The Promised One by Nancy Guthrie, Wheaton: Crossway, 2011; 285 pp. paper $15.99
The Promised One is a 10 part study guide for women which “is uniquely designed to help you to look into the wonder of the first book of the Old Testament—Genesis—and see how it prepares for and points to Christ” (p. 9). The controlling scriptural passage is Luke 24:27 in which Jesus instructed the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The verse reads, “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (ESV). On this foundation Guthrie writes, “Most people see the Bible as a ‘guidebook for life.’ But Jesus is saying here that the Bible is not about what God wants us to do but about who God wants us to see. And it is Jesus we are going to see as we study Genesis together” (p. 24).
Herein lie both the strength and the weakness of Guthrie’s approach. Without question the Bible points us to Christ and it is vital that we recognize this truth and see the Word as more than a guidebook for life. However, the Scripture’s role as a guide should not be minimized. It would be impossible to read the majority of biblical texts and not recognize its function as an instructor in the way of life. What makes Scripture unique is that it is more than words of wisdom—all is predicated on Jesus Christ. None of its instruction ultimately makes sense apart from the person and work of Christ.
But there is a danger when we try too hard to force all the stories, illustrations, pictures, metaphors and prophesies to directly speak of Christ. The attempt to do so is called typology and has found varying degrees of favor throughout church history and within certain groups. While all would agree that the general nature of Scripture points to Christ, much disagreement can be found on now far typology can be pushed onto the texts. Some have determined that the reader of Scripture has no right to “type” any Old Testament narrative or picture unless the New Testament specifically does so. Others feel free to type virtually anything in which any allusion to Christ can be ferreted out. Guthrie leans toward this latter camp working hard to find evidence of Christ in the ten stories she covers from the book of Genesis. She tries not to be overly dogmatic, often offering possible interpretations with terms such as “most likely” and “perhaps” (e.g. pp. 20, 240-241). Nevertheless she insists that the accounts and people found in Genesis must represent deeper meaning than the obvious. This can, and historically has, led to allegorical interpretations rather than the plain and clear teaching from the text (see page 200 for a good example of allegorizing the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah in an attempt to find deeper meaning and point to Christ). While I do not find Guthrie going to extremes, it is noteworthy to find her book catalogued in the Library of Congress under “typology.”
In most areas I found Guthrie biblically sound. However, it should be noted that she is solidly in the Reformed Covenant camp and promotes replacement theology (the view that the church has replaced Israel as the people of God). She believes Israel’s prophecies are being fulfilled spiritually rather than literally and takes a post-tribulational view of the Second Coming (see pp. 112-113, 148, 160-161, 178).
Each chapter (with the exception of the first) is divided into three sections: personal Bible study in which the reader is to read assigned Scriptures and answer given questions, the teaching section in which the author explains the text (this is the bulk of each chapter) and a discussion guide for small groups. Guthrie writes well, is easily understood and provides good illustrations, questions and some fine charts. For those in Covenant/replacement theology circles this would make a good Bible study for women. For those concerned about the overuse of typology and the dangers of allegoricalism and who believe, as I do, that God will yet fulfill His promises literally to Israel, I would not recommend The Promised One, although some good thoughts can be found.