“Overcoming” the World – an Excerpt from Making All Things New

The following is an excerpt from Making All Things New, by Benjamin Gladd and Matthew Harmon.

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Revelation 1:9 claims that John is a “partner in the tribulation and kingdom.” The ideas of “tribulation” and “kingdom,” though discussed separately in the OT (esp. in Dan. 7), have been surprisingly merged into a unified, ironic concept in Revelation 1:9. Surprisingly, John participates in God’s end-time kingdom by persevering through tribulation (1:6). John’s behavior models Christ’s actions on the cross; he likewise executed his rule in the midst of suffering (1 Cor. 1:18–2:16).

Cover ArtJesus labels his teaching in Matthew’s Gospel as “mysteries of the kingdom.” The latter-day kingdom is surprisingly fulfilled in two stages. The book of Daniel, perhaps more than any other OT book, demonstrates that the latter-day kingdom arrives after persecution and tribulation (e.g., Dan. 7:24–26; 12:1–3). Jesus’s teaching on the kingdom differs in general from the latter-day conception of the kingdom in the OT and Judaism in that the kingdom and those within it coexist with pagan empires and wickedness.

In a very real sense, while John is on Patmos suffering because of his resolved testimony for Christ, he is being “overcome” physically by the world. Physically, the world “overcomes” true believers, particularly John, yet true believers spiritually “overcome” the world. John, while in exile on the island of Patmos and physically enduring “tribulation,” rules and reigns in God’s end-time kingdom, albeit in a spiritual manner. Outwardly, the apostle suffers intense persecution, but spiritually and invisibly he has triumphed over the devil and the world.

This behavior is ultimately modeled after Christ’s conquering and overcoming Satan and the world through his death. Revelation 3:21 states, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (NASB; cf. Rev. 5:5–6). Later in Revelation, the beast is portrayed as overcoming the saints physically, but in reality they overcome him spiritually: “When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them” (11:7 NASB; cf. 13:7). By suffering on Patmos and being “overcome” by the world physically, John the apostle triumphs over the world spiritually, thus modeling a genuine Christlike behavior for the seven churches of Asia Minor.

©2016 by Benjamin L. Gladd and Matthew S. Harmon. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Making All Things New, click here.

Salvation and Embodiment – an Excerpt from The Priority of Christ

The following is an excerpt from The Priority of Christ, by Bishop Robert Barron.

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The dense physicality of the risen Jesus (sarka kai oseta, flesh and bones) indicates that the whole drama of salvation has to do with real, embodied human beings.

There is nothing in authentic Christianity of the Platonic- Gnostic myth of descending and reascending souls, of the imprisonment of spirit in matter and subsequent escape. When this form appeared in Origen’s speculations, it was quickly appreciated as repugnant to the intuitions of orthodoxy.

Cover ArtThe God described in Genesis made all things good, including matter, and therefore salvation affects the human being at all levels. Whatever resurrection life means (and it remains certainly mysterious and ambiguous throughout the New Testament), it does not mean the career of a disembodied soul. Rather, it must have something to do with the elevation of the entire person and the intensification of her physical, psychological, and spiritual powers.

Though we do not know from the text itself whether the disciples responded to Jesus’s invitation to touch him, the fact that he could be touched has important ecclesiological implications. Since the Word became flesh, it is with and in our flesh that we contact him.

The objective physicality of the risen Lord grounds, therefore, the sacramental imagination of the church, the conviction that we find God’s presence unabashedly in things such as water, oil, bread, relics, vestments, saints, candles, and pictures, and not by fleeing to a realm of sheer interiority or sheer transcendence. The touch of the disciples signals the electrical energy of the coinherence of Jesus and his church.

©2016 by Robert Barron. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on The Priority of Christ, click here.

Three Issues Facing Contemporary Youth Ministry – an Excerpt from Adoptive Youth Ministry

The following is an excerpt from Adoptive Youth Ministry, edited by Chap Clark.

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Even as the greater focus on practical theology in recent years has provided the theological framework for ministry and most youth workers have been more theologically deliberate in their ministry thinking and efforts, three related but distinct issues have emerged.

While they have come from different people and directions and for different reasons, none of the three seems to have been the catalyst for the other two, yet all three now make up the bulk of our collective discourse. Each of these issues impacts the other two, but up to this point little has been done to pull them together. In no particular order, the three issues are:

Cover Art• The struggle related to youth ministry’s long-term effectiveness, in that we are “losing” kids once they leave our ministry programs.

• The concern that people in contemporary culture, including an increasing number of young people, report to have written off “traditional” faith (a movement labeled the rise of the “Nones”). Current literature seems to confirm that many young people do not even want to give youth ministry a chance, and there is ample evidence that great numbers of adolescents and emerging adults have a negative view of the church and confirm wanting nothing to do with “us,” meaning the institutional church.

• The widespread recognition that as the world has changed dramatically over the past few years and decades, these changes not only affect how we do ministry but also who we do ministry with— primarily adolescents and their families. The world the young now inhabit is the precarious, often painful, clearly confusing, and “abandoned” reality that middle adolescents (fourteen- to twenty-year-olds) and emerging adults (twenty- to early-thirty-year-olds) live within.

Each of these issues and the corresponding focus that results has created a new day for youth ministry. Over the past decade we have come to recognize and admit that we are losing ground in terms of our ability to theologically engage students in a way that engenders both current and lifelong faith even while we try to go theologically deeper ourselves.

While each issue has received a great deal of attention, there is a growing consensus that these three are born of the same parent. Today’s and tomorrow’s youth worker cannot simply be aware of the dynamics that affect ministry to the young; they must thoughtfully and theologically engage them head-on, recognizing that the day of gathering kids in a dedicated youth wing or living room and getting them to sing and play and listen to a clever talk (regardless of how well delivered it is) no longer guarantees lifelong spiritual interest, much less life transformation.

©2016 by Chap Clark. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Adoptive Youth Ministry, click here.

Why Study Greek? – an Excerpt from Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek

The following is an excerpt from Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek, by Rodney Whitacre.

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A knowledge of the basics of Greek opens to you the greatest mental and spiritual adventure, the most edifying study. With Greek you have unique access to some of the world’s greatest literature and, most significantly, the power and beauty of God’s Scriptures, the very oracles of God (τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ, Rom. 3:2).

Cover ArtThe question “Why study Greek?” was raised some years ago in an internet discussion group devoted to Greek. The six reasons given by a woman who had studied Greek in a class at her church sum it up very nicely:

1. I love the language. I did not anticipate this when I started it. 2. I do get nuances out of the text that I don’t get in English. 3. Reading from the Greek slows me down and makes me think. 4. I now know enough to recognize faulty arguments made by other speakers. 5. I find reading from the Greek more moving. I was gripped by reading the Passion passages in the Gospels, something I don’t think I get from reading English. 6. I am a resource for the Bible study I am in. I don’t answer a question every week, but there’s an interpretation question I can answer, or get the answer to, with some frequency. Sometimes it’s as simple as whether “you” is in the singular or plural.

Would that all students of Greek had such an experience! I want to help you engage Greek texts in ways that will bring such benefits. In this introduction I will give you an overview of what I have in mind.

“Before we sip the Scriptures, we should guzzle them.” This is great advice for how all Christians should approach the Scriptures. Augustine spends most of his time in On Christian Doctrine explaining how to interpret Scripture, and his first step is to “read them all and become familiar with their contents” (II.12 [chap. 8]). He encourages believers “to read them so as to commit them to memory, or at least so as not to remain wholly ignorant of them” (II.14 [chap. 9]).

Such extensive reading is all the more important for teachers and preachers. I remember Harold John Ockenga, when he was president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, saying that before he began to preach through a book of the Bible he read it forty times. He guzzled the book before sipping individual passages and preaching them to others.

In this book I want to encourage you to guzzle and sip the text in Greek. The methods I share in this book for gaining an ability to engage the text in these ways are neither complex nor difficult. You can use these two approaches right from the outset in basic Greek and then continue them throughout your life. It certainly takes time to become fluent, but there are ways to move toward fluency that are very enjoyable and valuable. I will not focus on exegesis, though these approaches complement exegetical study of texts and can deepen your ability to do exegesis. As we will see, fluency and meditation have their own values.

©2015 by Rodney A. Whitacre. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek, click here.

Millennials in Church – an Excerpt from Effective Generational Ministry

The following is an excerpt from Effective Generational Ministry, by Elisabeth Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig Blomberg.

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Millennials carry with them an apparent contradiction when exploring topics of religion and belief. On the one hand, they have a deep appreciation and value for things that have a history and a heritage that are bigger than themselves. On the other hand, the Millennial values of individualism and the personal nature of truth often push them to question anything that has an established history.

In my conversations with Boomers, Xers, and Millennials, I have seen a misunderstanding occur across the cohorts as to why Millennials question established history. From a Boomer perspective, the questioning often arises out of a distrust of the institution or organization being looked at. From a Millennial perspective, the questioning arises out of a desire to understand the whys behind a given tradition or practice, and to appease their own need to feel as if they have made a decision out of an informed space.

Cover Art…Millennials have been raised to question any and all claims presented to them, or to at least not be surprised if anything presented as truth gets changed over time. As such, they come into religion with similar uncertainty and skepticism.

Where Xers pushed against the waning beliefs and philosophies of the early twentieth century, ushering in a more mainstream acceptance of postmodernism, Millennials have known no other framework than a relativistic and personally designed way of seeing the world. Everything else in the lives of Millennials was rooted in choice, options, freedom, individuality, and subjective experience, so why wouldn’t religion be the same?

A generation that places high value on relationships and personal experience, Millennials often struggle to find their place within organized religion where hierarchical structure abounds, rules and regulations are expected to be universally followed, and the individual is not elevated above the collective.

The Millennial value of egalitarian relationships, as modeled by their parents, is a telling lens through which to understand their religious nonaffiliation. Simultaneously, this generation brings with it a value of history, context, experience, and culture that could prove to be an inroad for churches that offer a more traditional or liturgical framework for their worship.

Where Gen-Xers’ cultural values and framework lead them to an emergent church model, many are finding that Millennials who do religiously affiliate are being drawn into Christian denominations with a more high-church model that has long-standing traditions, and into non-Christian faiths with ancient roots (e.g., Buddhism, Hinduism, and Wicca). In a society that is constantly pushing the “now” and emphasizing the individual pursuit of happiness, Millennials carry with them a tension to keep in step with the ethos around them while also desiring to find something that connects their lives to something greater, giving them meaning and purpose beyond their temporary sense of self.

©2015 by Elisabeth A. Nesbit Sbanotto and Craig L. Blomberg. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Effective Generational Ministry, click here.

From Darkness to Light – an Excerpt from Conversion in Luke-Acts

The following is an excerpt from Conversion in Luke-Acts, by Joel Green.

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Luke presents conversion as the movement from darkness to light above all in Acts 26:17–18. In his testimony to King Agrippa, Paul represents his commission by recalling the words Jesus spoke to him on the way to Damascus: “I [that is, the Lord Jesus] will rescue you from your people and from the gentiles—to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified through faith in me.”

Cover Art“Darkness” and “light” appear to be universal metaphors in which language and conceptual structure from the source domain of vision, a bodily function, are used to depict the more abstract concepts of the presence or absence of knowledge, understanding, or even wisdom. Accordingly, someone might complain, “Why was I kept in the dark about that decision?”

The biblical tradition presses this metaphor further by associating it with knowledge of God, or with living in God’s light. In Exod. 10:21–23, for example, one of the disasters the Lord brings on Egypt involves three days of darkness, during which time the Israelites enjoy the light. For Isaiah, God forms light/prosperity as well as darkness/doom (45:7), and, at Israel’s restoration, God’s people are told, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (60:1–3, emphasis added).

….Light and darkness can refer to the presence or absence of sunlight, but even when they do their metaphorical senses are not far from view; (2) light and darkness can be understood as realms to which people belong and according to whose rule people behave; (3) light is typically associated with divine revelation more generally, as well as with the coming or message of salvation more particularly, and thus with illumination, health, the age of salvation, and the Lord’s coming or presence; and (4) darkness is typically correlated with divine judgment, and more particularly with death, disease, the devil, cataclysm, and blindness.

Conversion, understood in terms of movement from darkness to light, is thus easily understood as movement from a less desirable to a more desirable life situation.

 

©2015 by Joel B. Green. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Conversion in Luke-Acts, click here.

Eschatology in Latin America – an Excerpt from Theology without Borders

The following is an excerpt from Theology without Borders, by William Dyrness and Oscar García-Johnson.

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In many places in Latin America, the daily challenge to survive in a context of violence and poverty makes it difficult to imagine a better future. How can a people who have suffered so much at the hands of foreign conquerors and who continue to experience grinding poverty imagine something better?

Cover ArtFélix Palazzi, in his discussion of Jon Sobrino’s theology, frames this difficulty in these terms: How does one understand any future, indeed any way of thinking about human dignity in the present, amid the daily struggle to survive? How do we announce any meaningful “irruption of eschatology” within the framework of this history? As Oscar has often reminded us in these pages, the theological difficulty here is to understand this history, one that is so foreign to most Western Christians, as a place where God is at work, as a locus theologicus.

This may be especially difficult in Latin American discussions of eschatology. As Willie Jennings has pointed out, the ideology of conquest brought with it an implicit understanding of eschatology as the end of history. What the conquest brought to Latin America, he argues, was theorized as a new creation, a creation ex nihilo. Jennings summarizes the character of this project in Latin America as follows: “Detached from the land, oblivious to the ongoing decimation of native ecologies, deeply suspicious of native religious practices, and most important, enclosed within Iberian whiteness, the performance of Christian theology would produce a new, deformed, and deforming intellectual circuit.”

Unaware of their own dependency on indigenous (European) narratives, eschatology, for both Catholic and Protestant missionaries, was often portrayed in terms of a break with the past. But if God’s project involves a break with the past, what do we make, theologically, of a present that presses in on us with such painful immediacy? What hope can we find in these circumstances?

In a powerful description of the Christian understanding of hope, Salvadorean theologian Jon Sobrino puts forth one possible answer: announcing the presence of the reign of God in Jesus Christ. But Sobrino insists the hope Christ brings is not a generalized hope for some utopia—like that of Plato or Thomas More, which do not really exist. It is a specific hope that addresses the particular suffering of the poor.

The liberation that Christ brings does not open up some ideal world “but is more modest, though more human and more necessary and urgent: that a just and dignified life for the poor comes into being, such that the very real cruelty and its suffering does not have the last word.” This hope arises from a particular experience of the biblical God who sees those who suffer, hears their cries, and through various historical events and signs loves and defends them. This gives believers strength to oppose all that Sobrino calls the “anti-kingdom.”

©2015 by William A. Dyrness and Oscar García-Johnson. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Theology without Borders, click here.

Theological Terms from the LXX – an Excerpt from Invitation to the Septuagint, 2nd Edition

The following is an excerpt from Invitation to the Septuagint, by Karen Jobes and Moisés Silva.

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Perhaps the most striking case of the adoption and adaptation of theological language from the Greek Jewish Scriptures in the NT is the use of (ὁ) κύριος with reference to Jesus Christ. It is difficult to find a better starting point for Christology than the realization that the NT writers, who for the most part were monotheistic Jewish men, freely apply to Jesus, without apology or explanation, the term previously used in the Scriptures to translate the divine name of God (יהוה). The Greek translators had already extended the use of κύριος from its typical sense of “master” or “lord” to a distinct theological term.

Cover ArtAnother example is the noun ἄγγελος, which in Classical Greek meant “messenger” in a fairly general sense. When the Greek translators used it to represent the Hebrew, which often specifically designated a (superhuman) messenger sent by God, a new acceptation or definition was created. The use of this specialized Greek term in the NT doubtlessly reflects the strong influence of the Septuagint. From the standpoint of language, however, such a new meaning can be seen as merely a semantic addition to the lexical inventory, necessitated by the appearance of a new “thing.” Any explanations of what this thing is belong not to linguistic description but rather to extralinguistic— in this case, theological—interpretation.

But to say that the effect of such changes on linguistic structure is relatively small and superficial is not to suggest that, with respect to them, the influence of the LXX on NT thought is unimportant. Any time a NT writer uses a term that is common in the LXX and that is closely associated with Hebrew theology, we may safely assume that what is said about that term’s referent in the LXX would have significantly affected Christian reflection.

So, for example, when Paul describes the law as having been ordained through angels (Gal. 3:19; cf. Acts 7:53 and Heb. 2:2), we should take into account LXX Deut. 33:2, which speaks about the Lord’s coming from Sinai σὺν μυριάσιν Καδης, ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ ἄγγελοι μετ’ αὐτοῦ (“with myriads of Cades, [and] on his right hand his angels were with him”). The Hebrew text does not have the word at all, and the last clause is problematic.

It is likely that the Greek translator was simply stumped by that clause and came up with a statement conceptually parallel to the previous clause so as to disturb the context as little as possible. For Paul, as well as for other Greek-speaking Jews who used the Greek version, this passage would have contributed to the belief (suggested elsewhere, perhaps Ps. 68:17 [LXX 67:18]) that angels were involved in the giving of the Mosaic law. (Note again, however, that to describe an angelic function is different from discussing the meaning of the word ἄγγελος.)

©2015 by Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Invitation to the Septuagint, click here.

The First World War and the Crisis of European Christianity – an Excerpt from Global Gospel

The following is an excerpt from Global Gospel, by Douglas Jacobsen.

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The First World War (1914–1918) never should have been fought. The immediate trigger was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which set off a cascade of escalating military responses. The deeper roots of the war lay in the military ideal itself (the manly glories of battle) and in inflated national and ethnic pride that pushed Europeans toward confrontation at the slightest hint of disrespect.

Cover ArtOnce the war began, the churches quickly got into the business of hyping it. German Protestant theologians portrayed the war as a holy crusade for Christ and the German nation. Russian Orthodox leaders argued that the war was necessary to defeat the Western European antichrist and to defend Mother Russia. French Catholics sewed images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to their national flag, indicating that faith and the nation were one. Anglican bishops told British soldiers to kill Germans whether they were good or bad or young or old in order to save the world from Teutonic dictatorship.

Almost all the war rhetoric, on all sides, mixed God, glory, and gutsiness into a hot soup of righteous fervor. For ordinary foot soldiers, none of it made much sense. Harry Patch, the oldest survivor of the war who died in 2009 at the age of 111, said bluntly, “What the hell we fought for, I now don’t know.”

The barbarity of the war was shocking. More than ten million soldiers died along with five million civilians, and many millions more were maimed and wounded. Pope Benedict XV, one of the few religious leaders to speak against the war, called it “the suicide of civilized Europe.” Who, he asked, could imagine that the belligerents, so full of hatred for one another, were “all of one common stock, all of the same nature, all members of the same human society?” Who could imagine they were all followers of the same Lord Jesus Christ? How could followers of Christ hate one another so much?

After the war, these questions prompted a radical reconsideration of theology all across Europe. For German-speaking Protestants, the writings of the Swiss pastor Karl Barth became especially important. His reformulation of Protestant theology stressed the sinfulness of humankind and the”otherness” of God, a God who could never be corralled into the confines of any nationalistic, war-mongering ideology. In Catholic Europe, a group of French theologians (including Jacques Maritain, Yves Congar, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Henri-Marie de Lubac) developed a new theological approach (nouvelle theologie) that reaffirmed the radicalness of the gospel, suggested firm limits on the power of the state, and championed the dignity of all persons regardless of national or ethnic identity.

These were important responses, and they helped the churches of Europe dissociate themselves from the mindless nationalism that had shaped their behavior during the war. But for many ordinary believers, people who did not read academic texts about Christian theology, the more common response was disillusionment with the churches and with religion in general. To some degree, modern European secularism was birthed by the First World War.

©2015 by Douglas Jacobsen. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Global Gospel, click here.

Barth, Calvin, and Reformed Exegesis – an Excerpt from Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics

The following is an excerpt from Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics, by Craig Bartholomew.

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The truth is that Church Dogmatics and Barth’s other works are an exegetical resource that has been sadly neglected by biblical scholars. But what of the claim that Barth is an enemy of theological orthodoxy? Might this not support keeping him at arm’s length? There is certainly room for theological critique of Barth, but what must be understood is Barth’s theologically conservative reaction to the liberalism of his day, and his recovery of the Bible as Scripture, involving at its core a reappropriation of the Reformed tradition and of Calvin in particular.

Barth’s recovery of the Reformed tradition was so damaging to liberalism because he had been one of them. However, as a young pastor he found that liberalism was bankrupt in the aftermath of World War I when it came to addressing his congregation in the European context.

….In his lectures on Calvin, Barth recognizes the unique contribution of Calvin as an expositor of Scripture to the Reformation: “Scripture did not play quite the same part in Reformed Protestantism as in Lutheranism. Its dignity here was one of principle as it never was in Lutheranism, no matter how highly the latter regarded it.”

Cover ArtThe big issue for Reformed Protestantism was “how to give God, the true God, the glory, how to do it here and now,” and against the backdrop of medieval Catholicism, its answer was to look to the Bible as the final norm in faith and life….

Barth identifies three characteristics of Calvin’s exegesis that he finds exemplary. First, there is the extraordinary objectivity of his exegesis. At times Calvin does engage in eisegesis—”if we read nothing into the Bible, we will also read nothing out of it”!—but his exegesis is always characterized by a concern to stay close to the text and to do justice to what is actually there.

The example Barth gives of Calvin’s eisegesis is that Calvin assumes the unity of the message of the Bible when he reads it: though Scripture is polyphonic, the diverse voices are all seeking to say the same thing.

Second, there is the uniformity of Calvin’s exegesis. By this, Barth refers to Calvin’s concern to attend to individual books in their literary totality and to the whole of Scripture: “If in principle it is seen to be right to listen to the Bible, then we should listen to the whole Bible.”

In his commentary work, for example, he is always concerned to expound the whole of a book and not just the parts that have been influential. Calvin’s premise of the verbal inspiration of the Bible did not prevent him from critically examining the trustworthiness of the Bible, but it did give “him a consistent zeal to track down the content of the whole Bible, a zeal incidentally that would also stand historical investigation of the Bible in good stead.”

The third characteristic of Calvin’s exegesis is its relevance. By relevance, Barth is not thinking of application to the cultural and historical context, but the sense that this is God’s Word addressing us. Calvin is at pains to attend to the particularity of texts, but at the same time he is busy with a living dialogue across the centuries. Barth gives the example that when Calvin expounds Paul, “We believe Calvin the more readily because he is not deliberately trying to make us believe but simply setting out what he finds in Paul, yet not, of course, without being able or even trying to hide the fact that he himself believes it. This quiet kinship between the apostle and the exegete speaks for itself.”

©2015 by Craig G. Bartholomew. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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For more information on Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics, click here.