A Theology Primer for the First[1] Testament:
What You Need to Know for Starters

by Dr. Elaine Phillips

Copyright © 1997 by Dr. Elaine Phillips, Gordon College, Wenham, MA

 

Introduction

At the outset, it is essential to clarify what these few pages are and what they are not.  As the title indicates, this is only a starting point.  There is a great deal more that needs to be addressed with regard to theology than what can be stated here.  Having said that, however, it is my intention to set forth a few very basic definitions for students who may feel a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of tackling the First Testament, let alone learning what theology is all about.  Due to the focus of this course, these definitions will be primarily "located" within the First Testament, although those that deal with doctrine of Scripture of necessity draw on both Testaments.  Key passages of Scripture that support or serve as compelling illustrations of many of these basic theological doctrines are part of the presentation.

 

The scope of issues included in this survey simply cannot be exhaustive.  Therefore, if one of your favorite theological truths has not received adequate press, enroll yourself in a theology course.  In addition, I will be the first to admit that, in the areas where there are differences of opinion regarding some very fundamental issues in theology, the pages that follow reflect my interpretation of the biblical data.  Not all of you will agree with the details of the presentation.  (That is another reason for keeping this pretty basic; I would like this to reflect, as much as possible, a fundamental consensus as to our response to the truths of Scripture.)  It is my hope that this primer will spur you on to question, to reflect and to further study.

 

I mentioned "starting point" above.  One of the difficulties is deciding where to start even within this topic.  Truth is exceedingly complex, and the prospect of understanding the tiniest part of truth about The Infinite Personal God, His choice to communicate to His creatures, and His intervention on our behalf is often overwhelming once we begin to contemplate it.  Thus, the topics that follow are all intricately inter-related and the sequencing of them is decidedly arbitrary.

 

Theology

Occasionally, theology and doctrine do not receive very favorable press in our circles.  They sound intimidating to some people and are perceived by others as dead.  What is important to realize is that "theology," coming from a combination of Greek words, literally means "the study of God" and therefore is of fundamental and vital importance for us.  We use the term in two general senses.  First, it refers to the study of all areas of religious (and in our case, Christian) inquiry and, depending on the approach of a given segment of that study may be designated systematic theology, biblical theology, covenant theology, liberation theology and the like.  Second and more specifically, the technical designation "theology" refers to the study of the Person of God and His work.  To be sure, these two senses are not that far apart as the "work" of God ultimately encompasses all aspects of existence.

The Word of God

We only commence this study because we are persuaded that God exists and has chosen to communicate with us.  These are astounding truths, they are our presuppositions, and they should, upon reflection, give us a sense of profound meaning in our lives.

 

Revelation

The first thing we need is a basic definition.  Revelation is divine self-disclosure that unveils otherwise unknowable truth and calls forth a response.  Now, what are the possible implications of making that statement with regard to the God of the Bible?

 

The process of revelation is entirely God's doing.  Humans cannot reason their way to God.[2]  This is inevitable for two reasons.  First, God is God.  He is eternal and endless in majesty and might; in other words, He is infinite while we are limited in all aspects of our being to time and space dimensions.  Second, He is holy.  Humanity is not only finite, we are sinful.  That God has chosen to communicate presumes that there is a need to be met by that communication.  We need restoration to communion with God; we are not simply out on an objective quest for the divine.  Because of our finite and sinful nature, we can never arrive at an understanding of God on our own.  Thus, God in his mercy and condescension, reveals Himself.  Much of our discussion will presume that words are an adequate, although far from perfect or complete, medium for a significant part of that communication.

 

The previous statement indicates a primary focus on verbal revelation.  There is, however, more to the story and for this we turn to two convenient theological categories, more definitions, and specific biblical foundation for these statements.

 

General revelation is God's disclosure of His divine power and attributes through creation, both of nature as we observe it around us and of human nature as we see the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual capacities of humankind.  In Psalm 19 we are told that the heavens declare the glory of God, that this declaration is continual ("day after day…"), that these natural phenomena lead to a degree of knowledge, and that this glorious declaration transcends language barriers!  Verses 5 and 6 give an illustrative figure and verses 7 and following move on to address verbal revelation.  Notice that the Psalm also includes the response that revelation elicits.[3]  Paul, in Romans 1:18-20, notes that we are without excuse if we do not see the divine power and attributes of God in nature.  He goes on to state, however, that we do not see Him and we reject the implications of what we do perceive because of our sin; thus we need special revelation.  Further, in Romans 2:12-15, we are told that the conscience of humankind is evidence that God has given to humans a fundamental understanding of right and wrong.

 

From general revelation, we can learn that God is a God of order, power, wisdom, beauty, intelligence, and morality.  What haven't we learned?  We have little idea of our relationship to this God, His will and purposes, and the meaning of all the complexities that are part of our life experiences.  Thus, we need something that articulates this relationship and purposes.

 

Special revelation is the verbal statement of truth that would be otherwise unknowable.  Special revelation discloses God's character and will, the meaning of human existence, the nature of the spiritual realm, and the purposes of God for humanity.  It discloses His love, justice and truth. Special revelation comes via the Word of Scripture and, most sublimely, the Word in the Person of Jesus Christ.[4]  As the Word, Jesus is God who has come in the flesh to reveal God's glory and make God known to us.[5]  He is Son of God and Son of Man, "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being…"[6]  Both the written Word and the incarnate Word carry tremendous authority and demonstrate the utmost in grace and condescension.  In the following section, we will address specific matters relating to the written Word.

Finally, another way of talking about revelation is to state that God reveals Himself by mighty acts and by prophetic, instructive words.  Aspects of the mighty acts may be described within Scripture and then, by the inspired prophetic word, interpreted.  Examples of these would include creation, the exodus, and the resurrection.  Thus, there is an interweaving of historical and prophetic genres in the biblical text.  The Word also records human response to God's acts and words.  It is important to note that the written words are themselves revelation.  They are not merely the human record of revelation.

 

Inspiration

With this topic we arrive at a rather sensitive issue, the understanding of which has sadly divided the evangelical community.  What I present below reflects the traditional definition of inspiration followed by a brief presentation of the factors that need to be part of the discussion.

"Inspiration is a special act of the Holy Spirit by which He guided the writers of Scripture so that their words should convey the thoughts He wished conveyed, should bear a proper relationship to the thoughts in the rest of Scripture, and should be kept free from error in thought, fact, doctrine and judgment."[7]

The two key biblical texts upon which this definition is founded are II Timothy 3:15-17 and II Peter 1:20-21.  The former tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed.  IT is important to note that the texts about which Paul is talking are not the originals, but copies.  Yet, they retain this quality of "inspiredness" because their source is God.  Furthermore, they are purposeful.  In verse 15, Paul indicates that the "sacred writings…are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ."  Verses 16, 17 add to the purpose statement: "…useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work."  (NRSV)  II Peter 1:20, 21 specifically articulates the role of the Holy Spirit in the process of conveying the prophetic word of the First Testament.

While there are other texts that are significant, especially in regard to the New Testament, these will suffice for our purposes.

At issue now:  how shall we understand this process, which involves humans who, in and of themselves, are fallible and whose fallibility does become evident in the transmission of the text?  At what stage (and why?) is human fallibility allowed to affect the record?  As starting points, I suggest the following considerations.  First, by virtue of who God is, what He chooses to reveal will be truth.  Second, revelation is made to a world which is distorted and twisted by sin, where intellectual processes are limited and where falsehood is often part of verbal interaction.  Revelation is about the effects of sin in the world.  Thus, God’s revelation includes, for example, statements made by Satan and false and false statements made by humans.  In other works, truth is complex, it may have “two sides,” and it can include unsavory aspects.  Third, at the step of inscripturation, the process of revelation begins to be entrusted to humankind.  While the Holy Spirit is the operative force (II Peter 1) and the Word is God-breathed (II Timothy 3), each author had his own talents, limiting chronological and cultural sphere, and audience.  Because God is still the predominant Person at this stage of the process, Truth is recorded.  Nevertheless, the following also become evident at this stage:  Selection and adaptation of material to fit best the needs of the audience; omission of much detail (that we might like to see included); citation of other sources available to the human author that may or may not be accurate; use of background-peculiar information; use of literary forms and figures that would strike a familiar chord with the audience.  Thus, the written product will not be complete and exhaustive truth.  That would be an impossibility.  In many cases, it is evident that choices needed to be made as to what to include and how to say it.

 

I would suggest, finally, that the key factor must be humility as we address the issue and recognize that the more this process is entrusted to fallible humans, the more likely there are to be problems.  That does not mean the quality of inspiredness is lost, however, because God in His mercy intends to reveal His Truth to us.  He preserves what we need to know and, in fact, much more to challenge us.

 

Doctrines of God and humankind

I have chosen to introduce these together as a major heading because, while the doctrine of God is primary, it is inextricably linked with our understanding of our humanity and all that entails.

The Person of God

 

It is at this point that words are insufficient; God is simply beyond our ability to describe or define.  And yet, because He has chosen to communicate in verbal fashion, there are things that can be known and articulated about Him.  By way of introduction, two related terms are particularly important.  These will be foundational to our further study of the works of God.

Monotheism is the belief that there is one God and only one.  Our fundamental affirmation of monotheism is found in Deuteronomy 6:4—“Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”  It is also the central creedal statement for Judaism.  In the cultural context of the Ancient Near East, this was a distinctive claim.  We must not forget that the surrounding cultures, from Egypt to Mesopotamia, practiced polytheism, the worship of multiple gods.  This is evident in The Enuma Elish and The Gilgamesh Epic, both of which depict the rather unsavory attitudes and activities of the gods.

 

Sovereignty refers to God’s all-encompassing control over every aspect of the universe, seen and unseen, past, present and future.  A human sovereign is a king who exercises dominion over those individuals who are subject to him.  God is King over all of His creation.  He is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (everywhere present).  Thus, He is perfectly able to accomplish His good purposes, carrying out His will and promises and working through the course of human history.  his sovereignty is displayed in His initial work of creation, His providential sustaining of creation, and the redemption He has effected to restore fallen humankind.  While undoubtedly the best-known biblical passage teaching the sovereignty of our good God is Romans 8:28[8], illustrations of this truth abound in the narratives of the First Testament.  Two which merit our attention are the stories of Joseph and Moses.  The former endured 13 years of patently unjust treatment between the time his brothers sold him into slavery and his appointment to the position of second-in-command in Egypt, a place perfectly designed for the movement of the children of Jacob (Israel) in to Egypt to escape the famine and to prepare them for the tremendous lesson in redemption some 400 years later.  The life of Moses likewise demonstrates the sovereign control of God, preparing him over the entire length of his life for his leadership role, assumed at the age of 80 after 40 years in the court of Egypt and 40 years dealing with sheep in the wilderness of Sinai!

 

Attributes

In addressing the Person of God, it is particularly illuminating to turn to the catechisms.  These are systematically arranges questions and answers that were developed in order to teach the principle truths of Christianity.  They reflect long and careful consideration of the richness of the biblical data.  I always find myself going back to the Westminster Catechism’s response to the question: Who is God?  “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.”  There is a very interesting one/three/seven structure to this which may help us remember it.  Aspects of God represented in the “three” of his infinity, eternality, and unchanging nature are things that cannot characterize us.  They are the essence of His nature that make Him divine.  The “seven” attributes which follow are perfectly God’s; some of them can also, finitely and imperfectly, characterize those who bear the image of God.  That brings us to the next section.

 

The Nature of Humans

What is the paradox of being human?  Both male and female (Genesis 1:26) were made in the image of God, which means humankind was a true and undistorted reflection (as created beings) of the moral and spiritual capacities, the intellectual abilities, and the emotional nature of the Divine.  In more basic terms, that meant humans were granted the ability to think, to explore wisdom, to choose, to love beauty, to communicate without distortions, to be creative, to be truthful.  As a result of the entrance of sin into the human sphere (Genesis 3), however, the image was marred in all aspects.  This is what some theologians refer to as total depravity.  It is not that all the good was entirely obliterated; rather, there is no aspect of being human that has not been tragically scarred.  What were the results for humankind?  Fear and alienation came in where trust had prevailed, both between God and Adam as well as between Adam and Eve.  Falsehood, pride, envy, mistrust, hatred and all the intellectual, emotional, and moral twistings began.  God’s holiness and justice demanded punishment in accordance with the warning in Genesis 2:17.  Death was the decree but it was not the end of the story.  Each aspect of the works of God presented below illustrates God’s perfect and intentional action to restore fallen humankind.

 

The Works of God

God’s mighty act of creation implies a number of things.  First, it does imply His sovereignty.  Having made everything, he knows it all intimately and exercises complete dominion over all of it.  Going hand in hand with that is his omnipotence.  Second, the power that enabled Him to create also sustains the world.  Finally, there is a cosmic purpose, an end for all of this.  The full realization of the Kingdom of God is that culmination of all of human history when creation will be fully restored.  Exodus 15 hails God as King, we find hopeful glimpses of the kingdom in the prophetic literature, and Jesus preached the coming of the kingdom of God.  In the new heavens and the new earth, the Kingdom will be fully established, with the forces of darkness finally conquered.

 

Election is the sovereign and eternal decree of God in which He chooses in mercy before the foundations of the world to rescue individual persons from their utterly fallen and helpless condition in sin and guilt and to make them holy and blameless as adopted children to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:4).  It is not based on human works.  In our study of the narratives in Genesis, we see a very clear example of this in God’s choice of Jacob before his older twin brother, Esau.  Before their mother, Rebecca, gave birth to the twins, she was told “…the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).  In Romans 9:11, 12, the apostle Paul draws on this very incident to illustrate his point that those who come to God come by His calling and not because of their own wisdom or ability.  “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand:  not by works but by Him who calls—she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger’.”[9]  There is a tragic side to this process as well which is represented by Pharaoh whose heart was hardened and who hardened his heart.  The process is evident throughout the narrative in Exodus 4-11.[10]  God’s election of individuals and nations accomplishes His purposes, from the call of Abraham in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed to the intentional choice of foreign nations to punish His wayward people.

 

Salvation is a comprehensive term, referring to deliverance from the power and effects of sin.  Specifically, we are saved from sin and death, guilt, alienation from God, ignorance of truth, deception, fear, despair, and a meaningless life.  These are very real aspects of the human condition and we see them over an over again in the pages of the First Testament.  Positively, salvation means we enjoy peace with God, access into His presence, hope of glory, endurance in suffering, steadfast character, and the indwelling of the Spirit (Romans 5:1-5).  Salvation extends beyond the individual to society and is aimed at realizing the Kingdom of God, a theme that is consistently reiterated in Isaiah 60-66.  It extends to nature, with an intent to end its bondage (Romans 8:19-20), and to the universe, drawing together under Christ all things (Ephesians 1:10).  In both Hebrew and Greek the words have a broad sense of deliverance from any danger or distress.  The exodus from Egypt and deliverance at the Sea of Reeds accomplished salvation from physical distress and subsequently came to represent a much more profound deliverance.

 

Redemption, intimately related to the broad concept of salvation, is more specific in that it indicates how salvation is accomplished, i.e., by the payment of a price.  In ancient Israel, both property and life could be bought back by means of payment.[11]  The narrative in the book of Ruth illustrates the principle clearly as Boaz bought the property which had belonged to the deceased illustrates the principle clearly as Boaz bought the property which had belonged to the deceased Elimelekh and carried on the family name in conjunction with the property by taking Ruth as his wife.  In addition to this socio-economic meaning, the term referred to God’s redemption of Israel in the spiritual sense.  His deliverance of the people from Egypt is spoken of as redemption (Exodus 6:6; 15:13), providing the pattern of rescue from bondage which was ultimately fulfilled as Jesus Christ paid with His blood the price to redeem humankind from the bondage to sin and death (1 Peter 1:18, 19).

 

Covenant is God’s “instrument” for effecting the process of reconciliation between God and humankind.  It is truly at the heart of the historical, instructive, and prophetic texts of the First Testament and, of course, finds its culmination in Jesus’ fulfillment of those covenant promises.  Technically, a covenant is an agreement between two parties that establishes a relationship and involves obligations on both sides.  God initiates this relationship based on His covenant love—hesed.  God’s “obligations” are stated in His promises to extend the benefits of His grace to individuals or nations.  Human obligations are to commit themselves to God.  There is characteristically a “sign” that accompanies the articulation of a covenant; it is to serve as a reminder to the parties involved that there is a seriousness about this relationship and its obligations.  We note four key covenant statements in the First Testament, the first three of which have specific signs associated with them.  The first is the covenant God made with Noah after the flood (Genesis 9:8-17), promising that never again would He bring destruction of this magnitude upon the earth.  The sign was the rainbow.  In Genesis 12-17, we read of God’s covenant promises to Abraham.  They included numerous descendants, the Land, and the prospect that all declaration of Abraham’s belief and the covenant ceremony (Genesis 15) was circumcision.  The most expansive statement of covenant is the revelation of Torah at Mount Sinai.  It is in that context that God promised that the people of Israel would be his “treasured possession…kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5, 6) if they fully obeyed Him.  The sign of the Sinai covenant was the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17).  Finally, God made a very special promise regarding the house of David to the effect that David’s kingdom and throne would endure forever (II Samuel 7:11-16).

 

In Jeremiah 31:31-34, the Lord declares that the time is coming when He will make a “new covenant with the house of Israel,” one in which the law will be written on their hearts.  He will be their God and they will be His people.  It is Jesus who is the minister of this new covenant (Hebrews 7-9), as He is the great High Priest, the prefect sacrifice, and the son of David.

In the Hebrew, the expression which we translate “make a covenant” literally means “cut a covenant.”  This process is dramatically illustrated in the covenant ceremony of Genesis 15, in which Abraham cut in half the sacrificial animals and the Presence of God in the form of a smoking fire pot and blazing torch passed between the pieces.

 

“Covenant” is the same word in Hebrew as “treaty” and, as a matter of fact, the form of the covenant that God made with the people of Israel at Sinai follows the pattern of Hittite treaties made by that victorious group with conquered peoples.  Treaties can be between equals, in which case they are called parity treaties.  Biblical examples of this type of treaty include the agreement between Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 21:27) and the one between the kings of Israel and Syria (1Kings 20:34).  The Hittite treaties, however, were suzerainty treaties established between the ruler/king (suzerain) and those who were subject to him by virtue of his victory over them. The form of the Hittite suzerainty treaties characteristically included an introductory preamble, identifying the ruler or suzerain; a historical prologue in which his activities on behalf of the people were articulated; a set of stipulations indicating what the people were to do to stay in his good graces; a series of blessings and curses which would occur depending on whether or not the subjects were obedient; a statement providing for the deposit of the text and regular reading thereof to ensure the subject people would continue to be well aware of the contents and without excuse; and finally a list of witnesses to the document.

 

The similarity between this form and what is found in Exodus 20-23 and the entirety of Deuteronomy is instructive in several ways.  For one thing, God chose to reveal the details of His promises and the obligations of the people in a form that they would have recognized from their familiarity with the political world around them.  Second, that the form of the covenant statements in Exodus and Deuteronomy most closely parallels Hittite treaties may be helpful in terms of the date of this material.  The Hittites were a flourishing and dominant power, conquering peoples with whom they made treaties, from about 1450 to 1200 BCE.  This is the time period to which traditional scholars date the Exodus from Egypt and the subsequent giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai.  It ought not surprise us that Moses, who had been educated in the Egyptian court, was the human instrument for the recording of God’s statement of covenant.

 

Torah, best translated “instruction,” is the statement as part of the Sinai covenant of the obligations upon the people of God.  These are not construed as the way the people worked their way to salvation.  Instead, living according to these instructions was indicative of their loving and grateful response to God who had redeemed them.  These instructions ranged from ethical and moral issues, such as those found in the familiar Ten Commandments, to specific details on life and conduct in their own particular social structure.  They also included extensive ritual and ceremonial instruction on how to approach God in worship and how to live with a constant sense of the presence of a holy God.

 

Central to the worship was sacrifice.  Shedding the blood of sacrificial animals was an integral part of worship.  It indicated that a life was being taken in place of the individual ugliness of sin and death.  The sacrifices were to take place in the Tabernacle or Temple which, in their beauty and demarcation from the rest of the community, symbolized the dwelling of the Presence of God in the midst of His people but set off from their sin.  Priests served as intermediaries in the sacrificial procedures, bearing the blood of the animals to the altar and, in the case of the High Priest, symbolically representing the people before God.  All of these details served to demonstrate the need of the people; all of them find culmination in the perfect and once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ who was not only a sacrifice but also great High Priest (Hebrews 9:24-28; 4:14-16).

 


Faith and Faithfulness

The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 articulates the components of faith as follows:

What is true faith?

True faith is not only a sure knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His word, but also a firm confidence which the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits (Question and Answer #21).

 

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).  We might think of this as a primarily cerebral activity until we read beyond that opening statement in Hebrews and discover that each of the “heroes of faith,” those wonderful characters found in the narratives throughout the First Testament whose names are recorded in this chapter, acted in accordance with what he or she believed.  They “lived by faith” (Hebrews 11:13).  Faith is a reasoned response, a very important consideration in our culture, which tends to consider any talk of faith as automatically a blind and/or irrational response.  One of the most compelling examples is that of Abraham as he responded in obedience to the word of God in Genesis 22 to take his only beloved son, Isaac, and sacrifice him on Mt. Moriah.  Even though this command appeared to contradict the previous promises of God in Genesis 12 and 15, Abraham’s faithful response was to head for Moriah because, as we learn in Hebrews 11:19, he “reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”

 

That we can even talk about faith is dependent upon the faithfulness of God himself, who is entirely consistent in His words and works and who gives to us the gift of faith in His promises by the Holy Spirit.  The Hebrew term, emunah, whether applied to God or humans, is best translated faithfulness, indicating that we are talking about something vital and active.  When the Person involved is God, emunah is frequently used in conjunction with hesed, the loyal and unfailing covenant love of God for His people.  In other words, God acted on behalf of those in need.

 

It would be a serious omission if I did not briefly address the very profound ethical implications of the theological truths set forth above.  When we are called upon to do justice, love mercy (hesed) and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), we are commanded to be “godlike.”  Each of these qualities characterizes God in His just and merciful interaction with and provision for humankind.  These are the characteristics that are part and parcel of the theological material above.  His gracious condescension is evident from the outset in His choice to communicate on our “level.”  Even more, to accomplish comprehensive justice and to extend mercy, God, in the person of Jesus Christ, accepted humiliation beyond our capacity to apprehend.  Thus, election, salvation, redemption, and covenant are the shining benefits for us of his perfect will and character and they call us to the same attitude “as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”  (Philippians 2:5-8 NIV).

 


For Further Reading

The items listed below are only a tiny selection but each has been helpful as I have prepared the above text.  All are accessible and address the doctrinal issues presented from a variety of perspectives.

 

·        Dunzweiler, Robert J.  “Are the Bibles in Our Possession Inspired?”  Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1981.

 

·        Elwell, Walter A. ed. The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991.

 

·        Grudem, Wayne.  Systematic Theology.  Intervarsity Press, 1994.

 

·        Youngblood, Ronald.  The Heart of the Old Testament.  Grand Rapids:  Baker, 1971.

 

©1997, Elaine Phillips, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Gordon College

 



[1] I have chosen to use the designation “First” Testament in place of the more familiar “Old” Testament out of a desire to be sensitive to those for whom that text is the Bible. Furthermore, in our contemporary culture, “old” often connotes that something is of less value than the “new.” That does not seem to be the message we want to convey regarding this utterly vital part of God’s revelation.

[2] I Corinthians 1:21—the world through its wisdom did not know [God].

[3] Be on the lookout for other passages that tell us the same kinds of things, especially in the Psalms.  Note, for example, Psalm 97:6—"the heavens proclaim His righteousness and all the peoples see His glory."  In the prophetic literature, Zechariah 12:1 presents the same focus—"the Lord who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of humans within, declares…"

[4] What is generally revealed in the creation of humankind provides a "bridge" to special revelation, as that is the medium for the incarnation.

[5] John 1:1, 14, 18

[6] Hebrews 1:1-3

[7] Dunzweiler, p.1.

[8] “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (NIV)  The versus that follow are just as important, indicating God’s foreknowledge, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification of His people.

[9] See also Ephesians 1:1-6.

[10] See especially Exodus 4:21; 10:21, 27; Romans 9:16-18.

[11] See, for example, Exodus 21:30 and the entirety of Leviticus 27.