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The Interpretive Journey New Testament


Unit 4 The Interpretive Journey New Testament Letters Gospels Acts Revelation * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Gospels are ancient biographies rather than modern ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Interpretive Journey New Testament

The Interpretive JourneyNew Testament
Unit 4
  1. Letters
  2. Gospels
  3. Acts
  4. Revelation

NT Letters
  • Introduction
  • As in the ancient world, letters play an
    important role in our lives today

New Testament Letters Pauline General Romans Hebr
ews 1, 2 Corinthians James Galatians 1, 2
Peter Ephesians 1, 2, 3 John Philippians Jude Colo
ssians 1, 2 Thessalonians 1, 2 Timothy Titus
  • Characteristics of NT letters
  • Comparable to other ancient letters

Pauls letters are quite long by ancient
standards, averaging 2,495 words. (R.
Richards) Why did Paul need the extra space?
NT includes more informal, personal letters
(like Philemon) as well as more formal letters
(like Romans)
  • Authoritative substitutes for the author's
    personal presence
  • Substitute for personal presence
  • Authoritative substitute
  • (Christs representatives)
  • Situational written to address specific
    situations or problems in the churches
  • To clarify an issue (Thessalonians)
  • To address a doctrinal problem (Colossians)
  • To confront the ethical behavior of readers

  • Implications of the occasional nature of letters
  • Never meant to be read as exhaustive dictionaries
    of doctrine
  • Be careful not to conclude too much from any one
  • Galatians freedom
  • 1 Corinthians obedience
  • Reconstruction the original situation that called
    for the letter in the first place

  • Carefully written and delivered
  • The actual job of writing down a letter was
    normally assigned to a trained scribe or
    secretary (amanuensis).
  • I, Tertius, who wrote down this letter, greet
    you in the Lord. (Rom. 1622)
  • Customary for the author to add a final greeting
    in his own handwriting
  • I Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.
    (1 Cor. 1621)
  • Cosenders played a significant role
  • Paul, Silas and Timothy, (1 Thess. 11)
  • Delivery depended on trusted letter carriers
  • Tychichus will tell you all the news about me.
    (Col. 47)

  • Intended for the Christian community
  • Meant to be read aloud again and again to the
  • Meant to be exchanged with other churches

Epistles Key Questions
  • What form do epistles generally follow? How
    closely does this epistle (the one I am studying
    or reading) follow that form?
  • What is the occasion of the writing of the
  • What is the historical context of this epistle?
  • What is the literary context of this epistle?
  • Then, go on the interpretive journey with each

  • Form of NT letters
  • Standard form of a contemporary letter

Standard form of a NT letter
  1. Greeting and Salutation
  2. Icebreaker (often thanksgiving)
  3. Body of the letter (largest section focusing on
    the specific situation)
  4. Paraenesis/Exhortation
  5. Closing/Farewell
  1. Date
  2. Name Address
  3. Greeting
  4. Body of the letter
  5. Closing signature

Epistolary form
Part Function
Greeting / Salutation To identify the sender and greet the recipients
Icebreaker / Thanksgiving To form /or strengthen bonds and get the readers attention
Body To state and develop the main points of the epistle
Paraenesis / Exhortation To give final moral directions to the readers
Closing / Farewell To wish well and say goodbye
  • .

Lets Try This Out 1 Corinthians
Part Beginning Ending Point
Greeting / Salutation
Icebreaker / Thanksgiving
Paraenesis / Exhortation
Closing / Farewell
Lets Try This Again 2 Corinthians
Part Beginning Ending Point
Greeting / Salutation
Icebreaker / Thanksgiving
Paraenesis / Exhortation
Closing / Farewell
Sniff Out the Occasion
  • What specific situation brought about the need to
  • We will not succeed in understanding the epistle
    if we
  • Fail to realize the occasional nature of all
    epistles in general
  • Fail to look hard for the occasion of the epistle
    we are reading
  • Task theology is the product of each epistle

What was the occasion of
  • Philemon?
  • Paul has come upon an escaped servant, Onesimus,
    of a believer named Philemon (vs. 10)
  • 2 John?
  • Many deceivers have gone out into the world (vs.
  • Jude?
  • Godless men have secretly slipped in among the
    believers (vs. 4)
  • 2 Thessalonians?
  • Someone had told them that the day of the Lord
    had already come (21-2)

Why is knowing the occasion of an epistle so
  • Clues to authorial intent
  • Experiential immediacy
  • Demonstrates the pragmatic value of Christian
  • Limits the interpretation options

Historical context
  • Reconstruct the setting
  • External resources may be very helpful for this
  • A commentary devoted to the one epistle you are
  • Bible atlas/historical geography atlas

Literary context
  • READ THINK paragraphs
  • Note where one paragraph ends and the next begins
  • What (if anything) links the two?
  • Ask, Whats the point of this paragraph?
  • Ask, Why did the writer use this word (or
    phrase) and not a similar word?

  • How to interpret a NT letter
  • Step 1 Grasp the text in their town
  • Read the letter from beginning to end, the way
    letters are meant to be read. This will give you
    a sense of the big picture.
  • Reconstruct the historical-cultural context of
    the biblical writer and his audience.
  • Identify the literary context of your particular
  • Determine the meaning of the text for the
    biblical audience (observe, observe, observe!)

  • Step 2 Measure the width of the river
  • For NT letters the river is usually not very
    wide, but there are exceptions.
  • Step 3 Cross the principlizing bridge
  • Look for the broader theological message
    reflected in the text. To find theological
    principles in letters ask yourself the following
  • Does the author state a principle?
  • Do you see a principle in the surrounding
  • Do you see a reason behind a particular command
    or instruction?

  • Does your theological principle satisfy the
    following criteria
  • It should be reflected in the biblical text
  • It should be timeless and not tied to a specific
  • It should not be culturally bound
  • It should be consistent with the teaching of the
    rest of Scripture
  • It should be both relevant to both the biblical
    audience and the contemporary audience
  • Step 4 Grasp the text in our town

Dealing with problem passages
  • What do you know for certain?
  • What meanings are possible but not certain?
  • What difference does each of the possible
    meanings make to the main points of the epistle?
  • Can I afford to suspend judgment about this
  • The things you can be certain about in an epistle
    will often lead to logical answers to the problem
  • Remember the occasion of the epistle.

Literary genres within the NT epistles
  • Proverbs
  • 1 Cor. 1533
  • Formulas
  • Jas. 113-15, 41
  • Creeds Hymns
  • Phil. 26-11, 1 Ti. 316, Col. 115-20
  • Vice lists
  • Gal. 519-21, Rom. 129-31
  • Virtue lists
  • Gal. 522-23, 2 Peter 15-7
  • Imperative clusters
  • 1 Thes. 516-22, Col. 318-46

Literary devices within the NT epistles
  • Metaphor
  • 1 Corinthians 1553
  • Simile
  • 1 Corinthians 926
  • Rhetorical questions
  • Romans 1015
  • Paradox
  • 1 Corinthians 1542-44
  • Question-and-exclamation
  • 1 Corinthians 1535-36
  • Apostrophe
  • 1 Corinthians 1554-55
  • Repetition
  • 1 Corinthians 1543-44
  • Balance
  • 1 Corinthians 159-11
  • Antithesis
  • 1 Corinthians 1521-22
  • Parallelism
  • 1 Corinthians 1553

2 Basic Rules Of Hermeneutics
  1. A texts application cannot contradict what it
    meant to its author or to his original audience
  2. Whenever we share comparable specifics with the
    NT setting, Gods word to us has the same
    application as Gods word to them

The Problem of Extended Application
  • A texts meaning may not always be applied to a
    context which is not specified by that text
  • Corroboration is needed

The Problem of Particulars that are not Comparable
  • Determine how the answers to 1st Century issues
    apply to contemporary issues
  • find the principle
  • compare morally relevant particulars
  • resist the urge to over-apply

The Problem of Cultural Relativity
  • Gods eternal Word has been given to us in
    historical particularity
  • Distinguish between the core and the periphery
  • Distinguish between what is inherently moral and
    what is not inherently moral
  • Distinguish between issues where the NT has a
    uniform, consistent position, and issues where
    the NT reflects differing positions

The Problem of Cultural Relativity (continued)
  • Gods eternal Word has been given to us in
    historical particularity
  • Distinguish between principle and specific
  • Consider the options available to the NT writer
    in his culture
  • Be alerted to possible differences between 1st
    and 21st century cultures
  • Practice Christian charity in resolving disputes

The Problem of Task Theology
  • Epistles give theology as a response to a task
    being worked on
  • Our understanding of the full occasion is
    limited, so dont presume more than is probable
  • Your question may not be the one being answered
    by the epistle
  • Dont proof-text!

  • In Conclusion,
  • the New Testament epistles
  • Provide a window into the struggles and victories
    of the early church
  • Serve as authoritative substitutes for church
    leaders who could not always minister in person
  • Are written to address specific situations and
    meet the practical needs of believers
  • Are meant to be read from beginning to end, the
    same way you would read a personal letter today
  • Use the Interpretive Journey to help you hear God
    speak to you through NT letters.

NT Gospels
  • Introduction
  • Gospel g good news
  • Four Gospels g four different versions of the

    one story of Jesus

  • Gospels in the NT
  • Two main concerns
  • What are the Gospels? (literary genre)
  • How should we read the Gospels?

  • What are the Gospels?
  • Stories
  • Stories of Jesus drawn from the personal
    experience of his followers, especially his
  • But different from modern biographies
  • Do not cover the whole life of Jesus
  • Often arrange events and sayings topically rather
    than chronologically
  • Give a lot of attention to the last week of
    Jesus life
  • Do not include a detailed psychological analysis
    of Jesus

  • Gospels are ancient biographies rather than
    modern biographies
  • Not obsessed with strict chronological sequencing
  • Variation in wording
  • Variation in order of events
  • Christ-centered or Christological biography
  • Two purposes of the Gospel writers

1. To tell individual stories of Jesus 2.
Through the individual stories of Jesus, to say
something important to their readers
  • How should we read the Gospels?
  • Our method of reading the Gospels must match the
    means God used to inspire them.
  • Here we turn the two purposes of the Gospel
    writers into two interpretive questions
  • What is the main message of this particular
  • 2. What is the Gospel writer trying to say to
    his readers by the way he connects the smaller

Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3
What is this episode telling us about Jesus? What is this episode telling us about Jesus? What is this episode telling us about Jesus?
Episodes 1, 2, and 3 Episodes 1, 2, and 3 Episodes 1, 2, and 3
What is the Gospel writer trying to communicate to his readers by the way he connects these stories together? What is the Gospel writer trying to communicate to his readers by the way he connects these stories together? What is the Gospel writer trying to communicate to his readers by the way he connects these stories together?
Luke 1025-27 Luke 1038-42 Luke 111-13
Love should transcend all human barriers. Doing good things for God can sometimes cause us to miss God. Jesus teaches us how to communicate with God through prayer.
Luke 1025-37 38-42 111-13 Luke 1025-37 38-42 111-13 Luke 1025-37 38-42 111-13
Common theme of relationships. Followers of Jesus need to relate rightly to their neighbors (service), to their Lord (devotion), and to their Father (prayer). Common theme of relationships. Followers of Jesus need to relate rightly to their neighbors (service), to their Lord (devotion), and to their Father (prayer). Common theme of relationships. Followers of Jesus need to relate rightly to their neighbors (service), to their Lord (devotion), and to their Father (prayer).
  • Question 1 How do we read individual stories?
  • Ask the standard story questions
  • Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
  • Look for interpretive clues from the author
  • Take note of anything that is repeated in the
  • Pay careful attention to direct discourse.
  • Question 2 How do we read a series of stories?

Look for Connections
  • Common themes or patterns
  • Logical connections (e.g., cause and effect)
  • How stories are joined to together (transitions,
  • Role of key characters

  • Special literary forms in the Gospels?
  • a truth is overstated
    for effect
  • If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it
    out and throw it away. It is better for you to
    lose one part of your body than for your whole
    body to be thrown into hell.
    Matthew 529

implicit or
implicit comparison You are the salt of the
earth. Matthew 513 You are like whitewashed
tombs Matthew 2327
Metaphor Simile
  • contrast between what
    is expected and what actually happens
  • And I'll say to myself, You have
    plenty of good things laid up for many years.
    Take life easy eat, drink and be merry. But
    God said to him, You fool! This very night your
    life will be demanded from you.
    Luke 1219-20

Narrative Irony
designed to make a point rather than retrieve
an answer Who of you by worrying can add a
single hour to his life? Matthew 627
Rhetorical Questions
  • two or more lines of
    text that are intended to be read together
  • Synonymous lines say basically the same thing
  • Contrastive second line contrasts with the
    first line
  • Developmental second line advances thought of
  • What kind of parallelism is the verse below?
  • Ask and it will be given to you seek and
    you will find knock and the door will be
    opened to you. Matthew 77

  • a story with two
    levels of meaning, where certain details in the
    story stand for other things
  • A story where every detail stands for something
  • A story with only one point?
  • A story with one main point for each main

Rebellious son Sinners may confess their sins and turn to God in repentance
Forgiving father God offers forgiveness for undeserving people
Resentful brother Those who claim to be Gods people should not be resentful when God extends his grace to the undeserving.
  • Conclusion
  • Gospels g good news of Jesus Christ
  • Four versions of the one story of Jesus
  • Christological biography
  • Two interpretive questions
  • What is the main message of each story?
  • What is the Gospel writer trying to say to his
    readers (and to us) by the way he connects the
    smaller stories?

NT Acts
  • Introduction
  • Four versions of the life and ministry of Jesus,
    one story of the birth and growth of the early
  • Title?
  • The continuing acts of Jesus by his Spirit
    through the apostles and other early Christian
  • Acts for short
  • Acts presents unique interpretive challenges
  • Normative the church in every age should
    imitate the early church
  • Descriptive early church valuable and
    inspiring, but not necessarily
    binding on us

  • Acts a sequel to Luke
  • Luke produced a single work in two parts
  • Luke intended to link these two books together
  • Compare Luke 11-4 with Acts 11-2
  • Thematic and structural parallels between the two
  • Definite overlap between the ending of Luke and
    the beginning of Acts
  • What Jesus began to do during his earthly
    ministry he now continues to do through his
    Spirit-empowered followers.

  • What kind of book is Acts?
  • Acts is a story that focuses on key church
  • Acts is theological history.
  • As a historian Luke composes a reliable record of
    what happened in the move of the gospel from
    Jerusalem to Rome.
  • As a theologian, Luke tells the story for the
    purpose of advancing the Christian faith.
  • Both historian and theologian?

  • Luke shapes his story for theological purposes.
    How do we find theology in a story?
  • Ask the standard story questions
  • Pay attention to clues and instructions from the
  • Look carefully at direct discourse
  • Single most helpful guideline g look for
    repeated themes and patterns.

  • Why did Luke write Acts?
  • Many have undertaken to draw up an account of
    the things that have been fulfilled among us,
    just as they were handed down to us by those who
    from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of
    the word. Therefore, since I myself have
    carefully investigated everything from the
    beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an
    orderly account for you, most excellent
    Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of
    the things you have been taught.
    Luke 11-4
  • Acts as a comprehensive discipleship manual?

  • Luke shows believers that what God promised in
    the OT and fulfilled in Jesus, he now continues
    to work out through his church.
  • Lukes purposes/themes
  • Holy Spirit
  • Gods sovereignty
  • Church
  • Prayer
  • Suffering
  • Gentiles
  • Witness

  • How is Acts organized?
  • Acts 18 holds the key to understanding how
    Luke organizes his story of the triumphant
    expansion of the gospel from Jerusalem (heart of
    Israel) to Rome (heart of the empire).

Acts 1-6 in Jerusalem Peter
Acts 7-12 in Judea and Samaria Peter
Acts 13-28 to the ends of the earth Paul
In the very last verse of Acts, we find Paul in
a Roman prison, but the gospel of Jesus Christ
marches on without hindrance (last word in
the Greek text).
  • Grasping the message of Acts
  • We read Acts in the much the same way that we
    read the Gospels
  • One major interpretive challenge

Normative Descriptive
Acts is normative so that the church in every age should imitate the experiences and practices of the early church. Acts is merely descriptive of what was valuable and inspiring in the early church, but not necessarily binding on us today.
  • We suggest that we interpret Acts as both
    normative and descriptive. Difficulty is knowing
    what is normative and what is merely descriptive.
  • Guidelines for discerning what is normative.
  • Look for what Luke intended to communicate.
  • Look for positive and negative examples in the
    characters of the story.
  • Read individual episodes in light of the overall
  • Look to other parts of Acts for clarification.
  • Look for repeated patterns and themes.

NT Revelation
  • Introduction
  • Your initial response to reading Revelation?
  • revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 11)
  • revelation unveiling or open display
  • of Jesus Christ both about Jesus and from
  • In this final chapter of the Bible, God pulls
    back the curtain to give his people a glimpse of
    his plans for human historyplans that center
    around Jesus.

  • Historical context
  • Persecution of Christians is becoming more
    intense and widespread.
  • 19 23, 9-10, 13 38 69
  • Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96)

  • But some Christians are turning away from Christ
    and compromising with the world system.
  • Revelation has a double-edged message

Comfort for those suffering persecution
Warning for the complacent and compromising
  • Literary genre?
  • A letter
  • Opens and closes like a NT letter (14-5 2221)
  • Whole book is a letter, not just chapters 2-3
  • Like other NT letters, Revelation is situational
  • The central theme may be overcoming

  • A prophetic letter (13 226-7, 10, 18-19)
  • Includes both prediction and proclamation with an
    emphasis on proclamation.
  • Revelation is not just about the future it is
    about what God wants in the here and now.
  • An unsealed or open book (2210)

  • A prophetic-apocalyptic letter
  • Apocalyptic
  • Literature in which God promises to intervene in
    human history to overthrow evil and establish his
  • Intensified form of Hebrew prophecy written
    during time of crisis
  • Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah in the OT
  • Abundance of strange and bizarre images (picture

  • What is the purpose of Revelation?
  • Readers enter the symbolic world created by the
    images of Revelation to get heavenly perspective
    on their own world.
  • Revelation uses prophetic counter-images to
    answer the question Who is Lord?
  • Main message God will win!

  • Interpreting Revelation
  • Traditional approaches
  • Preterist
  • Historicist
  • Futurist
  • Idealist

combines strengths of each
  • Guidelines for reading Revelation
  • Read Revelation with humility.
  • Try to discover the message to the original
  • Dont try to detect a strict chronological map of
    future events.
  • Take Revelation seriously, but dont always take
    it literally.
  • Pay attention when John identifies an image.
  • Look to the OT and historical-cultural context
    when interpreting images and symbols.
  • Above all, focus on the main idea and dont press
    all the details.

  • How does Revelation unfold?
  • Introduction (11-322)
  • Vision of God and the Lamb (41-514)
  • Opening of the Seven Seals (61-81)
  • Sounding of the Seven Trumpets (82-1119)
  • People of God vs. Powers of Evil (121-1420)
  • Pouring out of the Seven Bowls (151-1621)
  • Judgment of Babylon (171-195)
  • Gods Ultimate Victory (196-225)
  • Conclusion (226-21)

  • Conclusion
  • A prophetic-apocalyptic letter
  • Using powerful picture language
  • To comfort the suffering and warn the
  • Revelation answers the question Who is Lord?
  • Revelation gives us the heavenly perspective we
    need to overcome.
  • God will win!
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