That I May Dwell among Them
Incarnation and Atonement in the Tabernacle Narrative
What does Israel’s tabernacle mean for Christians today?
The Tabernacle Narrative comprises passages in Exodus and Leviticus that detail the construction, furnishing, and liturgical use of the tabernacle. Given its genre and style, the narrative is often passed over by those reading Scripture for theological insight.
But what can these complex passages reveal about Christ? Gary Anderson shows how these passages shed light on incarnation and atonement both in ancient Israel’s theology and in Christian theology. Anderson explains how the chronology of the narrative reflects sacred time, how the Israelites saw divine features in the physical aspects of the tabernacle, and how Isaac’s sacrifice foreshadowed the sacrificial rite revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
Ultimately, Anderson shows how the Old Testament can deepen our understanding of the gospel. For Athanasius and many church fathers, God’s “indwelling” in the tabernacle offers a unique witness to the nature of incarnation, supplementing the story told in the gospels. Likewise, careful analysis of the purpose of sacrifice at the tabernacle clarifies the purpose of Christ’s passion. Far from connoting penal substitution, sacrifice in the Old Testament demonstrates self-emptying as an antidote to sin. Theologians, pastors, and serious readers of the Bible will appreciate how Anderson’s canonical and literary analysis of the Tabernacle Narrative illuminates Christian theology.
Table of Contents
Part One: The Priestly Narrative
“That I may dwell among them”
1. Inauguration of the Tabernacle: One or Two Theophanies?
2. Seeing God
3. Serving God
“[They did] as he had not commanded them”
4. Liturgical Beginnings and Immediate Sin
5. Nadab and Abihu and Apophatic Theology
Part Two: The Priestly Narrative in Its Larger Canonical Setting
“These are your gods, O Israel!”
6. The Sin of the Golden Calf
7. The Binding of Isaac and Sacrifice
“The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us”
“Gary Anderson is one of the church’s most astute, sensitive, learned, and penetratingly faithful readers of the Old Testament in any generation, and That I May Dwell among Them is among his most intricately beautiful studies. Examining the central biblical texts regarding God’s tabernacling presence among Israel, Anderson explores these difficult passages with unusual care and precision. Anderson carefully integrates his interpretation, properly informed by Jewish understandings, with the Christian confession of Jesus’s atoning sacrifice. The result is a nuanced corrective of reductive Christian views of sacrifice and the exposition of a morally ravishing vision of human life itself as joined to Christ. This is a remarkable testament to the transformative power of serious biblical theology.”
—Ephraim Radner, Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto
“God’s presence in the temple and the meaning of the sacrifices offered there are among the most misunderstood, misrepresented, or neglected elements of biblical religion—and yet, as this extraordinarily perceptive, lucidly written, and well-argued book demonstrates, they are essential to understanding the Bible. Anyone interested in biblical theology would do well to ponder both the fascinating literary connections Anderson draws and the profound religious insights he develops.”
—Jon D. Levenson, Harvard University
“I’d not intended to read this book through in a single sitting, but it is that engaging and compelling. . . . This book provides Christian laity and clergy with a way of understanding these chapters as part of holy Scripture. I recommend That I May Dwell among Them as an exegetically and theologically sure-footed treatment of the priestly material of the Bible.”
—Nathan MacDonald, University of Cambridge
“This wonderful book will be revelatory for several types of readers, because it enhances one’s understanding of Hebrew scripture even as it contributes to Christian theology. Many of Anderson’s exegetical interventions (for example, as he exposes the overemphasis on atonement in Christian discussions of Old Testament religion) may have a substantial impact on Jewish-Christian dialogue. Especially noteworthy throughout the book is the way Anderson employs Jewish sources, both ancient and modern, to help understand core issues in Christian theology. His handling of these sources is deeply learned, intellectually rigorous, and scrupulously honest. Jews who study Anderson’s contributions to his own religious community’s discourse will find that he returns the favor: we Jews can learn a great deal about our own tradition from Anderson’s torah.”
—Benjamin D. Sommer, Jewish Theological Seminary