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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Old Testament Expository Preaching?

Last week, I had breakfast with a couple of brothers from UPS for prayer and theological discussion. While we left, one asked the question, "Can you name one solid expository preacher of the Old Testament?" We thought for a while and struggled to come up with any significant names. So I thought I would ask you the same question" "Do you know of any great expositors of the Old Testament?" One that comes to my mind is Dr. Steve Lawson, and another I mentioned was Phil Ryken. Of course, we did mention Lig Duncan and his great message from the T4G Conference about preaching from the OT. But as a follow-up question, can you give potential reasons why there is such a serious lacking of expository preaching from the Old Testament? Let me make a confession here. Before my first semester of seminary, I was the Marcionite concerning the OT. By that I mean, I chose to read and study certain books like Psalms, Proverbs, and of course Song of Solomon since every college student wanted to know about the love and dating imagery expressed therein. But could I tell you about 2 Chronicles, Amos, or Zechariah? No, not in the least bit. However, I am grateful for Dr. Daniel Block who helped me repent of my embarrassing neglect of God's revelation which I for so long neglected. To be a people and a denomination which so values the inerrancy and inspiration of God's Word, we cannot preach and teach 1/4 of it alone. We also cannot treat the other 3/4 with leadership lessons or biographical summaries either. For instance, the lives of Abraham, Joseph, or Moses are not primarily about them biographically. They are about the God of Abraham, Joseph, and Moses preeminently! Yet, that seems to be neglected far too often. Let me share with you a portion of Dr. Block's first lecture to the Old Testament in which he called "The Trivialization of the Old Testament in Evangelical Preaching."

12 Symptoms of the Trivialization of the Old Testament in Evangelical Preaching

  1. Avoidance of the Old Testament.
  2. Walk-through-the Bible Approaches to the OT.
  3. The Illustrative Use of the OT.
  4. The Proof-texting Use of the OT.
  5. The Selective Use of the OT.
  6. The Biographical and Psychological Use of the OT.
  7. The Applicational Use of the OT.
  8. The Spiritualized Use of the OT.
  9. Reading the Old Testament Through New Testament Lenses.*
  10. The Christologizing of the OT.*
  11. Nonsensical Sloganizing of the OT.
  12. The Magical Use of the OT.

The asterisk (*) denotes two that are considered questionable by some theologians, but I think overall Dr. Block makes some excellent points in his outline. Dr. Block continues by sharing the reasons and effects such trivialization of the OT has upon evangelical Christianity. So back to my initial question and thoughts. Why is it that so many pastors neglect the Old Testament? Is it just not relevant enough? Are there not commentaries to compile sermon material? Since we are of the new covenant, is preaching from the old covenant unnecessary?

In our conversation, I recall one of my brothers sharing with me that the reason why John Piper does not preach from the OT expositorily is because he does not know biblical Hebrew. Due to his passion not to be a second-hander in his sermon preparation, Piper works with primary sources (that being the original texts) and does extensive work such as sentence diagramming, word study, etc. I admire that in Piper, but I think he would admit that his weakest point in his pulpit ministry is the absence of expository preaching from the Old Testament.

In conclusion, I would add that having a solid biblical theology (not systematic theology) is sorely lacking among even trained theologians. We can systematically present the doctrines of the faith from theology proper to eschatology but have a hard time presenting the redemptive history from Genesis to Revelation while giving due attention to the texts of the Old Testament with just as much labor and precision as we do in the New Testament.

So what are your thoughts? Has this entered your mind? Do you know of any great expositors of the Old Testament you can point me to? Any reasons why the OT is neglected among evangelicals who so emphasize sola Scriptura and the inerrancy of Scripture?


Blogger Stephen Newell said...

Dude, you can't pass over Hershael York!

7/25/2006 05:46:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...


First of all, congrats on the marriage! Still on the honeymoon phase?

I must confess, not only have I not heard Hershael York preach on the OT, I have not heard him preach on the NT - that means have not heard him preach period. So, for my sake and possibly others, could you maybe give a few sermon examples or passages maybe that Dr. York has exposited? That would be a great help!

7/25/2006 05:57:00 AM

Blogger T said...

Bias admitted, I say Daniel Block and Peter Gentry. I think the reason the OT is neglected by more theological types is because it is hard to systematise it. I'm not saying its all random and incoherent, but it is not the same as a Pauline letter, much less the same as the Pauline corpus. With that said, I think that the OT presents so many challenges to systematic theology that it is either too frightening to engage, or its just too much work. Either way, it is wrong to neglect.

7/25/2006 06:51:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...


So what do you think about Graeme Goldsworthy's works? Do you recommend them? If not, what would you recomment for young theologians who want to have a better grasp of the OT in the biblical plot line?

7/25/2006 07:36:00 AM

Blogger Tony said...

Re: Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship statement on the emergent church...

Call me a skeptic - but after searching Calvary Chapel's website for the word "emergent" and not finding anything, I wonder whether this statement on the emerging church is authentic.

I've been blessed with the opportunity to serve in and around Calvary Chapels in Southern California over the last 10 years or so, including half a dozen or so occasions at Pastor Chuck's church there in Costa Mesa. The tone and sarcasm in the Emergent Church statement feel a little different than anything I've seen from them.

Anyone have any thoughts on the source of this document?

7/25/2006 02:01:00 PM

Blogger Tracy said...

You have heard Dr Moore preach haven't you? He Has preached several messages either from the OT or incorporates it into his sermon. I have read Goldsworthy and think Dr Moore has also. It is great, and I am beginning to apply it to my own teaching and preaching.

7/25/2006 06:36:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


I have heard Dr. Moore preach on OT passages, but would you consider his preaching expository? I think Dr. Moore has a very unique style in preaching (and teaching) which I enjoy, but I am not sure it fits the idea of expository preaching. But then again I may be wrong.

Also, the preachers I looking for are those who have preaching through books of the Old Testament. For example, Dr. Steve Lawson (whom I mentioned above), recently preached through Job and Psalm (both messages in each book are now in the Holman Christian Commentary Series). Now, of course one does not have to have their messages turned into a published commentary, but you get the point.

Another reason maybe why preachers today don't preach from the OT is that it is simply not efficient. By that, I mean that even in sermons, pragmatism rules the day. Some thing OT passages simply don't "work." Ironically, if we are more concerned with results than we are being biblical, we could be bowing to the gods of fertility (Baal) rather than YHWH. One must ask how Canaanized the Western Church has become these days . . .

7/25/2006 07:18:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

Oh, and before I forget again (I was supposed to put this on my last comment), below is a URL to go to Dr. Lawson's database of sermons to download. Unfortunately, I don't think his sermons preached at Dauphin Way are not here, but there are many nonetheless. Here it is:


7/25/2006 07:25:00 PM

Blogger K. Elijah Layfield said...


In regards to Pastor John Piper, I went straight to the man who would know--Tom Steller(he was once Pastor John's student and has served at Bethlehem for over 20 years. In an e-mail, he told me that Pastor John is very competent in the Hebrew text (although stronger in Greek). And Pastor Tom said that one might be suprised at the amount of sermons he's preached from the OT. Although, I'm sure that ya'll have in mind preaching through books. I knew that he had preached through Ruth because I've listened to the audio. Just trying to clarify my pastor's position.

7/25/2006 09:30:00 PM

Blogger Tracy said...

I consider Dr Moore expository the same way I do Spurgeon. Your comment on people thinking the OT is not efficient is exactly why I think Goldsworthy is an excellent resource, especially According to plan and the one on preaching all of the bible as Christian scripture. He makes it plain that the OT texts are not to be taken by themselves, for then they will only be good moral stories, but must be taken in context of the whole of the plan of redemption.

7/25/2006 09:42:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

K. Elijah,

Thanks for the clarification. What I wrote and what my friend shared about Piper was not a slam at all. My friend actually taught Greek at one time at TBI and knows Piper as well. On my end, I don't know him but consider him to have had the biggest influence of any living man today. So that being said, I must be fair as well.

A good exercise to do since all his sermons are available online would be to tally up his sermon texts from 1980 and see what percentage of his preaching expositorily came from the OT. I haven't done this, so I am not going to even guess. And not to pick on Piper either, but he is such a big influence on so many of us, I think that question regarding the OT is one others have inquired about as well.

7/25/2006 10:20:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


Indeed, According to Plan is a good book, but I must admit that there were a few places where I would disagree a bit. Overall I recommend it without reservation. Contrary to systematic theology, Goldsworthy does what is so needed in developing a biblical theology as well (which I mentioned in my post). I think seminaries would do a service to their students if they perhaps considered offering biblical theology alongside systematic theology while encouraging them to incorporate all of God's written revelation in their preaching and teaching.

7/25/2006 10:24:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

K. Elijah,

I just realized that I said "as well" three times in my comment! That's what I get for being in a hurry before rushing to work!

Sorry for the redundancy.
Sorry for the redudnancy.

7/25/2006 10:26:00 PM

Blogger K. Elijah Layfield said...

I didn't think it was a slam against Pastor John. I was just curious and wanted to find out for myself.


7/25/2006 11:29:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


Cool. I am glad I was not mistaken in my post. BTW, will you be attending the DG National Conference this fall?

I just received an email from S. Anderson about it. I made it a goal to try to read Wells' latest book as well as Driscoll's to prep myself for the conference. I am pumped about it, and the weekly videos were a brilliant idea.

7/26/2006 05:20:00 AM

Blogger K. Elijah Layfield said...

I still don't think Pastor John would say that he avoids the OT because of a Hebrew defiency. Pastor Tom doesn't think that either. But, he does think that Pastor John would agree that there is an imbalance between to teaching from the OT and NT. Tom pointed out that Pastor John is really good at relating the OT passages to the NT passage that he preaches from.

Yes, I'll be at the conference. I can't wait. I'll be doing some volunteering. Let me know if you'll have any free time. I tried to get Shannon to come, but Woodie's brother is getting married that week.

7/26/2006 01:01:00 PM

Blogger T said...

Tracy and Timmy,

I do think Goldsworthy is decent at times, but on the whole I don't take his views of the OT. Likewise, I do not think Dr. Moore is an expository preacher of the OT. He is far too hyper-Christological. I heard his message on Joshua a while back and he spent just a small fraction of time on the context and message of the passage, jumping far too quickly to Joshua as a type of Christ. If I remember correctly, he might have even gone as far as saying that Joshua was Christ prefigured. This I find untenable, and unacceptable, especially in a tradition that demands historical-grammatical interpretation.

I think I can appreciate Walt Kaiser's stuff on preaching the OT. Also, you should read Block's articles, and see also Bruce Waltke's article on the Canonical approach to the Psalms. I find myself in agreement there.

7/30/2006 03:43:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...


When I said there were a few places where I would disagree with Goldsworthy, his position on the OT was one of them. I remember reading his book and saying to myself, "Now, wait a minute . . ." several times.

I recall a conversation I had with Dr Block in which I asked him why the OT texts often get mistreated or overlooked. By this I was referring to the Christological hermeneutic so often employed. He told me that it is important to be Christological in our homiletic, but not in our hermeneutic. I think this is good advice, especially since we must be faithful (as you said) to the historical-grammatical approach to Scripture. If not, would we not be depreciating both?

Three things pop into my mind as well:

1. I am afraid that some conservative thinking evangelicals will think if you don't Christologize every OT text in your hermeneutic, you must be a closet liberal. I wish this weren't the case, but from those whom I have talked to, it appears to be so.

2. In the plotline of progressive revelation and biblical revelation, I believe it is important to emphasize the progression and not only the culmination (in Christ). If we jump past progressive points as they are and appraise their meaning, then would we not have done injustice to the culminating point? It just seems to me that the Son of David and King of the Jews is a historical figure with a heritage and context which should be appreciated in light of the fact that the OT was the Bible Jesus read.

3. In the whole continuity/discontinuity, should we not appreciate the symbiotic relationship between the OT/NT regarding its continuity? By that I mean, should we not evaluate the OT text as it stands without inserting NT interpretation, appreciate its contribution, and then relate it to the NT?

Finally, two books come to my mind that I would like to hear from you about.

1. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher J.H. Wright and

2. Giving the Sense edited by David Howard and Michael Grisanti.

Any comments (in praise or criticism) of these works would be appreciated man.

7/30/2006 07:39:00 AM

Blogger T said...


Amen, amen, and amen to your three points. You have stated exactly my thoughts, and I cannot improve on any of the three points. As for the books, I think Wright is about the best book in print for helping me know how to 'Know Jesus through the OT'. I wish the Blockster would crank one out about this issue (but stay tuned for the next year or two as he finishes his Theology of Worship!!!), but Wright (in my opinion) comes about as close as possible. As for the Grisanti book, I've not read it so cannot comment. You?

8/01/2006 08:23:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...


No, I have not read Giving the Sense yet. It is on my stack of "to read" books (which is getting larger and larger!). I did read Wright's book as extra credit for Block's class and enjoyed it. I really appreciate how he handled the first four chapters of Matthew.

So block is writing a theology of worship, eh? Before he left Southern, I strongly encouraged him to consider writing a book about how studying the OT is so relevant and applicable to current evangelical life. His insight and analysis is spot on. They need a wider audience.

8/01/2006 05:34:00 PM

Blogger T said...

I agree my man. It might be the task of the next generation of OT scholars. Pray for more. You might be encouraged to know that between Cambridge and Oxford right now, there is a swelling of numbers of OT and NT guys who are here doing PhDs (DPhil it is called at Ox) and who are themselves evangelicals. At a recent joint Old Testament Graduate Seminar, 6 student papers were presented (3 from each school), 5 of which were presented by young evangelical OT scholars (myself and one other from Ox, and all three from Cam). The NT Graduate Seminar was similar. This is bright for the future of biblical scholarship!

8/02/2006 10:12:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...


Thanks for sharing what is going on across the pond. Are some of the other guys part of the group of contributors in the evangelical textual criticism blog?

Indeed, there is much to be optimistic about.

8/02/2006 03:28:00 PM

Blogger jedidiah said...

Great topic. Sorry to jump in so late, but I've been riding a bike through Iowa the last week or so. Ridiculous, I know.
Let me ask a few questions, so I get you right. On the Dr. Moore thing, are you saying that he is not an expository preacher because he misses the meaning of OT passages, he doesn't apply it to Christ correctly, he doesn't apply it to the hearer correctly, or something else? Or are you just saying that although he gets the meaning of the passage right, he doesn't present it in the way that you prefer?

Secondly, while it is true that many people have given the OT superficial treatment (most seem just to stay away from it altogether), don't you think that Kaiser and Block take the historical-grammatical approach too far. By this I mean, it seems that their method excludes Jesus' and the other NT writers' hermeneutical method from the arena of valid interpretations. I agree that we need to make sense of what is going on in the passage. But I think that we are in dangerous territory when we say that we can make sense of a passage without seeing it through the lens of Christ. It seems like that was one of the problems Jesus had with the Jewish leaders. They knew the OT, but they didn't know that it was all about him.
It may be, that the problem you and mikey have with Moore's preaching is rooted in a deeper discussion over hermeneutics. Maybe that's not all of it. Either way, let me know.
Thanks for your time.

8/05/2006 01:23:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


Thanks for the comments man. The issue you raised regarding Dr. Moore is not what the original post is about, so if you would like to discuss this further, let me encourage you to email me. I don't have yours, but you can find mine in the "profile" section on the sidebar. I am not trying to avoid your questions (I have already written a reply), but after thinking through my response, I feel that our conversation could be carried better through email (or even in person since we are members of the same church). I also have realized (unfortunately through past experience) that anything I say or do can and will be used against me (at least in the court of public opinion). Thanks for your understanding.

8/06/2006 03:47:00 PM

Blogger T said...

Jedidiah, I'm writing from a cafe in Berlin, so ill have to be short. Let me just say that you have unfortunately misrepresented Block and Kaiser in saying that their method "excludes Jesus' and the other NT writers' hermeneutical method from the arena of valid interpretations." Neither of them would ever suggest such a thing, but are simply addressing the over-Christologising of the text, and YES, it can be, and is, done. The simple point is that we read Joshua FIRST to understand Joshua, not to see Jesus hiding under the bush. We can make Christological applications, and certainly seek to understand it from a Christian applicational standpoint, but that is different from saying that Joshua was Christ.

It is my opinion that over-Christologisation results from a low view of Scripture. If the view of Scripture was as high as claimed, it would allow the Scriptures to say what they say. A low view of Scripture is betrayed by those who would seek to make it say something else. We can Christologise where Christ himself did, but that is the limit, not the bare minimum.

8/07/2006 05:40:00 AM

Blogger jedidiah said...

Hey Mikey,
Sorry about the delay. It’s been a crazy couple of days. I’ll try to be brief too.
I’m sorry if it seemed like I misrepresented Block and Kaiser. That wasn’t my intention. Would I be correct if I said that their hermeneutical method excludes Jesus’ and the Apostles’ hermeneutical method from the arena of valid interpretation for us? I think this is a fair representation because it seems that Jesus’ and the Apostles hermeneutical method violates some of the “10 ways the Old Testament is trivialized” points that Timmy posted for us. So, if Jesus and the Apostles worked in a local church here and taught us how to interpret the OT, and we applied that on a test given by Dr. Block or Dr. Kaiser, then we’d fail. Let me know if that’s accurate.
If it is, then I guess I want to ask why we should use a method contrary to the one Jesus and the Apostles used. They didn’t command or seem to imply that we should use a separate hermeneutical method from theirs. So who does? Whoever it is would have to give quite an argument, one that I don’t think they can from Scripture, as to why we should adopt another method. I think it is much easier to give the argument, based on the NT writers treatment of the OT, as to why we should adopt their method.
I think you’re right that we should seek to understand what is happening in Joshua. But I think you are wrong, if you think that we can understand Joshua without interpreting it through the lens of Christ. The OT either applies directly to us or it applies directly to Jesus and then us in him. The NT writers, and me and Dr. Moore (I believe this is correct, but I hate to speak for him) for that matter, hold the second view. And I don’t think that we need to look under a bush to find Christ in the OT. We can find him standing between us and every page of OT and NT scripture (1 Tim. 2:5).

And as far as the high or low view of Scripture goes, I think there is a difference between a wrong interpretation (which don’t “allow the Scriptures to say what they say”) and a low view of Scripture. Either way, and again, a low view of Scripture, according to your definition, is the view that doesn’t see the OT through the lens of Christ. Because you miss the point of the OT if you don’t see it being all about Christ (Jn. 5:39, 46).
Let me know if I’m not clear on something. Thanks for your time.
BTW, 6:40 in the morning? They must be working you hard over there.
Timmy, feel free to jump in. Or I think you have my email now.

8/09/2006 10:08:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


No, I am sorry, but I do not have your email, but that is okay.

One thing I would mention regarding reading the OT through the lens of Christ is simply to say that it is not the only lens to understand OT Scripture. If you argue that every verse in the OT has to be read through the lens of Christ, do you not think that you will end up forcing Christ in places where he is not implicitly there? There is meaning, significance, and application in the OT that is not a messianic prophecy. There are truths to be ascertained and applied to the Christian life which are not filtered through the lens of the NT or Christ. Yes, ultimately the OT points to Christ in everything in that progressive revelation culminates in the full and final revelation of God in Christ. But I fear that indeed much of the substance and meaning of the OT is trivialized or underappreciated if the only hermenuetical method which you use is what you mentioned. I would argue that it is not either/or as you portrayed but both/and.

8/10/2006 06:13:00 AM

Blogger T said...


I agree with Timmy on this last post. My point also is that we can 'see' Christ where he indeed is. For instance, he himself claimed to be the suffering servant, and thus we can see him as such.

But I want to address/ask another question. Are you suggesting that we should use the hermeneutical method used by Jesus and the Apostles? Should we read the OT like Paul did? I am not quite settled on this, but at present my default position would be to say no. We shouldn't read the entire OT like Jesus and Paul. They had, no doubt, a different kind of authority to interpret the text as they did, an authority we are not endowed with. I realise there are problems in this position, but its the best I know to take now. Otherwise, if we go the route you are suggesting, then we will just do Midrash with the whole OT (which is somewhat what you and your mentor does...and also Paul!) and we'll have no historical-grammatical approach whatsoever. I must admit, there are times when I think this method is a decent one, especially when I am reading some of the Syriac writers of the 4th-6th centuries. They had some pretty amazing ways to explain the text. For instance, in showing how Christ was connected to Adam outside of genealogical considerations, they came up with this elaborate story that begins with Adam grabbing a branch off a tree when he left Eden, and that branch being passed on all the way down the generations. Finally, as Jesus is being crucified, they are short a piece of wood for one of his arms, so they look for a piece, and yep, you guessed it, the piece they used was the one that Adam took off the branch in Eden. In this type of exegesis, there is no concern for what might be called 'historical fact'; but that was very much not the issue. The issue was to devise a way to understand the text through creativity and imagination, but such that it would do not ultimate harm to sound doctrine, but would instead enlighten the understanding of the reader as to the truth of the teaching of the passage/doctrine. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong in this story, since it is a story. The only problem with preaching it would be that you would give the impression to people that that was the way the text was written to be understood. And in my view (albeit tentative), the type of Midrashic preaching that sees Christ under every bush also runs the risk of portraying that this was the original intention of the author.

Now, all of this only matters if one takes an authorial-intention based approach to hermeneutics, which is what I suppose you do? If so, and if it is important to let the text say what it says in the way the author wanted it said, Midrashic preaching should probably be abandoned.

Now, I'm not saying that I support all forms of preaching in which the preacher says, 'THIS IS THE meaning.' In fact, I am a bit more sceptical of Reformed preaching, and especially preachers who claim that they know the author's intention; even more so sceptical than Timmy, I am sure. BUT, we have to work with what we have, the text in its context. And I think the safest way to work is to say, 'This is my understanding of the meaning of this text', allowing ourselves the possibility of being wrong.

That leaves me with this. I think the historical-grammatical approach is most faithful in portraying the historical, cultural, social, and grammatical meaning of the text. But this historical-grammatical approach must be done in such a way that preserves its integrity from Midrash. However, I do think that Midrashic exegesis is more creative, more entertaining, and perhaps more fruitful in helping the preacher to make application to specific situations.

8/10/2006 07:18:00 AM

Blogger jedidiah said...

Hey guys,
I’ll try to answer both of you at once, so I don’t go too long. Let me know if I miss something. Here goes. I think that the NT writers, and Jesus, believed that there were no texts, whether NT or OT, that should be applied to people apart from mediating them through Christ. This is to say, they believed that the point and the interpretive lens through which all of the Bible and all of life for that matter, was and is Jesus Christ. And I don’t think that this means that they adopted the hermeneutical method found in the fanciful stories of the writers Mikey quoted (which by the way was quite a creative story). And I don't think that Dr. Moore has adopted the Midrash method either. I think that we’d all agree that Jesus and the Apostles knew the OT better than we do. And I don’t think that they treated it superficially. At the same time, it wasn’t a problem for them to interpret the OT as they did. It seems to me that one of the most important sins that Paul, us, and many others, must repent of is the way that we read the OT. This means that our hermeneutical method is not a matter of preference. It is a matter of obedience. Once the fullness of time had come, and God’s purposes in Christ were revealed, one of its implications was that it informed the way we see the Scriptures. So that now we understand that Jesus Christ was not an afterthought in God’s mind, once Adam failed. Rather, Jesus Christ is the point of all things. As Dr. Moore recently put it, “Jesus doesn’t look like Adam. Adam looks like Jesus.” And I would add, that the writings in the OT are not plan A and Jesus is plan B. This would leave writings and events in the OT with a likely disconnect from Jesus’ person and work, which is what many seem to hold to whether explicitly or functionally. Rather, because of the NT’s writings, we know that God’s purpose all along was Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:9-11). This means that when we’re reading the OT, we interpret it in light of Christ. So Jesus was plan A and everything should be understood in light of this reality.
I agree with you about authorial intent. But, we might disagree about the role of the Authorial Intent of God. Many who hold positions like Blocks (if I’m understanding him right), undervalue the authorial intent of God’s Spirit in the writing of Scripture. By this I mean, that God’s Spirit who breathed out the Scriptures, both OT and NT, and was operating out of God’s purpose to unite all things in Christ, is undervalued when we do not allow the Spirit’s instructions in the NT to inform our understanding of the OT. To the Spirit, the coming revelation in Christ is not a separate subject from God's purposes to unite all things in him. They are all part of one purpose. So, if Block, Kaiser, and others, say that we cannot see Christ as the point of 1 Samuel, since he came much later and the writer of 1 Samuel didn't know the details about Christ, they are operating out of a hermeneutic that is contrary to the one that Jesus and the Apostles have practiced and exemplified for us. Sorry, this is longer than I hoped to go on this. Basically, I think Paul and the other NT writers, and Jesus, operated out of this thinking. And I don’t think it is fanciful midrash.

So yes, I think that we should adopt the hermeneutical method practiced by Jesus and the Apostles. And yes, I agree that we are somewhat different than them. I think that we are different than them in our ability to do this perfectly. I don’t think that we should be different than them in our method. My prayer is not that we will avoid this method merely because people have misused it. Rather, it is that we will have more bright minds like you two and many others who will seek to clarify difficulties where you think there are difficulties and enable the church to do it more faithfully.
And I don't think that we should shy away from saying "God says...". It is true that there are parts of Scripture that are less clear than others. But most of the Scripture is completely clear. So let's sound a clear trumpet. When we do say "I think this means", we need to make sure that we are doing it because of its lack clarity to us. Some, sounding very humble, do this because they doubt the reliabitity of the text. It seems humble, but it is really rebellion. I don't think that you are using the second approach. But do you agree with the point?
Now, I know that this hermeneutic not very popular. But I would ask why? Why should we avoid Jesus’ and Apostles’ hermeneutic and adopt a hermeneutic coming down the pike from scholarship and its Enlightenment Rationalistic commitments? I’m not saying that we can't learn anything from these findings. I am saying that if it takes us away from the method used by Jesus and Apostles, it has overstepped and erred.

So, I’ve tried to cover it all (although I probably missed some stuff). I’m saying that there is a difference between Jesus’ hermeneutic and Midrash. And I’m saying that we should adopt it. And I’m saying that this adoption is a matter of obedience or disobedience. Jesus is the point and the hermeneutical key of all of the Bible. Jesus is also the mediator of all of the Bible. Anything that is not mediated through Christ, is sub-Christian.
I know y’all are busy. So I appreciate your time and the discussion.
BTW, my email is jcoppenger@gmail.com

8/10/2006 07:26:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

So Jed, do you believe there is no discontinuity between the OT and NT?

Also, to say that when someone says, "I think the Bible says . . ." is really a form of rebellion, am I supposed to take you serious? That would wipe out a whole lot of respected theologians and scholars. While we hold to an infallible Scripture, do you not think that we often can have a fallible interpretation or even method? Such confidence you possess is alarming to me.

From your comments, I believe you have misinterpretated (if not mistreated altogether) the positions of Block and Kaiser. They have not argued that one should ignore the NT or Christological lens for interpreting the OT as you have stated nor have they neglected the authorial intent of God as superintending the Scriptures. Rather, I believe they are arguing for a healthy, balanced hermeneutic which factors in the OT in its historical-grammatical-cultural context in the same way we do with the NT. And yes, we should consider the authorial intent of the human author as well as they were not writing in a vacuum or as a robot. One of the critiques of other religions is their ahistorical nature, if not inaccurate historiography. If we are going to present the Bible as containing historical fact and argue for its reliability (again back to inerrancy and high view of Scripture), then it seems necessary to include this in one's interpretation and hermeneutic, don't you think?

You said, "Why should we avoid Jesus’ and Apostles’ hermeneutic and adopt a hermeneutic coming down the pike from scholarship and its Enlightenment Rationalistic commitments?"

What commitments are you talking about?

Finally, do you believe that there is any prior fulfillment of prophecy given in the OT at least partially within the OT? Does your hermeneutical method all you to glean biblical truth from OT passages from the text themselves without Christologizing them? I am just seeking clarification on this, so please do not take it as spinning the issue . . .

8/10/2006 08:47:00 PM

Blogger T said...

Dang Timmy, at it again. I'll just stand behind your comments, except one more thing. I think your (Jedidiah) comments about rebellion regarding uncertainty in interpretation, and also the characterisation of such uncertainty as 'false humility' must have been overstatements. Please tell me they were. If not, I'd have to say that this makes me extremely uncomfortable. I am sorry, but I must speak plainly. I feel that this is a major problem in some sectors of evangelicalism. This is a brash certainty that creates a situation in which everyone else is 'wrong' (or, 'in rebellion') who stands outside of my interpretation. Timmy is bang-on, we have to be humble and contrite when approaching Scripture, realising that our own ability to interpret the text is flawed, and we do not have direct, unhindered access to the mind of Christ. So when you say that we should operate with the same hermeneutic, you are assuming we can read the OT like Christ and the Apostles. This is what I say is impossible.

One more point. I think (call me blasphemous) we need to do more in recognising the Scriptures as a collection of HUMAN writings. In no way do I wish to de-emphasise the DIVINE nature of the text, but last I checked, a proper evangelical doctrine of Scripture says something about the Scriptures being fully human, too. If we take the Christological analogy to the Scriptures (100% divine, 100% human), it is foolish for us not to study them as human documents, products that came out of a time, culture, and place. We pray, meditate, and preach them as Divine; but we must not neglect to study them as human productions, productions that tell us something about an historical situation. The Scriptures were not written in a vacuum, but are very much the production of people just like you and me. This is why background studies, linguistic studies, socio-cultural studies, etc. are very important for our interpretation of the text.

8/11/2006 01:44:00 AM

Blogger T said...


Can you confirm that you really do not think Paul was doing midrash? Are you serious?

8/11/2006 01:59:00 AM

Blogger T said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/11/2006 05:50:00 AM

Blogger T said...

Just something you might find interesting. This is from a review in the Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 5 (2004-2005). The review is of Richard S. Hess and M. Daniel Carroll R., eds., Israel's Messiah in the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2003). Pp. 192. Paper, US$19.99. ISBN 0801026113.

Here is an excerpt from the review by Michael O. Wise at Northwestern College:

"Of the three major textual essays Block’s is the most evidently confessional, guided more by theology than by historical method. This statement is not a criticism, merely an observation; different sorts of readers will react to Block’s theological lense in different ways, depending on the questions each is hoping to find help in answering. The effect of his approach is to give the issues involved in understanding ancient Israel’s messianic thought a predictable teleology: Jesus was always the telos or goal, and any ideas held by Jews or ancient Hebrews that were not contributory to this end are outside the pale. Further, only a Christological reading of the given Hebrew Bible passages is considered. The undoubted fact that most ancient Jewish readers of the Hebrew Scriptures will have found this reading of their texts alien is not allowed to intrude, since, as it were, the correct answer is now known. One can almost hear a shadowy Luther nodding his agreement: nur was Christum treibet. Yet even fellow believers will probably find Block’s major thesis hard to swallow. He asks us to believe that all of the so-called messianic portions of the Hebrew Bible have in their view a Davidide—even the Suffering Servant portions of Isaiah. His interlocutors rightly express skepticism."

Now, having just seen a response to something Block has actually said, in his own words, it might be best if we could hear something Block has said, in his own words, that you (Jedidiah) find offensive. This might help also to specify exactly what it is that is 'out of bounds', since right now we are all talking in generalities. Does this make sense? I'm just saying, if someone has beef with someone else's method, let's see what it actually is that is 'out of bounds.'

8/11/2006 05:57:00 AM

Blogger jedidiah said...

Hey gentlemen,
Thanks for your responses. It looks like this discussion is beginning to go into all kinds of massive topics, ones that deserve more than a sentence or two in response. So I’ll try to respond to you succinctly and clarify some things. BTW, because I think this is such an important issue, I’m going to try to blog about it on sbcwitness.com in the coming days. Hopefully, to get more people thinking and discussing such an important topic.
Also, if you guys don’t mind, I’d like to ask you two (b/c I think it is just us looking at this) to pray for a situation that I just learned about and is going to take quite a bit of time to deal with. I can’t discuss the details, but it is one of those things that I have never heard of and it is terrible. It would blow y’alls minds. It's blowing mind. So if you could just pray for wisdom in dealing with this from a counseling perspective and great grace for dealing with this for those who are most intimately involved, I’d greatly appreciate it.
Now, about what we’ve said up to this point. First, about the whole rebellion thing, I wasn’t saying that when you say “I think this is what the text says” you are always in rebellion. I was saying that you can be in rebellion when you do this. So, for instance, in recent Southern Baptist past, some people were saying this because they rejected the reliability of the Scripture. They were saying that the Bible wasn’t God’s word. And because they weren't sure what God's word was and was not, they "weren't sure what God says here." I don’t think that you guys are saying this, I just thought I’d make a distinction. Maybe I should've left it out.
And Mikey, about the Midrash thing, as you know Midrash has been used to mean a lot of different things (don't worry I won't describe all of its uses). The way you seemed to be using it was to describe the fanciful stories that people created that had no biblical grounding. The Bible doesn’t talk about the wood used in the cross and so forth. These guys, although entertaining, misuse the text. I don’t think that this is what Paul, Jesus, and other NT writers did with the OT. If you mean by Midrash, principles that were given to describe the way NT writers interpreted the OT, then yes, I think that they used Midrash. I think they saw the historic events in the OT both as significant and Christocentric.
I think that we need to understand to the best of our ability what the OT authors intention was in writing the text. But I also think that we need to understand what the Spirit’s intention was in breathing out the Scriptures. And where I am now in my understanding is that if we let our commitment to the human author’s intent void our commitment to the Spirit’s intent and ability to write one book about Jesus, then I think that we have erred. And when others do this, I think that they err too. There is a right way. This seems to be the problem Jewish leaders had in the 1st century. I would guess that they had a good idea of what the authorial intent of the OT writers. But the OT authors never say the word Jesus. So when Jesus came on the scene and said that all of the OT is about him, they rejected his Christocentric interpretation. Don’t you guys agree, then, that hermeneutics is a moral issue? And if that means that a lot of scholars are using wrong hermeneutical methods, is it okay to say that they are wrong too? It didn’t seem to be a problem for Jesus to say the scholars of his day were wrong. And yes, Timmy, I do think that we get it wrong. I wasn’t trying to alarm you. This is why I ask for forgiveness all the time for the way I interpret my Bible. But I don’t think that Jesus was ever wrong. And I don’t think the NT writers were wrong in the NT. So, I’m trying to use their approach, albeit imperfectly.
And again, Block and Kaiser are both men that I greatly respect and have been helped by. But, I think they are wrong if they say that Jesus and the Apostles hermeneutical method is wrong or is not one that we should employ. Block preached a sermon a while back here at Southern in which he questioned Paul’s interpretation of Hosea. I’m uncomfortable with that.
So, to conclude, I think that Jesus believed that the historical nature of the OT was important and, at the same time, it was about him. I think that we should adopt the same hermeneutic, albeit imperfectly. Also, I think that every text applies either to us (unmediated) or to Christ and then us (mediated). My position is the second.
Do you guys agree that we should adopt Jesus’ hermeneutic or not? If not, I’d appreciate it if you could tell me why (so I understand your position right)? Do you guys agree that all Scripture must be mediated through Christ? If not, why? If you could answer these questions, it’d really understand exactly where you’re coming from.
Thanks guys,

8/11/2006 03:50:00 PM

Blogger T said...


You've been very gracious, so thank you for that. I've really nothing more to add then what I've already said except the following.

I realise Midrash (as a term) may have been misused in the past, but I'm applying it in its classical sense when I speak of Paul's interpretation. I've read a good bit of Midrashim along with Talmudic literature (Mishnaic Hebrew is worth the study anyway!), so I'm quite sure when I read Paul saying that the 'rock' in the wilderness that gave drink to the Israelites was Christ, he was definitely using Midrash in the same way that he might have learned it when he was a good Jewish student named Saul. He could not have helped but to use the same methods once he became a believer. And, I should also say that Midrash doesn't always mean 'fanciful'. But sometimes it is. I will say that while Paul's Midrashic reading of the Israelite experience is indeed an 'inspired' reading of the text, I can still say that he was not practicing historical-grammatical exegesis. And in that sense, I can say that for me, as a non-inspired interpreter, it would probably be best for me not to go his route. Again, let me be clear: I'm not saying Paul's interpretation was 'wrong', and neither did Block. It is simply worth pointing out that the 'original' context doesn't lead one to understanding the rock being Christ. And there is no need to chuck the old meaning in light of the new. In the same way, I don't think Jesus was getting rid of the Law, but fulfilling it.

But I think the Hosea issue might have been different. In other words, Block's suggestion is that the Reformation reading of Hosea might have been wrong, not that Paul was wrong. In other words, Paul's use of Hosea could be understood in both senses: 1)'the just shall live by faith' and 2) 'the just shall live by His faithfulness'. The shortcomings of the Greek language for translating that all too difficult Hebrew phrase here.

And maybe that's a point I'd like to drag out more, but don't have the time, nor venue to do so. Whenever established 'understandings' of the text are challenged, we might need to listen more closely, rather than reacting immediately to what we may not like at first. The issue is most clear in Piper's recent treatment of N.T. Wright (ok, now Timmy pulls away from TML). The suggestion that those who hold to Wright's model of justification are hell-bound is absolutely out of bounds. In my view, this is more of a problem with someone (Wright, or in our case what Timmy and I have been discussing...a la Block/Kaiser) speaking outside the lines of 'the way we've always done it.' So, in conclusion, we might be wiser and sharper in the long run if we don't approach things like, 'Well, the Reformers would have never said that...' or 'Well, that's liberal postmodernism.' Let's listen a bit closer.

Thanks for your time, and of course your spirit.


8/11/2006 04:40:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


Most certainly, I will be remembering you in my prayers. Furthermore, please regard me as someone who wants to listen and encourage as a fellow brother in Christ if you ever want to talk.

Thanks for clarifying your remarks about rebellion. I understand that the issue where liberals and skeptics have questioned and doubted the certainty and trustworthiness of God's Word. As you have stated, this is not the case for Mikey and me. We are all conservative evangelicals who hold to the inerrancy and authority of God's Word, fully inspired by God and universally binding on all men.

From the rest of your comments, I see very little if any place where we disagree. You have concerns in one direction and I have the other, but we both are esentially saying the same thing. It reminds me when Paul defended sola fide in Galatians and James argued against a faith that isn't saving and active in the believer. They aren't contradicting one another, but defending the biblical position that the salvation which we receive is by faith alone - a faith that works in us and perseveres to the end. Two concerns and safeguards but one central position. I happen to see our discussion along the same lines.

Concerning your questions about Block and Kaiser, I think the best way to substantiate your reservations is to give specific examples where you believe that have the wrong hermeneutical method and present your case. I realize that is not possible to do in a comments section of a blogpost, but it would be helpful to those who want to see evidence for your assertions. As you stated, this is a big issue, and to assert that they are (or could be) wrong is a big assertion. And the bigger the assertion, the more evidence and justification required to bring legitimacy to it. You get what I'm saying . . .

Concerning your last two questions, I'm not exactly sure what you are meaning, especially the second one. How is our hermeutic "mediated through Christ?" Of course any biblical theology must include the Christological lens to interpreting Scripture, but I think you are asking for more than that. How much more I am not sure. Where I am coming from is a desire to have a healthy, robust, and faithful hermeneutic that indeed reveals "the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints" which is Christ in us the hope of glory. This stewardship entrusted to us as ministers and servants means that we are "to make the Word of God fully known" (Col. 1:25-26), or as Paul put it elsewhere "to declare to you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). What Word of God or whole counsel was Paul referring to? My guess is the entire Old Testament. Going back to my original post, this is my desire for us as preachers and teachers of God's Word. Let us be faithful and not shrink back from any of God's Word. As we revel in a time where inerrancy has been firmly held, my prayer is that we will continue to see the fruits of that with preachers who follow through on the convictions of the inerrant Word by preaching all of it as God intended.

8/11/2006 10:06:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


There you go again bringing up N.T. Wright! We'll just have to save that for another discussion.

I tend to agree with Jed that when I first heard Block's assessment of "the just shall live by faith(fulness)", I was taken back a little. Given your textual and linguistic acumen, I am sure you could explain the semantical or translation nuances much better than I can. I would like to get a better understanding of what Block was trying to say there.

Anyway, I agree that we do need to take each issue and refuse to deal with them as second-handers. Yes, I am Reformed in my convictions, but that does not grant me to not be a good Berean. We are to test everything (1 Thess. 5:21) and hold our human allegiances in subjection to our allegiance to God. In the 2000 years of church history, there have been many who have gotten in right and all the more who have gotten it wrong. Even some of the greatest theologians I have issues with in certain matters. So all that is secondary, and we must be mindful of that. Even N.T. Wright. :)

8/11/2006 10:17:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

Jed and Mikey,

I think this has been a profitable discussion, one which I think we will find more similarities than differences. When we parse each position, I think for the most part we are on the same wavelength, and while there are some difference of opinion, we all hold to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture (sola Scriptura) and have God's Word as our governor and guide for doctrine and practice. Let me add that this discussion has been a good learning experience for me as I do not consider myself as learned and equipped as I should be in the field of hermeneutics and OT/NT. So thank you, both of you, for spurring me on in an area of study that I needs much more attention in my life.

My hope is that we can continue to have fruitful and meaningful discussion in the future over important matters in faith and practice, that is, if you guys will be so kind to hang around long enough . . . :)

8/11/2006 10:19:00 PM

Blogger jedidiah said...

Hey Guys,
Thanks for the responses and kind words. I think you are both right that we are all committed to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture and that we are committed to understanding the Scriptures as they are, and not merely as we are told they are by others. As much as we've been helped by others, I don't think any of us would say "But the Reformers said..." at the end of time when we're before Christ and all things are made clear.
I do think that we are going to have to agree to disagree on our hermeneutical methods at this point. Mikey, you made your position very clear to me on that last one. That was helpful. I would disagree that Paul merely used the hermeneutic of his upbringing after he became a Christian. I think he used a method very similar to many of the methods we are talking about, yet christocentric. And I think that if the historic-grammatical method keeps us from using his method, we should go with Paul and Jesus and not our scholars today. And I think that Jesus and Paul used a method that involves the strengths of the historical-grammatical method. Also, I think, as a result of the NT, that any OT passage (like the Rock in the wilderness or whatever) that isn't applied to Christ misses the meaning. So, Christ is the point of all the Scripture and the mediator of all the Scripture. Our understanding of how this works is probably where we'd disagree.
And about Dr. Block, I'll go back and see if I missed it on him. But my concern isn't really Dr. Block, it's the subject. I hope the best for Dr. Block up in Chicago. But, I think that we would disagree on this subject quite a bit.
Whether we agree or disagree on this, I hope the best for your studies, ministries, and families. Email me anytime.I'll continue to think this through.
Take care,

8/13/2006 12:57:00 PM

Blogger Scott Slayton said...

Timmy, some of the best OT sermons that I have heard come from Mark Dever. I realize that he usually takes large chunks, but he accuratley deals with the text and applies it to his hearers very well. He provides a great model in this regard. I will admit my bias here, but the best OT preacher that I have ever heard is Dr. Block. I heard him preach a series of messages on Malachi and Jonah. Great stuff.

8/15/2006 12:57:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...


I have to agree with you on both accounts. My only misfortune is that I have not heard many sermons from Dever in the OT. That's my fault.

One of the most meaningful and personally rewarding studies I did was on the book of Malachi for Dr. Block's class. This was to replace his lectures for that book. However, due to students requests, he preached it on the last day of class. I still remember much of it today.

8/15/2006 04:09:00 AM


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