Lecture 3: Approaches to Old Testament Theology
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: Approaches to Old Testament Theology
Father we are grateful for today. We are thankful that you have given us the strength to be here and to do this work that you called us to do. We ask you that you would forgive us of our sins and that we would receive and accept your pardon. We thank you for Christ who had died to secure our forgiveness of sins and we thank you for Holy Spirit who lives within us and for your watching care over us. I ask that you will be with those in Romania now that is doing the mission work and I ask that you would bless and guide and strengthen for these several weeks, that your will, will be done and the cause of Christ will be furthered by this another work that you will remember our missionaries around the world. We know that they come in many different ages and we know that they come from many different groups; we ask that each one will be committed to you and that you would bless their work. We pray that you will be with this new pastor and family as they make this transition. Be with the church as they also make their transition and make this a good and acceptable time in your sight as they serve you together. We ask for Jane that you would help him with his visit with the bishop. You will help his ministry to be sorted out and the things that he should do. Be made plain for those who need to know it and I ask that you would bless these efforts. Be with the other classes that are with me this summer. Give the professors and the students’ insight and endurance and give them the grace that they need during this time, in Christ’s name. Amen.
A bit more background and then we will be working on creation and biblical theology. We had gone through right up to about 1957 to 1960 with Gerhard von Rod and if my new drier raise marker that Mark has procured for us works, I will write a couple of names on the board. And if it does not we will continue our other method. So there was running alongside the works on the Old Testament theology in the 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s and it came to be known in the Biblical Theology movement. And the Biblical Theology Movement was not solely interested in the Old Testament Theology as its name indicate. However many of the persons who wrote in this movement were Old Testament theologians and they influenced a lot of the writing in the Old Testament theology later, just a few names. The first was a British scholar, H. H. Rally and he wrote a variety of books but the first was 1942 and the titles of the book, the books that are to be mentioned here, give you the essence of the movement of what it had emphasised. For instance, Rally’s first significant book, the Relevant of the Bible 1942, what the Biblical movement theology sought to do was to re capture the importance of the Scriptures for the church and for his ministry, and for his discipleship and for his teaching.
Now of course during the era of the 20s and 30s, as European Liberalism caught up to the United States, Britain, there came lessening emphasis in the churches and in the pulpits on the importance of Scripture and which is full blown social Gospel really was the order of the day in many places. And so though Rally was far from a fundamentalist conservative whatever is more in vain in someone who emphasis Scripture the way a bard did, it’s irrelevant the Bible for the church needs to be stressed again. He also later in 1967, I believe pinned a volume called, The Unity of the Bible and this is the emphasis of biblical theology movement made that perhaps caused the most controversy and yet at the same time the most interest, because as you know Old Testament theology often stands apart and separates from the New Testament theology. My hunch is, the problem is getting people who are; a. interested, b. knowledgeable in both testaments and it’s not, even you want to do both. And you have come to understand that all you have to take is survey of the Bible, like take Old Testament survey, you see all the book in the list, you see all and say, what if I try to master all these materials? What would I do? But then there are those who would say, the Testament really can’t be reconciled very well. The Biblical theology movement rejected that notion and not only Rally but others would write on the unity of the Bible.
Next name also from the United Kingdom, Norman Henry Snaith. [phonetic] Right in 1944, wrote a volume called, The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament. The reason this work was significant and this emphasis on the biblical theology movement was significant was remembered much of the Old Testament scholarship from Bell Havenstein [foreign] of 1878 till 1920 that we looked at yesterday, was talking about the similarity between Israelite religion and other ancient near Eastern cultures. Another word, Israelite religion was a religion liked. Other religions of its time and place that evolved in a certain way, act at a certain way and had principle that was similar to other ancient near Eastern religion. So when Snaith [phonetic] said they are distinctive ideas to the Old Testament including issues like ethics. Ethics that would oppose the oppression of the poor, ethics that would call kings into account. Theological matters such as God being the only God and been the creator. So Snaith [phonetic] said, the time has come, having done all these historical background to show that Israelite religion did have some similarities in other cultures. In times distress, it also has its own distinctive that sets it apart as God reveals religion, so you can differences between some of the authors that we looked at yesterday, Relevance Bible, Unity of the Bible, Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament.
And then a one, the last one that I mentioned yesterday, George Ernest Wright in 1950s, writes the volume of Old Testament against its environment. The Old Testament Against Its Environment. So even more boldly than Snaith [phonetic] whose talking about distinctive ideas, Wright says the Old Testament religion is really counter cultural in its environment. It’s stressing of one God. In its stressing of history, it’s not cynical, always going in a circle, always coming back to the place it began but that history is leaner, it’s going somewhere. It had a beginning and it will have an end. And thus sets the possibility of Biblical view of Eschatology headed towards something and it is not the same old something. So Wright pit that volume in 1952 perhaps his most famous book, God Who Acts. God’s actions are evident in history, Wright said. So again he was stressing that unlike the other gods which tended to be settled from the human race, the other ancient religions or when they got involved, it was for selfish reasons often, that the God of the Old Testament God acted on behalf of those He loved and those whom He had in common.
So the Biblical theology movement was coming out of, really the sorts of emphasis that Baach [phonetic] and Eichrodt [foreign] were making. And were really more conservative than those, were very set on the unity of the Bible, very set on the history of the Bible, very interested in the distinctive nature of the Bible and very interested in recapturing of the Bible for the church. And so, these were emphasis that you would then find in American Old Testament Theologies in the 70s and the 80s, even in the 90s. Great Britain really, this was kind of a golden age for them of Old Testament Theology because they never got involve. It’s basically having been an American or a German endeavour to Old Testament or Biblical Theology with this assession.
Now these movement then is running alongside the Old Testament Theology, strange that we were talking about it yesterday, but as time went on it was influencing Old Testament theologians, particularly in America more and more. And it has only been really till recently in the last ten or fifteen years that that strain has gotten lighter. You have to be somewhat younger than I am to have missed that influence. Simply because of the teachers that I had in seminary in the 1980s who were still, they were older persons, who were influenced people like G. Ernest Wright and so whereas they, these sort of scholars who will not hold the full truth of the Scripture. They did talk about biblical authority now, and of course one of them is Kelly Heels, not just were they bitten on the heel by the conservatives but by people more liberal themselves. How do you hold such a thing in balance, was always a problem. But they made a very strong run and continued, I think to bring Old Testament theology out a history of religions descriptive mode. You know what I mean, we just kind of describing religion how it got there.
To a Old Testament theology, that frankly with the Biblical Theology Movement who were interested in the church were prescriptive. Not prescriptive in the sense that you have to believe, you have to conduct Old Testament theology the way we do but prescriptive in the Bible is the Word of God and it is speaking to us. It calls us to do something. So we don’t do Old Testament theology from Biblical Theology Movement standpoint by, you know, let’s describe what is happening in Israel and Israelite religion in the eighth century to the sixth century B. C. They would press the claims of Scripture, how the New Testament and the Old Testament are a whole and press the claims of the text into the lives of the church. You know, certainly this has something to do with Barth systematic theology in his own way and the other systematic theologians were as well but it was very different from what Wilhuisen [phonetic] and company had been conducting up to 1920s. I don’t know how to answer the question exactly, I mean, let me remind you of what I‘ve think was going on with Wilhuisen [phonetic] and maybe to answer the question, you can follow up.
Wilhuisen [phonetic] basically, to what we have called it, a dynamic view of inspiration. He believed that human beings has wrote it as they best understood God and some people have heighten awareness of God, just like I was talking about yesterday. You know Shakespeare, yeah Shakespeare had heighten awareness in poetry that I don’t possess or somebody… you said you do the same as with music. Or as far as I am concerned with virtually anything, with anyone can do, George was talking about a mechanic that cost seventy five dollar and hour, you know just for starters. Some of them have a better field for ability than others. I mean I just say that’s the way it is at cross board.
So what he thought the Old Testament was, a group of people, some of whom were more in tune with God, he did believe in God, than others and they were writing about their views of God of what happened and a lot of it, though it might have some moral value, a lot of it didn’t. And what it was when you do, you have to try to figure out when they wrote what they did and what seems to be truth in the Old Testament isn’t, as far as authorship date etcetera. And that he thought then, since this was a situation how it was written as time went on, there came in the Old Testament and then in Judaism, not a creeping but it was started as creepy and then rampant legalism that, you know, the Pharisees were the embodiment of. Then Jesus free people when thousands thought about Jesus freeing people from the law, He didn’t mean of the penalty of the law, He mean from what the Old Testament really taught in the legalism that has grown up around it. So he saw Jesus in the New Testament religion as the kind of evolutionary, it go higher than it is down here. It was greater than the religion in the Old Testament and the Old Testament needs to be set aside, as far as the rules and regulations came a great relieve. Jesus was seen as a Liberator. Jesus was seen as the climax of religion. He was seen as one who sets people free. So Nohuizen [phonetic] saw that in the progression of history something lower than the seventh grader, Jesus was the greatest that could come.
I can’t tell whether Nohuizen [phonetic] believe that Jesus is the Son of God. So it is a very interesting thing, I’m grateful to say that it is impossible to have Christianity without Jesus but it’s very interesting that when you come to, whether it is Old Testament or New Testament scholar who has a hard times with miracles, it’s amazing how often that Jesus becomes the exception and not everything about Jesus now but particularly the incarnation, even if they don’t believe in the virgin birth, in some manner the incarnation that Jesus is God in the flesh, how I really believe that occurred. And that, the Resurrection. Something happened at the Resurrection.
Now we don’t often work back that if this miracle is true, why isn’t this one? Now if I was in their shoes, I’ll start with well, Elijah, he isn’t Son of God, there are different ways to work with it. But Wilhuizen [phonetic] was initially felt since that he never intended, he did say and write and thought that his work would create better faith. When he found out that was not the case by large, he quit teaching ministerial candidates. He was not in his desire to wreak faith and so he went into semantics in ancient history. But Wilhuizen [phonetic] again, like I think a lot of persons, he did not want to wreck faith but he found that his teachings did. It is also interesting what the biblical theology moved people, virtually all of them were raised in conservative Bible believing traditions and then, they kind of, they didn’t go as far as Wilhuizen [phonetic] but then they left before they had been.
Of course some of us are raised but not some of them aright, you know. At the same time the biblical theology movement people would have said, I think, all the ones were born that Jesus is the virgin born Son of God incarnated explained by the virgin birth, miracles occurred, Jesus raised from the death doesn’t mean that every word of the Gospel is absolutely accurate but we have, we have in the main a solid picture of Jesus Christ who is the Son of God who was promised in the Old Testament. And what more, God actually gave those commandments at Sinai; God actually took the Israelites out of Egypt. They doubt that an axe head floated when Elisha needed it to but you know certain things, but in the main sea.
I think for many kind of fair conservative reading, there’s much that serves in biblical theology movement, less than Wilhuizen. [phonetic] I have some sympathy for Wilhuizen [phonetic] after all these years of teachings because I honestly don’t think he held many of his views given the kind of scholarship he tried to embodied had lived during the time of the archaeology scale discoveries. I just don’t think he would come into the same conclusions. But through time, Wilhuizen’s [phonetic] view wasn’t in any question that descriptive history religions approached to the Old Testament theology basically killed any interest in the Old Testament for the church. And as time went on, Wilhuizen [phonetic] has probably been the most famous scholar in his days and followed in the early 1920th century up to 1930s where I believe, let’s see.
I forget when Anoch van Helven died but he was church historian, a history of dogma and all his volumes are in your library I saw yesterday. He’s more famous scholars in his days and he basically wrote, you know, in University of Berlin, what he did write that it was high time that we realised that the Old Testament is not Christian Scriptures. It’s about 1910, we need a new canon. He wasn’t alone in this and that’s so, how far that sole history religions descriptive approach that basically emphasis what I said that Wilhuizen [phonetic] emphasis when he get to the New Testament. That’s one large conclusion that you can take and another logical conclusion is if we don’t agree with that, then we better revive interest in the Old Testament. And that doesn’t get done in Germany until post World War II really was Von Rod and others. Over in Switzerland, Eichdort [phonetic] was making a strong effort to do that. And in Britain, you know, in World War II and after the biblical theology were doing some of these things.
And for Chris Sihernock [phonetic] too much, certainly I have been around to see and maybe you have not and I’m very grateful for you, but I have been around to see that if they would not say what Gorcum [phonetic] had said, I have been in churches for all practical purposes that it was true. So at some point, we have to say, even they have never heard of Van Gorcum, [phonetic] at what point, what methodology, what hermeneutic, what manner of thinking literature led Christians, led a minister, led a believer to basically operate like that. In some cases, it’s simply, we don’t have enough time to do everything, it other cases like a friend of mine is the big pastors, I don’t know. I consider over a thousand of big church. He says you can’t grow a church preaching only from the Old Testament, that’s just his attitude. And I laughed and said; no I don’t think you could.
But some have given it a shot. I mean that’s just insanity. So the bible theological movement said, let’s recapture the bible for the church and through the force of the bible. And von Rod was trying to do that. We ended the day yesterday with Gerhard Von Rod, he was certainly trying. He was a preacher. I can’t recall whether he served in the German Army at World War II but I do know that he spent time in prison for his views as some others did, like Dmitri von Hoffe, the most famous I suppose so. Obviously von Rod was not martyred. But Von rod had a strong interest in preaching and reused some vitals traditions. Again the Achilles hell of Von rod work was when more conservative or more liberal scholars asked at what point can you hold on to authority if you find so many mistakes various in the Scriptures and Von Rad would say, we hold on to the traditions that we are preached and re-preached, and stated and re-stated.
Why hold on to the Exodus traditions because it’s so pervasive in the Scriptures. He believed in an exodus that took place. Why hold on to ethical modalism but there is one God and that God has ordered in the universe, holds us accountable for it because it is pervasive in the prophetic literature in the New Testament. In a way it’s almost like a freedom of speech where we started, wasn’t it? How do we know what the universal principals of the Old Testament of the Bible are? Well, those that were repeated over and over again would be a start. And some of them were the only way we can learn them right and here so often we evaluate them. Well we have seen now then, you have biblical theology movement services.
We have Von Rad now for coming along wanting to emphasis preaching and re-preaching of traditions of Old Testament theology amounts to working with the ongoing tradition in the Scriptures. And then we have a single theme people right, remember that? Even before I quote but I quote being the person with covenant being his main thing. I want to note kind of how some of these emphases lessened; thought take 1978, Walther Zimmerli [phonetic] took a single theme approach to theology rather nice concise book a couple hundreds of pages. He says the primary theme of the Old Testament is what it teaches about God. He said that the first command is primary throughout Scripture. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and you shall have no other gods before me. Earlier, Von Rad had said the whole of Old Testament theology is a referendum on the first commandment. And the way our lives as a Christian is a referendum first commandment.
Also 1978, Walter Kaiser Junior, now he is president of Gordon Cornwell Seminary written many works but in his book towards the end of Old Testament theology, Kaiser is pretty bright. He’s always had several books towards in it. Hard to blame, how do you criticise books that he makes no progress whatever towards his subjects, I mean, it’s hard to get a zero in all his essays. Kaiser is very much in the old salvation history, remember van Hoffman? Gustof Oiler [phonetic] in that tradition and he stresses Messianic theology took a page right out of Van Hoffman and Heinstein [phonetic] Berg. I was pleased to see off your library of four volumes of Heinstein [phonetic] Berg’s Christology translated in English up there. I didn’t want to know how often it has been checked out. I thought I will check it out if nobody has, just to say it had been but…
Male Speaker 2: Did you seen a one volume edition of that?
I have, that’s the creed that I was talking about yesterday and I don’t know whether it’s condensed or what.
Male Speaker 2: [Mumbling]
This I don’t know. But I was happy to see… it’s always fun to go to the new library because books you didn’t know existed in certain versions and I’m in expectancy to see four German volumes but I didn’t know at all at one point it has been translated into English. But Van Hoffman and Heinstein [phonetic] Berg traditions that the Bible is a series of promises according to Kaiser. The chief promise is of the Messiah the King coming and therefore he was very much involves salvation history. He will try to fit every book in the Old Testament into history settings and then show how it leads to the Messiah. At times, it’s like other single theme approaches, you’ll find some point and you’ll say, I believe that is a bit forced, as you know, that I often found it difficult for him to stress the book of Proverbs and how that all fit directly into Messianic prophecy. He has the tie of Solomon which is tied to David, which you know, with three or four steps move but still if you want an Old Testament volume stressed Messianic theology and he has a smaller book, something like the Messianic theology in the Old Testament.
It’s harder to do better than Kaiser. He is the digestive of Heinstein [phonetic] Berg, Von Hoffman and several others, really. And so these works do not bring an end to but again single theme approach now has offered to us many different possible single themes. And any time you start to read the volume books and at a certain era in every prefaces, it says why another book on Old Testament theology. We have to justify what we were doing, there’s so many of them and so many from single theme, you can begin to think that at least for a while the topic may be exhausted or the method.
We had a single theme. We have the biblical theology movement thing going on. 1970s, you have Brevard Childs he will become prominent Brevard Child write a volume of biblical Theology in Crisis. There is another sign of the movement maybe having some difficulties as if there is a major proponent of the view says we are in crisis. It just maybe someone calling fire or was it crying wolf. But actually here he was saying, we have run in with some difficulties. We have not established the immunity of the Bible. We haven’t been able to established the Bible and the church because our view of authority never gives it enough authority, never gives the Bible enough authority and several other things but he was saying by now the biblical theology is in a bit of crisis.
And as far as Von Rad and his tradition theology, here is another difficulty that I am sure you would want to leave for people. It was so to do traditional orientated theology and preaching orient theology as well as Von Rod had done it and lots of people didn’t try, articles and some other things but very difficult. So now, this is kind of where we are. These ideas, I won’t’ give you but I can hide you a several for examples, these ideas continued on but starting about 1978 to 1981, you have a different movement.
And 1978 Ronald Clements begins to stress theology as it unfolds in the canon the list of books, except the Scripture and he wrote about Old Testament theology and it is a brief book, lovely two hundred page book of the theology in the law and the theology in the prophets. And promised to write about the writings later, he did in the wisdom of literature. But what he is saying it is not a matter to find a single theme, it’s not a matter of simply talking about God’s acts and history though they didn’t deny those. They didn’t say those were just useless, hopeless or worthless way. But he said that we need to take the canons as it unfolds and find the theme and emphasis there. And he gently suggested that Messianic theology is not all the theology is there and also gently suggested that ethical modalism is not all there is in Old Testament theology either. So what he is looking for was a fuller approach to the whole canon of Scripture.
And then a very interesting book, Elma Martins, a delightful guy, Ronald Clements is nice too but Elma Martens life was of a Mennonite. A little embarrassing talks to the Mennonites, when you talk reformation theology with them for instance, they don’t talk about Lither and Calvin. They talk about Menno Simons; they talk about people of their heritage who got drowned and that kind. And if you read Doctor George’s theology of the reformers could be eschatologist [phonetic] you all note that whole strength. Also Mennonites tend to be, not all, pessimist, they tend to be in stewardship and Martins write about Old Testament theology from a standpoint of key themes but more than one that he finds in Exodus chapter 25:22-26 say, among them are community and land, and the nature of God.
But again a very readable book that last about 240 pages, he takes this text, from this text you can find themes, four or five themes that the whole Old Testament can hold together. So he takes a theme at his approach but he says one but he doesn’t know of one would do all the work. So what we are beginning to see from this based single theme Biblical theology and traditional theology, he started to emphasis on canon on multiple themes but trying to hold to these things are together. Elma Martens is one of the editors of your Flowering Old Testament theology of textbook and one of his articles on land is very interesting, very helpful in the volume that you’ve got. Now I want to introduce you to or reintroduce you to Brevard Childs. I have already mentioned his work in the 1970s, Biblical Theology in Crisis. It’s pretty to write a crisis book, in a way. I mean If you have a mind and an eye to see, you can write a book be it in the school of crisis and find out all the things that are wrong in it. And if it was truly in crisis then it would be easier to write books. And there are many books writing about crises that never offers a solution. I tend not to buy these anymore unless I really feel good about saying it, yeah, it’s crummy. Yeah that’s bad, yeah, yeah.
Well I already have a solution. Childs wasn’t the kind of person who writes an awful book and has no option for the future. Like Clements, he thought that if he was going to restore authority to the Old Testament then we must start with the text. We must say the text of Scripture is the most important thing that we can study. History is not irrelevant but the text matters more. The church is certain not irrelevant but we can’t do anything with the church till we start with the text. And the text of Scripture has been considered Scripture for thousands of years. He argues therefore in the 1980s volume, the Old Testament is the introduction to the Old Testament of the Scripture. And if we would take the Old Testament seriously, we would take the canonical order law, proverbs and writing that we would know how each book is shaped theologically.
Each book has its own distinct theological witness and then we would know how the ongoing witness of the Old Testament also has. They witness to God. He follows this up in 1984 with a New Testament as canon. Introduction to the New Testament canons He is an Old Testament scholar and this is out of his view, but has brought considerable reading to it. In 1985, he writes an Old Testament theology very brief and I think inferior to his Old Testament intro and then in 1922, he wrote biblical theology.
So you see we are on the 20 some year old quest to try to show that you can have the Old Testament treated as Scripture in canonical order and the New Testament treated as Scripture, biblical theology coming from it, arguing in its own way to its unity of the Scripture, so it can be recaptured for the church. It is a very interesting thing to read the introduction. It’s just four or five pages. Sometimes read the introduction in Child’s biblical theology, which published in 1992. In this he writes about how difficult it was, as an Old Testament scholar to engage in dialogue with New Testament theologians and with systematic theologians. How often it was not a conversation that it could be had. It is true that Childs has been embraced by some of his colleagues including Christopher Seitz who taught him for a while and now teaching in University of St. Andrews in Scotland. And it is true that he has influenced other people more of this own tradition but Childs has a stronger influence probably amongst evangelicals. The reason being, in the last twenty years evangelicals has been trying to figure out a way to do Old Testament theology that would be true to the Scripture which holds in a high authority of the Scriptures and at the same time not cast off the gains that has been made in historical analysis and that would do theology, and that would benefit the church.
Now with the people that we work with could then do something with theology on the pulpit pew. So when Childs began stressing the canon of Scripture that the Bible itself is God’s word or he would say it contains God’s word and using the inner structure devise. In other words, how do I approach the study of Old Testament theology, the law, the prophets and the writings, distinct sections but related sections; sections that Jesus, Himself talks about, sections that Paul, himself reflects., sections etcetera that we talked about yesterday. So the canon became a structuring devise, notions of the Scriptures being structure devise. Also the theology of the church became helpful.
And so in 1995, John Sailhamer, [phonetic] he teaches at South Eastern Seminary in Lake Forest. He taught for many, many years at Trinity Evangelical Breny [phonetic] School brought along the introduction of New Testament theology. And what it was, was a very technical conservative treatment of how you would do canonical theology. The way Childs talk about doing it. And in 1998, I published a book that you have which really was the first, it doesn’t make it great or anything, it was the first kind of Old Testament theology that attempted to be a full Old Testament theology written by and evangelical of twenty years, so we come out of this long period. And there will be others Bruce Walking working on one and John Sailhamer says he is working on one, but there are other things he just getting the move ahead of it.
But I can tell you as an Evangelical Old Testament person, when you try to do Old Testament theology, you do not have that many evangelical partners to read as you go. Other than Jay Barton Paine, I mentioned most of them that exist, Gerhard Hasle [phonetic] and Snow bun it’s not a whole lot that I can dialogue with from my own perspective as they did the work but this is basically my volume is, much indebted to Childs who are not agreeing with his view of inspiration of authority, though I think Childs is certainly a vast vast improvement of the Wilhuizen [phonetic] era, I mean. Childs has been most bitterly criticised by his own constituency. He had hoped to move the adherence of historical critical method posted through the text and instead he’s been attacked basically by fundamentalist because he talked about Scriptures too much. He’s even called anti-Semitism of all things because he argued that Old Testament theology is done by the church and he emphasises Christ as a mean of salvation. Now, he never said that the synagogues never do theology. He never said any such thing but already was moving into a different era and the last Old Testament theology I mentioned is Walter Bruegemann. [phonetic]
Bruegemann [phonetic] wrote, what I would say, first early post-modern Old Testament theology in 1997 Bruegemann’s [phonetic] volume and first of all Bruegemann [phonetic] is like Wilhuizen. [phonetic] Bruegemann [phonetic] is a bright bright man, a creative man and an outstanding writer. And I suppose that for many years, he and Childs would have share similar theology basically being Bardians. [phonetic] [phonetic] Bruegemann had already shift astroly [phonetic] to post-modern view that goes something like this, In the first part of his book about a hundred and twenty pages of survey of discipline. Then he writes, as I recall it, a 120 or 125 to 250 pages, a section he calls, Unifying Forces in the Old Testament and he writes as good an essay on the unity of the Old Testament as anyone would want to read anywhere.
If I didn’t know what came next, you know the book could just stop there prior to lots and lots of people reading it. He then goes into the section which what he calls, Competing Voices. Rather than seeing different emphasis in Scripture, he calls them competitors and he pits them against the other, so he finds the Old Testament is the voice of the poor fighting against the rich. Sometimes in the same book but he is saying, not that you have divinely inspired were emphasis in different things and different times, these are competing voices and doesn’t necessarily preferred one over the other. He lays them out there so you can see them.
So what are the post-modern ideals supposedly? That you would have thirteen of us here at the table, now how lucky can we get? That if we all have a different viewpoint, a different voice, we would all sit down at the table as equals with our view point and our voice. Now of course somebody like me or maybe many like you, I’m a fourth child, fourth of six. I note that when you sit down at the table, we were often competing voices and no matter how much mum tells us to speak at our turns, dad is being that bad as anybody, so he can trampled on all of us I guess. We weren’t’ just trying to have all of our say, we were trying to have our way. I don’t mean it in a bad sense.
Start by saying, we just want everybody to have a voice, but if you bring your voice to the table to try to convince someone else to your side that’s when we blow a whistle, throw a penalty flag, tee you up, throw you out, ask you off the grounds, whatever, that is not acceptable. Actually… but no one… I actually know very few people really able to play by the rules even if you want that to be so because eventually if the white supremacies tries to sits you down, some people is not going to like your view point. Don’t they have their say? Don’t they have the right at the table? Well you would say only the most begrudging way but if we let them talk too much at the table, you can pick out whoever you want. Oh, you say, what if that person is sweet but they are insipid. They really have nothing to contribute and after a while, you say, there got to be some standards here, it’s not enough.
It’s not enough to just have everybody at the table to have their say… So Bruegemann, [phonetic] though he sets up the rule of post-modern, of course he’s breaks his own rule because he has a list of people who just don’t belong at the table. And you know what I say, I say he is right. They are people who, even if they sit at the table, you bring them there to help them understand that they are mistaken. I am often weary of people when they say, oh you know, I’m really post-modernist, what does that mean in this context? I never know a really thoroughly post-modern people because eventually, they will make decisions, they will make qualitied decisions. This is right and this is wrong, even if it is just the yuck factor.
You know in other words is that they see, Ah, that’s abhorrent, that’ terrible, that just didn’t happened. Why? Why? That’s the issue and then we will get to the authority base. Alright, look, talking about people. I am very simplistic, you all noticed that. People deserved better, better than this that I am just ranting now. I always love guys who… all well, I believe all truth, and we all do. You know what I say now? I used to talk aggressive, no, you don’t. I mean you really don’t. See that guy George is going to pay 75 bucks and hour; he really did want, how much? 75 bucks and hour, didn’t he? Is that a relative amount? Peasants are going to pay me for this experience. I don’t want that to be, you know I don’t want them to be relatively to pay me but I do want to get paid. Fidelity in marriage, how relative do we want that to be? So, what… no you really don’t. Some things are important enough for you to say this is true and this is false and this is the way I will have it. What is important to you?
Bergamon [phonetic] has some of that, but in his volume if you want to read what amounts to a post-modern, it’s almost like saying, well I pick this party and say this is fine. That’s one voice that got you going. And there are times, of course if you ever been abused by some sort of head thumping kind of work, you know, you can say, well I might appreciate if somebody says, well there is more than one way. But Bruegemann [phonetic] is at some of the time, a fabulous scholarship, extraordinary bibliolatry; he dialogues strenuously with people like Childs, who simply reductionist if he thinks Christian theology is what we are doing. Why don’t I understand the Muslim theology? Why don’t I understand, you know, why not say poliastic [phonetic] theology, you know, why not?
But he also writes, it is a voice that cannot be neglected or mistaken because Bruegemann [phonetic] is a major scholar to a major book and it reflects a major way that people think today or believe they think today. So the method that I tried to work with that you are seeing would go something like this. It has certain presuppositions and I will try to tell you what they are. However poorly is this class and this text book that I carry this out, well first presupposition is that the Bible text is God’s Word and carries God’s character. The Bible as we have it is God’s word and carries God’s character. The same way your word carries your character. It has to, you can’t do anything else. Now second presupposition and presupposition by the way is not a need reaction hopefully.
Hopefully it is a study conclusion that you based your thoughts on. A pre supposition is a study conclusion you based your thoughts on. The first one is the biblical texts are God’s Word and carries God’s character. The second one is the bible unfolds canonically in the ways that I have described it, the law, prophets, writings, etcetera. And it reflects God’s Word in history. Sometimes when a canon unfolds it repeats some of God’s same acts in history from a different perspective but it repeats of the same acts, so that we can see the bible unfolds canonically and reflects God’s works in history. Those two things are not in opposition of one another.
But they both need to be said. Third, the Bible viewpoint, a view point of the Bible writer’s conflicts quite often with how people acted in history. The Bible’s view point conflicts without people acting in history. This is in opposition saying that Old Testament theology should be seen as a history of religions. I go Old Testament theology understands what the New Testament thought it was true. Boy that is important. How many people have you hear in the church in the Old Testament says thus and so? And what they are doing is relating an account that in the Bible that the author is giving you in showing you how horrible something is.
Take the last several chapters in Judges. It starts chapter 17 verse 6 tells you, there is no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. That’s a marker for you. And the last verse of the book says the same thing. You got a self-contain action of which you have horrible things, not just civil war, not just killing but a civil war and killing that was sparked by a woman being raped to death by a group of men and then her, not even her husband cuts her in pieces and mails her to the various tribes of Israel. Now then, does the text approve of that activity? The book ends to the stories are, this is what happens to people who do whatever is right in their own eyes.
But if you did say, well you know, the Old Testament has this. Well, it is true. It has it but it doesn’t prove of it or you know, Jephthah sacrifices his own daughter, it was all right. Well was it all right? If you read the Pentateuch that sort of things already said that it is not right. Rash vows that can’t be redeemed, you don’t have to do that. In other words, if you read the first five books of the Bible and you ask the question was it all right what he did, the answer is no. Or pick your favourite. Atrocity that is no more right than to say, well you in the New Testament, Herod kills the babies. So understand that the Bible its view point conflicts how people acted in history.
The fourth pre supposition interprets itself canonically that is Jesus says what is true being the law, prophets and psalms. That’s one way the Bible interprets itself. That gives us an order in which to operate. Fifth the Bible interprets itself historically. In other words, it will tell you what happened in history so that later on, whereas Paul has interpret what happened when Adam and Eve sinned and tell you what that meant historically, you know, or Paul would talk about the book of Numbers and what that teaches us. When I say the Bible interprets itself historically, that helps me to understand some things about accuracy. It is possible for us to say that the New Testament writers were wrong to consider what happened in the Old Testament un-accurate account. But it would be hard to argue with that wasn’t what they thought.
Six, the Bible interprets itself thematically that gives us unity. For instance Romans four, Paul says I want to talk about justification by faith. We talked about that yesterday. That’s a mighty theme he is talking about, that’s a theme he is tracing. So having said that the bible interprets itself canonically, that gives me an order for my study, having said that the Bible itself interprets historically that gives me some accuracy of my study, having said, the Bible itself interprets thematically, that gives me some unity to my study and that didn’t leave me without problems. How lightly I have been treating some of the moments ago but it does gives me a chance to get it started which I am anxious to do despite it has been a day and a half on method.
So how do I proceed? Those were my presuppositions that’s what I believe to get started. That’s my prolegomena [phonetic], five method logical points in. What do you do? First you start with the text in canonical order. We will go from genesis to Revelation if we are doing biblical theology. We are going Genesis to Chronicles if we are doing and Old Testament theology. The longer I teach, the more I say even say things like well if you want to do the English Bible, just do that, if that’s what you … run along and do that, if that’s what you want to do. Let’s get started but start with the text in canonically order. The second discern subjects in the text. Discern subjects in the text. It’s hard to miss creation if you start with Genesis 1:1. Third, trace the subject in canonical order. Find out about anything each books talks about in the subject and what the whole says about the subject. In other words, you are building data. You are tracing a subject in canonical order, not every book says something about every subject.
Fourth, note connections between your subjects and other related subjects. For instance, you will be dealing with creation and you will find that Isaiah connects creation with the Exodus does it? You read Isaiah 40 to 48 for that or you get to the Psalms and you will find out, the Psalms will basically say that it God is the Creator, he is also the King and if He is the King He is the one that blesses and judges. So you see creation has to be related things and after a while you have to limit them because you can’t do them all. But note connections and five draw thematic conclusions. Bring your studies together so that you can have, if nothing else is evens up in this simplistic, I came up with five or six major themes, major emphasis about creation in the Old Testament.
So again start with the text in canonical order, discern subject in the text, trace the subject in canonical order, note connections between the subjects and the others and draw a thematic conclusions. Now I guess the post script to this, I guess there is another way to start, that’s what most of us do, you start. We have a legitimate question about what the Bible says about a certain subject. It’s ideal to say, okay we won’t deal with New Testament theology, let’s start from the beginning and do what I just said. However it is just as likely you are going to start the way I did, as I did give a little testimony yesterday, I started by how people were saved in the Old Testament. How did they come to know God and know that their sins has been forgiven and spends eternity with Him?
Well if you have a subject like that I would say, the method is still relevant. Start with the text, discern the subject, trace it in canonical order, and draw your summaries. So it is possible to bring your questions to the text. And eventually any questions can be answered and you can get a start and you can work on it. I have found as I have studied the Scriptures historically, theologically, I am going to give you one result and that’s quite simply as it is not only the theology that is primary goal study of God. The Old Testaments emphasis, its main emphasis is on God and that He is the only God. That was a revolutionary concept in the ancient world, the very notion that you would tell a Canaanite or an Egyptian or a Babylonian, there is only one God and if Israel serves Him, I bet you lots of laughs.
Perhaps of all the biblical writers, I shouldn’t say writers, all the major biblical characters, perhaps only Jesus basically ministers to people who hold to a one God thesis. Think about it. In the old Testament, Moses, prophets, the others weren’t’ they were dealing with people who were constantly being tempted to believe in more than one God and to serve them? There is polyester contacts, think of the apostle Paul, where the Greek, the first century Greeks world was that a real strong model theistic outfit? No. Paul has taken time to tell the Corinthians, we know that there is only one God but other people, he’s talking about the metophidialtle, [phonetic] but other people recognize he is God. Plus its’ great to walk through this mission centre in the See of Ephesus, perhaps some of you who were world Christians and interested in missions walked by a clock out there and tells me how many billions of people who live in the world, you have done that yet?
I stood there and blink and eighteen babies were born. Now how many of those billions are basically in a world that adheres to the polytheistic context, what would oppose? I don’t know the answer but I can tell about a billion people in India, although there are many many Christians there and some Muslim, just talking about poly theism and mono theism, I say the mass majority are in the polytheistic context and we just go on. So the last I checked people moving around and moving here. So all I am trying to say is, maybe at one time in human history, maybe it’s just a Euro centric view of the world, I don’t know.
Maybe we could have said basically polytheism is not an issue but boy, be hard to make that point in a global view now. And to speak of Asia, African and all the other places to say nothing to fact basically secularism is a different god. So it’s pretty relevant point to say the Lord is God and there is no other and the Scriptures has revealed here and we need to proclaim Him. So I didn’t think people will state the obvious point that bible is about God. I think the point is so important that we could miss it if it is too obvious. This is the kind of methodology that I employ. I think it is valuable for you because as you do your ministry or as you do your own Bible studies for your purpose or for your own lives, if you will bring a relevant biblical subject to the text and do the hard work of following through the canon, you will learn more, you will have and a lot ask this question after class, you won’t’ be able to just pick and choose them. You will be confronted, say about seven items about creation, two of which troubles you because they called you up short, or they call, you know, but as long as I can stick to my pre conceived notions or what I have always heard about Genesis 1 and 2, I won’t be troubled by what Solomon says about creation.
As important as some of the issues that had been battled out, persons that battled out about creation over the last seven years, we hardly battled out over creation theology of what it means about God’s judgement, usually that’s what affects us. Or what it says about worship or what it says about a host lot of subjects that is not to say that the discussions had been unimportant, I don’t mean that. What I mean is would we get the full flavour of what creation in theology would have to say to us in the Scriptures and we don’t want to get started on that. And we will do that.