Review: The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative, by Steven D. Mathewson

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There are many preaching books, but only a handful I recommend wholeheartedly.  This is one of them.  Mathewson’s passion for the many narrative passages in the Old Testament is contagious.  His passion for the effective preaching of these passages is greatly needed today.  This is especially the case while significant preachers continue to view Old Testament narratives as primarily illustrative material, rather than preaching texts. 

Mathewson’s work is widely researched, with significant influences including Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative and Haddon Robinson’s Biblical Preaching. 

The first of the three sections in the book is concerned with hermeneutics – how to move from the selection of a text to a focused central concept.  The second section is more focused on the homiletical process – how to move from the central concept to the sermon.  This section is strongly influenced by Robinson’s methodology and serves as a very helpful clarification on that method.  While Robinson’s book is succinct and well-written, Mathewson’s presentation of the ten-stage approach with a specific focus will help the reader understand Robinson’s methodology more fully.

Mathewson’s explanation of biblical narrative forms support his central idea of developing sermons using the flow of the story, rather than a forced and rigid analytical presentation. 

The third and final section of the book contains five example sermons from Mathewson, Donald Sunukjian, Paul Borden, Haddon Robinson and Alice Mathews.  These are helpful in a variety of ways, although no example sermon can ever be perfect.  There are also a couple of appendices – one on Hebrew plot analysis (for Hebrew trained preachers with a lot of time on their hands) and one on helpful commentaries.

There are many books on preaching, but I’ve yet to find one that can match Mathewson in terms of dealing with Old Testament narratives.  This book is worth buying, reading and considering carefully.  Having read this, you might also be inspired to read Robert Alter’s The Art of Biblical Narrative, if you have not done so already.  Two strong recommendations in one review – I would apologize to your bank balance, but these two books would be money well spent.

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