Survey of the Old Testament - Lesson 7

Covenantal Structure of the Christian Bible

The three divisions in the Old Testament are the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Genesis and Revelation are the introduction and conclusion to the Bible and have parallel themes. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are the four covenant books that record the birth and death of the covenant mediator and contain his life and teachings. The former prophets record the history of Israel. The latter prophets call people to repent and return to God.

Miles Van Pelt
Survey of the Old Testament
Lesson 7
Watching Now
Covenantal Structure of the Christian Bible

I. Three divisions

II. Genesis and Revelation

III. Exodus to Deuteronomy

A. Birth and death of the covenant mediators

B. Parallels between Moses and Jesus

C. Genesis is part of the Law but distinct

IV. Prophets: The History of the Covenant and the Interpretation

V. The Book of Acts

VI. Writings

VII. Canonical Seams

A. Chronicles and Matthew

B. Genesis and Chronicles

C. Moses and Elijah

VIII. The Unity of the Bible: The Macro Canonical Context

A. Symmetry

B. Kingdom prologue

IX. Conclusion

  • Dr. Miles Van Pelt is offering an opportunity to study the Old Testament and understand its overall message in more detail. The Old Testament consists of 2/3 of the Bible, and serves as a foundation for many teachings found in the New Testament. Its main purpose is to point towards Jesus who makes possible a new covenant with God's people. The structure of both Testaments follows a covenantal pattern that compels humans to make choices regarding their relationship with God, while demonstrating His patience and perseverance in doing so.
  • Knowing the purpose, structure and theological center of the Old Testament, will help you understand more accurately the character of God, and his purpose in the world and in your life. The Old Testament teaches you about Christ and describes his ministry. Colossians 3:15-16 reads, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."

  • What you decide is the theological center of the Bible will determine how you understand the Bible and apply it to your life. You can see unity in biblical authorship by the number of times the phrase, “thus says Yahweh” is used in the Old Testament.  The person and work of Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. The living force of the canonical word must be the incarnate word. The proper nouns used in the Bible indicate the important characters and themes.

  • Jesus claims that the Old Testament finds its ultimate meaning in him. After his resurrection, Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus and gives them a lesson in biblical interpretation. The Father and the Scriptures testify about who Jesus is. In Romans 1:3, Paul refers to the Gospel being revealed through his prophets, in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son. Every book in the Bible teaches about Christ so every sermon should teach about Christ. Hebrews 11 refers to the great cloud of witnesses.

  • The Kingdom of God is the over-arching theme of the whole Bible. God governs his kingdom by his covenants. The covenant of grace is in effect throughout the Bible and has different administrations.

  • The form that our Bibles come to us in is meaningful for interpretation. The Hebrew Bible has a different order of the books than the English Bible.  

  • The order of books in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible is different because the criteria for determining the order is different. The order of the books in the Hebrew Bible reflect an emphasis on covenant, and also teaching important concepts then giving a practical example to illustrate how to put it into practice.

  • The three divisions in the Old Testament are the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Genesis and Revelation are the introduction and conclusion to the Bible and have parallel themes. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are the four covenant books that record the birth and death of the covenant mediator and contain his life and teachings. The former prophets record the history of Israel. The latter prophets call people to repent and return to God.

  • Your presuppositions about whether or not the authors who wrote the books of the Bible were inspired by God will influence your position the authorship of the Pentateuch. The traditional view is that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament at about 1200 to 1400 B.C. The documentary hypothesis claims that there were four or more separate authors that wrote beginning in about 900 B.C.

  • Genesis is the covenant prologue and is both protological and eschatological. It is the most covenantal book in the Bible. One way to outline the book is into twelve parts, each beginning with the phrase, “these are the generations.” Creation is described using a theological order.

  • Chapter 2 is a detailed description of the sixth day of creation, culminating in the creation of woman. Chapter 3 describes the Fall and the consequences. Hebrew homonyms link the passages and intensify the descriptions.

  • Noah functions as a prophetic covenant mediator. God promises a remnant in his covenant with Noah and also renews the covenant of common grace. God continues his redemptive covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The book of Genesis ends with the narrative of Joseph.

  • This is the beginning of the formal documents of the covenant of God with the people of Israel. It begins with the birth of Moses and ends with the people of Israel coming out of Egypt.

  • Leviticus is primarily instructions to promote the holiness of God’s people. It provides a system that allows for a holy God to live among an unholy people. In the sacrificial system, there are 5 kinds of offerings. Jesus is the fulfillment of the observance of the Day of Atonement.

  • The book of Numbers is a record of the events of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The purpose is to contrast the faithfulness of God with the faithlessness of the Israelites. The time in the wilderness was a period of testing for the people of Israel.

  • This is a renewal of the Mosaic covenant in preparation for entering the Promised Land. It’s an encouragement to keep the Law and a reminder of blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience. Deuteronomy points us to Jesus who ultimately fulfills the Law.

  • Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings describe the nature and purpose of the Sinai Covenant and the historical events of the occupation of the land. God know that the people of Israel would fail to obey the Mosaic Covenant, so he had planned from the beginning to establish the New Covenant when the time was right.

  • Joshua was the successor to Moses. The book of Joshua focuses on the Promised Land. The people of Israel enter the land, conquer the land, divide the land between the tribes and then renew their covenant with God. Holy war and covenant obedience are important themes.

  • Judges has two introductions, two conclusions, six major judges, six minor judges and one anti-judge. It can be described as the, “uncreation” of Israel. Their purpose was to judge the nations and to deliver the people of Israel from their oppressors.

  • The book of Samuel provides the answer to the crisis of kingship. Samuel, as the last judge and first prophet, anoints Saul as king. The people of Israel reject Yahweh as king. Saul is anointed by Samuel and serves as king but is later rejected because of disobedience. David is anointed king because God acts according to his own will. Solomon begins well and ends badly.

  • The book of Kings is the story of the monarchy in the nation of Israel. It begins with the united monarchy under Solomon, then after his death, is divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. We can learn about God’s character and the importance of living in a covenant relationship with God.  

  • The Latter Prophets are covenant lawyers. They are executing the lawsuit of God against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Prophets use both oracular prophecies and sign acts to communicate their message.

  • Isaiah is sometimes described as the, “fifth gospel” because it is quoted so much in the New Testament. The themes in Isaiah are both timely for his generation and also point to their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus and the end of time.

  • Jeremiah’s call was to tell the people of Judah why they were going into exile and also to give them hope for future restoration. The book contains oracles, accounts of visions and symbolic actions, prophetic laments and historical narratives.

  • One key to understanding Ezekiel is the glory of God in the temple. The book begins with God appearing to Ezekiel, then God leaves the temple and, in the end, God returns. Ezekiel’s oracles and signs illustrate each of these.

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these 12 minor prophets are treated as one book. Each one is a covenant lawyer that is prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the unfaithful nation of Israel and also preaching a message of hope for restoration. The Day of the Lord is the day of the king’s victory over his enemy, either to crush an enemy or to save a people.

  • These books are about how you think and live in light of the covenant. The genres include narrative, poetry and prophecy. The Hebrew Bible order emphasizes teaching then example.

  • Covenant life is a life of worship. The book divisions in the manuscripts were purposefully arranged so the book as a whole has a meaningful narrative. It emphasized the kingship of Yahweh, the Davidic line and the temple. You can use specific patterns of construction for understanding lament, thanksgiving and hymns of praise psalms. You can also use the same patterns to help you respond to God and worship him.

  • Job deals with the issue of human tragedy and suffering. Job never knows what happened in heaven that resulted in his suffering. His three friends made correct theological arguments but they were misapplied. Job speaks about suffering and hope. God challenges Job at the end of the book, and also restores his possessions and children.

  • Solomon created a collection of practical wisdom sayings. Some were for instructing children, some for instructing kings, but they all are applicable to help everyone live in the light of the covenant of grace in the context of common grace.

  • Ruth follows Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible. Even though she is from Moab, she lives in Israel with her widowed Israelite mother-in-law to take care of her. She marries Boaz and is included in the genealogy of David and Jesus.

  • Marriage should be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. If it is both, you can better resist temptation, endure hardship and promote wholeness.   

  • The message of Ecclesiastes is that true knowledge, wisdom and meaning in life begins with the fear of the Lord. The author of Ecclesiastes, likely Solomon, tests this conclusion and is unsuccessful in finding ultimate meaning in activities, “under the sun,” like wealth, relationships, power, projects, etc.

  • Lamentations is a collection of funeral dirges lamenting the fall and exile of Jerusalem. The elegant structure of the book is a contrast to the chaos and destruction of the events that are taking place. Each poem gives you a different perspective on God’s character and his covenant faithfulness.

  • Esther is a story of living a life of faith in exile. It Bringing “shalom” into a hostile environment sometimes even requires risking your life. The festival of Purim commemorates God saving his people and is still celebrated today.

  • Daniel and Esther are examples of living a life of faith while in exile. Daniel was different than the writing prophets because he is not primarily a covenant lawyer prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the people of Israel. The first six chapters are biographical stories highlighting God’s power to save and his sovereignty over the nations. The second six chapters are visions of the future.

  • The book of Ezra-Nehemiah records the last events, chronologically, in the Old Testament. Ezra returned from exile with authorization to teach the Law of the Jews and institute the sacrificial system. Nehemiah returned to rebuild Jerusalem. They fail in their human attempt to rebuild heaven on earth, which encourages you to look forward to the city built by God.

  • The return from exile is not the greater one prophesied by the prophets. We still look forward to the return from exile with them in the resurrection. Chronicles traces the seed that was promised and gives an account of the return from exile.

Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give you an overall view of the Old Testament then discuss specifics about each of the books. 

For instance, you might ask, "What kind of book is the Old Testament?" The OT is a single story told three times over: once in Genesis, once in Exodus through Nehemiah, and once again in Chronicles (just like day 6 in Genesis 1–2). The OT loves to repeat itself, repeat itself, repeat itself. This is how it teaches us. The Old Testament is about 2/3 of the Bible and is the basis for everything you read in the New Testament. The better you understand the Old Testament, the clearer you will understand the message of the Bible. 

What is the Message of the Old Testament? The Old Testament points to the New Covenant. The teachings, prophecies and examples of covenant life point to Jesus who makes the New Covenant possible and inaugurates it. There are also examples in the Old Testament of how human efforts to create heaven on earth fall short, so that we will anticipate and yearn for our ultimate deliverance from exile.

What is the Structure of the Old Testament? The structure of the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole, is covenantal. God offers to live in the covenant of grace with him and compels them to make that choice. The administrations of the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus demonstrate God's patience and perseverance to include as many as are willing.


Recommended Books

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give...

Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study

Dr. Miles Van Pelt

Survey of the Old Testament


Covenantal Structure of the Christian Bible

I. Three Divisions (00:13):

In this part of the lecture, we're arriving at a rendering of the whole Bible, but with special emphasis on the Hebrew Bible. Its important to look  at the whole Bible because because it's not just the context of the Old Testament, but it's the context of the New Testament with the Old Testament. In terms of progressive revelation, when things arrive at their climax in the New Testament, it helps us go back in the Old Testament and see what the shadows were pointing to. We can see those shadows in more clarity, a little more light on them. So the two always go together. Whenever I'm working anywhere in the canon, I always begin with the big picture and say, "How is this book functioning, and what is it doing in the economy of the kingdom of God and His covenantal administration?"

We know from Jesus and from testimonies of the grandson of Ben Sira and the Babylonian Talmud that there are three divisions in the Old Testament; the law, the prophets, and the writings of Tanach, and how they correspond to covenant history and covenant life. That's what they put in there. There's also a great introduction and a great conclusion to the Bible. So the Bible is a book, an inspired book, but it also shares literary features of other books. Every good book needs a good introduction, and if the Bible is the best book ever, then it's got the best introduction ever. Genesis serves as our introduction to the Bible.

A. Covenant Prologue (01:43):

Now, I like to say it's our introduction to the Bible because it's going to serve as an introduction both to the Old Testament and New Testament. We can call this our covenant prologue because covenants actually have, in the ancient world, a particular form, preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, blessings, and curses. When we get to the Pentateuch, our Exodus, Deuteronomy, we'll talk about that form. So prologue's a fancy word for introduction, but I think we can understand what a prologue is.

 B. Covenant Epilogue (02:14):

We also have a covenant epilogue, and that is the book of Revelation. The book of Revelation is a conclusion not just to the New Testament, but also to the Old Testament because of shadow and substance. They're both driving down the same train track, coming to the same conclusion. We've got the creation of heaven and earth here, and we've got the new earth here. From protology to eschatology, from beginning to end, from inauguration to consummation. What does Genesis one through two account for? Creation. That's exactly right.

C. Climax of Creation (02:58):

For chapter two, what is the climax of creation? Yep, women. That's right. The creation of woman and the marriage covenant, because you need two to tango. So the marriage covenant. Then who comes to corrupt the marriage covenant and the created order in chapter three? Satan. What is Revelation 21 and 22 about? That's right, new creation. In Revelation 21, right at the beginning, what do we see? A new marriage covenant. Right? "Behold the bride descend out of heaven, prepared for her husband." We have a new marriage covenant. In Revelation chapter 20, who gets dusted out?

II. Genesis and Revelation (03:58):

This is not hard academic work. Once you see it, it's like, "I'm 51, and I haven't seen this before?" So this is CBA. We just haven't been trained to look at this stuff. We have chiasm and inclusio. These are two literary terms for kind of ways in which things are put together. A chiasm is criss-cross parallelism where you go A, B, C, then you start at C again and go B, A. Normally, you think you'd go A, B, C, A, B, C, A, B, C, but chiasm is a very common literary technique in the Old Testament. Noah, or the flood episode is written in gigantic chiasm where God shutting the door of the arc is right at the middle. So there's wonderful stuff. You can see it all over the place.

A chiasm shows that there is a unity of design and an intentional purpose from beginning to end. This was written in approximately 1400 BC in Hebrew in the Sinai dessert. This was written 90 AD, in exile on the island of Patmos. You've got over 1500 years of history there, and you've got a unified design, a divine design. There's an intentional literary structure and binary structure here. But it's also... That's the chiasm. You've got a single design and purpose. It's about God's kingdoms, living in covenant with Him and one another. Being free from corruption and sin, and He frees us from it, enters into it with us, and makes it for us.

One plan across the whole canon, but there is also is something called an inclusio. It is a secondary feature and what that is, is that you begin with something, you begin one way, you have your whole business, and then you end, and you're done. So the Hallelujah psalms, Hallelujah, praise the Lord. Psalm, psalm, psalm, psalm, psalm, Hallelujah, praise the Lord. It's inclusio. You begin and end in the same way. Where did I just come upon this? Yes, in Ecclesiastes, right at the beginning, it says, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity says the Lord, everything is vanity." That's repeated at the end of chapter 12 verbatim, meaning we're at the end of our work. So by that repeat, you know you're coming to an end. Then he enters into his conclusion. It's a literary device to tell you you're done.

So this is, in some sense, internal evidence for a closed canon once you get to revelation. There's a divine design. At the end of Deuteronomy, cursed are you if you take away our add from this work. At the end of Revelation, cursed are you if you add to, take away anything from this work. It's a documentary clause in a covenant. You can't add to it. It's a closed book. You are cursed if you alter it. You can't mess with it. So we see this grand design from beginning to end that God has this wonderful thing going on and is going to fulfill it in two stages. The rule of two. The Old Testament stage, the New Testament stage in the category of covenant, covenant history and covenant life.

III. Exodus to Deuteronomy (07:20):

Now we're going to move into our second section here, which is Exodus to Deuteronomy. We have four covenant books that begin with a birth and end with a death of the covenant mediator, and they deal with his life and teachings. Four covenant books that begin with the covenant mediator's birth. They end with his death, and they contain his life and teachings. Four books like that. So it's one there.

A. Birth and death of the covenant mediators (07:58):

In the New Testament, we have four books, Matthew through John, that begin with the birth and end with the death of the covenant mediator and help us understand his life and teachings. That's why there are four gospels, it's because you need four covenant books to match the Old Testament, but they're slightly different. They're never always the same. This is one continuous narrative. These are four recursive narratives. So one narrative from one angle, another narrative from another angle, another narrative from another angle. It's a very common Hebrew narrative technique. For example, the book of Isaiah, some argue was written in seven sections that go from the Old Zion to the New Zion every time just from a slightly different angle. It goes from the angle of the suffering servant, from the angle of the new heaven and new earth, from the angle of judgment, from the angle of restoration, and by the end you get the whole thing, like the book of Revelation maybe structured that exact same way and has the same thing, recursive narrative.

Hebrew loves to tell the story twice. So Judges chapter four, Debra and Barak serve as God's instruments to deliver Israel from their enemies, and it happens in Judges four. In Judges five, they tell the story again in song. Exodus 14, they cross the Red Sea. Exodus 15, they rehearse the whole thing in song again. You back up and interpret. That's how it works. There are many parallels here. Let me show you some of these. Jesus is the covenant mediator here. Moses is covenant mediator here. You can read Hebrews, and they talk about Jesus being the true and better covenant mediator. It's a great section there.

B. Parallels between Moses and Jesus (09:40):

Notice the parallels between Jesus and Moses. Just some big ones, they were both born under decree of death for male Hebrew children. They both took refuge in Egypt to escape that death. They both taught primarily in context on a mountain. Moses receives the law, Jesus gave and interpreted the law. They're both transfigured on a mountain, scared everyone who were around them. They both experienced opposition or rebelling from their own people, and God's chosen prophet, and covenant mediator. In Hebrews 3:1-5, it says, "Therefore, you saints who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all of God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses just as the builder of the house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all of God's house testifying to what would be said in the future."

It’s the same concept in chapter five of John. "But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house, and we are His house if we hold onto our courage and the hope of which we bare." The authors of the gospels wrote about Jesus in light of His connection to Moses. You see a lot of connections in those particular places, but there are also some important discontinuities. Again, we can talk about these more when we get in this book, but for example, in Exodus 32-33 when Israel sins in the event of the golden calf, Moses offers his life for the life of the people, and God refuses to take it. Down here, in the full flowering of the golden calf, Jesus says, "Lord, this may be too much for me, Father. May this cup pass for me?" The father says, "No. You got to do it." And He sweats blood and does it.

But both of them experienced the fact that the covenant community's life is connected to their life as the mediator. So you've got that very intense connection there. We see again, this binary symmetry where we've got shadow and substance. There's a lot of things like four and four, birth and death, life and teachings, transfigurations, grumblings, all that kind of business, miracles. They're both huge miracle workers. They're both prophets. In fact, Jesus is the prophet that Moses prophesied about.

C. Genesis is part of the Law but distinct (12:09)

In all of the canon lists that we've seen, whether it be Hebrew or English, there's a lot of different lists with some variations. We're working the major ones. The Torah, or the Pentateuch is always together. So what allows me to take out Genesis and separate it from Exodus and Deuteronomy? It’s because then I'd have five books, and I'd lose all the symmetry, birth and death. So is this legit? I'm going to say it's legit. I'm going to say that if I was going to outline the law, here's the Torah. Torah, A, Genesis, B, Exodus through Deuteronomy, and you'll say, "Now we'd like to see some evidence, sir." We've got evidence.

You may know or you may not know the Old Testament in Hebrew when it was originally written down had an alphabet that consisted of 22 consonants, no vowels. When they wrote, they didn't put spaces between words. There were no chapter numbers or verse references. They would just write, write, write. Sometimes they'd be halfway through a word, and they'd just go right on the next line, keep going with that without a hyphenation mark or anything. It wasn't really until 1,000 BC, so 400 years after Moses would've written his stuff or Joshua, that they started using little dots as word dividers. If you look at the Moabite Stone, for example, you can see little dots between the words in Moabite Hebrew dialects. So it's easy to compare them. Ruth could've spoken Hebrew easy because it's like Australian English versus American English.

Hebrew had to develop different techniques for noting breaks and starts and stuff like that, and inclusio and chiasm were two of those strategic things like that. Another one is poetic intrusion. One of the ways in which you bring a narrative to a close is you use poetry to do it, and then you know the next section is starting. If you've ever read Hebrew, narrative and poetry have two different kind of grammars and feels to them. You can just read Hebrew narrative pretty smooth, and then all of a sudden, wham, you don't know what this thing means and you're diving into poetry. So it's kind of an artistic use or embellishment of the language.

I'll give you some examples. At the end of Genesis chapter two when that first big narrative is over, Adams breaks into this big poem, "Behold," or holy cow, "Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." Then there's, "therefore, for this reason, man will leave father and mother and cling to his wife,". That's a huge poetic intrusion that brings Genesis one and two to an end. The book of Exodus has three sections. The first main section, 1:1 to 15:21, comes to an end with a gigantic poetic intrusion, the Song of the Sea. So that's a very common feature.

Some of Solomon's events in life are punctuated and turned into riddles and the interpretation of riddles, or the answering of riddles. Those are poems. We see it happening all the time. In the book of Psalms, each of the five books concludes with a doxology. So these are a specific kind of poem, and at the very end, five doxological psalms. So you can see even poetry is broken up by poetry. We have that here in Genesis to Deuteronomy. Genesis is by and large a continuous narrative from creation to Israel being in Egypt where Jacob and his sons come move down to Egypt. At the very end in Genesis chapter 49, Jacob blesses the 12 sons in this very long poetic blessing, the Blessing of the 12 by Jacob.

Well, behold, surprise, surprise, the book of Deuteronomy comes to a conclusion just the same way. At the very end of Moses' life in his prophetic ministry there, Moses, using the word of God or the revelation from God, blesses the 12 tribes again. There's actually a double poetic there because you're bringing the whole thing to a conclusion. There's Deuteronomy 34, the Song of Yahweh and then the blessing of the 12 tribes. You've got not only poetic intrusions, but the same kind of poetic intrusions. The first one is the blessing of the 12, the second one is the blessing of the 12.

That's followed by a repeated scene or a type scene where the blesser dies. So in 49, Jacob blesses, and right after that he dies. In 33, Moses blesses, in 34, he dies. So you got the blessing of the 12, the blesser dies. You've got a poetic intrusion and a type scene to structure that. You've actually got binary, literary, doubling that shows you that these are two parts to the same narrative. So that's very good. It's a very good way of doing it. It makes perfect sense, Genesis, they begin in the garden, and they end in exile here. They end in exile, and then the precipice of the new garden. It is closely getting back to that and the stories relate that way.

There is literary validity in having two parts to the Pentateuch like that. It was designed to be viewed that way. That's its original intent. In fact, the book of Genesis is amazing. It starts with Barasheet, which is "in the beginning" in 1:1. Then when Jacob says I'm going to come bless the 12 tribes, I'm going to tell you what we have, Ahareeth, "in the last days."  It's both protological and eschatological. The book of Genesis is the end from the beginning. In Isaiah, it says, "I declare the end from the beginning."  That's what he means here. The whole history of the world is right there, and that's what going on in that particular one.

IV. Prophets: The History of the Covenant and the Interpretation (18:04):

We're going to move on and now we’re going to look at the prophets. There are four books here and four books here. This is life in the land. This is life in exile. This is the history of the covenant. This is the interpretation of that history. The history of the covenant and the interpretation of that history. The prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 12, have a very specific job. They're covenant lawyers. That's why no one liked them. Their job was to execute the lawsuit of Yahweh. So they were Yahweh's prosecuting attorneys. They stood in diving council, and God said, "Hey, here's my law. This is my standard. Here's the history of them keeping or not keeping and it's a history of not keeping. Therefore, you've got the evidence, I'm sorry, you've got the law and the evidence. I want you to say, 'Repent, or the exile is coming.'" They're Yahweh's prosecuting attorneys.

This is history and this is homiletics. This is the history of the covenant. This is the interpretation of that history through sermons and lawsuits. It's legal. They're lawsuits. What's interesting about that is that sometimes they call this right here, the former prophets, Deuteronomic history. It just means it closely follows the plan of Deuteronomy, that Deuteronomy was written after. So Deuteronomy says exactly what's going to happen. I'm going to write this down here, Deuteronomy 29-31. If you took an X-Ray of the former prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, you would see the spine that runs down that corpus of literature in Deuteronomy 29-31. It's controlling the whole decision making about what to write and how to write it.

It says, "I'm going to get you into that land, and I'm going to give it to you as a gift. You're going to flourish and be prosperous. Then you're going to whore after all the other idols and break my covenant. Then you won't repent because I haven't yet given you a circumcised heart, and I'm going to send you into exile, but then I'll bring you back." That exact thing happens. You can't understand what's going on in the former prophets unless you understand Deuteronomy 29-31. It tells you everything you need to know.

Well, right over here then, this is Deuteronomy 32. You've got the latter prophets, and just like the former prophets, if you were to X-Ray the latter prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12, you would see the spinal cord that runs down through that corpus of literature is Deuteronomy 32. Deuteronomy 32 is a song that Yahweh told Moses to write down to serve as a witness against His people when they break the covenant. Not if they break the covenant, when they break the covenant. It's a lawsuit which has a particular form, which I'll show you when we get there. But it's also a broken lawsuit.

Now, I don't know about your experience in the history of reading the Bible, but these guys have always been the hardest for me to understand. What are they talking about? When are they talking about it? For example, I was just reading in preparation for this what's called the Book of Consolation, or the Book of Comfort in Jeremiah, which is 30:34 where the new covenant promise is. You have to be so careful in there because sometimes, Jeremiah is talking about the Davidic covenant. Sometimes he's talking about the Abrahamic covenant. Sometimes he's talking about the Mosaic covenant. So you've got to be very careful to know how he's parsing all those administrations of the covenant of grace and what he's doing. Why is there always, God is coming in wrath and anger, and you're going to be dust and dirt and never come back, but I'll redeem you. I'll give you hope, I'll give you peace, I'll punish those who punish you.

It just seems so conflicted, like they need some kind of medication to calm down and write more clearly. It wasn't until I noticed and I applied this principle, what if the latter prophets had a Deuteronomic key to them as well? Scholars are now recognizing that Deuteronomy 32 is it. It's written in what's called a covenant lawsuit format, covenant lawsuit format. The prophets are covenant lawyers. So basically, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and 12, are preaching sermon after sermon on one text. You got to work hard to understand Deuteronomy 32. In the mid-20th Century, a professor from Harvard called G. Earnest Wright who was kind of an archeologist and biblical theologian at Harvard University wrote this journal article on Deuteronomy 32. He called it a broken lawsuit because he recognized that right after Yahweh executes the lawsuit, he relents and says, "But I'm going to turn and have mercy on you. But I'm going to be gracious to you."

The very last line in verse 43 of Deuteronomy of that poem, it's 1-43, he says, "I will atone for my people and my land." That sets the tone. All of these guys are preaching doom and gloom, but then they're also preaching restoration after the Mosaic covenant comes to an end. The Mosaic covenant has to come to an end so that the new covenant can be ushered in. The old fades away so that the new may come. You've got these programmatic statements. So if you ever study this interior section, when we talk about the seams, you've got to understand these programs. Deuteronomy is one of the key books for understanding how the Old Testament works because it sets the program for everything.

V. The Book of Acts  (23:43):

The Sinai administration with Moses and Sinai is very limited because we're going to spend 40 years in the wilderness. It's not until you get to Deuteronomy where you get the full flowering of all the laws for life in the land that you have. In the New Testament, is there a book or books or a group of books that talk about the history of God's people in the new covenant and the interpretation of that history? Yeah, the book of Acts. That's exactly right. That's the New Testament correlate. It also has history and interpretation. It's the mirror image of that one. So it's a little bit shorter, but the Old Testament, let's say the shadow is big, the substance is dense.

If I went outside and I held up my fist, the shadow is a lot bigger, but the substance is the real thing. It's just a lot smaller. So that's how you can think about this. The shadow, these are much longer books than these. This is a lot more than this. I mean, this is close to twice the size of the New Testament right here. This is one book in the New Testament, but you've got the same thing. So there we have this, the former prophets.

So this one, we're going from Jerusalem to Judea to the outermost parts of the world. There's three important apostolic prophetic speeches that help us here. It's Acts chapter two, Acts chapter seven, and Acts chapter 13. This isn't New Testament survey, but these are programmatic just to see the binary symmetry between the two. Acts chapter two is Peter's Pentecost sermon. He begins with quoting Joel in English 2:20-32, in Hebrew 3:1-5, "In those days, I pour out my spirit and all flesh," the pouring out of spirit. Peter is really relying heavily on the latter prophets to describe the Pentecost experience. It's interesting he's relying on that.

In Acts chapter seven, Stephen is executing the last lawsuit that I know of in the Bible. Maybe there's some kind of hints or nuances in Revelation, but the last formal covenant lawsuit. He rehearses the whole history of Israel, and then he calls all the leaders there stiff-necked, which is the worst kind of thing you can call a Jewish person back then. Stiff-necked is a designation that was given to Israel when they worshiped the golden calf. The stiff-necked generation is the generation that failed to possess God's promises and enter into the land. They're those who died outside of God's inheritance.

So Stephen says, "Here's what you've done for 1500 years, and guess what. You still have no circumcised heart, and you're stiff-necked."  They stoned him. That's when they stoned him. Then we see not just the human court, but we see the heavenly court with Jesus there at the right hand of God accepting Stephen's verdict and ushering him to the kingdom. Stephen is really using all of this history of here. That's the biggest part, one of the longest recitations of history. If you look in the Bible and the history that we have in the Old Testament and the New Testament, it's covenantal in nature. It’s either covenant making, or covenant renewal, or covenant lawsuit because it's recording God's faithfulness and Israel's infidelity.

VI. Writings (27:28):

We have covenant writings. We have life in the land. We have two sections here. We have life in the land, life in exile. There's six books with some symmetry. Ezra and Nehemiah are really considered a single book in the Hebrew tradition, and it's easy to remember six. How do we think and live in light of the covenant? Are there any books in the New Testament that help us to understand how we should think about the new covenant and new covenant life and live in light of that covenant? Yes. They are? The epistles, yeah.

These are the academic and practical books. They tell you how to think, how to live. The two go together. Thinking and living, thinking and living. One always comes before the other, how to think and live. I talked about that in the covenant diagram earlier where we have exposition and illustration. You can think about Paul's letters. We always talk about Paul's letters having two main parts to them for most of the churches. There's the indicative and the imperative. How do you think? How do you live? That was, I don't think, a novel Pauline notion. Remember, he was a rabbi. He was an Old Testament nerd. So he knew that thinking and living were connected by exposition illustrations.

So Romans one through 11, thinking about the personal work of Jesus. In Romans 12 through 16, living in light of the personal work of Jesus. You can see the transition right there in Romans 12:1. "Therefore, based on all that I've said, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship." I like that. Proverbs, the whole book of Proverbs is like that, too. Proverbs one through nine is a theology of wisdom. There are two ways, the way of wisdom, the way of life. And I want you to choose the way of wisdom because here's what it's about.

Therefore, once you embrace that, Proverbs 10-31 is all the practical stuff. Answer a fool, don't answer a fool. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, we could say, and get a good wife. We can see it, again, there's binary kind of things to correspond in these categories. It's fairly easy to see and understand. What I've done is I've laid it out for you, and you can see how it's kind of working. I haven't rearranged or done anything, I've just put them in clumps. One of the ways I know these clumps work is because of what we call canonical seams, and that will be the last part, and I'll finish up this. We’ll, close. I'll do quick seams.

 VII. Canonical Seams (30:20):

We've already talked about the seam that exists right here where you're got poetic blessing, death of the blesser. The moral of the story is, don't bless the 12 tribes of Israel unless you want to go to glory. But we've also got seams right here. That's the sound effects that go along with it. Again, canon scars, we've recognized that once you can see intentional literary things going on here, you can say this is an authoritative, intentional structure that's at work. So we've got some seams here. So let's see. What are my seams?

Number one, chiasm and inclusio. Number two, poetic blessing, death of the blesser. Number three, we can talk about Genesis and Chronicles in the old covenant being both books concerned with genealogy. There's 10 genealogies in Genesis. There are nine chapters of genealogies in Chronicles, Chronicles one through nine. But the books are very concerned. They both begin with Adam. They both end in exile. There's the decree of Cyrus at the end of Chronicles.

A. Chronicles and Matthew: Begin with Genealogies (31:36):

Also, what's interesting, another little seam here, is that there are only two books in our whole Bible that begin with genealogies. One is Chronicles, and the other one is Matthew, the very next book. Those genealogies in Matthew finish up the Chronicles genealogies. The Chronicles genealogies look for and focus on two things, the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Levi because they're looking for the right king and the right priest, and that guy shows up in Matthew chapter one. Except for Luke, there's no genealogies after that.

B. Genesis and Chronicles (32:06):

Genesis and Chronicles end in the exact same way. This is remarkable, and it's often overlooked because it's harder to find in English translations, but in Genesis 50:24-25, it says at the very end, "Joseph said to his brothers, 'I'm about to die, but God will surely visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Abraham and to Jacob.' Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear saying, 'God will surely visit you, and you shall surely carry up my bones from here.'" So there's the verb for to visit, lehvahkehr, which is an interesting word, and then there's the word for to bring up, ola, that exists right there.

Well, there's a couple of times, but those are the exact same two verbs that appear in the last verse of Chronicles where it says, "Thus says Cyrus, the king of Persia, the Lord, the God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of earth. He has charged me," [inaudible 00:33:08], that's the same verb, different translation, but it's the same verb, "has charged me to build for him a house of Jerusalem," which is in Judah, "whoever is in all his people may the Lord God be with him. Let him go up." So both of those books end the same way. So we've got intentional literary scheming. In fact, someone like Steve Dempster in his book, Dominion and Dynasty will say it's so amazing that the Hebrew Bible ends in a verb because the Hebrew language loves verbs first.

So when it says, "Let him go up," the next question is, who will go up? You don't get that answer until the New Testament when Jesus will go up to Jerusalem or when John said, "Behold, the lamb of God. He's the one." It's holy war language. Like in the book of Judges when they're about to fight the Canaanites, they say, "Who will go up?" The Lord says, "Judah will go up and do it." At the end when they have to fight against the Benjamenites, "Who will go up?" Judah will go up. So when they get here at the end when they say, "Who will go up," you have to ask the question, who will? There's no answer. It's a pregnant pause for 400 years. It's rough to wait that long for something.

Then here are these seams that I've circled. We've got at the end of Deuteronomy 34, this non-Mosaic statement. Verses 10-12, it's how it ends, "Since then," since the time of Moses, "no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all the officials, to his whole land. No one has ever shown the mighty power or perform the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all of Israel." They're looking forward for the true and better prophet like Moses.

C. Moses and Elijah (34:51):

At the end of Malachi here at the latter prophets, we have a similar thing. We're going to have a duo of prophets where it says at the very end, again, this is not Malachi, but this is an editor or redactor adding to it, "Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before the dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children and the hearts of children to their fathers, or I'll come and strike them with a curse." So here we've got look for Moses, and then look for Moses and Elijah. Of course, that comes back up when people are asking, is John the Baptist, is he Elijah?

But more importantly, who are the two guys that show up in Jesus' transfiguration and talk about the Exodus? Yeah, Moses and Elijah and they're testifying. The reason they're doing that is not just Jesus wanted to hang out with some friends. He's kind of lonely, the apostles weren't really blowing it. He needed some guys that have been around the block a couple times. No. He was saying, "I am the fulfillment of what these guys are looking for. I am the guy. I'm the true and better Elijah. I'm the true and better prophet." Also, in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2, the beginning here, there's the imperative to meditate on the law of the Lord day and night. It's the only two places in scripture to curse, right at the beginning of those seams.

So they're saying you can't understand the prophets or the writings without knowing of their covenantal basis. All of this is wacko and weird if you don't know what's going on here. So they're saying that it's all based on here. So root your life in the word and long for the prophet who will fulfill it. That's what they're saying there. So intentional literary seams. That's the structure I want to give you.

Again, we'll have time to unpack some of this, but it's just so important to see the beautiful literary design of the Bible that actually is some divine design around it. Now, you may disagree with some things or want to tweak some things, that's okay. But I think this is a starting point. The first time I ever wrote this out for someone was on a napkin at my mother's house to my grandmother. So it's not overly complicated. They're able to understand it, and since then I've been building and building and building on this, and the more I do it, the more I just keep finding these great things.

VIII. The Unity of the Bible: The Macro Canonical Context  (37:25):

The construction of the Christian Bible, the macro-canon exhibits an intelligent design that points to the ultimate author and to the ultimate meaning of the message of the one book. We can actually see that we've got two testaments, many parts. But I have one Bible. The unity of the Bible. The macro-canonical context helps us to understand the big picture, how the Old and New Testaments fit together and how the parts of each Testament relate. Shadow and substance. It helps us understand how we ought to conduct ourselves in the biblical house of God. Each room has a purpose and function within the house for the people living in that house. Meaning this, this is the house, and we're using it in a weird way right now, but what do you do in your kitchen? Cook and eat. What do you do in your bathroom? I hope it's not cooking and eating. You shower.

What do you do in your garage? You park the car. What do you do in your bedroom? You sleep. Each room has furniture or equipment that is serviceable in that particular context. You have to treat each canonical room in its own context. It has different furniture, different sings, different symbols, different ways of conducting yourselves. So you can't just get really comfortable in one room and treat every other room like that. That's really a flaw of many interpreters. They become so focused on the Pauline epistles, for example, and so good at it. It's usually PhD's who have this problem. I'm condemning myself, that they view all of scripture through the lens of Pauline epistles. Or you get these guys in the Old Testament who are big story guys, and they're always wanting to tell the story but there are all these imperatives and didactic things to learn in the epistles. You can't live in the narrative room like you live in the epistle room. You can't live in the wisdom room like you live in the history room. But we often do that, and that's when we get ourselves in trouble with interpretation.

If I came over to your house and you were cooking me dinner, and you were whipping it up in the bathroom, I'd be in reverse and out the door. I want to see you cooking dinner on the grill or in the kitchen. I don't want to see your car parked in the living room. But that's what we do as interpreters. We don't consider the contents of the room and the function of the room. We also see that the construction of the New Testament is based upon or patterned after the construction of the Old Testament, each having three corresponding parts. Note that the arrangement of the New Testament does not correspond to the English Bible arrangement.

A. Symmetry (39:51):

So you've got the symmetry. That's evidence for this. We notice that this is a little bit weird, too, but why is it weird? Well, it was because it's the mirror image of this. There's a working principle of covenant, covenant history and covenant life and that's why they're arranging the books that way. The literary features and seams of the Old Testament canon provide us with evidence that this is an arrangement that is not accidental but intentional, instructional and hermeneutical. Everything must be viewed through the law or the covenant and eschatological, looking for the ultimate prophet who will usher in the last day. So we've got these... We're rooted in the covenant, but we're looking for the consummation. That's how we live our life.

B. Kingdom Prologue (40:31):

We're rooted in God's word, but we're anticipating His coming. In the middle, that's how we have hope and endurance. This arrangement is ultimately Christological because Christ is the one who fulfills the law. He is the prophet who ushers in the day of the Lord, and He's the ultimate interpretive lens through which to understand all of the scripture and the life in the covenant. He came as the embodiment of wisdom. He lived the life of wisdom, and He was a wisdom instructor. The kingdom prologue.

Kingdom prologue right here, Jesus is the seed of the woman that has come to crush the head of the seed of the serpent. He is the true and better Adam, the promised offspring of Abraham, the one through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Law, Old Testament covenant, Jesus is the true and better covenant mediator. He’s the true and better temple, the true and better sacrifice. Jesus came to keep and fulfill the law and the promises of God and to suffer its curses so that we might be freed from the law of sin and death.

Former prophets, Jesus is the true and better Israel who totally and completely was obedient to law of Moses, earning the rights that we could not earn for ourselves. He is the seed of David according to the flesh, the king of the kingdom of God. Latter prophets, Jesus is the true and better prophet. Not only does Jesus execute the ultimate prophetic lawsuit, but he bears its punishment for those who would receive his earned righteousness. He was not bound by the Old Testament prophetic messenger formula, thus sayeth the Lord, but rather spoke as God, truly, truly, I say unto you. He's the true and better prophet.

Old Testament and now our true and better advocate at the right hand of the Father, declaring us innocent. Jesus Christ is the true and better wisdom, the ultimate praise of God, the very wisdom of God. He is the faithful husband who made himself a beautiful bride. He’s an eternal paradise so that they might live together forever in perfect, all-satisfying fellowship and happiness. That's the way in which those work out in the big picture of things. That's typology. That's eschatology all rolled into one.

VII. Conclusion (42:37):

That brings this particular lecture to a conclusion on the structure of the Bible. We’ve talked about what kind of book is the Bible. We've talked about its basic message. It's about Jesus and the kingdom of God. We've talked about how that message comes to us covenantally, both in terms of the actual covenants themselves but in the covenantal structure of the Bible. So now we're going to be ready, in our next lectures to talk about what are these divisions more specifically, and to take a look more deeply in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers. We're going to track through that. So we've passed through the Bible once, the Old Testament once today. Now for the remaining lectures, we'll track through it again, but with this information in our mind as kind of the hermeneutical lens. It will shape not just what we choose to talk about because we can't talk about everything, but also how we talk about it. It'll be in the same playing field whether you agree with me or not, at least you know where I'm coming from.