Storied Salvation - Part II

Hebraic Context

In the western tradition of viewing truth, abstracting data out of real life situations to study it in pieces is the preferred method. Every piece of information is analyzed with hopes of intimate comprehension and then reassembled. Each bit is then placed into proposition that states the truth. Definition and proposition is the love of the Greeks.

The Greek model takes data in abstract idea or definition and presents it for examination to decide whether or not it’s true. I am not proposing that this is wrong, but rather pointing out that this is not how an easterner relates to truth. An easterner prefers their truth in concrete picture, dramatic action or story language.

For example, if I were to ask the question, "Who or what is God?" a typical response would no doubt be along the lines of: God is -

These are not wrong, but not how an easterner views truth. Given the same question, an easterner is far more likely to give a relational answer, such as:

The Lord is a shepherd
. It is not precise to just say "the Lord is my shepherd," its interpretive. How he is a shepherd in your life looks different than how he is a shepherd in my life. Gen 48:15; 49:24; Psalm 23; 28:9; 80:1; Ecc. 12:11; John 10:11; Heb 13:20.

The Lord is a rock
. God is referred to as a rock or stone roughly 45 times. Psalm 31:2,3; 62:7; Is 17:10

The Lord is a fortress, stronghold. There are approximately 21 passages with God referred to as fortress. Psalm 18:2; 28:8; 91:2; Jer. 16:19.

The Lord is a strong tower and a refuge. God is referred to as a refuge 56 times. Deut. 33:27; Psalm 61:3; 144:2; 2 Sam. 22:3.

The Lord is living water. Jer 2:13; 17:13; Zech 14:8; John 7:38; Rev 7:17.

The Lord is eagle's wings. Ex 19:4; Ps 17:6-8; 36:7; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; 91:4; Ruth 2:12.

“The Bible . . . is a Jewish book. It cannot be read and understood and expounded unless we openly accept the language and thought and history of the Jews, unless we are prepared to become Jews with the Jews.” Barth, Dogmatics, I.2:511

Holy, omniscient or any listed attributes are things that operate rationally on the mind rather than being observable to the senses. The Bible was written by easterners to easterners within their context, language and world. When the text is read in a western way, it is an attempt to take an eastern truth and describe it in an abstract way. Thus, a step has been taken away from the original context. We will only find the message they intended when we embrace it on those terms.

An easterner with their concrete pictures wants to deal with relationship, for instance, "how do you experience God?" A westerner with a love of information tends toward a desire for data about God. An easterner prefers to tell a story when asked a question, allowing the experience to be entered.

Jesus (with many teachers of his day) taught in parables, stories with a meaning from which to draw. For too long in institutional settings, we have focused on what to think rather than how. When was the last time you had a relationship with omnipotent? The devil knows more about God than we do, he has been there. It's not just about knowledge. What is true faith?

Often it has been asked regarding salvation, "what you have to know to be saved?” or “believe to be saved?" Where does action come into this equation

For a Hebrew, the foremost declaration of who we are in relation to who God is comes from Deut 6. It is the passage Jesus - along with his religious contemporaries - cited as being the greatest of all (Mk 12:29):

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” 
(Deu 6:4-5)

The word shema (hear) is not merely the sound waves entering the ear canal and registering in one's brain, but rather means action; acting upon direction given. It's not unlike a mother, who after having given a command to her child, and the child failed to respond bolts out, "listen to me now!" It was not a question whether the sound entered the ear, but response. To hear is to obey. If action is not attached, one has not heard.

One must understand the world of the Bible and Jesus’ Bible – the Old Testament – to know what it is he and the apostles taught and believed. Doing so does not minimize their words, but alternately puts them back in context where they have always belonged. The Hebrew conveys truth through the use of story and dramatic action, while at the same time communicating through picture and metaphor.

“If the way in which we understand salvific events . . . makes it incompatible with the great salvific actions of God in the Old Testament, then we . . . have an incomplete and deficient understanding of salvation. In other words, we have repeatedly heard that we must read the Old Testament in the light of the New, and that is true. But it is equally true that we must learn how to read the New Testament in the light of the Old.”[1]

If we are to be serious students of the text, we have to deal justly with the ancient nature of the biblical documents. This does not have to scare us or threaten to undo all in which we believe, but rather is freeing from defending the biblical narrative of something it never intended to communicate.

Writers of the NT presume their readers have an intimate familiarity with the OT and that they will detect the parallels between archetypes and antitypes. Keil and Deleitz summarized it simply and adequately: “The Old Testament is the basis of the New.”[2]  The worldviews many maintain today are not due to explicit biblical teaching, but exceedingly evolved out of – and entirely dependent on – later tradition.

“The Old Testament does communicate to us and it was written for us, and for all humankind. But it was not written to us. It was written to Israel. It is God’s revelation of himself to Israel and secondarily through Israel to everyone else . . . when we read a text written in another language and addressed to another culture, we must translate the culture as well as the language if we hope to understand the text fully. . . . It is far too easy to let our own ideas creep in and subtly (or at times not so subtly) bend or twist the material to fit our own context.”[3]

Walton goes on to say that there is a desire to have the Bible address many of the modern ideas found in today’s dialogue. The problem is, when imposing our issues, ways of thinking, and era upon the text, we distort it in the process. In so doing, the Bible’s message becomes subjected to cultural imperialism.

Observation of typology is also essential for understanding the way NT writers incorporated salvation-history into the Jesus narratives.

“Typology deals with the essential nature of salvation-history rather than general truths or spiritual trivialities. Much allegorical interpretation in modern preaching fits the latter category . . . In a sense it is also valid to speak of a typological relationship between NT imagery and its fulfillment in the eschatological promises of the end times.”[4]

1 Justo L. González, The Story Luke Tells: Luke's Unique Witness to the Gospel (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2015), 67.
2 C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch., Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 vols. (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 1:xii.
3 John Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP Academic, 2009), 7, 19.
“The term that best expresses this balance is ‘promise-fulfillment.’ The OT type is promissory and the NT antitype fulfills or ‘fills to the full’ the divine purpose implicit in the earlier event. . . . NT writers could see many parallels between Jesus and the religious experiences of Israel . . . without necessitating any ‘deeper’ thrust in the earlier passage.” Geoffrey W. Bromiley, “Type; Typology,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 4 vols. (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988; 2002), 4:931. See also, C.A Evans and L. Novakovic, “Typology, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, ed. Joel B. Green, 2d ed. (IVP Academic, 2013), 986.

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