The Epic of Eden

Michael McKelvey Articles

The Epic of Eden
By Sandra Richter
IVP (November 2008)

There have been many attempts by authors to helpfully summarize the Old Testament (OT) and its message for New Testament (NT) believers. For many Christians today, this portion of the Scriptures remain foreign or at least relatively unfamiliar in comparison to the NT. However, if the well-known adage is true, "the New is in the Old concealed and the Old is in the New revealed," then a right knowledge of the NT is somewhat dependent upon a healthy understanding of the OT. In other words, if Christians are going to better understand the revelation of God in the NT they must also grow in their understanding of the OT, for it is all God's word.

In The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament, Sandra L. Richter (associate professor of Old Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary) gives a bird's-eye view of the OT and provides readers with a general structure of this portion of the Scriptures. She believes that while many Christians know facts about the OT they simply do not know how to organize those facts. She describes her work in terms of putting order to a messy closet: "[My] goal in this book is to provide structure. Metaphorically speaking, to pick the clothes up off the floor, get some hangers, a pole and some hooks, and help you build a closet of your very own" (19). As many will agree, any work that helps today's church to grow in its grasp of the OT is a welcomed and honorable labor.

Upon reading this book, it is very clear that Richter is acutely aware of OT studies and the ancient Near Eastern context. This proficiency aids her in making the social setting come alive to the reader as she discusses such things as viewing the Bible as the story of redemption, understanding the function of a patriarchal society, and seeing the concept of covenant as the "general law" that brings everything together. (It is worth noting that she dedicates the book to the memory of Meredith G. Kline and acknowledges his guidance in her own understanding of the Bible. One can see Kline's influence in this book). Also, Richter comes at this book with a big-picture mentality, examining the original intent of God in creation and his final intent in the coming restoration. This big-picture focus continues as she divides OT history into helpful segments so that students can arrange facts in a chronologically redemptive manner. She does this with key figures: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. By discussing each time period and its respective background, a foundation is laid for students to be able to put some order to what they read and study.

Well, does she accomplish her goal? I am of the personal opinion that she does. Admittedly, not everyone will agree with everything Richter says and some of the positions she advocates (but then again, no one agrees on everything). Also, while she does write from a non-dispensational perspective, reformed readers will differ from her theologically, which may impact interpretation. However, this is a very intriguing book that kept my attention and brought the social settings of the OT alive. It also looks forward to the NT and highlights the realities we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. In this way, the book brings together and displays the singular purpose of God in saving a people for himself and in bringing restoration to a fallen world. If any serious bible student is looking for a book that helps illumine the material of OT, this book is a worthwhile read.

Michael McKelvey is the Associate Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, PA.

Michael McKelvey, "The Epic of Eden Review", Reformation 21 (March 2009)


This article was published in Reformation 21, the online magazine of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.  The Alliance calls the twenty-first century church to a modern reformation by broadcasting, events, and publishing.  This article and additional biblical resources can be found at


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