Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"The Old Testament In Scripture" And "The Law In James"

(It appears that I made a major error when composing this article; I took two pages of notes on the first mentioned article, but when typed it up, I neglected to use page one. I thought something was wrong. I decided not to rewrite this article. If one reads the first article, which is only seven pages, then they could see what I failed to mention.)

I have begun reading articles for this blog that appear on the blog . The first two I have read are by M.J. Evans. The first article I read was "The Old Testament As Christian Scripture." (Click on this link and scroll down to March 16th.) Evans provides four views of the relationship between the Old and New Testaments:
1. The Old Testament as solely background or preface to the New Testament which is the only real scripture.
2. The Old Testament as the only real scripture with the New Testament being an interpretive gloss.
3. The Old Testament in its entirety consists of allegories of Christ.
4. Both Old and New Testaments are scripture; both are to be taken seriously in their own right. If this last view is correct, then what difference does the existence of the New Testament make in understanding and in interpreting the Old Testament? Evans gives us three possibility using the analogy of a photograph:
1. Is the Old Testament like an enlargement of a photograph which shows what was always there but not clear to the naked eye?
2. Is the New Testament like a color photo replacing a black and white photo of the same scene?
3. Is the New Testament like an old photo touched up and colorized to give it a sense of reality and clarity which may or may not reflect the original colors?

As Evans points out, the New Testament does not provide specific rules as to Old Testament interpretation. If we accept that it is legitimate to use the New Testament as an interpretive tool of the Old Testament, which method of interpretation is acceptable? To insist on one approach, Evans insists, ignores the variety of form and genre within the Old Testament itself and could therefore lead very quickly to error. While Evans accepts that Old Testament passages should be first interpreted in their own context, he warns against the tendency of some scholars who use the Old to interpret the New but believe to use the New as an interpretive tool of the Old is illegitimate. If we take for granted that the Old Testament text must stand within its own context first, how are we to employ the Old Testament as an interpreter of the New? Evans gives us six possibilities, but I will list only the first three:
1. As background; the context for ideas in the New Testament but more fully developed in the Old, such as the subject of sacrifice.
2. As salvation history.
3. As prophecy that reaches its fulfillment in the New Testament. The Old Testament points outside itself; it contains expectations and promises which are unfulfilled.

Evans states that if we accept that scripture, both Testaments, are the word of God, then the question of their relationship is no mere academic question to be inquired into by just theologians or just pastors.

This article contained a link to another article by Evans on the Old/New Testament relationship entitled "The Law in James." Evans asks three questions:
1. What does James refer to when he speaks of the Law?
2. What function does James ascribe to the Law? Is James saying that the Law is salvific?
3. What attitude or response does James call for from his readers toward the Law?

When James composed this pastoral letter, he assumed three things:
1. The Law is good; the Law brings freedom rather than bondage.
2. The Law calls for a response from its hearers.
3. There is a close correlation between being a doer of the Word and a doer of the Law.
James knew that those who heard his message knew that the Law was good and to speak against it was wrong.

According to Evans, James expects us to obey specific commands; James is not just concerned with a right state of the heart. However, he makes no mention of the ceremonial components of the Law. Nor does he specifically explore the relationship between faith and works in context of the Law. It appears that when James speaks of the Law, he is speaking of more than the Torah; he is also referring to the teachings of Jesus as Law.

Evans believes that James does not call on us to respond to the Law except in the context of our own salvation. The Law does not save, which some scholars believe is the message of James.

I hope to read two other articles on the Old/New Testament relationship soon.

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