John Bright on Biblical Intertextuality

John Bright, in his book The Kingdom of Godoffers a very historically-enriching and theologically-astute presentation of the kingdom which unifies the entire Bible.  I have benefitted much from reading it, especially in the way that he looks at the people under God’s rule as a unified and yet developing body of believers.  In this outline, he is much like Graeme Goldsworthy, who emphasizes God’s people, under God’s rule, in God’s place, but Bright’s pages are more comprehensive in scope, being filled with copious details about the kings of Israel, the dynasties of foreign nations, and the who’s, the when’s, and the how’s of Israel’s history. (It is noteworthy that Goldsworthy references Bright’s work at the end of many chapters in his book According to Plan). 

In The Kingdom of God, there are many helpful subjects, but I found this description of the Bible’s intertextuality most helpful.   He writes,

The Old Testament is, therefore, as it were, an incomplete book.  It is a story whose Author has not yet written the ending; it is a signpost pointing down a road whose destination–and surely its destination is a city, the City of God (Heb. 11:10, 16)–lies out of sight around many a bend.  [The OT] is a noble building indeed–but it lack a roof!

That roof, by its own affirmation, the New Testament supplies: in announcing in Christ the fulfillment of the hope of Israel it stands as the completion of the Old Testament.  But–and this must not be forgotten–to say that is at the same time to say that it cannot be understood to itself alone apart from the Old Testament.  If the Old Testament be a building without a roof, the New Testament alone may be very like a roof without a building–and that is a structure very hard to comprehend and very hard to hold up!  It is a structure that may be put to all sorts of uses and may shelter all sorts of things, but it is a structure which may be easily be knocked down.  By this we certainly do not mean to say the New Testament is merely an appendage of the Old, or to deny Christ is himself the cornerstone of a mighty building (1 Cor. 3:11; 1 Pet. 2:4-7), but only to insist that it is impossible to set the New Testament apart and to construct a purely New Testament religion without regard to the faith of Israel.

The New Testament rests on and is rooted in the Old.  To ignore this fact is a serious error in method, and one that is bound to lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of the Bible message.  he who commits it has disregarded the central affirmation of the New Testament gospel itself, namely Christ had come to make actual what the Old Testament hoped for, not to destroy it and replace it with a new and better faith (John Bright, The Kingdom of God [Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1953]).

May we never stop marveling at the wisdom and beauty of God’s holy Word.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

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