Keep Christ at the Center: A Review Essay on Darrell Bock’s Book, ‘Recovering the Real Lost Gospel’

Darrell L. Bock. Recovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming The Gospel as Good News. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2010, pp. 146.

Darrell Bock’s book Recovering the Real Lost Gospel advertises itself as a “biblical theology of the gospel” (2).  Beginning with God’s promise to Abraham, he traces the good news of God from its seed form in “gospel preached beforehand to Abraham” (Gal 3:8) to the fullness of the gospel, the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels, Acts, and the rest of the New Testament.

In his engaging book, it is clear that Bock is seeking to correct the notion that Jesus’ death and resurrection is coterminous with the gospel. Accordingly, he describes Paul’s use of the term “cross” in 1 Corinthians 1-2 as a synecdoche “for all that Jesus’ work brings” (3).  And what does Jesus’ work bring? The Spirit and the gift of a personal, loving relationship with the triune God.  So far, so good: The gospel is a message of the cross and it is also a message of life in the Spirit.

Yet, not everything about Bock’s book is quite so good. In my estimation, he shifts the focus from Christ to the Christian, from the objective work of the cross to the subjective work of the Spirit. You can read the rest of my review here: Keep Christ at the Center (CredoMag Blog).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Three Views on the NT Use of the OT: Darrell Bock

nt-ot[In Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Peter Enns, Darrell Bock, and Walter Kaiser present three different approaches to biblical interpretation.  They address questions concerning sensius plenior, typology, Jewish methods of interpretation, matters of contextual interpretation, and whether or not we today can interpret the Bible like the New Testament authors.  Some of the discussion involves technical concepts and language, but anyone who reads the book will have a better understanding of matters to consider in reading the Bible in context.]

Darrell Bock: Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referrents

Bock, Dallas Theological Seminary professor and recent lecturer at SBTS, offers, in my opinion, the strongest argument for putting together the Old and New Testaments.  He is absolutely committed to grammatical-historical exegesis that seeks to understand each author, book, and passage in context (like Kaiser); at the same time, he is attuned to the impact that historical context (i.e. temporality) has on reading the Bible, thus he pays attention to the interpretive nuances of Second Temple Judaism (like Enns); but in contradistinction to both of Kaiser and Enns, he employs a textually-rooted, progressively developed biblical theology.  This can be seen in two ways:

First in his six presuppositions for reading Scripture: The Bible is God’s Word, 2) The one in the many (corporate solidarity), 3) Pattern of history (correspondence or typology), 4) these are the days of fulfillment, 5) now and not yet (the inaugurated fulfillment of Scripture), and 6) Jesus is the Christ (111).  These six elements are necessary to read Scripture canonically.  Second, Bock shows great understanding of the multi-faceted ways that the OT is “reused” in the NT: prophetic fulfillment, typological-prophetic, authoritative illustration, principle, allegory (though Bock limits this to Gal. 4), and OT ideas, language, and summaries (118-121)

Still the most helpful element of Bock’s chapter is his biblically-derived demonstration of the way Scriptural meaning retains “stability” while experiencing referential change–hence “single meaning, multiple contexts and referents.”  Much like Richard Lints three horizons (contextual, epochal, canonical) in The Fabric of Theology (which I highly recommend), Bock shows from Acts 4’s use of Psalm 2, Romans 10’s use of Deuteronomy 30, and 1 Corinthians 7’s use of 2 Samuel 7 and Leviticus 26 that the sense always remains the same, but the referents may vary.  So that in the second example, the sense remains the revelation of God, but the referent changes from the covenantal law of Deuteronomy to Jesus Christ who is the telos of the law (Rom. 10:4).  This explanation of sense and referent was very helpful in describing how God’s word remains the same and yet develops over time and in history.

On the whole, there was very little that I found to critique of Bock.  Interestingly, even Kaiser’s final response lacked argumentative force.  He found a few things with which to disagree but finished saying, “Yes, the meaning of the Bible is stable.  Later applications of that meaning can expand the field of referents.  But whether there are ‘fresh meanings’… need[s] more work” (158).  On the whole, Kaiser and Bock are similar in the way that they see the NT recapitulating OT people, events, promises, etc.  What Kaiser calls principalizing and analogous, Bock speaks of as typological patterns.  In this, I think Bock is more helpful because he expounds the meaning of the text and he also sees how the text can be interpreted at varying levels–epochal and canonical.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Three Views on the NT Use of the OT: Peter Enns

nt-otIn Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, Peter Enns, Darrell Bock, and Walter Kaiser present three different approaches to biblical interpretation.  They address questions concerning sensius plenior, typology, Jewish methods of interpretation, matters of contextual interpretation, and whether or not we today can interpret the Bible like the New Testament authors.  Some of the discussion involves technical concepts and language, but anyone who reads the book will have a better understanding of matters to consider in reading the Bible in context.

What follows is simply a synopsis of their arguments, plus a list of further reading.

Peter Enns: Fuller Meaning, Single Goal

Enns, former Old Testament professor at Westminster Seminary, before being let go because of his questionable methods of interpretation (cf. Inspiration and Incarnation), spends exorbitant detail on matters unhelpful for putting the OT and NT together–a 15 page discussion on Deuteronomy 33:2 and the problem of understanding the law, angels, and traditions in Judaism.  He emphasizes Second Temple Judaism as a pre-requisite for understanding the NT.  Understanding this historical period and its literature and worldview nearly trumps OT reading and understanding.  Shocking!  He writes:

Rather, from a hermeneutical point of view at least, it is better to think of the NT as part of a larger group of texts of Jewish provenance–all of which, despite their real and important differences, together make up a distinct but diverse collection of texts we call ‘Second Temple literature’ (178)

The problem with this is that Enns blurs the boundaries of canon.  He reformulates the NT documents into a portion of a larger and more important (?) body of literature.  He goes on: “The focus of this essay is more on similarities between the NT and other Second Temple texts” (178).  I thought that this book was about the Old Testament and the New?  Clearly, Enns is shaping his reading of the Bible along the lines of extra-biblical literature–this trend always leads to hermeneutical and doctrinal deviation.  This kind of deviation can be seen more evidently in his statement on the previous page (177) that again confuses inspired revelation and other Second Temple literature when he says that both are “God-given.”  Is this a 2 Timothy 3:16 kind of “God-given”?

To be fair, Enns does make some positive contributions.  His emphasis on reading the Bible eschatologically and in light of the death and resurrection of Christ show how important the whole storyline of Scripture is to understanding individual passages and the Bible’s inter-textuality.  Still, Enns roots all his meaning in the NT, almost stripping the OT of any content or standing on its own.  I appreciate his Christotelic view, but he begins in the wrong place.  It would be better to begin in Genesis 1 and move forward finding God’s progressive revelation of the Promised Seed, the son of blessing, the prophet like Moses, the royal Davidite; instead he goes straight to the NT and returns to explain the OT.  To borrow a technological metaphor, he makes the programs of the OT absolutely dependent on the applications of the NT.

In sum, he supports typology and sensius plenior and he makes mention of them in passing, but the takeaway from his essay is the need to understand the NT in the light of Second Temple Judaism and to read the Scriptures knowing the rest of the story.  After reading his section, I was more convinced of Kaiser’s exegetically secure position, that may lack modern nuances in interpretive method, but that exalts in the sufficiency of the Scriptures.  Moreover, I was appreciative of Bock’s recognition of Second Temple Judaism, but also his ability to put on the brakes and not be completely swept away by extra-biblical informants.

Finally, I will say that I appreciate Enns ecclesial sensitivity and pastoral admonition to take more time in church to teach our people the whole counsel of Scripture (216).  This concluding word is a fitting way to end a chapter on how to read the OT and the NT.  Since our churches are filled with biblically illiterate people today, we who teach God’s Word must be willing to patiently and wisely instruct them with all 66 Christ-centered books of the canon.  This is not optional, but essential and part of the task of being a faithful expositor–to help church members read the Bible better.

More to come…

 Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Christianity goes back…back…back…back

bockIn a pluralistic world and in a divided Christian church, how do you know that Christianity that is considered historic and called “orthodox” is indeed true?  It is because Darrell Bock answers, quoting the great theologian Chris Berman, “it goes back…back…back…back…”

This week, Dr. Darrell Bock, DTS Professor and author of Breaking the DaVinci Code, commentaries on Luke, and Jesus According to Scripture, has delivered a series of Gheens lectures as Southern Seminary.  In this lectures, Dr. Bock has argued for the authenticity of orthodox Christianity, over against alternative Christianity’s seen on the History Channel, in Barnes & Noble, and found in university settings.  Today, in his most stimulating lecture, Bock drew on the the historicity of 1st century Christianity and argued that “orthodoxy in an oral culture without a sacred and written text” is indeed possible, and after looking at the evidence is in fact warranted.  In short, he is arguing that even before a recognized canon, the message of Christianity was certain and singular.

To aid in his efforts, Bock adduced five alliterated ways in which the early church would taught a singular and unified doctrine.  These five ways contend against the notion, espoused by secular media and academia, that the earliest Christianity was pluriform.  These historically certifiable means of instruction serve to evidence that the message of the Bible was original to the earliest converts and not created after the fact–as has been maintained lately in books like The DaVinci Code

Here are five ways for early church instruction:

  1. Scriptures:  In the Hebrew Bible, God has revealed himself to the people of Israel and given promises and prefigurations that found telic fulfillment in Jesus Christ.  THe earliest Christian community read these regularly in corporate settings and would have depended heavily on them to understand Jesus the Messiah of Israel (see Matthew 1-2 for ways in which Jesus “fulfilled” OT Scripture; cf. 2 Cor. 1:20; John 5:39)
  2. Schooling:  In the early church, short, theologically-informing confessions and creeds helped retain, defend, and the instruct the church of God.  Written for the purpose of educating converts, these terse statements can be found today in the NT. Examples of these are in 1 Corinthians 15:1ff; 8:4-6; 1 Timothy 3:16.
  3. Singing:  Through hymns the church learned core doctrine and worshiped the triune God.  Two examples can be found in Philippians 2:5-11 and Colossians 1:15-20.  These ancient hymns, predate Paul’s letters and take us back to the first decade after Pentecost.
  4. Sacraments: Jesus left his church with two gospel-revealing ordinances–baptism and the Lord’s supper.  Both of these are to be regular parts of worship.  The first being recapitulated as often as a new convert professes faith; the latter being done on regular basis within the life of the church.  In the NT, these ‘sacraments,’ occur in places like Luke 22; 1 Corinthians 11 (Lord’s supper); and Romans 6; Colossians 2; and 1 Peter 3 (Baptism).  Every time these reenactments commenced they retold the story of a believer’s union with Christ–his death and resurrection and the hope of eternal life with Christ.
  5. Supervisors:  Finally, God gave apostles to the church to supervise the doctrine and the teaching (cf. Eph. 2:20-21; 4:11ff).  This is why the requirement in Acts 1 was that the 12th apostle replacing Judas be one who was a witness of Jesus’ life from the beginning.  They had to be eye witnesses of all Jesus did and taught to ground the earliest church in the truth of Christianity.

Listening to Dr. Bock’s lectures this week was not only informative, but entertaining.  Bock is a gifted speaker, and today’s lecture was superb.  It not only informed the mind, but warmed the affections for the glory and greatness of the resurrected Christ.  All of them are worth listening to, but today’s especially.  You can listen to them here.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Zondervan Quiz, Three Views Book, and Other Resources on OT/NT Hermeneutics

This Fall Zondervan is set to publish another book in its Counterpoints series.  The book, Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, is a survey of differing ways evangelical Christians read the Scriptures.  Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, Peter Enns formerly of Westminster Seminary, and Walter Kaiser formerly of TEDS and Gordon-Conwell are its three contributors. 

In preparation for this release, Zondervan’s Koinonia blog has set up a seven question quiz that can help you determine what position best describes your biblical-theological hermeneutic.  It will peg you as either a Fuller Meaning, Single Goal View (Enns), Single Meaning, Unified Referents View (Kaiser), or a Single Meaning, Multiple Contexts and Referents View (Bock).  According to my responses, I am the last–which means, that in reading the OT/NT, I consider the authorial intent of the Old Testament writers to have historical and literary significance for them and their audience in their varied Ancient Near Eastern settings.  At the same time, inspired by the Spirit, I believe that they were aware that what they wrote was eschatologically pointing forward to Jesus Christ.  In other words, they wrote better than they knew.  Peter says as much in 1 Peter 1:10-12 when he writes, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.”   Likewise, this seems to be the way that Jesus reads the OT, identifying himself by means of these OT writers who pointed forward to him (cf. John 5:39; Luke 24:27, 44).  Moreover, Paul and Jude employ this same hermeneutic when they read Christ into the OT (respectively, 1 Cor. 10:4; Jude 6).

All that to say, if these things interest you as they do me, and they should–putting the Bible together OT and NT is one of the most vital ways we can understand the God who has revealed himself and offered us salvation in his Son–then be sure to check out this multi-sided book.  In the meantime, you can also take the quiz here.

Other helpful resources on the subject include: G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament; G.K. Beale’s The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Text? ; Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics.

I look forward to reading the arguments in the upcoming Zondervan book, but i am still more excited to simply read my Bible and see Jesus in the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. 

Sola Deo Gloria, dss