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How Do You Read the Bible? (part 4)

Post Title: Whose Story is the Bible Telling?

My spiritual journey has been enriched by what some call the Jewish roots movement. I am, however, growing increasingly uncomfortable with the phrase Jewish or Hebraic roots because it is the Jesus roots that really matter to us, dear friends. Never forget that.

Going back and laying hold of the Jewish roots of Jesus has added much to my faith. But it is not merely a quantitative expansion of my understanding; it has been a qualitative process—it has transformed both me and my knowledge of biblical ideas. The Gospel, salvation, history, community, and the consummation of all things, are just a few examples.

Going back and laying hold of the Jewish roots of Jesus has added much to my faith.

Even though I am uncomfortable with some of the directions the Jewish roots movement is heading, I persist in teaching from a Hebraic perspective. I am convinced that once you get through the fluff and all the superficial things, what is at stake is nothing less than a biblical worldview and a biblical lifestyle that gives honor to God and fulfills the calling that Jesus Christ has on our lives.

If it's just fluff and decoration, I don't have time for it. But if it's something that transforms the very way I perceive my scriptures: the very way I relate to my wife and my children, the very way I join myself in covenantal relationships to the community of God, the very way I see God's acting in this world, the very way I see the hope for the future, then I need to know about my Jesus roots and so do you.

I agree with Deitrich Bonhoeffer. We all need a heavy dose of the Hebrew Scriptures. We need less philosophy and more Scripture. If you knew my history, you would chuckle to hear me say that because my undergraduate and my graduate studies were in philosophy. I was studying philosophy at a young age. In the eighth grade, I wrote papers about Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Machiavelli.

I know what it is to be philosophically minded. And because I know the proclivities of the Western mind, it had a profound impact on me when I began grasping the implications of Hebraic thinking. I had the same emotional response, I believe, that Paul had when he attacked the Judaizers. Do you know why they were a bur in his sandal? Because he was one. He knew where they were coming from because that was him before his Damascus Road experience.

When I see this traditional or standard narrative model, I see myself. From the time I grew up in church until today, this is how I was taught to read Scripture: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Those, I was told, are the fundamental pillars that support the structure of the revelation of God to the world.

From the time of the Second Century onward, the big picture way of reading the Bible and presenting God's dealings with the world has been a paradigm fundamentally defined by the motif of sin and redemption. The catastrophic fall occurs, and the rest of our biblical story is all about God making a way for redemption to overcome the consequences of sin. We fundamentally read the Bible in terms of the first Adam and the second Adam.

Let me repeat this important point; I am not suggesting to you that it is wrong. What I am saying is this, it is not the whole story; it needs to be put into a bigger frame. If you consider all that the Hebrew Scriptures have to say, the standard narrative model does not adequately represent the biblical narrative from beginning to end.

Rather than the theme of sin and redemption, there is a bigger picture motif in Scripture that begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation. One that actually antedates the sin and redemption theme, both temporally and spiritually. And one that speaks to the very heart of the Holy One, who is both Creator and Consummator of all things.

It is the biblical motif of blessing and covenant.

Listen to Genesis 1:26-30 with this in mind:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them.

And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so.

The Bible of Jesus is overwhelmingly concerned with the character, purposes, and actions of God. As you read the Hebrew scriptures, two clear divine priorities emerge.

1. God creates to bless

2. God covenants to complete (consummate) that blessing

God's grace (hesed), his steadfast love—his covenant faithfulness—is revealed and portrayed again and again and again: to creation, to the world as a whole, and to Israel.

God's purposes from the beginning were disrupted by the fall, alienating the creation from its Creator and separating us from the blessings that he intended for us to have. As a result, the secondary theme of sin and redemption emerges to deal with the consequences of sin. But here is the point, the primary motif of blessing and covenant was already in effect before that.

That God is a Redeemer is seen in his willingness and power to deliver his creatures and his creation from the calamity of sin, evil, and oppression. And so he covenants with Israel to be his agent in the earth, to be his witnesses. But before that, over that, and after that we see his divine character as Consummator.

There, the focus is on God and his blessings. He has the power to give us life, even the fullness of life. He has the power to bring us into wholeness, into well being, into joy. That was his intent from Genesis 1 forward, and it will be the final consummation at the end of all time described in Revelation. The Bible begins with blessing, and it ends with blessing.

We have forgotten that. Because of the historical forces at work during those early centuries within the church, we became fixated upon the fall and redemption. In many undiscerned ways, we make the narrative about ourselves.

In many undiscerned ways, we make the narrative about ourselves.

We have lost sight of the larger framework that the picture of sin and redemption are a part of. The intent of our Creator and Consummator—consistently from the beginning—has been to bless his people, all his people, and to bring them into the fullness of life, well being, and prosperity.

Christianity, historically, in explaining God's relationship to the world as depicted in Scripture, has, basically, reduced that revelation to an economy of redemption. I am suggesting it needs to be augmented to an economy of blessing.

We'll continue exploring this topic next week.


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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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