Sailhamer's massive book has received glowing endorsments from John Piper. I will be slowly working my way through it. It is far too long, and even the introduction is heavy going, but there are some fascinating ideas here. Sailhamer makes the assertion that "The law given at Sinai neither had the same purpose nor carried the same message as the faith taught by the Pentateuch." (p13) Instead the argument of the Pentateuch is a contrasting of two covenants, "Mosaic and Abrahamic, or law and gospel." (p14) The meaning of the Pentateuch is thus not found in the laws within, which represent the broken covenant, but in the way that it "looks beyond the law to God's grace" and "to teach its readers about faith and hope in the new covenant (Deut 30:6)." (p26) Thus, "the Pentateuch's view of the law is simailar to that of Paul in the book of Galatians." (p28)
It will be interesting to see what he does when he finally comes to dealing with the law and its meaning for us (Christians). But my initial concern, although I do think he is on to something, is how Pauline, even admittedly Pauline, this approach is. He is also arguing for a messianic consciousness to the Pentateuch which so far I'm not overwhelmed by, but that will have to wait for another post anyway. So I hope he doesn't just show how compatible his reading of the Pentateuch is with Paul but also goes beyond that to show how it points to Jesus Christ, with more than just some strained references to a possibly messianic figure.
For those of you interested in redaction critical matters, Sailhamer considers the Pentateuch to be a 2nd edition work, with Moses being responsible for the first edition, but the final edition being produced late in the piece, after the prophetic canon was completed. The Pentateuch is thus chronologically both the first and last book of the OT! Annoying he refers to the Pentateuch as book, singular, when surely it is only book as Torah, but as Pentateuch (i.e. five books) should be books, plural, right? Otherwise, this is shaping up to be an interesting read for anyone who think it would be fun to read 600 ages of thoughtful evangelical interpretation of the first five books of the Bible.
What say you? :-)