Review: Edmund Clowney’s The Unfolding Mystery

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10 out of 10 Stars
Author: Edmund Clowney
Publisher: P&R Publishing
Reading Level: Easy

Dr. Edmund Clowney’s The Unfolding Mystery is a classic text originally published in 1989. It’s only now reaching its second edition which is a shame. Biblical theology is coming into its own on a popular and scholarly level (rightly so) and Clowney well deserves to be heard and read widely. Maybe the circles I previously ran in didn’t value Clowney or were just unaware, but that should be remedied. It’s a text both reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, or anyone seeking Christ in the Old Testament would benefit from reading.

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The combination of two things sets The Unfolding Mystery apart from the other Jesus in the Old Testament book I’ve read. First, Clowney writes with the aptness of a storyteller. He unpacks the unfolding story of Jesus as a story. That may seem obvious but there’s more than a few volumes that approach this topic academically losing the storytelling edge. Second, Clowney combines the storytelling aptness with conversational depth. It’s a book you’ll read through with ease, but marvel at the depth of the observations. That’s a rare feat.

See also: Two excellent books on Jesus in the Old Testament David Murray’s Jesus on Every Page and Michael P. V. Barrett’s Beginning at Moses

The Unfolding Mystery follows a straightforward path. Clowney begins with Genesis (“the story of Jesus beings with the story of mankind”) continuing through the entire Old Testament. The depth and breadth in this short book is astounding. He hits the major types and Christophanies (pre-incarnate visitations by Jesus in the Old Testament). By example, he demonstrates how we must read the text for the historical context, for its redemptive context (“The story of redemption in the Old Testament is the story of Jesus”), and for the person and work of Jesus. He’s also careful throughout to not extend typologies past the point of breaking (the Samson narrative is the example that comes to mind). He grounds each type on biblical, exegetical, and historical grounds. He more than once points out why something isn’t referring to Jesus. Finally, he doesn’t leave Jesus in the Old Testament. He doesn’t end the story there. He draws a direct line from the Old to the New Testament. “The story of Jesus in the Old Testament becomes the gospel story in the New. In the miracle of the Incarnation, the Lord Himself comes to provide the salvation of his people” (205).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”