Lecture 6: Structure of the Christian Bible
Login to download lecture and curriculum
When the books of the Old Testament are ordered according to canon and covenant, they also correspond to the order of the books in the New Testament.
Course: Biblical Theology
Lecture: Structure of the Christian Bible
Welcome back and thanks again for coming to this second part of today's lectures. Here we are going to talk about the eight boxes that make up our canonical, covenantal, Christian Bible – Old and New Testament. Now these boxes are both Old and New Testament. So this is not just an outline of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. It is the whole deal. You may think you are here for Old Testament Introduction, but we have to include the answer key. So here we go.
Now I have told you that the Bible is divided into three. I did not tell you that. Jesus told you that in Luke 24: the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms. We talked about those as the Law and the Prophets and now the common or the accepted name is Writings. So Law, Prophets and Writings. We need to put that label over our six main boxes in the center here. So over boxes four and one you want to put "Law". Over boxes five and two you want to put "Prophets". Then over boxes six and three you want to put "Writings". The Law, the Prophets and the Writings. The word "Law" is written over boxes four and one. The word "Prophets" is written over boxes five and two. And the word "Writings" is written over boxes six and three. That is, outside of those boxes just one time.
I have also told you that the Law, the Prophets and the Writings correspond to Covenant, Covenant History and Covenant Life. So at the bottom of the diagram, underneath boxes four and one write "Covenant". And then underneath boxes five and two write "Covenant History". And then underneath boxes six and three, under Writings, write "Covenant Life'. Now we are filling out our diagram here. We have Law, Prophets and Writings or Covenant, Covenant History, Covenant Life. We have two boxes for each category there.
I. Introduction and Conclusion
Now every good book, and the Bible is the good book, needs an introduction and a conclusion. The Bible is no exception. It has an introduction and a conclusion. So over our very left box, box zero that is hanging out on the end there, we are going to write "Introduction". And over our number seven box, hanging out on the very right, we are going to write "Conclusion". Now if you want bigger, fancier words for that you can call that the Covenant Prologue. If this were a college course we would call it an introduction, but if it is a graduate course we will call it a prologue. Over the conclusion, if it was a college course it is a conclusion, but if it is a graduate level course it is an epilogue. We will use that language as well, because it may be more helpful to some folks.
a. Identifying the Bible's Introduction and Conclusion
Just by way of a wild guess, if you could think if any book in the Bible had to be the introduction you would probably guess … 1 Kings? Genesis. Yes, the introduction or the prologue to the entire Christian Bible is Genesis. And the conclusion? If any book could conclude all of history and all of the Bible and all that stuff, you would probably guess … Song of Songs? Ecclesiastes? Yes? No? The epilogue for our Christian Bible has in fact to be the book of Revelation. Now if I change the order of anything at all, I have basically said the first book is the introduction and the last book is the conclusion. So you can really see I am working at high-level scholarship at this point. It does not get any simpler at this point.
b. Evidence for Revelation as the Conclusion
But now I want you to see this. Why? Does it make any sense? I have told you, for example, according to certain studies – the David Trobisch book, second century manuscript evidence – that the book of Revelation actually circulated as its own document for a while. You had the Gospels together, Acts and the General Epistles together, the Pauline Epistles together with Hebrews being considered one of those at that time (whether or not you agree with that it does not matter to me), and then finally the book of Revelation. So there is actually evidence that this occupies its own particular space in the canon.
c. Evidence for Genesis as the Introduction
What about Genesis? I have just told you that there are three divisions in the Bible. In the Pentateuch, you have got Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. That is the law, the holy of holies. Do not mess around with it. So is it valid to cut off Genesis from Exodus to Deuteronomy? And the answer is "yes", because I just did it. See right here. But the real answer is "you bet". And I am not making it up. There are actually literary clues that not just suggest it, but demand it. All right, here it is, very simple. Originally, when Moses would have been chiseling on this stones to write Hebrew, there were no vowels, no punctuation marks and no paragraph breaks. There were not even spaces between words. They just wrote what is called scriptio continua, on and on and on. It was tough to chisel out rock and to write on that rock. So you did not play around with spacing and paragraph breaks and word spaces. Do you know what I mean? That was expensive stuff.
They had to adopt other literary devices that would enable Hebrew narrative, reading, speaking folks to know a minor break and a major break and that kind of business. So they will do things like begin and end in the same way (called inclusio) And so if you start one way and you end that way, that is the narrative break. Or they will just have some key repetitions to know where little sub-points are in the text. Or they can do things like use poetry to punctuate narrative to say that is the break – and the poetry kind of helps summarize it. John Sailhamer has an article on the literary structure of Genesis 1-11. He shows how in Genesis 1-11 there are a number of little poetic intrusions. Those poetic intrusions provide chapter or paragraph breaks in a story. And the poetry actually interprets or summarizes everything that has gone before or is about to explain what goes after. That is a major thing. That is just a literary device.
Here is what it is like in our modern day and age. It is like watching a musical. If you watch some of the older movies (maybe not everyone does), but let's say you watch Singin' in the Rain. You have Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. I do not know if you know Donald O'Connor – he is the one that did that dance Make 'Em Laugh. That is my kids favorite part in that movie. It is hilarious. You have to rent Singin' in the Rain, especially if you have got kids. So anyway, a good example of this is the musical Singin' in the Rain with Gene Kelly. It is not all singing and dancing. It is story punctuated by song and dance. And that song and dance kind of culminates that section. So when it is kind of the funny Gene Kelly/Donald O'Connor time and they are figuring out what to do in life. And then there is this Gene Kelly/Donald O'Connor dance about Make 'Em Laugh and this is what we are doing here. And then when Gene Kelly is wooing the woman, there is the story about him getting together with the woman and meeting her and talking to her. And then there is the romantic song and the two of them dance. And so the songs and the dances punctuate the narrative or the story. There are breaks or moments where you are transitioning.
Well, that happens in Genesis to Deuteronomy. And it happens uniquely in two spots. Genesis to Deuteronomy is literarily broken up: Genesis and Exodus to Deuteronomy. The way it does that is a very specific literary device, where you have poetry and what is called the type scene. Now watch At the very end of Genesis, in Genesis 49, there is the patriarchal blessing of the twelve tribes. And then in Genesis 50, the patriarch dies and is buried. So in Genesis 49, at the end of Genesis, there is a massive one-chapter poetical text and it is the blessing of the twelve tribes. And it is followed by the death of the blesser or the blessed death. The only other time that happens in all of Scripture is at the end of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 33, there is a massive poetical summary, the blessing of the twelve tribes, the exact same thing again. And then guess what happens in Deuteronomy 34? The death of the blesser. So one of the things the Hebrew Bible does is it uses those devices, poetry and type scenes.
What I mean by a type scene is it is two events – kind of the same kind of events. The basic elements are the same, even though the characters have changed. And so Moses goes down to Egypt. Abraham goes down to Egypt. All these other guys go down to Egypt. Jeremiah goes down to Egypt. That is a type scene: going back into exile and slavery. These things happen over and over again.
Another type of type scene in the Bible is getting a wife at the well. And so where does Moses find his wife? At the well. Where does Eleazar find the wife for Isaac? At the well. So in the Ancient Near East, the Singles Bar was the well. That is what is going on. See, the Ancient Near Eastern Singles Bar is the well. That is where you pick up women. So when Jesus is walking through Samaria, guess where He is at. He is talking to the woman at the well and what are they talking about? Why do you think the disciples were freaked out when they came back? They thought Jesus was picking up on a Samaritan woman and there was going to be a marriage, because that is what you did at the well. And to marry a Samaritan woman at that time would have been a big no-no. The Samaritans and Jews of that time did not like each other for certain reasons. So those are types scenes. You expect certain things to be happening. But it is not unexpected, for example, for Jesus and this woman to be talking about marriage because that is what happened at the well. That is what is going on. Those are type scenes and they help structure stories and they import meaning and tell you what is going on.
Here, what we are doing with Genesis and Deuteronomy is we are recognizing that the author is dividing the books in half, unequal halves. But Genesis is this big narrative that culminates in Genesis 49 and 50: the blessing of the twelve tribes and the death of the blesser, the final patriarch. Then Exodus through Deuteronomy is a massive narrative that culminates in the blessing of the twelve tribes and the death of the blesser. So you have got two sections. If you were to outline it – if we were to be Western and say Roman numeral one would be Genesis, Roman numeral two Exodus to Deuteronomy. That is just how it works. I am not making it up. I am just showing you what exists and how it looks. I have given you kind of external evidence for putting Genesis out here and putting Revelation out here.
d. The Completion of Genesis 1-3
Let me give you internal evidence for that reality. Genesis 1-2 is about what in general? Creation. You guys are brilliant. You have read your Bibles. Now Genesis 2 specifically culminates in what? The creation of the woman and marriage – the marriage covenant. So Genesis 2 specifically focuses on marriage. And then in Genesis 3, what we get is the introduction of the serpent, the snake. Here in Genesis 3 we have Satan. Now I do not know why marriage and Satan go together, but it is probably not to be made too much of at this point. Some people would think, in lesser times, that we know why these two things are put together. But we have got creation, marriage and Satan. Or, you could say specifically, the advent or introduction to Satan and the promise of his destruction, where his head will be crushed. So, creation, marriage and Satan – and in terms of Satan, he is going down.
Now Genesis 1-2 are the first chapters. Let's look at the last chapters of the book of Revelation. There are lots of parallels we can make between Genesis and Revelation. I am just going to make the big ones, because that is the time we have. When we go back to Genesis, we will certainly talk about more interesting and fuller parallels. But Revelation 21-22 is about new creation. New creation is there. Now, what is interesting in Revelation 21 – what happens in Revelation 21 that is very similar to what happens in Genesis 2? There is the marriage of the Lamb and His bride. There is marriage again. Then in Revelation 20, what happens to Satan? That dude is smoked, permanently. He is destroyed. So Satan is back here, but in chapter 3 the promise of his ultimate destruction is made and in chapter 20 the actual description of it is fulfilled and is done.
Now look at this. You have in Genesis creation, marriage and Satan. And then in Revelation Satan, marriage, creation. Watch, this is a pattern – that is in Genesis A-B-C, but in Revelation it is not A-B-C, but C-B-A. You find this in Hebrew poetry. It is a very common narrative technique that is called a chiasm. You know what the letter "chi" is in Greek? It is this – it looks like an English "X". A chiasm is criss-cross parallelism. So we have here A-B-C and then C-B-A. And so the As correspond, the Bs correspond and the Cs correspond. So, when you start with A and then have B-C, and then you go C-B-A and you get to the second A, what does that mean with the narrative? You are done. That is exactly right. The canon is closed.
So check this out. Without having a fourth century A.D. theological Church Council arguments and without having manuscript arguments (because we do not have all the manuscripts), internally based upon the very nature and content of the narrative, I can tell you that the canon is closed by Revelation 22. Also, because there is that last document clause, "Cursed is anyone who adds to or subtracts from this book". So now we are back to the whole covenantal thing we saw in Deuteronomy. But I am showing you here that the Bible begins and it ends in the exact same way, only in reverse so you know you are done.
Is it done over here? This is the ultimate destruction of Satan – not just one of the defeats along the way, but the ultimate destruction. This is not just one marriage. This is the ultimate marriage in Revelation 21 that we have been waiting for – the one that supplants all earthly marriage; the one that marriage points to. It is the anti-type, the climax. And this is not just "I have planted a new garden" in Revelation 21-22; this is the final, the perfect, the greatest, the never-ending, never-corrupted creation.
We have a colleague, John Curd, who says "Your protology must drive and inform your eschatology." One of the applications, I believe, of that reality is: "Look, we have already got eschatology built in here. I know exactly how it is going to end. It is going to end with creation, marriage and something happening to Satan." Does it end that way? Yes. To be honest, a six-year-old child could read these portions of Scripture here (I am talking about three chapters in the Old and three chapters in the New) and get this same content. It is not like I am having to tweak and look at the minutia and try to find out what is going on. It is apparent even when I ask you what is Genesis 1-2 about. Most people know creation. Most people know Satan and the advent of Satan is Genesis 3 and that kind of stuff. So I am not saying anything new in these chapters. I am not doing anything offhanded. I am just showing you, I am placing before you, the basic content. I am befuddled by how compelling it is. I am speechless, dumbfounded more than usual.
e. The Significance of Numbers
So those are blocks zero and seven for us. And there are more. In Genesis, we have Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and how many sons does Jacob have? Twelve. So there is the beginning of the tribes of Israel. In the book of Revelation, it is not just twelve, but it is twelve times twelve. And it is not just twelve times twelve, but it is 12,000 times twelve – 144,000. So that is the fulfillment of the seed, the full seed – twelve in the Old Testament. By the way, you may or may not be familiar with this, numbers have significance. And so the number three is the number of completion. The number seven, I think, is the number of the oath or certainty. The number ten is like a big number, just a good big number. The number twelve is the number of the house – twelve tribes, twelve patriarchs, twelve apostles, the dimensions of the kingdom of God, the dimensions in the tabernacle, the dimensions in the Ark and all that kind of business – dimensions of the house of the kingdom of God. Check this out. In the Writings, Covenant Life, how do we live in the household of God? How many books are there? Twelve. Isn't that cool? So it is easy to remember that and have all that stuff come to your mind, because they are balanced. That is what we have here.
For me, when I spent my whole seminary career taking the Bible apart, I was overwhelmed with joy. It is like your life falls apart. You are in debt. Your girlfriend broke up with you. Your dog has died. You are estranged from your parents. And then, all of a sudden, it is like the prodigal Bible comes back to you. It was another guy's dog who got run over. Your wife returns to you. You just inherited fifteen million dollars. And the Bible is back together. It is just a wonderful moment. At this level, I was just thinking: "If it matches on the ends, it must match in the middle somehow."
II. The Law or the Covenant
So now that is what we are going to move to. We are going to move to the Law or the Covenant. The Law or the books of the Covenant – now we are boxes four and one.
a. The Life and Teachings of the Covenant Mediator
Now, watch this. Let me just write up here. Here we have Exodus through Deuteronomy. We have four books in box four – the Law or the Covenant. They begin with the birth of the covenant mediator. Moses is the covenant mediator. The first thing that happens in Exodus is he is born. They conclude in Deuteronomy with his death. And then, in the middle, you have his life. We can call this the life and teachings of Moses.
Now, are there any books in the New Testament that begin with the birth of a Covenant Mediator and end with His death and in the middle there is His life and teachings? The gospels – that is exactly right – Matthew through John. These are a little bit different in the fact that it is not just the four books following on from each other. In the Old Testament, Exodus has the beginning and Deuteronomy the end. It is fine to have variation within it, but watch. Each of these books begins with the birth and ends with the death of the new Covenant Mediator, Jesus. So birth to death is in each.
Each of them is stylized in a little bit different way. John starts: "In the beginning." I know if this was an Introduction to the New Testament, we could show how, for example, John begins with the first words of Genesis. Matthew really begins with the words of Genesis 5 – "this is the book or this is the scroll of the generations of." That is exactly how Genesis 5 begins. Luke and Mark begin in different ways.
b. The Gospel in the Old Testament
Now that, to me, is a pretty remarkable identification point right there. How many of you previously would have ever called Exodus through Deuteronomy the Old Testament gospels? Let me turn to Hebrews 3, if you do not believe me, because you should never take my word for it. I am just a cranky teacher. I am going to read a good portion of Hebrews 3 to you at this point. Watch. It is going to compare Moses with Jesus. And it is going to call the things that happened in Exodus through Deuteronomy the preaching of the gospel. Your pants are going to fall right off. You are going to be so dumbfounded. So tighten your belts and hold them up or at least poke my eyes out before it happens. All right, here we go.
"Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, just as Moses …" So look at this immediate contrast between Jesus and our comparison at this point – between Jesus and Moses. "… just as Moses was also faithful in all of God's house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses …" And that is the truth. And we are going to talk about that. "… as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all of God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are His house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and are boasting in our hope.
"Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put Me to the test and saw My works for forty years'." So he is talking about the wilderness period in Exodus through Deuteronomy – those forty years. "'Therefore I was provoked with that generation and said: "They always go astray in their heart; they have not known My ways." As I swore on my wrath: "They shall not enter my rest".' Take care, my brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today', that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said: 'Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion'."
Now that is specifically is from Psalm 95. And Psalm 95 is a commentary on Exodus 17. That is the grumbling of God's people because they had no water. And then Moses struck the rock and water flowed from it. Then, of course, we know the rock that was struck in the book of Exodus, according to 1 Corinthians 10, was Christ.
Then it says now in verse 16 – this is a big sermon here on the comparison of Jesus and Moses and what happened there. "For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, those bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we believe that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
"Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear less any of you should seemed to have failed to reach it. For good news …" Now we are in chapter 4, verse 2. "For good news" – the gospel – "came to us just as it did to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest, as He has said ..."
So let me read this key verse here. There is a lot of material there. I read all of Hebrews 3 and a little bit of Hebrews 4. In that context, incessantly there is the comparison between the Exodus to Deuteronomy community with the Matthew through John community. And here it says in Exodus through Deuteronomy: "For good news came to us just as to them." The gospel came to us just like it did to them. So God is saying here (through the inspired author of Hebrews, whoever he is): the gospel came to them in Exodus to Deuteronomy. But the message they heard did not benefit them. But it was not because it was an inferior message. It does not say that. It says: "Because they were not united by faith with those who listened." It is because they lacked faith. So you could preach this same gospel right here in Matthew through John and it is not going to benefit everyone, is it? Not unless they are united with it by faith. So Exodus through Deuteronomy you could call the gospel of the Old Testament.
Let me say it this way. You must call it the gospel of the Old Testament because the Bible does. They talk about that forty-year-period of Exodus through Deuteronomy as the gospel of the Old Testament. It does not get any better. Again, I am trying to let you know, and to emphasize here for you, that I am not making this up. From the moment I read you Acts 28:23, I have simply been trying to put all the pieces together for you and to let the Bible set the agenda. So you cannot argue with it, in some sense, because it is there. I am not making things up. I want you to feel that and to hear that. Now you may interpret it differently. But I think it is pretty clear from Hebrews 3 and a little bit of Hebrews 4 that Exodus through Deuteronomy is to be considered the gospel of the Old Testament because it says "good news". So that forty-year-period of Exodus through Deuteronomy, 1447 to 1407 is when I date it. Some people do not.
c. Elements of Continuity
Now there is a lot of cool stuff that happens there too in each of those things. For example, each Testament or Covenant has four covenant books. You love it when it is equal. The covenant corpus in each testament is framed by the birth and the death of covenant mediators. They have the same beginning and ending points. Just like you had the same beginning and ending points for the whole Bible; in these subsections right here you have the same beginning and endings. The primary emphasis in this section is focused upon the life and teachings of the covenant mediator. They are the main characters.
And note the numerous parallels that can be identified between Moses and Jesus. Watch this. Both of them … I just have a few listed here. Both Moses and Jesus are born under decree of death. The king gets nervous and say: "All of the infants, all the males, shall be put to death." And so both Moses and Jesus were born under decree of death. How often does that happen in Scripture? Oh, twice. These are the two times. It shows a remarkable parallel between the two of them.
Now, Moses has to escape and he escapes where? To the heart of Egypt. He is put in a basket and he goes actually and lives in the guy's house who decreed his death. That becomes his undoing at the end. That is what you call irony. And Jesus, when He is born under this decree of death, the angel of the Lord appears to Joseph. And the angel says to Joseph: "Go and live where?" Egypt. Certainly there were other places they could have hidden for a few years, but it is not accidental that it is Egypt. It is not accidental. In fact, we learn later: "Out of Egypt I have called My Son" – fulfilling the prophetic decree there as well from the latter prophets. That is right, Hosea 11.
Both Moses and Jesus receive and/or teach on a mountain. They receive instruction or teach on a mountain. They are always on a mountain for some reason. Think of all the things the Bible could or could not have explained. The teaching venue does not necessarily seem important – whether we are in BS 1, BS2 or out on the lawn or in the Dean Center. But it was important here because it is connecting two people specifically.
Both of them are transfigured on the mountain. Do you remember when Moses would go up to the mountain? He would come down shiny and freak out all the people. So he had to put a veil on his face. Do you remember when Jesus went up? Guess who He saw there. Moses and Elijah. What happened to Him? Transfigured, shiny. Same thing. Both of them were transfigured, identifying these two people as connected somehow.
Another thing that is interesting is that the people are constantly rebelling against these covenant mediators. Several times the people try to put Moses to death. Several times the people, the crowds, try to put Jesus to death. If you want a good, safe job description, do not pick covenant mediator, because it means they are going to try to put you to death. There are others, but these are big ones. These are big and common ones.
d. Elements of Discontinuity
I will tell you one thing that is really interesting. I will tell you two things, actually, that are points of discontinuity, that are also just as important. It is one thing to have continuity. But if there is only total continuity, you do not need a New Testament. How is there not continuity between the two? Let me just give you two important big ones that are just blatantly clear and interesting.
1. The Revelation of God
Do you know the expression in Hebrew koh 'amar YHWH? Yes, I am sure you all do. "Thus saith the Lord." That phrase appears for the first time in the book of Exodus and then it appears over and over, especially in the prophets, the Latter Prophets. If you just look up phrase in a concordance or Accordance or BibleWorks, you will see that "thus saith the Lord" has a measure of frequency in Exodus to Deuteronomy. It is not around a lot in the Former Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. But once you get to the Prophet, there is an explosion of it, especially in Ezekiel and Jeremiah. So that is one of the things in which you talk about authorship. Over and over again, the Bible says that God is the author. We just are not listening. The mantra of Old Testament propheticism is "thus saith the Lord." They are simply mouthpieces or communicators of the divine revelation.
Now we know that Moses is the paradigm prophet of the Old Testament. In the book of Deuteronomy, they set up: Here is the true prophet and we will be waiting for this even greater prophet. At the end of the book of Deuteronomy, there was not a prophet who has arisen in Israel like Moses since that time, and so on and so on. Even Elijah does not fit the bill. And so once they get to Elijah, they are looking for another one. At the end of Malachi, they mention both Moses and Elijah. Then Jesus comes and you are thinking: "All right, here is the supersonic, mega, upsized prophet of all time." He is the big gulp of all prophets.
So we are going to expect Him to say "thus saith the Lord" in a way no one else says it. Guess what He does. He does not say "thus saith the Lord"; He says "truly, truly I say to you". That is massive discontinuity. When Jesus says "truly, truly I say unto you", He is saying that I am the guy who is talking to Moses fourteen hundred years ago. What he was saying to you on My behalf, I am now saying to you in person.
Now remember, in Exodus that guy is appearing in a burning bush on Sinai. There was thunder and lightning and it was so loud and terrible that the people were scared. That is why they asked for a prophet. "Do not let us hear that voice again," they said. "Go up for us. Be a mediator. We are chicken." That is the same person who came down in the flesh to speak to us in person. That is remarkable. It is a remarkable discontinuity. That is to say, the person smoking on the mountain in the book of Exodus has come in the flesh in the New Testament. There is no longer any time or any room to hear the word "thus saith the Lord" because the Lord has arrived. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
2. The Covenant Mediator
Here is another important discontinuity that is like that. This is just shocking to me. Exodus 32-34 is the Golden Calf episode. It is almost inexplicable to me. Here we are as a people four hundred years in Egypt. It is not the highlight of Israelite history. They are slaves. God hears their grumbling and their cries. He hears them and He comes to save them. He sends Moses and he sends Aaron. He sends them with a repertoire of plagues and miracles and astonishing things. There is no doubt that whoever is in charge here has got a lot of power. There are frogs and flies and snakes and gnats and boils and blood and even the death of the first born. Talk about selective execution style. The Angel of the Lord at that point was the best kind of army ranger, Secret Service, Black Ops you could ever imagine. He knew who to get and how to get them.
So Israel came out, not just begrudgingly, but those guys were telling them: "Get out and take all my stuff. I do not want it." There was that kind of thing. They plundered them as they left. And then, if that were not bad enough, they got stuck at the Red Sea. Egypt said: "Well, maybe that was a mistake. Let us go get them." They get all their chariots, drive out to them and here they are backed up against the Red Sea. All of a sudden the very presence of God in smoke and fire stands between the people of Israel and the army of Egypt. Egypt cannot get through. God is just standing there and they cannot get through. If that were not enough, behind them the waters are splitting open so they could cross this big sea on dry ground. To be there would have been fantastic. This would be an apologist's dream. Never again could you deny the fact that God is among you.
But here they are, just a few days later: "We have no food." And we are grumbling. So you get manna and quail. "We have no water. This water is bitter. We cannot drink it." Moses throws a stick in it and the bitter water becomes sweet. Here we are Exodus 17: "I am a little bit thirsty." And they ask the question: "Is God among us or not? It would be better for us to have died in Egypt with our full big meat-pots." At least in Egypt they had Sonic Burger or Chik-fil-A. Out here in the desert there is nothing. There is just Wal-Mart. Even worse, no one is going into Wal-Mart. You take your life into your hands in this state in Wal-Mart. It is a big problem. How do you get water? All right, perfect thing. You dig a well. You get a crane in, drill hundreds of thousands of feet, get a well – all that king of thing. No. Moses takes his staff, hits the rock, it breaks open. It gushes water. Now we are not talking about a mild-mannered stream. It had to feed hundreds of thousands of Israelites and all of their cattle – and not just for a day or two, but for a long prolonged period of time. We are talking about an oil gusher of monumental size.
And then, if that is not enough … I am painting this picture of complete drama. God Himself descends upon Mount Sinai with thunder and lightning. They hear his voice. And Moses goes up and he is delayed a little bit. He is there forty days and forty nights. It is Moses' "forty days of purpose" now. The people respond so appropriately: "Hey, let us build a golden cow." Dare to build a cow. I do not know what provoked that. But if any nation had ever seen God in action before, that was the nation during those few months. But they had a veil over the eyes of their heart. What had happened and what was preached to them was not combined with faith. So they built the golden calf. That was kind of the height of covenant infidelity. Remember, they were getting the covenant. Before Moses even got the covenant, they are down there worshiping another god. What is the first stipulation of the covenant? Do not have any more of those things. They have already broken the first commandment.
So God wants to smoke them all. He wants to start over with Moses. It will be another four hundred years. It is going to take a long time. But Moses intercedes and says: "God, please do not do this – not for them, they deserve it – but because You have placed Your name on this people. If You destroy these people, the nations around here will mock You and think You are not powerful enough to save. So for Your own name's sake, forgive their sins. But if not," Moses says, "blot my name out of the book of life and save them." Moses had not sinned there. It was the people who had sinned.
And listen to this what happens. The next day Moses said to the people: "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord. I will go up." Get that Anthony? I will go up. Who will go up? Moses said: "I will go up to the Lord." That is not in my notes. That is a good text right there. Anyway, we will get to that later. The next day Moses said to the people: "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sins." So Moses went back to the Lord and said: "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed. They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin. But if not, then blot me out of the book You have written." The Lord replied to Moses: "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot out of My book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and My angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for Me to punish, I will punish them for their sin."
So in this text – it is a very important text. It is one of those pivotal texts in the life of the people of God. Moses offers himself as an atoning sacrifice for the people of God. What does God say? No. That is in the Old Testament gospel. But Moses, in theory, got it right. He knew that someone had to die and he is offering himself to do it as the covenant mediator.
Now in the New Testament, the people of God deserve to die. Here comes the second covenant mediator, Jesus. Jesus, in essence, says: "OK Lord, please save them but if not –if it takes this, do this. Blot Me out of the book. Kill Me." What does God say to Jesus? "You are the man for the job. I will do it." And Jesus is killed in the New Testament to make atonement for our sins. Moses tried to make atonement for the sins of Israel in the Old Testament, but Moses was not the right man, the ultimate sacrifice. He was not sinless. He was not the Son of God. He could not even pay for his own sins because of his life, much less the sins of others. But Jesus was the perfect man, the one who had never sinned. Actually, He was the incarnate son of God. So not only could He be the perfect sacrifice, but His sacrifice could be imputed to us. That is exactly what happened in the New Testament.
Do you see how that is the gospel? Even though the Old Testament is not the complete gospel, it is the gospel. Moses knew what was going on. He knew there needed to be an atoning sacrifice. And so we have got to get that, but we get here. We get the inauguration and the fulfillment – the promise and the fulfillment. So Jesus is that. On that day Jesus said: "Yes, I will do it. Do it to Me." Jesus, the covenant mediator, let it happen to Him. Without it, none of us would be here right now. Moses had the right idea. He knew about the book. It is just that he was not the right person.
So there are a number of points where we have continuity in Exodus through Deuteronomy with the gospel books of Matthew through John. But there are a couple of big points of discontinuity. But, I will say the continuity matches the books together up just as much as the lack of the continuity (that which is opposing). In some sense, you need things to go together to glue them together. But if you are going to have an Old Testament, you have got to have reasons for the New. You have got to move from "thus saith the Lord" to "I say unto you". You have got to move from the failed attempt at atonement to the completed or the perfect attempt at atonement. Does that make sense? It is just fascinating stuff to me when you start to read the Bible in these paradigms right here. It is just so clear to me when you see it. I am overwhelmed by it.
III. The Prophets or Covenant History
Boxes number five and two. Those are the Former and the Latter Prophets. Box number five is the Former Prophets and the Latter Prophets. There are all the Prophets. There are eight books there. There is Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings (Former Prophets); Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve. It is not Daniel and not Lamentations. That is a completely different part of the canon. And I have characterized that material as History and Homiletics. That is because in any good seminary curriculum you have got to have homiletics or a communication class or a preaching class, that kind of thing.
Now, is there any book in the New Testament that happens to combine the history of God's people after the inauguration of the covenant interspersed with great sermons? Yes, indeed. You have got it right – the book of Acts. The book of Acts is a recapitulation, but new, of this type of thing. It is the Reader's Digest version. There you had eight books, real long. That is because in the ancient world they had more time on their hands. By the book of Acts, we are getting ready for the television, the iPod, the iPhone. We need time to be plugged in. So you have got to have the Reader's Digest version. So you have got the book of Acts, which constitutes the history of the early church. It is the way that is. What does this new covenant look like in the life of the people of God? How is it played out?
a. The Place of Jerusalem
Watch this. Let me just give you a point of discontinuity right off the bat, that is also continuity at the same time. In box five in the Old Testament Prophets, the goal is all of the time to get into Jerusalem. That is the high water mark of Israelite life: to make Jerusalem the center of everything. So they are in Egypt and then they are in Israel and then they are in Judah and then they are in Jerusalem. So finally, David conquers Jerusalem. Then he has the temple (well, Solomon builds it). But there is the temple, the palace and all that stuff and Jerusalem is the center of the universe. This is exactly what the book of Chronicles and the genealogies in chapters 1 through 9 tell us. Jerusalem is the center of the universe.
But in the book of Acts, it starts in Jerusalem. The center starts in Jerusalem, but then they go backwards and out. The gospel is not about getting into Jerusalem. but the gospel is about getting the world into the theological Jerusalem, I guess you could say. So they go from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to the uttermost parts of the world. So do you see how it is kind of this inverse-cone thing? The whole goal here is to get into Jerusalem, get that King and then, after that, it is to take that message out. So here Jerusalem is the ending point in the Old Testament Prophets. But Jerusalem is the beginning point in Acts and that is the launch pad for the gospel ministry. So that is a cool thing.
b. The Correspondence of the Sermons in Acts
There is also homiletical activity going on in the book of Acts. You have three big sermons in the book of Acts. There is Peter in Acts 2. There is Stephen in Acts 7. And there is Paul in Acts 13. Now, we do not have time to go over this material specifically. What I want you to notice is that Peter's sermon in Acts 2 begins with a quote from Joel. In Hebrew it is Joel 3:1-5; in English it is Joel 2:28-32. It is the same verses. There is just different versification in Hebrew and Greek at that point. So when Peter does his sermon, he is relying heavily on the Latter Prophets here, specifically Joel to kick off. He is quoting a lot of stuff, but that is where he started.
Stephen, if you will remember Stephen's speech, it is all a rehearsal of the history of Israel very similar to what we get in the Former Prophets and even in the Pentateuch. With that narrative, he starts even earlier. I do not know if you know off the top of your head how Stephen concludes. He calls the people he is preaching to there "stiff-necked", which is what I call the Jewish swear-word. The designation "stiff-necked" comes again from the Golden Calf episode that we have been talking about. It was applied to Israel at the Golden Calf episode as the punishment label for them. You are now a "stiff-necked people". What does that mean? Why would you call them that? Does that call them like a bonehead or something? You are a "stiff-necked person" or something like that? What it is, it is a derogatory term applied to cattle. If you bought an ox in the ancient world and he was a "stiff-necked" cattle, you could not plow with him. He would not obey. It is like buying a lemon if you go car shopping and stuff like that. I guess you wanted a cow or an ox that had a pliable neck or one that would obey you and go where you wanted. Otherwise you could not plow straight or whatever. The reason for that is Israel worshipped a golden calf. And, according to Psalm 115, you become what you worship. So Israel had just become a bunch of bad cows. The label applies to those people who will not ever enter God's rest. You will die in the desert. So, when Stephen in Acts 7 calls all the leaders of that time stiff-necked, he is saying: "You are unbelieving people who will never enter to God's rest." That is like saying in English: "Go to hell." That is why they were picking up rocks. It is not because that was a terrible sermon and they said: "Let us stone him." If that were the case, we would have a lot of dead pastors in our world. Stephen was actually executing the final lawsuit of the Bible And he executed it against the people of God and called them guilty. What they did is they put upon him the punishment they deserved.
And then Paul in Acts 13. I call him the renaissance man. Paul is jack of all trades: "I'm all things to all men." He is using the Former Prophets, the Latter Prophets, the Writings. He is bringing it all together in his preaching material. He has got it all going on.
And so you can see the book of Acts has a lot of history in it. But it has got very important sermons punctuating and interpreting that history, because that is what the prophets did. It is the exact same construction of books – History and Homiletics in the Old Testament, History and Homiletics in the New Testament. It is an amazing thing.
IV. The Writings or Covenant Life
We can also notice here that the Writings are a group of books that are characterized by teaching us how to think and live in light of the covenant. We have got the Law. We have got the history of failures and success. How do we think and live in light of that covenant? So, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. Now, are there any books in the New Testament that provide us with instructions about how to think about that new covenant and how to live in light of that instruction? Oh yes, there are the Epistles. Very good ladies and gentlemen. The Epistles are all about Covenant Life. How do I think and live?
In fact, you may be aware if you have had a class on Paul or Pauline epistles, that most of Paul's letters, especially to the churches, are divided into half. They are divided into two parts. It is oftentimes called the indicative and the imperative. If you have not had any grammar instruction, that is meaningless jargon to you. It is to me too! That is why I say the indicative: How should I think? What is true? And the imperative: How therefore should I live in light of what is true? It is practical theology. That is why most of the preaching in our churches today, because of the context in which we live, comes right from here. Both in the Old and New Testaments, it comes from the writings. This is because it is so naturally practical and we are really befuddled by this [earlier] material. We do not know really what to do with these cranky covenant mediators and this weird history.
Let me just give you another example that is really cool about these two things. Do you remember, in the beginning of the book of Joshua, some guy steals from the Lord? He has stolen some of the spoils from Jericho. Remember Achan and his family? It is a very remarkable thing. He has chosen by lot. Then he has to stand up there, he and his family. And they stone the joker and his family, and then the earth swallows him up. That is a very extreme kind of consequence for a little pilfering. What happens at the beginning of Acts? Is there anyone who steals from the Lord? That's right. It is an exact kind of parallel event. Ananias and Sapphira steal from the Lord. Wham! Bam! They are dead. It is the same kind of extreme punishment for the same kind of crime. Living in a theocracy is not an easy thing. It is not easy living under God's rule. Look at all these things.
Now, a lot of people say: "How did Paul get his groove that way?" Let me just show you something that is very interesting. Proverbs 1-9 is not practical wisdom. "Answer a fool and he will rebuke you." "Answer a fool and you will be seen wiser." It is not that kind of stuff. It is a theology of wisdom: the value of wisdom; the worth of wisdom; how to pursue wisdom; and why it is better than folly. And then in Proverbs 10-31, once you have made the choice to pursue wisdom, here are some good examples. Here is how you therefore should live. Here's the "therefore, this is how you should live." So you get practical advice and what that looks like. Now, it is comprehensive? No. But is it a pretty thorough and instructive thing? Does it have good stuff to say? You bet.
Now, let us look at Paul's letters. Let us look at the book of Romans as an example. Romans 1-11: a theology of Christ. Then Romans 12-16: practical advice about how to live in light of that theology of Christ. Where do you think Paul gets that? Did he just make up the way he thinks? No, that guy is a high-speed, supersonic, pharisaical rabbi. He is schooled. And not only is he selecting from the right area of the canon, but he is matching the instructional practice. He is a wisdom teacher. He is a scribe. Isn't that amazing to you? That is just not accidental. The Gospel genres are not just making up something new today. This is not new. It is deeply rooted in the Old Testament. So there is massive practicalities and things that go here.
V. Concluding Comments
You have your Law, your Prophets, your Writings. These are Covenant, Covenant History and Covenant Life. You have got both those categories in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Have I rearranged the New Testament in any way? No. That is the remarkable thing. You could not make these three boxes here with the English Bible order. It does not happen. It does not work. It does not exist. It must be the Hebrew Bible order. And see, here is another argument for why we should follow the Hebrew Bible order. It matches the New Testament and the New Testament is our final authority. It is the interpretive key for the Old for us as believers. And so it just makes good, hard sense.
For me I am 100% compelled. I am not even at the 99% mark. Now you may be at the 50, the 60, the 70, the 80. And please do not go to church this week and on Saturday night sneak in and cut all the pew Bibles up and try to rearrange them. Do not do that. And do not go telling people: "Do you know your Bible is really out of order?" That is a prideful, arrogant kind of thing. But you have got to be able to teach it in this context and say: "Look at how marvelous the Bible is. Look how simple it is." Eight boxes and my entire Bible is outlined.
And those eight boxes come to me in the first chapter and the first few verses of the Bible. In Genesis 1:1-2:4 you have that exact same structure laid forth for you. Remember, boxes one and four, two and five, and three and six corresponded in our Genesis 1. And notice how they correspond there. And here you have your protology and eschatology. You have got moving from chaos to consummation. It is just like that. It is not just the arrangement. It is also the correspondence and the connection. It is just remarkable to me. It is just remarkable and undeniable.
All right, that is where we will leave it for today. We will come back and finish some things tomorrow. What I want to finish tomorrow, if you are interested to know, is that not only is this Hebrew Bible arrangement right here corresponding to the New Testament and it makes sense and it has got this Law, Prophets, Writings, Covenant, Covenant History and Covenant Life business going on, but it is actually sewn together.
What do you mean sewn together? There are actually things here at these joints right here, at Matthew and Chronicles. There are actually things at the joints, at the intersections, that are not original or a part of the message of the book itself, but extra-Biblical – not extra-Biblical … I am going to have to explain this to you. But the last few verses of Malachi do not really relate to the message of Malachi. They are canonically related to the whole, not to the part. The last few verses of Matthew are that way. At the beginning of Joshua, for example, there is an imperative: to meditate on the law of God day and night. Did you know there is only one other time in the Bible where that is ever done, where that is ever commanded? The book of Psalms. So at the beginning, at the seam here and at the seam here, it is telling you one thing: I am all about the covenant. I am all about the law of God. It is pointing you back and telling you where it is grounded and based.
So tomorrow I am going to explain where these seams are, how they work and what they tell you. And some seams point you back to the covenant. Other seams point you eschatologically forward to look to the ultimate and true Prophet who will give final meaning to the Scriptures. It will blow your mind. It blew my mind. Maybe you have got a bigger mind and it will not blow it. But my mind is so small, that kind of information blew it. I had to go get a new valve job after that. Thank you very much. We will see you tomorrow, Lord willing.