Seth Rodriguez introduced the SBTS OT Colloquium to the Maps of War website the other day. The map below (may have to click through to see it) shows who controlled the land God promised to Israel from 3,000 BC to AD 2006. Fascinating. Check it out:
Just yesterday I was asked: does the Bible teach that women are to do anything more than schlepp kids and keep house?
Proverbs 31 has lots to say about what wise women do, but this video turns the question on its head, capturing the profound majesty of mothering:
By recreating the image and replacing the apple with a Bible, this application fit so well with “discovering theology.” The author of this book’s intentions involve studying the Bible’s symbols and patterns–thus finding out what is behind the Bible. Everything hides something else, and theology is more than words on a page in a bound book.
You can read the rest here, where you’ll also find the process through which the photographer went, some background photos, and other info, all of which lend further insight into the development of this phenomenal cover–and I can say that because I had nothing to do with it!
Credo Magazine: How important is the discipline of biblical theology to healthy local church ministry?
JMH: What could be more important to followers of Jesus than learning to read the Bible the way that he did, learning to read the Bible the way that he taught his Apostles to read it, the way they taught the earliest churches to read it? Being a disciple of Jesus means learning to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. That’s what Biblical Theology is.
Someone said: Only a Philistine could fail to love the Psalms.
David “Gunner” Gunderson doesn’t just make last second shots, he thinks and writes well, and I’d encourage you to check out his important review of an important book, Gordon Wenham’s Psalms as Torah. Here’s a snippet:
The Burden of the Book: The Shaping Power of Praying the Psalms
Christians often talk about “the power of prayer,” and rightfully so. But what’s usually meant is the power of prayer to change things by summoning the sovereign power of God. This book is all about the power of prayer, but Wenham is taking a different angle. He wants us to see that prayer not only reshapes the landscape of our lives by moving mountains but reshapes the landscape of our hearts by recrafting and renewing our attitudes and commitments.
[P]rayer has an impact on ethical thought . . . If we praise a certain type of behavior in our prayers, we are telling God that this is how we intend to behave. On the other hand, if in prayer we denounce certain acts and pray for God to punish them, we are in effect inviting God to judge us if we do the same. This makes the ethics of liturgy uniquely powerful. It makes a stronger claim on the believer than either law, wisdom, or story, which are simply subject to passive reception: one can listen to a proverb or a story and then take it or leave it, but if you pray ethically, you commit yourself to a path of action (57).
Therefore, it’s not enough for the church to retell the narratives, preach the gospels, and exposit the epistles. We must also pray the Psalms, individually and corporately. [the whole thing]
We love the Psalms. Often in family devos around here we will be reading a Psalm nightly until the whole family can recite it. Right now we’re reading Psalm 29.
I’m hoping and praying for the creatives among us to come up with more and more tunes for singing the Psalms in ways that resonate today. May the Lord bless us with his word.
Thinking about entering the traffic, lines, chaos, and craziness of Black Friday in search of the good deal?
Consider this paragraph:
Here’s how it works, according to one industry consultant describing an actual sweater sold at a major retailer. A supplier sells the sweater to a retailer for roughly $14.50. The suggested retail price is $50, which gives the retailer a roughly 70% markup. A few sweaters sell at that price, but more sell at the first markdown of $44.99, and the bulk sell at the final discount price of $21.99. That produces an average unit retail price of $28 and gives the store about a 45% gross margin on the product.
You can read the whole thing here. Take it easy. Give thanks. Don’t ruin your weekend for deals that aren’t deals.
Saul Sarabia L. has blessed me with Spanish translations of my essays “The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts” and “Biblical Theology and Preaching,” and now he has also translated “The Seed of the Woman and the Blessing of Abraham.”
If you know Spanish language students of the Bible, please do pass this on to them: “La Simiente de la Mujer y la Bendición de Abraham,” translated by Saul Sarabia Lopez.
May the Lord use us to carry out the great task of making disciples of all nations.
The second of the three main sections of your book is devoted to some of the major symbols found in the Bible, including the Bible’s images, types, and patterns. Why is it imperative for Christians to understand and rightly interpret these symbols?
I happen to have on my desk a copy of Baseball’s Greatest Quotations. Trying to understand the Bible without understanding the symbolism employed by the biblical authors would be like trying to understand Baseball’s Greatest Quotations with no knowledge of the game of baseball.
Even someone with no knowledge of baseball can appreciate Yogi Berra saying “Ninety percent of this game is half mental.”
But what about when Yogi, a catcher, comments on the manager experimenting with playing him at third base: “Third ain’t so bad if nothin’ is hit to you.”
If you know baseball you get it. If you don’t know baseball, as Yogi said: “In baseball, you don’t know nothing.”
Yogi Berra aside, the point is that the biblical authors, borne along as they were by the Holy Spirit, intended the symbolism they employed to convey more than the bare words would bear.
You can read the whole thing here.
I’m honored to commend the new book by R. Reed Lessing and Andrew E. Steinmann, Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament, Concordia, 2014.
Here’s my endorsement:
To read the Bible is to risk a thrilling adventure through wild jungles with thunderous cataracts and soaring timbers teeming with life. Some turn its pages like those who would make rain forests into concrete wastelands for billboards and bobos. Others, and we thank God for the likes of Drs. Steinmann and Lessing, come to the forest with a gleaming eye and forward lean, eager to plunge in, to explore the glories and relish the sights and smells and sounds, for there is always more to see. This book will take you on a life-changing expedition through the Book of books. Your guides are as faithful as they are courageous, and you will not regret your time on this excursion with these authors. Enjoy!
Congratulations to Daniel I. Block on a festschrift (celebration-writ) presented to him by his students, edited by Jason DeRouchie, Jason Gile, and Kenneth Turner, For Our Good Always: Studies on the Message and Influence of Deuteronomy in Honor of Daniel I. Block.
Here’s a personal testimony to the generosity and magnanimity of Dr. Block: I was a PhD student here at SBTS in the days when Dr. Block was part of the faculty here. My sweet wife worked as a secretary on campus the first year, and the word among the student wives serving as secretarial staff was that profs proved their Christianity in the way they treated secretaries. Dr. Block had a great reputation among those dear ladies, and one time he had a cookout at his home for the secretaries and their husbands. It was one of those evenings in Louisville that makes me think of the word halcyon. Dr. Block’s lawn and hosta beds were like the garden of Eden.
On another occasion, I had written an 80 page (!) paper that was related to my dissertation. Dr. Block disagreed with my conclusions, but he agreed to read it. I realize now how generous it was of him to agree to read that long paper. He not only read it, he provided detailed, handwritten feedback. I am grateful.
Congratulations, Dr. Block, and thanks for your good example.
Here’s the publisher’s description of the book:
With a title adapted from Deut 6:24, For Our Good Always is a collection of 25 essays from evangelical scholars on the message of Deuteronomy and its influence on Christian Scripture. No other book colors the tapestry of biblical thought quite like Deuteronomy. It synthesized the theology of the Pentateuch, provided Israel with a constitution for guiding their covenant relationship with Yahweh in the promised land, and served as a primary lens through which later biblical authors interpreted Israel’s covenant history. Recent advances in scholarship on Deuteronomy and developments in biblical interpretation are raising fresh questions and opening new paths for exploration. This collection of studies wrestles with Deuteronomy from historical, literary, theological, and canonical perspectives and offers new questions, presents original discoveries, and makes innovative proposals.
The volume is offered in honor of Daniel I. Block on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Few Old Testament scholars have worked so ably, carefully, and intentionally to help the church and the academy grasp the message of Deuteronomy. Block’s own studies always exhibit an admirable balance of exegetical rigor, literary and theological awareness, and pastoral care, and for well over a decade he has, like the priest-scribe Ezra, devoted himself to the study, practice, and teaching of the deuteronomic torah (Ezra 7:10), helping and urging others to hear the life-giving gospel of Moses in Deuteronomy. The international group of specialists that contributed to this volume consists of Daniel Block’s colleagues, friends, and former students. It is their hope that these studies will in various ways supplement Daniel Block’s work, serving the church and the academy and honoring the God of Israel.
We transgressed, defiled and raged,
And he gave his son.
For our filth and shame, staining sin,
He sent the pure one.
Bloodied hands and bloodsoaked lands,
The Lamb—he held his tongue,
His blood was spilt; the church was built,
Because he gave his son.
Now free from chains and all your pains
To living waters run
For cleansing life where Jesus reigns,
The risen, ruling Son.
Worthy he of all our praise,
Honored as his name we raise,
Constant through all time he stays,
Jesus all who trust him saves!
From the sermon “This Is How God Loved the World” on John 3:16–21, preached at Kenwood Baptist Church on October 13, 2013.
And yesterday at SBTS Chapel Dr. Mohler hosted an Author Interviews Panel with Tom Nettles, Tom Schreiner, Denny Burk, Heath Lambert, and me. You can watch below or grab the audio.
Here are the books discussed:
Nettles, Living by Revealed Truth
Schreiner, The King in His Beauty
Lambert, Finally Free
Hamilton, What Is Biblical Theology?
I wish we could have turned the questions Dr. Mohler asked us back to him, so that we could have heard about his recent Conviction to Lead.
Muhammed Ali said, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.” He also said, “Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”
We see the opposite of that pride in John 3 from John the Baptist, and the reason John’s perspective is so different from Ali’s comes down to two things: he knows the identity of Jesus, and he knows the part Jesus plays in God’s plan.
From those realities I make these two assertions about true humility:
1) True humility results from encountering Jesus, who is true greatness.
2) True humility arises from knowing the part Jesus plays in God’s big plan.
Two applications: knowing the greatness of Jesus and the part he plays keeps us from thinking that we’re the world’s Savior, and it helps us to know what our own role is and isn’t.
From what the Baptist says in John 3:27–33, we see 15 things that he knew that kept him humble:
1. What can’t be done:
“A person cannot receive even one thing . . .” (John 3:27a)
2. Where gifts come from:
“unless it is given him from heaven” (3:27b).
3. Who he is:
“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ’” (3:28a)
4. What his role is:
“but I have been sent before him” (3:28b)
5. Who Jesus is:
“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom” (3:29a)
6. What his relationship to Jesus is:
“The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him” (3:29b)
7. How to respond to Jesus:
“rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete” (3:29c)
8. What must happen:
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (3:30)
9. Where Jesus is from:
“He who comes from above” (3:31a)
10. What place Jesus occupies:
“is above all. . . . He who comes from heaven is above all” (3:31b, e)
11. Where he, the Baptist, is from:
“He who is of the earth belongs to the earth” (3:31c)
12. How he speaks:
“and speaks in an earthly way” (3:31d)
13. How Jesus speaks:
“He bears witness to what he has seen and heard” (3:32a)
14. How Jesus is rejected:
“yet no one receives his testimony” (3:32b)
15. What it means to receive the testimony of Jesus:
“Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true” (3:33)
Pride comes from thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. By recognizing that he is not the Messiah, the Baptist has accepted the fact that he is not Israel’s king, not Israel’s champion, not Israel’s Savior. John knows who he is and who he is not. John also knows what his purpose is. His purpose is to prepare the way for Jesus. John knows his own origin. He is from earth, not heaven. John knows that he has nothing he has not received (1 Cor 4:7), and that whatever he has received has come as a gift from God (John 3:27).
One reason we are not humble is the fact that we have not experienced greatness. We have not encountered majesty, so in our ignorance and lack of experience we begin to think that we are grander and greater than we really are. We begin to overestimate our own importance. This doesn’t happen to John because he has experienced greatness, majesty, authority, incomparability in the person of Jesus. John knows that Jesus is the bridegroom (John 3:29) who comes from above, that is, heaven (3:31).
One manifestation of our pride is the assumption that we will succeed where others have failed. What keeps John from that pride? He knows that there has never been a better witness than Jesus, and “yet no one receives his testimony” (John 3:32). No one has a better perception of reality than Jesus. No one has more right to be heard than Jesus. No one could communicate more clearly than Jesus. And his testimony was not received.
What do you expect will happen to your testimony? What right do we have to think that we will have more success than Jesus had?
We cannot receive what has not been given. We are not Messiah. We are not from heaven but from earth. We are not the world’s Savior. We were created to reflect the glory of the image of the invisible God. We were made for Jesus, not the other way around. Therefore we should feel what John articulates about himself and Jesus in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
From “He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease,” preached at Kenwood Baptist Church on October 27, 2013.
I’m sure you’ve heard what J. K. Rowling said about Albus Dumbledore: “I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.”
Dumbledore is a hero, one of the good guys through all seven novels. Unlike the way he is portrayed in the movies, Dumbledore is neither bumbling nor weak. He is commanding, authoritative, strong, sure, and only defeated by superior forces, never inferior ones. Dumbledore didn’t die because he made mistakes or because he absentmindedly mismanaged some magic. He died because he laid down his life, playing his appointed part in the outworking of a grand providential plan into which he had remarkable insight.
How do we deal with the information that Rowling has given us? How do we respond to her declaration that she thought of him as gay?
This calls for wisdom.
We should ask, I think, at least two questions: (1) what does Rowling show us of Dumbledore’s conduct as it relates to homosexuality/same-sex desire, and (2) what is it that makes Dumbledore a hero? Let’s start with the second first.
Is Dumbledore a hero because he has decided that the desires he feels must be right? Has he concluded that his appetites are to be gratified? Has he chosen what he wants over what he deems right? Has he chosen what is easy or what is true and good? Has he done whatever he wanted to do without concern for how it affects other people? Does he advocate that his impulses, his freedom, and his right to do whatever he wants to do matter more than any consideration of traditional morality or societal standard? Does he demand the right to throw off moral norms and be considered righteous by everyone?
The answers to these questions are obvious to anyone who has read the fabulous Harry Potter stories. Dumbledore is a hero not because he has thrown off Christian morality and Christian conceptions of what is good and true and beautiful but because he has embraced them. Dumbledore is a hero because he selflessly opposes evil—moral evil—and the definition of moral evil in the Potter stories corresponds to the definition of moral evil in the Bible. Dumbledore is heroic because he is Christ-like.
There is a character in the Harry Potter stories who has moved beyond traditional morality, who has decided that his appetites are to be gratified, that what he deems right is what must be true, that what he wants he will have without respect for the way it harms others. This character says that there is no good and evil, only power. There is a character who chooses that path, but his name is Voldemort not Dumbledore.
I would suggest, then, that Dumbledore’s same-sex attraction does not take away from our conception of him as a hero but adds to it because it shows us one more way in which Dumbledore has crucified evil, selfish, fleshly desires for the sake of what is morally true, ethically right, lovingly beautiful, and in every way good.
Skeptical of my interpretation of Rowling’s intentions? Need proof? Let’s move from the second question to the first: what does Rowling show us of Dumbledore’s conduct as it relates to homosexuality/same-sex desire. We’ll answer this question at two levels: on the surface, then under the surface.
On the surface, Rowling shows us nothing of Dumbledore’s same-sex attraction. That’s why people were shocked when she announced it. Observe: Dumbledore never overtly declares that he is gay. He never says or does anything to identify or define himself in those terms or by his own desires. Dumbledore never evidences a desire for a day when people’s conception of what is “moral” will be different so that he can pursue his impulses without social stigma. Dumbledore never encourages anyone to “transcend” moral norms of acceptable sexual orientation. In fact, I contend that Dumbledore would view that not as transcendent but as transgression, and this is precisely what makes him heroic.
Had Rowling not told us Dumbledore was gay, we would never suspect it. We would have seen Dumbledore as the self-sacrificial, wise, good hero that he is. And we would be right. Now let’s move from the surface, from what we can know from reading the novels for ourselves, below the surface, to what we might suggest about what Rowling shows in the novels now that she has given us this tidbit about her conception of Dumbledore.
I want to make three suggestions here: first, Dumbledore seems to have chosen a life of celibate singleness. Second, Dumbledore seems to take steps to protect himself and others from his own harmful impulses. Third, Rowling is therefore implicitly presenting Dumbledore as a heroic model for how those who struggle with same sex attraction can nevertheless be good and true.
First, Dumbledore has no partner. Rowling indicates that he had a dalliance in his youth, a dalliance that involved a plan to raise up a new world order, likely extending to a redefinition of sexual morality. While Rita Skeeter and other slanderers use Dumbledore’s youthful mistakes to call his character into question, the characters in the novel who see the truth understand that while Dumbledore may have forayed into those waters in his youth, he fled them and spent the rest of his life fighting those floods. Dumbledore seems to have learned from his own past, and he seems to view his youthful involvement with Grindelwald as a mistake. As a result of his own mistakes and his awareness of his own weaknesses, he is prepared to extend mercy, to give second chances to the likes of Rubeus Hagrid and Remus Lupin. He even trusts Severus Snape. Dumbledore is a great man not because he looks at people’s wickedness and trusts them anyway. He is a great man because though aware of people’s past wrong choices, he is willing to give them new chances to make the right choices. I would add that Dumbledore is fully prepared at all times to accept responsibility for his mistakes, for his own wrong choices, and he confesses them and repents. His desire in giving second chances is a desire for others to recognize their own wrongs, turn from them, and do right in the future.
Second, think of the way that Dumbledore protects himself and others from his own weaknesses. In chapter 37 of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore explains to Harry that he distanced himself from Harry to keep Voldemort from exploiting any perception that their “relationship was—or had ever been—closer than that of a headmaster and pupil.” Dumbledore explains that had Voldemort known of his love for Harry, Voldemort would have used Harry against Dumbledore. There is nothing in the book at this point that would lead anyone to the conclusion that Dumbledore might have felt inappropriate, perverse desires mixed with his appropriate love for Harry, but the passage takes on deeper, unstated meaning in light of what Rowling has told us about Dumbledore’s inclination. In fact, what Rowling has told us enables us to see Dumbledore as more heroic, not less. There is not the slightest hint that Dumbledore used his position as headmaster of Hogwarts to gratify his own desire. There is every indication that Dumbledore recognized ways that magic could be used in the service of illicit pleasures and he opposed all such use of magic—think of the way that Dumbledore warned Harry of the temptation presented by the Mirror of Erised.
All this leads me to think that what J. K. Rowling is celebrating is not homosexuality but virtue as traditionally conceived. Virtue is not the redefinition of sexual morality away from biblical norms, away from the dictates of nature. Virtue is the rejection of wicked desire, desire that would lead us away from biblical norms. Virtue is choosing the true, the good, and the right, even if—precisely when!—what we want is the false, the bad, and the wrong. Albus Dumbledore is heroic because he is virtuous, because he is Christ-like, because he is a celibate single who refused and repudiated his own immoral impulses.
In reaction to Rowling’s declaration, “One blogger wrote on a fansite: ‘My head is spinning. Wow. One more reason to love gay men.’” But Rowling herself contrasts Dumbledore with Bellatrix Lastronge. She said of Dumbledore, “he met someone as brilliant as he was and, rather like Bellatrix, he was very drawn to this brilliant person and horribly, terribly let down by him.” (source). This comparison is instructive: Bellatrix is evil because rather than repudiating what attracted her for the sake of what was right, she abandoned what was right and chose what she desired. Dumbledore did the opposite. Rather than indulge his desire though it was wrong, he crucified his desire and chose to do what was right. That blogger misunderstood. Rowling’s declaration is not “one more reason to love gay men” but one more reason to celebrate and admire those who—whether repentant traitors or werewolves—repudiate their own evil impulses and choose what is good and right instead.
Postscript: I haven’t read Jerram Barrs’ book yet, but I just saw on Justin Taylor’s blog that Barrs has an appendix in his forthcoming Echoes of Eden entitled “The Outing of Dumbledore.” I’ve been thinking about what Rowling said about Dumbledore since it was first brought to my attention, and seeing that Barrs has an appendix on it spurred me to finish this post. I don’t know what Barrs will say, but this is my take on Rowling’s declaration that in her conception of Dumbledore he felt same-sex attractions.
This post originally appeared at Christianity.com.
And the LORD will guide you continually
and satisfy your desire in scorched places
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
A text worth memorizing!
H. B. Charles set the chapel on fire today at SBTS. I recommend you watch rather than simply listen:
What’s with the cover of What Is Biblical Theology?
You might find the image vaguely familiar, though it was new to me when Crossway suggested this cover. Turns out it’s a relatively well known piece by the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte entitled “Son of Man.” I was really impressed when, showing the proposed cover to Mark Coppenger, he immediately recognized it, named the painter, and referred to several other works by Magritte. You can get a rundown of pop-culture references to this painting on the Wikipedia page.
Magritte did a number of paintings of men dressed this way, black suits, bowler hats, and apparently this one was intended as a self portrait.
I’m no art critic, but on the basis of what Magritte himself said about the painting, the imagery used, and its title, I hazard the following thoughts.
The painting is entitled “Son of Man,” which obviously evokes the Bible. Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, and the Scriptures constantly refer to people as ”son of man,” ”sons of men,” or “children of men.” Magritte was probably aware that the first man’s name, “Adam,” is simply the Hebrew word for “man.” This adds the connotation of “son of Adam” to the phrase “son of man.”
It’s probably no coincidence that a painting entitled “Son of Man” features an apple in front of a man’s face. The Bible does not specify that the one verboten was an apple tree, but those who comment on or symbolize the forbidden fruit pervasively depict it as an apple.
About this painting entitled “Son of Man,” featuring an apple in front of a man’s face, Magritte said, “we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us.”
The painting shows the way that forbidden fruit becomes an object of curiosity and desire. For the man depicted in the image, the forbidden fruit stands between him and the world. That prominent fruit is so close to him–or he has drawn so close to it–that it will dominate his perception, influencing all he sees. For us, looking at the picture, the apple obscures our ability to see the man’s face. Instead of seeing the features of his face, we see the forbidden fruit on which he is so focused.
For the “Son of Man” in the painting, the world is perceived only in relationship to the forbidden fruit. This captures something profound about our experience as human beings, and that something is what makes this image so appropriate for the cover of What Is Biblical Theology?
Our desires affect our perception. In our fallen condition, we are so distracted by forbidden experiences–knowledge of good and (especially) evil–symbolized here by the apple, that we cease to behold the glory of the world around us, even if we are standing before something so magnificent as the sea.
Glory, beauty, life brims all around us, and we are like the man in the painting so close to the apple he can see little else. Evidently he doesn’t care to see anything else. Nor can he be seen, and one aspect of our tragedy is that often when others look at us, rather than seeing our faces, they mainly see our sin.
Consider the two images together:
In Magritte’s painting, the son of man’s perception is controlled by his fascination with forbidden fruit. In the cover image, the son of man’s perception is controlled by the Bible. The Bible has become for this man like a frontlet between his eyes (Deut 6:8), his fascination is not with what is forbidden but with the words of life, and his perception is dominated not by desire for evil but defined by the teachings of Scripture.
What is biblical theology? I define biblical theology as the attempt to understand and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors. We want to understand how they interpreted the Bible and life, and we want to follow in the footsteps of these followers of Christ whom God inspired to write the Scriptures.
We want to read Scripture the way the biblical authors read it. We want to see the world as they saw it. We want the Scriptures to control our perception of the world. When people look at us, we want them to see the Bible being lived out in what we do and how we see.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation, and that power extends to the ability to see the world in a new way.
Do you want to look at the Scriptures and the world the way the biblical authors did?
I invite you to consider this attempt to answer the question What Is Biblical Theology?
Watch this video:
The Scriptures and the Shrine: On the Keeping of an Authoritative Copy of the Scriptures at the Temple
Some questions have been raised by Charles Halton and T. Michael Law about the suggestion that an authoritative copy of the Scriptures would have been maintained at the temple in Jerusalem, making discussions of the canon unnecessary prior to the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Law tweeted that there is “not a shred of evidence.”
I think there is abundant evidence for this already in the Old Testament, and then the indications that the Scriptures were kept at the shrine continue in extra-biblical Jewish literature.
- Exodus 40:20, “[Moses] took the testimony and put it into the ark . . .”
- Deuteronomy 31:9, “Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel.”
- Deuteronomy 31:24–26, “When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, ‘Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you.’”
This explains why the king was to write a copy of the Torah that would be “approved by the Levitical priests” (Deut 17:18). The priests had the authoritative scroll and were its stewards.
This process continued after Moses:
- Joshua 24:25, “So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place statutes and rules for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone and set it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to us. . .’”
And the reality of the Word of God being kept in the temple is attested in Kings:
- 1 Kings 8:9, ”There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone that Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.”
This also explains why there was a scroll for Hilkiah to find in the temple in 2 Kings 22. Incidentally, in view of the reference to the “lying pen of the scribes” in Jeremiah 8:8, I would suggest that the significance of the scroll that Hilkiah found was not that it was the only one in existence but that it was the authoritative one that could demonstrate the falsehood of the lies against which Jeremiah contended.
Milton Fisher writes:
“There is now abundant evidence from the ancient Near East of a ‘psychology of canonicity’—viz., a sensitivity to the inviolability of authoritative documents as far back as early second millennium B.C. This will not surprise the careful reader of the Bible. He finds no difficulty in statements that Moses (Deut 31:9ff. ), Joshua (Josh 24:25, 26), and Samuel (1 Sam 10:25) placed written covenant documents in the sanctuary, for this paralleled the common practice among surrounding peoples of that day” (Fisher, EBC 1:387).
R. K. Harrison notes
“Such language was also found in Hittite suzerainty treaties, which contained a clause requiring deposition of the text in some secure location so that in subsequent generations the treaty would be available for public reading” (Harrision, ISBE 1:593).
2 Maccabees states that Nehemiah had “founded a library,” probably a reference to the collected canonical Scriptures, and like him Judas Maccabee “collected the books that had been lost on account of the war . . . and they are in our possession.” The text reads as follows:
- 2 Maccabees 2:13–15, “The same things are reported in the records and in the memoirs of Nehemiah, and also that he founded a library and collected the books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings. In the same way Judas also collected all the books that had been lost on account of the war which had come upon us, and they are in our possession. So if you have need of them, send people to get them for you.”
Roger Beckwith cites texts from Josephus, the Mishna, and the Tosephta on the point that there was “a copy of the Pentateuch in the Temple called ‘the Book of Ezra’. This was probably the oldest and most revered copy of all, traditionally believed to have been written by Ezra the Scribe. If the standardization of the Massoretic text was a process which began in Temple times, as it now seems to have been, the existence of the ‘Book of Ezra’ and the other Temple Scriptures probably had much to do with it” (OT Canon of the NT Church, 83–84).
I think this evidence shows that Moses initiated the preservation of God’s word in the ark of the covenant, making the Levitical priests the stewards of the Torah. Later OT texts indicate that God’s authoritative word was kept at the temple, resulting in it being there for Hilkiah to find in Josiah’s day. Ezra’s significance in his return to the land, seen in both Ezra and Nehemiah, included his being “a ready scribe,” one who thoroughly knew the Scriptures and could quickly find his way in them.
What evidence is there that this canonical consciousness seen in the OT texts suddenly disappeared? What evidence is there that the practice of keeping God’s authoritative word at the temple ceased to be a concern of the Jews who lived between Malachi and Jesus?
Arguments from silence based on deductions from fragmentary evidence or translation practices do not overturn the asseverations in 2 Maccabees and Josephus (along with other texts) that there was an authoritative scroll kept at the temple. See Beckwith for full documentation.
First, I find it hard to maintain across the board that the OT authors always “intended” the way they were later used. Part of the rub may come down to what we mean by “intended” (and I am still unsure of the distinction between authorially and literailty intended). Some use the word “intended” to refer to both the human and divine author, while others make distinctions between the author’s communicative intention and the psychological state of the author.
I don’t see any distinction between “authorial intention” and “literary intention.” In fact, I don’t see how you can have literary intention apart from authorial intention.
In my view, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit results in the intention of the human author being the same as that of the divine author. I understand the phrase “sensus plenior” to refer to those cases where the divine author intended more than the human author.
Patrick then writes:
Dr. Hamilton is saying he thinks it needs to be in the author’s intention.
To support the opposite position one only has to show that the authorial intention is not the driving force for one typological example.
Therefore here are some verses that at least put doubt in my mind that authorial intention is always the main factor.
- Did Hosea intend that when he said “Out of Egypt I have called my son” that this would be applied to Jesus? The obvious answer seems to be no. I would affirm that he is taking Exodus themes and that Matthew capitalizes on them and therefore Hosea would have thought Matthew’s appropriation faithful.
- Did Jeremiah know that a voice would be heard in Ramah again of weeping (see Matt 2:18)? Again no. But Matthew as a skillful writer and an expert interpreter saw Jesus as the true Israel and therefore highlighted this pattern.
- Did David know that when he spoke of his garments being divided up and lots cast for his clothing that this would be applied to Jesus (John 19:24)? No, he spoke better than he knew.
- Did David intend that when he recounts a time when they gave him sour wine to drink that this would be applied to Jesus on the cross (John 19:28-30)? No, he spoke better than he knew.
- Did Moses intend that the two women Hagar and Sarah are the two covenants (Gal 4:24)? No, Paul makes that jump.
- Peter (1 Peter 1:10-12) speaks of the prophets searching and inquiring carefully…but it was not revealed to them (for it was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you). What was revealed to them is that this information was not for them.
- Paul speaks of some things as “mysteries that were kept secret for long ages” (Rom 16:26).
In my view, in doing biblical theology we are attempting to learn and embrace the interpretive perspective of the biblical authors, so these examples are very important. I hold that none of the examples that Patrick cites do what he needs them to do, so I will briefly discuss each in turn. My aim is to show that in each case the intention of the human author of the OT text can be seen to match what the NT author claims about that text.
Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15
The question of whether Hosea intends for this to be applied to Jesus demands too much. Obviously Hosea does not know certain things. It is demonstrable, however, that Hosea refers to the exodus from Egypt because he sees it as a guarantor of the prophesied new exodus from captivity/exile. Hosea 11:5 parallels the sojourn in Egypt with the sojourn in Assyria (and Assyria and Babylon are used interchangeably at points in the OT), then Hosea 11:11 speaks of the return from exile. Hosea indicated in 3:5 that the restoration following the new exodus/return from exile would include a new davidic king.
I contend that Hosea references the exodus from Egypt in 11:1 because he has just spoken of the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel, with its shrine of Bethel and its wicked king, in 10:16. The covenant-breaking people will be exiled (Hos 10:16), but God brought Israel out of Egypt (11:1) and that guarantees the prophesied return from exile which will entail a new David (3:5).
Hosea intends, then, to prophesy of the new exodus and return from exile. Matthew intends to claim that the events of the life of Jesus parallel the history of Israel, and he intends to present Jesus as the one who brings to fulfillment the prophesied new exodus and return from exile.
Jeremiah 31:15 in Matthew 2:17–18
My comments here are similar to what I said about Hosea 11:1. Jeremiah speaks of the voice of lamentation and weeping in Ramah because the mothers of Israel are going to weep the slaughter of their children when the Babylonians break down the walls. Jeremiah is also at many points looking beyond the coming destruction of Jerusalem to the new exodus and return from exile. That’s what Jeremiah intends to say.
Again, Matthew intends to present the life of Jesus as a typological recapitulation of the history of Israel. The slaughter of the children of Bethlehem brings weeping like what was experienced in Jeremiah’s day, but on the horizon is the new exodus which opens the way to return from exile.
I’ve argued that Matthew intends his audience to understand that he is claiming typological fulfillment in the “fulfillment quotations” in his first 2 chapters in ”The Virgin Will Conceive: Typological Fulfillment in Matthew 1:18–23,” pages 228–47 in Built upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew, ed. John Nolland and Dan Gurtner. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008. See also GGSTJ.
Psalm 22:18 in John 19:24 and Psalm 69:21 in John 19:28–30
Did David speak better than he knew? Are these examples of sensus plenior?
John clearly saw a parallel between the words of David and what happened to Jesus, but John meant to invoke more than just these texts. There’s a lot in the Psalms about the righteous sufferer, and I hold that John means for his audience to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the pattern of the righteous sufferer seen in the Psalms (and elsewhere in the OT). John refers to these two passages, but he means for those who know the Psalms to read them all this way.
Did David intend to create (or contribute to) this pattern of the righteous sufferer in the Psalms? I think so. I think David saw himself in a long line of righteous men who were approved by God and who were opposed and rejected and suffered at the hands of the enemies of God (cf. Ps. 2:1–3). This is what happened to Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and many others. I think David saw this pattern in the lives of those who preceded him, saw the pattern in his own life, and understood that the pattern of the righteous sufferer would be repeated, indeed fulfilled, in the life of his descendant who would experience everything promised in 2 Samuel 7.
I see no conflict, therefore, between what David intended and what John intended.
Hagar and Sarah in Galatians 4
Paul calls this allegory, but I content that what Moses intends to communicate matches what Paul intends to communicate.
Moses recounts how God promised a son to Abraham and Sarah, and then they sought to have a son the way that humans ordinarily have children. Sarah was barren, so they used Hagar as a surrogate. The kind of conception acheived with Hagar, though, could happen apart from God’s promise, apart from God’s intervention. Isaac, by contrast, was the child of promise, the child who could only be born if God intervened and gave life to Sarah’s dead womb.
Similarly, Paul is telling the Galatians that they need to receive justification as something that God promises and God accomplishes. They don’t need to achieve their justification in a way that could happen apart from God’s promise and intervention–by keeping selected commands of the law and getting circumcised. They need to receive their justification the way that Abraham and Sarah received Isaac–by faith, with God giving life where there’s death.
I see no conflict between what Moses intends to communicate and what Paul intends to communicate: Paul takes the physical account of Isaac’s birth and applies it to the spiritual issue of justification by faith. Taking something physical and applying it to the spiritual is what allegory does. In both cases, though, the point is that the promise is to be received by faith not accomplished by human power.
In 1 Peter 1:10–11, Romans 16:26, and we could throw in Ephesians 3:5, NT authors do say that more revelation has been given. Naturally. God has revealed the intended fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies in what he has done in Christ, and this the NT authors explain. At no point, though, has Patrick cited a text where the intention of the human author of the OT has been ignored or overturned.
The Significance of the Arrangement of Psalter or even OT Canon
Patrick asks whether, if one holds (as I do) to authorial intent, we can attribute meaning to the order of the books in the OT canon or the arrangement of the Psalter.
I would suggest that the answer is yes, and that this meaning, too, was intended by an “author” though in this case we’re dealing more with an “editor” or “anthologist.” I have no qualms about suggesting that Ezra arranged the books of the OT into the tri-partite order. I don’t have chapter and verse for that assertion, so I can’t be certain that the tri-partite order was the work of a Spirit-inspired prophet. All I can say is something like this: I think there are good historical reasons for thinking that Ezra, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, arranged the books of the OT into a meaningful order. I acknowledge, however, that I can’t be certain of that . . .
My position on the order of the Psalms is similar. My hunch is that David arranged the Psalms he wrote into a meaningful order, and that the Psalmists who followed him followed the trajectory he set. Whoever arranged the canonical form of the book of Psalms, Ezra seems a likely candidate, did so, in my view, under the inspiration of the Spirit.
In these cases we have authors who are intending to create meaning by the way they are arranging texts.
John 19:15 The only thing I have to say about Patrick’s comments on John 19:15 is that if it was “literarily meant that way,” the person who meant it that way was the author of the literature, in my view John son of Zebedee, whom I hold to have been a literary genius.
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