Biblical Theology Posts
January 6, 2013 by Jason Hood
My nine-year-old has begun using “epic” to describe nearly everything. His mother and I have pointed out that this really robs the word of its meaning. Thankfully, there’s one epic that really clarifies the definition.
New SAET fellow Philip Tallon has consulted with his braintrust to create a visual guide to the Great Epic. [[Update: credit to Allie Osterloh for some sweet artwork here; find her at http://www.arocreative.blogspot.com/]] The following five visuals riff on the biblical drama as articulated by Bartholomew, Goheen, Al Wolters, Sandra Ricther and others.
October 30, 2012 by Jason Hood
While B. B. Warfield was relatively open to science and evolution, he and others at Old Princeton were deeply suspicious of historical reconstructions of texts, which were endlessly dissected based on tenuous reconstructions on the basis of presuppositions about religious history en vogue in 19th century Germany. The same world that produced multiple editions of Q (keep in mind no one has ever seen one edition, let alone two or more) produced endless opportunities for scholarly creativity.
During the same era, Charles Briggs was an opponent of conservative scholarship and principles, especially inerrancy and Warfield. Defrocked by the Presbyterians in 1893, he cuts the figure of a martyr for the sake of historical critical methodology. Of course, we have to take “martyr” with a grain of salt; Briggs was given honorary doctorates by Oxford, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, and the Episcopalians welcomed him with open arms.
But regardless of acclaim–and notwithstanding the fact that Briggs was in some instances asking important questions that conservatives needed to address–there are grave costs to bear for one’s commitment to scholarship with shoddy presuppositions. One might even call them burial expenses.
Earlier this month while researching the Enthronement/Royal Psalms, I happened across the following sentence in an essay by Leo Perdue.
Efforts to reconstruct possible historical situations reflected in ‘Enthronement Hymns’ have generally met with little acceptance.
A great deal of literature could have been cited, but the footnote for that sentence consists only of Briggs’s Psalms (International Critical Commentary, 1906).
We can grant the Qoheleth-esque point that all our work fades away. Many of Warfield’s points haven’t stood the test of time. But here we have not a severed finger or discarded organ, but the corpse of an entire commentary: Briggs’s “state-of-the-art-in-1900″ scholarship has entered its reward, a cave as wide as history, with the word “dustbin” carved over the entrance.0 Comments
September 11, 2012 by Jason Hood
Here’s an image I like to use when I work through biblical theology with students; I’ve no idea whether it’s original to me or not. Lots to say about this little analogy, but here’s a snapshot: after the Fall and after each successive failure of humanity, God gives fresh “downloads” of the original mission of humanity, each of which recall the original mission and identity given in Genesis 1-2.
Adam: Humanity 1.0 (after emptiness, Genesis 1:26-28; Genesis 2)
Noah: Humanity 1.0.1 (after corruption, redeemed through judgment + fresh covenant)
Abraham: Humanity 1.1 (after the wreckage of Babel, Genesis 12:1-3, 22:15-18)
Isaac: Humanity 1.1.1
Jacob: Humanity 1.1.2 (Genesis 26:1-5)
Israel: Humanity 1.2, with her priests and kings serving as 1.2.1 and 1.2.2 and so forth…some of whom have more bugs than others!
and climaxing in
Jesus as Humanity 2.0 (Eph 4, the “Son of Man,” etc)2 Comments
September 10, 2012 by Jason Hood
Yes, I’m that species of dinosaur that thinks Moses might have had something to do with Genesis. (Footnotes: I’m not aware of an evangelical scholar who believes in “plenary” Mosaic authorship; everyone acknowledges the possibility of added editorial comments and updated language, not to mention the fact that Moses probably didn’t write about his own death. I’d wager that these stories were transmitted orally well before they were written. And people aren’t going to hell over whether these stories come from Moses or not.)
Rather than argue the case, let me show how Mosaic authorship can lead to an appreciation of the Mosaic agenda…which leads straight to killer NT application. We don’t have time for the whole text, so I’ll limit the discussion to the patriarchal narratives. And even here, we only have time to be partial in our description.
Genesis 11:31-32 The first generation stops along the way and fails to make it all the way to Canaan. That sounds vaguely familiar! Then in Genesis 12 God makes promises to a man who can’t accomplish them ( I will make of you a great nation…I will give you Land I will show you). God promises and then provides offspring and land miraculously, just as he does for the Israelites in Exodus 1 and Joshua. After 12:10, Abraham goes down to Egypt because of a famine. Like Moses, Sarai joins the royal court, then leaves it, just as Moses will centuries later. They return from Egypt after the Egyptians voluntarily give them riches, just as his descendants would do centuries later. And how does God facilitate the exodus (I can’t resist) from Egypt they didn’t earn? Genesis 12:17 has the answer. Boom go the intertextual connections.
A number of passages like chapters 13–14, 18, 36, etc., tell us about Abraham (Israel) and his (their) neighbors. The Canaanites are incredibly wicked, and God will work miraculously to bring judgment on them if they don’t repent, and if no righteous are found among them. Those who want to be righteous shouldn’t settle in their cities, as Lot and family illustrate; nor should the children of Abraham marry the children of Canaan, as Esau and Judah demonstrate. But other neighbors are to be respected and helped. Israel should strive for good relationships and shalom, not hostility.
The stories of Jacob and Esau, Jacob and Joseph’s brothers, Abraham and Lot, and Abraham with Melchizedek and Abimelech show us how Israel can expect to relate to its neighbors. For instance, Edom comes in for so much criticism in Torah and the Prophets because they’ve opposed and failed to help a brother (see especially Numbers 20, which shows how things should work in theory, and how they worked out in practice; Obadiah 10; Psalm 83; Amos 1:11). This interest in neighbors helps explain why we need an entire genealogy of Esau (Genesis 36).
So among other points:
“Genesis is surely suggesting to its readers that they too should forgive even their long-term enemies, if they show sincere contrition . . . . Thus Genesis is not simply a justification for Israel’s occupation of Canaan, it embodies a practical appeal as well. It urges brothers to make peace with each other and forgive past wrongs. It insists that Israelites should live peaceably with their relatives, with fellow countrymen of different ethnic origins, and implies that as a nation it should not be afraid to make agreements with surrounding nations when they seek peace” (Gordon Wenham, Story as Torah, 38-39)
It’s not hard to draw comparisons to the NT teaching on dealing with the family of faith and outsiders.
In Genesis 28 – 32, Jacob finds blessing despite being outside the land and “under threat”; like Isaac and unlike Esau and Judah, he marries within the family rather than with Canaanites. Moreover, Abraham and family are shepherds, not “city people,” a theme that becomes important for describing the relationship between Egyptians and Israelites (46:24 makes this clear). At the end of Genesis 34, Jacob is in fear of the inhabitants of the land. But he doesn’t need to be afraid. 35:1-5 shows that when his family consecrated themselves to YHWH, put away their idols, and trusted and obeyed YHWH, the Canaanite city folk were struck with fear. Again, all that should sound familiar to readers familiar with the rest of the Torah.
Genesis 37 – 50. Again, Israel goes down into Egypt because of famine…but isn’t supposed to stay there. The redeemer is an Israelite in Pharaoh’s courts. These stories give Israel a picture of tribal relationships—leadership roles belong to Judah (Caleb, later David) and Joseph (Ephraim/Manasseh, Joshua). And leadership is typified by wisdom (Joseph) and by laying one’s life on the line for the brothers (Judah; for more on this, see these posts on Judah).
And we haven’t even mentioned YHWH showing up as smoke and fire (Gen 15:17).
So here’s the thesis. Moses wrote Genesis not only to inform Israel of their origins, but to get them to see that Canaan, not Egypt, was their homeland, and to give them guidance for life in the land as one big family under covenant with YHWH, with distant relatives around them and enemies among them.
And as we read Hebrews 3-4 and 11:8-16, it becomes clear that the NT thinks this message matters to us. After all, we’re on the way out of slavery into the promised land of New Creation.
And we’d better not turn back, because Joshua has already secured our victory.13 Comments
August 28, 2012 by Jason Hood
Once it is recognized that Judaism considered the eschatological temple to be operating in tandem with the earthly temple in Jerusalem, and once it is allowed that early Christianity saw itself as the community in which the eschatological temple was taking shape, there should be no difficulty in imagining that the early Christians recognized both their own Church and the structure in Zion as temples in a meaningful sense. (Nic Perrin, Jesus the Temple, 47)
Perrin goes on to note that Jesus’s statements in Matthew 5 and 23 presuppose the ongoing validity of the temple, at least for Jesus’s day and the earliest days of the Christian church.
. . . the Church’s willingness to exempt Gentiles from the yoke of the law and equal willingness to allow Jews to pursue the law for themselves, all under the banner of Christ, seems to reflect a situation in which the Christian community as a whole came to view the temple through ambivalent eyes.
. . .
Since Judaism as a whole found no contradiction in regarding both the Mosaic temple and the eschatological temple as true temples, Christians, who saw themselves as making up the latter, did not seem to think that on the day after Easter that it was their job to cordon off the gates of Zion with crime scene tape. . . [even though] it was clear that the Jerusalem temple was on borrowed time.
Perrin, 760 Comments
July 23, 2012 by Jason Hood
Here’s an excerpt from the personal reflection section of a student’s paper on social justice in the OT prophets. The company motto and name are excised for student privacy, not out of respect for the company involved, and the excerpt is presented in “uncorrected.”
I have dilemmas in my workplace on a daily basis. I am employed as a sales representative at _____, and our quotas are extremely high. I am confronted many times with situations where I could take advantage of a person due to their lack of knowledge, as opposed to offer a less profitable solution. ______ is a publicly traded company. With that in mind, I get the message to leverage every customer experience, and to provide a ________. This can be translated as sell everything you can to every customer. However, this is rarely what is good for the customer, and it also does not help me sleep at night. Needless to say, my sales numbers are not always the highest in ________. I have to decide a few times a day whether or not I need to look out for my own interests . . .
April 29, 2012 by Jason Hood
Or at least, one of the most important keys: when the OT prophets speak to their audiences, they often speak of an ongoing redemptive process that began in their era and continues forward to our own and beyond to New Creation.
Willem VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, was one of my favorite textbooks in seminary, and now I get to return the favor for my OT students. Here is one gem of an observation, from p. 316:
[T]he new covenant is an eschatological reality whose fulfillment takes place in the progression of redemption, including the postexilic era, the renewal of covenant in Jesus Christ, and the present church age.
He then cites Calvin at length:
Hence the Prophet here intimates that God’s favor would be certain, because he would not only give leisure to the Jews, when they returned, to plant vines, but would also cause them to enjoy the fruit in peace and quietness. . . . He extends God’s favour to the country and the villages, as though he had said, that the land would be filled with inhabitants, not only as to the fortified towns, but as to the fields…Now, were one to ask, when was this fulfilled? We must bear in mind what has been said elsewhere,—that the Prophets,…included the whole Kingdom of Christ from the beginning to the end. And in this our divines go astray, so that by confining these promises to some particular time, they are compelled to fly to allegories; and thus they wrest, and even pervert all the prophecies. But the Prophets, as it has been said, include the whole progress of Christ’s Kingdom when they speak of the future redemption of the people. The people began to do well when they returned to their own country; . . . It was, therefore, necessary for them to look for the coming of Christ. We now taste of these benefits of God . . . We hence see that these prophecies are not accomplished in one day, or in one year, no, not even in one age, but ought to be understood as referring to the beginning and the end of Christ’s Kingdom.
Calvin is commenting on Jer 31:5, 24 (emphasis is WVG’s). We can also cite similar comments from Calvin’s commentary on Isaiah 52:8.
When he restored the Jews to liberty, and employed the ministry of Zerubbabel, Erza, and Nehemiah, these things were fulfilled. Yet at the same time they ought to be continued down to the coming of Christ, by which the church was gathered out of all parts of the world. But we ought also to go forward to Christ’s last coming, by which all things shall be perfectly restored.
January 31, 2012 by Matthew Mason
This isn’t the most refined illustration; it popped into my mind as I was teaching a lesson on the person of Christ this morning, but I think it works (though it needs room for an already-not yet eschatology and the gift of the Spirit). For its full effect, however, it relies on the British version of the game of Chutes and Ladders—Snakes and Ladders.
God’s goal in creation was always that humanity, in dependence on his grace and obedience to his word, should advance, with all creation, from square 1 (immaturity) to square 100 (maturity, glory)—”Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion”. However (and here’s why our version of the game matters!), the snake got Adam, and he slid, not just back to square one, but off the board completely (and here’s where the illustration stretches, or maybe breaks!).
The Word became flesh, as the Last Adam, not to put us back to square one. Salvation doesn’t take us back to Eden. The end is better than the beginning. Jesus’ obedience and death does get us back on the board, but because of his resurrection, not at square one, but at 100, the goal of the game. He fulfilled Adam’s role and atoned for Adam’s sin advance us to full, glorified, mature humanity.0 Comments
December 12, 2011 by Matthew Mason
Isaiah 28-35 is the primary OT passage underlying Mark 7, but Genesis 1-3 is there in the mix. (Note: although I won’t draw on the Isaiah background in this post, this section of Isaiah also contains new creation imagery.)
The controversy in 7:1-23 originates in a food test of sorts. But the Pharisees fail the test because, like Eve, they fence God’s command concerning prohibited foods with extra, human words (compare Gen 3:3 also with Col 2:21 – do not handle, taste, touch). Jesus condemns them for having rejected God’s commandment, just as Adam and Eve did. They thus reveal their defiled hearts which lead to a multitude of vices (7:14-23; compare Romans 1:18ff which in a similar way speaks of hardened hearts leading to all kinds of sins, against the narrative backdrop of creation and fall).
Nevertheless, in Mark 7, there is still the possibility of new creation. At the end of the chapter, the crowds say that Jesus has done ‘all things well’, an echo of Genesis 1:31: ‘God saw all he had made and it was very good’ (as noted by Edwards and Marcus in their commentaries). Jesus also echoes Gen 1 when he declares all foods clean and so gives them to us to eat (7:18f; cf. Gen 1:29; 9:3f; cf. Marcus).
Following this, a gentile woman passes a food test (7:24-30), in contrast to Eve’s failure of a food test. Then, Jesus restores a deaf mute. This happens in the region of the Decapolis where in a passage with strong adamic and creation/fall overtones Jesus has already delivered the Gerasene demoniac and restored him to true humanity (5:1-20). This time Jesus restores the man’s ears so he can once more hear God’s word. As he does so he looks up to heaven, whence the Spirit came in Jesus’ baptism (Mk. 1:10 – n.b. that Jesus’ baptism marks him as the Last Adam), and then sighs deeply, a probable echo of God breathing his breath of life into Adam (Gen. 2:7).
Here is new creation, with a new humanity comprised of a gentile Adam and a gentile Eve; the clean/unclean boundaries are removed, so it will be a family that includes Jews and gentiles, a family demarcated not by Pharisaic traditions of clean and unclean, but by faith in Christ (cf. 7:28f, 32).0 Comments
November 10, 2011 by Matthew Mason
David is anointed with oil (1 Sam. 16). Despised and rejected by men, he is delivered by his Father, and becomes a green olive tree in the house of God (Ps. 52:9), a source of oil for the anointing of his sons.
Oil symbolises the Holy Spirit (1 Sam 16:13; Ps. 104:15; cf. 2 Cor. 3:12-18).
And so a shoot comes from the stump of Jesse. He is anointed with the Spirit in his baptism. Despised and rejected by men, he is delivered from death by his Father, and in the midst of the New Temple, which is his body the church, becomes life-giving Spirit, the one who in the baptism he administers becomes the source of the Spirit for all his children.0 Comments