The Purpose of the Bible

Nicely summarized by Dr. Robert Plummer of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible (Kregel Academic, 2010)

The Bible itself is evidence of one of its main claims—that is, that the God who made the heavens, earth, and sea, and everything in them is a communicator who delights to reveal himself to wayward humans.  We read in Hebrews 1:1-2, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”

These verses in Hebrews point to the culmination of biblical revelation in the eternal Son of God.  This Son became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, forever uniting God and man in one person—100 percent God and 100 percent man (John 1:14).  The prophecies, promises, longings, and anticipations under the old covenant find their fulfillment, meaning, and culmination in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.”

The purpose of the Bible, then, is “to make [a person] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15).  The Bible is not an end in itself.  As Jesus said to the religious experts in his day, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.  These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39).  So, under divine superintendence, the goal of the Bible is to bring its readers to receive the forgiveness of God in Christ and thus to possession of eternal life in relationship with the triune God (John 17:3).

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New Craig Keener Commentary on Romans

Dr. Michael Gorman at Cross Talk gives a short review of Craig Keener’s new Romans commentary in the New Covenant Commentary Series (NCCS) by Cascade (Wipf and Stock).

The good folks at Cascade, one of the high-end divisions of Wipf and Stock, have launched a new commentary series, the New Covenant Commentary Series (NCCS), and the first two volumes are out. They are Colossians and Philemon by Michael Bird and Romans by Craig Keener. Mike and Craig are also the series editors, so they have set an example and standard.

Since I am just starting a course on Romans, I will offer a few thoughts on Craig’s commentary after a quick skim of some parts. I will come back to Colossians and Philemon later.

Craig Keener of Palmer Seminary (formerly Eastern Baptist) in Philadelphia is a prolific scholar whose knowledge of the ancient sources is nearly unmatched. (He’s also a very nice man and a very devout Christian.) In this popular to mid-range commentary (his description and the series intent), Craig of course draws on the relevant primary sources, even as he also shows his knowledge of the historical and contemporary issues in the interpretation of Romans, interacting with many of them while steering his own course.

The results are very good so far, even when I disagree on a point of interpretation. Craig is balanced and clear, and he gives good reasons for his positions, all very concisely. A few things I like/agree with so far:

1. His emphasis on justification/righteousness being more than a judicial pronouncement or (worse) legal fiction; it is transformative. He says that believers are “set right and made righteous as a gift” (58; see also 7-29).

2. His similar emphasis on faith (Greek pistis) as inclusive of faithfulness/loyalty/obedience (29-30), which reminds me of my own arguments and of Tom Wright’s insistence that pistis is “believing allegiance.”

3. His conviction that the letter is a pastoral letter about Jew-Gentile unity.

4. His frequent references to the history of interpretation.

5. His use of helpful tables. (I am a table junky.)

One point of disagreement: Craig prefers “faith in Jesus Christ” to “the faith of Jesus Christ,” but he provides good reasons and argues that the “faith of Christ” people (of whom I am one) don’t have to lose what they stress if “faith in Jesus Christ” is properly interpreted.

So…for anyone looking for a good, basic, insightful, informed commentary on Romans, this should fit the bill.

More later perhaps.

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