I Give Up Book Review: “The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread” by Dr. Richard Booker (2008)

“Revealing the Power of the Blood of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation”

Image result for The Miracle of the Scarlet Thread bookerThis is a very difficult review for me to write, because I fear being misunderstood. When I admit that “I dislike this book, because I disagree with the author’s methodology,” I may sound as if I don’t know my own Bible well enough or that I enjoy challenging PhDs. But I’ve been teaching the Bible long enough to know that any time I want to put forth an opinion in my teaching, I must liberally lace my presentation with “This is not from the Bible; this is my opinion; feel free to disagree with me; search the Word yourself;” etc. But when Dr. Richard Booker writes of his “Aha moment” (when he finally understood the Old Testament) as if his insights are the keys to unlocking God’s eternal Word for one and all, I cringe. Of course, I believe that the precious promise of Jesus runs throughout the Old Testament and that the blood covenant is a massively important theological event in Scripture which points the way to the coming Christ. But when I read on the book’s back cover, “If you want to understand the Bible, you have to read this book first,” I must—as any discerning Christian should—buckle up for a wild ride through whatever skewed thinking convinced the publishers to use such an ostentatious tagline.

Before I reference the major faults in Dr. Booker’s methodology, I’d like to point out a few outstanding points that I really appreciated. First, I love how he stated that Jesus “painted the shadow of himself in the Old Testament so that everybody would recognize Him when He arrived on the scene. ” (15) This is a beautiful reality that in my own teaching I recently compared to a photo-mosaic, a thousand little OT pictures that are telling and genuine in and of themselves, but that combine to form a much larger, more meaningful picture when viewed from afar and in the grand scheme of things.

Second, I found his description and illustration of an OT blood covenant between two adults tremendously insightful. I am confident that I will return to pages 35-41 of this book in my own OT studies, as the information here illuminates certain angles of these historical accounts that might have been automatically understood to readers in that culture but have been all but lost to us today.

As great as these points are, however, they don’t overcome the major fault in his approach to interpreting the OT, namely that he tends to find Christ’s shadow not merely in the OT accounts but also in the details of those accounts, and even in the implications that the details of those accounts might suggest. I get from his writing that Dr. Booker truly believes these accounts in the OT to have occurred, that they are historical events and not merely allegories of myths. That’s a major point for me as a critic to make from the outset, for any implication that he believed otherwise would be enough cause for me to consider him a heretic and not just an honest scholar working off a faulty premise. Nevertheless, when he dissects each event to the point of drawing a theological picture that simply doesn’t exist, he does a disservice to the historical plan of God. Let me explain why from one of his earliest studies.

In Chapter 3: “What Did Abraham Believe?”, Dr. Booker describes Abraham’s passage from the blood covenant with God in Genesis 15 through the marriage of Isaac in Genesis 24 (all but skipping God’s initial covenant with him in Genesis 12). He then distinguishes five things that Abraham believed in order to become righteous:

  1. First of all, Abraham believed in a supernatural birth. He believed God would supernaturally bring a son into the world. God did and Abraham called him Isaac.
  2. He believed God enough to offer his only son as a sacrifice. And he did.
  3. He believed for three days that his son was as good as dead. And he was.
  4. He believed God would provide a sacrifice substitute or raise his son from the dead with many children coming to him through his son Isaac. And God did.
  5. He believed on that very mountain, God would provide Himself the substitute sacrifice…He would be seen on that very mountain. (72)

Now, I cannot disagree that Abraham believed all of these things: the Bible is clear on each point. I cannot agree, however, with Dr. Booker regarding the following two points: first that Abraham’s beliefs and the events surrounding the situation mirrored those of post-Pentecost believers as much as he suggests, and second, that these particular beliefs were the reason for Abraham’s being counted as righteous. As I dissect this first point, the second will be explained.

In this relatively short chapter, Dr. Booker digs for such obscure parallel details between the sacrifice of Isaac and Jesus’ death and resurrection, I can almost see the pile of dirt behind the text. He suggests, for example, that Isaac was likely 33 years old—pure conjecture—just as Jesus was when He died; Isaac willingly carried the wood of a tree as he marched towards death, just as Jesus would later do with the cross up Calvary; Isaac marries seven years later, just as Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to His own bride seven weeks after his resurrection. What seems to be missing in all these apparent parallels is the fact that, in viewing this Genesis account as a foreshadowing of things to come, the ram in the thicket, not Isaac, is the true picture of Jesus. We are pictured in Isaac, for we are those sentenced to death until God provided for us a Substitute.

Further, that Abraham believed these five things should not suggest that any other believer—before or after—was responsible to believe the same in order to be counted righteous. We can think of two contemporaries of Abraham to discuss this point: Job and Melchizadek. Were these men unbelievers because they did not yet know about, and therefore couldn’t have believed in, the resurrection? Are we to suppose that they, too, had some supernatural encounter with God where He taught them about the resurrection? Job knew that his Redeemer lived, but did he believe his Redeemer would die and come back to life? Even if we allowed for such unrecorded events of God sharing the full, NT plan of salvation with the likes of Enoch, Noah, Job, and Melchizadek, what about the rest of humanity up until this time? What about the rest of humanity from the time of Abraham until the recorded Law of Moses or from Moses until Christ? What about Jesus’ own disciples who failed to understand or even expect the resurrection, though Jesus had explicitly told them about it before it happened? Were they unbelievers throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry? There’s simply far too much conjecture here about what Abraham needed to believe for salvation to suggest that either all humanity during his time needed to believe the same as he, or that he had to believe more than anyone else.

At this point, Dr. Booker might respond that no one up to this point of revelation on Mt. Moriah had been responsible to believe the things God was showing (notice, not even telling) Abraham, but rather that each individual had been responsible for believing God only according to his own amount of revealed truth. If this were the case, however, then we’d be left with two terribly difficult alternatives: either that Abraham had been an unbeliever when he received the promise from God in Genesis 12 or that he risked losing his salvation when he contemplated this new revelation surrounding the sacrifice of Isaac. Neither of these options sits well with how God deals with His children in the rest of Scripture.

The fact that Abraham did not waver in his faith in God at this decisive point suggests that he was already a believer and friend of God, leaving us with the single conclusion that these five beliefs were not what brought God’s approval in calling him righteous, but were instead aspects of his growth in salvation and understanding of God. Abraham believed God when he left his home for a land unknown, as Hebrews 11 tells us, which makes me wonder why Genesis 11-12 are so overlooked in this book.

The difficulties with Dr. Booker’s parallel between Abraham’s beliefs and those of other believers are compounded when he tries to equate Abraham’s faith with our own. While the various parallels to Jesus’ death on Calvary do exist and are beautiful pictures of Truth, the suggestion that we must believe what Abraham believed in order for God to find us righteous simply puts more into the passage than exists. After all, I couldn’t lead a person to the Lord with the Genesis account without also referencing the Gospels! While this manipulation to get the OT to say what it doesn’t actually say might lead some to ponder the Gospel, it is in reality a deceptive and terribly dangerous trick. I’m pretty sure there’s a warning about this exegetical failure somewhere in the book of Revelation.

I fear readers might respond to my critique here with “You’re thinking too hard, Elliot,” but in reality that’s precisely Dr. Booker’s problem. Trying to uncover or otherwise force parallels between the Old and New Testaments where they don’t exist is a waste of God-given talent in studying the Word. It shows a lack of trust in God’s designed method of revelation (slow and incomplete at first, yet sufficient for the times), and it’s why I had to put the book down.

I don’t know much about Destiny Image Publishers, Inc., but after reading this—not to mention their company-wide refusal to capitalize “satan” despite the rules of grammar, because “We choose not to acknowledge him” (front-matter)—I realize that I do not agree with them doctrinally and, I have to guess, they tend to publish sub-standard theological works. They’re not on my “must read” list for good reason.

For better works that seek to recognize the Shadow of Christ in the Old Testament, check out the following:

Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament by Christopher J.H. Wright

Firm Foundations: From Creation to Christ by Trevor McLlwain

[Note: I gave this book the requisite “100 pages minus my age” (plus a few more) before giving up.]

©2017 E.T.

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