Contextualization and the Old Testament
Between Asian and Western Perspectives
Christianity is often viewed in Asia as a Western imposition. Challenging this, Dr. Jerry Hwang examines the Old Testament’s cultural engagement of its ancient Near Eastern context, arguing that Scripture itself provides the ultimate model for contextualizing theology in Asia.
While it is common for missiological studies to ignore the Old Testament in their discussion of contextualization, truly biblical contextualization must include the whole Bible, not simply the New Testament. This study provides insightful discourse between the Old Testament and various Asian contexts, while demonstrating how Asian perspectives can help overcome the Eurocentrism prevalent in Old Testament scholarship.
This is an ideal resource for scholars and practitioners interested in a biblical perspective of contextualization, especially as related to constructing theology that honors the truth of Scripture in the context of Asia.
A rich and bold demonstration that Western scholars unwittingly bring interpretive lenses to the biblical texts rooted in Enlightenment presumptions and that the Confucian touchstones of the Far East are an indispensable resource for historical critical scholarship. No one is more qualified to build this bridge where West meets East than Jerry Hwang.
JOSHUA BERMAN, PhD
Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Contextualization and the Old Testament by Dr. Jerry Hwang is simply a brilliant book written by a brilliant scholar. I was totally fascinated by every page of this book, which every biblical scholar, missionary, seminary student, and pastor ought to read.
TREMPER LONGMAN III, PhD
Westmont College, California, USA
Jerry Hwang in Contextualization and the Old Testament has produced nothing less than a landmark tour-de-force in scholarship that will shape how contextualization is understood for the next generation of missiologists.
TIMOTHY C. TENNENT, PhD
Asbury Theological Seminary, Kentucky, USA
Jerry Hwang’s insights into the complexity of Asian cultures and the misguided attempts at contextualization, both historical and contemporary, are eye-opening. This is a brilliant book, useful for biblical scholars, theologians, missiologists, and students of Asian cultures.
J. Richard Middleton, PhD
Professor of Biblical Worldview and Exegesis, Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College, New York, USA
I have long sensed a need for an in-depth exploration of contextualization from an Old Testament perspective. Jerry Hwang’s book masterfully fills that gap.
DEAN FLEMMING, PhD
MidAmerica Nazarene University, Kansas, USA
Hwang’s book is destined to be a seminal work that future scholars and practitioners in contextualization must learn from, dialogue with, and build upon.
SAMUEL K. LAW, PhD
Singapore Bible College
Doing contextual theology in Asia is profoundly biblical because it does what the Bible, and particularly the Old Testament, does: dialogue with the context. This is the argument of Jerry Hwang in this careful, wide-ranging, and learned book, and I could not agree with his argument more. Paraphrasing Tertullian, he asks what does contextualization have to do with the Old Testament and his answer is “nearly everything.”
Stephen Bevans, PhD
Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD Professor of Mission and Culture, Emeritus,
Catholic Theological Union, Illinois, USA
For most of us, the Bible was written for us but it was not written directly to us, and that raises the issue of contextualization. How do we understand properly what the text actually meant in its original context so we can appropriately interpret and apply it within our contexts? Jerry Hwang’s Contextualization and the Old Testament provides helpful insights as he attempts to help us engage the text more accurately and honestly.
Bryan Beyer, PhD
Bible Professor Emeritus,
Columbia International University, South Carolina, USA
Hwang brings together his expertise in Old Testament studies and missiology, and his profound insights into Asian and Western cultural perspectives, to produce a thought-provoking work that will equip the church to develop theologies that are both deeply biblical and authentically local.
Derek Brotherson, PhD
Principal, Lecturer in Missions and Preaching,
Sydney Missionary & Bible College, Australia
This is an expansive book by a mature scholar. Hwang argues that the Old Testament’s interaction with the ancient world offers models of how Christian faith can engage culture today. On the one hand, these engagements illumine how to theologize better in Asia’s diverse contexts. On the other hand, Asian reflections on Bible translation and other topics can sharpen – even correct – current missiological perspectives and accepted givens in Old Testament scholarship. An important contribution!
M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas), PhD
Scripture Press Ministries Professor of Biblical Studies and Pedagogy,
Wheaton College, Illinois, USA
Jerry Hwang’s emphasis upon, in, and with the Old Testament draws the reader into recognizing the ways the Old Testament interacts within its own ancient Near Eastern cultural milieu, by both drawing from it and serving as a polemic within it. While delivering profound insights into Asian and Western contextualizing of Scripture and the gospel, his approach is applicable across all cross-cultural settings.
Ingrid Faro, PhD
Dean of Theology,
Scandinavian School of Theology, Sweden
This is a major scholarly achievement. Jerry Hwang illuminatingly interprets the Hebrew scriptures in the light of Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Korean, Filipino, Japanese, and other Asian contexts. Anyone studying biblical interpretation, theology, contextualization, missiology, or Asian Christianity will learn from it – and delight in it. Contextualization and the Old Testament deserves to become a classic.
Timothy Larsen, PhD
McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College, Illinois, USA
Honorary Fellow, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh, UK
Only a handful of scholars could have written this book and I’m glad Dr Hwang has! He is sensitive to the historical and cultural nuances of both the Old Testament and Asia today and his unique multicultural competence shines through on every page. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to gain a truer and fuller understanding of the Old Testament from an Asian perspective.
Peter H. W. Lau, PhD
Adjunct Lecturer in Old Testament and Biblical Theology,
Seminari Theoloji Malaysia
This book will become a significant guide to how biblical theology is done in a way that exalts the ontological priority of Scripture and its power of contemporaneity in various cultures. It places readers in and with the biblical texts, and under them, that is, under the grip of the effectual nature of Holy Scripture. Keen-minded readers will reap from it how the gospel can be communicated and lived out in Asia and abroad. Hwang is to be praised for such a worthy undertaking to which readers will be indebted.
Dennis Ngien, PhD
Alister E. McGrath Chair of Christian Thought & Spirituality,
Tyndale University, Canada
At last, a comprehensive, well-researched, and nuanced treatment of contextualization in the Old Testament! Professor Hwang offers a fascinating examination of the complex interface of local culture and religion with the faith of ancient Israel. He then compellingly draws implications for today from a decidedly Asian perspective, yielding insights from which all readers will benefit.
Craig Ott, PhD
Professor of Mission and Intercultural Studies,
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois, USA
Hwang explores an array of overlooked ways that the Old Testament bolsters the work of contextualization across diverse global settings. This book is both provocative and practical. Even if readers don’t agree with Hwang on some points, they’ll benefit from his groundbreaking contribution to a long overdue conversation.
Jackson Wu, PhD
Mission ONE, Arizona, USA
In these pages Hwang navigates much, much more than between the Asian and Western perspectives highlighted in the book’s subtitle, traversing also between theology and missiology; between the ancient Near Eastern and Israelite world on the one horizon and contemporary late modern global dynamics characterizing the 2020s on the other; between Hebrew Bible scholarship that is predominantly of Euro-American derivation on the one hand and popular piety and ecclesial practice cultivated through South, East, and Southeast Asia religio-cultural sensibilities on the other. The result is the Old Testament speaking afresh to the universality of the biblical message in ways that depends on both the cultural particularities of the evangel’s medium and the contextual specificities of any receptor audience’s perspective. Welcome to a Pacific Rim theological voice that will resound with transnational relevance.
Amos Yong, PhD
Dean of the School of Mission and Theology, Professor of Theology and Mission,
Fuller Theological Seminary, California, USA
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Introduction
- Chapter 2: Language, Bible Translation, and Contextual Theology
- Chapter 3: Divine Translatability and Term Questions for Deity
- Chapter 4: Official Religion, Popular Religion, and Prosperity Theology
- Chapter 5: Covenant, Law, and Kinship
- Chapter 6: Honor, Shame, and Guilt
- Chapter 7: Aniconism and Iconography
- Chapter 8: Creation and Pantheism
- Chapter 9: Conclusion
- Subject Index
- Author Index
- Scripture Index