Inspiration and Incarnation – Book Review Part 2 of 2

Last week, I began my two-part posting with a book review of Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. Some of the main points I looked at from the book’s first two chapters are as follows:

  • The main premise of the book that, just as Christ is both fully divine and fully human, so should we look at Scripture in the same way. Thus, we are called to view the Scripture as incarnational. This can be a challenge to the somewhat docetic-like view that we can easily hold towards Scripture, seeing its divine nature trumping the reality that God used real human beings living in a specific culture and at a particular historical point to communicate His word.
  • Secondly, it is a viable theological option to view the early chapters of Genesis within the literary category of myth. The use of the word myth does not mean untrue or simply made-up. Rather, it is defined in its more scholarly setting as: ‘an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing questions of ultimate origins and meaning in the form of stories: Who are we? Where do we come from?’ (p40)
  • Finally, I shared some of Enns’ thoughts on how to approach the Old Testament as new covenant Christ-followers. As he says himself: ‘All this is to say that the central function of the Old Testament may not be there to “tell us what do do.” It may be more a part of a larger story that God brings to an end many hundreds of years later in Christ. And this story, which ends with the incarnation of God’s Son, had an incarnational dimension from the start.’ (p67) He actually comes onto this a little more in his fourth chapter, which I will point out below.

Moving along into the final three chapters…

In chapter 3, Enns raises the difficult question of theological diversity within the Scripture text. He identifies how Jewish interpreters would have handled such diverse and seemingly ‘contradictory’ passages within the Mishnah, Talmud and midrashic literature, and then he contrasts it with how some evangelicals might deal with the problem:

And if one were to look closely at some of these Jewish interpretive texts, one would see that these biblical tensions and ambiguities are solved in multiple – even contradictory – ways, and these solutions are allowed to remain side by side in these authoritative canons of Jewish tradition. The stress seems to be not on solving the problems once and for all but on a community upholding a conversation with Scripture with creative energy…

…As quite distinct from Jewish interpretation, the history of modern evangelical interpretation exhibits a strong degree of discomfort with the tensions and ambiguities of Scripture. The assumptions often made are that Scripture should have no tensions and that any such tensions are not real but introduced from the outside, namely by scholarship hostile to evangelical Christianity. Whatever tensions remain are addressed either by posing some direct solution (however ingenious) or by moving the problem to the side (“We know it has to fit somehow; we just aren’t sure how”). (p72, emphasis his)

Enns spends considerable time assessing specific passages of theological diversity, beginning in the Wisdom Literature (mainly Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes). With the Proverbs, Enns shares these general insights, insights being already very welcome amongst most evangelical scholars:

Rather, the reader is expected to invest energy in discerning whether a certain proverb is relevant for a certain situation. To put it another way, there is more to wisdom than simply reading a proverb. One must also have the wisdom to read the situation, to know whether a proverb is fitting. (p74, emphasis his)

The point to be stressed here is that all of these proverbs are wise. All are correct. The question is not whether they are correct, but when. (p76, emphasis his)

And, I would suggest that we would also do well, at times, to apply this wisdom above to the rest of the Old Testament and the whole of Scripture. I don’t mean that we become choosers of what we obey and don’t obey. But it isn’t always as easy as quoting a particular verse of Scripture as a simple approach in applying Scripture to every situation we face in our life of faith. True, it would be much easier if it actually worked that way. But there is much more prudent wisdom in the understanding and application of Scripture.

Of course, Scripture stands as our measuring stick for the beliefs we hold and practise of our faith. For me, that is a non-negotiable. But we are still called to utilise wisdom in our application of Scripture, whether in the Old or New Testament.

The book, Inspiration and Incarnation, also gives time in exploring the theological diversity in places like the varying accounts reported in Samuel and Chronicles, as well as the diversity in the Law on particular matters such as how to treat slaves, how to celebrate the Passover, the offering of specified sacrifices, and its teaching on how to relate to the Gentiles.

None of these should be seen as outright contradictions. But rather, when we read the text as is, there is diversity in the way the varying biblical authors communicated God’s word to His people. And we should expect such recognising the multiple hands across its pages within a particular culture and historical period as God brought about His progressive, redemptive revelation as summed up in Jesus Christ.

Two final issues Enns address in the chapter are 1) the nature of multiple gods within the Scripture text and 2) whether God changes His mind.

On the first, Enns conclusion is that it is most certain that an ancient near eastern people would have had a more polytheistic perspective. For us, as Christians living in today’s society, when we read the command that Israel was to have no other gods before Yahweh (Ex 20:3), we might say, ‘Of course, for there actually are no other gods.’ But the first commandment did not say, ‘There are no other gods,’ but that, ‘You shall have no other gods.’ So, from the ANE perspective, this could have easily been understood that Yahweh was calling His people to serve Him and Him alone, even in the midst of there being an abundance of other gods calling for their allegiance.

On whether or not God changes His mind, I know the typical arguments from the Calvinist, Arminian, and even semi-Pelagian camps. I have leaned, and still lean, towards the Calvinistic approach that God never changes His mind. And so when Scripture reports that He did such (i.e., Gen 6:5-8), I have always marked it down to an anthropomorphism, meaning that human characteristics are being attributed to God, for humans do change their mind. While I don’t think this description fails, I do appreciate these words from Enns:

There are diverse portrayals of God in the Old Testament. He is, on the one hand, powerful, one how knows things before they happen and who causes things to happen, one who is in complete control. On the other hand, he finds things out, he can feel grieved about things that happen, he changes his mind. If we allow either of these dimensions to override the other, we set aside part of God’s word in an effort to defend him, which is somewhat of a self-contradiction. But as we think about God, as we learn of him more and more, as we enter deeper into relationship with him through Christ, we will see that there is much in the full-orbed biblical portrait of God that we need to know. (p107)

In summary of his chapter 3, Enns proposes that allowing for the theological diversity in the Old Testament should be seen as a positive. These examples pointed out within the book are continual instances of God coming into the situation of those He created, stepping into their own culture and understanding as He progressively made Himself known throughout the tenor of Scripture. This is the beauty of the incarnational model – both Christ and Scripture come to us within a particular historical time frame, culture and worldview, honouring those as such while God makes Himself known to His frail and finite creatures whom He loves.

His fourth and final major chapter discusses how the New Testament writers utilised the Old Testament. His challenge is that we understand apostolic hermeneutics, meaning we begin to grasp ‘the interpretive world in which the New Testament was written’ (p116). Peter Enns goes on to note:

A convenient label often attached to such an approach is “grammatical-historical,” meaning that the words of the text in front of you must be understood in their original grammatical (i.e., interpreting the text in the original language) and historical contexts. Although this is a healthy approach to reading literature in general [and obviously links in with what Enns has been explaining about our approach to the Old Testament], when this method is applied rigidly to apostolic hermeneutics, we sometimes find we have painted ourselves into a theological corner……But the important point here is this: the principle that “original context matters” must be applied not only to grammar and history but also to the hermeneutics of the New Testament writers. (p117, emphasis his)

In establishing an apostolic hermeneutic, Enns takes time to look at how other second temple literature utilised and interpreted the Old Testament, since the New Testament authors wrote within second temple Judaism. Tom Wright has also received much criticism for doing this in his approach to understanding Paul and justification. Our typical response to both Wright and Enns might be that God supersedes such normal cultural and historical approaches to communicate His word. But this is detrimental in understanding the word of God, which, again, came to use through a specific people group at a particular time in history.

Jesus, as God’s Messiah, came to us as a circumcised, Jewish male under the law (Gal 4:4). Scripture, as God’s word, comes to us through an ancient near eastern people in the Old Testament text and a first century, second temple Jewish people in the New Testament text. We cannot deny this heritage of God’s word. Thus, our call is to understand how these people thought, how they lived, how they understood God and His revelation, etc.

Therefore, from a second temple literature perspective, Enns challenges our modern hermeneutic:

These biblical interpreters exhibit for us an attitude toward biblical interpretation that operates on very different standards from those of modern interpreters. They were not motivated to reproduce the intention of the original human author. They were much more concerned to dig beneath the surface to reveal things (“mysteries” as the Qumran scroll put it) that the untrained and impatient reader would miss. (p131)

Before moving into looking at the New Testament writers’ hermeneutical approach as they referred to and quoted specific Old Testament texts, it is interesting to note how the New Testament writers were quite willing to refer to Jewish tradition of the second temple literature when referencing certain accounts from the Old Testament biblical text. Seven examples are given:

  • Jannes and Jambres in 2 Timothy 3:8 – These names do not come to us from the Old Testament text but from the second temple interpretative world.
  • Noah as a ‘preacher of righteousness’ in 2 Peter 2:5 – Though this could possibly be inferred from the text in Genesis, it is more likely that it came from the Jewish interpretive tradition.
  • The dispute over Moses’ body in Jude 9 – It is highly probable that Jude is not offering a new revelation that no one knew, rather it comes to us quite matter of factly because of this account being found amongst the second temple Jewish perspective.
  • Jude 14-15 and its quotation of 1 Enoch – Jude probably did not have what we know as the pseudepigraphal book of 1 Enoch, but he was very likely referring to the traditions about Enoch that were very well known in his day.
  • Moses’ Egyptian education in Acts 7:21-22 – Such is not found in the Old Testament text but would have been in second temple works like Philo’s Life of Moses.
  • The Law put into effect through angels in Acts 7:52-53 (and possibly Heb 2:2-3) – Though many try and appeal to Deut 33:2-4 as the Old Testament text being referred to, the ‘holy ones’ are actually the Israelites. Again, this understanding would be found in second temple writings like that of Jubilees.
  • Paul’s movable well in 1 Cor 10:1-4 – This is not specifically found in the text, but Paul was most likely referring to part of a well-known Jewish interpretive tradition. But, even more, there is a Christ-focus in this text, which I will come onto in just a moment.

None of these examples call into question the text of Scripture. Rather, it shows 1) that referencing Jewish interpretive tradition for understanding the Old Testament text was not out of bounds for the writers of the New Testament, 2) we would do well to respect God’s revelation coming to us through a particular cultural and historical context and 3) it would do us good to have some knowledge of the second temple interpretive literature and tradition in understanding the way the New Testament functions.

Before these seven examples are given in regards to the New Testament’s reference of second temple Jewish traditions, Enns gives five examples of how the New Testament authors utilised the Old Testament text outside of their ‘grammatical-historical’ Old Testament perspective:

  • Matthew 2:15 quoting Hosea 11:1
  • 2 Corinthians 6:2 quoting Isaiah 49:8
  • Galatians 3:16, 29 speaking of Abraham’s seed in places like Genesis 12:7; 13:15; and 24:7
  • Romans 11:26-27 quoting Isaiah 59:20
  • Hebrews 3:7-11 quoting Psalm 95:9-10

Others could have been considered, but in all five instances, the New Testament authors carried a specific hermeneutical insight into these passages. What was that insight? This is where it connects back to my statement about 1 Cor 10:1-4. Enns highlights the christotelic hermeneutic of the apostles and other New Testament authors. He exclaims:

The term I prefer to use to describe this eschatological hermeneutic is christotelic. I prefer this over christological or christocentric since these are susceptible to a point of view I am not advocating here, namely, needing to “see Christ” in every, or nearly every, Old Testament passage. Telos is the Greek word for “end” or “completion”. To read the Old Testament “christotelically” is to read it already knowing that Christ is somehow the end to which the Old Testament story is heading. (p154, emphasis his)

From this, he takes time to also emphasise the ecclesiotelic hermeneutical dimension. Yes, you guessed it. This refers to how the ‘church’, or ekklesia in Greek, takes on an extension of the christotelic hermeneutic. So, with regards to the ‘seed of Abraham’, as in Gen 12:7, Peter Enns states:

The story of Abraham has its telos in the church (we are Abraham’s seed; Gal. 3:29) only because Christ completes the story first (he is Abraham’s seed; Gal. 3:16). (p155, emphasis his)

Of course, it is easy to note that this hermeneutic would flow out of his reformed background, with which I would agree. But even if one rejects the ecclesiotelic approach, one must appreciate the christotelic perspective, which underlines that Christ is the great fulfilment of the Old Testament – the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). Not that we have to point to at least one specific passage in the Old Testament that connects to every statement and claim within the New Testament. But that, as a whole, the Scripture finds Christ as its great fulfilment and completion.

I could definitely share more from the book, as if I haven’t already shared quite a lot in my two posts. But, suffice it to say, I believe this book is a very insightful work on how to understand the difficulties of the Old Testament and how the New Testament writers understood and handled the heritage of the Hebrew text. And I sense Enns’ approach is done with grace and humility, rather than with a perspective to tear down or deconstruct the God-breathed, authoritative word of God.

Is Enns incarnational model perfect? No, of course not. Each model, illustration or method that we utilise will have holes to pick in it. But I have walked away with a great appreciation for this book, gathering many helpful and wise insights on our approach to Scripture as new covenant Christ-followers. Therefore, I agree that Scripture is comes to us as an incarnational text, just as our Messiah and Lord came to us, meaning it finds its reliability and sustainability in our God who birthed such an inspired text, but birthed it through the vehicle of human beings within a particular cultural and historical tradition of their own day.

I end with these words from the book:

But biblical interpretation is a true community activity. It is much more than individuals studying a passage for a week or so. It is about individuals who see themselves as part of a community that reaches far back into history and extends to the many cultures across the world today. Truly, we are not islands of interpretive wisdom. We rely on the witness of the church through time (with the hermeneutical trajectory set by the apostles as a central component), as well as the wisdom of the church in our time – both narrowly considered as a congregation, denomination, or larger tradition and more broadly considered as a global reality, all of which involves the direct involvement of the Spirit of God. Biblical interpretation is not merely a task that individuals perform; it is something that grows out of our participation in the family of God in the broadest sense possible. (p162)

Inspiration and Incarnation – Book Review Part 1 of 2

Not too long ago now, I finished what I believe is an excellent book for evangelicals to engage with in regards to handling some of the difficulties of Scripture. That book comes from scholar and theologian, Peter Enns, and its title is: Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. While I had hoped to post a review in one article, it has become obvious that I will need to cut this into two parts. Hence, this is only part 1.

Enns had been Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hermeneutics at Westminster Seminary, one of the long-standing seminaries in the reformed tradition. No doubt some are aware of how his 2005 release of Inspiration and Incarnation caused some problems within Westminster. It initially led to the seminary president’s conducting faculty meetings over a 2-year period, discussing the nature of the book. This ended with a faculty vote of whether or not the book fell within the parameters of the Westminster Confession Faith. Though the faculty vote was in favour of Enns being within the bounds of the Westminster Confession, the decision was handed over to the Board of Trustees, which ultimately decided to suspend Enns from his position. A few months later, the seminary and Enns decided to part ways, with 9 trustees subsequently resigning from the board.

Peter Enns is now Senior Fellow, Biblical Studies with the Biologos Foundation.

So, as one can see in these brief words above, Enns book has caused somewhat of a stir within evangelicalism. I was probably somewhat predisposed to take the view that Enns’ book would be an insightful and helpful work with which Christians can engage on discussion surrounding questions and ‘problematic’ texts within Scripture. One, I had already begun to rethink some things in regards to the nature of Scripture and, secondly, it had been recommended to me by a friend who I had engaged with about the doctrine of Scripture, we have similar views. And, though I acknowledge my predisposition, I still confess that this is an extremely well-written, scholarly, yet down-to-earth and not-too-lengthy, 173-page book.

First off, Enns is an evangelical conservative in all matters of the historic, orthodox Christian faith. And he affirms the God-breathed and authoritative nature of Scripture as the word of God. This is why I believe it is a solid book for evangelicals to interact with as they rigorously grapple with the ‘problems’ that arise when academically studying the Scripture text.

The title of the book is based upon the major premise of Enns that Scripture is to be seen as incarnational, meaning it is both of divine and human origin. He states in his introductory chapter:

The starting point for our discussion is the following: as Christ is both God and human, so is the Bible

This way of thinking of Christ is analogous to thinking about the Bible. In the same way that Jesus is – must be – both God and human, the Bible is also a divine and human book. Although Jesus was “God with us,” he still completely assumed the cultural trappings of the world in which he lived. In fact, this is what is implied in “God with us.” Perhaps this is part of what the author of Hebrews had in mind when he said that Christ was “made like his brothers in every way” (Heb 2:17). Jesus was a first-century Jew. The languages of the time (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic) were his languages. Their customs were his customs. He fit, he belonged, he was one of them.

So, too, the Bible. It belonged in the ancient worlds that produced it. It was not an abstract, otherworldy book, dropped out of heaven. It was connected to and therefore spoke to those ancient cultures. The encultured qualities of the Bible, therefore, are not extra elements that we can discard to get to the real point, the timeless truths. Rather, precisely because Christianity is a historical religion, God’s word reflects the various historical moments in which Scripture was written. God acted and spoke in history. As we learn more and more about that history, we must gladly address the implications of that history for how we view the Bible, that is, what we should expect from it (p17-18, emphasis his).

If we simply stopped there, I believe we have enough to reflect on with regards to the nature of Scripture. I believe one of the major problems amongst evangelicals is our docetic-like view of both Christ and Scripture. But Christ was fully human and so is Scripture. We must embrace this about both the One who reconciled us to the Father and the inspired text that has been given to us by the saints of old.

Sandwiched in between the introductory and conclusion chapters, there are three major chapters in which Enns takes time to address some of those more ‘problematic’ issues that arise within the Old Testament text. I list those three chapters below, along with sub-topics brought up in each chapter:

  • The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature: The Impact of Akkadian Literature, Some Other Ancient Near Eastern Texts, What Exactly Is the Problem?, How Have These Issues Been Handled in the Past?, How Can We Think Differently through These Issues?, how Does This Affect Us?
  • The Old Testament and Theological Diversity: The Problem of Theological Diversity in the Old Testament, Diversity in Wisdom Literature, Diversity in Chronicles, Diversity in Law, God and Diversity, What Doe Diversity Tell Us about Scripture?
  • The Old Testament and Its Interpretation in the New Testament: Do New Testament Authors Misuse the Old Testament? Biblical Interpretation in the Second Temple Period, Apostolic Hermeneutics as a Second Temple Phenomenon: Interpretive Methods, Apostolic Hermeneutics as a Second Temple Phenomenon: Interpretive Traditions, What Makes Apostolic Hermeneutics Unique?, Show We Handle the Old Testament the Way the Apostles Did?, What We Can Learn from Apostolic Hermeneutics

This is a lot to cover in, well, just under 150 pages. But, in my view, Enns does a very solid job of carefully and fairly handling these varying areas of discussion.

In chapter 2, The Old Testament and Ancient Near Eastern Literature, Enns takes time to show how the early chapters of Genesis are comparable with other similar creation and flood accounts of the ancient near eastern world, those such as Enuma Elish, Atrahasis and Gilgamesh. He also takes time to compare the likenesses between the Old Testament Israelite Law and other ancient near eastern laws and codes such as the Code of Hammurabi and Hittite Suzerainty Treaties, not to mention the similarities amongst the wisdom literature of the Israelites and other ancient near eastern groups.

Other such text that is also helpful in showing these parallel accounts between Israel and other ANE people groups is Old Testament Parallels: Laws and Stories from the Ancient Near East by Victor Matthews and Don Benjamin.

From these comparisons, Enns then asks important questions such as these:

  1. Does the Bible, particularly Genesis, report historical fact, or is it just a bunch of stories culled from other ancient cultures?
  2. What does it mean for other cultures to have an influence on the Bible that we believe is revealed by God? Can we say that the Bible is unique and special? If the Bible is such a “culturally conditioned” product, what possible relevance can it have for us today?
  3. Does this mean that the history of the church, which carried on for many centuries before this evidence came to light, was wrong in how it thought about the Bible? (p38-39)

From the first question above, Enns goes on to show why he believes the early chapters of Genesis fall into the literary category of myth. Now, one must understand that the word myth does not mean untrue or simply made-up. Rather, he defines it in its more scholarly setting in this way:

…it is an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing questions of ultimate origins and meaning in the form of stories: Who are we? Where do we come from? (p40, emphasis his)

For me, this makes very much sense from all that Enns has been explaining in this chapter. There were competing ‘myth’ accounts of the day of how all ‘this’ (the earth, the creation, the cosmos, etc) came into being. Hence why we see similarities with accounts like the well-known Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh stories. But, within the Israelite community, a community that was being brought together as the true followers of the one true God, Yahweh, this text was give as the inspired account of humanity’s origins.

Therefore, Genesis 1 was not first and foremost given to tell us how long the creative process took place, but it was given, rather, to explain such things as the nature of Yahweh as God, Creator and Lord of all creation, the nature of humanity, the entrance of sin, etc, ultimately making its way towards that ever-important person of Abraham, the father of the Israelite faith.

The author of Genesis could have believed in a literal, six-day creation. Matter of fact, we could possibly assume so, especially noting the wording of Exodus 20:8-11 and its re-emphasis on the six-day creation of all things. But that’s ok. We might expect ancient near eastern people to hold to such a view. But I don’t believe God inspired the text of early Genesis to tell us if it was actually completed in 6 days or not. As I alluded to earlier, bigger things are going on here. Hence, Enns would exclaim:

…it is worth asking what standards we can reasonably expect from the Bible, seeing that it is an ancient Near Eastern document and not a modern one. Are the early stories in the Old Testament to be judged on the basis of standards of modern historical inquiry and scientific precision, things that ancient peoples were not at all aware of? Is it not likely that God would have allowed his word to come to the ancient Israelites according to standards they understood, or are modern standards of truth and error so universal that we should expect premodern cultures to have understood them? The former position is, I feel, better suited for solving the problem. The latter is often an implicit assumption of modern thinkers, both conservative and liberal Christians, but it is somewhat myopic and should be called into question. What the Bible is must be understood in light of the cultural context in which it was given. (p41, emphasis his)

Of course we cannot hold ancient near eastern people to a modern cosmology. The reality is that their view of the whole creation would be not line up with what we scientifically know. Matter of fact, the illustration below shows an ancient near eastern cosmology.

They probably believed the sky was blue because they believe there actually was a storage of water up there. Therefore, when ancient near eastern Israelites touch on cosmology and issues of science, why would we hold them to our standard, modern view (though I suppose a 21st century view of the cosmos still pales to the complete picture that God has)? Their understanding of biology and geology and astronomy was lacking in many ways (and, again, ours is as well). I don’t say this arrogantly, noting how much better we are over them, but rather to emphasise that I do not believe we should hold Scripture, an ancient near eastern documented text, to levels of a modern understanding of cosmology or any of the natural sciences. Just as I would hope someone from the 23rd century would not hold us to their more informed understanding.

Within this chapter, Peter Enns offers two helpful points, which follow:

  1. I assume that the extrabiblical archeological and textual evidences should play an important role in our understanding of Scripture. Ours is a historical faith, and to uproot the Bible from its historical contexts is self-contradictory. In and of themselves, these evidences are not wholly determinative; some are clearer and more relevant than others. They must be looked at carefully and patiently and thus interpreted as to their importance. Though they are not determinative, they are wholly relevant to how we understand today what the Bible is. To state the opposite, I reject the notion that a modern doctrine of Scripture can be articulated in blissful isolation from the evidence we have.
  2. All attempts to articulate the nature of Scripture are open to examination, including my own. I firmly believe – although it may seem somewhat paradoxical – that the Spirit of God is fully engaged in such a theological process and at the same time that our attempts to articulate what God’s word is have a necessarily provisional dimension. To put it succinctly: the Spirit leads the church to truth – he does not simply drop us down in the middle of it. To say this is not a low view of Scripture or of the role of the Holy Spirit. It is simply to recognize what has been the case throughout the history of the church, that diverse views and changes of opinion over time have been the constant companions of the church and that God has not brought this process to a closure. (p48-49, emphasis his)

These are very wise words as the church continues to study the Scripture in light of continual historical, archeological and scientific findings.

Finally, in his concluding sub-section entitled How Does This Affect Us?, Enns considers how new covenant Christians are to understand the words and teachings of the Old Testament text. Here, again, I believe he shares with great tact and wisdom:

Second, such a worked-out doctrine of Scripture should have implications for how Christians today use it. In other words, understanding the Old Tesatment in its ancient Near Eastern setting will raise the question of how normative certain portions of the Old Testament are: if the Old Testament is a cultural phenomenon, how binding is it upon us whose cultural landscape is quite different?

This is a large issue…But the bottom line is this: how we conceive of the normativity or authority of the Old Testament must be in continual conversation with the incarnate dimension of Scripture. In other words, what the Bible is should affect what we as Christians do with it. It simply will not do to assume that what was binding on Israel is binding on us because it is written in the Bible, and the Bible is God’s word, and therefore all of it is of equal weight through all time. Not only do we no longer share the conventions of the ancient Near Eastern world, but we also live in union with the crucified and risen Christ, in whom all of the Old Testament finds its completion.

All this is to say that the central function of the Old Testament may not be there to “tell us what do do.” It may be more a part of a larger story that God brings to an end many hundreds of years later in Christ. And this story, which ends with the incarnation of God’s Son, had an incarnational dimension from the start. (p67, emphasis his)

I believe these words are extremely helpful as we, as Christians, approach the biblical text, especially the Old Testament. It challenges some of the more blanket statements that we can easily throw out within evangelicalism, all without carefully explaining the in’s and out’s of such assertions. Yes, we can talk about the perspecuity (clarity), sufficiency and authoritative nature of Scripture. But it is not as easy as saying, ‘Scripture is clear,’ or ‘Scripture is our ultimate authority in the practice of our faith.’ These issues need to be thought through with delicacy and pastoral wisdom. Such is important as we help others understand the nature and teachings of Scripture as well.

That should suffice for now with regards to part 1 of my review of Inspiration and Incarnation. Such a scholarly, yet understandable, work that I hope many Christians will encounter in the days to come. I’ll post my part 2 in the next couple of days.