From Law to Gospel: Seeing the Literary Structure of 1 Timothy 1

bibleIn his chapter “Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles,” Ray Van Neste argues for literary cohesion in 1 Timothy (in Entrusted with the Gospel: Paul’s Theology in the Pastoral Epistles, 84–104). While many critical scholars have denied this unity and declared 1 Timothy is a patchwork letter (not written by Paul), Van Neste shows how the letter demonstrates internal cohesion. From a careful reading of the letter, he shows how thematic and linguistic connections unity the first and last chapter (98–104).

Most impressive in his argument is his treatment of 1 Timothy 1 and 6, where he shows multiple ways the letter shows cohesion and structure. For instance, developing a number of “hook words,” Van Neste observes,

  • The use of “teachers of the law” (v. 7), law (v. 8), and lawfully (v. 8) link verses 3–7 with verses 8–11.
  • Pisteuō (“entrusted”) ends verse 11 and serves as the keyword for verses 12–17: “faithful” (v. 12), “unbelief” (v. 13), “faith” (v. 14), “trustworthy” (v. 15), “believe” (v. 16). In each case, the Greek word has pist- as its root.
  • Faith and a good conscience also mark the beginning and end of the chapter (v. 5 and v. 19).

With these various “hook words,” we see how the chapter holds together and unfolds. This strengthens our commitment to Paul’s authorship of 1 Timothy, and it shows us how to read the chapter as a whole. Yet, the unity is more than just linguistic. There also appears to be a literary structure in 1 Timothy 1. Continue reading

Jesus and ‘Those Who Are With Him’: 1 Samuel, Mark 2, and Two Kinds of Typology

tanner-mardis-612668-unsplash (1).jpgIn his illuminating study Jesus the PriestNicholas Perrin argues for a priestly reading of Mark 2:23–28, the passage where  “those who were with [Jesus]” (repeated twice in vv. 25 and 26) ate grain on Sabbath. In his commentary, Perrin argues for a deep typology between 1 Samuel and Mark’s Gospel.

That Mark intends a general comparison between David and Jesus is supported by at least a handful of typological comparisons, occurring, for example, in Mark’s account of the latter’s last week in Jerusalem which resembles the Jerusalem-based consolidation of kingship under the former. As he enters the Holy City in the style of Solomon (11.1—8), Jesus is hailed as the Son of David (11.9-10), only later to be identified with David (12.10 us 118.22—23)). Later still he is crucified as a Davidic ‘King of the Jews’ (15.26) Finally, in his expiring moments he utters his last prayer in words drawn from a Davidic psalm (15.34 (Ps. 22.1)). Through his shameful death on Roman cross, Mark insists, Jesus has become Israel’s king on the pattern of David.

Yet the Jesus-David analogy also extends to Mark’s sequencing of events as a comparison of their respective careers makes clear. One recalls that in 1 Samuel, David is anointed as king of Israel (1 Samuel 16), thrust into combat with Israel’s arch-enemy (Goliath) (1 Samuel 17) and shortly thereafter put to flight by the reigning pretender Saul (1 Samuel 18-20), with an excursion to Nob (1 Samuel 21) marking one of the first stops in his itinerant exile. The early action of the Gospel is parallel in its broad strokes.

In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is anointed the Davidic-messianic king (Mark 1.9-11), thrust into combat with Israel’s true arch-enemy (the Satan) (1.12—13) and shortly thereafter embroiled in a series of conflicts complete with its own Nob-like experience (2.23-28). Such structural similarities between the Gospel and the Davidic narrative are not unrelated to more far-reaching thematic comparisons. If David was anointed king but denied any immediate right to reign, so it was with Jesus. If David’s band was time and time again forced to go on the run, Jesus and his followers were no less a band on the run. Finally, if David’s exile eventually paved the way for the throne, the same goes for Jesus — even if in a curious, paradoxical way. Whatever scriptures and traditions shaped Mark’s Christology of suffer, the contribution of the Davidic narrative can hardly be denied.

Once Mark’s appropriation of the cycle from 1-2 Samuel is brought to bear on our interpretation of his grainfield incident, Jesus’ appeal to David (vv. 25-26) quickly comes into view as an effort to frame the controversy a recapitulation of a distinctively Davidic conflict. Mark 2.23-28’s position within a set of post-baptism conflicts stories, in grand analogy to David’s experience, points to nothing less. No sooner is David anointed king of Israel than he is ironically persecuted: no sooner is Jesus anointed king of Israel through baptism than he is, with equal irony, persecuted. Meanwhile, if the analogy between the two anointed-but-beleaguered kings effectively links the conflict dialogues of Mark to the travails of David, then Jesus’ self-comparison with David at Nob within the episode of 2:23-28 is the weld which seals that link. This is no arbitrary exercise in typology. By embedding Jesus’ sufferings within the context of David’s suffering, Mark hopes to justify the controverted quality of Jesus’ messiahship. (Jesus the Priest, 196-97)

Because of my passion for priesthood and typology, I love the way Perrin reads this passage. But more technically, I appreciate the way he shows how Mark wrote his Gospel on the basis of previous Scripture. I believe we can see this kind of typology all over the Gospels, and this is a great example. At the same time, Perrin’s observation about typology help us think more carefully about typology and how the inspired authors wrote Scripture. Continue reading

Let Scripture Interpret Scripture

bibleIn our recent podcast on Genesis and Matthew, we considered how various aspects of the ancient Near East inform our understanding of Genesis. Indeed, there are many reasons to compare the Old Testament to the ancient Near East (and the New Testament to Second Temple Judaism). In both testaments, the historical background give us insight into the Scriptures.

That said, there is more insight that comes from comparing Scripture to Scripture, by reading the Old Testament with the light of the new, by reading the New Testament with the background of the Old Testament, and reading both testaments as mutually-interpreting books of God’s inspired word.

In fact, on that very point New Testament scholar Grant Macaskill makes this wise observation:

New Testament scholars are usually very good at examining the context and backgrounds provided by Graeco-Roman and Jewish literature, but we are generally less successful at examining that provided by other New Testament writings and bringing these to bear on our exegesis. There is a vast amount of literature that reads Paul in the light of Qumran; there is rather less that reads Paul in the light of Peter.

The objection, of course, is that we run the risk of conflating the distinctive theology of each and doing so without sensitivity to the timelines on which they are located. But these texts are the products of a movement with a certain cohesion, generated within a compact period of time. It is, then, necessary to the historical task for us to consider how they may relate to one another and to reflect upon the ways in which even their diversity may emerge from a basic unity of thought. (Grant Macaskill, Union with Christ in the New Testament2)

I am not a New Testament scholar, but I believe his point applies to us all. The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, and so we should give equal—even greater!—attention to the rest of the Bible when interpreting Scripture. Sure, let’s read extra-biblical texts that inform Scripture, but even more lets immerse ourselves in the Bible, so that our interpretations are saturated with the Bible and not just the latest academic fad or archaeological discovery.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

The Cost of Discipleship: How the Historical Context of Hebrews Teaches Us How to Read This Book

hebrewsTonight we begin our verse-by-verse study of Hebrews in our weekly Bible study. Last week we looked at the book as a whole. You can find the audio and introductory notes here.

This week we will consider the first four verses, which introduce Hebrew’s “word of exhortation” (13:25) to a people suffering oppression (10:32–34) and tempted to shrink back from their Great High Priest. Indeed, as the book unfolds we become quite aware that the author of this book has a great concern for the enduring faith of these afflicted disciples. To understand, therefore, the pastoral intent of Hebrews we need to know something of the historical context.

And while many particulars about Hebrews are impossible to discern (like who wrote the book), we can put together a fairly accurate picture of who is addressed, where, and when. In fact, in his short commentary on Hebrews (A Call to Commitment), William Lane provides a clear picture of the letter’s background from the available content of Hebrews and the history of Rome in the first century. Here’s what he finds, Continue reading

A Filter, A Lens, and A Prism: Three Ways Christ Applies the Law of Moses to New Covenant Disciples

law

One of the most challenging aspects of reading the Bible is applying the old covenant law to the new covenant follower of Christ. As the book Five Views on Law and Gospel illustrates, there are multiple ways in which Christians have sought to apply the Old Testament and its legal demands to the church today. And one of the most familiar ways is to differentiate three parts of the law.

Typically divided as moral, civil, and ceremonial, the tripartite approach to the Old Testament argues that some laws are eternal and unchanging (the moral); others are related to the theocracy given to  Israel (the civil); still others are related to the system of priests, sacrifices, and the temple (the ceremonial). In Christ, the civil and ceremonial came to their completion, while the moral law continues unabated.

The trouble with this approach is that the Old Testament never specifies the tripartite division and in many places the moral, civil, and ceremonial overlap. Still, we must make some sense of the way parts of the law continue and others do not. And historically, the tripartite division has a long tradition of helping Christians think carefully about the Bible, the Law, and the Gospel. Still, it is not the only way and there may be better approaches.
lunde

Addressing this subject, I have found help in the way Jonathan Lunde uses three images to describe the way in which Christ fulfills the law. In his book Following Jesus, the Servant Kinghe spends three chapters outlining the way Christ fulfills the law of Moses. Focusing much of his attention on the Sermon on the Mount, he specifies the way Christ functions as filter, lens, and prism. In some ways, Christ brings the laws of Moses to an end (filter); in others, he clarifies what the law already meant (lens); and still in other ways, he heightens the demands of the law (prism).

While these three approaches (filter, lens, prism) are extra-textual and only illustrative, I find them more helpful in getting at what the text says. They make us consider what Jesus does and does not say about the law. And instead of foisting an extra-textual grid on the Bible, like the tripartite division of the law, they make us listen closely to the text itself to see how Jesus mediates between old and new covenants.

Because this approach is explicitly Christ-centered, in a way that the tripartite division of the law is not, I find it to be a surer guide. Likewise, because it does not create a whole system of categorization (which the Bible does not have), it lets the text of Scripture speak. It also permits more freedom to disagree about certain points—as I do below in two ways—and helps us go back to the feet of Jesus to learn how he approaches the old and new covenants. Continue reading

“Disciples Make Disciples”: A Vital Truth That Needs Further Elaboration

trekking-299000__480.jpg“Disciples make disciples”

It’s an axiom that is thrown around by Christians who rightly make “making disciples” a priority for genuine discipleship. But is it really true? Do disciples make disciples? Or is there more to the story?

Based on the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, we might think that Jesus words give definitive answer: Yes, disciples make disciples.

Yet, Jesus’ final words in Matthew’s Gospel are not the only word on the subject. And in fact, as we seek to make disciples—as we are commanded—we should remember that our calling to make disciples is part of God’s larger work of redemption. This should both encourage us, motivate us, and remind us that the work of making disciples is not the mission of few committed “disciple-makers,” it is the calling for all those who call Jesus “Lord,” and thus something we should all strive to grow in. Continue reading

Seven Evidences the Sermon on the Mount is an Exposition of the New Covenant

joel-filipe-241154-unsplashWhat is the Sermon on the Mount about? And more basically, what is the Sermon on the Mount? Is it a newer, more stringent law for Christ’s disciples? Is it an ideal which drives disciples to seek mercy? How should we understand it?

Many answers have been given, but I believe the best understanding of Jesus’s Sermon in Matthew 5–7 is that it is an exposition of the new covenant. Rather than a new law that exceeds that of the old covenant, I would propose that it is the eschatological word of Christ which fulfills the Law and the Prophets. And in what follows I want to outline seven reasons for that view.

Seven Evidences the Sermon on the Mount is an Exposition of the New Covenant

For sake of space, I am not going to expound every point with exhaustive detail. Rather, I will trust that the points are somewhat familiar and that stringing them together has the cumulative effect of proving the Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is an exposition of the way Jesus expects his kingdom disciples to walk according to the new covenant he is bringing. Continue reading

The Blessed Christ: How Jesus Exemplifies All His Beatitudes

bruno-martins-442303-unsplash.jpgAll the beatitudes that Jesus uttered in the Gospel,
he confirms by his example, exemplifying what he taught.
— Origen

If we want to understand what the Beatitudes look like in action, we should look to Christ. And if we want to embody the Beatitudes, it will require a long and loving gaze at our Lord. Why? Because as we see him, we gain wisdom to know how to walk as he walks, and more importantly, when we look with faith at Christ our hearts grow in affection for his way of life. This is how the Lord sanctifies us and transforms us from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What follows, therefore, is the slimmest confirmation of Origen’s assertion (cited by Davies and Allison, Matthew: A Shorter Catechism, 69)—namely, that in the Gospels and Epistles we find evidence that all that Jesus commends in the Beatitudes are displayed in his life.

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Luke 23:46

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last

Acts 10:37–38

You yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Matthew 12:28

But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Luke 17:20–21

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Isaiah 53:1–3

1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

John 11:34­–36

And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”[1]

 

5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 11:28–30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 21:5, citing Zechariah 9:9

5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

  

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 3:13–15

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.

John 4:31–32

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.”  

 

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 9:27

27 And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.”

Matthew 15:22

22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

Matthew 17:15

“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water.

Matthew 20:30–31

30 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31 The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Luke 7:47–48

47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

 

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Psalm 24 (cf. Psalm 15)

A Psalm of David.

1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2 for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. 5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 8 Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. 10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah

John 1:18

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 6:45–46

45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

 

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 

Ephesians 2:14–17

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.

Hebrews 2:10

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

 

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 27:15–23

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

2 Corinthians 5:21

21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 3:18

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,

 

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

Seeing the Mountain-Like Structure of the Sermon on the Mount

jeremy-bishop-248837-unsplash.jpgEarlier this week, we considered the way Matthew organized his Gospel with careful literary structures. Today, we look more closely at one part of his work, the Sermon on the Mount. And in that section of Scripture (4:23–8:1), we learn a number of things about how Matthew organized Jesus’ sermon in order to direct our attention to the main point of the sermon—namely, communion with the Father in the Lord’s Prayer.

Returning to the helpful work of Jonathan Pennington, we see in his The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, that he organizes Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount into a chiastic structure that looks something like this—this arrangement here abbreviates his original outline (see pp. 132–33). Continue reading

In What Did Old Testament Saints Believe?

daniel-mccullough-539577-unsplash.jpgIn discussions about salvation and interpretation of the Old Testament, two related questions are often asked.

  1. How were the Old Testament saints saved? Or, in whom or what did they believe?
  2. How much did the Old Testament know about the coming Christ?

marriw

Recently, in reading through The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher, I came across a succinct, if slightly archaic, answer to these questions. In conversation form, Fisher explains how the Old Testament saints beheld Christ through the types and shadows of the Law. In short, he answers that the salvation we possess is of a piece with those under the old covenant. There are not two ways of salvation, but one, as Hebrews 11 suggests.

The difference between Israel and the church (which is today composed of Jews and Gentiles) is less about how they are saved, but how they came to know the one savior, Jesus Christ the Son of God. The former saw Christ through a veil of old covenant shadows and types; the latter have seen him in the substance of his person and work, now proclaimed through the witnesses of his apostles.

As always, such questions require elongated consideration about the whole Bible. But for short answers, what follows helpfully explains how the Old Testament saints beheld Christ. Continue reading