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A Summary of the Bible (Biblical Theology) by Dr. Bruce K. Waltke

Creation by Word – Genesis 1 and 2

In the beginning God created everything that exists. He made Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. God spoke to them and gave them certain tasks in the world. For food he allowed them the fruit of all the trees in the garden except one. He warned them that they would die if they ate of that one tree.

The Fall – Genesis 3

The snake persuaded Eve to disobey God and to eat the forbidden fruit. She gave some to Adam and he ate also. Then God spoke to them in judgment, and sent them out of the garden into a world that came under the same judgment.

First Revelation of Redemption – Genesis 4–11

 Outside Eden, Cain and Abel were born to Adam and Eve. Cain murdered Abel and Eve bore another son, Seth. Eventually the human race became so wicked that God determined to destroy every living thing with a flood. Noah and his family were saved by building a great boat at God’s command. The human race began again with Noah and his three sons with their families. Sometime after the flood a still unified human race attempted a godless act to assert its power in the building of a high tower. God thwarted these plans by scattering the people and confusing their language.

Abraham Our Father – Genesis 12–50

Sometime in the early second millennium BC God called Abraham out of Mesopotamia to Canaan. He promised to give this land to Abraham’s descendants and to bless them as his people. Abraham went, and many years later he had a son, Isaac. Isaac in rum had two sons, Esau and Jacob. The promises of God were established with Jacob and his descendants. He had twelve sons, and in time they all went to live in Egypt because of famine in Canaan.

Exodus: Our Pattern of Redemption – Exodus 1–15

In time the descendants of Jacob living in Egypt multiplied to become a very large number of people. The Egyptians no longer regarded them with friendliness and made them slaves. God appointed Moses to be the one who would lead Israel out of Egypt to the promised land of Canaan. When the moment came for Moses to demand the freedom of his people, the Pharaoh refused to let them go. Though Moses worked ten miracle–plagues which brought hardship, destruction, and death to the Egyptians. Finally, Pharaoh let Israel go, but then pursued them and trapped them at the Red Sea (or Sea of Reeds). The God opened a way in the sea for Israel to cross on dry land, but closed the water over the Egyptian army, destroying it.

New Life: Gift and Task – Exodus 16–40; Leviticus

After their release from Egypt, Moses led the Israelites to Mount Sinai. There God gave them his law which they were commanded to keep. At one point Moses held a covenant renewal ceremony in which the covenant arrangement was sealed in blood. However, while Moses was away on the mountain, the people persuaded Aaron to fashion a golden calf. Thus they showed their inclination to forsake the covenant and to engage in idolatry. God also commanded the building of the tabernacle and gave all the rules of sacrificial worship by which Israel might approach him.

The Temptation in the Wilderness – Numbers; Deuteronomy

After giving the law to the Israelites at Sinai, God directed them to go in and take possession of the promised land. Fearing the inhabitants of Canaan, they refused to do so, thus showing lack of confidence in the promises of God. The whole adult generation that had come out of Egypt, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, was condemned to wander and die in the desert. Israel was forbidden to dispossess its kinsfolk, the nation of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, but was given victory over other nations that opposed it. Finally, forty years after leaving Egypt, Israel arrived in the Moabite territory on the east side of the Jordan. Here Moses prepared the people for their possession of Canaan, and commissioned Joshua as their new leader.

Into the Good Land – Joshua; Judges; Ruth

Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites crossed the Jordan and began the task of driving out the inhabitants of Canaan. After the conquest the land was divided between the tribes, each being allotted its own region. Only the tribe of Levi was without an inheritance of land because of its special priestly relationship to God. There remained pockets of Canaanites in the land and, from time to time, these threatened Israel’s hold on their new possession. From the one–man leaderships of Moses and Joshua, the nation moved into a period of relative instability during which judges exercised some measure of control over the affairs of the people.

God’s Rule in God’s Land –1 and 2 Samuel; 1 Kings 1–10; 1&2 Chronicles 1–9

Samuel became judge and prophet in all Israel at a time when the Philistines threatened the freedom of the nation. An earlier movement for kingship was received and the demand put to a reluctant Samuel. The first king, Saul, had a promising start to his reign but eventually showed himself unsuitable as the ruler of the covenant people. While Saul still reigned, David was anointed to succeed him. Because of Saul’s jealousy David became an outcast, but when Saul died in battle David returned and became king (about 1000 BC).

Due to his success Israel became a powerful and stable nation. He established a central sanctuary at Jerusalem, and created a professional bureaucracy and permanent army. David’s son Solomon succeeded him (about 961 BC) and the prosperity of Israel continued. The building of the temple at Jerusalem was one of Solomon’s most notable achievements.

 The Fading Shadow – 1 Kings 11–22; 2 Kings

Solomon allowed political considerations and personal ambitions to sour his relationship with God, and this in turn had a bad effect on the life of Israel. Solomon’s son began an oppressive rule which led to the rebellion of the northern tribes and the division of the kingdom. Although there were some political and religious high points, both kingdoms went into decline, A new breed of prophets warned against the direction of national life, but matters went from bad to worse. In 722 BC the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the power of the Assyrian empire. Then, in 586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah was devastated by the Babylonians. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and a large part of the population was deported to Babylon.

There Is a New Creation- Jeremiah; Ezekiel; Daniel; Esther

The prophets of Israel warned of the doom that would befall the nation. When the first exiles were taken to Babylon in 597 BC, Ezekiel was among them. Both prophets ministered to the exiles. Life for the Jews (the people of Judah) in Babylon was not all bad, and in time many prospered. The books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel indicate a certain normality to the experience, while Daniel and Esther highlight some of the difficulties and suffering experienced in an alien and oppressive culture.

The Second Exodus – Ezra; Nehemiah; Haggai

In 539 BC Babylon fell to the Medo–Persian empire. The following year, Cyrus the king allowed the Jews to return home and to set up a Jewish state within the Persian empire. Great difficulty was experienced in re–establishing the nation. There was local opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Many of the Jews did not return but stayed on in the land of their exile. In the latter part of the fourth century BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire. The Jews entered a long and difficult period in which Greek culture and religion challenged their trust in God’s covenant promises. In 63 BC Pompey conquered Palestine and the Jews found themselves a province of the Roman empire.

The New Creation for Us – Matthew; Mark; Luke; John

The province of Judea, the homeland of the Jews, came under Roman rule in 63 BC. During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Jesus was born at Bethlehem, probably about the year 4 BC. John, known as the Baptist, prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. This ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing began with Jesus’ baptism and lasted about three years. Growing conflict with the Jews and their religious leaders led eventually to Jesus being sentenced to death by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. He was executed by the Romans just outside Jerusalem, but rose from death two days afterward and appealed to his followers on a number of occasions. After a period with them, Jesus was taken up to heaven.

The New Creation in Us Initiated – Acts

After Jesus had ascended, his disciples waited in Jerusalem. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon them and they began the task of proclaiming Jesus. As the missionary implications of the gospel became clearer to the first Christians, the local proclamation was extended to world evangelization. The apostle Paul took the gospel to Asia Minor and Greece, establishing many churches as he went. Eventually a church flourished at the heart of the empire of Rome.

 The New Creation in Us Now – New Testament Epistles

As the gospel made inroads into pagan societies it encountered many philosophies and non–Christian ideas which challenged the apostolic message. The New Testament epistles shows that the kind of pressures to adopt pagan ideas that had existed for the people of God in Old Testament times were also a constant threat to the churches. The real danger to Christian teaching was not so much in direct attacks upon it, but rather in the subtle distortion of Christian ideas. Among the troublemakers were the Judaizers who added Jewish law–keeping to the gospel. The Gnostics also undermined the gospel with elements of Greek philosophy and religion.

The New Creation Consummated – The New Testament

God is Lord over history and therefore, when he so desires, he can cause the events of the future to be recorded. All section of the New Testament contain references to things which have not yet happened, the most significant being the return of Christ and the consummation of the kingdom of God. No clues to the actual chronology are given, but it is certain that Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. The old creation will be undone and the new creation will take its place.

Bruce K. Waltke (PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary; PhD, Harvard Divinity School), acknowledged to be one of the outstanding contemporary Old Testament scholars, is professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and professor emeritus of biblical studies at Regent College in Vancouver. He has authored and coauthored numerous books, commentaries, and articles, and contributed to dictionaries and encyclopedias.

*Note – one of the highlights of my education was taking a one-week intensive doctoral class with Bruce Waltke at Westminster Theological Seminary on the Book of Proverbs. Dr. Waltke is a humble scholar with a brilliant mind and a deep love for Christ and His Word.

 

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Book Review: Continuity and Discontinuity edited by John S. Feinberg

Great Discussion of the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments

This book contains various perspectives from leading theologians on issues related to that which continues and discontinues from the Old Testament into the New Testament.

Half of the contributors in this book would consider themselves “Covenant Theologians” – including contributions from O. Palmer Robertson, Willem VanGemeren, Knox Chamblin, Bruce K. Waltke, Fred H. Klooster,  Martin H. Woudstra, and Sam Storms. The other half would lean dispensational or in the discontinuity camp – including essays from John S. Feinberg, Paul D. Feinberg, Robert L. Saucy, Walter C. Kaiser, Allen P. Ross, and Douglas J. Moo.

The book is a tribute to S. Lewis Johnson– long time Bible teacher at Dallas Theological Seminary and Teaching pastor at Believer’s Chapel in Dallas, Texas (he went to be with the Lord on January 28, 2004). The beginning of the book and ending of the book contain some well written tributes from Sam Storms and John Sproule to Johnson and expound upon his outstanding attributes as a scholar, exegete of God’s Word, pastor, mentor, friend, and southern gentlemen – he was born in Birmingham, Alabama.

After a wonderful historical essay on the debate of continuity and discontinuity by Rodney Peterson the format of the book addresses issues related to six key areas: 1) Theological Systems and the Testaments; 2) Hermeneutics and the Testaments; 3) Salvation and the Testaments; 4) The Law and the Testaments; 5) The People of God and the Testaments; and 6) Kingdom Promises and the Testaments. Each of these six topics contains an essay from a continuity perspective followed by an essay from a discontinuity perspective.

Here are some of the issues addressed in the book:

Are Christians to see ethical dilemmas such as capital punishment and abortion enforced today?

Are Israel and the Church one or distinct today?

How do believers relate to the Old Testament law in practice today?

One of the points that became increasingly clear to me as I read this book was that the more one moves in the discontinuity direction, the more dispensational he is likely to become, and the more one moves in the direction of continuity, the more covenantal he will become.

This book is simply outstanding. It’s not an easy read – but well worth the effort. In my experience most people from both sides of the continuity/discontinuity continuum have a lot to learn from one another and this book helps people in either camp come closer to the center in balancing how to effectively understand and interpret the two Testaments of the Scriptures. I highly recommend this book to help you become a more effective interpreter of the Scriptures and lover of Jesus Christ at the center of it all.

 

 

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Book Review: Finding the Will of God?: A Pagan Notion? by Bruce K. Waltke

How To Seek His Kingdom and Do God’s Will

Right off the bat I have to say that one of the highlights of my academic career was taking a class from the author of this book on “Proverbs” about a decade ago. I was inspired to read everything Bruce Waltke writes, not only because he is one of the finest Hebrew Scholars and teachers of the Old Testament in the world, but also because he is a humble bible scholar who exudes the fruit of the Spirit as Paul describes it in Galatians 5:22-23. I will never forget his kindness shown to me as I picked his brain over theological and ministry issues I was wrestling with at the time, and how he patiently and wisely counseled me. I will forever be indebted to his wise advise, and believe that his counsel will continue to pay many dividends for others – as much of what he shared with me in that class on Proverbs are principles for the many who will read and apply in his very helpful book on decision making for followers of Jesus.

The Book is simply divided up into two parts. Part one is the shorter of the two parts and consists of chapters on: 1) Is Finding God’s Will a Biblical Idea? 2) How Pagans Divine the Will of God; and 3) God’s Will in the Old Testament. In summary Waltke does an excellent job of demonstrating that much of what passes for “finding” God’s will is sheer laziness and what the Bible condemns as the practice of divination. Waltke writes, “When we seek to ‘find’ God’s will, we are attempting to discover hidden knowledge by supernatural activity. If we are going to find his will on one specific choice, we will have to penetrate the divine mind to get his decision. ‘Finding’ in this sense is really a form of divination.”

Dr. Waltke gives a compelling case for Christians thinking in terms that are more Biblical – instead of trying to find God’s specific will – “Far too many Christians rely on faulty logic to divine the will of God. Their thinking goes like this: ‘God has a plan, and therefore He intends that I find it.’ That is a non sequitur, a conclusion that cannot logically follow the premise. Simply because God has a plan does not mean that He necessarily has any intention of sharing it with you; as a matter of fact the message of Job is in part that the Lord in His sovereignty may allow terrible things to happen to you, and you may never know why.”

Rather humorously (yet on a serious note related to how faith is manifested in a variety of ways for all believers) he continues, “Instructively, the outcomes of faith for the first three heroes of faith celebrated in Hebrews 11 vary considerably. Abel believed God, and he died; Enoch believed God, and he did not die; Noah believed God, and everybody else died! The only thing they all had in common is that they believed God and it pleased Him.”

Practically, Waltke states, “So when I wonder about what job offer to take, I don’t go through a divination process to discover the hidden message of God. Instead I examine how God has called me to live my life, what my motives are, what he has given me a heart for, where I am in my walk with Christ, and what God is saying to me through His Word and His people.”

He carefully evaluates many of the instances of Divine guidance recorded in the Old Testament and then shows what does, and does not carry over into the New Covenant. Which brings us to part two.

In part two Dr. Waltke breaks down how God guides us first through His Word, then through heartfelt desires, followed by the wise counsel of others, through our circumstances, and ultimately why we must rely on sound judgment based on all these previous factors.

Dr. Waltke says there are five primary factors to consider when seeking to be obedient and guided by the Holy Spirit in our decision making process:

1)    Make your decision in light of Scripture (our decision should be affirmed by and never contradict the teaching of the Bible – e.g. – Acts 15; Acts 13:46-47; Malachi 2:16 cf. with Matthew 5:32 & 1 Corinthians 7 with Galatians 2:14).

2)    Make your decision in light of your giftedness (In other words seek to operate in areas of your God-given strengths – e.g. – Acts 6:2-3; Rom. 12:3).

3)    Make your decision according to your ability (“Know who you are. Evaluate your abilities and talents. Don’t try to be what you’re not, because if you do you will live in a constant state of anxiety” – e.g. – Moses in Deuteronomy 34:10-12).

4)    Make your decision according to your circumstances (e.g. – Paul in Acts 16 & 1 Cor. 16:5-9 – he based his decisions on sound judgment in light of the circumstances he was in).

5)    Make your decision according to an Overall Strategy (e.g. – Paul in 2 Cor. 1:15-18, 23-24; 2:1).

The essence of Waltke’s thesis is summarized close to the end of the book where he writes, “He [God] never calls us in the New Testament to ‘seek His will,’ but rather to seek His kingdom and do His will. We ought to stamp out of our vocabulary the nonbiblical and misleading expression ‘finding God’s will.’ Rather than talk about ‘seeking the will of God,’ we ought to speak of following the guidance of God. This is not just semantically different, since He is calling us to draw close to Himself and to live holy lives. God’s will for us is that we be holy; there is no mystery to His will. As for questions about changing jobs, getting married, going to school, and the like, finding answers will require growing close to God [author’s emphasis in italics].”

Overall, I highly recommend this book for its theological and biblical foundations, it’s dismantling of the notion of divining God’s secretive will for us, it’s emphasis on closeness and intimacy with God as a key to His guidance, and for the excellent illustrations, practical applications, and how Dr. Waltke shares how God guides biblical characters and modern followers of Christ today throughout the book.

 

*Bruce K. Waltke (PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary; PhD, Harvard Divinity School), acknowledged to be one of the outstanding contemporary Old Testament scholars, is professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and professor emeritus of biblical studies at Regent College in Vancouver. He has authored and coauthored numerous books, commentaries, and articles, and contributed to dictionaries and encyclopedias.

 

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