- General introduction discusses topics that cover the OT as a whole (text, canon, etc.), while special introduction discusses individual books of the OT.
- Focus on historical background, literary analysis, and theological message are treated separately, but function in a fully integrated manner in the biblical text.
- The caution to read the Bible in its context does not simply refer to its literary context, but its historical context as well.
- The Bible is indeed timeless, but only in the sense that it is applicable to every generation. The Bible is still bound to a culture, and needs to be understood in that context both literally and historically to derive its theological import.
- It is necessary to understand what was happening when the Bible was communicated to interpret what is communicated, which is of primary import.
- History refers to past events; historiography refers to the writing of these events. When a book is historical or not refers to the authors intent, as well as his success in achieving his intent.
- Even if a book is historical, the author is still acting as an interpreter of events.
- The authors of the OT provided a historical account of events but did not seek to prove they occurred, as that was not their intention in describing them. Rather, their purpose was theological; to assume the historicity of events in order to explain something theologically.
- Alter (1981) uses the Bible’s use of literary genres to argue that it is fiction rather than history. But the difference is that fiction is unbounded where as history is bounded. The events themselves constrain what the Bible communicates, but like fiction, the author is still free to communicate history in whatever way he chooses.
- A person who views everything skeptically will doubt the Bible’s historicity, whereas someone who accepts God’s supernatural intervention in history would have no problem believing its claims. This is the root of the argument between conservatives and critical scholars. Nevertheless, conservative scholars shouldn’t overhistoricize the Bible. We must still answer legitimate questions about genre in our interpretation of certain books.
- Minimalists argue that the Bible is not objective about history; hence, its claims must be supported extrabiblically before anything it presupposes may be deemed true. They prefer archaeological evidence for reconstructing history.
- Traits of biblical historiography:
- Selective: Biblical writers could not document everything historical, as that would consume too much time and space, but what they documented also had to serve their intent.
- Emphasis: Certain aspects of history are emphasized over others.
- Order: While most of the biblical history is chronological, it is not always so. Sometimes the author’s emphasis may require presenting events out of their chronological order.
- Application: Biblical authors sought for their readers to apply what they were presented to their relationships with God.
- Archaeology cannot in itself be used to disprove biblical history, as archaeological remains are mute. They require an interpreter to give them voice.
- The OT is not dry and technical, but composed primarily of stories and poems designed to elicit responses from its readers.
- Characteristics of biblical poetry:
- Terseness: Unlike prose, which uses sentences and paragraphs, poetry uses short clauses grouped by levels of repetition and stanzas. Poetry frequently suppresses conjunctions and particles, which relate one clause to another in normal prose, and utilizes vivid imagery.
- Parallelism: High degree of repetition (although it does occur in some prose). Requires understanding the relationship between the parallel lines.
- Meter: Important for other types of poetry; not clear how it impacts biblical poetry.
- Imagery: Contributes to the terseness of the text, as the image fills in the missing details.
- Biblical prose is l
- ess literary than poetry. It has less concern for how something is said, with fewer metaphors or images. Nonetheless, biblical prose is still shaped and requires extensive literary analysis.
- Genre: a group of texts that bears a common resemblance to one another. The similarity may be related to content, structure, phraseology, function, style and/or mood. Genres are not strictly defined, and may be fluid.
- Genres trigger expectations on the part of the reader. It also helps clarify texts that would be otherwise difficult to understand.
- Narratives are either first-person (limited perspective) or third-person (typical; narrator displays omniscience and omnipresence). Readers typically react to third-person narratives with submissiveness, as the narrator conveys a sense of authority.
- OT theology requires divorcing oneself from their contemporary setting and imagining themselves to be part of the ancient setting of the book. We must bracket the illumination the NT sheds on the OT.
- John Murray: biblical theology stands between exegesis and systematic theology. The major themes of the biblical books are understood through careful exegesis of individual biblical texts, and these themes provide the data for the work of systematic theology.
- There is no single OT theological motif. Poythress is probably right that though there is organic unity to biblical revelation, there is also a proper diversity (= “multiperspectivalism”).
The Pentateuch was basically completed before Moses died. So the original audience was Israel BEFORE entering the land of Canaan. Moses’ purpose was teaching Israel of their covenant-keeping God.
Genre of the Pentateuch:
- Gen.-Exod. 19: primarily narrative
- Exod.20-Deut.: primarily law
But the laws of the Pentateuch have a narrative context. Therefore the primary genre of the Pentateuch as a whole is historical narrative with a didactic function. The law is only understood in the context of the narrative.
Poetry is also used infrequently throughout Genesis to reflect back on some aspect of redemptive history. But toward the end of the Pentateuch there are three major poetic texts (Gen. 49, Num. 24; Deut. 32-33) that look forward to events to occur in the future. All the poems in the Pentateuch reflect on the Messiah.
Though the Pentateuch never identifies Moses as author, it attests to his authoring key portions. Bits that he wouldn’t have known about are likely due to his delegating authority for preserving legal materials to the priests (Deut. 31). Scribes came from the line of priests, so the likely updated references as they preserved the text. By “Mosaic authorship” we don’t mean that Moses wrote every word, but he was the fundamental author of the text.
In contrast to diachronic approaches, synchronic approaches focus on the final form of the text:
- Rhetorical criticism: focus on how something is said.
- Canonical criticism (associated with Brevard Childs): What is the theological significance of a text? What was the role of the text within the community of God’s people?
- Structural criticism (aka “structuralism”)
- Ideological criticism (aka “reader-response): there are three actors that bring a text to life (the author, the text itself, and the reader); the reader is responsible for the final interpretation of a text; there is not just one meaning to a text.
Biblical history is selective. It is intended to support the purpose of the text. It is factual but not necessarily chronological. and it is always theological, with God its central character.
Redemptive-historical (aka “biblical-theological”) hermeneutics: How does a concept develop through time? All roads lead to Christ, but you can trace any concept this way (e.g., land). This shouldn’t be confused with biblical theology, which asks what a book says about a particular topic, in contrast to systematic theology, which asks what the Bible says about a particular topic.
The Enlightenment’s effect on Scripture interpretation (aka “modernism”):
- Scripture is subject to human reason.
- The universe is a closed system (“deism”). There are natural explanations for Jesus’ “miracles.”
- The Bible is not God’s divine Word, but a book like any other.
As a result:
- Theology (what is transcendent) should not be confused with historical investigation (what is immanent).
- The goal of science is to interpret objectively (without presuppositions). This was later rejected by postmodernism, which accepts that everyone has presuppositions.
- The Bible is not a source document in a historical investigation given its ideology.
How did the Pentateuch come together? Diachronic approaches emphasize the historical development of a text.
- Form criticism (aka the “fragmentary model”): many smaller units contributed to the whole.
- Traditions criticism (aka the “supplementary model”): one original base text that was subsequently expanded.
- Source criticism (aka the “documentary model”):
- Four independent documents (J, E, D, & P) are woven into one. You can see this is the case since the Pentateuch isn’t seamless. The redactor was sloppy.