well, now I’m totally deflated. We’ve gone from clear Messiah-centered faith in Genesis to a confused muddle in Leviticus. We’ve gone from Christ + Nothing = Everything (HT Tullian), to Works + Ritual + Theism = Everything. Please someone tell me that I’m adding this up this wrong.
I’m still recommending Hamilton’s book (highly). I’ve learned more about the Old Testament from this book than any other I’ve read in the past 5 years. But I do want to flag this unfortunate confusion, a confusion that seems to be shared by another 600+ pager, John Sailhamer’s epic and excellent work on the Pentateuch (see Is Moses in heaven? How?).
I hope to return to this subject tomorrow and ask, “What did the Levitical sacrifices really do?”
Update: Thanks to Jim Hamilton for some clarifications below.