Menachem Kalisher’s dissertation, Preaching Messianic Prophesies (soon to be published in book form), is underwhelming as a doctoral project. His hermeneutics are idiosyncratic, his defense of expository preaching lacks intellectual rigor, his measurements of project impact are ineffective, and his project goals (while surely valuable) are ill-suited to the expository preaching format.

Idiosyncratic Hermeneutics

Kalisher relies heavily on word similarity between passages to draw connections in a way that is not obvious to the reader. This procedure unwittingly creates a false perception of an intrinsic competence disconnect between the pastor and the congregation—the pastor is necessary, because only he can “see” these alleged links.

For example:

  • Kalisher claims Isaiah 52:8-9 alludes to Deut 32:43—but his only evidence is a similarity of a song for joy in the last days (p. 72). He offers no proof, no contextual indicators other than a similarity about eschatological joy.
  • He states Isaiah 52:10-12 echoes the Exodus motif (Ex 13:21, 14:20), and again cites nothing but word similarity in support (pp. 74-75). He says this describes salvation from Satan, but context suggests merely an eschatological ingathering.

In short, Kalisher does not appear to preach the text—he freights it with alleged context from outside the passage. This is not an effective way to model bible interpretation to a congregation.

Expository Discussion Lacks Intellectual Vigor

Kalisher’s definition of expository preaching (“EP”) lacks any reference to the Spirit (p. 31), which is a common oversight. Walter Liefeld’s discussion is more helpful.[1] Kalisher lists three alleged dangers of not conducting EP, for which he provides no support save some M.L. Jones quotations and unrelated charts (pp. 38-43). Correlation does not equal causation. Kalisher seems to rely on a sympathetic audience’s assumptions to carry his argument, rather than research. His depth of discussion here would be unpersuasive even for a blog post.  

Ineffective Metrics for Project Assessment

Kalisher’s pre- and post-project questions are unimpressive. His goals for the project are to enable his congregation to:

  1. understand and appreciate expository preaching
  2. appreciate roles in the economic Trinity
  3. learn to study God’s word, God’s way
  4. grow in Messianic self-identity

Here are his questions to measure two of these goals (pp. 38, 39):

Kalisher fails to define the doctrine of the Trinity in the dissertation, and his survey questions are not robust enough to measure comprehension. He fails to define what “biblical” means related to the term “Trinity”—a misstep, because the term itself does not appear in Scripture. Kalisher does not present other preaching methods, leaving the congregation little choice but to conclude EP is correct because he says it is.

Thesis in Search of a Degree

Kalisher’s project is ill-suited to an EP framework because it consists of him talking at the congregation, rather than with it. An interactive study format would better allow him to achieve and measure his four goals. As it is, Kalisher’s project seems less like objective research and more like a preconceived thesis in search of a doctoral degree.

[1] “… preaching that explains a passage in such a way as to lead the congregation to a true and practical application of that passage,” (Walter L. Liefeld, New Testament Exposition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), p. 6).

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