OVERVIEW OF THE BIBLE

 

This session was taught at the Christ Church Manchester School of Theology on Saturday 20th January 2018. The CCM School of Theology was set up to serve local churches in Manchester and beyond.

Topic: Bible Overview 

In this session, we get into the big story of the Bible, understanding the overarching narrative that runs right through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and how individual texts find their place within that bigger narrative. We also look at how to approach the different types of literature that we find within the Bible.

Speaker: Liam Thatcher

Liam Thatcher is an elder and teaching pastor at Christ Church London, and is a regular speaker and writer about theology topics, including on his blog – Leaven on Earth.

LISTEN

 

NOTES

 

The Bible is a collection of books that tell many stories, and yet one story. In this first session, we will consider the overarching narrative of the Bible, and consider the task of exegesis.

What Is the Bible?

The Bible is made up of lots of different kinds of literature:

  • NARRATIVE – (OT) Genesis, First Half of Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Jonah; (NT) Acts
  • LAW – (OT) Second Half of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy
  • WISDOM – (OT) Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes
  • POETRY – (OT) Psalms, Song of Solomon, Lamentations
  • PROPHECY – (OT) Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
  • APOCALYPTIC – (OT) Daniel; (NT) Revelation
  • GOSPEL – (NT) Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
  • EPISTLE – (NT) Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1,2&3 John, Jude

What Is the Story of the Bible?

How would you summarise:

  • The story of the Old Testament?
  • The story of the New Testament?
  • The story of the Bible?

The story of the Bible in 100 words (well… 107, with some cunning word-count-reducing-hyphenation!)

‘The OT storyline that I posit for the basis of the NT storyline is this: The Old Testament is the story of God, who progressively reestablishes his new-creational kingdom out of chaos over a sinful people by his word and Spirit, through promise, covenant and redemption, resulting in a worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this kingdom and judgment (defeat or exile) for the unfaithful, unto his glory. […]

The NT transformation of the storyline of the OT that I propose is this: Jesus’s life, trials, death for sinners, and especially resurrection by the Spirit have launched the fulfilment of the eschatological already-not yet new-creational reign, bestowed by grace through faith and resulting in worldwide commission to the faithful to advance this new-creational reign and resulting in judgment for the unbelieving, unto the triune God’s glory.’ (G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, p16)

The metanarrative encompasses the whole universal plan of God and the story of redemption.

Another way of summarising the story is in four acts – Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration.

 

Biblical and Systematic Theology

Biblical Theology:

  • Traces the unfolding history of God’s revelation to and redemption of His people
  • Is organised historically: How did people understand God and His work at this point of Salvation History?
  • Perhaps has a greater appreciation for the diversity of Scripture and themes that are distinctive to a particular book, or author. 

Systematic Theology:

  • Synthesises and summarises what the Bible as a whole teaches about topics like God, humanity, Christ, salvation, etc
  • Is organised topically: What does the whole Bible teach about the doctrine of x?
  • Strongly emphasises the unity of Scripture and asks ‘what is the full extent of truth we can know about this doctrine?’

‘At their best, biblical theology and systematic theology interact and help to deepen one another. Systematic theology provides doctrines of God’s sovereignty, of revelation, of God’s purposes, and of the meaning of history that supply a sound framework of assumptions for the work of biblical theology. Biblical theology at its best deepens the appreciation that systematic theology should have for the way in which, in interpreting individual texts and in uncovering their relation to a whole topic, the context of texts within the history of redemption colours the interpretation. Biblical theology may also bring to light new themes that can be the starting point for systematic-theological explorations into new topics that can receive fuller attention. For instance, the theme of life and death as it develops in the course of the history of revelation can become the starting point for discussing ethical questions about modern medicine and the issue of euthanasia’ (Vern Poythress)

Matt Hosier compares the difference between Biblical and Systematic Theology to the difference between Google Earth and a tube map – both are useful.

 

Exegesis: Understanding God’s Word to Them

Context

Historical Context:

  • Who: Author and Recipient(s). What is their relationship?
  • What: What’s written? How’s it structured? What’s the tone?
  • Why: What was the purpose of it being written?
  • Where: Author and Recipient.
  • When: When was it written?

Literary Context: 

  • What is the genre?
  • What is the surrounding context?
    • Immediate context
    • Rest of the section
    • Rest of the book
    • Rest of the author’s work
    • Rest of the Bible

Content

Things to Look For In Sentences:

  • Repeated words
  • Contrasts and comparisons
  • Lists
  • Cause and effect
  • Figures of speech
  • Conjunctions (but, and, for, therefore…)
  • Verbs
  • Pronouns

Things to Look For In Paragraphs

  • General and specific details
  • Questions and answers
  • Dialogue
  • Purpose statements
  • Means by which things are accomplished
  • Conditional clauses
  • Actions/roles of people, or God

Things to Look For In Discourses:

  • Connections between paragraphs and episodes

  • Story shifts. Breaks and pivots

  • Juxtaposition and interchange

  • Chiasm (a, b, c, d, c’, b’, a’)

Your goal is to summarise the passage into a single sentence (past tense).

Things To Bear In Mind When Considering Different Genres

Narrative:

  • Purposeful stories
  • Consider the following:
    • Plot
    • Setting
    • Characters
    • Narrator
    • Dramatic Tools

Law: 

  • Law versus laws
  • Apodictic and casuistic?
  • Reveals something of God’s character
  • Grace gift (John 1:16-17)
  • Prophetic (Matthew 11:13)

Wisdom: 

  • Wisdom is the ability to make godly choices in life
  • Sayings must not be extracted from their context
  • Not hard and fast guarantees but general rules
  • Proverbs are typically:
    • Practical
    • Parabolic
    • Pithy

Poetry:

  • Addressed to the mind through the heart

  • Look for poetic devices such as metaphor

  • Occasional

  • Purposeful

  • There are different types of Psalm:
    • Lament
    • Thanksgiving
    • Praise
    • Salvation-History
    • Celebration
    • Wisdom
    • Songs of Trust

Prophecy: 

  • Prophets called God’s people back to Him
  • Covenant enforcement
  • <2% is Messianic
  • <5% described the new covenant age
  • <1% is about events yet to come

Apocalyptic:

  • Apokalupsis = Disclosure
  • Litrary prophecy – an intimate art form
  • Symbolic:
    • Numbers: 3, 4, 7, 10, 12, 1000
  • Allusions to places or people
  • Images and metaphors:
    • Throne, crown, mountain, horn

Gospel:

  • Narrative, but with other elements: sayings, teachings
  • Non-exhaustive
  • Written for particular communities and needs

Epistle:

  • Occasional
  • Part of ongoing dialogue: in person, or letter
  • Designed to be read in one go
  • Look for clues about:
    • Author
    • Recipients
    • Date, time
    • Purpose
    • Divisions

 

Three Levels of Narrative

Metanarrative: The whole universal plan of God – The story of redemption

  • Creation
  • Fall
  • Redemption
  • Restoration

Election: God choosing and redeeming a people for His name

  • Old Covenant
    • Creation
    • Abraham
    • Exodus
    • Promised Land
    • Etc.
  • New Covenant
    • Etc.

Micronarratives: The smaller stories that make up the bigger narratives

  • Compound Theology: Abraham Story
    • Call
    • In Egypt
    • Lot
    • Covenant
    • Etc.

Question:

When Jesus said that the Scriptures testify to him (John 5:39), which level of narrative was he talking about?

  • Christocentric vs. Christotelic readings.
  • Telos = purpose / end / goal

  • How does this story fit within the metanarrative of redemption, of which Christ is the goal?
  • What words or concepts does this story contribute to later interpretation of the life of Christ?
  • What view of God that we later find embodied in Christ can we see here?
  • How was God’s calling and redemption of his people analogous to his calling of us?

Augustine on the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37)

  • Man going down from Jerusalem = Adam
  • Jerusalem = Heavenly City
  • The moon = Our mortality
  • Robbers = The Devil and his angels
  • Stripping him = Removing his immortality
  • Beating him = Persuading him to sin
  • Leaving him half dead = Spiritually dead because of sin, but half alive because of the knowledge of God
  • Priest = Law, the priesthood of the OT
  • Levite = Prophets, the ministry of the OT
  • Good Samaritan = Christ
  • Binding of wounds = Restraint of Christ
  • Oil = Comfort of good hope
  • Wine = Exhortation to spirited work
  • Animal = Body of Christ
  • Inn = The Church
  • Two Denarii = Two commandments to love
  • Innkeeper = Apostle Paul
  • Return of the Good Samaritan = Resurrection of Jesus

Is this good exegesis? How would you describe the Good Samaritan in a single sentence?

 

Recommended Resources

General Resources

Commentaties

Choosing a good commentary can be tricky, but bestcommentaries.com is a great place to look for reviews and recommendations. If you want to study a book in depth you may want to choose a selection of commentaries; some technical and some more devotional. But if you want to read in a devotional way, then a lighter, less technical commentary might be best. Here are some general recommendations:

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