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Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  920 ratings  ·  101 reviews
In this accessible study, Peter Enns offers an evangelical affirmation of biblical authority that considers questions raised by the nature of the Old Testament text.
Enns looks at three questions raised by biblical scholars that seem to threaten traditional views of Scripture. First, he considers ancient Near Eastern literature that is similar to the Bible. Second, he look
Paperback, 197 pages
Published July 1st 2005 by Baker Academic
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4.08  · 
Rating details
 ·  920 ratings  ·  101 reviews

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Adam Ross
Feb 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
To my great surprise, I found myself liking this book very much. Peter Enns was the erstwhile Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary East before he was suspended for the views espoused in this book. He later left the seminary, though in good standing, and the controversy stirred up by the book seems to have settled down, though not resolved itself.

I appreciated Enns' forthrightness, his courage to examine new ideas, his humility in insisting this book is not the last word on the subj
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the nature of scripture and inspiration
Recommended to Jonathan by: Christianity Today
Shelves: theology
This book intrigued me because I have long felt that conservative Christians (like me) have overemphasized the divine origin of Scripture over the human element. The true nature of inspiration will probably always be somewhat of a mystery to me, which is why the word “incarnation” resonates with me. Although I am not a trained theologian, I have often used that term to describe the word of God.

Old Testament scholar Peter Enns aims to synthesize some of the issues of Biblical scholarship with an
Douglas Wilson
Jan 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: theology
Raised some good questions, and did a lousy job answering them.
John Martindale
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing

I appreciated this book, its tone and approach. It seemed the main point made was the one made by C.S Lewis in the chapter Scripture from his Reflection on the Psalms. The point being that if we are going to assume the bible is the word of God, and place our faith that somehow the O.T points to and lays the groundwork for Christ, then we should honor and accept it as it is. Instead evangelicals decide what God should have given us, and with this presupposition force the bible to be and do what i
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent introduction to the problem of reconciling the Old & New Testaments. A must-read for those of us who have that nagging sense that somethings not right, and yet have been burdened by the historical-grammatical interpretation of the Old Testament. The section on Apostolic Hermeneutics alone is worth the price of admission. If these words sound too complicated for you, just read the book; its an easier read than it sounds :)
Jul 24, 2015 marked it as to-read
I probably will never read this book, but I wanted to leave this review (by William Evans) here.
Daniel Crouch
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
For an even more thorough summary, check out this series:

Peter Enns’s 2005 book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament is an ambitious effort to bring the insights of critical studies to bear on the evangelical understanding of biblical inspiration. Enns, a professor of Old Testament in the Reformed tradition, aims his work at younger students of religion, though it is undoubtedly relevant for a wider spectrum of po
Dave Lester
Mar 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Author Peter Enns has had an interesting relationship with the Evangelical church. One of the hosts of the podcast, "The Bible for Normal People", he no longer attends an Evangelical church but still remains engaged in issues impacting this specific niche of Christianity. "Inspiration and Incarnation" was first published in 2005 when Enns was (I believe) still involved personally with Evangelical Christianity and in this work, he highlights a very important problem. How do Evangelicals approach ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an excellent challenge to the evangelical approach of engaging with the Old Testament. Though Enns does take care to deliver the material in a kind-spirited and generous manner, this doesn’t detract from the serious nature of the issues that he highlights. Key among these is the dishonest practice of defending evangelical positions for their own sake (which increasingly requires ignoring a considerable amount of evidence).

As an alternative, Enns establishes his “Incarnational analo
David Belich
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith
A great book that was formed earlier in Pete Enn's journey. Much of the information contained in the book has been discussed and represented (better in my opinion) in Pete's later books, though there were many ideas and concepts that were unique. If you had to pick a couple of Pete Enn's books to read, stick with How the Bible Actually Works and The Bible Tells Me So.
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
I should have paid attention to the subtitle. Had I done so, I would probably not have been so disappointed by this book. In seeing just Inspiration and Incarnation, I assumed the book would defend those concepts. Needless to say, I was disappointed when the author announced in the introduction that he had no intention of defending either, but was simply assuming them. The idea that a book on this topic would not be apologetical in nature surprised me. So I was left to listen in on a discussion ...more
Mar 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Peter Enns has stirred up something of a tempest in some evangelical circles with this book on scripture as well as a more recent book on Adam and evolution. At the same time, scholars like Mark Noll commend his work (in Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind). So, I decided to pick up this work and his one on Adam to see what the kerfuffle is all about.

I can see why some would struggle with this book. Enns asks us to set aside our conceptions of how scripture should work if it is inerrant to wor
B. P. C.
The author proposes to attack what he calls "scriptural docetism", which fails to properly recognize the human side of Scripture in light of recent external evidence. For him, both mainstream evangelicalism and skeptical biblical criticism have been failing to reconcile the doctrine of inspiration of Scripture with recent biblical scholarship. Their modern preconceptions blind them to the Scripture's own dynamic. His solution is what he calls "incarnational analogy", a way of saying that the Bib ...more
Mar 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great introduction to a conversation that needs greater pursuit in the Evangelical community. Enns does a very good job of addressing the "human side" of Scripture: It's connections to and similarities with Ancient Near Eastern Literature; It's theological diversity; and the Apostolic hermeneutic that has so often vexed modern Christians. Rather than pretend these "problems" don't exist, Enns suggests that they are things to be embraced as part of the incarnational nature of Scripture, which i ...more
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is the book that eventually caused Enns to resign from Westminster Theological Seminary. It's a frustrating book because of the positions that he takes and doesn't take. He comes across smug sometimes and treats many of his fellow evangelicals like outdated old fogies in the theological world. There's some good stuff and some helpful looks at ANE documents and NT use of the OT, but there are plenty of books that do those things better and with more faithfulness to Scripture.
Sep 25, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016-books, faith
I was not a fan. Although I understand why he's asking the questions that make up the core foundation of this book, I still felt like he was trying too hard to find thing in Scripture to argue about...simply for the sake of arguing. The book felt baiting. I know he's controversial in Christian scholarly circles, and now I know why!
Jacob Aitken
EDIT: I think Enns's work also suffers in one more regard. It was fashionable 70 years ago to play off the supposed parallels between Israelite culture (and its use of Leviathan) with Babylonian culture (and its use of Tiamat). The implication was that the Hebrews stole this from the Babylonians. Recent scholarship has suggested otherwise. The discovery of Ugaritic texts and its own usage of Ba'al/Leviathan suggests that the Hebrews didn't borrow from Babylon after all. Enns completely misses th ...more
Paul Abernathy
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spiritual
“We do not honor the Lord nor do we uphold the gospel by playing make-believe.”

There is a lot packed into this short book. It advocates a way of looking at the Bible that is new and different (and slightly unsettling) for most evangelical Christians. It seems to me that people either love it or hate it.

The idea is this: just as Jesus was both God and man, in a similar way the Bible is both divinely inspired and also very human. God speaks to people in ways they can understand even if that means
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
A few preliminaries: I am not an Evangelical. I have never believed in an inerrant Bible. I consider myself Christian, and am highly fascinated with religion in general. Like Peter Enns, I believe that “God honors our honest questions [and] is not surprised by them, nor is he ashamed to be our God when we pose them” (pp. 10). My religious convictions lead me to question, to probe, and to think deeply, even if it rubs against the traditional narrative. These factors have likely influenced my perc ...more
David Redden
Dec 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a surprisingly helpful synthesis that lays out potential ways of thinking through and moving past contemporary issues relating to the Old Testament, namely:

1) Its historical accuracy (the seemingly irreconcilable differences between the geological and biological record on one hand, and the Old Testament accounts of the creation and the Garden of Eden on the other, is the first an most obvious problem);
2) Its internal integrity (i.e., how do we account for the fact that different parts of
Good questions asked and a good reason for asking them. The book is written at the popular level, which leaves his overall analysis something to be desired. At times he poses straw-man arguments or vague ones that I wish he would be more specific about. He doesn't present counter-arguments to his own. He seems to only present those that are easiest to debunk.

His conclusions do not always follow either. There are some logical leaps. For example, how do we go from the fact that the ten commandment
Jonathan Hatt
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it (G.K. Beale’s review)

Enns brings up many helpful concerns with Christians’ (particularly Evangelical) use of the OT. Although I was more critical of certain chapters (chapters 2,3), I did find the book overall to be helpful. I found myself sympathetic with his distinction of Christocentric vs. Christotelic hermeneutic and the NT’s approach to Second Temple hermeneutic (chapter 4).

I do think that Enns was overly critical of the typical Evangelical approach
Terry Wildman
Sep 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
One of the most honest books I have read on this subject. The author has a well rounded knowledge of the issues surrounding the Bible and how it is understood to be the word of God. This book probably will not please staunch conservatives nor more liberal views of inspiration. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to delve deeper into this subject, but especially for those who have felt that the conservative view is untenable and have lost confidence in the Bible. This author offers a way to e ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
I was told sometime back that this book could be earth-shattering. I did not find that to be the case. Dr. Enns's problems seem to have little to do with the discoveries and claims of Old Testament scholarship. Instead, they seem to be due to two basic failures. A failure in theological method, that of starting from difficulties instead of from Christ's and the apostles' teaching regarding the nature of Scripture. And a failure in epistemology, his commitment to the idea of a universal cultural ...more
Eliza Price
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enns’ thoughtful use of the incarnation analogy offers a jumping off point for how to take the historical and cultural context of the Bible seriously while still maintaining a high view of Scripture today. Some of the principles I have learned in this book have enriched my study of Scripture by reordering my expectations of what the Bible should accomplish. I enjoyed reading Inspiration and Incarnation and recommend it to anyone who is curious to learn more about how God worked within the world ...more
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I enjoyed Enns' argument for a shift in our expectation of what the Bible is - embracing the ancient contexts of the texts and its authors. The portion on "NT interpretations of the OT" felt pedantic to me, but it wasn't an area of interest/concern for me, anyway. I appreciate Enns' focus on the practical and ecclesiastical implications of critical scholarship, but I think his book, "The Bible Tells Me So" did a much better job of taking on a wider array of issues.
Taylor Leachman
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Enns' book attempts to help answer many preconceptions that evangelicals have about Scripture and how we interpret it. He uses the analogy of the incarnation to help us to understand the Bible - it is God's Word and it is human. There were numerous issues that need further development, but overall, the book helps the reader to better understand that God gave us his Word in history, and the Word of God points toward Christ's first and second coming.
Ken Orton
Mar 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very thorough. Very interesting. The paperback I have has tiny print and made it difficult to read for any period of time. I had read his newer books and this one has no humor or “snarks” so it reads more like a textbook. Worthwhile, but need bigger print.
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This opened my eyes to so many realities about the Bible and where it came from—realities and truth that have been either shielded from me or never discussed over my life. I learned a lot and have grown even more in my appreciation of Scripture because of it!
Deborah Humphreys
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Enns is a challenge to read. Yet it is worth extra effort to consider his points on the inspiration of scripture and how we, I, handle this ancient and sacred book today. My world has broadened through Enns thoughts and scholarship.
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Peter Enns is Abram S. Clemens Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has taught courses at several other institutions including Harvard University, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Princeton Theological Seminary. Enns is a frequent contributor to journals and encyclopedias and is the author of several books, including Inspiration and Incarnation, The Evo ...more
“Ours is a historical faith, and to uproot the Bible from its historical contexts is self-contradictory.” 6 likes
“It is wholly incomprehensible to think that thousands of years ago God would have felt constrained to speak in a way that would be meaningful only to Westerners several thousand years later. To do so borders on modern, Western arrogance.” 2 likes
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