On Reading Genesis: Four Approaches with Many Resources

close up photo of bible

January 1, 2021. 

With the new year comes the chance to begin a new Bible reading plan (or to continue your reading plan from last year). If the new year leads you to Genesis, as the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan does, you might be looking for some resources to aid in your reading—especially, if your plan does not give you a day-by-day, play-by-play. To that end I am sharing four reading strategies, with some helpful resources to listen and read. Be sure to read to the end, as some of the most helpful resources come at the end. Continue reading

Reading the Bible Better: Finding Unity in the Book of the Twelve

tanner-mardis-612668-unsplash.jpgWhat are the Minor Prophets about? Should we read them together, as one unified book? Or should we read them as twelve discreet books, written (Nahum) or spoken (the other 11) by twelve different prophets?

These are questions worth asking when we study the Book of the Twelve. And as our church has studied Jonah, is starting Nahum, and will soon look at Haggai, I wanted to share another post on ways we find unity in the Twelve. Already, I’ve shared the helpful work of Paul House. If you haven’t read that, start there and then come back here.

In this post I will look at the work Old Testament scholar David L. Petersen (not to be confused with David G. Peterson, the New Testament scholar) and biblical theologian Jim Hamilton. In David Peterson’s survey of research (“A Book of Twelve?” in Hearing the Book of the Twelve, ed. James D. Nogalski and Marvin A. Sweeney, pp. 1–10), he lists five evidences of unity in the Twelve. And in Jim Hamilton’s book God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgmenthe shows how each book is connected to the others through various catchwords and themes. We’ll look at each of these studies to better read the Bible and better understand the unity of the Twelve. Continue reading

Putting the Psalter Together: How the Superscriptions Tell the Story

bibleIn canonical studies on the Psalms (i.e., studies that read the Psalter as one unified book, intentionally arranged to communicate a message of messianic hope), Jim Hamilton has provided a helpful reading of the Psalter by paying attention to the superscriptions of the Psalms. Because this Sunday’s message will depend heavily on the superscription in Psalm 20 (“to/for/about David”), I have asked Jim if I could share a large section of his explanation of the Superscriptions and how they relate to the whole of the Psalms.

The following excerpt is taken from his excellent survey of the Bible, God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. (You can find more about his book here, with ideas for incorporating it into your Bible reading). Continue reading

How do you recognize a biblical type?  

seekfindIf we agree that typology unites the Bible, identifies who Jesus is, and reveals God’s progressive revelation (which I argued here), then it is vital to know how to recognize a type. Indeed, one of the of the reasons people doubt the validity of a given type (e.g., Joseph as type of Christ, or Noah’s ark as a type of salvation) is that they fear reading too much into the Old Testament. Perhaps, they have seen typology gone wild and have concluded that such interpretations are fanciful and forced. Indeed, while there are many poor examples of misinterpretation, typology remains a vital reality in the Bible. And it behooves us to ask again: “How do you recognize a true biblical type?”

In what follows, I’ve given 5 ways to help you do that. This list isn’t exhaustive and it (over)simplifies some very technical discussions, but for those just beginning to consider or reconsider typology, may it serve as a starting point for recognizing types in Scripture. (For a more comprehensive approach to detecting types, allusions, and patterns in Scripture, see G. K. Beale’s Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretationesp. chapters 3 and 4). Continue reading

Noonday Light: Biblical Theology

biblical theology

In the years before seminary, when God was awakening a hunger in my heart for the bible and theology, I was introduced to the subject of ‘biblical theology.’ Now that makes sense right? Biblical theology is the mashup of ‘bible’ and ‘theology.’ Only it is more specific than that.

As my doctoral supervisor, Stephen Wellum, recently defined it: Biblical theology is the “hermeneutical discipline,” that

Seeks to unpack God’s unfolding redemptive plan, doing justice to the diversity of it, while always remembering that despite the diversity it is one plan which reaches its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Biblical theology is concerned to discover how the parts of Scripture fit in terms of the whole, according to God’s intention and purposes, not our own imaginative constructions. Biblical theology is utterly essential to rightly interpreting and ‘putting together’ the whole counsel of God and thus learning to ‘think God’s thoughts after him.’

In truth, everyone has a biblical theology. But not everyone has a good biblical theology. Since living the Christian life depends wholly on knowing God, his gospel, and how God’s word relates to our lives today, biblical theology is crucial matter of consideration for pastors and those in the pew. In other words, its not an optional class some Christians might enjoy. It is central to our Christian walk.

In that vein, for those who are interested in learning how to think God’s thoughts after him according to the way that God has revealed himself over time in the Scriptures, let me suggest a few quick resources.

What the Big Idea Story? Why Biblical Theology Should Matter to Every Bible-Believing Christian. Credo Magazine has come out with their latest edition on the subject of biblical theology. It’s an up-to-date introduction on the subject. (Credo Magazine)

Biblical Theology by Gerard Von Groningen. Covenant Seminary (St. Louis, MO) offers a whole seminary class on biblical theology taught by the insightful OT scholar Gerard Von Groningen. You have to sign up for the class, but the cost is free. (Covenant Seminary)

What is Biblical Theology? A Guide to the Bible’s Stories, Symbols, and Patterns. Jim Hamilton has come out with a short introduction to the subject that helps students consider the literary structures and symbols of the Bible. These things are essential for any good biblical theology.

What’s in the Bible? Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggies Tales, has come up with a new and improved series that teaches biblical theology to young children. You can read about it here or watch a preview below. (The Gospel Coalition)

Via Emmaus. It is my meager attempt to provide on this blog a collection of biblical, theological, and biblical-theological fodder for your edification, so that you might read the Bible better.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

A Few Thoughts on Typology

The subject of typology has been an interesting subject over the last few years. It is a place where theologians and biblical exegetes take turns cranking the hermeneutical spiral to figure out just how the Old and New Testaments work together. This subject matter—typology—was a key part of my dissertation, and it is something I think about often (read: every time I read the OT).

So, when I see friends like Jim Hamilton, Patrick Schreiner, and Matt Emerson squaring off to discuss some of the finely tuned nuances of Biblical Theology, TIS (Theological Interpretation of Scripture), and typology, I am keenly interested. Here are their posts. The comment sections are worthwhile, too.

Typology, Biblical Theology, and the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Jim Hamilton)

Typology and Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Patrick Schreiner)

Typology, TIS, and Biblical Theology (Matt Emerson)

Authorial Intent and Biblical Theology: A Rejoined to Patrick Schreiner (Jim Hamilton)

Maybe at some point I will pick up the conversation on the blog here. At present I am working on finishing up a journal article that has been ruminating for about five years. Hopefully, it will be published sooner than later.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss


The Biblical Authors as Biblical Theologians

This morning I began reading Jim Hamilton’s new book, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, where he begins with an apologetic for biblical theology.  In his first chapter, he makes an obvious but often overlooked point: the biblical authors inspired of God were involved in the task of biblical theology.  He writes,

[B]iblical theology is as old as Moses.  That is, Moses presented a biblical-theological interpretation of the traditions he received regarding Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and his own experience with his brothers.  Joshua then presented a biblical-theological interpretation of Israel’s history (Joshua 24), and the same can be said of the rest of the authors of the Prophets and the Writings, the Gospels and Acts, the Epistles and the Apocalypse.  The biblical authors used biblical theology to interpret the Scriptures available to them and the events they experienced.  For the believing community, the goal of biblical theology is simply to learn this practice of interpretation from the biblical authors so that we can interpret the Bible and life in this world the way they did (41-42).

Scripture not only provides for us the record of God’s work in redemptive history, it also provides an inspired interpretation of that work.  In the Scriptures themselves, God has provided a ruled reading of redemptive history, and provides for us today a model of how we should read the Scriptures. While some might reject the notion that we can/should interpret the Bible like the apostles (cf. Richard Longenecker), Hamilton’s point is well-taken.  Biblical theology is as old as Moses, and thus God’s people have always sought interpret their experience according to the pattern(s) of redemption that have preceded them.  While we do not write down inspired Scripture today, we nonetheless can see how the Bible informs our place in redemptive history, and we proclaim to the nations how they too can be engrafted into Israel’s vine, now fulfilled in Jesus.

I look forward to reading more.  I hope to jot down thoughts and quotes along the way.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Redemption in the Key of D(avid): A One-Page Guide To Reading the Psalms Canonically

Yesterday I taught through the Psalms.  150 Psalms in about an hour.  It was a fast-paced survey of how the Psalter moves…

from the suffering and glory of the historical David in Psalms 1-72
to fall of David’s house and Israel’s exile because of their covenant breaking in
Psalms 73-89
to a YHWH-centered interlude in
Psalms 90-106 which promises redemption and recovery of God’s people because of God’s covenant faithfulness and steadfast love…
to finally the messianic hope of another greater David to come in
Psalms 107-150.

Overall, reading the Psalter as one glorious story of redemption– “Redemption in the Key of D(avid),” you might say– is an illuminating and I would argue the most biblical way to read the Psalms.

It is evident that the Psalms are more than the ancient Israelites equivalent to a WOW Worship CD.  It is not a random compilation of the best hits from the Temple.  The (chrono)logical arrangement of the Psalter is impressive. As Old Testament scholars are helping us see, the content of the Psalms tells us the story of redemptive history, looking back to the David of history and anticipating the eschatological David to come who is God himself (Psalm 110:1; cf Psalm 45:6,).  In other words, while each Psalm is captivating in its own right, set in its own historical, put together,  it becomes evident that a larger story is being told.

To help my church and anyone else who is interested, I have put my notes online, which include a one page outline of the Psalter according to its canonical arrangement.  If it can serve you as a helpful ‘bookmark’ or ‘roadmap,’ please print it out and stick in your Bible to help see how the Psalms fit together to point us to Christ.

It is amazing to see Christ in all of Scripture, and anything that pastor-teachers can do to show how all the Bible leads to Christ will always encourage the faith of our people.  Here are the notes:

Psalms: Redemption in the Key of D(avid)
A Canonical Reading of the Psalter

For more on this subject see, John Walton’s JETS article (1991), “Psalms: A Cantata About the Davidic Covenant,”Paul House’s chapter on the Psalms in his Old Testament Theology, and Stephen Dempster’s section on the Psalms in Dominion and Dynasty. I bet Jim Hamilton will also have a great chapter on this when his book, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment comes out this Fall.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Jim Hamilton’s Forthcoming Biblical Theology

I am not sure where Matthew Montonini found the following description of Jim Hamilton’s new book, God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.  Was it bootlegged?  Its not on Crossway‘s site, but regardless, I am excited to know that it is coming out this year.  I have heard much about its release, and believe the thesis is right on. 

Now that an announcement of the book is out, the cover alone draws me in, but even more the content: After sitting in Dr Hamilton’s “Messiah in the Old Testament” class at SBTS and reading some of his work on the subject, it promises to be a must-have biblical theology.  The best since Geerhardus Vos?  Time will tell.

Here is how Crossway sets it up.  (HT: New Testament Perspectives)

God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (480 pages) [m]oves through the Bible book by book to demonstrate that there is a theological center: God’s glory in salvation through judgment.

In Exodus 34 Moses asks to see God’s glory, and God reveals himself as a God who is merciful and just. James Hamilton Jr. contends that from this passage comes a biblical theology that unites the meta-narrative of Scripture under one central theme: God’s glory in salvation through judgment.

Hamilton begins in the Old Testament by showing that Israel was saved through God’s judgment on the Egyptians and the Caananites. God was glorified through both his judgment and mercy, accorded in salvation to Israel. The New Testament unfolds the ultimate display of God’s glory in justice and mercy, as it was God’s righteous judgment shown on the cross that brought us salvation. God’s glory in salvation through judgment will be shown at the end of time, when Christ returns to judge his enemies and save all who have called on his name.

Hamilton moves through the Bible book by book, showing that there is one theological center to the whole Bible. The volume’s systematic method and scope make it a unique resource for pastors, professors, and students.

Until November, if you are looking to get a feel for what Hamilton’s book will include, check out some of his prepatory work:

The Glory of God in Salvation Through Judgment: The Centre of Biblical Theology?Tyndale Bulletin 57.1 (2006), 57-84.

The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation Display the Divine,” Themelios 33.3 (2008), 34-47.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

King David: The High Point of Old Testament Typology

For the last few weeks I have been considering the subject of typology and Christology in the OT, asking the question: Is there a progressive and increasing nature to the conception of typology in the Old Testament?  Looking particularly at personal types of Christ in the OT (i.e. Adam, Noah, Abraham, David, etc…), I believe that there is an element in which the mediatorial leaders marked out by the Spirit in the OT do in fact show more and more likeness to the Christ as redemptive history moves forward towards Christ.  So that, we can say that David depicts Christ in a more full way than does Abraham or Adam.   That is my hypothesis, at least. 

I have found some very illuminating and helpful contributions to this subject, but perhaps no more succinct and enriching as Herman Bavinck’s consideration of David as the highpoint of OT typology (and Christology).  He writes in general of typology,

The Old Testament does not contain just a few isolated messianic texts; on the contrary, the entire Old Testament dispensation with its leading persons, and events, its offices and institutions, its laws and ceremonies, is a pointer to and movement toward the fulfillment in the New Testament (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ [trans. J. Vriend; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006], 243).

Then he highlights Davidic typology as the zenith of the OT revelation for the person of Christ to come,

Especially the office of king achieved such typical [i.e. typological] significance in Israel.  The theocratic king, embodied especially in David with his humble beginnings, many sided experience of life, deep emotions, poetic disposition, unflinching courage, and brilliant victories, was a Son of God (2 Sam. 7:14; Pss. 2:6-7; 89:27), the anointed one par excellence (Pss. 2:2; 18:50).  People wished for him all kinds of physical and spiritual blessings (Pss. 2:8f; 21, 45, 72), and he was even addressed as “Elohim” (Ps. 45:6).  The king is the bearer of the highest–of divine–dignity on earth.  Theocratic kingship…found its purest embodiment in David; for that reason the kingship will remain in his house (2 Sam. 7:8-16).  This promise to David, accordingly, is the foundation and center of all subsequent expectation and prophecy (244).

Bavinck’s comprehensive survey of Davidic typology affirms what the entire OT is seeking demonstrate–the coming of a Davidic son who will reign on the throne.  From Genesis to 1-2 Samuel, the Spirit of Christ is inspiring Biblical writers to anticipate David:  The covenantal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob point to the emergence of mighty king (Gen. 17:6, 16; 35:11; 49:9-12); Deuteronomy 17 makes legal preparations for the rule of this king; Numbers 24:15-24 announces a scepter who will rise from Israel who will rule over the nations; in Judges the nation of Israel spirals out of control without a king in Israel (21:25); while the book of Ruth chronicles YHWH’s providential control of history that results in a Davidic genealogy (4:18-22).  Moreover, when David comes onto the seen in 1-2 Samuel (and Chronicles), his life is a divinely-intended adumbration of the Christ who is to come.  In this, the account of David’s life is genuinely historical.  Yet, all the while, it typifies the life of Christ to come.

In his treatment of this subject, Bavinck arrticulates how preexilic and postexilic prophets develop this Davidic typology.  Moving from the historic David to the more excellent prophecies about his greater Son, Bavinck points out that the prophecies consistently take on a Davidic shape, 

Prophecy, which is added to interpret typology, looks out from the past and present to the future and ever more clearly portrays the — to be expected — son of David in his person and work.  To the degree that kingship in Israel and Judah answered less to the idea of it, to that degree prophecy took up the promise of 2 Samuel 7 and clung to it (Amos 9:11; Hosea 1:11; 3:5; Mic. 5:1-2; Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-2, 10; Jer. 23:5; 30:9; 33:17, 20-22, 26; Ezek. 34:23-24; 37:22-24).  This anointed king will arise from the dynasty of David when–in utter decay and thrust from the throne–it will resemble a hewn trunk (Isa. 11:1-2; Mic. 5:1-2; Ezek. 17:22).  God will cause him to grow as a branch from David’s house (Jer. 23:5-6; 33:14-17), so that he himself will bear the name “Branch” (Zech. 3:8; 6:12).  Despite his humble birth, he will be the true and authentic theocratic king.  Coming from despised little Dethlehem, where the royal house od Savid origniated and to which, driven from the throne, it withdrew (Mic. 5:2; cf. 3:12; 4:8, 13), the Messiah will nevertheless be a ruler over Israel; his origins as ruler–proceeding from God–go back to the distant past, to the days of old.  He is God-given, an eternal king, bears the name Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God (cf. Isa. 10:21; Deut. 10:17; Jer. 32:18), everlasting Father (for his people), Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6-7).  He is anointed with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, of counsel and courage, of knowledge and the fear of the Lord (Isa. 11:2) and laid as a tested, precious foundation stone in Zion (Isa. 28:16).  He is just victorious, meek, a king riding on a donkey; as king he isnot proud of his power but sustained by God (Jer. 33:17, 20, 22, 26; Zech. 9:9f.), a king whom the people call and acknowledge as “the Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6f–cf. 33:16, where Jerusalem is called the city in which Yahweh causes his righteous to dwell).  he will be a warrior like David, and his house will be like God, like the angel of the Lord who at the time of the exodus led Israel’s army (Zech. 12:8; cf. Mal. 3:1).  He will reign forever; found a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and prosperity; and also extend his domain over the Gentiles to the ends of the earth (Pss. 2, 45, 72; Ezek. 37:25; Zech. 6:13; 9:10; etc.) (244-45).

All in all, I believe that the entire OT finds organic, covenantal ties (historically) and inscripturated revelation (textually) that point to or build off David’s person and kingdom.  Resultantly, it seems legitimate to conclude that one of the reasons why Jesus can say that all Scripture speaks of him (John 5:39), is because of David’s central role in the canon of the OT.  Since Jesus is the greater David, he fulfills in a more exalted way, the mediatorial role (i.e. prophet, priest, and king) lived out by Israel’s first true king, thus fulfilling the typological life of David in the OT, as well as all the other covenantal mediators in th OT.  In this way, David is the greatest personal type of Christ in the Old Testament, or at least that is what I am arguing.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

If this Davidic typology peaks your interest, I encourage you to listen or read  Jim Hamilton’s “The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel.”

Sola Deo Gloria, dss