Touching the Altar
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More About This Title Touching the Altar


What does it mean to be in the presence of God's holiness? How can it affect us whether we seek it out or stumble upon it? Can it truly change our very reality to encounter it?

The essayists in this volume explore these questions at the heart of Christian worship, considering the oft-neglected Old Testament as essential to understand our purpose in worship. Following the structure of the Hebrew canon -- beginning with the Pentateuch, moving through to the Psalms, then wisdom literature -- each chapter considers a separate aspect of worship, from theater to the Sabbath to sacred space, offering new inspiration. In the final essay Carol Bechtel "rereads the book of Job through the lens of our human limitations (as opposed to the usual theme of theodicy)," with compelling applications for both life and worship.

Each of these essays concludes with two appropriately themed hymns and a "For Further Reading" list. Five of the seven contain sidebars that illustrate and enrich key points. Evocative woodcut artwork by Margaret Adams Parker provides a striking backdrop to the text. Taken together, these essays testify powerfully to the belief that the Old Testament is not only valuable but also essential to "whole" and fully foundational preaching and worship.

Written primarily by Old Testament professors, Touching the Altar will make an engaging supplemental text for introductory or elective Old Testament courses and will also go far toward providing deeper worship for any Christian.

Carol M. Bechtel
Thomas A. Boogaart
Corrine L. Carvalho
Ellen F. Davis
J. Clinton McCann Jr.
Dennis T. Olson
Margaret Adams Parker
John D. Witvliet


Christian Century
"A terrific resource for pastors, students, and laypeople."

Jeremy Begbie
— University of St. Andrews and Ridley Hall, Cambridge
"This is an immensely important volume. In contemporary discussions of Christian worship, the Old Testament is too often ignored or treated superficially. These writers offer a rare combination of scholarly depth and practical insight, providing wisdom that cannot fail to nourish any who care about worship in our time."

Dorothy C. Bass
— Valparaiso University
"Touching the Altar provides an inspiring model of excellent scholarship done in service to God and the church. The authors lead those who would more fully and faithfully understand and lead Christian worship deeply into the biblical text, while also disclosing connections to urgent contemporary concerns. Moreover, like worship itself, the book is beautiful, frequently incorporating image and song. This is biblical practical theology at its best."

Patrick Miller
— Princeton Theological Seminary
"This scholarly and practical collection reminds us that the Old Testament offers more than just the Psalms to shape our worship of God. Attending to such central matters as space and architecture, Sabbath and justice, drama and idolatry, prophets and wisdom, these essays surprise us with the depth of direction and guidance that Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, offers to remind us that worship, properly carried out, is why we are here in this world. (PS: Don't slide over Margaret Adams Parker's marvelous woodcuts.)"

Marva J. Dawn
— Regent College
"A superb book! Its essays are filled with fresh insight and profound wisdom concerning questions about worship. . . Should be read widely and well to deepen our fondness for the Old Testament and to invigorate congregational worship."

Review of Biblical Literature
“A refreshing theological excursion.”
Society for Old Testament Study Booklist
“These essays are not so much original contributions to OT scholarship as an application of significant themes and texts to contemporary issues. Yet this is carried out with a liveliness, warmth, sophistication and relevance that is a model for how to make the OT come alive to Christian readers.”
Theology Today
“An enlightening collection. . . . These essays are not just for worship leaders; rather, they are for everyone who wants to deepen the church’s understanding and worship of God.”
Expository Times
“A book to stimulate thought.”
Horizons in Biblical Theology
“Each essay has something significant to add to the discussion of worship. As a whole, they compel us to reconsider worship and how it is led.
Liturgical Ministry
“Highly recommended for teachers and students of liturgy/worship, preachers, and anyone who wants to grow more deeply in their appreciation for the Old Testament and its richness.”