Seams in the Canonical and Covenantal Structure
Course: Biblical Theology
In our previous lecture, I finished the basic eight box outline of the Bible. Now you can see that on this overhead or on the handout that you have or that is available on the website. It has the eight boxes. The eight boxes have written above them the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. And they have written below them Covenant, Covenant History, Covenant Life, Covenant Prologue and Covenant Epilogue. So you can see that all of my descriptive labels from Prologue down to Covenant, Covenant History, Covenant Life and Covenant Epilogue are covenantally prefixed. That is, every one of them has covenant in it, because covenant is what structures the canon. And what makes our writings canonical is their covenantal nature. That which is canonical is by definition covenantal.
If you are interested in more detailed arguments about that and the relationship of it and how that works with documentary clauses and depository clauses in the ancient world, read Meredith Kline's book, The Structure of Biblical Authority. That will really help. You could also read Treaty of the Great King, by Meredith Kline, and that will also help, because he covers some of the same material there. That is a really good place to go.
I. Review of the Eight Boxes
By way of review, what we want to do now is – if you are taking a new set of notes, it is not a bad idea to draw your eight boxes up again with a blank piece of paper. We are going to start talking about how those boxes are sewn or glued together, the seams. We are going to talk about little seams, micro-seams, between the Law and the Prophets and the Prophets and the Writings. And we will talk about testamental seams, that is, seams between the Old and New Testament. And then we will talk about massive canonical framing things that we have already alluded to.
Let us draw our eight boxes. Really, this eight box grid should be something that is just burned into your mind. It is a most helpful way for looking at and viewing, in pictorial fashion, the entire structure of the Old Testament canon and the New Testament canon. It is the entire structure of our Christian Bible. And we will put up here Law, Prophets and Writings. We will put on the bottom Covenant, Covenant History and Covenant Life. Then we will put our Prologue and our Epilogue, just so we can identify where we are in the boxes.
Then again, I will number the boxes so it is easier to describe them. The prologue box will get a zero and the epilogue box will get a seven. The bottom register of boxes – those New Testament Covenant, Covenant History and Covenant Life boxes – we give those one, two and three. Then the upper register or Old Testament – Law, Prophets and Writing books – we are going to call four, five and six. This is just a way of numbering the boxes so that we can talk about box five, box three, box six. There is nothing really magical about those numbers, except that they do happen to correspond to the structure and the presentation of the days in the book of Genesis (the days of creation in Genesis 1 and 2). We will talk about that at another date and time. So those are our boxes.
II. Canonical Seams
Now we want to talk about what I am calling, and what others call perhaps, as a metaphor, canonical seams. Now what is a canonical seam? Well a seam is the place at which two parts are joined together. If you are thinking about a garment, there is a seam between the body of the shirt and the sleeve. There is a seam in my shirt right here that connects the body of the shirt with the sleeve itself. There is seams in your pants that hold the front part of your pants together to the back part of your pants, so that they are staying on and appropriate. You know if your pants are getting old and you are getting overweight and you bend over, you can split the seam. And that is an embarrassing thing. So you know what a seam is.
Now in the Bible, when we talk about canonical seams, that is the place at which different sections of the Bible connect or butt up to each other. So, for example, there is a canonical seam between the Law and the Prophets. The "Canonicler" – that is another word we are going to use. What I mean by Canonicler is whoever put the Bible together in its final form. We do not know who that is. We may guess Ezra. We may guess Nehemiah. We may guess Judas Maccabee for our Old Testament canon. Who knows? Paul or John? We do not know who put together the New Testament in its final form. We do know from the manuscript evidence, however, that at least by the early second century it was circulating in a final form.
So we are going to talk about those seams that exist between the Law and the Prophets. Then there is going to be a seam that exists between the Prophets and the Writings in the Old Testament. There is also going to be a seam for us between the Old and the New Testament. We are going to talk about the seam of how Chronicles and the book of Matthew are fitted together, sewn together, in an inseparable way. I will do it this way. I will say it kind of provocatively this way: you cannot understand Matthew without knowing that Chronicles is the book that comes right before it. Matthew is theologically geared to be the answer to the book of Chronicles. It is not the answer to the book of Malachi. Of course it is in some sense, but really we are talking about how the canon is set up.
You can think about that seam being kind of right here at the right-hand corner of boxes six and three or at the left hand corner of boxes one and four. But if you are looking at the Bible in a linear fashion, where you have got a line of Old Testament literature and then you have got the event of the life and ministry and crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus in the center and then you have got a line of New Testament literature, that seam would be right here at the cross. What sews the Old and New Testament canonically as a document. These lines represent literature, not history. That is what we are looking at there and so we are going to do that.
a. Review of the Binding: the Introduction and Conclusion
To begin with we are going to talk about seams – what I call divisional seams: seams between the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. What I want to look at first is not necessarily a seam. Let me just review. If we have a book and we have a binding that is sewn together, what holds that binding together is the book cover. We do have a book cover that holds all the seams together as well. We talked about that yesterday. That is Genesis and Revelation. We talked about how in Genesis 1 and 2 you have creation and then marriage and then Satan in that A-B-C pattern. In the book of Revelation, chapters 20 to 22, you have those same three topics discussed but in reverse order. You have Satan then marriage and then creation. And those are not necessarily seams, but it is the book cover that encapsulates everything. It holds the seams together. So before we talk about the seams, it is appropriate to remind you that, in the midst of those seams, what is holding the whole thing together is that great big chiasm: creation, marriage and Satan, Satan, marriage and creation and all the totality that exists between them. A-B-C, C-B-A: you know you are done when you repeat the same thing in reverse order. It is the closing of the canon. That is the book ends. Nothing exists outside of those book ends, for me.
b. Divisional Seams
Now, let's talk about our first seam right here: the seam that exists between the Law and the Prophets. What we are going to find in the Old Testament is that there is a seam at the end of the Law and the beginning of the Prophets. And then we are going to find there is seam at the end of the Prophets and the beginning of the Writings. And the seams at the ending or the termination point of each part of the canon correspond. And the seams at the beginning of each part of the new sections in the canon correspond. So it cannot be an accidental construction. They are intentional seams. They are produced either originally and under divine providence and inspiration came together like this, or by the Canonicler, or some combination thereof. The Canonicler under divine inspiration may be the best description. But we just simply do not know.
1. At the End of the Law
So let's begin with the end of the Law which is Deuteronomy 34:10-12. At the end of the book of Deuteronomy, there is this accounting of Moses' death. Probably Moses did not write this part. He is dead. And then later it talks about "and ever since that time no prophet has arisen in Israel like him", which means there is a significant time gap for historical recollection. Let me just read Deuteronomy 34:10-12 for you. Deuteronomy 34 includes the death of the blesser. We talked about that. In the end of Genesis, you have the blessing of the twelve tribes and the death of the one who blesses, Jacob. Here you have Deuteronomy 33, the blessing of the twelve tribes, and then the death of the blesser. So here is the end of the Law, the death of the blesser.
Deuteronomy 34:10-12, "Since then," that is the death of Moses, "no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all these miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt to Pharaoh and to all of his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of Israel." This is the conclusion that is written in a way that pushes you eschatologically forward in search of the ultimate prophet.
At the end of the book of Deuteronomy there is this statement. It has to be historically distant from the actual event of the death, because the author of that text is saying: "Since that time, we have never had a prophet like him." We had Nathan and Gad, but they are not even close to Moses. We have had Isaiah – and boy, that guy could write. We had Jeremiah. He was good on the whole new covenant thing. We had Ezekiel. He had some great stuff on the temple and some great visions about the throne-room of God. But since that time, there has been no prophet like him. We had Elijah and Elisha. They did a lot of great and cool and miraculous things, but nothing like Moses. No one has ever written like Moses and performed deeds like Moses and mediated a covenant like Moses. In Moses you have all of these great things. He was the ruler, the covenant mediator, the judge. He did all that kind of stuff. He performed miracles and there has been no prophet like him.
So at the end of Deuteronomy, in chapter 34, it is pushing you forward. It is saying: "Go on, go on. There is more. You have got to look for the prophet. Look for the prophet who is to come." Now, we know earlier in Deuteronomy, there are the laws for identifying a prophet and who a prophet will be and what he will be like and what are the false prophets and stuff like that. So, there is some anticipation of the office the prophet having a form of continuity in it that will ultimately look for the ultimate prophet. And here the guy has got to the end and reflected on this and said: "Hey, since this time there has been no prophet like Moses." And so it demands for you to look for the prophet like Moses.
We know, because we have got the answer key, who that ultimate prophet is. It is the guy who is down in this category right here. If you are reading in your blocks, you are not in a linear thing. This is not in a linear fashion, like we do normally in our western minds. But if you are reading in your eight blocks, numbered zero through seven, when you get here and at the end you say: "Hey, there has never been a guy like Moses ever, ever since." But down here you get the answer to that. The anticipation is over for us. We have got in the lower block, block one, the answer to the problem. We have the Prophet who has come and superseded Moses.
And we have seen how he superseded Moses. Yesterday, we talked about the discontinuity between the Old Testament Gospels and the New Testament Gospels. And we could say He superseded Moses in at least two ways. First, He did not speak on behalf of the Lord, but He spoke as the Lord. And secondly, He was not able just to ask to be an atonement for the people, He indeed was the atonement for His people. So, not only is He a prophet like Moses, but He is a prophet way beyond Moses. That is good news. That is the gospel. So that is at the end of the Law.
2. At the End of the Prophets
Now, let's skip to the end of the Prophets – to the end of our second seam. We will talk about the seam at the end of the Prophets, specifically the Latter Prophets. At this point we are going to look at Malachi 4:4-6. Now, in Malachi 4, really the message of Malachi ends in verse 2. You are done. Then something exists at the end where I do not know if Malachi himself wrote it or the Canonicler did (that is, the person who sewed the Bible together at the end). Perhaps the same fellow who wrote those words at the end of Deuteronomy is also writing these words for us. Perhaps he is giving us a hermeneutical clue for how we are to read the Bible or an interpretational clue, a sign post. When you get to a crossroad on a trip and you need to know which way to go, you are looking for the signs. You come to the end of this portion of the canon and you need a sign to know which way to go. At the end of Malachi, you have another one of those.
Here it is, it says: "Remember the law of My servant Moses." So again, he is pointing you back. "The decrees and laws I gave to him at Horeb for all of Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah," in the future, "before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, or else I will come and strike the land with a curse." Now this conclusion to the Prophets points us back to the Law with the mention of Moses. But it also points us forward to look for someone like Elijah who will herald the eschatological day of the Lord.
Now we know. We have the answer key. We know who the eschatological Elijah is. It is John the Baptist. And so again, you have the end of the Law pushing us forward to look for the greater Moses and the end of the Prophets pushing us forward to look to the return of Elijah (the one who will turn the hearts of the children back to the fathers and so on). These seams do not have a textual function. That is, it is not really a part of the message of Deuteronomy or a part of the message of Malachi. It is part of the message of the canon as a whole. It is macro-canonical seams. It is above the canon in the sense that it controls your interpretation of the canon.
So these seams, the seams at the end of each section, are eschatological in that they are pointing you forward to look for this ultimate prophet and this prophet who will herald that other prophet. Let me put it this way: the end of the Law and the end of the Prophets are demanding that you look for the New Testament documents. They are demanding that you read on. That is what they are doing.
3. At the Beginning of the Prophets
Now let me talk about the seams at the beginning of the Prophets and at the beginning of the Writings. So you can see how we are going to be talking about, at these seams, a place on either side of the seam. You have got to sew the stitch on both sides if you want a strong connection. If you look, for example, here you can see there is even more going on under here than there is up here.
At the beginning of the Prophets (specifically now we are in the Former Prophets because Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings head up that section), there is an imperative to do something that is very important. I may have mentioned this before. In Joshua 1:8 it says this: "Do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth. Meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Now, you may think that is just a good quote. You could have it anywhere and it is just darn good advice. If there was ever any wisdom literature that was wise, that is it: Think upon God's word. Well it is strategically placed for two reasons.
First is that it is heading up the first part of the new section: the first part of the first new section ever in the Bible. You have Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. That part of the canon is closed: sacrosanct, Mosaic, the holy of holies of all Old Testament literature. So when you get to the new section, you want to know what is this really about. You want to know what is the key thing and what is important. At the very first instance, the very first thing they say is: "Hey, we are all about the law of God. You are to meditate on that law day and night. And everything that follows in this section will be reflections on, expressions of, realities pertaining to the law of God." In other words, you must interpret the Prophets through the lens of the Torah or the Pentateuch or the Mosaic material, especially Exodus through Deuteronomy.
I would say this as well. You have to view Exodus through Deuteronomy through the lens of Genesis. So now you have your Genesis glasses on and now you have your Exodus through Deuteronomy glasses on and now you are viewing the Former and the Latter Prophets in that light.
4. At the Beginning of the Writings
Now, even though the command or the imperative to meditate upon the word of God day and night seems to be a common and nice and wise saying, it actually only occurs two times in this form. Isn't that interesting? Of all the places it could occur, it happens to occur for the second time in the first chapter of the writings. So you have this imperative to meditate on God's word day and night in the Prophets. And then you have a similar description of that reality in the Writings. For example, in Psalm 1:2 it talks about the righteous and says: "But his delight is in the law of the Lord and on His law he will meditate day and night."
So like the seam at Joshua 1:8, this introduction is a hermeneutical push backwards. It reminds readers that all of the following is based upon and is to be interpreted through the lens of the Law. So you have got these two unique expressions at the beginning of the Prophets and at the beginning of the Writings. They are pointing you backwards saying, in essence: Everything that follows is ultimately based upon the Mosaic legislation, the law, the law of God.
And that helps you to understand it. That helps you to understand why Israel is constantly getting into trouble. It is because they are disobeying this law. That helps you to understand a lot of the Wisdom Literature. Why would you do certain things the way the book of Proverbs says? Why would you praise God with the Psalms? Why would you live a life that is counter to Ecclesiastes' anti-wisdom? Only if you were in covenant relationship with Yahweh. None of it makes sense without that covenant – without the formal relationship between Israel and Yahweh. It could not happen. It does not make sense. It would be nonsensical. So those things push you back.
5. The Importance of the Three-Fold Division
You have here then, at the end of the Law and the beginning of the Prophets and at the end of the Prophets and the beginning of the Writings, intentional canonical seams. The seams at the end of the Law and the end of the Prophets push you forward looking for the ultimate prophet. The seams at the beginning of the Prophets and the beginning of the Writings push you backwards and say: When you look for that prophet, remember he has got to correspond to the Law. He has got to be born under the law – those kinds of things.
So the canon is intentionally sewn together at this point. What these seams show us is, first, the importance of the three-fold division of the Hebrew Bible. These seams do not exist when you have a four-fold division, especially in this nice parallel way where you have got the two ending seams being forward-looking and the two beginning seams being backward-looking. Do you see how they crisscross? You have got them going backwards and backwards and then forwards and forwards. That is how you have a nice stitch: backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. It just makes such good sense. Again, it is another reality that, when I look at my Bible and I see it constructed that way and then sewn together, it shows you that it is not an accident. These books have not been blocked that way accidentally. It is not just a nice and interesting description, but I could take it or leave it.
If you rip those blocks asunder, you are ripping the seams apart. Have you ever tried to rip a shirt or a garment at the seams? What happens? It tears the whole garment. It no longer works the same way. You cannot ever put the garment back the same way, because you have destroyed the seams. It is no longer useful in the same way. We do not want to tear the garment of the Biblical canon. We want to keep it together. Does that make sense?
c. The Testamental Seams
Now, let me talk about a different kind of seam. At this point, I want to talk about what I mentioned earlier: the testamental seams. This is the seam that exists between the Old Testament and the New Testament. We are going to do that by looking at Chronicles and Matthew.
Now, it may not be obvious, since we are not necessarily familiar with the Hebrew Bible order. Remember, Chronicles is the last book of my Hebrew Bible. Matthew is the first book of the New Testament. So the question is: Is there a relationship between these two books here that helps to understand the relationship between the Old and New Testament? And is there a way that says these books are connected showing continuity between the Old and New Testament or discontinuity or at least integration? Is there something that says they have to go together? In some sense I have to argue with you. I have to convince you that Chronicles is indeed the most fitting conclusion to the Old Testament and the most fitting preparation for the New Testament. And I have to convince you that Matthew is the most fitting beginning of all the gospels for the New Testament. It is not an accident, that kind of stuff. So that is what I am working on here.
1. The Genealogies
Now, let me begin by giving you a couple of interesting things with regard to Chronicles and Matthew. First, there are only two books in the entire Christian Bible that begin with genealogies. Guess which ones they are. Chronicles and Matthew. There are only two books in the entire Bible that begin with genealogies and they are Chronicles and Matthew.
Now that is interesting, because genealogies are placed at points where redemptive history is advancing. You just do not have genealogies because you are feeling nostalgic and you want to look at your ancestors and feel good about where you have come from. In the Old Testament especially, genealogies are given to identify key themes and to advance redemptive history. So when you see a genealogy the size listed in Chronicles, you know that something major is happening. It is not just a genealogy that is few verses long or even a few chapters long. The genealogies in Chronicles constitute nine chapters: 1 Chronicles 1-9. It is not everyone's favorite devotional literature. No one having a bad day and wanting to be encouraged sits down and reads genealogies like in Chronicles 1-9. But perhaps if I can get you to think about differently you would.
At this point I am not going to talk about the genealogies, because the genealogies do a couple of things for us. The way they are constructed and the way they talk about the tribes and they talk about the world, they do it in concentric circles. The world is the outside circle. Israel is the inside circle. Then you have Judah inside that with the Levites and the temple. So the genealogies in Chronicles provide you with a worldview which has basically Jerusalem as the center of the universe. And the temple is at the center of Jerusalem. And so the temple, Yahweh, is the center of all reality in the universe according to the genealogies in Chronicles.
2. The Kingship and the Temple
But, what is also does is it starts us on the track of looking at a great event in redemptive history about to happen. It introduces a new phase in redemptive history. And then everything that comes after Chronicles rehearses those major points in history, preparing us for something new. If you know anything about Chronicles it traces and highlights basically two things; the kingship of David and the establishment of the temple. And so Chronicles in its writing (in its construction) is preparing us for a new era in redemptive history. It is where there will be some kind of great new David and some kind of great new temple.
Because we know that, according to the structure of Chronicles – we have talked about with Ezra, Nehemiah and then Chronicles. Ezra begins with the decree of Cyrus in 538. Chronicles ends with that same decree. Then there is about 138 years of history that is left flat. It is saying that that return from exile is not the one that is being prophesied about by the prophets. It may look like it, but it is not.
In fact, I could show you this, for example, in Haggai. We talked about the glory of the second temple that was being reconstructed. Ezra and Nehemiah come back. Nehemiah really gets the building projects going. You have them wanting to rebuild the walls and the temple. It says in Haggai 2:9 that the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house. This means that the new temple will outstrip and outshine the Solomonic temple. Let me read it. Haggai 2:9, "'The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,' says the Lord almighty. 'And in this place I will grant peace declares the Lord Almighty'."
Now compare this with Ezra 3:12-13. "But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads who had seen the former temple …" Now I am talking about the temple has been rebuilt and they are looking at its foundation. There is a group of elderly gentlemen around who had participated in the first temple. They had been a part of the first temple. This is what they did. Let me back up and read that again. "But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when the saw the foundations of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy."
Here is the thing. The younger generation who saw it being built and who had never seen it before, were just excited to see it built. They had never seen the temple before. They thought things were going well. But those who had seen the temple in its former glory knew that it was a pale comparison. So they wept because they knew the verse in Haggai. Well, Haggai was around then. Haggai said this temple will be supersized in glory and in its ability to secure peace over the first temple. And it was not.
And so Chronicles is recognizing for us, I believe, the failure of the return from exile. It recognizes the failure of what is left of Davidic kingship. It recognizes the failure of the temple. And it is like those verses, those seams, pointing us forward. We need to be looking for the ultimate Moses and the Elijah that will herald him. We need to be looking for the true David and the new temple whose glory will outstrip everything else.
3. The Passover
Another way that this does this is a very interesting one. It is the significance of the Passover. You may or may not be aware of this, but there are only two places in the Old Testament where the Passover is highlighted or is even a topic of discussion. The first is the exodus event and the second is in Chronicles. That is interesting. You would never assume that the Passover is a big deal, but all you have to do is a lexical study. Look up the word Passover. It is very common in Exodus. Then they talk about the Passover laws in Numbers and Deuteronomy. But it is almost never discussed again in the entire rest of the Old Testament canon until Chronicles. And it is not really until the end of 2 Chronicles, in the last few chapters of 2 Chronicles. Then you have it nineteen times. Silence for almost 1000 years and then the issue of the Passover is coming again and they are preparing to celebrate the Passover.
Now, in Exodus, they celebrated the Passover for exodus: the act of ultimate salvation for them. In Chronicles, they are preparing. Again they are at the end of Passover. And so, what are they going to expect after that? Yes, deliverance. They expect a new exodus, a supersonic exodus.
And so if you see how the canon is structured this way, you are looking for a greater prophet, a greater king, a greater temple and a new exodus. It does not get any better than that. That is amazing. And exodus is a saving event. Remember that. It is a place where the Lord fights as a warrior for His people to bring deliverance. The exodus event is an event where the Lord fights as a warrior to bring His people deliverance.
4. The Warrior
This brings me to my third point. How will this happen and who will be the warrior? Now I can tell you exactly who will be the warrior, because the book of Chronicles ends with a verb in Hebrew: 32:15 Y-haow and it is a very interesting thing for a couple of reasons. First, if you know anything about Hebrew, Hebrew loves its verbs up front. The verb first is the mantra of most Hebrew narrative. Now here, if the verb is last, that is something new. That is something unusual at least. That is something that you should take a look at. And so you begin to take a look at it.
And it is this verb let him go up. It is one word, but in English we have to translate it with let him go up, with four words. And so, maybe you are thinking to yourself: "Big deal. That is just a common, everyday, stupid kind of verb." But it is not. In Hebrew, it is a holy war verb: to go up. To let him go up is a holy war verb. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
We can also mention here, in this context, there are only two books in the Hebrew Bible that actually end in a verb. This is one of them. And so, it is a rare occurrence. And so, when a book does end in a verb, we need to take note. This is a place where it does.
The verb to let him go up is a verb for war and conquest in this way. When Israel was occupying the Promised Land, after the exodus, they would frequently engage an enemy. When you went into battle, you would go up. When as an army you went up, because you had the twelve tribes, there was usually this question by the priest or the leader like Joshua: Who will go up first? And then they would cast lots or the Lord would declare: "This person will go up" or "This tribe will go up". That is how it would work.
Let me give you an example of that. In Joshua 1:1-2 it says: "After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel inquired of the Lord: 'Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?' The Lord said: 'Judah shall go up. Behold, I have given the land into his hand'." Think about the book of Judges. There was a lot of war going on there. Judges 20:18. "The people of Israel arose and went up to Bethel and inquired of God: 'Who shall go up first for us to fight against the people of Benjamin?' And the Lord said: 'Judah shall go up first'."
So, the book of Chronicles ends with this verb: let him go up. A Jewish man living in that time, who was of wartime age, would have recognized that as a warfare verb. His reflex would be to ask this question: "Well then, who will go up first for us?" And then, we have to answer our question: Who will go up? And if we are going to answer that question – well we do not answer it, but the New Testament answers it with the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew. Jesus will go up. What tribe is he from? Judah. The exact same tribe mentioned in both Joshua and Judges.
Remember, the Passover marks the beginning of a redemptive event where God acts as a warrior on behalf of His people to save them. So, we must interpret the life and ministry of Jesus as an act of war where God comes to fight on behalf of His people. Jesus is the new Moses, the one who leads us into or through our second exodus. He is the man of Judah. He is the warrior of Judah who will go up. That is the only way you can read that. I am not the only one who recognized that. I think that is well-described in Victor Hamilton's, Introduction to the Historical Books, when he talks about Chronicles. It is a remarkable thing.
So you have these two books. There are only two books in the Christian Bible that begin with genealogies. And the one of them ends by asking a question that the other one answers. That is Matthew.
And here is the interesting thing when you think about genealogies. In the Old Testament, we have a lot of genealogies starting in Genesis and running all the way through Chronicles. The Old Testament is, in some sense, book-ended by genealogies with lots of them in the middle. And, in the New Testament, we get these genealogies that culminate in Jesus in Matthew and Luke. Then where do you get your next genealogy in the New Testament? You don't. There is no new genealogy. Why? Because you are done. Jesus is the goal of all Old Testament genealogies. Once you get to Jesus you do not need any more genealogies because all of creation from Adam on was having as its goal the incarnation of the Son of God to come as a warrior to save us from our sins in an act of warfare. It is remarkable. It is remarkable how that plays out if you read these books in their canonical order like that.
Let him go up. Who will go up? Judah shall go up. Well, which one from Judah? Jesus. Did he fight? Yes. Did he win? Yes. Is he coming back to do it exactly how he did it in Joshua and Judges earlier? Yes. And it will be even uglier on that day. The book of Revelation makes the genocide of Joshua and Judges seem like kindergarten play-time comparatively. It is massive. It is massive. So there are these seams there.
So, in terms of the seam Chronicles and Matthew, you have the issue of the genealogies connecting them and the issues of Passover. And Jesus is the what in the New Testament? The Passover lamb. What does John say? "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." John the Baptist new exactly what was happening there. And then you have the issue of the going up in the warfare. All of that stuff connects these books as we interpret them.
5. Discussions of Adam
It is also interesting, in terms of thinking about the Old Testament perhaps, that there are only two books in the Old Testament that happen to begin with discussions of Adam. Only Genesis and Chronicles begin with Adam – the first and the last book. Isn't that interesting? So remember how we talked about how Jesus mentions Abel to Zechariah in his description of the martyrs – from Abel in Genesis to Zechariah at the end Chronicles. We were talking about the order of His Bible in that day was Genesis to Chronicles. And we can also say the only two books in the Old Testament who begin with a reference to Adam would be Genesis and Chronicles again, those book-end books.
d. Divisional Seams in the New Testament
So there is massive thematic organization to the Old Testament canon by itself. And again, there is massive correspondence to how those New Testament boxes are arranged in one, two and three. We could argue that there are some seams between boxes one and two and two and three in the New Testament. But I am just not as sure yet how those work out. You may not need them because, up here [in the Old Testament], you do not have anything to go off. There is no pattern. And so, up here [in the Old Testament], you have got to have an intentional sewing together so they know how to keep it together. But down here, once you have got the pattern, the New Testament just falls into line. It follows suit.
1. The Seam between the Law and the Prophets
But you could, if you wanted to think about it, look for some seams. Do you remember how I said that, at the end of the book of Acts here, you are in Rome. Then, the first book in the Epistles is Romans. So there is some thematic correspondence between those New Testament seams. I am just not as convinced, at this time, about how those seams might work for the New Testament. That may be the downfall of this.
But I could say, for example, the New Testament seams between the Law and the Prophets, Acts 1:1-3 says this. Listen to these key words. "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day He was taken up to heaven after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. In His suffering He showed Himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God." You see how it has got a lot of that big theology that I am talking about? It is bracketed by, this section here, Jesus and the kingdom of God. And in the midst, you have the Holy Spirit and the apostles who are bearing witness to Jesus and the kingdom of God. See how that works? And then you get to Romans.
Acts is right here at the beginning of this testamental seam. So it is saying: "Hey look. We are starting a new section here in Acts, but we are still on the same topic: Jesus and the kingdom of God as being born witness to by the Holy Spirit and the apostles." OK, I can jive with that. That is good. Because remember you have Pentecost, the Holy Spirit bearing witness to all that Jesus had done and then you have the apostles, their teaching ministry and their preaching ministry and the coming up of Paul and all that stuff. So what is it about? It is about this. At the beginning of the book of Acts, it is saying: Jesus and kingdom of God are the content. The Holy Spirit and the apostles are bearing witness to it (to this block, block one). It is just like at the beginning of the Prophets in the Old Testament where it says: "Hey, we are all about this." And just like the beginning of the Writings in the Old Testament it is saying: "Hey, we are all about this law again." And so at the beginning of the Historical Books in the New Testament, Acts, it is saying: "Hey, we are all about this."
2. The Seam between the Prophets and the Writings
Now does that play out in Romans as well? Romans would be the first book of the New Testament Writings. There is quite a bit of correspondence there. It is not as ironclad, for example, as the repetition of meditate day and night, meditate day and night. But there is some correspondence here.
Let me read to you Romans 1:1-4. "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures regarding His Son who, as to his human nature, was a descendant of David and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord." So here you have the Apostle Paul with the Holy Spirit bearing witness to Jesus Christ through the Scriptures. So there is a lot of correspondence there. But it is not the same tight correspondence that I see in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament, for me, it is ironclad.
In the New Testament, there are a lot of things going on here pointing you back. Like, if I read to you this section. Paul is a servant of Jesus Christ, the guy back here. And it is the gospel He promised beforehand up here. It is in the holy Scriptures, regarding His Son, back here in box one. As of human nature, He was a descendent of David. Through the Spirit of holiness, He was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. So he is really tying all the canon together there in a lot of different ways. Perhaps it is just I have not had the chance to work through all the details and to come up with as many arguments for it. There is some sense of linkage between the New Testament Writings and the New Testament Covenant, but it is not as ironclad as these two spots.
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Testamental seams: Chronicles, genealogy, Passover, let him go up. I think we are done with talking about the seams. What the seam does, for me, is this. Yesterday we kind of wrapped the present and today we put the ribbon on it. We really just tied it up and made it ironclad. This is not accidental. This is intentional and highly structured. What I have given you is just an introduction to that reality. You could spend the rest of your life making sense of all this. In fact, what I started with on a sheet of paper has become 31 pages of single-spaced notes. That is just thinking about this stuff. If I tried to write that out longhand, it would be over 100. And so there is a lot to be done here. But I think there is still enough here to be convinced of the basic argument.
III. Conclusions and Implications
So let me just give you a few conclusions and implications. I think I have five of them. I will just give these in summary fashion.
a. The Bible Exhibits an Intelligent Design
Number one. The construction of the Christian Bible, the macro-canon, exhibits an intelligent design. Now, you will know from scientific studies (if you are into that whole thing) that the word "intelligent design" is a big apologetic word for trying to prove that there is a God and someone is in charge. Some people view the Bible as a human document that went through an evolutionary process. They think it is just darn good luck that we have what we have. Based upon what I have seen here and described to you, we have an intelligent design that points both to the ultimate Author and to the ultimate meaning or message of the one book. This is both making sense of the part and, at the same time, recognizing the unified message of the whole.
That is a tough thing to do in Biblical studies today, because there is so much controversy and diversity. One of the great things about the Biblical, theological study of the Old Testament and the emerging field of Biblical Theology today is that they are trying to put the parts back together into a coherent whole. We, as confessional Christians, believe that both the Old and the New Testaments are the word of God. He is the primary Author. So the pieces must fit together and make a part of the whole. That must be a coherent fitting together, not some kind of random, abstract or happenstance connection. That is number one.
b. The Structure Helps us Understand the Big Picture
Number two. The macro-canonical context helps us to understand the big picture. It helps us understand how the Old Testament and New Testament fit together and how the parts of each Testament relate. It helps us to understand how we ought to conduct ourselves in the Biblical house of God. Each room has a function and a purpose within the house and for the purpose of living in that house.
1. The Relationship between the Old and New Testaments
Let me explain to you two things here. First, now I think you can see in picture form the relationship between the Old and the New Testament. Now you may say: "Well, is it law-gospel?" And I would say: "Well, it is gospel-gospel." Well, is there a covenant of works in there? Yes, because if there is no covenant of works, Christ could not have done anything on our behalf and imputed it to us. And that is the gospel. He did something for us that we could not do and He gave it to us. He imputed it to us.
You can see this. Let me just put it this way in terms of the relationship between the Old and New Testament that may be helpful. In the book of Genesis, God makes a promise to Abraham. In essence, it is that Abraham's seed will be the seed of Genesis 3:15. He will crush the head of the serpent and, through that crushing, he will give him land, descendents and blessing. And the way in which God goes about bringing that promise to fruition is a two-fold way.
You can think about the "already" in the Old Testament and the "not yet here" for Abraham. And so the first way in which God goes about fulfilling the promises to Abraham is the Old Testament: Exodus through Chronicles. He lays down the Mosaic legislation, or He sets forth the Mosaic legislation: the covenant of works. He says: "OK Abraham, here is My promise to you. Here is the way I am going to fulfill it. Here is the law." Now, that is really not fair play. Could anyone ever keep that law? No. Was an Israelite ever intended to keep that law? No. It was impossible from the beginning. That is demonstrated by the episode of the Golden Calf.
And I would say, if you read Exodus 17 and the striking of the rock, the striking of the rock is the gospel. That sets forth the significance of the entire law. Remember this: the law is not given until Exodus 20. But in Exodus 17, the people sue God for breach of contract. They say He is not being a faithful suzerain or a faithful king. And so God has them execute a judicial case right there on the spot. You may recall the narrative. God says to Moses: "Take your staff, the staff with which you struck the Nile, in your hand. Call the elders and have them pass before the rock as witnesses." Then God said: "I will stand on the rock. Moses, you will take your staff and you will hit the rock." And so when Moses stands before the rock and he hits the rock, who is he hitting? God. He is hitting God. On that day, on that rock, in Exodus 17, Moses strikes Yahweh with the god-damning staff that he struck the Nile with. Remember, all those Nile plagues were focused at the Egyptian gods. That is why you can call it the god-damning staff of the Nile. That is what it is. God became damned on that day in Exodus in order to save the people from their sins. He saved them from their thirst, to preserve them in the desert so they would not die. It was so He would not kill them.
And in 1 Corinthians 10, Paul tells us that the Person on that rock was Jesus. That rock was Jesus. He was struck for the sins of the people before even obedience was a possibility to secure the covenant.
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He becomes the living water. So, even before the law was given, God was promising that He would take upon the covenant curses of that law, in order to provide life for His people. So when you read the book of Deuteronomy and you get to the section of all those curses and you think: "O my gosh. That is one cranky God to have all those curses." But I read those curses and almost weep every time. Why? Because every curse God stipulates in the book of Deuteronomy for breaking the covenant, that is the curse He is going to put on His Son to save you. Those are not curses for us in Christ. Those are curses for God who will save us from our sins by taking those curses for us.
If anything is cranky, Old Testament works – nasty, crusty law – it is those covenant curses in Deuteronomy. But once you interpret those curses through the work of Christ on your behalf, they become the greatest joy-inflicting message of all time. It transforms everything you know and you think about in terms of the law. It is remarkable. And so what happens here is God lays down, in Exodus through Deuteronomy, a covenant of works that no one can ever keep. So, if He is going to bestow the Abrahamic blessings upon us through this covenant of works, not only does God have to keep it Himself, but He has also to pay the price for those who disobey it. This must happen for those He wants to bring into His house.
Does that ever happen? Yes, right here, in this new covenant. Jesus perfectly fulfills this law. But then, in the midst of his perfect fulfillment (at which time He could have received all those blessings), He undergoes the curse that we deserved. He does this so that He could impute His righteousness to us. That is the gospel. So you can see here that the Abrahamic promise is set up for us in this works of the law in the Old Testament, so that it could be placed upon us, or secured for us, by the work of Another in an unbreakable fashion.
So the work of Jesus means that, when we are in Christ, we are free from the law. Why? According to Galatians it is because we keep it in Christ. He kept it for us. This no longer reigns over us. It has been perfectly kept. All the curses in it have been done away with. We only exist under those blessings because of the work of Christ in our behalf. That is remarkable. Now that is the theological umph of it.
2. The Structure Provides Hermeneutical Equipment
What do I mean by it helps us to understand how we ought to conduct ourselves in the Biblical house of God? This is an important thing in terms of hermeneutics. I want you to look at these eight boxes for a moment and think of them as the floor plan to a house. Perhaps box zero is your garage. Box one is your living room. Box four is your dining room. Box seven is your bedroom and stuff like that. One of the things that is helpful to think about this is you must conduct yourself in your house in different rooms in different ways. Perhaps you do not think about this. I do not park my car in my bedroom, because the bedroom is for another activity. It is not fitted for vehicles. Nor do I go to the bathroom in the kitchen. That would cause some problems because the kitchen does not have the appliances necessary for all of that. Think about this. If you want to really freak out one of your friends, invite him over for dinner and cook dinner in your bathroom for him. Would not that put an edge on the situation? Would not he say: "Let me take you out to McDonald's right now; do not put in all that effort"? So each room has a function. You must conduct yourself properly in each room to get the most out of it. If you continually park your car in the bathroom, you are going to have to do renovations pretty soon.
Now here is the thing. I believe that these boxes are very similar to that. Each one requires that we conduct ourselves a little bit differently. In some of them, we are looking for instructions on how to live day-to-day. We have the room for that: the Writings. In other ones, we are trying to figure out: "Who is God? What has He done for me? What does He require of me?". We have that. Those are called the Covenant Books. And then you can say: "What is the life of the people of God in the midst of the covenant look like?". You have these prophets.
So that is why I said earlier: "You can dare to be a Daniel." Its position in the canon demands that. Paul can say: "Imitate me" because he is in the midst of Covenant Life. He is trying to tell you how to think and live in light of God's covenant. But you cannot say, for example: "Dare to be a Stephen. Go to court and get yourself stoned." He is doing something there unique in redemptive history that is non-repeatable. It happened once for all. It is a final event. It is marking the beginning of a new age in redemptive history. You cannot dare to be a David, because there are not any of you in here who are the anointed Messianic king of Yahweh. I cannot tell you: "Dare to be a Moses." Not many of us have had the opportunity to speak to a burning bush, to have a staff that can turn into a snake or to part rivers. Moses had a very unique office and experience that is unrepeatable, except for only one person. Most of the folks in the Old Testament were driving you to Christ.
The judges are not moralistic flannel-graph figures. Here is how we normally interpret the Judges. Let me give you a little hint here. You look at the life of a judge like Samson. We can use him as a paradigm. Here is the application we normally draw from Samson. Samson was used by God, even though he was a sinner. If God can use Samson, surely he can use you. You may be bad, but you are not as bad as Samson. You are not killing people. You are not an adulterer. You are not marrying people. You are not being unequally yoked. You are not sleeping with a prostitute, as some think that Samson did. And if God can use Samson for His purposes, then he can certainly use you. Pull yourself up by your moral boot-straps and please God. That is not at all what is going on. Those judges teach us that, in spite of our incessant unfaithfulness, God will continually work to protect us and save us even when we do not deserve it. That is what those judges teach us over and over and over again. In fact, they do it twelve times because there are twelve judges. And even after all that saving, at the end of the book of Judges, they had become Sodomites. God does to them exactly what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah – almost completely extinguish them. The Benjaminites did exactly what the people Sodom and Gomorrah did. They had become Sodomites. So it is a terrible thing.
So you can see how this model does not just have power in terms of how it presents the Bible in an eschatological, Christ-centered, kingdom of God oriented way, but it also gives you the hermeneutical equipment necessary to interpret properly in each section. That is why, if I was ever fishing, I would never try to walk on water. It is just not a good time for that. That is a once-for-all thing that happened in the midst of the life of Jesus because of who Peter was and who Jesus was and all kinds of things like that. Those are unrepeatable things. You do have to be careful when you wear those T-shirts and wear those wristbands that are the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) because, in some sense, you are to be like Jesus. You are to turn the other cheek. You are to be kind to the poor. You are to be good to your neighbor. You are to be those kind of things.
But in some ways you cannot be like Jesus. We have talked about that. You cannot die on the cross for me. You can die on the cross for yourself if you want to, but it will not do any good for me. You cannot feed five thousand. You cannot heal a leper. You cannot cast out demons. You cannot do all kinds of things that Jesus did. So, if I tell you to do what Jesus would do, all I am doing is telling you to be a failure in your life over and over again. Rather, trust in Him who did it for you. Now that is the gospel. The gospel is not to be like anyone. The gospel is to trust in the Person who has done it all for you and there is nothing you can do to get out of it. That is the good news and that is what helps you hermeneutically.
That is how we are going to conclude this lecture and I will come back in some more lectures later and we will talk about how each of the individual books function more specifically in the midst of this architecture.