Category Archives: Bible – NT

Complementary letters

I stumbled on an article by A. T. Pierson on the unity of Scripture tonight. It was published in Volume 7 of The Fundamentals, an original set of which I was given over a quarter of a century ago by a family friend, now in glory. I wouldn’t be keen on his dispensationalism, but I did find the following paragraph towards the end of the article a rather engaging summary of the New Testament letters:

The Epistles are likewise all necessary to complete the whole and complement each other. There are five writers, each having his own sphere of truth. Paul’s great theme is Faith, and its relations to justification, sanctification, service, joy and glory. James treats of Works, their relation to faith, as its justification before man. He is the counterpart and complement of Paul. Peter deals with Hope, as the inspiration of God’s pilgrim people. John’s theme is Love, and its relation to the light and life of God as manifested in the believer. In his Gospel, he exhibits eternal life in Christ; in his epistles, eternal life as seen in the believer. Jude sounds the trumpet of warning against apostasy, which implies the wreck of faith, the delusion of false hope, love grown cold, and the utter decay of good works. What one of all these writers could we drop from the New Testament?*

There is a good deal more in the NT letters, but this looks like a useful overview.

* Arthur T. Pierson, The Testimony of the Organic Unity of the Bible to its Inspiration, in The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, edited by R. A. Torrey (Chicago: Testimony Publishing Company, 1909-15). Vol. 7, Ch. 4, p. 68.

How did the New Testament come to be written?

James B Jordan, et al, have been posting an interesting series of speculations on how Matthew’s Gospel (20 Mar), James’ Letter (21 Mar, by Jeff Myers), and Mark’s Gospel (24 Mar) might have come to be written. Riveting reading and provocative in the best sense of the word. As Jordan concludes about Matthew:

Given how all these people thought, and the context in which they lived, it should be pretty obvious that the book of Matthew was produced immediately after Pentecost. Anyone who thinks otherwise should come forward with any reason why the apostles would have waited.

It certainly makes a lot of sense, despite what many scholars believe. And even if it is apocryphal, there are some valuable insights into the contents of the books. Enjoy.

Things to do before you die?

In last evening’s sermon our pastor mentioned the popular book 100 Things to Do Before You Die. A quick Google search revealed that others have lists ranging from 10 to 1000 things. It got me to thinking that though the books may be best sellers, and the concept appealing to many, the whole idea holds no attraction whatsoever for any Christian.

Why? Because the books have been published too late! Isn’t a Christian someone who has already died? Romans 6:2 and Galatians 2:19-21 spring readily to mind.

What would be a more appropriate concept is x things to do after you die. Now that would be interesting for a Christian.

But then again, the publishing opportunity is limited — it’s already been done. It’s called The New Testament.

Succeeding the Old Testament

I’m reading Graeme Goldsworthy’s book Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, at the moment. His insights in ch 5 (“Was Jesus a Biblical Theologian?”) have been personally quite stimulating. There he points up the limitations of using first century Judaism in understanding Jesus and the early Church and concludes,

The gospel interprets Judaism as a historical and religious phenomenon, not the other way round.
(46, 47)

It can be easy to consider first century Judaism as a “magic key” to unlock the secrets of the New Testament.

Such an approach is rather akin to taking a cloth or sponge that has been wrung out, and attempting to extract further liquid. Possible by dint of force, but greatly lacking in volume. It is something to which we can be drawn if we consider Judaism as a legitimate successor of OT religion on an equal footing with Christianity. However, the NT is the rightful continuation of OT religion, and Judaism is a deviation from it. It is apt that Christ regarded the Pharisees as blind guides, for so they were.

In the 400 so-called silent years between Malachi and Matthew, a man-made religion had developed from God’s OT revelation. When God’s final revelation in Christ was revealed, the deviation from OT religion was apparent. Christ took exception not to OT Scripture and revelation, but to Pharisaic interpretation and their own religious system which had deviated so far from OT religion that it did not require reformation, but replacement.

A Christian can therefore expect little help in understanding NT Christianity from first century Judaism. Like the insight an evangelical Protestant Christian might expect form a traditional Roman Catholic interpreter, it is at best occasional and surprising; sporadic rather than constantly recurring.

Goldsworthy points out how Christ himself saw the gospel as “the completion and fulfilment of all God’s saving acts and promises in the Old Testament.” (48)

He concludes his discussion of Jesus’ View of Himself by saying,

While it is true to a point that the Old Testament is needed to enable us to interpret the New, the overruling principle is that the gospel expounded in the New Testament is the definitive interpretation of all that the Old Testament was about. (50)