In 1 Cor 10:1-4, Paul makes the shocking claim that the rock from which the Israelites drank in desert (Exod 17) was Christ:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.
(1 Cor 10:1-4; NAS1995)
On what basis does Paul make such an identification? Is this merely fanciful exegesis? Is there any theological basis for such an identification?
I am pleased to recommend the website Beginning with Moses as an excellent resource for Biblical Theology. There are a number of helpful articles, sermons, and yes, a blog. There are some heavy hitters who are involved with this site (e.g. Graeme Goldsworthy, Simon Gathercole), and the folks who have put it together are doing some fine thinking and writing. I look forward to further exploring the site myself in the coming weeks, but from what I have already seen this site should be bookmarked and visited regularly.
Under a previous post, a reader asked the following question:
“I’ve a question about connecting the OT to the NT. Although I do agree that the OT is connected to Christ, for instance, the institution of the sacrifices in Israel’s worship; is it possible to interpret every single passage in the OT as pointing towards Christ? For example, how is it possible to interpret the deep friendship between Jonathan and David in the light of Christ?“
So, good readers, is it in fact possible to interpret every OT passage as pointing forward to Christ? If so, how? And what about the example of David and Jonathan’s friendship?
According to Luke 2:32, Simeon refers to Christ as “a light of revelation to the Gentiles,” which is almost certainly an allusion to Isa 49:6 (“I will also make You a light of the nations”).
According to Acts 13:47, Paul responds to Jewish opposition to his gospel message by claiming that the Lord commanded he and Barnabas, followed by a citation from Isa 49:6 (“I have placed you as a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth”).
So in Luke 2:32, Luke seems to indicate that Christ is the fulfillment of Servant in Isa 49:6, while in Acts 13:47 he seems to present Paul and Barnabas as the fulfillment of that same Servant passage. On what basis, then, does Luke assert that both are true? In other words, what is the underlying theological logic that allows Luke to make such claims?
According to Luke, one of the things Jesus stressed to his disciples immediately after his resurrection was how to read the OT:
“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27)
“Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.'” (Luke 24:44-48)
In these two passages, Jesus makes it clear that if his disciples are to read the OT correctly, they must read it with a view to his suffering/resurrection and the proclamation of that message to the ends of the earth. In other words, if we read the OT without attempting to understand how that particular passage in some fashion points forward to Christ and the gospel, we are not reading the OT in the way that Jesus commands us to. I would call this a “gospel-centered hermeneutic.” Only in the light of Jesus’ death/resurrection and the proclamation of that event do we have the hermeneutical key for reading the OT in all its fullness.
“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.'” So they departed with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Matt 28:5-7 (ESV)
Words to reflect upon as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of of Christ, the bedrock foundation of our faith.
One of the classic works on Biblical Theology is a book entitled Biblical Theology by Geerhardus Vos. He defined biblical theology as follows:
“Biblical Theology is that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self revelation of God deposited in the Bible” (p. 13)
He then notes four main features of God’s self-revelation in Scripture:
1. The historic progressiveness of the revelation-process. Revelation does not stand alone, but is inseperably attached to God’s redemptive actions.
2. The actual embodiment of revelation in history. Revelation is incarnate in history, not merely incidental to it.
3. The organic nature of the historic process observable in revalation. Revelation and redemption move forward progressively not in a uniform sense, but often in bursts.
4. The fourth aspect of revelation determinative of the study of Biblical Theology consists in its practical adaptability. God’s self-revelation is not exclusively or primarily for our intellectual advancement, but for the living out of God’s purposes in the world.
Although originally written in 1948, Vos’s work remains a must-read for those interested in biblical theology.
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.”
(1 Peter 2:9-10, NAS1995)
The phrases in all caps are identified by the NAS as OT citations/allusions. Here is the breakdown:
Chosen race – Isa 43:20
Royal priesthood – Exod 19:6
Holy nation – Exod 19:6
People for God’s own possession – Exod 19:5
Not a people – Hos 1:10; 2:23
People of God – Hos 2:23
Not received mercy – Hos 1:6; 2:23
Received mercy – Hos 2:23
I would add the following additional allusions/echoes:
proclaim the excellencies – Isa 43:21
the one who called you from darkness to light – Isa 42:6-7, 16
So here is the two-part $64,000 question:
1. What are we to make of language describing Israel in the OT applied to the church?
2. How should these OT citations/allusions/echoes influence our interpretation of 1 Pet 2:9-10?
For those interested in getting started in understanding the storyline of the Bible, I can think of no better resource than God’s Big Picture: Tracing the Story-line of the Bible by Vaughn Roberts. He organizes the biblical storyline around the theme of kingdom, which he defines as “God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule and blessing” (p. 21). He then organizes the biblical story around the development of this theme throughout Scripture:
1. The pattern of the kingdom
2. The perished kingdom
3. The promised kingdom
4. The partial kingdom
5. The prophesied kingdom
6. The present kingdom
7. The proclaimed kingdom
8. The perfected kingdom
This is an excellent place to begin for a basic understanding of the biblical storyline. This book is about as basic as it gets while remaining responsible in its handling of Scripture, and is only about 150 pages. For those wanting a more substantive version, check out Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldsworthy. Roberts acknowledges that his work is merely a less technical version of Goldsworthy, but this makes it more accessible than Goldsworthy.
So what do you think? For those who have read the book, what are your impressions?
Such a question at first might seem obvious – theology derived from, or based on, the Bible. But unfortunately it’s not that simple, because the term “Biblical Theology” has come to take on a specialized meaning. Perhaps the best way to explain what is meant by biblical theology is to define it along with other “types” of theology:
Systematic Theology – the attempt to organize the teaching of the Bible under various headings such as theology proper (what the Bible teaches about God and his character), anthropology (what the Bible teaches about human beings), soteriology (what the Bible teaches about salvation), Christology (what the Bible teaches about Christ), etc. Examples of this approach would include: The Institutes by John Calvin; Systematic Theology (3 vols.) by Charles Hodge; Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. In the past this was sometimes also referred to as Dogmatic Theology.
Historical Theology – the attempt to trace the development of specific doctrines (e.g., the Trinity) throughout the history of the church. Attention is paid to heretical views that forced the church to sharpen and refine her formulation of doctrine. An example of this approach would be Historical Theology (2 vols.) by William Cunningham.
Pastoral Theology – the attempt to relate Christian doctrine to specific life situations in the church (e.g., sickness, suffering, interaction with the culture). Attention is paid to how Christian doctrine is to be lived out within the church and the culture.
Biblical Theology – the attempt “to explore the unity of the Bible, delving into the contents of the books, showing the links between them, and pointing up the ongoing flow of the revelatory and redemptive process that reached its climax in Jesus Christ” (J.I. Packer, “Foreword” in The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund Clowney, p. 8). Attention is paid to the “storyline” of Scripture and prominent themes across the Bible usually with an attempt to relate them to gospel and/or Christ.
While I certainly believe all of these approaches are important, it is my conviction that biblical theology provides the basis for systematic, historical, and pastoral theology. So on this blog the focus will be on biblical theology, but given the interlocking nature of biblical theology with the other disciplines we will often delve into these other areas as well.