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Interpretive Journey Old Testament


Unit 5 Interpretive Journey Old Testament Narrative Law Poetry Prophets Wisdom From How to Read the Bible as Literature And Get More Out of It by Leland Ryken ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Interpretive Journey Old Testament

Interpretive JourneyOld Testament
Unit 5
  1. Narrative
  2. Law
  3. Poetry
  4. Prophets
  5. Wisdom

OT Narrative
  • Introduction
  • Narrative literary form with sequential action
    involving plot, setting, and
  • Narrative shows us how to live or how not to live
    by the actions of the characters.
  • We use narrative and story interchangeably.
  • Narrative (stories) comprise nearly half of the
  • The interpretive river is often wide in OT

  • Reading narrative
  • Reading OT narrative is a lot like reading the
    Gospels, except that OT stories are longer.
  • Observe carefully the details of each
  • Look for connections with surrounding stories.

  • Literary features of narrative
  • (What? How?) The sequence of events
    that ties together the story
  • Exposition or setting
  • Conflict or crisis
  • Resolution

  • (When? Where?) Backdrop of the
  • Time
  • Place

  • (Who?) Characters carry the
    action and move the plot forward
  • Usually the meaning of the story is tied to the
    behavior of the characters.

Viewpoint of Narrator
(Why?) The narrator is the
one responsible for conveying meaning to the
readers through the story The narrator often
stays neutral and allows the characters and
events to speak for themselves. Sometimes the
narrator will express his views in subtle ways.
  • Major literary technique used in OT
    narrative to develop the plot and move the
    story forward
  • Rahab and Achan
  • Hannah and Eli
  • David and Saul

  • When the narrators intended meaning
    is quite different from the surface meaning of an
  • Surface meaning pagan Philistines capture the
    ark and think they have defeated the Lord
  • Intended meaning The Lord invades Philistia and
    defeats the enemy!

  • Literary context the big story
  • Locate the story you are studying in the context
    of the stories that surround it
  • Keep relating the parts (individual stories) to
    the big story of the entire book and the whole OT

God promises the land to Abrahams descendents in
Genesis 12
Israelites refuse to enter promised land in
Numbers 14
  • Do Good Guys always wear white hats?
  • Many theological principles derive from the main
  • Bible deals with real life and real people.
    People are complex!
  • Essential that we be able to discern good guys
    from bad guys

  • Not every character is a hero and most characters
    exhibit both good and bad traits

Good Guys?
Solomon Sampson Gideon
  • God is a central character in OT narrativelet
    God be God!

  • Making the Journey in OT narrative
  • Step 1 Grasp the text in their town
  • Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, is contrasted
    with Achan, the Israelite. She believes in the
    God of Israel and trusts him with her life,
    resulting in deliverance of her and her family
    from the destruction of Jericho. Achan, however,
    trivializes God and ignores his strict commands,
    resulting in his death and that of his family.
    The two trade places.
  • Step 2 Measure the width of the river
  • We are under a different covenant than Achan.
    Our situation is also different. We are not in
    the conquest and we are not involved in any type
    of holy war. Nor are we Canaanites (or
    prostitutes) living in a city about to be
    conquered. God has not given us the same specific
    commands as he gave Achan.

  • Step 3 Cross the principlizing bridge
  • God sees past superficial externals and saves
    unusual people who place their faith in him. This
    is because deliverance is based on true faith
    (demonstrated by action) and not mere externals,
    such as ethnicity or religious tradition. God is
    a God of grace. But judgment comes on those who
    trivialize God and treat him as if he does not

New step for the OT
Step 4 Cross into the New Testament
The NT reaffirms that God looks beyond
superficial externals and saves people based on
faith in Jesus Christ. That God chooses some
unusual people is likewise reaffirmed in the NT.
Mere association with the people of God, rather
than true faith, will not result in salvation.
  • Step 5 Grasp the text in our town
  • We tend to judge people based on externals. We
    meet a clean-cult, middle-class American and
    think what a great Christian he or she would
  • Likewise, when we see someone involved in open
    sinful activity (drugs, prostitution, gambling,
    stealing), we tend to write them off and assume
    they could never become Christians.
  • This attitude is wrong, because God delights in
    saving the most unusual people. He wants us to
    have the same attitude towards these people as he
    does. There are no unlikely candidates for coming
    to salvation in Christ.

Rykens Rules
  1. Look upon the story as an invitation to share an
    experience with the characters.
  2. Pay attention to every detail of setting, and
    analyze how the place, time and culture of the
    story contributes to the message of the story.
  3. Use every relevant detail in a story (direct
    descriptions, responses of others, the
    characters own words and thoughts,
    self-descriptions, and actions) to get to know
    each character in the story.

Rykens Rules
  1. Identify the nature of the plot conflicts (man
    with environment, man with man, man with himself)
    in a story, and discover how they develop and are
  2. Ask yourself as you read, How is this story
    creating in me suspense, interest, and
  3. Pay attention to the protagonist (the one you
    hope will win) in a story. Stick close to him,
    because he is involved in a life experiment whose
    goal will be to reveal something important about
    human experience and values.

Rykens Rules
  1. Try to determine what makes the story one story,
    even if it has many episodes. This will lead you
    to understand the storys framework and parts.
  2. Ask yourself as you read, How is the protagonist
    being tested? and What are the choices being
    offered him?
  3. Notice what important changes happen between the
    beginning and the end of the story, what causes
    the changes, and how the changes transform the

Rykens Rules
  1. Be on the watch for foils, dramatic irony, and
    poetic justice in the narrative. Storytellers use
    these to get a reaction from you, and to help you
    grasp the storys meaning.
  2. Ask yourself, What would the story be like if
    this detail was omitted? and you will have a
    clue as to why the storyteller included it.
  3. How does the storys action and characterization
    affect how you feel about the events and
    characters? Look for a pattern of approval
    and/or disapproval to tell you what the story

8 Common Errors
  • 1. Changing a narrative into an allegory
  • Dont look beyond the clear meaning in a story
    and make all the details symbols of something
    else, if the story is not an allegory
  • 2. Decontextualizing a story
  • Dont ignore the historical and literary contexts
    and concentrate only on small parts of the story.
    Youll miss the clues the writer has given for
    interpreting the story as a whole unit. 

8 Common Errors
  • 3. Selectively choosing what parts to interpret
  • Dont concentrate on only specific words and
    phrases, ignoring others, and failing to balance
    the parts and the whole.
  • 4. Falsely combining elements in a story
  • Like mixing a compound from whatever chemicals
    you find at hand, this can have explosive

8 Common Errors
  • 5. Selectively choosing what parts to interpret
  • Dont concentrate on only specific words and
    phrases, ignoring others, and failing to balance
    the parts and the whole.
  • 6. Falsely combining elements in a story
  • Like mixing a compound from whatever chemicals
    you find at hand, this can have explosive

8 Common Errors
  • 5. Redefining terms and sayings
  • Dont divert and constrict the meanings of a
    story and its elements to deflect the impact upon
    your own situation or condition.
  • 6. Employing extracanonical authority
  • Dont use an external key to the Scriptures to
    seek for truths in the story not otherwise

8 Common Errors
  • 7. Moralizing
  • This happens when you automatically make every
    story illustrate a moral, like Mother Gooses
    Nursery Rhymes or Aesops Fables do.
  • 8. Personalizing or individualizing
  • Not all parts of the Bible are intended to impact
    every single persons problems.

OT Law
  • Introduction
  • Large portion of the Pentateuch (first five books
    of OT) is comprised of law (over 600
  • Some of them are very strange
  • Exodus 3426 Do not cook a young goat in its
    mother's milk.
  • Leviticus 1919 Do not wear clothing woven of
    two kinds of material.
  • Why do we adhere to some laws and ignore others?

  • Traditional approach to interpreting OT law
  • Moral deal with timeless truths regarding Gods
    intention for human behavior (Love your neighbor
    as yourself)
  • Civil deal with courts, economics, land,
    crimes, and punishment (At the end of every
    seven years you must cancel debts.)
  • Ceremonial deal with sacrifices, festivals, and
    priestly activities (celebrate the Feast of
    Tabernacles for seven days after you have
    gathered the produce of your threshing floor and
    your winepress.)

  • Distinction between moral, civil, and ceremonial
    law allowed the believer to know whether the law
    applied to them
  • Moral universal and timeless (still apply as
    law to believers today)
  • Civil and Ceremonial applied only to ancient
    Israel, not to believers today
  • Problems with traditional approach
  • Arbitrary distinction not in the Bible (Lev.
  • Difficult to classify many laws (Lev. 1919?)
  • Too ambiguous and inconsistent
  • We need a more consistent approach OT law

  • Narrative context
  • OT law does not appear by itself, but is firmly
    embedded in the story of Israels exodus,
    wilderness wandering, and conquest.

Exodus 1-19 Exodus 20-24
(narrative) (law) Israels bondage in
Part of the story of
Egypt, Gods mighty Gods encounter with
deliverance, and Moses and Israel at
their journey to the Mount Sinai
Promised land
  • The law is part of Israels story and the story
    provides an important context for interpreting
  • Dont separate OT law from its narrative context!

  • Covenant context
  • OT law is tightly intertwined with the Mosaic
    covenant. What is the nature of that covenant?
  • Mosaic covenant is closely associated with
    Israels conquest and occupation of the land
  • Blessings from the Mosaic covenant are
  • Mosaic covenant no longer a functional covenant
    for NT believers
  • Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant (Heb.

  • NT believers are no longer under OT law as part
    of the Mosaic covenant
  • We must interpret OT law through the grid of NT
    teaching. Jesus is the final interpreter of OT
  • The OT law no longer applies as direct law for
    us. However, the OT legal material still contains
    rich principles and lessons for living that are
    relevant when interpreted through NT teaching.

  • Making the Journey in OT law

Or if a person touches anything ceremonially
uncleanwhether the carcasses of unclean wild
animals or of unclean livestock or of unclean
creatures that move along the groundeven though
he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is
guilty. Leviticus 52
Step 1 Grasp the text in their town
  • Leviticus deals with how the Israelites are live
    with an awesome, holy God in their midst.
  • Larger unit of 41-513 deals with purification
    offerings for those who become ritually unclean
  • 52 details what makes a person unclean
  • 55-6 tells the people what to do to become clean

  • Step 2 Measure the width of the river
  • We are not under the old covenant and our sin is
    now covered by the death of Christ.
  • We also have direct access to the Father through
    Christ and no longer need human priests as

Step 3 Cross the principlizing bridge
  • God is holy!
  • Gods holiness demands that his people keep
    separate from sin and unclean things.
  • If Gods people become unclean, they must be
    purified by a blood sacrifice.

  • Step 4 Cross into the New Testament
  • God no longer resides in a tabernacle, but within
    each of us through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  • His presence, however, still demands our
  • NT redefines clean and unclean (Mark 7)
  • Under the new covenant, sin is washed away by the
    death of Christ, the Lamb of God.
  • Confession of sin, however, is still important
    (1 John 19)
  • Summary Stay away from sinful actions and
    impure thoughts because the holy God lives
    within you. If you do commit unclean acts or
    think unclean thoughts, then the death of
    Christ allows you to confess your sins and
    receive forgiveness.

  • Step 5 Grasp the text in our town
  • There will be numerous applications of this text.
  • One application relates to the issue of Internet
  • Gods holiness demands that we lead clean lives.
  • Viewing pornography clearly violates Gods
    holiness and hinders our worship and fellowship
    with God.
  • Stay away from Internet pornography!
  • If you do fall into this sin, confess your sin
    and because of the death of Christ, you can be
    forgiven and your fellowship with God restored.

  • Conclusion
  • Traditional approach to law (moral, civil,
    ceremonial) is inadequate.
  • Journey approach to interpreting law
  • Narrative context
  • Covenant context
  • Interpret all OT legal texts with the same method

OT Poetry
  • Introduction
  • Over one third of the
    Bible is poetry.
  • OT poetry
    focuses on our
    to God. It connects with
    us down deep, both
    in joy and in despair.

Song of Songs
  • Jet engines and paintings
  • Different literary genres of the Bible are like
    different museums.

National Gallery of Art
Air and Space Museum
Appeals to emotion, images are central,
analyze figures of speech
Appeals to logic, rational arguments are central,
analyze grammar and syntax
  • Elements of OT poetry
  • Terseness g uses few words to enhance their
    impact and power

Show me your ways, O Lord,
Teach me your paths.
Psalm 254
  • Structure g the most obvious is parallelism where
    lines represent thought units and are usually
    grouped in units of two or three
  • Synonymous second line repeats idea of first
  • Developmental second line further develops idea
    of first line
  • Illustrative second line illustrates first line
  • Contrastive second line contrasts with first
  • Miscellaneous other types of parallelism not
    easily classified

  • Figurative language
  • OT poetry is more like a painting than an essay
  • Literal, historical truth expressed in picture
  • Figures of speech involving analogy
  • Simile comparison using like or as

As the dear pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
Psalm 421
  • Metaphor direct comparison

The Lord is my shepherd.
Psalm 231
  • Indirect analogy comparison without stating it

Roaring lions tearing their prey open their
mouths wide against me.
Psalm 2213
  • Hyperbole exaggeration for the sake of effect

My tears have been my food day and night.
Psalm 423
  • Personification/anthropomorphism/zoomorphism
    attributes to one entity the characteristics of a
    totally different entity

Life up your heads, O you gates.
Psalm 247 Your face, Lord, will I seek.
Psalm 278 He will cover you with his
feathers, And
under his wings you will find refuge.
Psalm 914
  • Figures of speech involving substitution
  • Effects and causes substitutes the effect for
    the cause

Let me hear joy and gladness Let the bones you
have crushed rejoice.
Psalm 518
  • Representation substitute a part of an entity
    for the whole

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but
we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 207
  • Miscellaneous figures of speech
  • Apostrophe when they address a person or
    entity not actually present as if he was

Therefore, you kings, be wise
Be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Psalm 210
  • Irony when the writer says the exact opposite
    of what he really means (as in Gods
    use of sarcastic irony below)

Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the
earth? Tell me, if you know all this.
Job 3818
  • Wordplays

  • Interpreting OT poetry
  • As with any text in the OT we need to make the
    five steps in the Interpretive Journey. Here are
    a few guidelines for the poetry genre related to
    Step 1
  • In your observation, look closely for
    parallelism. Read the two or three lines of
    parallelism as one thought.
  • Locate and visualize figures of speech. Identify
    the kind of figure you have in the passage. Also,
    try to enter into the emotional world of the

  • Unique aspects of the Psalms
  • Does not present doctrinal guidelines so much as
    examples of how to communicate our deepest
    emotions and needs to God.
  • When we find ourselves in deep despair or in
    jubilant celebration, Psalms teaches us to be
    honest and open with God.
  • God wants us to pour out our hearts to him and he
    wants to connect with us in the depths of our
    emotional being.

  • Conclusion
  • In OT poetry we are dealing with
    rather than
  • Poetry is characterized by terseness, a high
    degree of structure (parallelism), and figurative
  • OT poetry shows us how to communicate our deepest
    emotions to God.

OT Prophets
  • Nature of OT prophetic literature

OT Prophets Major Minor Isaiah Ho
sea Jeremiah Joel Ezekiel Amos
Daniel Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk
Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi
Longer books
Shorter books
  • Little in our culture that resembles the OT
    prophetic literature (Bob Dylan?)
  • Only a small amount of OT prophecy deals with
    events still future to us

Less than 2 percent of Old Testament prophecy is
messianic. Less than 5 percent specifically
describes the New Covenant age. Less than 1
percent concerns events yet to come. Fee and
  • Prophets proclaim more than they predict
  • Prophets make extensive use of the figurative
    language of poetry

  • Prophetic books are primarily anthologiescollecti
    ons of shorter units, usually oral messages
    called oracles proclaimed publicly to the people
    of Israel or Judah.
  • Not usually arranged chronologically
  • Therefore, almost impossible to outline
  • Look for a few major themes repeated over and
  • Yet the prophets message comes through loud and

  • Historical-cultural and theological context

Israel Judah
  • Basic prophetic message
  • Prophets function as Gods prosecuting attorneys
    (covenant enforcement mediators), warning the
    people of the consequences of covenant violation.
  • Prophetic message has three basic points
  • 1. You have broken the covenant you had better
  • Idolatrysyncretism, faithful husband/unfaithful
  • Social justicewidows, orphans, foreigners
  • Religious ritualismritual substitutes for

  • 2. No repentance? Then judgment!
  • Plea for repentance, but proclaim severe
    consequences of rebellion
  • Horrific invasions
  • Loss of Promised land
  • 3. Yet, there is hope beyond the judgment for a
    glorious future restoration.
  • New exodus (Isaiah), new covenant (Jeremiah), new
    presence of the Spirit (Ezekiel and Joel)
  • Messianic promises and future predictions

  • Interpretation and application of basic message
  • 1. You have broken the covenant you had better
  • Must pass through filter of NT teaching
  • No longer under covenant of law, so different for
    believers and unbelievers
  • Focus on relational aspects of our sin (marriage
  • Sinning against God causes him to hurt
  • Idolatry job, success, money, TV, clothes,
  • Social justice poor, elderly, minorities,
  • Religious ritualism rituals function as means
    or ends?

  • 2. No repentance? Then judgment!
  • Sin is an offense against God and demands
  • NT g judgment of death for Christians sin
    transferred to Christ
  • If Christians fail to repent, their relationship
    with God will be damaged
  • 3. Yet, there is hope beyond the judgment for a
    glorious future restoration.
  • Ultimate fulfillment of promises in Christ
  • God is in the business of forgiving and restoring

  • Predictive passages
  • Small portion of prophets message to events that
    are still future for us

Near View or
Far View?
  • Predictions could refer to
  • Return of Jewish exiles to Israel (past for us)
  • First coming of Jesus Christ (past for us)
  • Second coming of Jesus Christ (still future for

  • Difficult to determine whether the prophets are
    describing events that will occur within their
    lifetime (near view) or events that will occur
    much later (far view).
  • We should be cautious about being overly dogmatic
    when interpreting details of predictive prophecy.
  • It is possible that the prophets have
    intentionally blurred together these future
    events so that their readers will focus on the
    broader theological principles.

OT Wisdom
  • Introduction
  • You have persevered the end of this book!

Of making may books there is no end, and much
study wearies the body. Ecclesiastes 1212b
Song of Songs
  • Purpose of the wisdom books
  • Law, narrative, and prophets stress Believe!
    and Obey! while wisdom stresses Think!
  • Call us to listen, look, think, and reflect
  • Offer practical insights for living
  • Goal is to develop wise and godly character for
    life in the real world

  • The big picture
  • Four wisdom books balance each other
    theologically. Read each one in context of all

Job Righteous and wise suffer in ways
that mere humans cannot understand.
Proverbs Rational
norms of life (what normally happens). Does not
present universals (what will always happen).
Ecclesiastes Failure of the rational,
ordered approach to provide ultimate meaning to
life. Meaning only comes through a relationship
with God.
Song of Songs Irrationality of romantic
love between husband and wife.
  • Wisdom as poetry
  • A large portion of wisdom literature is poetry.
  • Wisdom books use parallelism as their standard
    structural feature.
  • The more emotional the tone, the more the book
    will use figurative language

  • Grasping the wisdom books
  • Proverbs
  • Proverbs short, pithy sayings that teach
    practical wisdom about life
  • Individual proverbs reflect general nuggets of
    wisdom about what normally happens in life (e.g.,
    Dont be lazy! Work hard!).
  • Proverbs are never to be taken as universal
  • The book of Proverbs does not deal with the
    exceptions to the normal rules.
  • Since each proverb presents a general principle,
    the river of differences is usually quite narrow
    and shallow.
  • But be careful how you define blessing.

  • Job
  • Job does all that Proverbs commands, but he
    receives dead children, financial ruin, physical
    pain, and criticism from his friends.
  • Job is a story (in contrast to Proverbs) and we
    must take the literary context of narrative
  • 1-2 Job is afflicted
  • 2-37 Job searches unsuccessfully for a
    rational answer
  • 38-42 God answers Jobs accusations
  • 42 Jobs friends are rebuked and Job is
  • The differences between the ancient audience and
    us are not great.
  • Lessons from Job
  • God is sovereign and we are not
  • God knows all and we know precious little
  • God is always just, but does not always disclose
    his reasons
  • God expects us to trust his character

  • NT presents suffering as a normal feature of a
    godly life.
  • Dont repeat the mistake of Jobs friends and
    misuse biblical truth.
  • Book of Job teaches us that it is not wrong to
    cry out to God in anger and frustration when
    unexplained tragedy strikes.
  • Our focus in grief should not be on why but
    rather on God and his character.
  • Comforting friends is different from having all
    the answers.

  • Ecclesiastes
  • Ecclesiastes (like Job) must be interpreted as a
    whole with the ultimate answer coming at the very
  • The book is full of satire, sarcasm, and
  • The Teacher or Preacher declares that a
    strictly rational search for meaning is
  • At the end of the book, the Teacher comes to his
    conclusion Fear God and keep his commandments.
  • Apart from God, not even wisdom can give life
  • River normally shallow in Ecclesiastes except for
    a limited concept of death and the afterlife.
  • The NT adds that apart from a relationship with
    Jesus Christ, life is meaningless.
  • Apart from a relationship with Christ, not even a
    college degree can make life meaningful!

  • Song of Songs
  • Shocking book because it speaks openly and
    joyfully about human sexuality (read 77-8).
  • The book is organized into three sequential
  • 1-3 Courtship
  • 3-5 Wedding
  • 5-8 Life of Love
  • Highly emotional and full of picture language as
    the man and woman describe their love for each
  • Most scholars today caution against the
    allegorical interpretation
  • A model of the joy and irrationality of a married
    couple madly in love
  • Wise and godly people should express their
    marital love in strong, emotional (mushy?)
  • We suggest a little updating of the figurative
    language (hair like a flock of goats?)

"How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful
you are!Your eyes are like doves behind your
veil.... Your hair is like a flock of
goats...Your teeth are like a flock of newly
shorn ewes...Your lips are like a scarlet
thread,Your temples are like a slice of
pomegranate... "...Your neck is like the tower of
Davidbuilt with rows of stones on which are
hung a thousand shields...... Your two breasts
are like two fawns, twins of a gazellewhich
feed among the lilies... "... Your lips, my
bride, drip honey,Honey and milk are under your
tongue...And the fragrance of your garmentsis
like the fragrance of Lebanon.Your belly is like
a heap of wheat... "... Your nose is like the
tower of Lebanon,which faces towards
Damascus..." From Song of Solomon chapters 4 and 7
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