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Unit 5 Interpretive Journey Old Testament 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. Narrative Law Poetry Prophets Wisdom
OT – Narrative • Introduction – Narrative – literary form with sequential action involving plot, setting, and characters. – Narrative shows us how to live or how not to live by the actions of the characters. – We use “narrative” and “story” interchangeably. – Narrative (stories) comprise nearly half of the OT. – The interpretive river is often wide in OT narrative.
• Reading narrative – Reading OT narrative is a lot like reading the Gospels, except that OT stories are longer. – Observe carefully the details of each story. – Look for connections with surrounding stories.
• Literary features of narrative (What? How? ) The sequence of events that ties together the story • Exposition or setting • Conflict or crisis • Resolution (When? Where? ) Backdrop of the story • Time • Place
(Who? ) Characters carry the action and move the plot forward Usually the meaning of the story is tied to the behavior of the characters. (Why? ) The narrator is the one responsible for conveying meaning to the readers through the story The narrator often stays neutral and allows the characters and events to speak for themselves. Sometimes the narrator will express his views in subtle ways.
Major literary technique used in OT narrative to develop the plot and move the story forward • Rahab and Achan • Hannah and Eli • David and Saul When the narrator’s intended meaning is quite different from the surface meaning of an episode • Surface meaning – pagan Philistines capture the ark and think they have defeated the Lord • Intended meaning – The Lord invades Philistia and defeats the enemy!
• Literary context – the big story – Locate the story you are studying in the context of the stories that surround it – Keep relating the parts (individual stories) to the big story of the entire book and the whole OT God promises the land to Abraham’s descendents in Genesis 12 Israelites refuse to enter promised land in Numbers 14
• Do “Good Guys” always wear white hats? – Many theological principles derive from the main characters – Bible deals with real life and real people. People are complex! – Essential that we be able to discern good guys from bad guys
– Not every character is a hero and most characters exhibit both good and bad traits Good Guys? Solomon Sampson Gideon – God is a central character in OT narrative—let God be God! GOD
• Making the Journey in OT narrative Step 1 – Grasp the text in their town Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, is contrasted with Achan, the Israelite. She believes in the God of Israel and trusts him with her life, resulting in deliverance of her and her family from the destruction of Jericho. Achan, however, trivializes God and ignores his strict commands, resulting in his death and that of his family. The two trade places. Step 2 – Measure the width of the river We are under a different covenant than Achan. Our situation is also different. We are not in the conquest and we are not involved in any type of holy war. Nor are we Canaanites (or prostitutes) living in a city about to be conquered. God has not given us the same specific commands as he gave Achan.
Step 3 – Cross the principlizing bridge God sees past superficial externals and saves unusual people who place their faith in him. This is because deliverance is based on true faith (demonstrated by action) and not mere externals, such as ethnicity or religious tradition. God is a God of grace. But judgment comes on those who trivialize God and treat him as if he does not exist. New step for Step 4 – Cross into the New Testament the OT The NT reaffirms that God looks beyond superficial externals and saves people based on faith in Jesus Christ. That God chooses some unusual people is likewise reaffirmed in the NT. Mere association with the people of God, rather than true faith, will not result in salvation.
Step 5 – Grasp the text in our town We tend to judge people based on externals. We meet a clean-cult, middle-class American and think what a great Christian he or she would make. Likewise, when we see someone involved in open sinful activity (drugs, prostitution, gambling, stealing), we tend to write them off and assume they could never become Christians. This attitude is wrong, because God delights in saving the most unusual people. He wants us to have the same attitude towards these people as he does. There are no unlikely candidates for coming to salvation in Christ.
Ryken’s Rules 1. Look upon the story as an invitation to share an experience with the characters. 2. Pay attention to every detail of setting, and analyze how the place, time and culture of the story contributes to the message of the story. 3. Use every relevant detail in a story (direct descriptions, responses of others, the character’s own words and thoughts, self-descriptions, and actions) to get to know each character in the story.
Ryken’s Rules 4. Identify the nature of the plot conflicts (man with environment, man with man, man with himself) in a story, and discover how they develop and are resolved. 5. Ask yourself as you read, “How is this story creating in me suspense, interest, and curiosity? ” 6. Pay attention to the protagonist (the one you hope will win) in a story. Stick close to him, because he is involved in a life experiment whose goal will be to reveal something important about human experience and values.
Ryken’s Rules 7. Try to determine what makes the story one story, even if it has many episodes. This will lead you to understand the story’s framework and parts. 8. Ask yourself as you read, “How is the protagonist being tested? ” and “What are the choices being offered him? ” 9. Notice what important changes happen between the beginning and the end of the story, what causes the changes, and how the changes transform the characters.
Ryken’s Rules 10. Be on the watch for foils, dramatic irony, and poetic justice in the narrative. Storytellers use these to get a reaction from you, and to help you grasp the story’s meaning. 11. Ask yourself, “What would the story be like if this detail was omitted? ” and you will have a clue as to why the storyteller included it. 12. How does the story’s action and characterization affect how you feel about the events and characters? Look for a pattern of approval and/or disapproval to tell you what the story means.
8 Common Errors 1. Changing a narrative into an allegory • Don’t look beyond the clear meaning in a story and make all the details symbols of something else, if the story is not an allegory 2. Decontextualizing a story • Don’t ignore the historical and literary contexts and concentrate only on small parts of the story. You’ll miss the clues the writer has given for interpreting the story as a whole unit.
8 Common Errors 3. Selectively choosing what parts to interpret • Don’t concentrate on only specific words and phrases, ignoring others, and failing to balance the parts and the whole. 4. Falsely combining elements in a story • Like mixing a compound from whatever chemicals you find at hand, this can have explosive results.
8 Common Errors 5. Selectively choosing what parts to interpret • Don’t concentrate on only specific words and phrases, ignoring others, and failing to balance the parts and the whole. 6. Falsely combining elements in a story • Like mixing a compound from whatever chemicals you find at hand, this can have explosive results.
8 Common Errors 5. Redefining terms and sayings • Don’t divert and constrict the meanings of a story and its elements to deflect the impact upon your own situation or condition. • 6. Employing extracanonical authority • Don’t use an external “key to the Scriptures” to seek for truths in the story not otherwise knowable.
8 Common Errors 7. Moralizing • This happens when you automatically make every story illustrate a moral, like Mother Goose’s Nursery Rhymes or Aesop’s Fables do. 8. Personalizing or individualizing • Not all parts of the Bible are intended to impact every single person’s problems.
OT – Law • Introduction – Large portion of the Pentateuch (first five books of OT) is comprised of law (over 600 commandments) – Some of them are very strange: • Exodus 34: 26: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk. ” • Leviticus 19: “Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material. ” – Why do we adhere to some laws and ignore others?
• Traditional approach to interpreting OT law – Moral – deal with timeless truths regarding God’s intention for human behavior (“Love your neighbor as yourself”) – Civil – deal with courts, economics, land, crimes, and punishment (“At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. ”) – Ceremonial – deal with sacrifices, festivals, and priestly activities (“celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress. ”)
– Distinction between moral, civil, and ceremonial law allowed the believer to know whether the law applied to them: • Moral – universal and timeless (still apply as law to believers today) • Civil and Ceremonial – applied only to ancient Israel, not to believers today – Problems with traditional approach: • Arbitrary distinction not in the Bible (Lev. 19: 18 -19) • Difficult to classify many laws (Lev. 19: 19? ) • Too ambiguous and inconsistent – We need a more consistent approach OT law
• Narrative context – OT law does not appear by itself, but is firmly embedded in the story of Israel’s exodus, wilderness wandering, and conquest. Exodus 1 -19 (narrative) Israel’s bondage in Egypt, God’s mighty deliverance, and their journey to the Promised land Exodus 20 -24 (law) Part of the story of God’s encounter with Moses and Israel at Mount Sinai – The law is part of Israel’s story and the story provides an important context for interpreting law. – Don’t separate OT law from its narrative context!
• Covenant context – OT law is tightly intertwined with the Mosaic covenant. What is the nature of that covenant? • Mosaic covenant is closely associated with Israel’s conquest and occupation of the land • Blessings from the Mosaic covenant are conditional • Mosaic covenant no longer a functional covenant for NT believers Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant (Heb. 8: 13)
• NT believers are no longer under OT law as part of the Mosaic covenant “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. ” – Galatians 3: 25 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. ” – Matthew 5: 17 • We must interpret OT law through the grid of NT teaching. Jesus is the final interpreter of OT law. • The OT law no longer applies as direct law for us. However, the OT legal material still contains rich principles and lessons for living that are relevant when interpreted through NT teaching.
• Making the Journey in OT law “Or if a person touches anything ceremonially unclean— whether the carcasses of unclean wild animals or of unclean livestock or of unclean creatures that move along the ground—even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty. ” –Leviticus 5: 2 – Step 1 – Grasp the text in their town • Leviticus deals with how the Israelites are live with an awesome, holy God in their midst. • Larger unit of 4: 1 -5: 13 deals with purification offerings for those who become ritually unclean • 5: 2 details what makes a person unclean • 5: 5 -6 tells the people what to do to become clean again
Step 2 – Measure the width of the river • We are not under the old covenant and our sin is now covered by the death of Christ. • We also have direct access to the Father through Christ and no longer need human priests as mediators. Step 3 – Cross the principlizing bridge • God is holy! • God’s holiness demands that his people keep separate from sin and unclean things. • If God’s people become unclean, they must be purified by a blood sacrifice.
Step 4 – Cross into the New Testament • God no longer resides in a tabernacle, but within each of us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. • His presence, however, still demands our holiness. • NT redefines “clean” and “unclean” (Mark 7) • Under the new covenant, sin is washed away by the death of Christ, the Lamb of God. • Confession of sin, however, is still important (1 John 1: 9) Summary: Stay away from sinful actions and impure thoughts because the holy God lives within you. If you do commit unclean acts or think unclean thoughts, then the death of Christ allows you to confess your sins and receive forgiveness.
Step 5 – Grasp the text in our town • There will be numerous applications of this text. • One application relates to the issue of Internet pornography. • God’s holiness demands that we lead clean lives. • Viewing pornography clearly violates God’s holiness and hinders our worship and fellowship with God. • Stay away from Internet pornography! • If you do fall into this sin, confess your sin and because of the death of Christ, you can be forgiven and your fellowship with God restored.
• Conclusion – Traditional approach to law (moral, civil, ceremonial) is inadequate. – Journey approach to interpreting law: • Narrative context • Covenant context – Interpret all OT legal texts with the same method
OT – Poetry • Introduction – Over one third of the Bible is poetry. – OT poetry focuses on our emotional response to God. It connects with us down deep, both in joy and in despair.
• Jet engines and paintings – Different literary genres of the Bible are like different museums. Air and Space Museum National Gallery of Art Appeals to logic, rational arguments are central, analyze grammar and syntax Appeals to emotion, images are central, analyze figures of speech
• Elements of OT poetry – Terseness g uses few words to enhance their impact and power Show me your ways, O Lord, Teach me your paths. – Psalm 25: 4 – Structure g the most obvious is parallelism where lines represent thought units and are usually grouped in units of two or three: • Synonymous – second line repeats idea of first line • Developmental – second line further develops idea of first line • Illustrative – second line illustrates first line • Contrastive – second line contrasts with first line • Miscellaneous – other types of parallelism not easily classified
– Figurative language • OT poetry is more like a painting than an essay • Literal, historical truth expressed in picture language • Figures of speech involving analogy: – Simile – comparison using “like” or “as” “As the dear pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. ” – Psalm 42: 1 – Metaphor – direct comparison “The Lord is my shepherd. ” – Psalm 23: 1
– Indirect analogy – comparison without stating it “Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. ” – Psalm 22: 13 – Hyperbole – exaggeration for the sake of effect “My tears have been my food day and night. ” – Psalm 42: 3 – Personification/anthropomorphism/zoomorphism – attributes to one entity the characteristics of a totally different entity “Life up your heads, O you gates. ” – Psalm 24: 7 “Your face, Lord, will I seek. ” – Psalm 27: 8 “He will cover you with his feathers, And under his wings you will find refuge. ” – Psalm 91: 4
• Figures of speech involving substitution: – Effects and causes – substitutes the effect for the cause “Let me hear joy and gladness; Let the bones you have crushed rejoice. ” – Psalm 51: 8 – Representation – substitute a part of an entity for the whole “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. ” – Psalm 20: 7
• Miscellaneous figures of speech: – Apostrophe – when they address a person or entity not actually present as if he was present. “Therefore, you kings, be wise; Be warned, you rulers of the earth. ” – Psalm 2: 10 – Irony – when the writer says the exact opposite of what he really means (as in God’s use of sarcastic irony below) “Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this. – Job 38: 18 • Wordplays
• Interpreting OT poetry As with any text in the OT we need to make the five steps in the Interpretive Journey. Here a few guidelines for the poetry genre related to Step 1: • In your observation, look closely for parallelism. Read the two or three lines of parallelism as one thought. • Locate and visualize figures of speech. Identify the kind of figure you have in the passage. Also, try to enter into the emotional world of the image.
• Unique aspects of the Psalms – Does not present doctrinal guidelines so much as examples of how to communicate our deepest emotions and needs to God. – When we find ourselves in deep despair or in jubilant celebration, Psalms teaches us to be honest and open with God. – God wants us to pour out our hearts to him and he wants to connect with us in the depths of our emotional being.
• Conclusion – In OT poetry we are dealing with rather than – Poetry is characterized by terseness, a high degree of structure (parallelism), and figurative language. – OT poetry shows us how to communicate our deepest emotions to God.
OT – Prophets • Nature of OT prophetic literature OT Prophets Major Isaiah Jeremiah Ezekiel Daniel Longer books Minor Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi Shorter books
– Little in our culture that resembles the OT prophetic literature (Bob Dylan? ) – Only a small amount of OT prophecy deals with events still future to us “Less than 2 percent of Old Testament prophecy is messianic. Less than 5 percent specifically describes the New Covenant age. Less than 1 percent concerns events yet to come. ” – Fee and Stuart – Prophets proclaim more than they predict – Prophets make extensive use of the figurative language of poetry
– Prophetic books are primarily anthologies– collections of shorter units, usually oral messages called oracles proclaimed publicly to the people of Israel or Judah. • • Not usually arranged chronologically Therefore, almost impossible to outline Look for a few major themes repeated over and over Yet the prophet’s message comes through loud and clear
– Historical-cultural and theological context
• Basic prophetic message – Prophets function as God’s prosecuting attorneys (covenant enforcement mediators), warning the people of the consequences of covenant violation. – Prophetic message has three basic points: 1. You have broken the covenant; you had better repent! • Idolatry—syncretism, faithful husband/unfaithful wife • Social justice—widows, orphans, foreigners • Religious ritualism—ritual substitutes for relationship
2. No repentance? Then judgment! • Plea for repentance, but proclaim severe consequences of rebellion • Horrific invasions • Loss of Promised land 3. Yet, there is hope beyond the judgment for a glorious future restoration. • New exodus (Isaiah), new covenant (Jeremiah), new presence of the Spirit (Ezekiel and Joel) • Messianic promises and future predictions
• Interpretation and application of basic message 1. You have broken the covenant; you had better repent! • Must pass through filter of NT teaching • No longer under covenant of law, so different for believers and unbelievers • Focus on relational aspects of our sin (marriage analogy) • Sinning against God causes him to hurt emotionally • Idolatry – job, success, money, TV, clothes, grades … • Social justice – poor, elderly, minorities, children … • Religious ritualism – rituals function as means or ends?
2. No repentance? Then judgment! • Sin is an offense against God and demands judgment • NT g judgment of death for Christian’s sin transferred to Christ • If Christians fail to repent, their relationship with God will be damaged 3. Yet, there is hope beyond the judgment for a glorious future restoration. • Ultimate fulfillment of promises in Christ • God is in the business of forgiving and restoring people
• Predictive passages – Small portion of prophet’s message to events that are still future for us Near View or Far View? – Predictions could refer to: • Return of Jewish exiles to Israel (past for us) • First coming of Jesus Christ (past for us) • Second coming of Jesus Christ (still future for us)
– Difficult to determine whether the prophets are describing events that will occur within their lifetime (near view) or events that will occur much later (far view). – We should be cautious about being overly dogmatic when interpreting details of predictive prophecy. – It is possible that the prophets have intentionally blurred together these future events so that their readers will focus on the broader theological principles.
OT – Wisdom • Introduction – You have persevered the end of this book! “Of making may books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. ” –Ecclesiastes 12: 12 b
• Purpose of the wisdom books – Law, narrative, and prophets stress “Believe!” and “Obey!” while wisdom stresses “Think!” – Call us to listen, look, think, and reflect – Offer practical insights for living – Goal is to develop wise and godly character for life in the real world
• The big picture – Four wisdom books balance each other theologically. Read each one in context of all four. Proverbs Rational norms of life (what normally happens). Does not present universals (what will always happen). Song of Songs Irrationality of romantic love between husband wife. Ecclesiastes Failure of the rational, ordered approach to provide ultimate meaning to life. Meaning only comes through a relationship with God. Job Righteous and wise suffer in ways that mere humans cannot understand.
• Wisdom as poetry – A large portion of wisdom literature is poetry. – Wisdom books use parallelism as their standard structural feature. – The more emotional the tone, the more the book will use figurative language: Less Emotionally Charged, Less Picture Language More Emotionally Charged, More Picture Language Proverbs Ecclesiastes Job Song of Songs
• Grasping the wisdom books – Proverbs • Proverbs – short, pithy sayings that teach practical wisdom about life • Individual proverbs reflect general nuggets of wisdom about what normally happens in life (e. g. , “Don’t be lazy! Work hard!”). • Proverbs are never to be taken as universal promises. • The book of Proverbs does not deal with the exceptions to the normal rules. • Since each proverb presents a general principle, the river of differences is usually quite narrow and shallow. • But be careful how you define “blessing. ”
– Job • Job does all that Proverbs commands, but he receives dead children, financial ruin, physical pain, and criticism from his friends. • Job is a story (in contrast to Proverbs) and we must take the literary context of narrative seriously: – 1 -2 – 2 -37 – 38 -42 – 42 Job is afflicted Job searches unsuccessfully for a rational answer God answers Job’s accusations Job’s friends are rebuked and Job is restored • The differences between the ancient audience and us are not great. • Lessons from Job: –God is sovereign and we are not –God knows all and we know precious little –God is always just, but does not always disclose his reasons –God expects us to trust his character
• NT presents suffering as a normal feature of a godly life. • Don’t repeat the mistake of Job’s friends and misuse biblical truth. • Book of Job teaches us that it is not wrong to cry out to God in anger and frustration when unexplained tragedy strikes. • Our focus in grief should not be on “why” but rather on God and his character. • Comforting friends is different from having all the answers.
– Ecclesiastes • Ecclesiastes (like Job) must be interpreted as a whole with the ultimate answer coming at the very end. • The book is full of satire, sarcasm, and cynicism. • The “Teacher” or “Preacher” declares that a strictly rational search for meaning is “meaningless. ” • At the end of the book, the Teacher comes to his conclusion: “Fear God and keep his commandments. ” • Apart from God, not even wisdom can give life meaning. • River normally shallow in Ecclesiastes except for a limited concept of death and the afterlife. • The NT adds that apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ, life is meaningless. • Apart from a relationship with Christ, not even a college degree can make life meaningful!
– Song of Songs • Shocking book because it speaks openly and joyfully about human sexuality (read 7: 7 -8). • The book is organized into three sequential units: – 1 -3 Courtship – 3 -5 Wedding – 5 -8 Life of Love • Highly emotional and full of picture language as the man and woman describe their love for each other • Most scholars today caution against the allegorical interpretation • A model of the joy and irrationality of a married couple madly in love • Wise and godly people should express their marital love in strong, emotional (mushy? ) terms. • We suggest a little updating of the figurative language (hair like a flock of goats? )
"How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are like doves behind your veil. . Your hair is like a flock of goats. . . Your teeth are like a flock of newly shorn ewes. . . Your lips are like a scarlet thread, Your temples are like a slice of pomegranate. . . ". . . Your neck is like the tower of David built with rows of stones on which are hung a thousand shields. . . Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle which feed among the lilies. . . ". . . Your lips, my bride, drip honey, Honey and milk are under your tongue. . . And the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon. Your belly is like a heap of wheat. . . ". . . Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon, which faces towards Damascus. . . " From Song of Solomon chapters 4 and 7