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EXEGESIS > Thoughts on Interpretation > Progressive and Comprehensive    


PROGRESSIVE AND COMPREHENSIVE

This presentation of Biblical Truth is distinguished by two major characteristics: it is progressive, and it is comprehensive. Theology traces the Divine activity and the Truth relative to that activity, with emphasis on the unity not the diversity. Theology is the study, organization, and presentation of Biblical Truth, studied progressively and presented comprehensively.

PROGRESSIVE

The progression of Truth is according to four major events: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation.

                             Creation   –   Gen. 1-2
                             Fall   –   Gen. 3
                             Redemption   –   Gen. 4 - Rev. 20
                             Consummation   –   Rev. 21-22

God reveals Himself and the beginning of His acts in Genesis 1:1. The Revelation begins, not with philosophical arguments or rational persuasion of God’s existence, but with His dynamic act of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Two chapters are devoted to the details of Who created, how He created, and what He created. Subsequent to God’s creative work, which is described as “very good,” God’s creation experiences the blight of sin. Through the sin of the woman and then the man paradise was transformed into a place of shame, guilt, and depravity. The wonder of creation gave way to the curse upon all creation brought about by the Fall. Yet in the third chapter of Genesis there is the portent of God’s gracious Redemption. The majority of the Biblical Revelation is devoted to the unfolding of God’s plan to replace the curse with his blessing, to overcome sin with His salvation. Law and Prophets (Anticipation), the Life of Christ (Accomplishment), and the Ministry of the Apostles (Application) constitute the redemptive process. Redemption is not an exercise in futility for there will be a Divine Consummation whereby God’s purpose for creation will be achieved. He will make all things new. Thus, it is evident that the flow of the Biblical Revelation is from Creation to Consummation by way of the tragic Fall and the sovereign Redemption effected by God.

Since the Christian faith is anchored in God’s acts in history, then it is not inappropriate for a theological treatment of Scripture to be outlined according to these significant events of history. According to Scripture the major events of history are: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. This progression comes from Scripture; it is not thrust upon Scripture. The sequence is not arbitrary; it is consistent with Scripture. This progressive development depicted in the Biblical Revelation is an appropriate method for the formulation of a theology; the progressive events (Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation) could provide the divisions for a presentation of Biblical Truth. Thus, the outline for the study would be true to the revealed record and would be orderly and understandable.

The student must remember that he is not to develop a system into which Scripture can be fitted, such as a Dispensational timeline. Rather, he is to find the system that is in Scripture. The danger is that Scripture may be studied in light of a system rather than allowing Scripture to yield the system. To the degree that a system is true to Scripture, to that degree the system will reflect the harmony of Scripture. If a topical or systematic approach is chosen, neither the topic nor the organization of the topic should be contrary to Scripture.

Complementing this progression of events in Scripture is the progressive development of Truth. That is to say that Truth is continually unfolding from Genesis to Revelation. The “seed of the woman” in Genesis becomes the “King of Kings” in the book of Revelation. In the Old Testament there is the continual sacrifice of lambs, while in the New Testament there is the one sacrifice of the “Lamb of God.”

It should be emphasized that the word “Truth” (see: Significance of Truth) is the proper word to use to speak both of the events of Scripture as well as the information God reveals relative to the events. The historical and the theological are interwoven. Scripture contains both history and God’s interpretation of the History. Both are Truth, and together they constitute the Message. And both manifest progression in the Revelation of God as it unfolds. The Truth was revealed progressively, but it must be studied comprehensively.

COMPREHENSIVE

   It is improper to limit the discussion of a particular topic to the knowledge of the Biblical writer writing on that topic. In the study of the Pentateuch, for example, the study of God should not be limited to the knowledge of God that had been revealed up to and including that time. Why should the student be limited to Moses’ knowledge when the student is blessed with so much more than Moses—the entire Revelation? It is proper to study God in the Pentateuch and to present God in the Pentateuch in light of the comprehensive teaching of God in the rest of Scripture.

To illustrate, Moses may or may not have understood the implication of the word “us” in the creation account, but it does not matter; the Hebrew nation may not have understood it either, but it does not matter. The theologian’s concern is not with the depth of Moses’ understanding and grasp of what he wrote or with the comprehension of the nation regarding the Revelation it received. In fact, the Truth of what Moses wrote is not dependent upon the understanding Moses had of what he wrote or of the understanding of the nation of Israel of what he wrote. The concept of the Godhead is in the word “us” whether Moses or the nation were aware of it or not.

The important point is not Moses but the message, not the diversity but the unity. Embraced by Truth is my attempt to present a comprehensive approach to God's Truth!

The concern of any believer is with the proper meaning and interpretation of each word of God’s Revelation as that word is understood in light of the total Revelation. No word, no passage stands alone; they cannot be interpreted in isolation.

The context of each text is the entire text, the Canon.

The discussion of a particular topic will employ all of Scripture in order to present adequately the Scriptural teaching on that particular topic. There is no need to limit the discussion of God in the word “us” in Genesis to our perception of the degree of Moses’ understanding of the word. Our knowledge of the One who was acting and the statements we can make concerning the One who was acting are not limited to the knowledge that Moses possessed.

The God we speak of is the God of the Biblical Revelation,
 not the God of Moses’ understanding.

The God of Genesis is the God of the Bible
not the God of Genesis only.

It is permissible to point out that Truth was revealed progressively, but it is not permissible to question whether the Godhead is intended in “us” in light of later revelation. Truth was revealed progressively, but it must be studied comprehensively.

Several considerations support the comprehensive approach.

One, the essential unity of Scripture argues for the consideration of the part in light of the whole. As has already been pointed out, no word, verse, or passage stands in isolation; together, the various words, verses, passages, chapters, and books constitute the whole. It is the message that flows from the unity that is crucial.

Two, closely related to this concept of unity is the fact that the context of Scripture is Scripture. It is improper to exegete any passage of Scripture without considering the rest of Scripture, improper because of the essential unity that is inherent in Scripture. Every text is part of the larger context. No passage can ever be allowed to stand alone. A comprehensive approach will assure that the discussion of a particular topic will employ all of Scripture in order to present adequately the Scriptural teaching on that particular topic—the context of Scripture is Scripture.

Three, acceptance of the validity of Divine inspiration contributes to the comprehensive approach.  Ultimately, it must be accepted that the Bible actually has only one Author if one is going to accept the Scripture’s teaching concerning its own origin. We do not have the “contributions” of many men but the “Revelation” of the one true God through many men (see: Revelation). This fact provides for the unity that characterizes the Canon. When a particular book is studied, the earthly writer of the material is not being studied; it is the Word of God that is being investigated. Divine inspiration requires that the material be studied comprehensively.

Four, another factor is an understanding that the main thrust of a true Biblical Theology is the presentation of the progressive development of Biblical activity, not the progressive development of doctrine in God’s Revelation. Doctrine was progressively revealed, it is true; and that progression may be interesting for academic study, but knowledge of its precise development is not essential to understanding and presenting the theology of the Bible. The progression that is found in Biblical Theology is derived from the flow of Biblical events and the Truth that is revealed relative to those events—the main events being: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. The Truth presented in connection with each of these major developments assumes the unity of Scripture and must be interpreted in light of the total Biblical Revelation. It is not with the process but with the product that Biblical Theology is occupied.

Five, a final consideration focuses upon the relationship of the Old and New Testaments. A proper understanding does not conceive of the two testaments as being opposed but as complementary. They should not be viewed as two major segments, with sufficient distinctiveness to stand alone, but as two essential aspects of one major movement, the movement being “Redemption.” Anticipation (Old Testament), Accomplishment and Application (New Testament) are the essential features of the one great act of Redemption. A comprehensive approach allows for the proper integration of the two testaments in the theological interpretation.


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