Symposium Introduction


Dennis Olson
Garwood P. Anderson
Hannah W. Matis
Don Collett



The Elder Testament serves as a theological introduction to the canonical unity of the Scriptures of Israel. Christopher Seitz demonstrates that, while an emphasis on theology and canonical form often sidesteps critical methodology, the canon itself provides essential theological commentary on textual and historical reconstruction.

Part One reflects on the Old Testament as literature inquiring about its implied reader. Seitz introduces the phrase “Elder Testament” to establish a wider conceptual lens for what is commonly called the “Old Testament” or the “Hebrew Bible,” so that the canon might be read to its fullest capacity.

Part Two provides an overview of the canon proper, from Torah to Prophets to Writings. Seitz here employs modern criticism to highlight the theological character of the Bible in its peculiar canonical shape. But he argues that the canon cannot be reduced to simply vicissitudes of history, politics, or economics. Instead, the integrated form of this Elder Testament speaks of metahistorical disclosures of the divine, correlating the theological identity of God across time and beyond.

Part Three examines Proverbs 8, Genesis 1, and Psalms 2 and 110—texts that are notable for their prominence in early Christian exegesis. The Elder Testament measures the ontological pressure exerted by these texts, which led directly to the earliest expressions of Trinitarian reading in the Christian church, long before the appearance of a formally analogous Scripture, bearing the now-familiar name “New Testament.”

Canon to Theology to Trinity. This trilogy, as Seitz concludes, is not strictly a historical sequence. Rather, this trilogy is ontologically calibrated through time by the One God who is the selfsame subject matter of both the Elder and New Testaments. The canon makes the traditional theological work of the church possible without forcing a choice between a minimalist criticism or a detached, often moribund systematic theology. The canon achieves “the concord and harmony of the law and the prophets in the covenant delivered at the coming of the Lord” of which Clement of Alexandria so eloquently spoke.


Reviews and Endorsements

…A remarkable tour de force, a re-envisioning of theological study of the Old Testament, whose implications merit serious thought on the part of Christian theologians.

~Walter R.W.L. Moberly, Modern Theology

Christopher Seitz is one of the freshest voices in biblical scholarship: learned, witty, and incisively theological. He provides more reasons for recovering the ‘Elder’ Testament as a source for Christian thinking.

~Gary A. Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, Notre Dame University

Christ is already at work in the Old Testament, which resists therefore our attempts at historicizing it. This claim forms the solid basis on which Seitz grounds his reading of the Old Testament. Drawing on many years of teaching and writing, The Elder Testament presents Seitz’s mature understanding of a canonical reading of the Scriptures. His rich treatment reminds us why God’s purposes with the Scriptures reach beyond authorial intent to the theological ontology that comes to expression in the ‘first witness.’

~Hans Boersma, J. I. Packer Professor of Theology, Regent College

Chris Seitz has done a great service, both to the scholarly community and to the church, with his latest book, The Elder Testament: Canon, Theology, Trinity. It is the product of many years of reading and teaching the Old Testament

~Hans Boersma, Pro Ecclesia

Seitz has written a stimulating and substantial work that advances the project of interpreting scripture canonically.

~Collin Cornell, Scottish Journal of Theology

Seitz has produced a valuable work that raises the most important questions every Christian reader of the Elder Testament should ask about the nature of canon, theology, and Trinity, and how these concerns weave together in the process of reading the Bible as Christian Scripture. Every reader has implicit assumptions about these matters, and Seitz has performed a great service by helping readers become aware of how these assumptions govern our reading.

~Paavo Tucker, Stone-Campbell Journal

The book is a kind of window onto the theological distillation of an especially gifted critical reader of the Bible, deeply immersed in the church’s lived experiences and challenges—a kind of intellectual ‘testament,’ that carries the charge of a special witness.

~Ephraim Radner, Professor of Historical Theology, Wycliffe College

Impossible. Sealed tight. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity cannot be successfully grounded in the Old Testament, read on its own terms. Or so scholars have claimed for hundreds of years. But the Old Testament’s witness to God’s complex reality contains volcanic pressure. Large cracks have already appeared. But stand back! Christopher Seitz has blown off the lid.

~Matthew W. Bates, author of The Birth of the Trinity

As T.S. Eliot put it in Little Gidding, the end of our exploration is to return to our starting point and to know that place for the first time. This is clearly the case with this new offering from Christopher Seitz, The Elder Testament: Canon, Theology, Trinity. By drawing on his own history in the evolution of Scriptural scholarship, Seitz makes an important contribution to the burgeoning but often imprecisely thought-through field of ‘theological interpretation” of Scripture.

~John Behr, Pro Ecclesia

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