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Introduction to the methodology of doing Old Testament Theology
Course: Old Testament Theology
My name is Paul House. I teach, starting this fall, at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois. , I will mainly have – or be chairing our Department of Bible Theology, Archeology and World Religions, May the 1st. There are 23 persons in the department, so most of my work will be administrative.
I taught at Taylor University for a long time, which is an interdenominational liberal arts college like Wheaton. Taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary six hours’ north of here. Most of the places I’ve lived, it’s hard for me to imagine local being six hours’ north of anything, but it certainly is.
And then I’ve taught at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry the last two years, which has been a wonderful experience for me, getting to know the Anglican context a lot better, and so had not anticipated leaving that post, but for a variety of reasons, mostly connected with being closer to family and ministry and the kinds of decisions you have and will make in your own life decided to make the transfer to Wheaton.
I’m a Baptist by background and conviction, and but have worked obviously with virtually every other denomination that there is to work with, both in students and as fellow faculty members.
So I have just moved to Wheaton as in they unloaded the truck last Tuesday, we set up household through Friday and came here Saturday, recovered a bit Sunday and, well, here we are, and it’s almost nice because the Divinity School’s put us in-in a nice apartment nearby, and that allows us to rest and recoup or at least my wife is doing so.
I have a wife, Heather, and a daughter, Molly, who is taking third- and fourth-semester Greek this summer at Taylor University, so, and you say, oh, how is that connected to what you’re doing. I’m paying for you’re helping me pay for – at least you have appreciation for this – third- and fourth-semester Greek this summer, so that’s – that is the process that I’m going through.
I have taught Old Testament theology at least as a course at all the institutions where I’ve been, and that’s-that’s been an interesting experience, cuz depending really on your faith commitment, and for some of you, what your denominational statements state, you-you approach Old Testament theology differently.
I’ve noticed that-that-that Baptists are kind of all over the map on how they treat the Old Testament. Presbyterians have a fairly set way of doing that if they’re Westminster Confession Presbyterian. Then the Anglicans, at least the conservative ones Article 7 of the 39 articles covers pretty specifically some Old Testament hermeneutical issues.
So one of the things I’ll be interested to find out, not so that I can spy on you and attack your position, but so that I can hopefully know where you’re coming from, and we can discuss is this-is this notion of-of how you’ve been used to approaching the Old Testament and its theology. And that also is, of course, affected by who your instructions have been and are now, and so I-I’d like to take that into consideration.
If I disagree, I don’t think it will affect your grade, so I hope-I hope that you can be sure of that. So that-that’s just me, briefly. One thing that you’ll hear me refer to, that I’ll tell you one other thing is I often refer to literary studies because I did graduate degree in in literature before I went into theology, and it-it did affect my hermeneutical perspective, and more on that later.
Let’s look at the syllabus, please, and I hope that the syllabus is clear. If not, we will try to clarify it. We have two weeks to introduce you to the basic elements of Old Testament theology so that you may apply it to everything from Alabama law to the Anglican Kenyan church.
I hope that we will cover major scholars in the discipline, particularly today, and so if today seems a little heavy on methodology, it is intended to be. It will not be the whole of the course, but we have to set some sort of background for the way people think and for the way I’m going to think and teach, and also you’ll find yourself somewhere in the streams of tradition that we’re going to talk about.
It will also, I hope, help you understand a whole lot of other biblical scholarship, put some things together. But also, you’ll be reading some of them. , some of the scholars you’ll read will seem very, very relevant to what you’re doing. Some will seem a bit technical. Some will seem irrelevant to you. That’s inevitable when you have an anthology that’s covering a variety of topics.
I hope that what this textbook will do will be to reinforce the things I’m saying in class and supplement them. I’m not going to read the textbook back to you. That’s just as well.
This text is intended to be more theoretical and devoted to methodology as to how these scholars have approached their subject and how they’ve approached specific subjects. This one is to be more textual in its approach so that you can understand what’s going on in the biblical books, at least from one perspective.
This book has been used not just in classes, but also by a lot of pastors, a lot of others, and so it’s been very interesting to see who’s been using it. I hope it’s not a – just a matter of hubris to use this book, but I assume that if they asked me to come and teach this course, part of the reason was this book and not “Zephaniah: A Prophetic Drama,” one of my other personal favorites. So you’re welcome to that, and you have the reading list that we’ll look at momentarily.
I want to familiarize you with the course goals with main currents and Old Testament theology. There is not one specific way of doing Old Testament theology. I do the best I can to be right, but I also know that the subject is so vast and the material diverse enough, and the New Testament’s use of the material diverse enough that more than one fruitful approach to Old Testament theology exists, and my goal will be to get you into one of those. I’m not into academic cloning, but I would like for you to have a serious approach that is accurate that you can use.
Second, I want to facilitate your ability to formulate and write about major topics in Old Testament theology. To do that, we’ll have some writing exercises that I’ll describe later. But we’d like you to be able to formulate into clear prose what you’ve been thinking about and assimilating, and that’s hard to do, by the way, if you begin to feel some frustration in two weeks.
One of the problems with a two-week course is that your opportunity to reflect upon it and to let certain ideas you’ve been having, read about, disputing, accepting, whatever, kind of percolate in your mind, it’s just not there. So I hope that we can at least begin to do that, but that’s a problem, but – so we’re going to give you writing exercises.
I want to introduce you, three, to the content of Old Testament theology; that is, what the text says and how we may find theological truths there. And fourth, to help you develop a biblical theology for the variety of ministries that you are working with.
So the fourth course goal is to develop a biblical theology that will inform your ministry. For instance, at the end of the last class that I had, I had a student who was involved in youth ministry. Wrote a paper on how the Old Testament would give him a background, a foundation for teaching youth what are the things the Old Testament would do about educational and youth ministry. Had the same done for people who wanted to go into academic work and pastoral work. But again, you’ll need to be turning that over in your own mind, as you will do, as to how this material works.
We have textbooks. The first one, which I’ll put on reserve, is from a set, though the set can be purchased for about $50 now through Crossway Books: “God, Revelation, and Authority,” Carl F. H. Henry. , Henry is a-a-a philosopher and systemic theologian, and I really think the best one Evangelicals have produced, or actually, with Henry, he helped produce evangelical theology.
So there’s six volumes of this so this again will be on reserve tomorrow if indeed the library owns it, which I can’t imagine they do not. If they do, good. You saw Paul House’s “Old Testament Theology,” which, – and also Ollenburger, Martins and Hasel, “Flowering of Old Testament Theology,” which is now in its second edition.
this book is, as you see, an anthology that includes cuttings from major theologians in major eras. The other thing that it does is to give you an orientation chapter at each major section so that as my book does, the first chapter or so is on the background of the discipline.
This book also has similar articles, and particularly those of you here who are interested in academic work, those are articles to master and if you ever go on and have to take comprehensive exams on Old Testament theology of any type, those are the kind of articles that become your friend because they summarize a lot of material without you necessarily having to read it all, and probably since we’ll spend one whole day at least on methodology, those chapters will be your friends when you do your exams.
You do ‘em – if-if you’re gonna be really good in ministry, notice that – or that, particularly the students, you notice that-that suggestion [laughter] that can bring on low-level guilt if you don’t do it. That-that’s well-put. I would say if you do have these books checked out, you know, it would be good to put them on reserve.
If you tell me that presents some sort of hardship with you, I’ll probably direct you to the faculty secretary, ask them to Xerox it, the-the sections that are to be read to be put on reserve.
I’m certain – well, as I say, we’ll get to that. I’m – the answer is Volume 6 but let me –Let me keep what little train of thought I’ve got. Other – but the textbooks will work together. The other thing is, if you have a particular book you want to work with in your own thinking and reading and it’s checked out, you-you would start with the class. I mean we’re happy to do that, say, who – does someone have this? Somebody have Gerhart Von Rod’s first volume? I’ve been wanting to read it at night, I just can’t get to it. We’ll be grateful for you to say that you have it.
Grading: You have a dual problem or several problems with trying to get a grade in two weeks. One theory would be, okay, you assign stuff that’s due a long time after the course is over. This creates enduring misery for all involved.
The other thing is to have it done beforehand. This is blue-sky dreaming. This is just absolute fantasy for the average person though DMin students are having to do it now. So that—that leaves the two-week segment that we’ve got.Yeah, I could assign you a term paper to be due at the end of time, but that pushes me into the enduring misery we’ve already discussed. It also gives some implication that you’ll be able to get up to speed, work with the course, get everything done in two weeks. Thus that, too, seems to be a bit optimistic.
Then there’s also the notion of just having in-class exams, which, of course, then eats up what little time you have in class. This leaves my least favorite version of exams, and this is the take-home exam. Why do I not like take-home exams? Because I think they work the best students to death, unless there is a page limit.
So I will assign you essay questions. You will limit your answers to no more than four to six typed, double-spaced pages per examination. I will probably give you two essays so that you will write shorter answers.
Now how do I guarantee that you just stick to the six pages? I will not read the eighth page. I will not read the eighth page. This is the only way I know to keep it fair for everybody involved. So if you say, but I know a lot. I know more than the person over there. In fact, and-and some of you say, you know I-I-I want to do this for a living. I want to-I want to go into academics.
In academic work, you are often given a word limit for your writing. When this manuscript came in, they said, “Cut it.” So we cut it. Oftentimes you get – I have had – was asked to write an article. “We would like,” they said “somewhere between five and ten thousand words of your best.” They do not want anything longer than that. Or a book review. It will be 1,500 words or we will not print it, something like that, so brevity does have its place.
So I will give you something like probably tomorrow or maybe at the end of the third day since it’s not – it’s-it’s due at, I think, the start of the fourth period – give you essay questions that you will then work on, and it would be to your advantage to review because the exams will in general be over what almost the – almost totally over what we cover in class. And if you think what will he ask about, my guess will be the topics of the day.
When you take the exam, you’re free to use your textbooks and your class notes, though that is not doing you a specific favor. I will try to ask the questions of which it will require you to use the content of the class, but also to adapt your own mind.
So it will not simply be reading back to me my class notes, which I own a set of [laughter], but it will be enough of it that I would expect you to , to work through it.
Usually a take-home examination results in higher class grades. I’m happy with that. I’m not unhappy with that. So there will be three of these, and it will be my goal certainly to turn them back to you in a timely fashion so that you can see.
When you type these, do use spell check, do use grammar check. I would penalize the sort of things that you can have fixed by a computer. One of the things you can’t have fixed by a computer is contextual errors. You can spell a-a word-a word that it is a word and it be in the wrong context. That is forgivable.
You will have to teach your computer to spell names of some of these people. That, too, the names, are forgivable, but in general, I do not want to fix your prose. I have taught freshman composition. I’d prefer not to do it again this summer.
If English is not your first language, you’re probably ahead of some whose is, but having said that, you know, you-you also are free to ask a-a colleague about the content of it, not the content rather, but is this a clear sentence. , so you’re not to copy off someone else’s content, but you are free to say, is this a complete sentence, that sort of thing.
So I will grade these, and if there is a Beeson Divinity School scale of sorts, I will use it. Otherwise, I’ll just write the grade on your paper and you will see. Each one of these will be a third of your grade. So consistency will be a virtue.
I-I assume if you’ve paid for 10 classes, unless something takes you away that’s important, you will attend. I will not email you or mail you the test questions. You must be present to win.
The assignments, you see the reading for today, which if there was a day that I figured that we would stick pretty close to the textbook, it would be today because I assumed that some of you might not have done that work, but if you have, you will be right up to speed.
Then I’ve picked specific thematic emphases in Old Testament theology that are important to biblical theology that are usually important to a variety of ministries. So we’ll start with a method of doing Old Testament theology today, then we’ll move to the God who creates. The next two days, days three and four, we will deal with God and the law.
You are to do the reading even if I get behind. You’re to do the reading especially if I get behind, because that will fill out what we do not cover in class. So your reading is, in my view, is significant, particularly the biblical readings.
One nice thing about having my own book here is that you can fill out what I would have thought on a variety of subjects through the reading, and we can have more class discussion perhaps.
But the next days three and four, God who saves and gives the law and God who is holy, we’re going to deal with issues of-of law and its relationship to the whole of scripture, which is a rather important topic throughout the Bible and in current life.
Day five, the God who rules history. Salvation history is one of the key ways – key components of biblical theology and it – and how it’s been treated. Days six and seven will constitute Messianic thought in the Old Testament. This, of course, is a-a primary topic in the New Testament, in liturgical seasons and in-in appreciating teaching of the church.
Some people have raised it to the level of being virtually the only Old Testament theological topic they know or discuss. I find this to be unfortunate and very unlike the New Testament church. However, it is a vital, vital topic.
When you hear me saying Messianic theology is not all the Old Testament does, do not hear me say it is not something the Old Testament does. It is a vital part, but it is not all it does. Or even all that the New Testament seems to indicate that it does.
By day eight. we’ll be moving toward the last segment of the Old Testament, the writings, and into an issue that has gotten some attention in a variety of places, that of worship. Some of you are involved in music ministry, some of you are involved in planning, you know, not only music but other sorts of worship. Is there a biblical theological approach to worship, day 8.
Day nine, particularly a pastoral issue, one that is covered in some detail in the Old Testament and its theology, God meeting the hurting. Theology of suffering. And finally, some steps toward a whole biblical theology and hopefully, that will give you bridges to the New Testament that we haven’t gained already.
In my view, Old Testament theology is a subset of biblical theology, that if you were to do your job thoroughly, you would study the scriptures until you were thoroughly acquainted with them, so that if someone said give me four creation – give me creation texts that span the Old and New Testament, you would be able to do that on demand, which is sort of like being in ministry, because you have laypeople who think if they ask you that, you can deliver it, as you know.
To quote a friend of mine who is a-a Baptist layman, my church, I asked him how many hours – I was on a curriculum committee, and I said, “How many hours of Bible do you think somebody oughta have?” He said, “I don’t know, but they oughta know it backwards and forwards so that if we ask them any biblical question, they would know the answer.” Why did he think that? That’s what was kind of expected in his profession, what he expects of his doctor, his lawyer, his dentist and his – particularly his mechanic.
So they kind of expect that of ministers and so you would-you would do that. You would start. And then you would do a thorough study of Old Testament theology and New Testament theology and their connections, and from that base, you would-you would do your biblical theology and then take that to a systematic theology.
And then you would integrate all of that into a system of preaching, teaching, writing, whatever your ministry would be. That would be an ideal, and probably what we’re going to do in heaven is get all that pieced together.
But that’s how I approach Old Testament theology. That is really one of the first stages in a whole biblical and systematic theology. You will not hear me pitting Old Testament theology against New Testament theology. You will not hear me pitting biblical theology against systematic theology.
I know that is done other places. The seminary I attended one of the famous comments by a systematic theologian was it – or a-a New Testament scholar, he said, “It makes me nervous every time I see a systematic theologian with a Greek New Testament”.
I find this sort of combative spirit to be absurd personally. If systematic theology is not biblical, eventually at least then there’s a problem, and if there is not organization to biblical theology, well, it’s hard to study. So this is my approach.
Therefore, though I would like to use some others, on day two we have Carl Henry, which is Volume 6 pages 108 to 119, one of his essays in his Volume 6 on creation, and then I believe if the other Henry is day 10, it’s God, Revelation, and Authority, Volume 2. And I’m trying to see if there are any others. I think that may be the only two readings. I-I may have to to –
And it’s on creation.Yeah, Volume 6, interestingly enough is-is where creation comes in his discussion.
The nice thing about Henry is each chapter basically is a self-contained essay, and if you’re not careful, you’ll think that it’s not a systematic approach then, but then if you actually read a whole volume, you will see how connected it all is.
So do that. I’ll be referring to the article that’s for day 10 today. So we’ll start. I have that with me if you – someone needs to take it and Xerox it.
So these are the assignments you are to-to read each day, the assignment, and if it looks like the biblical texts are a hodgepodge to you right now, hopefully once we do our methodological discussion, you will see why the biblical assignments are as they are. If it all seems a hodgepodge at the end, either I’ve not done a good job or you haven’t paid attention, one or the other.
So let’s begin. If there are any other questions – let me see one other thing in my mind. On day three it tells you the first examination, which covers the first three of – three days of class, is due, is due – typo – at the beginning of day four. So at least by day three I will give you the exam questions, and then you will bring them day four.
Second exam will be given you at day six, due the next day. I had hoped to be able to do something with the weekend, but it just doesn’t go that way. I will give you the final examination at the end of day nine, so it’s just three days, three days, three days and the final.
So, again, it-it – there’ll be a certain rhythm to this. Hopefully, it will be a comfortable rhythm. If not, it’ll be over in two weeks. So I’d like for you to to get a Bible, and I want to start with a bit of a personal journey description of it to help you understand how I came about the study of-of Old Testament theology. And I think these are relevant points for us all.
Like some of you probably, I-I had Christian parents, and dedicated Christian parents, one of whom is with the Lord now and has been for nearly 20 years and one who continues on teaching adult Sunday school for years and years and years, who my father committed to-to-to teaching God’s word.
So I grew up in a home in which the Bible was important. We attended Baptist church, but my mother had been Methodist before, and all of her people were Methodist. I’m not sure about all of their local practices. They did not practice infant baptism. They were not Wesleyans or Free Methodists. The church is still there, but I did not know for many years that Methodists practiced infant baptism because my mother’s church did not.
Mother became a Baptist and because at – there were at least denominations represented in the family, there was always strong respect for other traditions. So my dad early on would ask one question about other denominations: Are they Bible-believing people? He had no use for the non-Bible-believing people, or very little, except to the extent that he wanted to help reform them, but that’s really where he started.
I was called to ministry when I was 12 years old and at that time my dad gave me two bibles: a Scofield reference Bible, which he always carried, and a New English Bible, which was just come out in Modern Language, Modern Language Edition.
Since then I’ve – the kind of poles of my theology have been the Anglican church and right-wing dispensationalism so somewhere-somewhere out there have-have kind of been the boundaries, kind of like this class.
So I began reading the Bible and asking questions about it, and even earlier I remember asking my fourth-grade Sunday school teacher how were people saved in the Old Testament? How did they-how did they get right with God? How were their sins forgiven? And my teacher said they kept the Ten Commandments.
Now, that made sense to me until I read more of the Bible. You know, you read something like Romans 3, “none righteous, no, not one can conclude with Paul’s comment that all of sin and come short of the glory of God.”
And then as I-I read a little bit longer, I realized Paul wasn’t – that wasn’t Paul’s opinion. Romans 3:10 and following there’s a whole bunch of quotations from the Old Testament itself, so the Old Testament didn’t think that people were saved by teaching the Ten Commandments or its testimony about itself was we all went to hell then.
So I came to this first scholarly decision that either my Sunday school teacher was wrong or a straightforward reading of the Bible was meaningless, so I had to choose between my teacher and the Bible and-and also I-I said, well, I would choose my – choose the Bible.
It was also-it was also helped by the fact that about then he defected to the Church of Christ, so you know it was easy to-to-to write his opinion off, but at that point, and then you start reading texts like Hebrews 11. What’s it say about the people there. Hebrews 11, anybody know what that chapter is about?
And is that-is that a whole bunch of New Testament people there it’s talking about? No. One by one, you know, under the theme without faith it’s impossible to please God, this person pleased God, this person pleased God, this person pleased God.
That’s pretty interesting because it includes some pretty odd folks, particularly in the list at the end. , it was by faith. And then you’d ask questions about the Old Testament and along the way you’d read a text like, you know, Second Timothy 3, you know this one? Second Timothy 3 when Paul writes something like, oh, start with Verse 14, Paul having told them that the evil men are going to proceed and get worse and worse and worse and worse and worse.
Says in Verse 14, “You, however, are continuing the things you’ve learned and become convinced of” – I always read from the New American Standard for better or for worse – “knowing from whom you have learned them and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture that God breathed is literal translation and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
Now so there’s been a qualitative statement about scripture as God breathed and a statement of “usefulness, profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Now, eh, what is striking here is that the all scripture he’s talking about is the Old Testament, correct? And that what’s – , a teacher said to me – I forget who or I’d give credit – said really, you know what’s-what’s astounding is the-the New Testament church did all of its evangelization, discipleship, church growth and everything from the Old Testament.
So I started asking – I remember way back, I started asking questions. What if Paul’s right? What if he’s right? All scripture is God-breathed, which I came to pretty early and never left. If you want to read my – understand where I’m coming – for my doctorate in scripture, read Carl Henry’s Volume 4 of “God, Revelation, and Authority,” which includes the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.”
This does not mean I can’t deal with others, as I hope my background indicates, but all scripture is God-breathed, and there are a whole lot of evangelical Christians that that is not an issue for them. I will stand up and-and-and stand on that and die for that. It’s this second part that they really have trouble with particularly, though not exclusively, with the Old Testament: “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness,” in other words, for discipleship, for living.
So the question, if you accept the first half of that premise of Verse 16, is not whether we would find something relevant and important in the Old Testament, but really the question is how is this true.
And our question for the Old Testament should not be how much of this do we have to pay attention to, which is often the question we get, but how much of this can I live. How-how will I find out what this says so that I can live it out?
So this is Paul’s opinion. Paul’s opinion is held in low esteem in some quarters, though it’s not what Anne Graham Lotz means by it, but a whole lot of people have taken the phrase “Just give me Jesus”– she means something healthier than that by her “Just give me Jesus,” but to give you Jesus, Matthew 5.
Matthew 5, you say, well, maybe Paul says this is true. What does Jesus think? Well, you might not even be thinking about the issue the day you stumble upon this topic for the first time, but in my life, you know, I’ve been thinking about what if – what does Paul mean? In what sense is all scripture profitable?
Going to Matthew 5:17, sermon on the mount, essence of Jesus’ teaching. Been reading John Stott “Sermon on the Mount.” He says there-there are 11 approaches. He’s read 11 different approaches to the sermon on the mount, 11 of which tried to get out of doing what’s actually in the text.
But Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law, 5:17. Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
A lot of people stop there. Ah, that means once Jesus was raised from the dead, the Old Testament now becomes passé. Is that what he says? Verse 18, “For truly I say to you until heaven and earth pass away...” Oh, we just have a new timeframe, didn’t we?
Not solely the ministry of Jesus, the most significant event in the history of the world, the ministry of Jesus, that’s not the timeframe for the relevance of the Old Testament, also for the new.
“Until heaven and earth pass away,” which even though we’re taking a class at 8 a.m. and that could be bad, this is not – we – you know, no matter you feel tomorrow in class, heaven and earth have not passed away.
We’re still here. “Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the law until all is accomplished.” You say, well, hasn’t it all be accomplished? Well, huh, all is accomplished when heaven and earth pass away in the text.
Verse 19, and this-this is one that scares me, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teachers others to do the same...” – I love all these admonitions for teachers, and James, he’s got a few of these, you know, in—in this – “... and you teach others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
And then a startling verse: “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Now some of you probably have been taught a low view of the Pharisees cuz Jesus does say some harsh things to them, but unlike the Sadducees, they were certainly concerned that the word of God be lived out and made relevant. Did they interpret it correctly? I think not. Jesus thought not. But were they serious about applying the Bible? Yes.
So now we’re struck with an even more serious – you know, Paul says it’s profitable and we think, okay, how can the Old Testament help us? How can we-how can we learn it? And again, everything I’m saying from the Old Testament I also believe about the New Testament. It’s just my task here to teach Old Testament theology.
Then you get to-you get to Jesus and it’s even more startling. “How can I keep from being a false teacher? How can I teach people to live the word of God and not to set it aside in some manner that will be detrimental to their lives?”
And-and sometimes the-the – if you think through that sort of statement, it’s frightening. It brings us into a holy reverence, okay, how-how can I do this? And if you read the sermon on the mount and you read that this heightened sense of commandment, you’ve heard that the ancients were told you shall not commit murder. “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.”
Now Jesus is dealing with interpretations of the commandments, and these interpretations in some cases in the sermon on the mount sound pretty stern. Other times they sound like somebody’s trying to weasel out of the commandment, right?
So you love your neighbor but hate your enemy. Does the Old Testament ever say “hate your enemy”? Not once. That was their – the current interpretation of it. But oftentimes when you’re through hearing Jesus expound the Ten Commandments, you’re saying just give me Moses.
If you’re trying to avoid a very strenuous faith, Jesus gives you no comfort. If you’re trying to avoid the Ten Commandments and other important teachings, or if you’re trying to misapply the-the law like, oh, 538. You’ve heard it said, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say you don’t resist an evil person.” “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” means the punishment fits the crime. That’s all it ever means. It is not the right to revenge. Never meant the right to revenge.
Jesus says, look, I’m telling you, you don’t even have to have the punishment fit the crime. Then you say, wait a minute. I want justice every time. I will have my rights. Like I say, Jesus is – he’s a rather stern task master in—in – master in these texts, but back to our original thing – I’m not supposed to be teaching sermon on the mount – Jesus is saying the law and the prophets are relevant.
One other Jesus text. If you look at Luke 24:44, and so by now in my spiritual journey at some point I’m saying, okay now, all scripture is profitable. It’s God-breathed, therefore, it’s profitable for these things. And I read Jesus. And he basically tells us you better have a – you better work toward a solid hermeneutic of Old Testament study and teaching so that you will not be a false teacher and lead people astray.
At some other point, you know, picking up Luke 24:44 and, you know, Jesus has been raised from the dead, and he’s — this is the road to a mass, right, and he’s walking with some disciples and they-they don’t recognize him.
Apparently one of the benefits of a resurrection body was it could be there and cloak its identity, and Jesus does this. In 24:44, now he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about me and the law of Moses and prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
Well, at some point I said, you know, Jesus is saying that at every segment of scripture, there is a three-fold canon that we’re gonna follow that is represented in ancient Judaism and in the Hebrew text of the scriptures: the law, the prophets – and they were first of all called the other books by Sirach 132 B.C., the book of Syrach or Ecclesiasticus depending on which version of the apocrypha you have.
Right in 132 B.C, he said we have-we have long had the law of the prophets and the ton alon [foreign], the others. You’ll be so glad you went to that two semesters of Greek to have heard ton alon, the-the others. And come to be called the writings. Jesus had a three-fold canon. He said they all spoke of him, so at the point which I saw Jesus saying all three segments speak about him, you go back and you start reading things like Paul Romans 4.
Remember the subject of Romans 4? Justification by faith. Help me here. I-I mean I-I know you could risk giving a wrong answer, but in Romans 4 talking about justification by faith, who does Paul start with?
Man: I think it was Abraham.
Abraham, sure. Sohow does Abraham say—
What’s the text he cites? I mean you’re going great.
And the chapter is important in this case as it ends up being, 15:6, which says what?
Abraham believed God and it was credited to him or counted. He rewards chashab [foreign]. It’s the only-it’s the only mathematical term in the Old Testament. It was counted to him as righteousness.
Now Paul picks Genesis 15:6 perhaps because there was a controversy going on at that time. Some said you were saved not by faith alone, but by faith alone and-and undergoing what? What ritual? Circumcision. Because of Genesis 17, where the covenant of circumcision is instituted and, you know, if you’re in-if you’re in-in the infant baptism tradition, it’s not a small issue to talk about the role of circumcision in biblical theology, is it?
That should be an important one, but putting that aside, Paul said, look, if you’re arguing that circumcision and faith is the primary text, remember before Genesis 17, there was Genesis 15. He believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.
Who’s Paul’s second case study? Who’s he pick in Romans 4? He picks another text and its Psalm 32, 1 and 2, David, and names him, doesn’t he? I forget, but I think so. So, okay, as the law in the writings, maybe also the prophets because David was considered a prophet, spoke by revelation of God, so he-he — and he cites Psalm 32, which is in the writings, the first book of the third section of the scripture, remember Jesus said the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalm.
And then you say didn’t Paul leave out the prophets? When Paul starts his book in Romans 1:16 and 17 – you remember that, Romans 1:16, famous verse – “for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the gentiles.”
Then at 1:17 he cites Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live...” how?
Man: By faith.
By faith. Paul’s already – he’s already got Habakkuk, the prophets going on this one. That’s one of his favorite versus. But in Roman’s 4 when he argues, Paul argues from the start of the canon to the end of the can on that it has always been true that justification is by faith. We are righteous by faith. God makes us righteous through faith. And that this has been a – always been apart from circumcision or apart from any other act.
Does not mean that there will not be works as a result, but Paul says there is no merit in your works. Your salvation is a gift of God and it is the basis of your faith.
How does Paul know this? Was this something he learned in the revelation, revelatory time that he spent that he talks about in-in-in Galatians, how he didn’t receive his doctrine from another apostle but was gotten from God?
No, he’s just citing scripture here and when you notice in Hebrews 11, when the author wants to talk about those who believed, we start with Genesis and go down the canon. Or when Jesus is criticizing his opponents – remember this when he says, “You have killed the righteous people and the prophets,” starting with whom, do you remember? What’s the first murder in the Bible?
Cain killed Able. He starts with Abel and he ends with Zachariah.
Who is talked about in Second Chronicles. Jesus’ Bible, the law, prophets and the writing start with Genesis and ended with Chronicles, see. So what Jesus is saying, from the first murder to the last, so though not the only way, though not the only way, one of the ways that the New Testament interprets the Old is from start to finish from the law, the prophets and the writings.
And in order to get into the mindset of the New Testament writers as they think from law, prophets and writings it is helpful for us to at least for these two weeks adopt the Hebrew canon. There has been more than one Hebrew canon as far as the order goes. It’s always been the same books and always in law, prophets, writings order.
So one of the things I would argue is what you’re going to be introduced in a few minutes after-after some break I hope as canonical. A canonical approach to Old Testament theology is simply this: the New Testament itself, it is a biblical method of interpretation to start at the beginning, go to the end, utilizing law, prophets, writings.
It is not the only thing you can do, but it is a legitimate thing to do, and it is one of the ways you can get into the mind of the New Testament writers. The other way you can get into their mind, as I’ve said, is to have virtually any subject at hand, any subject, and have scripture at hand to bear-to bear on the issue.
That-that’s another way of getting into the New Testament mindset, because oftentimes when they talk about the Old Testament, they’re able to recall or maybe they look them up for all I know, but they’re there in the text. Yup.
Let us take a break. And what I’ve been trying to say then is, as you study the text itself, you’ll come to certain things. The inspiration of the scripture and its usefulness come together. If you want to understand the importance of the Old Testament and you read the New Testament to do so, you will see a pattern of interpretation.
So I’ve introduced that, and we’ll introduce a variety of ways of approaching the Old Testament theology then. This has been certainly – this has been just basically a way of telling you my own curiosity led me this far, and many of you probably the same, and then into the academic study of it. Thank you.