Sunday, June 25, 2006

Key Biblical Theological Themes

Tomorrow I begin teaching a course on Biblical Interpretation and Communication for Campus Crusade staff. One of the major emphases in the course is helping students to identify key biblical-theological themes in the particular passage they are working in so they can connect their passage to the larger canonical witness. Of course, one of the challenges we face is that for those who are new to such an approach, it can be quite challenging to identify those threads.

Consequently, I'd like to help them by giving them some suggested threads that are rather common in Scripture. Those of us who have done this for a whole can sometimes forget that it has taken us a while to get to the point where we immediately recognize such threads. So I'll get our discussion started by suggesting the themes of prophet, priest and king, all of which find their fulfillment in Christ. In other words, when working in an OT passage one thing to consider is whether any of the references to a prophet, priest, or king in some measure point forward to the ultimate prophet, priest, or king Jesus Christ. Sometimes that pointing forward is done in a negative way; in other words, the failures of a particular prophet, priest or king point forward to the need for a prophet, priest or king who does not fail (e.g. Saul in 1 Sam).

Another example would be the theme of God's presence with his people, be it mediated through a tabernacle, temple, his incarnate Son, or the people of God. Recognizing such a theme enables one to make helpful connections across the canon.

So what other key biblical theological themes or threads are so pervasive or pivotal in Scripture that knowing them opens one up to the ability make key connections to different parts of the Biblical story?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Job News

I am excited to report that today I officially signed a contract for the position of Associate Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Our family is excited about this ministry opportunity, especially the chance to train and equip pastors and missionaries to encounter Christ through the Scriptures.

The next 5 weeks will be full of details such as moving and the like. But we are so grateful to God for providing this opportunity. For the past ten years we have sensed that God was leading us in this direction, and to now come to the fruition of that calling is a joy that defies expression. It is no exaggeration when I say that I still am overwhelmed with how good God has been to us and how undeserving we are of his grace in calling us to this ministry.

I also trust that despite my teaching and writing responsibilities I will be able to continue our conversation on this blog.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Role of Historical & Exegetical Background in Interpretation

Lately I've been reflecting on the place of the role that knowledge of background material plays in interpretation. In particular I have in mind the issue of Jewish exegetical traditions and interpretation of certain NT passages. One example that comes to mind is Paul's reference to the rock following the Israelites in the desert in 1 Cor 10. On the surface the reference seems quite strange; but if one knows of various Jewish exegetical traditions about that rock Paul's reference becomes more understandable, even if it remains striking.

The point I want to raise is the necessity of such background knowledge for understanding Scripture. On the one hand, my own work has revealed the value of understanding such exegetical traditions for illuminating Paul's own use of the OT. But on the other hand I firmly believe in the perspicuity (i.e., clarity) of Scripture and want to affirm that those who lack the opportunity of graduate education are entirely capable of understanding God's Word.

Perhaps the answer lies in asserting the general clarity of Scripture in its essential message and content while maintaining the value of background studies as providing a richness and depth to that essential message. One of the questions I was asked in my dissertation defense was something along the lines of "If Paul's use of Isaiah in Galatians is not essential to understanding Galatians, what is the value of your research?" The question was asked in a good spirit and in no way attacking. My answer (one that I am still thinking through) was that although Paul's basic message in Galatians is understandable even to those who do not notice the repeated allusions and echoes of Isaiah, the depth and richness of that message cannot be fully appreciated without recognizing Paul's profound engagement with Isaiah (esp. chs. 49-54).

So what say you?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Where's Matt?

As is obvious from the lack of any posts from the past three weeks, life has been extremely busy. So I wanted to give a very brief update. The past few weeks have been filled with dissertation revisions, travel, and many other things. Most significantly, however, is the very strong prospect of me taking a NT teachin position for the upcoming school year. Until it is completely official (i.e. I have signed a contract) I won't mention where, but it is a position that I am excited about. I have made two trips to the school, moved through the interview process, and now await final confirmation, which hopefully should happen by the end of this month. In light of this we are handling all of the logistics of house buying (we found a GREAT house), moving, etc.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that I'm leaving Wed to teach for Campus Crusade for Christ for 4.5 weeks?

So if you think of it, ask for God's sustaining grace and blessing during this exciting but challenging time for us!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Recommended Resource: Dictionary of Biblical Imagery

A resource that I have found helpful in identifying biblical theological themes across the canon is The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, James C.Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III. After an introductory article covering topics such as image/symbol/metaphor and literary conventions, the rest of the volume contains articles on a wide variety of topics, ranging from Aaron's Rod to Zion. The vast majority of the articles that I have read appear to be well written and full of biblical references so that one can trace the theme throughout Scripture. There are no bibliographies attached to the articles, but the subject and scripture reference indeces are extremely helpful for quickly checking where a particular passage you are interested in is mentioned. Although it retails for $45, Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore has it available for just $30 (follow the link with the name of the book above).

Have any of you found this resource helpful?