Answers to Tough Questions. A Survey of Problem Passages and Issues from Every Book of the Bible

By J. Carl Laney
Grand Rapids : Kregel (1997). 351 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
9.1 (Spring 1998) : 111-113

This addition to books giving solutions to Bible problems comes from the Professor of Biblical Literature, Western Seminary, Portland, Oregon. Laney also authored The Divorce Myth, A Guide to Church Discipline, and John (Moody Gospel Commentary). In addition he has done Everyman's Bible Commentaries on 1 and 2 Samuel, Ezra and Nehemiah, and Zechariah.

The work discusses many problems, usually with brevity. It passes over quite a number, as all such works do. Laney covers 1 and 2 Chronicles, for example, in two and a third pages. Among problems skipped are the tree of life, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Gen 3:15, 4:1, why God rejected Cain's offering, the chronology of Abram in Genesis 11-12 and Acts 7, the identity of Melchizedek, Lot's wife becoming a pillar, Joseph's divining cup, the difference between sin and trespass offerings (Leviticus 4-5), and on and on.

Some sections in Bible books end early, as at Exodus 24, Leviticus 26, Numbers 22, Deuteromy 24, and Joshua 11. Some Bible books have very few problems dealt with, as seven on Job, thirteen on the Psalms, seven on Proverbs, nine on Isaiah, and eight on Jeremiah.

But where Laney comments, he is usually insightful, and the book overall has many values. On Genesis 1 he sees the days as 24-hours in length, yet offers no help on the problem of time that the sciences demand. He interprets the "sons of God" (Gen 6:2, 4) as fallen angels, holds to a global flood, a curse on Canaan's descendants, not Canaan or Ham personally (he does not give texts later that show Canaanites undergoing a curse). Laney disagrees with his former fellow-faculty member Ronald Allen, who says OT numbers are often deliberately exaggerated to bring glory to God. Laney feels this would be deceitful and takes the figures as literal; he says that the God of miracles could provide for the many Israelites in the desert (43-44). Cf. Allen on numbers in "Numbers," The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. F. Gaebelein, 688-91.

Laney has a good discussion of Rahab's lie as an ethical problem. He says, "What the Bible commends is Rahab's faith, not her falsehood" (56). He provides three views on the long day in Joshua 10, takes a 1446 B.C. date for the exodus, says Jephthah offered his daughter to death but his rash plan did not follow God's will, and God miraculously caused Samuel to appear bodily from the dead (1 Samuel 28). On 2 Sam 12:23 he seems to hold that David expects only to go to the grave at death, and does not mention Ps 49:14 as giving more of a hope for an afterlife (cf. also Ps 73:24 f.). In Job 19:25-27 Laney believes that Job expected to see His divine redeemer from the vantage point of a body resurrected from the dust.

 The reader may have difficulty seeing the harmony when the book argues that the psalmists' imprecations wish the very will of God to be done, and then sees the teachings superseded by new revelation for Christians (109). Not all will agree with his conviction that a historical king only and not Satan in any sense is in view in Isa 14:12-14 and Ezek 28:11 ff. In some instances, explanations only go part of the way and leave readers groping for information Laney does not supply. An example is in his over-simplifying Ezek 3:20-21 to the point of having only physical life and blessing, or death, in view. This does not explain the problem that many of the wicked live to a ripe old age (Ezekiel 14), while many of the righteous are permitted to die early. Things did not work out in the neat way that the present book generalizes, so it leaves readers longing for more help that faces the problem fully, rather than creating a bigger problem.

Comments favoring a literal fulfillment of the temple details (Ezekiel 40-46) are helpful. Laney also refers to the book he co-authors with John Schmitt, developing the subject in more detail (Messiah’s Coming Temple. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1997).

On some passages Laney does not make a clear-cut choice, as on the identity of the twenty-four elders in the book of Revelation, whether they are humans or angels.

Given the fact that the book leaves out many problems and will be a disappointment on some that it includes, it does cover a number of the difficulties fairly well. So it is solidly worth having as one among several books that specialize on problems. Problems are easy to locate since Laney discusses them as they occur in the sequence of biblical books. An index of persons, places, and topics also furnishes some help in finding discussions.