The Epic of Eden by Sandra L. Richter

the-epic-of-edenSandra Richter is an associate professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary who has taught the Old Testament for decades in “an array of educational and ministry positions.”[1] During her tenure she noticed that the overwhelming majority of Christians do not know and/or understand how the Old Testament impacts their lives as a follower of Jesus. Moreover, a lot of Christians do not have a structure in place to help them make sense of the overall story line. The Epic of Eden is Richter’s solution to this ignorance where she tries to provide a structure that modern Christian can learn to understand and love the Old Testament.[2]

Using the analogy of a “dysfunctional closet” Richter begins to create a structure upon which the Old Testament facts and stories can be hung.[3] Chapter one begins by first discussing the culture in which the Old Testament was written followed by a chapter on rehearsing the “story of redemption through the lenses of real space and time.”[4] In chapter three, Richter begins to hang “clothes” on the closet structure through an understanding of the “concept of covenant.”[5] Richter, like other scholars before her, sees the theology of the Old Testament as being organized around “five covenantal interactions” connected to five biblical figures: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.[6]

After outlining the basic historical concept of a covenant, Richter shifts gears for chapters four and five. In these chapters she first discusses “God’s Original Intent” for humanity before dealing with “God’s Final Intent” (chapters four and five respectively).[7] The end result of these discussions being that God’s original and final intent for humanity is for humanity to dwell in “God’s place with full access to his presence.” [8] Seeing how things went wrong in Eden with Adam and Eve’s decision to rebel, God embarked on a rescue mission to restore his lost relationship with humanity. This goal was “accomplished in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.” [9] While the covenants have been fulfilled in Jesus, Christians still live between the “already” and “not yet” where we are “restored but waiting, free but bound, born again yet still experiencing death.” [10]

Having discussed God’s covenantal interaction with Adam in chapter four, Richter begins to flesh out the details behind the remaining four covenantal interactions in chapters six through eight. God’s covenants with Noah and Abraham are dealt with in chapter six, Moses in chapter seven and David in chapter eight. The last chapter of the book deals with Jesus and the fulfillment of the “impossible rescue plan first hinted at in Genesis 3:15” after the rebellion of Adam and Eve.[11] As Richter states at the end of the book, “what began in Eden, ends in Eden” with “God’s original intent to offer kingdom citizenship to every man, women and child” being “reaccomplished in Christ.” [12]

On a personal level, though I like the overall flow and message of Richter’s book, I see the storyline of the Old Testament a bit differently. To me, the story being less about the covenants the Creator King makes with his people and more about kingship of God and his mission to establish his rule and reign over all of creation. This shift in focus, though subtle, helps one keep their eyes on the person of God rather than on what he has promised. It is, after all, the relationship with the Creator King that will last long after the covenants have been fulfilled.

Bibliography

Richter, Sandra L. The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008.

End-Notes

[1] Richter, Sandra L. The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008), 17-18.

[2] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 16-20.

[3] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 17-18.

[4] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 17.

[5] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 69.

[6] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 69-70.

[7] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 92 & 119.

[8] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 118.

[9] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 134.

[10] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 132.

[11] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 216.

[12] Richter. The Epic of Eden, 224.

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