The Bible in 3-D: Miles Van Pelt’s Biblical Theology

“From morning till evening [Paul] expounded to them, testifying of the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets (Acts 28:23).

In the last week, responsibilities at work have entailed a great amount of computer-related number crunching and data entry/processing. This is the kind of computer work that leaves your eyes bleary and your brain numb. But it is also a time when I can close the door, get the work done, and listen to some very edifying audio resources. This week’s choice has been Dr. Miles Van Pelt’s “hermeneutical” introduction to the Old Testament . A PhD graduate from SBTS and now a professor of Old Testament at RTS, Dr. Van Pelt, joins Craig Blomberg, and Thomas Schreiner in presenting 19 classroom lectures on the subject biblical theology.

To put it mildly, I have immensely enjoyed the rich canonical treatment of the Hebrew Scriptures and the intelligent pedagogical devises Dr. Van Pelt has employed to teach the subject clearly and faithfully. In fact, apart from a two-minute egalitarian-esque rant on Ruth as a “woman of power,” I commend this treatment very highly.

The most helpful section may have come in his second lecture, which Van Pelt calls “The Purpose Driven Bible.” In this lecture, Van Pelt takes extra time to unpack Acts 28:23 showing how the kingdom of God, the person of Jesus Christ, and the Law and the Prophets make up the three-dimensional center of the whole Scriptures. This approach is very compelling because it offers a singular vision of the Bible’s storyline while retaining the Bible’s vivid diversity and development. He offers a number of helpful illustrations to explain his biblical theology. One of them he frames bodily, that the central message is liken unto skin, a heart, and a skeleton. Let me explain.

Van Pelt likens the Kingdom of God to the skin of a person. In other words, you cannot know, see, touch, or come in contact with a person in any way in which you are not making encountering their skin. In the same way, nowhere in the Bible can you escape the the kingdom of God. It is the skin that holds everything together. The law is the law of the kingdom, the psalms are the songs of the kingdom, the history is the royal lineage to David, through David, to Christ the King, and so.

Next, he associates Jesus Christ with the heart. Jesus is the life-giving centerpiece of the Scriptures in whom all things find their life and meaning (cf. Luke 24:27; John 5:39). Take away the heart and you have a frigid, dead corpse. Take away Jesus Christ and the Bible becomes a lifeless book of antiquity.

Last, the OT is comprised of the Law and Prophets. Just like the skeletone gives shape to the body, these Old Testament books provide structure, support, and shape. Just as the skin takes on the shape of the skeleton, so the Kingdom of God is shaped by the canonical shape of the law and the prophets. Furthermore, as the heart fills the flesh and bones of the body, so Jesus Christ fills the Old Testament Scriptures.

Perhaps this description is a little visceral, but as Russell Moore has reminded us many times, the Son of God has hair, eyelashes, and fingernails. The Bible is an incarnational revelation of God, and I think Miles Van Pelt’s faithfully depicts this reality. Moreover, his whole argument is exegetical. Drawing his three-dimensional biblical theology from Luke’s account of Paul’s ministry in Acts 28:23: “From morning till evening he [Paul] expounded to them, testifying of the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Today, I go back to work and face many more computer operations, but I go knowing that I will get to hear more great biblical theology. Better than that, though, is the reality that the heart of the Scriptures, the one who reigns in the flesh and whose shadow is seen in all the Law and the Prophets, the man Jesus Christ, will go with me. That is good news and I pray in the spirit of Acts 28:23, that I too may from morning to evening tell others about the kingdom of God and persuade them that Jesus is the Christ.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

2 thoughts on “The Bible in 3-D: Miles Van Pelt’s Biblical Theology

  1. I am looking for the “8 boxes” chart having to do with the canonical structure of the Hebrew Bible. Dr. Van Pelt talks about it but I can’t find the pdf or download.

    • I suspect you can find what you are looking for in the book, A Biblical Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, edited by Van Pelt. Look at page 33

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