Introduction and Purpose
Allan Moseley’s From the Study to the Pulpit seeks to provide a comprehensive methodology for preaching and teaching the Old Testament. In the opening pages of his book, Moseley quotes Haddon Robinson on the need for such a method, “Clear, relevant biblical exposition does not take place Sunday by Sunday by either intuition or accident. Good expositors have methods for their study” (14). Moseley successfully provides anyone teaching the Old Testament with a such a method. This method aims to challenge readers to grow in exegetical proficiency while also providing a simple, usable process that they can use right away. The author succeeds in this task, blessing the reader with trustworthy manual backed by decades of teaching and preaching the Old Testament. If followed, Moseley’s method is sure to facilitate clear, relevant, and biblical teaching that pleases God and faithfully represents His Word.
One might assume that the title, From the Study to the Pulpit, implies this book is only for pastors who preach the Old Testament, but Moseley’s target audience is anyone who teaches the Old Testament, whether they teach from a pulpit, in a small group, or in a mission setting. However, as I read the book, I continually thought how helpful it would be for anyone who reads the Old Testament. Most readers will not be able to translate from Hebrew or analyze textual issues, but the book is an invaluable resource in understanding genre, considering the context, identifying and studying key words, finding the big idea, recognizing connections to Jesus, and applying the Bible to their lives. These steps will greatly enrich any reading, study, or application of the Old Testament. In fact, I might even say that they are necessary for rightly understanding and applying it!
Mosely is clearly and unashamedly a conservative, Bible-believing, Christocentric teacher who believes the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God. He states that he “believes in the divine inspiration and therefore perfection of the Bible,” and agrees with the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy, that the Bible is “entirely inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit” (12). Furthermore, Mosely believes that the Bible is the means by which God continues to bring salvation to the nations, make Himself known to His people, and edify the Church. Hence, preaching all of it is important- including the Old Testament. Moseley asserts that the way to faithfully preach and teach God’s Word is through “exposition,” which he defines as “the acquired skill of understanding and communicating the meaning of biblical texts, with the help of the Holy Spirit” (12). He describes this task as the “both the most important task for church leaders like pastors and the foundational task for all others” (27). After revealing his cards at the beginning of the book, Moseley proceeds to give the reader a robust methodology for expositing the inerrant Old Testament for the glory of God and the good of His people.
From the Study to the Pulpit is exactly what it claims to be, an eight-step method for preaching and teaching the Old Testament. The book reads as a large list of steps for accurate exposition. Each method is broken down into smaller sub-sets of lists and methods, providing the reader with a crystal clear process of studying, interpreting, and applying the Old Testament. After the first couple of chapters I became weary of the lists because I thought it would be impossible to remember them. However, as I made progress in the book, I became sure that I would not remember them, and rather began to read the book for what it is, a method for continued, repeated reference and use.
Methods are not meant to be memorized and followed after one reading. They are meant to guide one through a process, often several times, until one gains proficiency and makes the method a habit. Once I started reading the book as a method for preaching and teaching, I was able to appreciate the numerous lists and steps instead of growing tired of them. They gave me a general idea of a trustworthy method of expositing the Old Testament, but I know I will be most benefitted when I read through the book again while actually following the method, repeatedly, until I make the method into a habit.
Because the book is primarily a step-by-step method, the style is didactic. However, it is both theoretical and practical. The author oscillates between lists, explanations, illustrations, personal stories, and recommended resources. At times, I could tell that I was reading an Old Testament scholar. At other times, I could tell that I was reading from a pastor who loves God’s people. These differences add to the diversity of the book, giving it academic credibility, pastoral practicality, and an overall readability.
It is hard for me to imagine a book on preaching the Old Testament that is more practical than this one. Each chapter includes a step-by-step process with explanation and numerous examples from the author’s preaching and teaching ministry. For example, in Step 3, “Interpreting the Genre,” Moseley offers five recommendations for teaching the poetry of the Psalms. The first recommendation is to help people “see” illustrations in the poem. After explaining what this means, Moseley gives two examples from his sermons, my favorite of which was his illustration of Psalm 73.
In Psalm 73, the psalmist has seen the suffering of the righteous and the prospering of the wicked and has doubted the justice of God. Yet he records that when he entered the sanctuary to worship, he discerned the end of the wicked, and writes in v. 20 that it was “like a dream when one awakes.” Mosely helps his audience “see” the psalmist’s illustration by explaining one of his own irrational dreams and alluding to all of the peculiar dreams we have, and then calling attention to the sensation we feel when we wake up and return to reality. He states, “our dreams seem to make perfect sense while we’re dreaming, but when we wake up we think, ‘that was weird’” (109). By this illustration, Moseley helps his audience see the illustration that the psalmist used. When he saw the suffering of the righteous and prosperity of the wicked, it was like a weird dream, and when he worshipped God, he remembered their end- that God would execute justice. The psalmist had “woken up,” so to speak. He remembered the reality that God is a righteous and just judge. In this example, Mosely does not just say, “help the people see.” He helps the reader see how to help people see.
The author even takes the time to interact with critics, answer potential questions, and provide additional resources. For example, in Step 4, “Exploring the Context,” he doesn’t simply say, “become a student of Near Eastern history and culture,” he explains why its important to know the history and culture and gives a specific list of different types of books that will help the reader do so (and footnotes the one’s he recommends.) For example, he recommends collecting volumes on the history of Israel, and specifically footnotes Walter Kaiser Jr.’s A History of Israel and Eugene Merrill’s Kingdom of Priests. This kind of accessible information makes the book a treasure-chest of practical resources for the student of the Old Testament.
Contents and Personal Review of the Book
The author’s method begins with translating the text and considering text criticism. He highlights the key benefits of reading the Old Testament in Hebrew, such as understanding texts more clearly, reading them more carefully, and explaining the text more accurately. He also mentions the value of being able to assess major Bible translations, stating the goal of translations to be “as literal as possible while still understandable and clear” (31). With regards to text criticism, Mosely provides a method for determining the original text as closely as possible. Of this step, I found the first to be the most practical, “Educate yourself on the reliability of the text” (40). The author provides ample resources for this task and recommends three books on the subject.
Steps 3 and 4 include interpreting the genre and exploring the context. I found both of these sections to be especially useful because I have not seen them addressed in such an in-depth manner in any other book on preaching the Old Testament. Mosely argues convincingly that if we neglect the genre, we might miss the main point completely. To help his readers avoid this error, Moseley demonstrates the importance of understanding and interpreting genre in Proverbs, the Old Testament law, the prophetic texts, and the poetry of the Psalms by teaching the nuances of each genre and giving examples of faithful exposition.
With regards to exploring the context, my favorite section was where Mosely encourages the reader to study the historical, cultural, and geographical context by studying ancient Near Eastern history, culture, and archaeology. I do not know that I have been encouraged to do this anywhere else, but it is clear that such study helps the teacher to be able to position texts in their respective context. Moseley recommends collecting and reading good histories of Israel, anthropologies of people groups, commentaries, and maps. This is a momentous task, but Moseley gives wise counsel, “we start where we are and we commit to grow in our knowledge month by month, year by year. The greater the breadth and depth of our knowledge of historical and cultural backgrounds, the better we will be able to interpret Old Testament texts” (139).
In Steps 5 and 6 the author explains how to define important words and identify the big idea of the text. Often, the former leads to the latter. The most helpful aspects of the word-defining step are the steps on identifying key words (160-166) and understanding that words have usages, not meanings (150). Finding the “big idea” is just as important. Mosely writes, “a sermon should have a big idea that no one can miss” (180). We find this “big idea” by jotting down ideas as we read the text, asking “what is the main idea here?”, writing potential sentences that expresses the main idea of the text, and asking what the text says about the main point. I found the most helpful part of this section to be explaining the main point with active verbs in the present tense. This helps readers or listeners remain engaged as teachers explain the details of the text.
In steps 7 and 8, Mosely shows the reader how to connect the text to Jesus and apply the text to contemporary people. He convincingly argues that the Old Testament expositor should always point to Jesus, and he provides a robust description of how the Old Testament leads to Jesus (211-219). I found the section on “asking the right questions” to get to Jesus to be the most helpful, with the two questions of “does the passage reveal something about the human problem?” and “where is the passage located in salvation history?” standing out the most. With regards to applying the text to contemporary people, Mosely reminds the reader that though the text can have only one meaning, it can have multiple applications. He encourages the teacher to be open to listening to the way other people apply the text, to consider the different life situations of an audience, to love the people the reader teaches, to apply the text himself, and to include himself in the application. This section itself is very applicable and is worthy of repeated consultation.
I believe I will be a much better Bible teacher after reading this book. I have a new respect for studying and interpreting the Old Testament, beginning with learning Hebrew and ending with applying the Word to my heart and helping others do the same. In between I have grown in my understanding of textual criticism, genre, contextual issues, studying important words, discovering the main idea, and employing a Christocentric hermeneutic. However, Moseley’s work has had a unique impact on me by simultaneously encouraging my discipline in both study and intimacy with God; I have recognized that the two go hand-in-hand. Throughout the book Moseley consistently reminds the reader of the necessity of prayer, and he successfully demonstrates that without depending on God, the expositor will not succeed in pleasing and honoring God. Furthermore, he will not succeed in enjoying God and the privilege of serving Him. But the one who depends on God will be given grace and strength for so great a task as studying and teaching God’s Word. I finished this book not only desiring to study and teach the Bible more faithfully, but to enjoy, depend on, and serve God more zealously. I will continually refer to this book throughout my ministry, and by God’s grace, use it to move from the study to the pulpit with a humble confidence in the Word of God and the power it has when preached accurately and faithfully.