In 2001, John Goldingay from Fuller Seminary, proposed that the “nature” (2001:99) of an evangelical study of the Old Testament must be made up of five big features. In this blog post, I take these five big features of an evangelical Bible study and apply them to the teaching an preaching of the Old Testament.
Teach and preach the Old Testament in the framework of the gospel.
He says that an evangelical Bible study must be, “within a frame work of the gospel” (2001:117). By this he means that when someone who holds to the major evangelical doctrines approaches the Old Testament, they do so through the lens of the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Messiah. This same approach should be taken by someone wanting to teach and preach the Old Testament. Teach and preach from the view that God is a God of grace who broke into human existence to rescue a lost and dying world. Every verse of the Old Testament is seen through the lens of this kind of a God, not a distant God who does not care about human existence.
Teach and preach the Old Testament in the assumption that it is inspired by the Creator.
He says that an evangelical Bible study, “assumes that the whole Old Testament” (2001:103) came about over the communication between the Lord and His people. This same approach should be taken by someone wanting to teach and preach the Old Testament. Teach and preach from the assumption that it is inspired by God. One of the consequences of the Old Testament being God’s word is that when it came to people it changed their lives. We must teach and preach it as God’s word to change lives. The stories of Abraham, Job and Ruth and so on are not just stories, but they contain the ideas that must shape our worldview.
Teach and preach the Old Testament with the freedom to question human tradition.
He says that an, “evangelical study of the Old Testament will feel free to be independent of human tradition” (2001:106). In saying this, Goldingay does not mean that we cut ourselves free of the creeds and so forth that have been passed down to the church over generations. What he means is that we can question the traditional interpretations of the Old Testament. This same approach should be taken by someone wanting to teach and preach the Old Testament. In your message questions human tradition. For example, tradition says that Job, Ruth, Jonah and Esther are factual stories of real people in history. But being an evangelical means, we have the boldness and freedom to question this.
Teach and preach the Old Testament from the point of what the text actually is.
He says that an, “evangelical study of the Old Testament is interested in the actual text of scripture and in the history, it refers to” (2001:109). By this he means that we understand that not every part of the Old Testament scripture was written to be an exact, blow by blow historical account in the same way that CNN, ENCA, BBC or any other news reporter would record history. The Old Testament scriptures are based in historical facts (these we are interested in), but the scriptures themselves were written with purposes (normally theological), which means that they do not follow history in the way that most historical accounts to. This same approach should be taken by someone wanting to teach and preach the Old Testament. Teach and preach from the perspective of the purpose of the writer of the book of passage. Understand the reasons why a particular book was written and speak a message from this point of view. A good example is that of the books of 1 and 2 Kings. We are told in 2 Kings 17 that Kings was written to explain why Judah and Israel went into exile. When we teach and preach a passage from one of these books, we should do so from this view point.
Teach and preach the Old Testament by faith.
He says that an, “evangelical study of the Old Testament is done by faith” (2001:12). Since Biblical criticism is changing all the time and with it comes new questions and doubts on a variety of issues, we are unable to always prove scientifically some historical points. This means that we must take it by faith that God has put it together the way it is for reasons and that it can be trusted. This same approach should be taken by someone wanting to teach and preach the Old Testament. Teach and preach from the view of maximum faith. This doesn’t mean that we interpret everything literally (poetry for example should not be interpreted literally – although it has literal parts too it). What this means is that we must communicate from the foundation of faith – we believe in God’s word. He says that we cannot approach the Old Testament like we could math and place it in a formula, thus proving a text historically accurate beyond question. But at the same time, we can see the historical accuracy of most of the Old Testament. In the end we must take it by faith.
Goldingay, J. What Are the Characteristics of Evangelical Study of the Old Testament? biblicalstudies. org.uk, The Evangelical Quarterly, 2001, https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/eq/2001-2_099.pdf.