Lecture 2: Methodology of OT Theology
Course: Old Testament Theology
Lecture: Methodology of OT Theology
I want us to talk about methodology for Old Testament Theology. At least the rest of the day and part of tomorrow, probably, as it turns out. You see there is a biblical need to have a methodology for Old Testament Theology. This is clear. We see the New Testament writers had one or more. And, um, I want to get started with this topic.
I have put the first several names on the board and, I think, about page 25 of Old Testament Theology, you could pick up the subsequent names when we get there. Though Old Testament Theology – that is an analysis of what the Old Testament says about God – has existed since the Old Testament itself because we see Old Testament writers interpreting previous Old Testament writers. Though it has existed from the oldest times and you can trace it into the New Testament and into the church father's and into Calvin and Luther and the reformers. The reformers of your choice.
It was in 1787 that most people date the beginning of Old Testament in biblical theology as we know it now. In 1787, Johann Gabler gave an oration. You can find it on page 492 of your “The [unclear] of Old Testament Theology" textbook. I will not read it to you, I just wanted you to know that this foundational lecture is in translation for you in your own resource.
The oration was entitled on “The Proper Distinction between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology” and the specific objectives of each. This was his first lecture as a professor. Notice the title, he is asking for a proper distinction between biblical and systematic theology. It is his opinion that in his time, 1787, dogmatic theology, which is synonymous with systematic theology, was a treatment of the creeds, a treatment of traditional beliefs, a treatment of philosophical understanding, but not necessarily biblical in its orientation. Now, of course, church historians would dispute the beginning premises that we have just stated, but this is Gabler's premise. And that this systematic theology basically knew what it would find before it ever got there.
What does the Bible teach about election, or about the church, or about salvation, or about the second coming of Christ? No need to read the Bible. We know already what the truth is. So, on the one end, Gabler with the dogmatic theology, had already decided what it was going to find in the Bible before it got there. And whether or not it was true during Gabler's time, certainly we know that can
happen. And it's happened to the best of us because we've studied some, or we've heard preaching, or we've been taught or...that's not all bad, is it?
We know what we may find before we start. We've made some decisions already. Some things are not up for grabs with you anymore. But, if taken to an extreme, you are absolutely closed to further explication of even the truth you have, or to having your ideas corrected. And though we can be kind to one another and must be as Christians, and we can love one another, some of us are wrong in what we believe, right? We can't hold at the same time, not even a post modern world, certain things that we hold and both of us be right.
For instance, if we hold that congregational government is biblical and we hold that Episcopal government is biblical, we have a problem. My solution is to say that the Bible is always true, we can misinterpret it, but the Bible is always true. But, certainly, one of us is wrong. Arminians and Calvinists cannot both be right on election. They can both have certain things down right, they can love one another, and they're certainly both Christians because they find salvation in Christ, but the can't both be right. So, we need to have a way of not always having our answers before we start. And, that way, according to Gabler – and this is one place he was right – was to have biblical theology. Let us search the scriptures.
Now, here was Gabler's method. He says put biblical theology before systematic theology. Systematic theology should grow out of biblical theology. That was his first point. Second point, what we need to do is to look at each biblical text and examine it historically. When was it written? By whom? For whom? All the sorts of things that you have become used to doing, and become used to doing in theology courses and exegesis courses. Do that, he said. Then he said, having done that, compare one biblical text to others to see where the Bible agrees and disagrees. So that you're already going to see that Gabler believed that the Bible was not always consistent with itself, which would separate him, of course, from people like Luther and Calvin and the English reformers and the radical reformation and all of the rest.
So, he said, put biblical theology first. Do the historical analysis of text. Compare the text, one another to see where they agree and disagree and then he said, find out what the universal abiding principles are. And, when you read what he says about the Old Testament, it's hard to tell how much would be left. That mostly moral commands – particularly the Ten Commandments – but find the abiding principles and, typically, unless an Old Testament principle was repeated in the New, it could not be an abiding principle and, even then, Gabler would filter others out. So, this was his method.
Gabler also found many historical inaccuracies in the text. His opinion was that the, the scripture was often [inherent][Phonetic] and historical and even theological statements. Gabler's philosophical viewpoint was out of rationalism, and I would say he is a liberal rationalist. So, Gabler was saying we have lots of contradiction in scripture. We have many difficult passages. We would like to get the true separated from the untrue, and then find abiding principles.
So, Gabler's a mixed bag in my opinion. I think he is correct to say that systematic theology needs to be built on biblical theology. There would also be other elements, in my opinion. But, I think biblical theology should be the foundation.
I agree the historical analysis ought to be done on a passage. It does make a difference who wrote it and to whom if we're to understand it correctly. I agree that we should compare one text to the next to make our [09:30] theological summaries. But, I would disagree with many of his conclusions particularly about the disagreements of scripture. But, Gabler is indeed a pioneer.
The second person G.L. Bauer, wrote an Old Testament theology, really the first that there was, in 1796. Bauer was also a liberal rationalist. He also found many aspects of the Bible to be unscientific and incorrect. Particularly, miracles, because they are unverifiable, in his opinion. He also looked for universal moral principles from the Old Testament. Repeated in the New that would be relevant for today.
It is also important to notice how he set up his study. In other words, how he presented his material in his book. Bauer discussed his method and then he divided all of the material he was going to cover on Old Testament theology into three categories. Theology, Anthropology, Christology. Standard, systematic theology categories. Theology. Anthropology. Christology. God, human beings, Christ.
And I say that, and only to continue to wet your appetite for George Lauren's Bauer's work. Because, after all, how many liberal rationalists can you read in one week. I say this because it is never easy to write an Old Testament theology for many reasons, but one of the reasons is there is so much material, how do you present it in a coherent way?
Bauer's way was to use traditional, systematic theology categories. Theology. Anthropology. Christology. He will not be the last to do so, and I don't find that an illegitimate way of approaching it, but approaching the difficulty of the subject, but I do find it less attractive than allowing the scriptures to unfold as they...as a cannon. As you'll, as you'll see.
Now, these two pioneers pretty much set the early stage for Old Testament theology. Bauer wrote the first book entitled “Old Testament Theology”. And, they had established the discipline on rationalistic principles that were skeptical of Old Testament history and miracles, that were skeptical of divine inspiration of the scriptures, and it was determined to separate the true from the untrue.
Now, then, the next name, diVita, who wrote his Old Testament theology in 1813, and then a third edition by 1831, diVita shifted the ground from liberal rationalism to a brand of liberal romanticism. His main influence was Immanuel Kant. You remember dear old Kant from categorical imperative. And though he deserves a better treatment than what I am about to give him, you know, there's, there's, he, he argued that within the human soul there's a sense of ought. I ought to do certain things.
And diVita argued, we shouldn't so much try to separate the true from the untrue the way a liberal rationalist would. But, we need to understand that in the ancient world myths and legends are standard literary faire and that those myths and legends – and he would include the miraculous pretty much in those – the myths and the legends carry religious feelings and universal spirit to them so that diVita would be one of the early persons who would say things like, well it doesn't matter so much if it's factually accurate.
Does it heighten your consciousness of God? Does it inspire in you religious feelings? Does it inspire in you a desire for higher standards of living. And, of course, his view of scripture was to treat it as an inspired book, but probably inspired in the same way that I find a great deal of literature inspired, goes something like this: By inspired we mean a higher ability to move human emotions or wills. So that I've written a poem or two, but I cannot move the human will and emotions say the way Shakespeare, Chauncer, Milton, on down to your favorites to the poets of high quality Robert Penn Warren that you would find can move your emotions and your will.
And, so, in the way that those sorts of writers are inspired, so is the Bible – but diVita's shifted the ground now. Old Testament theology is not so much about truth and error, but it is about universal principles. More than that, about a universal spirit that encourages you toward higher living. So, that's why I would say, really, diVita's not a liberal rationalist, but a liberal romanticist who believes that human beings have these thoughts. That human beings desire to do what they ought.
So, that's the standpoint...diVita's also, if you've heard of JED&P in Pentateuchal studies [phonetic], he's the first to separate the D-source. He's the father of the D-source. So, that's kind...he was working with the Pentateuchal [phonetic] Word with the Old Testament theology.
The fourth, Vodke. Wilhelm Vatke. Arrived in 1835. He, too, believed that there was a lack of historical acts in the Old Testament, but he moved away a bit from liberal romanticism to a certain version of Hegel – you remember Hegel, of Hegel's views. You remember Hegel. He says that history is a series of collisions between thesis –
someone says something is true or something occurs, then antithesis, the opposite of it, which then moves to synthesis[unclear], which in a very, again, if we want to get Hegel spinning in his grave we could really boil Hegel down to this. If you've ever had a discussion, some of you said you were married, there was [inaudible] and finally, a synthesis. This happens on a daily basis in some homes. Though in some homes, it's more like thesis, antithesis, thesis, antithesis, it is a long time getting the synthesis.
So, we know that what Vatke said...rather what occurs is, one thing happens in history then another and finally a synthesis and we move forward. This was his view.
Also in Hegel, there is this sense that there is through this series of collisions of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, there is constant development upward, forward in human existence. In other words, before there was Darwinian evolution, there was a sense of Hegelian evolution. And Vatke believed that the way history works is that you start with something primative and you move to something more involved. Darwinism, in not even a nutshell, but in a speck of a nutshell, is the movement from something simple to something complex. If you move from one cell to us, you have mo...you have done a lot of things, but you have moved from the simple to the complex.
How this played out in Old Testament theology for Vatke was he reconfigured the Old Testament along lines that you know best, probably if you studied the Pentateuchal [phonetic] is JED&P. He believed since the complicated materials should come last. All right, we are going to go from simple to complex. Complex liturgical text, like Leviticus, must come later, right? Must come last. This was determined by his philosophical presupposition not by the text itself, necessarily. But he believed, therefore, that the Israelite religion started as a simple matter of worship, say, with Abraham offering an alter sacrifice way back there.
And, probably, Abraham didn't believe that there was only one God. He was probably a polyatheist and then that eventually resulted in the prophets saying first there is ethical monotheism. There is only one God and we must live for him. And that as living for him got played out by the post-exilic times, in the 400's, B.C., you then had all these complicated rules and regulations for worship. But, it moved from simple to complex because that's just the way history happens.
So, then Vatke is really putting us in a position where you would say what Old Testament theology amounts to is figuring out the evolution of Israelite religion. Old Testament theology to Vatke is figuring out the evolution of Israelite religion. How did it move from simple to complex?
And, I have never understood how monotheism is more complex than polytheism. I just, just for starters – I'm not going to go very far with this – I would have thought that if we ended up with monotheism, we are not moving from the simple to the complex, but that's another...the way Vatke would have answered that, we're moving from the primative to the advanced. And, it's an advanced notion to believe in one God rather than many. That assertion would be disputed by a...well, in excess of a billion people today worldwide.
So, I start here. Now, these are the roots of Old Testament theology and as you read summaries of it, you'll see that these roots remain. Particularly, in the non-conservative strains of Old Testament theology.
Now, there came reaction. If you're saying that in this point in time wasn't the majority of Old Testament scholars up to 1835 pretty conservative folks, the answer is yes. Did they agree with that view of Old Testament theology? The answer was, no. But, they weren't writing Old Testament theology. They were still working, primarily, in systematic theology. They had not yet engaged in the new discipline until the second half of the board, here. And the way they responded remains some of the same way conservatives respond today. Not solely, but this is why I go over all our forefathers...why I go over the forefathers at this point.
The first is E.W. Hanksteinberg [phonetic] writing between 1829 and 1835. Hanksteinberg stressed Messianic theology in the Old Testament. As he read the rationalist, Gabler and Bauer and romanticists, diVita and the Heglian, Vatke, he argued that they don't see much value in the Old Testament. They're looking for a few universal principles, but that leaves most of the Old Testament untapped, right? We could agree with that. So, he said, for the Church, and for theology, we need to remember that Christology is the key to biblical unity and the key to theology. Christology is the key to biblical unity and biblical theology.
Thus, basically, over a six year period, Hanksteinberg [phonetic] was writing about Messianic theology in the Old Testatment. He found no dispute between biblical theology and systematic theology. He said they should be identical in their conclusions. He argued that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. He argued for the rational belief in the history, history of the Old Testament and so, in a way, Hanksteinberg [phonetic] was a conservative rationalist. He said it is rationale to believe in miracles. It is rationale to, to argue for the history, history of the Old Testament. It is rational to make a...that you can make a legitimate rational argument for Mosaic authorship. That if you don't accept Gabler and Bauer's presuppositions and their conclusions, you can find for and in favor of biblical unity, biblical accuracy and the importance of the Old Testatment because of its emphasis on Christ.
So, Hanksteinberg was really the first conservative voice to be raised, and you can still get his books in...ah...translation through Kregel Reprint. I mean, I think if you run it and I, I don't know if it's in print, but it's been printed and isn't the internet wonderful, we can find nearly anything if it's for sale in the United States.
I only mention in passing the next name, Hävernick, who died and his work was published posthumously in 1848. There are a lot of Old Testament theologies published after someone dies. One of the things I've been criticized for was for publishing Old Testament theology too early in my career. I thanked them for noticing.
But, there is some wisdom in waiting until you know something. This isn't needed, but Hävernick said Christ is the climax of history. We are entering in the eight, post 1835 and you see with Vatke and others, history is the most important subject. Is something historical? What about historical method? Hävernick said Christ is the climax of history. You want to talk about history, there's nothing more important. No more important historical event than Christ's death and resurrection. And, he argued, history is God's vehicle for revelation.
Unlike the rationalists, who...you know, the liberal rationalists who said God doesn't break into history, Hävernick said God must break into history if he's going to explain anything to human beings. What else can he do? History is God's way of speaking to us. And, so, I've mentioned him because he is the first really to argue, not in print, but in his lectures, that history is God's vehicle, revelation.
We'll then go to J.C.K. von Hofman,1841 to 1844 and his writing. Von Hofman was the first to use the term salvation history that you may have heard in your theological studies, if not, you will. Salvation history. He said that the Old Testament records God's efforts to save the human race. In other words, he was basically a conservative Hegelian. He said that in history you find God's efforts to save the human race and in scripture, you find recorded God's efforts to save the human race.
And then, of course, the Old Testament is valuable because it talks about Messianic theology. But, it does more than that for von Hofman. It expresses the need for salvation. The law expresses our sinfulness. And the Messianic theology gives the answer to our sinfulness. And the Old Testament narratives explain how God has been delivering his people from the beginning. And that, therefore, his view of Old Testament theology revolved around the single principle of salvation history.
This will become important later on in Old Testament theology for two reasons. One, it focuses on a single theme; tries to find the unifying principle to hang everything on. A hook, if you will, to hang all of the coats of theology and because it emphasizes the accuracy of the Old Testament in telling God's historical work. And, for another reason, it is important because Evangelical Old Testament theologians in the next, after this, the next 150 years tended to stress that the most important thing in biblical theology, including the Old Testament, was salvation and how God did it.
Now that we have some clear differences between the four above the line on the board, and the four below the line on the board. Gabler, Bauer, diVita, Vatke, all of them believed that the Bible contains inaccuracies, mistakes, though diVita does not find that to be as big a problem religiously as Bauer and Vatke and Gabler do. Gabler and Bauer argue the universal principles...discovering universal principles, that's the purpose of Old Testament theology. Vatke disagrees. He says the process of Old Testament theology is uncovering the history of the evolution of the Israelite religion.
DiVita talks more in terms of religious principles. The four we just described, disagree with the presuppositions of the first four. They disagree that it's necessarily rational to argue for errors in the Bible for the lack of miracles. They argue rather that it is essentially rational to believe so. Hävernik, von Hofman and then Gustaf Oiler [phonetic], one that I'm going to pass over rather quickly, I'm afraid, all argue that the important thing about the Old Testament is salvation history particularly, Messianic theology, and Oiler even sets up his study of the Old Testament as law, prophets and writings. Whereas, both above the line – Bauer, diVita and Vatke – they make theological principles. It's usually systematic theology categories – God, human race, Christology. And, Hanksteinberg [phonetic], Hävernik and von Hofman tend to focus on Christology in the Old Testament. Oiler [phonetic] is saying the law, prophets and writings are a way of describing, or means of describing, what the Old Testament teaches.
So, in effect, the people at the top, Gabler, Bauer are going to argue the Old Testament is only valuable for some universal moral principles. Whereas, [unclear] would say, no, no, no, it's important to see biblical unity and what we can find out about Christ in the Old Testament and how God saves.
This takes us up to a watershed moment. But, ah, basically this is up to 1875. Well, a second thing is, um, that conservatives take, ah, not just a single thing conservatives and non-conservatives are going to pick up later. That was for the whole discipline.
A second thing that happens, at least a second thing, is that conservative scholars are going to pick up this theme of salvation
history almost exclusively, though some non-conservative scholars do as well. And, a third point is this, this notion of salvation history being God's efforts to save the human race, is a much discussed topic.
I don't know if that's two things or three, but those are the things that I was thinking of. And, von Hofman, von Hofman agrees with Vatke that history is very important. He agrees that there is a development in history, only he would say the peak...yeah, he, he agreed that history really was getting more and more important and it was growing toward a specific point.
What do you suppose that point would be if you were von Hoffman? What would be the climax of history? Christ, sure. Now then, you're going to find out in any discussion when people share presuppositions and disagree on results, it's often tough to see how they can come together.
It is also true if you share someone's presupposition in an argument, they can use that presupposition – lack of a better term – to beat you with it. So, that the very fact that the early conservatives in many cases accepted the Hegelian view of history, became the very reason they could not dispute in the next hundred years, they could not dispute people...dispute the conclusions of people they disagreed with.
In my view, and the view of a lot of conservative and non-conservative scholars alike, history doesn't necessarily always grow to a point. The fact that Christ is the most important view of history, does not mean that there had to be all of these little steps along the way. But, in salvation history, they argued there was this step, then this step, then this step and this prophesy and this prophesy and, finally, Christ. But that, that's just the way history happens.
So they shared some presuppositions, they disputed some presuppositions such as the authority and the nature and inspiration of scripture. They shared some conclusions, they disputed about some conclusions. The main difference in the presuppositions of the first four scholars and last four scholars had to do with the nature of scripture itself. With its authority and with its inspiration. They started from different places, they ended up at different places on that issue. But, I didn't want to leave the notion that there were no agreements, though there are substantive disagreements.
But, at this point in history, one book was written that changed the whole field. And note there on page 25, Julius Wellhausen in 1878, Wellhausen, wrote a volume entitled “Prolegomena to the History of Israel”. Prolegomena is what you have to say before you can get started. Today is a prolegomena to Old Testament theology. Maybe you say it's things you think you have to say before you get started, but Wellhausen was not as much an original thinker as he was a master at synthesizing, bringing things together.
He was great at synthesis. He was a clear writer. He was an effective writer. I've heard this phrase before and I could apply it to Wellhausen. He wrote like an angel. He was a great stylist. And he wrote at a point in time in which his views were most likely to be well received.
So, if you want to make an impact, if you want to be the person who writes the book in your field, just remember, you will need these things. You will need to be a brilliant writer. You will need to be a great synthesizer. You will need to have a few original ideas of your own, which he had, and you will need to have history on your side.
What were Wellhausen's views? The same as Vatke's, basically. Who, 40 years before had written that Old Testament theology is a description of the evolution of Israelite religion. That the prophets came first and wrote about ethical monotheism. Wrote about covenant thinking. That Israel has a covenant with God. Then, later came the deuteronomistic literature which talked about covenant theology again. And, finally, the priestly writing.
What of Moses, you would ask. Wehllhausen, from his view of history, did not believe that human beings were able to read and write at that the time in which Moses existed, 1400 B.C. He did not have the benefit of archeology at the time. Archeology. One of the baby sciences of all time. Really, only now learning how to do its work. To be honest.
So, Wellhausen didn't know of all of the Egyptian text that predated Moses by far, or the Babylonian texts, or whatever. So, we give him a break here. But, he just would have said Moses would not have known how to write if he existed and as far a historical Moses, that's like asking for historical King Arthur. There may have been a king like that, but there have been so many legends built up around him that we could not know fact from fiction now.
And it was the priests of Israel, after the Temple was destroyed and rebuilt in the late 500's and the early 400's and down to the time of Ezra and clear on down to the time of Christ, that were writing these laws and rules and regulations. And, Wellhausen said one of the great things about Jesus was that he set us free from the rules and regulations, not just that had grown up around the Bible, but that were in the Bible itself. His view of history was evolutionary and Hegelian. It was not so much rationalistic as it was like diVita, romantic in its view of human beings, growing and becoming greater and having the sense of ought. What they ought to do.
Now, simply stated, Wellhausen swept the field. There are a lot of historical reasons for this, that I won't go into. But, I can tell you that by the end of the twe...by the beginning of the 20th Century, there was hardly, there were exceptions that'll prove the following rule, but there was hardly a chair in Old Testament in Europe that did not agree with Wellhausen's views.
It was one of those quirks in history in which most of the conservative scholars were older and, as we get older, we either retire or die. And they were not replaced with conservative scholars, but those who were in the Wellhausen vein. And, in fact, for a long time, there were people who saw no difference between. Saw no dichotomy between a reverence for religious truth and Wellhausen's views because, after all, since 1813, we've been hearing simply because something isn't accurate, does not mean there's no truth in it. Though there is a strong conservative disagreement to that position.
In the United States, the Southern Baptist convention [not clear] basically became true there by post-World War II era. This viewpoint had swept the field. There was hardly an Old Testament scholar writing. Why, I shouldn't say writing, being published and writing are two different things. And teaching and being heard are two different things, as you know. But, certainly, Wellhausen's view was the dominant viewpoint whether you are talking about pentateuchal studies or Gospel studies, which he then influenced after pentateuchal studies.
But, back to my subject matter, in Old Testament theology. What did Wellhausen say Old Testament theology was? It was a description of the history of the evolution of the Israelite religion and it moved from a primitive to a more developed notion. The scriptures. He would say they were inspired, but not inspired in a way that would make sure that they were historically and theologically accurate.
Now, then, between 1878 and 1920, as I state in the textbook, this viewpoint was the dominant viewpoint. And, not to read the book to you, but just as a time saving device in a class like this, I would say if you look at page 26 and 27, second main paragraph, as [unclear] suggests, “Books that appeared under the title, Old Testament theology were often really history of Israelite religion”. So that, Schtaden and Cousch [phonetic] basically are history of Israelite religion.
And you say, what's the difference between that and the Old testament? Well, history of Israelite religion would include all sorts of things, wouldn't it? It would include an inherence to God's law and God's principles and to the Lord himself. But, it would also include polytheism, including bailism. Right?
A history of Israelite religion would be any religious thing that the Israelites practiced. Whereas, an Old Testament theology...admit it, yes, that's what was going on. But, we disagreed with it. So, whereas prior to Wellhausen and Vatke, whether they were conservative or liberal, the authors tended to focus on Old Testament theology. That is, what the Old Testament writers themselves thought
was true and false, right and wrong. Wellhausen and Vatke said, no, you mix it all together and just describe the history of it.
The next paragraph on page 27, I've noted, that Herman Schultz [phonetic] August Diehlman [phonetic] dialogued with Wellhausen. Diehlman, dis...in 1895, he disputed all of Wellhausen's conclusions. He was pretty much a lone voice. Herman Schultz was writing the most popular Old Testament in theology and the first, ah, one of the first to be translated into English. He does two things, though he accepts all of Wellhausen's presuppositions, he disagrees with him in two points.
One, he affirms divine revelation. The Bible comes, he says, from God, not solely from human beings who are trying to the best they can to understand. He affirms revelation. The second thing he does is affirms biblical unity. Wellhausen would not be a high proponent of biblical unity. And Schultz says the single theme we need to note is God's reign on earth. God's kingdom is the single theme that holds Old Testament theology together.
So far we have a couple of themes now, don't we, single themes. Von Hofman. Salvation history. Schultz, God's kingdom. You'll see these later in Old Testament theology and the history of it. So, even though Schultz agrees with Wellhausen in the main, he stresses divine revelation and the unity of scripture based on a single theme.
1920 to 1957. If there's ever a second edition of the book, that's the date I would put on it instead of 1920 and 1960. 1920 and 1957. In a way, if you say it...how...how did Old Testament theology break away from a history of religion's approach of an evolutionary approach that human beings are growing into a greater and greater entity. An improved entity. What did the most to explode that notion at least for a time? World War I. World War I.
When you say, oh...in the late 19th Century a lot of liberals, and I mean capital “L” liberals, would argue that human beings were progressing and getting better and better, and look at our technology, they would say. In the early 19th Century nothing moved faster than horseback in North America. Maybe camels are faster, I don't know, but you couldn't move any faster than some beast could get you. And look, by the end of the 19th century we have trains, we have all sor...we have automobiles in the making. We can move faster than we've ever moved before.
It was you used to...you had to send a message over land and see, whatever else, right? By the late 19th century you had telegraph. Transatlantic telegraph. The first internet. There it goes. We have electric lights, we have all of these technological advances. And, in World War I, they were all put to use. To kill people.
So, with the same science that could...came up with anesthetics, ri...that's a good thing for most of us, right? If you're going to have your leg amputated you'd prefer to have an anesthetic. If you're going to have your teeth pulled, you'd prefer that you have the pain deadened somehow. If you're going to have your appendix out, you'd, you'd prefer a little something to take the edge off. The same science that can do that can produce poison gas – mustard gas.
Did you ever read about that? Or, or...I mean, I won't go int...mustard gas. I, I saw an interview once with a World War I veteran –
I used to know some, they're about all gone now. They talked about men who had mustard gas on their face. That they literally clawed the skin off their own face trying to get it off of them. I mean, you know, it's basically banned now. I mean even... you can have nuclear weapons, but be faster at least. But, the same technology that could produce an airplane for human travel, could produce an airplane that'll drop bombs on you. You get my point. And World War I was one of those horrible wars where the battlefield techniques were lagging behind the weaponry.
The United States Civil War was like that too. You know, they still had these methods of bunching up together and standing fairly close and firing rifles that could kill somebody from four times the distance. You know, you've got trench warfare. We're going to come over and get you. Well, we have machine guns.
In World War I, Karl Bart, who was a systematic theologian and Walter Eichrodt, who was an Old Testament theologian, both of whom came together and taught at...in Switzerland and several other writers and thinkers said, you know, if the human race is progressing, this is one of these things of, of two steps forward and three steps back, it's not an inevitable progression. Sin became a topic again.
Bart wrote in his Romans commentary, First Edition, 1919, about sin and the need for God. That human beings, if they did not have God, were lost. Wrote articles on the strange world of the Bible, emphasized the necessity of preaching and went to war with liberalism. He was not a conservative evangelical. He was what came to be known as Neoorthodox. But, Bart valued revelation as Schultz had done and said there were unifying things in the Bible such as reconciliation and creation, doctrines that came out in his massive church dogmatics. But, Bart set a tone that said that we need a day in theology, and others agreed.
In your [unclear] of Old Testament theology, the first two or three articles you have on page 20 through page 29, an article by Otto Eisfelt [phonetic]. This article was written in 1926. Eisfelt [phonetic] was in the old school of theology. Willhausen, Vaine [phonetic] and Eisfelt [phonetic] argued you must keep theology and history separate.
History, he said, is an objective discipline that just gives us the facts. Whereas, theology is talking about values and talking about truth and talking about morals, and talking about God. And it is very hard, he says, to historically verify God. It's a faith exercise, he says. So, we must keep them separate.
Following his article on page 30, you have what amounts to a rejoinder written in 1929 by Walter Eichrodt [phonetic] who is, in his own way, as significant as Willhausen is to Old Testament theology. Eichrodt argued the following: There is no reason to separate theology and history because both inform the other. As for Eisfelt's [phonetic] claim that history is an objective discipline that gives us only the facts, Eichrodt said, nonsense. History – written history –, requires selections, doesn't it? No historian tells you everything that a person did.
A historian...I'm reading a biography of John Adams, the second president of the United States right now. There are about 500 pages right in this book. Adams himself wrote many, many hundreds of pages more than that of letters that we possess, and diaries that are in...you know, historians possess. To choose what to include, right? History's not totally objective. We hope it tells the truth. We hope it has the facts in it, but somebody's got to organize those facts.
So that I am not a marxist historian, but a marxist historian does what every historian must do – choose a unifying principle for the history. I'm not a Nazi historian either, but Nazi historians chose, chose what elements of history they would include. So, remember, for good or bad, history is not just there, it requires principles behind it. You know that from reading history of your own homeland.
And there's quite a dispute, isn't there? On how to write history and who ought to be included and what oughta go. That's another subject, but Eichrodt said don't tell me that history is just there, it's just objective. History must have an underlying organizing principle. He says theology is one such underlying principle.
Someday, if it's not already happened to you, somebody will say to you, the Bible's not really history, it's theological history. Well, what are we to say to that? Yes, it is, but every history has governing principles. Theological or otherwise, and I don't think I'm ready to say solely because something is from a certain perspective that we know from the start that it's wrong, or would have known from the start when it was written that it was wrong. We would know now the dangers of the Nazi view of history. It's a little tougher to read the German history. It's a little bit tougher to have picked that out in 1925 than it was in 1945. But the principles were already there. The principles were already there to be seen.
And so, you know, I...there's a certain perspective...David McCullough of the biography I am reading now on John Adams, he says in the introduction that he has come to love John Adams and appreciate him, and he writes he hopes he's as critical as he needs to be, but he's impressed with Adams. I might of then shut the book and say, well, McCullough obviously can't be objective here. I can't trust what he says. He likes Adams, and I know he shouldn't like him, or whatever.
Or, you know, he's pro-American Revolution. He's glad it happened. He has a perspective. Should we set his book aside, no. Everybody has a perspective, they must be judged against a standard. That was Eichrodt point. And, Eichrodt is really now the Godfather of the single theme approach because he said theme and he picked that is historical and theological. That is not as tied to theology as, say, salvation is, and the salvation historians, but that is yet theological. And that theme, that single them, was the covenant.
Eichrodt said if you want to understand biblical theology, start with the concept of covenant. Why? He said, the very notion that you have the Old Testament and the New Testament is to say there is an old covenant and a new covenant according to Jeremiah 31. Covenantal theology that says...is absolutely essential.
And so, between 1933 and 1939, Eichrodt published three volumes on Old Testament theology dedicated to the single unifying theme of covenant. His first volume was “God and the Covenant People”. God's relationship to Israel. If you would understand God's relationship to Israel, you must understand he entered into a covenant with Israel.
His second book, which was the most...which was more controversial, was “God in the World”, had to do with God and creation. That God is in a covenant relationship with the entire creation. Why was this controversial in 1935? Because, by 1935 Eichrodt lived in Switzerland, next door to Germany. A lot of contact with Germany. By 1935, Nazi theologians were using creation theology to argue for the superiority of the Aryan peoples. And the inferiority of not only non-caucasion, but non-Germans, non-Aryan's, so creation theology was quite a hot topic.
And then, in 1939, writing about God and the human race. Now, Eichrodt talked about the importance of salvation in Christ and of salvation history, of course, but always through a covenant lense. He argued that God was the creator of all and loved all equally. That non-Aryan's were not somehow sub...sub-par humans and then certain other races sub-human. I mean, part of the Nazi activity, and you say this is hard to believe didn't they have theologian's who [inaudible]. Yes. They had theologian's who, basically said for instance, Slavic peoples were sub-human. They weren't quite human. Therefore, when the Slavic holocust occurred, basically that's what it was, it was...you were not really...you would tell a soldier you are not really killing a human being. You are killing something not quite human.
So, Eichrodt found it important to talk about God and the human race while at the same time maintaining the privacy of Jewish...the Jewish nature of the Old Testament. And that, that was not a bad thing, but a good thing. And that the unity of the scriptures showed that the Old Testament was not some negative Jewish book, but just as much Christian scripture as the New Testament.
It is hard to imagine and I cannot imagine, I cannot teach it effectively, how countercultural to the European scene that, and particularly, the German, Swiss, Czech, German scene, European scene of the 1930's that Eichrodt was. To state a positive view of the Old Testament, to state a positive view of the Jewish nature of it, to state the unity of the scripture was to go against many of the streams, not only of culture, but of the background of Old Testament theology. Some of the things that we've already talked about.
And, after Eichrodt, conservative and non-conservative scholars alike, argued for a single theme approach to the Old Testament. They didn't always agree on the theme. That was always part of the argument. There is a single theme, and it is this. No, it is this. No, it is this.
So, we're going to, ah, just summarize now as you go on your reading, you'll find that some argue that the single theme is the nature of God, and I would agree. Some people argue the single theme is God's communion with the human race, or God's presence.
When you got to the 1960's, God's absence. Now, I believe it's important to have a single theme, or something like a single theme to keep your study focused. Covenant is a good single theme because there is much that covenant, that's a peg you can hang. Our relationship with God, our duties to God, etc. You can hang them on the peg of covenant. But, there are some texts that's hard to hang on that peg.
The wisdom literature it's...it's...pretty hard to see exactly how Job is specifically related to covenantal theology, for instance. “Song of Solomon” is another one. There are several texts that it becomes difficulty to hang on that peg. And having said that, I'm going to say, you know, I think the Bible's main focus in a polytheistic culture from which it came from and in which we live in, is...oh, it sounds safe, doesn't it? Hmm mm. [student response].
The problem is there are two books of the Bible that never mention the name of God. “Song of Solomon” and “Esther”. So, to quote a friend of mine's grandmother, “There's always something to take the joy out of living”.
Eichrodt agreed with many of Willhausen's presuppositions about authorship and date, but he did not share Willhausen's negative view of the Old Testament's history. He did not believe that every word of it was accurate or that everything seen there did occur, but he thought that it was in the main. Generally, historically reliable, and that the covenant was a historical event. That God made a covenant with Israel at Sinai. And that the rest of the Bible flows from that fact.
And, through the 30's, 40's and 50's, there were single theme approaches written. You can read about those. But, again, you'll find God the living Lord. God's communion with human beings. God's presence. These became single theme approaches to Old Testament theology.
From 1957 to 1993...what do I have in my notes that I can't do? Oh, I have about 12 scholars listed. I'm going to start with one, and that is Gerhard von Rad [phonetic] who is treated on page 36. Von Rad starts the section where it says 1960 to 1993. Here are his elements.
He agreed with many of Wellhausen's historical conclusions about authorship and date, but when he did his Old Testament theology, much of that was irrelevant because he stressed the unity of the Old Testament in the following manner: He said throughout the Old Testament you have traditions, old traditions that are preached and repreached. That what the Old Testament theologian must find is the kerugma, the preaching that goes on in the Old Testament.
So that not only von Rad, but an Old Testament theologian like G. Ernest Wright says that what happens in Old Testament theology is that each successive book of the Old Testament recites God's great acts. Recites God's great deeds. Theology is preaching. Theology is recital. So that von Rad believes there were certain historical events like Israel went into Egypt and came out, and that the text preached and repreached that theme the rest of the Bible. Believed there would be a Messiah. The text preached and repreached those themes throughout the Bible. Then, generally, he followed the Hebrew order of books in his message.
More on the implications of that tomorrow so I...I'll...bring a few things together for you. At this point, in Old Testament theology, they've moved away from the old rationalistic...though some of [inaudible] to there. And, conservative and liberals both, though the conservatives are going to enter the picture again in the 1960's, are adopting the idea that if we can find a single theme for our Old Testatment theology we can have some unity to our approach. Right?
Second, they are stressing God's work in history. Both sides of the Old Testament theology, conservative and liberal. And, with von Rad, you're going to start an emphasis on how subsequent text reuse
earlier text. Now, that's going to be very important to our study, because I believe that as the Bible unfolds from law, to prophets, to writings, there's certain themes that are in all three sections. Creation's one of them. So that you're going to find in Genesis I and II ideas that are then picked up in Isaiah 40 to 48 and then used again in a different way in Saul 93 to 99. That's why you have your readings the way they are. And von Rad said they're preaching the tradition. I would say they're doing something else as well, but that's why it's set up the way it is.
Tomorrow I'll conclude this discussion of methodology, ah, with a couple of scholars in my own viewpoint that you'll be reading, but I believe von Rad is right in the sense he's right about saying the text preaches and repreaches. I say that because there's a way in which, if when you preach or teach a text, or you write about a text, what we often do is we go get a commentary to see how somebody wrote about it. We might go get a sermon to see how somebody preached about it. Hopefully, preached it.
Well, one of the things to follow along that principle it's...a lot of us haven't thought about, but it might be interesting to see how Isaiah wrote and preached about principles that were already in the Bible. I'd argue there already scripture.
The interesting thing is to go to the New Testament and see, having seen what the law of prophets and writing say about creation. See what the apostle, John, says about creation in John I or the Apostle Paul says about creation in Colossians 1. To see how the Book of Revelation basically is, is a new way of describing what's already in the book of Isaiah.
You see, you're going to see the use, reuse, preaching and repreaching of these texts. And, as we follow that process, we're going to go through that and then we're going to draw a theological summary. An ecumenical [unclear] approach to Old Testament theology is going to say if you give me a topic, – hopefully it emerges from the text itself – but if you give me a topic, and if we can study the scriptures together, from law to prophets to writings, to Gospels, [inaudible] and general epistles, I will have an Old Testament theology that will lead to a biblical theology that would inform a systematic theology. And, if I do that, I'll know how to be a preacher, teacher, writer, student worker, whatever else you want to be.
You might even be able to ask the question, if I don't know what I want to be, and people are bugging me about it, is there anything about calling and the discerning of calling in biblical theology that might give me something to chew on? Well already, you know what, to me is a rhetorical question whose answer is yes. But, part of the joy is to say, okay, we know that this is profitable for doctrine for correction, for discipleship, etc., if we have this method of going from beginning to end, if we see the use and the reuse and if we
summarize and pull things together, will we not find out what God has done in history and what we ought to do in our own history.
So, that's kind of my closing exertation. We've moved a long way from 1787 till about 1957. We'll come along a bit faster tomorrow and we will deal with creation in biblical theology.