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Fredrick Holmgren: The Old Testament and the Significance of Jesus


Fredrick C. Holmgren, The Old Testament and the Significance of Jesus: Embracing Change—Maintaining Christian Identity: The Emerging Center in Biblical Scholarship (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), 195 pages.

I like to start every book by reading its foreword, and that is what I did with this text. I was delighted to find that Walter Bruggemann who penned the foreword was a seminary student with Holmgren in ancient days, and that he remembered Holmgren as the most quiet and most irenic member of their graduate class. I like people like that since they generally let me do all the talking. However, the foreword concludes with “There is so much to unlearn and then to relearn. Holmgren teaches us along the way” and I knew that sentence to be true. I opened my senses and proceeded.

My interest in this book began when I scanned its table of contents which indicated the book covered a subject that has been elusive for me over the past 40 years—finding the fulfillment and foretelling of Jesus in the Old Testament. Since I have always had difficulty in this search I put the book in my shopping bag and took it home.

Holmgren approaches his subject from several aspects: First he starts with an assessment of how things really are in the Jewish and Christian communities and emphasizes the dialogues between these communities which he discovered as he researched the subject. Next we read of his interpretation of how the early Jewish Christians approached the Scriptures and found Jesus therein. I found this treatment fascinating for it paralleled my own personal experience. I came to a saving knowledge of Christ when I was 30 years old. I had no background in the Scriptures at that point in life. I went with a friend to hear Billy Graham preach in Philadelphia in 1961. I did not know who Graham was, let alone what he was talking about, but I found immediate and total redemption and when I opened the Scriptures for the first time, I was already a believer in Jesus Christ.

That position which I did not understand intellectually at all back then and still to a large extent do not understand today gave me a mind set similar to the one Holmgren described in the early Jewish believer. After I knew Jesus, I somehow knew that He was the reason for the Scriptures and that they were qualified to accomplish what God intended them to do. They were God breathed and I knew that. Holmgren posits that the early Jewish believers went through a similar experience, that after they met the Savior, they suddenly could find Jesus in the depth of the Old Testament. The New Testament writers read the Old Testament and wrote what they knew out of their Christian experience. They found Jesus separately from the text, they met Him on the highways and byways of life, then knowing him they returned to the text and there He was. They did not read the text and thus discover Jesus, they found Him in the text after they had discovered Him to be the Son of God.


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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 2000

About the Author: H. Murray Hohns went home to be with Jesus on November 28, 2012. He was on staff at the largest church in Hawaii and served on his denomination's investment committee from 1999 until his death. Hohns held two degrees in Civil Engineering, an MA in Theology from Fuller Seminary, and served as an instructor at Foursquare's New Hope Christian College (formerly Pacific Rim Christian College) in Honolulu. He wrote six engineering books and hundreds of articles in every type of newspaper, magazine and journal.

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