Deuteronomy - Lesson 1

Gospel According to Moses

Dr. Block teaches how Deuteronomy contains the gospel message. Even though some laws mentioned, the essence of the book is prophetic preaching, a theological message of covenant relationship with God. Dr. Block explains contradictions between Deuteronomy and New Testament teachings, emphasizing Moses' role as a teacher rather than a lawgiver. By interpreting Deuteronomy with an evangelical approach, you understand its life-giving message of grace and faithfulness. 

Daniel Block
Lesson 1
Watching Now
Gospel According to Moses

Gospel According to Moses

I. Gospel of Moses

II. Problem with Deuteronomy

III. Biblical Expressions Referring to Deuteronomy

IV. Name of the Book

V. How Does Deuteronomy Describe Itself?

VI. How does Moses Describe What He is Doing?

VII. Title of Moses

VIII. Role of Deuteronomy

IX. Principles for Interpreting Deuteronomy

A. Inspired by God

B. Let the Scripture say what it says

C. Grasping the life-giving message

D. Positivist not suspicious

E. Holistic

F. Different strategies for interpretation

G. Conclusions based on evidence

H. Context of the canon

X. The Message of Deuteronomy

A. Hermeneutic

B. Hear

C. Genre and form

D. Comments from other OT people

E. Significance in the light of Christ

  • Understand that Deuteronomy, viewed as the Gospel according to Moses, is a theological, instructional book emphasizing covenant relationship and grace, aligning with New Testament teachings and offering life-giving messages rather than strict legal mandates.
  • Learn about Deuteronomy as a covenant document, its historical context, covenant categories, and the significance of covenantal rituals, gaining insight into its structure and covenantal vocabulary.
  • Gain insight into the process of how Deuteronomy texts were preserved, recognized as canonical, and the role of Moses and the Levitical priests in maintaining and transmitting these sacred writings.
  • Moses begins by recalling events that happened during their wandering in the wilderness, then recent events as they have gotten closer to entering the promises land from the east. Moses is idealized in the Old and New Testaments and in the writings of historians. You get a different picture when you read his first address. It shows Moses as faithful but flawed.

  • The Law was given to the nation of Israel after they had been freed from Egypt as the way to respond to God’s grace. God gives them the boundaries for right and wrong and a process to restore relationship when it is broken.

  • With the privilege of salvation and covenant relationship comes the call for a righteous response, demonstrated in joyful obedience to the Savior and Lord. A covenant is a formally confirmed agreement between two or more parties that creates, formalizes, governs a relationship that does not exist naturally or a natural relationship that has disintegrated.

  • God’s people are a privileged people; they have been graciously redeemed, and set apart as his special treasure, his holy covenant people. God acts graciously to undeserving people and they respond joyfully with obedience. The is the end of the first speech of Moses, Deuteronomy 4:32-40.

  • The Decalogue is the bill of rights of the people of ancient Israel. It is the ten principles of covenant relationship. It creates a picture of covenant righteousness and provides a foundation for later revelation. The Decalogue contains the features of a typical covenant and conditional and unconditional laws. The addressee is the head of the household because they can be a threat to others.

  • When Moses recites the Decalogue in Deuteronomy 5, there are parts that are similar to the passage in Exodus, and there are some significant differences. He begins with getting the attention of the people of Israel and appealing for covenant fidelity, restates the Decalogue, then ends with a document clause, using covenant language.

  • The Shema is a call for whole-hearted, full-bodied commitment. This passage is a theological exposition and pastoral proclamation to impress on the minds of the people of Israel the special relationship they enjoyed with YHWH. The grace God showed them must be embraced with grateful and unreserved devotion to their redeemer and covenant Lord.

  • God chooses the covenant partner, sets the terms, declares the goal, identifies the sign and determines the consequences of disobedience of the covenant. After Moses explains the purpose of the Law, he explains to the children how the Law was given and that learning it and putting it into practice will bring them life.

  • Moses talks to the people of Israel as they are entering the land, about how they will respond to the external test of confronting and dispossessing the surrounding nations. He reminds them of their special status with God and the covenant that he offers them unconditionally. He challenges them with the theological, ethical and missional significance of the test.

  • How can you worship a God that asks the people of Israel to wipe out the Canaanites? The reason for Israel taking the land is so the people of Israel as a holy people will be preserved so the world will be preserved. God is fundamentally compassionate and gracious, he does what is right and God offers us grace and mercy.

  • When everything goes right, what do you do then? The message of this passage is, “don’t forget.” YHWH provided manna in the wilderness to feed the people of Israel. God was also teaching them in the wilderness that life comes from every word of the mouth of God, not just by eating physical food. Moses challenges the people to respond to prosperity by praising God, not by taking the credit themselves.

  • The enemies in the Promised Land are formidable. God promises to defeat them. Moses warns that people to acknowledge that God is responsible. Even though the Canaanites do not follow God, the reason God chose the people is not because they are morally superior to the Canaanites.

  • Israel’s covenant with YHWH is based entirely on his grace and they don’t deserve it. Moses interceded on behalf the of people of Israel to ask God to not judge them and God is described as, “changing his mind” and renewing his covenant with them.

  • “What does YHWH ask of you?” Moses answers this question, then gives a doxology to confirm it and an application to illustrate it. God wants you to have a soft heart toward him, to live in an attitude of trusting awe and to act in a way that honors the covenant that God has established with you.

  • Moses has given a profound theology of land. He gives the people of Israel instructions for what God wants them to do when they enter the land to confirm their covenant with God. This included using uncut stones and plastering them and writing the Torah on them and then praising God. The land is an integral part of the covenant. The people shout blessings on Mount Gerizim and curses on Mount Ebal.

  • As the people of Israel enter the land, God has instructions for them on how to live in relationship with him and worship him so that it may go well with them and their children. They are to reject the false worship practices of the surrounding nations and accept God’s invitation to come and worship him in the place and in the way he has designed for them.

  • The Levites represent a barometer on where the people of Israel are in their ethical religion. They are not given land as an inheritance so it is the responsibility of people in the other tribes to support them. Moses presents a theology of worship but doesn’t go into detail.

  • This is a warning to the people of Israel to not imitate the materialistic preoccupation and the brutal rituals associated with the worship practices of the surrounding nations when they worship YHWH. There are warnings against following false prophets, someone in your family or people in your community if they are promoting seditious religious practices. The apostle Paul uses similar language in the New Testament when warning people about following people who teach heresies.

  • In contrast to worship with the purpose of satisfying the gods, YHWH delights in fellowship with his people and for them to celebrate in his presence. YHWH encourages his people to eat in his presence and with other people. His guidelines about which foods are acceptable to eat set the people of Israel apart from other nations.

  • A main purpose of the national festivals was to keep alive the memory of God’s grace and maintain their faith in god and their covenant with him.

  • Moses describes the key offices and roles that keep the society going by providing political and spiritual structure. The primary concern is righteousness. The king is to be the embodiment of Torah righteousness. Moses outlines specific steps to achieve this and describes what it will look like.

  • Moses, in his role as prophet, is the commissioned envoy of righteousness to the people of Israel. Moses was a mediator between God and the people of Israel. He warned the people of Israel about false prophets and the danger of adopting the worship practices of the surrounding nations.

  • Moses provides a picture of covenant life and godliness in a way that you can apply it to every situation in life. It’s important to care for the poor and the resident alien and to show justice to them. The resident aliens were invited to participate in the feasts and covenant life.

  • The ideal for the people of Israel was a patricentric society but in often the reality was a patriarchal society. In a patricentric society, the male head of the clan will provide resources and security in a way that gives his family and the community opportunities to flourish. The vision for women in Deuteronomy is different than the world that is described in Israelite narratives.

  • Celebrating God’s goodness and grace in the Land. Bringing an offering from the firsfruits of the harvest is a time to remember how God has provided for the people of Israel in the past, both as individuals and as a community. There are lessons we can learn about worhship and living faithfully. This is the Deuteronomic creed.

  • Some people view the curses in Deuteronomy 28 as a stumbling block to accepting the Old Testament as Christian Scripture because they say it represents God as vengeful. However, this was a common way of writing covenants in the Ancient Near East, they follow a list of extraordinary blessings, they serve a pastoral function and there are similar curses articulated in the New Testament.

  • Deuteronomy 29 begins with Moses recounting how YHWH brought the people out of Egypt and gave them victory in the land east of the Jordan River. Then he describes the curses they will experience when they turn away from the Lord. Chapter 30 describes the eschatological restoration. Deuteronomy 29:29 refers to the mystery of divine grace. (The movie and book series that Dr. Block is referring to is Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien. The prequel to this series is The Hobbit.)

  • This is the final altar call of Moses to the people of Israel to appeal to them to choose life by living in covenant relationship with YHWH. The revelation of YHWH given through Moses is to be memorized, recited and used as a guide for conduct. It is understandable and doable.

  • The Torah that Moses has been preaching was written down. This is the introduction to the song of Moses and contains the commissioning of Joshua, who will take over after Moses dies. Part of the book of Deuteronomy is the death narrative of Moses.

  • This passage is a poetic witness to the people of Israel of the faithfulness of YHWH and the faithlessness of Israel. Moses was told to teach it to the people of Israel so they could pass it on to their descendants. People could sing it throughout the day and it could be presented as a musical drama at national celebrations.

  • At the end of the sermons of Moses, he pronounces a benediction by saying something specific for each tribe. Deuteronomy 33 and Genesis 49 have some similarities and differences in the way the sons of Jacob and their descendants are blessed. The exordium and the coda frame the blessings by describing YHWH’s care and provision for the people of Israel as their king.

  • This is the last narrative story about Moses in the Old Testament. God tells him to go up on Mt. Nebo where he is able to see the land. Joshua takes over as the leader of the people. There is a eulogy for Moses at the end.  

The Gospel according to Moses. This is a collection of sermons of Moses as the people of Israel are poised to enter the promised land after being in the wilderness for 40 years. Deuteronomy is a special book, calling God’s people to celebrate his grace and demonstrate covenant love for him with action that glorifies his name. Until we recognize the gospel in this book, we will not read this book. (Note: Mt. Sinai and Mt. Horeb are referring to the same mountain. They are used interchangeably)

Recommended Reading:

The Gospel According to Moses, by Dr. Daniel Block

The Triumph of Grace, by Daniel I. Block

How I Love Your Torah, O Lord!: Studies in the Book of Deuteronomy, by Daniel I. Block

Deuteronomy (NIV Application Commentary Series), by Daniel I. Block

Sepher Torath Mosheh: Studies in the Composition and Interpretation of Deuteronomy, by Daniel I. Block, Richard L. Schultz

Biblical Prose Prayer, by Moshe Greenberg

Recommended Books

The Gospel according to Moses

The Gospel according to Moses

To many people the law stands in opposition to the gospel. While it may be possible to read Paul's epistles this way, the book of Deuteronomy will not allow this reading. Like the book of Romans in the New Testament, Deuteronomy provides the most systemat
The Gospel according to Moses
The Triumph of Grace: Literary and Theological Studies in Deuteronomy and Deuteronomic Themes

The Triumph of Grace: Literary and Theological Studies in Deuteronomy and Deuteronomic Themes

The Apostle Paul's negative statements about the law have deafened the ears of many to the grace that Moses proclaims in Deuteronomy. Most Christians have a dim view of...

The Triumph of Grace: Literary and Theological Studies in Deuteronomy and Deuteronomic Themes
How I Love Your Torah, O Lord!: Literary And Theological Explorations On The Book Of Deuteronomy

How I Love Your Torah, O Lord!: Literary And Theological Explorations On The Book Of Deuteronomy

Like the book of Romans in the New Testament, the book of Deuteronomy provides the most systematic and sustained presentation of theology in the Old Testament. And like the...

How I Love Your Torah, O Lord!: Literary And Theological Explorations On The Book Of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy (The NIV Application Commentary)

Deuteronomy (The NIV Application Commentary)

Arranged as a series of sermons, the book of Deuteronomy represents the final major segment of the biography of Moses. The sermons review events described in earlier books...

Deuteronomy (The NIV Application Commentary)
Sepher Torath Mosheh: Studies in the Composition and Interpretation of Deuteronomy

Sepher Torath Mosheh: Studies in the Composition and Interpretation of Deuteronomy

When it comes to discussions related to the composition and interpretation of the books in the Old Testament, few other books are more contested than Deuteronomy. Even among...

Sepher Torath Mosheh: Studies in the Composition and Interpretation of Deuteronomy

Dr. Daniel Block 
Gospel According to Moses 
Lesson Transcript



Dr. Daniel Block 
Gospel According to Moses 

I. Gospel of Moses

Thank you very much. It is a delight to be with you through this course on Deuteronomy, the Gospel according to Moses. That title is a shocker to many because they do not associate Moses with gospel. But my hope through this course is to make the gospel of Moses come alive for all of us. Until we recognize the gospel in this book, we will not read this book. We will discard it, marginalize it, and whatever else. 

II. Problem with Deuteronomy

You see, the book of Deuteronomy is a serious problem. What is that problem? Well, let's start with the New Testament. 

Romans 4:13-15, “… the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be the heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath,” and we associate Deuteronomy with law, “but where there is no law there is no transgression.” 

Or Romans 7:8-9“But sin, seizing an opportunity through the command, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart, from the law sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the command came, sin came alive and I died. 

Or Romans 8:2-4 “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death,” (Singing Free from the oh, happy condition), “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” 

Or Romans 10:4-5 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commands shall live by them.”

Or 2 Corinthians 3:6 “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” 

Or Galatians 3:12-14. “But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on the tree.’ ” 

Galatians 3:21-24 “Is the law then, contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” 

Or we could go to Galatians 5:18. 

It’s verses like this in the New Testament that create all sorts of problems for us when it comes to the book of Deuteronomy. And we need to ask ourselves, what is Paul talking about? And especially if we have read Deuteronomy and heard the voice of Moses, we will wonder, Paul, how can you say that? Because it sounds like the very opposite of what we will hear in this book where the law brings life, not death. 

So, as we work our way through, we will try and sort out what sort of book this is and how we need to interpret it so that it's life-giving message will be caught.

III. Biblical Expressions Referring to Deuteronomy 

Well, how does the Bible talk about the book of Deuteronomy? Let's start right there. And we have all sorts of expressions for this. And of course, you will know them from your translations quite differently from how I render them here 

  • the Book of the Torah of Moses (and you translate that the Book of the Law of Moses), or 
  • the Book of Moses, or 
  • the Torah Law of Moses, 
  • the Book of the Torah of the Lord by the Hand of Moses, 
  • this book of the Torah, (and of course, in our translations Torah never occurs, it’s always law, law, law, law),
  • the words of the Lord by the hand of Moses. 

That's how the Bible talks. The Book of the Torah of Moses. 

IV. Name of the Book

Now usually when the Bible refers to the book of the Torah of Moses, it is the book of Deuteronomy. It is not the Pentateuch and even in the Psalter for the most part, and Patrick Miller is the one who got me onto this one. He argues, too, that in the Psalter, when it talks about the law of the Lord, is perfect, reviving the soul, whatever, it’s normally talking about the speeches of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. 

But how do we talk about Deuteronomy? The Bible talks about it as the Torah of Moses, sometimes the Torah of the Lord by the hand of Moses. In Germanic languages – and that is my mother tongue – in Germanic languages, this book is called The Fifth Book of Moses, which as far as I'm concerned, is much better than Deuteronomy, as we will see in a moment. 

In English we call it Deuteronomy, which means deutero, second, plus nomos, law. Second law. Why this name for this book? If you had never heard anybody talking about the Book of Deuteronomy before, but you heard somebody reading the book by what I call expository reading, capturing the spirit of it, you would not think this is law. Get that out of your mind and listen freshly again. You'll hear something. 

V. How Does Deuteronomy Describe Itself?

But why? Why is it called Deuteronomy in the Septuagint? They're the one that got us on this track. And I wonder what would have happened to the history of interpretation if they had done something slightly different. Why this name? Well, perhaps Deuteronomy 5:6-22, you have a repetition of what you call the Ten Commandments. (I don't call them that. The Bible never does. The Bible has an expression for it, and it's not the Ten Commandments. It's the ten words, ten declarations, ten principles of covenant relationship.) And this document appears in Deuteronomy 5:6-22 for the second time. We have it in Exodus 20. So, second law perhaps.  

Or I think it actually comes from Deuteronomy 17:18 where Moses says when you choose, when you set a king over yourselves, “he shall write for himself, make for himself a copy of this Torah that it may be with him all the days of his life and he may read it as long as he sits on the throne.” Well, a copy of this Torah, the Hebrew word for copy looks something like the Hebrew word for second. So, this second law, that's probably where the Septuagint people got this name from. 

VI. How Does Moses Describe What He is Doing

But what we need to ask ourselves, first of all, is how does Deuteronomy talk about what Moses is doing in this book? If it is law, then we would think Moses is operating as a legislator, a lawgiver, a law maker. But how does he talk about this? Well, let's go to the opening of the book in Deuteronomy chapter one, verses 1 to 5, where the author sets the table for what we have here. And you will notice from the picture on the screen I've highlighted, “these are the words that Moses spoke.” And then later, “Moses spoke,” and then later, “declaring.” The interesting thing is here, the words, the vocabulary, “these are the words,” statements, communication that Moses spoke. It's not that these are the commands that Moses legislated. Or then in verse five, “this is the Torah that he delivered by saying.” Not legislating. 

What's missing in this whole picture in 1:1-5, which is the preamble to the whole book, is there is no legal vocabulary here. There is no nomos. What is present is the real Greek equivalents to the Hebrew word Torah, which means instruction. And that can take many forms. It can be in the form of genealogies, of poems, of prayers, of recollections. It can include laws; it does, often does. 

But don't limit it to that. This is a bigger subset that has (in the book of Deuteronomy, it appears I think it's 22 times) it has precisely the semantic range of the Greek word didaskalia, teaching, or didachē It's precisely the same semantic range. And I wonder what would have happened in the history of interpretation if our Septuagint translators had got that. But they didn't. They translatednomos, presumably because by the time you get to the New Testament, nomos means law. And, you know, this was their thinking

VI. How Does Moses Describe What He is Doing?

The next point is how does Moses talk about what he is doing in Deuteronomy? This is very interesting and it catches people by surprise. Chapter four, verse one, “Look now all Israel. Hear the ordinances and stipulations.” Now, that's legal kind of language, but what is he doing? He's not saying that I am legislating. He says I am teaching you, “Hear them by putting them into practice that you may live and enter the land and possess it.” The land that God is giving you” 

Or Deuteronomy 4:5, “Look, I have taught you ordinances and stipulations such as the Lord, my God commanded me that you may put them into practice.”  

Or 6:1, “This is the charge: the ordinances and stipulations that YHWH your God has commanded me to teach you so that you would put them into practice in the land that you're crossing over the Jordan to possess. [and] so that you would demonstrate fear of the Lord your God by keeping all his ordinances that I am charging you. … So listen, Israel and keep the charge by putting it into practice, so that you may flourish and that your population may increase greatly. Just as YHWH,” the Lord, “the God of your ancestors, has promised you in the land.” 

The verbs Moses uses to describe his speech-acts are all communication and instruction rather than legislation. To teach, which means the audience, our listeners. To speak, to set before, to present. This explains why what Moses said, is classified generically as Torah, teaching, from the verb hora to teach. This expression is didactic and pedagogical rather than legal and legislative. 

Now posing as an outsider, the narrator, now most of the book is Moses’ speech., this is what Moses says he's doing. Let's talk about what the narrator thinks Moses is doing. But these words come from the same semantic field as we saw already in 1:1-5. He is saying (in 1:1; 4:45; 27:9; and whatever else.) He is speaking dibber. He is summoning. He is teaching. He is blessing. He is setting the Torah before the people. But he's never legislating. Never. When Moses cited laws - and he does - or appeared to mandate specific behavior, which he does, this is command subordinated to a higher goal: Covenant fidelity, faithfulness to God. 

This is law in the service of theology. But Moses didn't give the law. The revelation at Sinai is the scripture that he is unpacking in, shall we say, pedagogical form. This is law in the service of theology and spirituality rather than law for its own sake or for the sake of a deontologically motivated obedience. What does that mean? That's a big word, deontological. It means doing something because you have to; a higher authority tells you to. That's not what this book is about. All the way through you will hear Moses motivating people not just to keep the law because you have to keep the law. No. But in response to the grace of God and out of gratitude for all that God has done for them. 

So, what we need to do when we hear the book of Deuteronomy, we need to hear these as pastoral speeches. This is Moses’ farewell sermon. It's like Jesus’ conversation with His disciples in the upper room, His farewell address. And this opens up all sorts of new meanings, new significances to what is happening in the book. 

Well, if Moses speaks repeatedly of himself as teaching his people and he appropriately speaks of the people as learning, “Hear, O Israel the ordinances and the stipulations that I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and keep them by putting them into practice.” And you have references to this. 

Again, we'll come back to 31:12-13, “Assemble the people –men, women, children, the aliens residing in your towns – so that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God and keep the covenant by putting all the words of the Torah into practice, and that their children, who do not know this Torah, may hear it and learn to fear the Lord your God as long as you live in the land that you're crossing the Jordan to possess.” 

VII. Title of Moses

Contrary to modern opinion, Moses’ role in Deuteronomy is not that of a lawgiver. As Israel's divine king, only Yahweh can do that. He's the king. But as pastor-teacher Moses was standing before them, pleading with his people. He knows he's about to die. He's leaving and he's pleading with them, “Stay true to the Lord.” That's what this book is about. And he is teaching. He is instructing. He is trying to inspire a life of obedience in response to God's grace. 

It's interesting. The only title the book gives Moses is that of a prophetic-pastor-teacher. Deuteronomy 18:15 “The Lord, your God will raise up a legislator like me.” Does it say that? No. “He will raise up a prophet like me from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” (emphasis added)

Or verse 18 of the same chapter three verses later “I will raise up for them.” now the Lord is talking, “a prophet like you from among their brothers.” When the Lord thinks about Moses’ role, what does He think of? He's a prophet. That is primary. 

Or the last verses in the book. “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses.” Now the narrator's talking. When the narrator thinks about Moses what does he think of? A prophet. There's been nobody like him “whom the Lord knew face to face who did all those signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to do in Egypt to Pharaoh and all his officials.” Changes everything. When this concept hit me. All the lights came on and you start reading this in a totally different light, totally different light. 

VIII. Role of Deuteronomy

So, this is not the Israelite version of Hammurabi's Law code. If anything, it is the First Testament (that’s my preferred expression - what you call something matters) the First Testament’s equivalent of the book of Romans and Deuteronomy, which is prophetic preaching at its finest. 

The most systematic presentation of Christian gospel happens in Romans. The most the most structured presentation of the First Testament gospel happens in the Book of Deuteronomy. Or we could say Deuteronomy is to the First Testament what the Gospel of John is to the New, because in this we will hear lots of recollections of God's grace, God's historical acts on behalf of His people, like you have in the Gospel of John. But in comparison with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which have more chronological presentations and which track the story, John's is a very theological, so what? so what? And he's always reflecting. 

The interesting thing is by the time Moses is giving these addresses, he has had about the same amount of time to reflect on what God did in the Exodus, the great event of salvation, as John had when he's writing his gospel, reflecting on the Incarnation. So, there are lots of parallels here. And John says, look at the time these things happened, we didn't get it; but now I get it. And he is presenting a profoundly theological interpretation of the Gospel, as in the Incarnation. That's what Moses is doing here. He's had 40 years to think about it and God inspires this. 

VIII. Principles for Interpreting Deuteronomy

Well, how then may we hear that message of grace? If this is such a gracious message, how come we haven't heard it? Well, I think part of the reason is our hermeneutic and so I'm going to hop, skip and jump through what I consider to be essential principles of an evangelical hermeneutic. 

A. Principle #1 Inspired by God:  

In hearing the message of scripture, adopt an evangelical approach to scripture, which means first we treat the object of our study as scripture, not merely as a literary artifact in a museum that we may dispassionately analyze. That's what critical scholars do. I mean, without passion. No, no, no. We can't do this without passion. We stand before the text with reverence and awe – this is God talking. It's scripture. 

B. Principle #2 Let the Scripture Say What it Says:

Second, we let the scriptures say whatever they want to say. And of course, here the critical scholarly problem is they don't believe the scriptures. They don't let the scriptures say. So, when the text says, “Moses wrote,” they say, No, he didn't. This is pseudepigrapha. Somebody else wrote this and put the words into Moses’ mouth. No, no, no, no, no, no. If the text tells me, “Moses wrote,” I assume that that's what it wants you to think. That's the critical problem. 

But we don't make the text say more than the text wants to say. I mean, we fight, we fundamentalists. We fight over who wrote the book of Deuteronomy. The text doesn't tell us. It tells us who gave the speeches in Deuteronomy. It tells us that at the end of the of the third speech, then it says that Moses wrote down all the words of this Torah, and he handed it to the Levites and says, Keep this beside the Ark of the Covenant. I trust those words. But that's not the book of Deuteronomy. We will see this more later when we talk about Deuteronomy as Scripture. 

C. Principle #3 Grasping the Life-giving Message:

The goal of evangelical Biblical exegesis is grasping the life-giving and life-transforming message of scripture. It's not parsing Hebrew verbs or parsing written verbs. That's not the point. The point is, catching the message the life-giving word is trying to communicate to its hearers. And so, when we read the book of Deuteronomy, let it talk to you with its message. Don't you dictate what it wants to say to you, as is often our problem

D. Principle #4 Positivist not Suspicious:

An evangelical stance toward scripture is typically positivist, rather than suspicious. I read with the grain, rather than against the grain. Oh, there are times when thinking against the grain whose interests are being served and whatever. Why does he say it like this? That that's very fruitful. But on the other hand, let the text take you where it wants you to go. Rather than pre-determining where it can go, may go, and how it will get there. 

E. Principle #5 Holistic:

Fifth, an evangelical hermeneutic is holistic. It treats the whole book of Deuteronomy as a coherent composition, written as an intentional product, the whole thing, so that it's not just Moses’ speeches that that are inspired. It's also the opening five verses. It's also the last chapter which talks about Moses’ death. These speeches are embedded in narrative and we read the whole thing. We don't cut it apart like tearing a rose blossom apart and then analyzing petals - but you've lost the rose. And that's what often happens. And that's a problem. 

F. Principle #6 Different Strategies for Interpretation:

While not becoming a slave to any single method, evangelical scholars utilize responsibly whatever hermeneutical strategy may clarify biblical texts. And of course, those of us who are involved in biblical studies, this means all sorts of - they call them - criticisms, which is not a helpful word, biblical criticism. It's not criticizing the Bible because you don't like it. No, it's a mistaken word or mistakenly used word, for analysis. Different forms of analysis, source analysis, redaction analysis, rhetorical analysis, literary. We use whatever method helps us get the point, and that's what we do. 

G. Principle #7 Conclusions Based on Evidence

We base our conclusions on evidence, which means that if other people see the evidence differently than we do, we don't beat them up because they don't agree with us. It simply means that the scripture is the authoritative word of God written in in India ink. We used to talk in those terms. It cannot be erased. But you need to interpret my interpretation of scripture as in the softest lead pencil possible. Everything I say about the scripture is subject to revision and correction. Everything. What the scriptures say is not subject to correction. So, if another person sees things differently than I do, that doesn't mean I beat them up until they agree with me. Let’s say, let's have a conversation and we can come to a better understanding as a community of faith.

H. And then finally, Principle #8 Context of the Canon:

Evangelical scholars view biblical writings within the context of the whole canon and within the context of the process whereby the canon was produced. We'll have more to say about the canon of the Torah, that is the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. How did we get that? And why does this collection of books, five books, have the name of the Book of Deuteronomy attached to it? Torah. That is an important question. 

X. The Message of Deuteronomy

Well, how may we hear the message of Deuteronomy? 

A. Hermeneutic

Principle#1. Adopt an evangelical hermeneutic, which means letting it speak to you with its voice. 

B. Hear

Principle #2, hear the word! The scriptures were not written to be read privately. Did you hear that? They were written for oral communal hearing. And this is true not only of Paul's letters and the Gospels, it is true of biblical texts.

In the ancient word. In Hebrew, the word for read is to cry out. The assumption is it's oral reading and this is, “hear the word.” 

So, for starters, before we come back tomorrow, all of you should read aloud the whole book of Deuteronomy - it changes everything. And as you're reading, catch the tone with which the author is writing. It's very important. 

So, the deuteronomic formula for life is read, that they may hear, that they may learn, that they may fear, that they may keep and ultimately that they may live, actually. Here we go. 

Deuteronomy 31, “Then Moses wrote this Torah and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and he gave it to all the elders of Israel. And Moses commanded them at the end of every seven years, at the set time in the year of release, at the Feast of Booths, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord, your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this Torah before all Israel in their hearing. Assemble the people, men, women, little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear, that they may learn, that they may fear YHWH, your God, and be careful to do all the words of this Torah, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you're going over to the Jordan to possess.” This is the formula. I call this the deuteronomic formula for life. 

Read that they may hear, 
that they may learn, 
that they may fear, 
that they may obey, 
that they may live!

 And now adopting a Pauline form of rhetoric. Let's reverse this. How shall they live, if they don't obey? How shall they obey if they do not fear? How shall they fear if they haven't learned? How shall they learn if they haven't heard? And how shall they hear if nobody reads it? 

You will find this paradigm all the way through the book of Deuteronomy. It's the formula for life so that unless someone reads the Torah, you cannot land up here. This is the goal; living is the goal. The Torah, the scriptures are the base of this whole process. 

C. Genre and Form

Principle #3. The second one was, Hear the scriptures. Hear it in their voice. (Second [sic]) Third, recognize the genre and form of Deuteronomy. 

This is my outline for the book. This is how I see it working. It is like one long Russian worship service where they always have two or three sermons, sometimes four, and it goes on for hours. And this is this is the book of Deuteronomy. 

Notice in this structure, I see four addresses. First address up to chapter four. Second address up to 11. Third address up to 26. And then it skips over to 28. And the fourth address, 29 and 30. And then you have a closing hymn, and the benediction of the tribes, and Moses is off. It's a long service. It is. This is Moses’ farewell charge to his congregation. It's preaching at its best 

D. Comments from other Old Testament People

Principle #4, hear the voice of First Testament saints as they reflect on the Torah of Moses. Don't jump to Paul and put the lenses of his words into your glasses and then go back to read Moses as if it's through that lens. No, go to what First Testaments were saying, and this is a shocker. 

I once spoke about this at a conference of pastors, and I started out by saying that Deuteronomy is a problem for lots of people. They don't know what to do with this book. But then it’s not the only problem that’s a book. Psalm 19 is a problem and 119 is a problem, a bigger problem. 

“The Torah of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;” What does that mean? Making it and bringing it alive, bringing it to life. 
“The stipulation of the Lord is sure; making wise the simple; 
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;” 
I mean, we feel so sorry for the Israelites burdened with the law. That's not how he felt. 

Or take Psalm119, my favorite Psalm, 176 verses. What an ode to Torah. This is an ode to Torah. 
“I will delight in Your statutes;” Really? 
“I will not forget your word. 
Your stipulations are my delight; 
they are my counselors. 
My soul clings to the dust; 
give me life according to your word! 
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for I delight in it. 
Look, I long for your precepts; 
in your righteousness give me life! 
I find my delight in your commands, which I love. 
Let your mercy come upon me that I may live, 
for your Torah is my delight. 
If your Torah had not been my delight, 
I would have perished in my affliction. 
I will never forget your precepts, 
for by them you have given me life. 
O, how I love your Torah, O, Lord. 

That's the name of my book. Heresy. Comes right out of the scripture. How? I love your Torah, o, Lord. 

Do you know that there's nobody in the Bible ever tells God I love you? You never have the verb in Hebrew, ahav to love with first person subject and God as the object. Not once. And actually, it turns out it's exactly the same in the New Testament. No, but Jesus comes close. We'll come back to Peter. What's happening at the end of the book of John? Do you love me? Jesus asks, do you. agapao me. Peter changes the word. I'm not a New Testament scholar nor a son of a New Testament scholar. But in my view, this is not just stylistic variation. He knows exactly what he's doing. We'll have more to say about that. 

“Great is your mercy or Lord, give me life. Consider how I love your precepts.” Nobody in the Bible ever says I love God, but they say I love your commands. How does that work? There's something wrong here. I mean, we are the opposite. We are so effusive. (singing, I love you, Lord, and I lift my voice.) Nobody in the Bible would have sung that. 

And we hate the law. It's the opposite. And that's why Psalm 119 is a problem, because it presents to us a happy Moses. In a couple of publications, we always struggle with what kind of cover can you have for your books? And we have been looking for an artistic rendering of Moses that is happy for the last 30 years and we can't find one. The closest we got was this Michelangelo one with, from a certain perspective, at least, it's not a scowl. But he's not happy. And I told my kids this and my granddaughter said, Hey, Grandpa, I found a happy Moses. And this is out of David C. Cook's book for the kids. And that's exactly where we should be. This is exactly where we should be.

“The Lord is my strength and the song. He is my salvation. Sing to the Lord.” A happy Moses. 

E. Significance in the Light of Christ

And then finally. No, it's not quite finally. Reflect on its significance in the light of Christ. This is the beginning of a long series of revelatory moments. We don't grasp the significance of everything immediately. Only in the light of this. But we need to remember Jesus words, “Don't think I've come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. Haven't come to abolish any of that. For Truly, I say, until heaven and earth pass away. Not an iota, not a dot will pass from the Torah until all is accomplished.” 

Or Romans 10:4. We read it in another rendering, actually tone, “For Christ is the telos/the end.” It's not the termination. It's the goal. Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the Torah, that the person who does the commands will live by them. He's picked it right up, but we cannot hear it that positively. We said, well, if you're going to keep the commands, you have to keep them perfectly, because otherwise you deserve to die. That's not what Moses is talking about. Moses’ command is if you want to live, live faithfully; and sounds just like Jesus. If you love me, tell me. No, He doesn't say tell me if you love me, write nice music. Send roses? No. If you love me, keep my commands. Nothing changes. Nothing changes. 

Well, in the history of interpretation, we've not done so well in the artistic renderings of Lady Ecclesia and Lady Synagoga. This is all over the medieval churches in Europe. These sculptures where the Lady Ecclesia, the church looks disdainfully over Lady Synagoga who is dropping some document, we're not quite sure what it is, in our hands. 

Or we need to adopt, I think, a more positive view. Here is a fifth century sarcophagus in Ravenna (Italy). You can go and see it if you wanted. But all around this sarcophagus, you've got carvings of the apostles, the 12 apostles. And here Jesus is seated on the throne, and the person to His right is Peter. He holds the keys to the kingdom. The person to His left is Paul. What's Jesus handing Paul? A scroll. What's that scroll? Of course, there's no commentary here. There's no commentary. 

And notice how Paul is happily, carefully, respectfully receiving it. He's not taking it to throw it in the trash and replace it with something. I think this is Jesus’ way of saying, here, you've got the previous revelation. Build on it. Meditate on it. See what comes out of this. Fascinating image. 

This is how we need to read the whole Bible. The whole Bible, all scripture is my scripture. All scripture tells a single story from beginning to end; one plan of redemption. And Jesus is hereby declaring, of course, He’s now enthroned, handing it off to Peter. You take it from here and you declare to the world the significance of the Torah in the light of Me. And it's not, go throw it in the garbage. It's something else. This is the word of the Lord that we have received in the book of Deuteronomy that we may live. May that be our experience. 

Student Question: Okay. So, you had said that we don't necessarily love God, but we love His commands. But then in Psalm 18:1, it says, I love you, Lord, my strength. Could you speak to that? 

Dr. Block’s Response: Let me clarify. We are enjoined, urged to love God. So, you started out by saying we don't necessarily love God. We should. We should. We don't necessarily say we love God. And so that's the point here. And in this case, the translations all read, I love you o, Lord, my strength. But the Hebrew here doesn't have the Hebrew word for love. It has a very peculiar form of the verb for to have compassion. Normally the greater has compassion on the lesser; the strong, on the weak, and whatever else. God doesn't need our compassion. But the author doesn't want to use the word ahav because it’s a declarative statement, and I should never say that about myself. I should recognize that my love for God is so pathetic. That's what we should be saying. So that's the one. 

The other one is Psalm 116, often or almost always translated as “I love the Lord because he hears my voice and my supplications.” That's not what the Hebrew reads here. The Hebrew doesn't have a direct object to the verb I love. It does have the word ahav now, that word is here. I love because the Lord has heard my prayer, and he leaves it blank. Fill it in. But the psalmist will not have the. chutzpa to fill in it as the object of his own statement. So that is another exception that we don't grasp.