Biblical Studies


In his article, “How May we Speak of God? A Reconsideration of the Nature of Biblical Theology,” Tyndale Bulletin 53/2 (2002): 177-202, R.W.L. Moberly offers the following definition of biblical theology (from a Christian perspective): “Biblical theology is thus, in some form or other, the endeavour to speak and/or write truthfully about God via the interpretation of Scripture where God’s self-revelation to Israel and in Christ is to be found” (p. 178). It is, in other words, an attempt to speak about God via the revelation of Scripture. I find this definition helpful on multiple levels. In the first it recognizes the importance of both of the testaments, and the purpose of speaking “truthfully about God” presupposes not only a descriptive function but also a confessional function, for it implies the confession that the revelation of Scripture speaks truthfully about God. 

 

This article is an excellent example of Moberly’s interpretive program and I recommend it highly to everyone. In this post, however, I want to examine one aspect of Moberly’s suggestion: the use of Exod. 34:6-7 to set a paradigm for biblical theology. I find this to be a very helpful exercise and worthy of reflection. (more…)

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In a previous post I looked at 1 Sam. 2:25b and noted the difficulty it raises in regards to divine sovereignty and human free will. In this post I want to look at the second difficulty that that verse raises, the troubling assertion that God is good, though he apparently desires the death of Hophni and Pinchas. The idea that God would desire someone’s death seems very problematic to our usual theological categories for God.

 

1 Sam. 2:25b

ולא‭ ‬ישׁמעו‭ ‬לקול‭ ‬אביהם‭ ‬כי־חפץ‭ ‬יהוה‭ ‬להמיתם

 

Trans.: But they did not heed the voice of their father for YHWH desired to kill them (my translation).

 

 

It is possible to read this phrase with the NRSV as “it was the will of the Lord to kill them.” But as far as I can tell, the word חפץ‭ ‬most regularly carries the connotation of “to desire” or “to take delight in” or “to take pleasure in” (cf. BDB, I do not have HALOT with me so I am curious what it says). It is probably possible (more…)

I have been reading through Samuel lately and I came across a verse that struck me as both interesting and troubling. This post is the first of two posts that will deal with two difficulties of this text. The first difficulty is the issue of divine sovereignty and human free will or responsibility. The second issue is the difficult phrase “God desired to kill them” and the goodness of God. This post will deal with the first issue. 

 

The context of this passage (see 1 Sam. 2:12-25) is that Eli’s sons have been abusing their power as Priests to extort the people. Eli informs them that he has heard bad things about them and he warns them  (by implication) that they are sinning against God. The response to this warning is found in 1 Sam. 2:25b and is as follows:

 

ולא‭ ‬ישׁמעו‭ ‬לקול‭ ‬אביהם‭ ‬כי־חפץ‭ ‬יהוה‭ ‬להמיתם

 

My Translation:  But they did not heed the voice of their father for YHWH desired to kill them. (more…)

My education is beginning to turn towards this thing called “Theological Interpretation of Scripture” (TIS). So, as my reading and my studying turns in this direction, my blogging (as sparse as it may be) will begin to reflect this somewhat. For those who are, like me, new to this discipline, I found the following article very helpful:

S.A. Cummins, “The Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recent Contributions by Stephen E. Fowl, Christopher R. Seitz and Francis Watson,” Currents in Biblical Research 2/2 (2004): 179-96.

Cummins reviews the works of Fowl, Seitz and Watson as representative of the Theological Interpretation movement. He looks at each of them in terms of 1) their reaction against historical-critical interpretation, 2) their Trinitarian framework, 3) their understanding of Scripture as a Two-Testament text, and 4) their understanding of Scripture and its importance for the Christian community.

Cummins begins by (more…)

I am not a Pauline scholar nor the son of a Pauline scholar. I am, however, a Christian and a student of the Bible. This means I seek to understand the Bible as a whole, not just the parts I like. To that end, I find myself puzzled and perplexed with the new debates about Paul, specifically in regards to the so called “new perspective on Paul.” I make no claims to understand this debate. I have my own thoughts but I’ll keep them to myself.

Nevertheless, if you are interested in the New Perspective on Paul–and if you are interested in Paul and/or are a Christian then you should be–then this two part lecture by notable evangelical scholar D.A. Carson should interest you. D.A. Carson is one of the outspoken critics of the New Perspective. He is both very bright and a very engaging speaker (though he speaks very fast, try and keep up). While, sometimes I think he is over critical of the New Perspective, this two part lecture gives a helpful introduction to the issues from a non-New Perspective point of view. Whether you are well versed in this debate or have never heard of it, these lectures should interest you.

D.A. Carson – The New Perspective on Paul Part 1

D.A. Carson – The New Perspective on Paul Part 2

The next question that I must answer in my academic pursuits is why would a Christian get their PhD in the Old Testament? Wouldn’t you rather learn about Jesus? Isn’t Paul more edifying and instructive? Well the answers to those questions may be yes, for some. But I have always found the Old Testament (I do not say Hebrew Bible because I am thinking of both the MT and LXX, as I will be studying both) to be fascinating, edifying and immensely instructive. I have also found the OT incredibly difficult. Many of the most difficult issues in the Bible, especially those that repulse non-Christians, come from the OT. For this reason I feel the need to truly understand this greater half of the Christian Bible. 

 

The OT also has the uncanny ability to be inexhaustible (I do not mean that the NT does not, but the OT does in a different way, as we will see presently). As a boy, my Mom tried all the tricks to get me to read my Bible. The most successful ‘trick’ was to point me to all the warfare and violent passages of the OT. I remember vividly reading about Ehud the left-handed judge  and David’s mighty men. Nothing sounded more un-Biblical to me than these passages of testosterone filled heroism and unmitigated gore. They were fascinating to me as adventure stories on a very basic level and they got me asking questions about God and his dealings with people. I am now, however, going to study one of those stories (David and Goliath) on the most detailed level, a PhD dissertation, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that that text will not disappoint me on any level. My point is this, the OT narratives have the incredible ability of distilling their main messages to the most basic level where they are understandable to simple readers (not that there are not some significantly R-rated parts of the Bible that children should not read, there are), but on the other hand the OT was written with such literary sophistication and depth of meaning that a short passage can sustain a great deal of study and illumine a whole array of meaning. This is part of what draws me to the OT.

 

I am, however, a Christian and the NT is immensely important to me. I will always read the NT and I will always be a student of it. However, I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us Christians read our Bibles in the wrong direction…back to front. I have heard it said numerous times that it is only in light of the NT that the OT can be understood. This seems fundamentally backwards to me. I am more of the opinion that only in light of the OT can the NT be understood! Try reading the Return of the King without having previously read the Fellowship of the Ring and the Two Towers. You have no idea what this great climax is about. I feel the same way about the NT. Now, that does not mean that knowing where the story ends (NT) does not illuminate more precisely what has gone before. Any good novel reveals new information on a multiple readings because you know where the story is going. But that doesn’t mean that you should read the end first. So in my desire to understand the NT I find it necessary to start with the OT. 

 

Furthermore, I have a suspicion that the OT is significantly under-appreciated within Christian circles. Aside from Psalms and Proverbs I don’t think the OT is widely read. I think this is incredibly unfortunate. Let me give you one anecdotal example of why this is so. When my dad told his friend Tony Campolo, that his son would be pursuing a PhD in the Old Testament, he said this: “That’s great. We need people to read the OT. You can know Jesus from the NT but YOU DON’T KNOW GOD, unless you read the OT!” I think he may have been intentionally overstating the issue, but I think he’s got a point. Thus, I will be studying the OT, as the greater half of the Christian Bible.

C. Hassell Bullock, Franklin S. Dyrness Professor of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, has offered a very interesting study of the canonical relationship between “Wisdom” (ketuvim?) and Torah (“Wisdom, the ‘Amen’ of Torah,” JETS 52/1 [2009]: 5-18). Bullock’s thesis is that wisdom literature functions as “the ‘amen’ of Torah” (p. 5). What he means by this is that wisdom literature functions in a dialogical relationship to Torah that affirms the major tenets of Israelite faith from the Torah. 

He examines three Pentateuchal themes that “wisdom” affirms: 1) the creator God, 2) monotheism, and 3) the theme of the “fear of the Lord/God.” In each section he examines texts from Psalms, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes to show how they affirm these Pentateuchal themes to varying degrees of success. 

For the most part I enjoy these kinds of intertextual and pan-biblical studies. However, (more…)

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