The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses
As a few of you may be aware, I have recently begun the project of reading and reviewing various books in the Monergism bookstore. Until now, I have merely submitted my reviews to be published in connection with the book in question, at the bookstore itself. But my latest read was so helpful and Christ-centered that I decided to post the review on ReformationTheology as well, for the purpose of encouraging as many readers as possible to make use of it. It was one of the most enriching books that I have read in quite some time, and I cannot recommend it too highly. Here, then, is the review.
Book Review: The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, by Vern Poythress
Synopsis: The books of the Pentateuch are among the most foundational for understanding the message and significance of the biblical story. They are also among the least understood. A clear, in-depth, and Christ-centered introduction to these books is, therefore, a pressing need. And The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses is admirably suited to fill that need.
Most Christians, if they are honest, would admit that the Pentateuch, with its elaborate descriptions of the tabernacle and sacrificial systems, and its intricate ceremonial and moral law code, can be, at times, a difficult and alien landscape for the modern Westerner to journey through. However, they must also admit that it lays a necessary foundation for understanding the biblical story of redemption in Christ the King. For those Christians who have experienced this dilemma, as I suspect most of us have, few volumes would be more practical and beneficial than a rigorous, and yet easy-to-follow, analysis of the various elements contained within the Pentateuch. Poythressâ€™ rich introduction to the Mosaic portion of the scriptures is the single most helpful volume I have encountered to that end.
Poythress is a scholar of no little authority. He also has a gift for framing deep truth in simple and comprehensible language. His one-volume introduction to the Pentateuch demonstrates a remarkable grasp of the thorny issues surrounding the interpretation of various Pentateuchal elements; and at the same time, displays a genuine concern that the simple Christian be deeply instructed of Christ through the law of Moses. His profound insights never give the impression of a desire to display his own erudition for the admiration of the scholarly community, as the writings of so many gifted men do. On the contrary, his extensive learning is always subordinated to the goal of edifying the Church. And God has richly blessed his humble motivation with a truly edifying volume.
Through an intense examination of the tabernacle structure, the sacrifices, and the multi-faceted law code, Poythress arrives at the conclusion, as well-supported as it is thrilling to those who have a taste for their Savior, that the Pentateuch, in every conceivable way, was designed to point its readers to Christ. When the hungry Christian is not discouraged from an ardent pursuit of wisdom of God, which leads to salvation, by the difficulties inherent in its strange and foreign nature, the Law of Moses will certainly hold forth an immense and satisfying treasure â€“ in a word, it will hold forth the treasure of seeing and savoring Christ.
Of particular interest is the final chapter on the â€œFulfillment of the Law in the Gospel According to Matthewâ€. The Law-Gospel distinction is one of the most difficult questions of evangelical theology. Poythressâ€™ analysis of Matthew has much to contribute to the ongoing debate; and always in a manner which is easy to follow and practically beneficial.
There are few books which are, in colloquial terminology, â€œmust-readsâ€ for seminarian and layman alike. This is one of them.