Life And Career Walter C. Kaiser Jr.

Walter Christian Kaiser, Jr. is an American evangelical Old Testament scholar, writer, public speaker, and educator. He was born into a German Baptist (now North American Baptist) on April 11,1933, in Folcroft, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest of the six children of Walter Christian Kaiser Sr., a farmer and a godly Christian leader in the local church, and Estelle Jaworsky Kaiser.[1] 

Kaiser retired from the presidency of Gordon-Conwell on July 1, 2006.  Currently he is President Emeritus and Distinguished Professor of Old Testament and Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary  (GCTS) in Hamilton, Massachusetts, US. He received his A.B. from Wheaton College, his B.D. from Wheaton Graduate School, and both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Mediterranean studies from Brandeis University.

At Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS), Dr. Kaiser solidified his reputation as one of the world’s leading experts in Old Testament and Mediterranean Studies, and in 1993 he was named the Distinguished Colman M. Mockler Professor of Old Testament Studies. Prior to his work at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS), Kaiser was a professor for 28 years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1966–1993), and a Professor of Bible and Archaeology at Wheaton College (1958–1966) for an additional 8 years. He has led more than 20 graduate and undergraduate study tours abroad while lecturing and preaching at thousands of schools and churches around the globe.

Kaiser’s incredible contributions go well beyond his teaching career. In 1977, he served as the President of the Evangelical Theological Society and from 1982–1993 was the Chairman for the Evangelical Seminary Dean’s Council. During his presidency at Gordon-Conwell (1997–2006), theological enrollment increased from 900 to 2,200 students. Perhaps even more impacting were the five Ph.D. programs that were added during his tenure as Academic Dean and Senior Vice-President for Education while at Trinity (1980–1993). Kaiser is regularly consulted for his expertise by several Christian publications and organizations including Christianity Today where he has held the position of Advisory Editor for over three decades.            Kaiser has written more than 40 books include Toward an Exegetical Theology, Toward Old Testament Ethics, and his latest book, Recovering the Unity of the Bible. His magnum opus is Toward an Old Testament Theology the culmination of his life’s work and passion (has been translated in Indonesian with title “Teologi Perjanjian Lama”, Malang: Gandum Mas, 2000).

Kaiser and his wife, Marge, currently reside in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. They have four children and seven grandchildren.[2]

The Methodology Of The OT Theology

The Methodology

Since Walter Eichrodt Old Testament Theology essay published in 1933, then began the “golden age” for the Biblical Theology  especialy Old Testament Theology. Following Eichrodt, in 1957, Gerhard von Rad published a two volume Old Testament Theology. Nevertheless Langdon B. Gilkey and James Barr admits that Biblical Theology movement remains in the liberal category.[3] This is seen clearly in diachronic method wich uses Rad in approach to OT theology. Diachronic method proposed time frame and theology of Israel’s historical stratification respectively. Emphasisis placed on the traditions concerning the religious experiences and beliefs respectively. Rad affirm with certainty that the Old Testament does not have a central point such as the one contained in the New Testament.[4]

Rad not only denied any genuine historical foundation for Israel’s confession of faith in Yahwe, but he switched the subject of theological study from a focus on God’s Word and work to the religious conceptions of the people of God. For Rad the Bible is nothing more than a statement of faith of the Old Testament’s people and not the source their faith.[5]

Before discussing further how good we look at some of the methods used in compiling the Old Testament theology:

  1. The structural type describes the basic outline of Old Testament thought and belief in units borrowed from systematic theology, sociology, or selected theological principles and then traces its relationship to secondary concepts (Eichrodt, Vriezen, Van Imschoot).
  2. The diachronic type sets forth the theology of the successive time periods and stratifications of Israelite history. Unfortunately, the emphasis fell on the successive traditions of the religious community’s faith and experience (Von Rad)
  3. The lexicographic type limits its scope of investigation to a group(s) of biblical men and their special theological vocabulary, eg. The sages, the Elohist, the Priestly vocabulary, etc. Gerhard Kittel, ed., and G.W. Bromiley, trans., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 9 vols. (Grand rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-74); Peter F. Ellis, The Yawist: The Bible’s First Theologian (Notre Dame: Fides Publisher, 1968).
  4. The biblical themes type presses its search beyond the vocabulary of the single key term to encompass a whole constellation of words around a key theme (John Bright, The Kingdom of God; Paul and Elizabeth Achtemeier, The Old Testament Roots of Our Faith).[6]

Hasel classifying Eichrodt, Vriezen and Kaiser to the “method of using a representative sample that represents the entire”.[7]

Recognizing the major crisis in biblical theology, namely the inability of the discipline to restate and reapply the authority of the Bible[8] (as seen in the Rad method), Dr. Kaiser here offers a solution to the unresolved issues of definition and methodology in Old Testament theology in his book “Toward an Old Testament Theology”.

Kaiser adjust itself as a opposition to the Rad. If Rad found that the Old Testament does not have a central axis or continuity of a divine plan. Because there is no center there is no unity.[9] Kaiser just found and confirmed that “a theme, key, or a pattern of regulatory basically known by people who write Old Testament consecutive and complete revelation deliberately increased gradually in paragraph Old Testament” really exists. Kaiser affirms the existence of “a center” in the form of a concept wich “unifying but developing.”[10]

A proper understanding of biblical theology, namely is an inner center of plan to which each biblical writer consciously and deliberately contributed; however, this inner biblical unity, which biblical theologians traditionally have been loathe to adopt for fear of gratuitously imposing a grid of their own devising over the text, is a center that is inductively supplied and confirmed by the text of Scripture itself. That center is the promise of God.’ Kaiser understand the “promise” as a big umbrella that shaded all the views and themes in the Old Testament.

Kaiser suggests that it is known in Old Testament under constellation of such words as promise, oath, blessing, rest, and seed. It was also known under such formulas as the tripartite. The first part formula was given in Genesis 17:7-8 and 28:21 (hal 33-34 atau 52 Ind) “I will be God to you and to your descendants after you.” When Israel approached the eve nationhood, again God repeated this word and added a second part, “I will take you for My people” (Exod. 6:7). Thus Israel became God’s son, His “firstborn” (Exod. 4:22), “a distinctive treasure” (Exod. 19:5-6). Finally, the third part was added in Exodus 29:45-46 in connection with the construction of the tabernacle; “I will dwell in the midst of you.” There it was: “I will be your God, you shall be My people, and I will dwell in the midst of you.” It was to be repeated in part or in full in Leviticus 11:45; 22;33; Numbers 15:41; Deut. 4:20; and in the New Testament in 2Corinthian 6;16 and rev. 21:3-7.[11]

Another formula, found in Genesis 15:7, “I am Yahwe who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans,” was matched by an even greater work of redemption: “I am your God who brouht you up out of the land of Egypt” (found almost 125 times in the Old Testament).  Still another formula of self-prediction was, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” All such formulae stress a continuity between the past, present, and future. They are parts of God’s singel ongoing plan.[12] And such it could also be seen as divine plan in history which promised to bring a universal blessing through the agency of an unmerited, divine choice of human offspring: “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).[13]

Kaiser see the tripartite formula is the great hallmark of all biblical theology in both testament. This tripartite formula as a binder that holds both testamen (Old Testament and New Testament).[14]

Kaiser based his Old Testament theology to the beliefs of evangelicals believe that the Old Testament is God’s inspired and inerrant Word, and not a set of separate periods with little or no unity. Kaiser fought for the unity of the Bible is the result of the presuppositions that recognizes God as the supreme author of the Bible.

This approach is greatly welcomed since much of what the Biblical Theology Movement had produced in the 20th century had been tainted with extreme skepticism.

The Scope of OT Theology

            Kaiser confirms that the scope of his study is properly restricted to the canonical books in the Jewish collection. To add to our consideration the Apocrypha, Qumran materials, Nag Hammadi texts, and Rabinical writings would seriously weaken the stated purpose of discusing the wholeness of biblical theology within a stream of revelation where the writers were consciously contributing under divine command to an existing record of divine revelation. The possibility of discovering the unity or center of the Old Testament or its correlation with the New Testament would be gone forever, for the theme line would now be blured by the instrusin af what would basically belong inthe history of Israel’s religion.

Even more determinative is the judment of Christ himself, for he decisively pointes to the judgement of books as known in His day and affirmed in His day and affirmed that these were the ones that spoke of Him.[15]

Fidelity to the text message in the canonical form as that now exists require both promise (Old Testament and New Testament) treated as equal parts authentic and equally the need of the message of God to the fathers ancestors.[16]

The Historic Periods of Old Testament Theology

            Kaiser in his book “Toward an Old Testament Theology” dividing Old Testament historical period into 11 era.

  1. Prolegomena to the Promise: Prepatriarchal Era (Abaraham)
  2. Provision in the Promise: Patriarchal Era (Abraham, Ishak dan Yakub)
  3. People of the Promise: Mosaic Era
  4. Place of the Promise: Premonarchical Era
  5. King of the Promise: Davidic Era
  6. Life in the Promise: Sapiental Era
  7. Day of Promise: Ninth Century
  8. Servant of the Promise: Eight Century
  9. Renewal of the Promise: Seventh Century
  10. Kingdom of the Promise: Exilic Times
  11. Triumph of the Promise: Postexilic Times

Evaluation And Conclusion


Kaiser is the first Bible scholars who use the theme “promise of blessing” as the key to setting an Old Testament theology. This is a way to make Old Testament theology.[17] Dr. Kaiser is to be commended for providing the lay and scholarly community with a well argued defense of the unity of the Old Testament, particularly with identifying the central plan of the Old Testament with God’s promise-plan. Unlike many who have written in this field, he is a conservative evangelical who believes the text of Scripture should be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to its claims. “The text is innocent until proven guilty” he says. This approach is greatly welcomed since much of what the Biblical Theology Movement had produced in the 20th century had been tainted with extreme skepticism.[18]

Kaiser  has succed to put back the authority of the Bible in the Old Testament theology. This is a great merits in biblical theology.

But, according Hasel use a representative sample by using the Kaiser or the central theme “The promise of blessing” does not seem to unite the themes of wealth and materials OT.[19] Kaiser’s method encountered some difficulties, because if there is really unity in the center of the Old Testament? Or is the unity of the Old Testament God is not present in a variety of revelation Yahweh Himself through word and deed, through creation, through punishment and salvation can not be reduced to a single theme or a combination of theme? Is not God introduces Himself through the diversity and richness of the testimony of the whole of the Old Testament, which all contribute to the knowledge of the divine purpose for Israel, for the nations and for the universe?

For example, the creation of the Old Testament theology is hardly a place in the Old Testament theology’s Kaiser. H. H. Schmid urged strongly that the theology of creation, which is the belief that God has created and maintains the world with an assortment of the order, not a by product of theology Akitabiah theme but is a basic theme.[20]


            Kaiser is very different theological approaches to the liberal scholars representing Rad. Rad deductive approach motivated by liberal ideas that do not give place to the authority of the Bible. For Rad, Old Testament is nothing more than a stack of documents the disclosure of the faith of the Old Testament’s people.

Evangelical background Kaiser insisted on maintaining infallibility of the Bible as God’s revelation. With this basic Kaiser strongly limit the scope of Old Testament theology only in the 39 books of the Jewish collection. And as proof of his loyalty to the infallibility of the Bible, there is no other option for Kaiser than using an inductive approach to the theology of the OT. Inductive approach will certainly find a key, theme, or organized pattern, and the key is “God’s promise.” The promise of God is the key that holds the whole Old Testament even connect to the New Testament.


  1. Walter C. Kaiser, Toward an OT Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987).
  2. Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology Vol.2 (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1965).
  3. Gerhard F. Hasel, Teologi Perjanjian Lama: masalah-masalah Pokok dalam Perdebatan saat ini (Malang: Gandum Mas, 2006).
  4. Candra Tan, Diakronis: Pendekatan Baru dalam Teologi PL?
  5.…/evaluation-of-walter-c-kaiser-jrs.html. July 28, 2007



[3] Walter C. Kaiser, Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), 2

[4] Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology Vol.2 (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1965) 362

[5] Kaiser, OT Theology, 5

[6]Ibid., 9-10

[7] Gerhard F. Hasel, Teologi Perjanjian Lama: masalah-masalah Pokok dalam Perdebatan saat ini (Malang: Gandum Mas, 2006), 53-61

[8] Kaiser, OT Theology,  4

[9] Hasel, Teologi PL,  58

[10] Ibid.

[11] Kaiser, OT Theology, 12-13

[12] Ibid., 33-34

[13] Ibid., 13

[14] Ibid., 33

[15] Ibid., 15

[16] Candra Tan, Diakronis: Pendekatan Baru dalam Teologi PL?

[17] Hasel, Teologi PL, 60

[18]…/evaluation-of-walter-c-kaiser-jrs.html. July 28, 2007

[19] Teologi PL, 61

[20] Ibid., 60

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