As of the last couple weeks I finished reading, Jesus: A Theography written by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. You can order the book at this link:
Being honest, I did not purchase the book. I was browsing the ‘Christian section’ at the local community library and the book stuck out. We just finished going through a series called “The FULFILLED Work of Christ” at the Blue Point Bible Church and I figured why not read a ‘big book’ about Jesus…I am glad I decided to read it.
(You can listen to all series preached at The Blue Point Bible Church by going to this link: http://www.buzzsprout.com/11630)
I loved the explanation and opening of the book in which Sweet & Viola shared insights and quotes about the importance of seeing the narrative being told through the Old and New Testaments. (A proper understanding that is vital for a true and reasonable expression of the gospel). Sadly, I have heard way too many times just this year- “Oh, that’s Old Testament”. Here are some important quotes from the book:
“One of the best ways to look at the twenty-seven books of the New Testament may be to see them as a commentary on the Old Testament. The entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, are unified by a common narrative. And once our eyes are opened to see that narrative, everything in both testaments gel into a coherent, understandable, and amazing story”.
“The Bible didn’t emerge out of a vacuum. It is a historical but also methaphorical and narrative story of truth written within history. Thus, history matters in our interpretation of the Biblical text. At the same time, the Bible is a collection of writings that are tied together by a common theme. Therefore, the interweaving of both testaments also matters in our interpretation of the Biblical text”.
I utilized those quotes in the summing up of my sermon series. I like that Martin Luther was quoted, “Scripture is the cradle in which Christ lies” and this quote from Scott McKnight clearly shows the importance of understanding the narrative of the gospel:
“We have to become a People of the Story…we need to immerse ourselves even more into the story of Jesus. The gospel is that the story of Israel comes to its definative completeness in the story of Jesus, and this means we have to become People of the Story-that-is-complete-in-Jesus”.
Sadly, the point I made above about the failure of many Christians to understand the Old Testament, or even worse believe it to be non-essential in understanding the gospel message has led to the acceptance of a foreign gospel. I wrote a blog detailing this “foreign gospel” at the beginning of 2013
As expressed in Sweet and Viola’s book:
“In many Christians’ minds, the Old and New Testaments are two seperate entities. Melito (second century) and Tertullian (third century) were the first to call the two halves of the Bible the Old Testament and the New Testament”.
As we seek to understand the Scriptures we see Jesus and the Apostles constantly pointing back to the Old.
“…but the Scriptures point to me”. , “according to the Scriptures”, “…that the Scriptures might be fulfilled”, “…in all the Scriptures”.
Simply put…the New Testament isn’t a new message. Instead, the New Testament details the continuation and end of the Old. Thank God for the rise in understanding Covenant Creation and Covenant Eschatology.
Moving on, I must say I did glean some interesting insights from the book. Speaking of the literary form and parallels seen throughout the Scriptures, Sweet and Viola brought up some good points. For example,
The relationship between Genesis chapter 1 and John chapter 1. This is dealt with in Beyond Creation Science by Tim Martin & Jeff Vaughn.
Consider that DAY ONE was without form and void, yet it also symbolizes the world that Christ was born into. DAY TWO was the separation between heaven and land, illustrating the death of Christ which sent Him back to the heavens and cut Him off from the land of the living. DAY THREE dry land appeared on the face on the earth, Christ had risen! DAY FOUR the heavenlies were created- sun, moon, stars- also referencing Christ’s ascension (see, Genesis 1:14 cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:5). DAY FIVE God created life with a consciousness, what some might call “the higher life” which typifies the “higher life” found by the indwelling of Christ through the Spirit. DAY SIX man is given the order to ‘name all things’ thus symbolizing the rule of Christ- His kingdom! DAY SEVEN the beloved sabbath represents His rest which through understanding ‘covenants’ we see His rest as the arrival of the New Heavens and New Earth (i.e., the New Covenant, see Hebrews chapter 4).
An aspect I found intriguing was the mention of the EIGHTH DAY. On DAY EIGHT, after the completed “7”, Israelite males were circumcised on the eigth day, first born sons were devoted to God on the 8th day, there were 8 souls saved on the ark- in an effort to create a ‘new earth’, and Jesus rose on the 8th day. The first day of the new week is the 8th day.
Another parallel that was followed in the book was very similar to ‘covenant creation’. Adam was told to cultivate (Hebrew- ‘Shamar’) the garden in Genesis 2:15, just as a priest would cultivate the tabernacle in Numbers 3:7-8. Also, God walked (Hebrew- ‘Hawlak”) in the midst of the garden in Genesis 3:8 and sure enough Dueteronomy 23:14 & 2 Samuel 7:6, God walked in the midst of the tabernacle. The garden faced east (Ezekiel 2:8; 3:24) and the temple faced east (Exodus 27:9-18; Numbers 2:1-34; Ezekiel 40:6). The garden was on a mountain (Ezekiel 28:13-16) and the temple was on a mountain (Exodus 15:17; 2 Chronicles 3:1; and Revelation 21:10).
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola did a great work with this ‘Theography’. It surely inspired me to go back to the text and look at the parallel’s and read through the Scriptures with renewed interest- seeing Christ in many areas. I love that they mentioned:
“To study the Scriptures is to be a “keeper of the garden”.
The rise of Full Preterism is surely showing how we must understand the Scriptures in their proper context- not only the proper historical context, but also the interpretive context pointing to Jesus Christ. It was noted that, “Scholars have made the mistake of not identifying Jesus in terms of the Judaism of His day”. In the FP world we would refer to this as ‘audience relevance’, and N.T. Wright said it quite well:
“If we don’t make the effort to do this reconstruction, we will, without a shadow of a doubt, assume that what Jesus did and said makes the sense it might have made in some other context-perhaps our own….we shall simply squash Jesus into the little boxes of our own imaginations rather than seeing Him as He was”.
John Ratzinger has also said:
‘If you want to undersand the Scripture in the spirit in which it is written, you have to attend to the content and to the unity of the scripture as a whole”.
To finalize this blog, let it be said and understand as Watchman Nee has said:
“The Christian faith begins not with a big do but with a big done”.
The ‘healing of the nations’ is done by understanding that “The church, therefore, is the means by which Jesus Christ continues to work, to teach, and to establish His sovereign rule in the world”.
Sadly, the passing off of a false gospel time and time again has confused the role of the Church in the world today. Sweet and Viola noted that it is “the need of each generation to “wash the face of Jesus”…Each generation has ‘dirtied” Jesus’ face by various accommodations and accretions. Suceeding generations need to rediscover His beauty and let it be seen in them by “face washing”.
Amen! Reformation NOW!