A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance
By Benjamin Montoya
About the Author
Jason S. DeRouchie, Ph.D. (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as Professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has taught at other schools including Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He has also served as a pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Indiana. He has published numerous articles, several books, and has other books and commentaries forthcoming. He also serves an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church.
In this book, DeRouchie explains how to understand and apply the Old Testament (OT). His method for understanding and applying consists of five larger questions that consist of a twelve-step approach. The first question concerns the text—what is the makeup of the passage? The second question deals with observation—how is the passage communicated? The third question considers the context—where does the passage fit? The fourth question addresses meaning—what does the passage mean? The fifth and final question approaches application—why does the passage matter? This book serves as a companion volume to How to Understand and Apply the New Testament by Andrew David Naselli and, as such, has the same twelve-step interpretive process that that book has. But, given DeRouchie’s experience and background in OT studies, he has provided an insightful and unique volume for interpreting the OT.
Table of Contents
Introduction: A Journey of Discovery and Encounter
Part 1: Text—“What Is the Makeup of the Passage?”
Chapter 1 Genre
Chapter 2 Literary Units and Text Hierarchy
Chapter 3 Text Criticism
Chapter 4 Translation
Part 2: Observation—“How Is the Passage Communicated?”
Chapter 5 Clause and Text Grammar
Chapter 6 Argument-Tracing
Chapter 7 Word and Concept Studies
Part 3: Context—“Where Does the Passage Fit?”
Chapter 8 Historical Context
Chapter 9 Literary Context
Part 4: Meaning—“What Does the Passage Mean?”
Chapter 10 Biblical Theology
Chapter 11 Systematic Theology
Part 5: Application—“Why Does the Passage Matter?”
Chapter 12 Practical Theology
Conclusion: A Final Word on Walking in the Dark
Introduction: A Journey of Discovery and Encounter
Before beginning on the journey of discovery and encounter of interpreting the OT, there are a couple of things to consider. First, there are several presuppositions that are important for interpreting the OT well. First, Scripture should be seen as God’s actual Word. That is, it is special revelation directly from God itself—thus, it matters more than Facebook or any other form of social media. Second, Scripture’s truths are knowable. Although students and scholars of the Bible can spend their entire lives digging deeper, they can know the truths. Third, interpreting the Bible requires an appropriate response of obedience to its teaching. Fourth, the application of the interpretation requires dependence on God, not simply “pulling ourselves up by our boot-straps,” as if it is entirely up to us.
Second, to address the proverbial elephant in the room, does the OT still matter? Many Christians read primarily, if not solely, the New Testament along with maybe the Psalms. Plus, we are in the NT-times, not the OT. The OT, however, still matters. There are at least ten reasons why it still matters. First, the OT makes up 75.55% of the Bible. Second, the OT substantially influences the background of key biblical teachings. Third, the God of the NT is the same of the OT. Fourth, the OT announces the gospel that Christians enjoy. Fifth, both the OT and NT call for love, and there is much to learn about love from the OT. Sixth, Christ came to full the OT, not destroy it. Seventh, Christ said that the entire OT points to him (Luke 24:27). Eighth, the entire counsel of Scripture matters for Christians today (Acts 20:26–27). Ninth, the NT authors emphasize the importance of the OT for Christians (2 Tim 3:16–17).
Third, throughout this book, DeRouchie utilizes Hebrew, but, as he writes: “You do not have to know Hebrew to profit much from this book” (11). In a day of Bible software and similar helps, why bother with an ancient language like Hebrew? First, the biblical languages provide direct access to God’s written Word. Second, the biblical languages help study God’s Word by providing the possibility of greater certainty about what the text says. Third, the biblical languages help Christians practice God’s Word. Fourth, the biblical languages help teach God’s Word more clearly because of the clarity that it gives us. DeRouchie provides translations of the Hebrew texts he uses; thus, even if someone does not know Hebrew, they can still access most of this book.
Part 1: Text—“What Is the Makeup of the Passage?”
Chapter 1 : Genre
The first larger part of this book seeks to address the makeup of the passage. To begin, one should consider the genre of the passage. Genre refers to identifiable category of literary composition that requires the reader to understand the “exegetical rules” (22) for its interpretation. That is, there are certain features to every genre that require an interpreter to handle that text in a different way. For example, we intuitively know that reading the news (especially if it is fake or satirical!) naturally differs from reading a work of fiction that begins with “Once upon a time…” Nevertheless, with ancient documents, what is intuitive in the modern-day must be learned. Thus, genre analysis matters. This kind of analysis involves the patterns, content, and function of the document in context.
The OT consists of different kinds of documents. The first kind of document that is the in OT is the Law, or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. This section consists of primarily narrative literature that clarifies God’s relationship and purpose for Israel in the context of the world. The second section of the OT is the prophets. The first section of the prophets narrates the history of Israel’s failure to keep the covenant God made with them; it goes from Joshua through Kings. The second section is from Jeremiah through the Twelve minor prophets; it provides a prophetic commentary on this time period. The third section of the prophets is the Latter prophets; they consider why the drama of Israel went the way it did.
Given that much of the OT consists of narratives, it is important to consider how to interpret these ancient narratives. First, it is important to remember that OT narratives commonly contain various subgenres within them. Second, they focus on God and anticipate Christ; even if the name “God” is absent, it still focuses on Him. Third, OT narratives teach. They are not written merely to chart history, though they do that; rather, they are intended to teach something important. Fourth, OT narratives have intentions of their own which may or may not match our own.
To interpret OT narratives, there are several steps to take. First, one should distinguish between the episode and its scene. Second, the literary features and theological trajectories require consideration. Third, the narrative episode’s main idea should be stated in a single sentence. Fourth, an exegetical outline of the narrative episode can be drafted to explain the flow of the text. This chapter provides examples of each of these important steps. Fifth, the interpreter should remember to see and savor Christ and the gospel as they interpret; again, all Scripture points to and is fulfilled in Christ—even the OT.
Another important section of the OT is the Psalms. The Psalms consist of different kinds of psalms: lament, trust, thanksgiving, praise, royal, wisdom, liturgy, and historical. To interpret the Psalms well, someone should keep several points in mind. First, the interpreter should try to recall the problems and promises of salvation history and the placement of the Psalms within the flow of Jesus’ Bible. Context is king, and the context of salvation history will help someone interpret more clearly. Second, the overall structure, message, and flow of the Psalm should be kept in mind. Third, Christ should be kept central; all of the Psalms are either about Christ or written by Christ. Fourth, the Psalms should be read as ancient Hebrew poetry. Fifth, if the psalm includes a title, it should be considered. Sixth, the subgenres of the Psalms’ should be used to enhance personal and corporate worship.
The final genre in the OT is proverbs. Proverbs are memorable statements. Many of them are designed for specific occasions. When it comes to what they address, they often address ultimate truths rather than immediate truths. For example, Proverbs 22:6 says: “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will depart from it” is general ultimate truth. This proverb, however, does not guarantee that a child will not depart from how his parents “trained” him.
Chapter 2 : Literary Units and Text Hierarchy
Within each text of the OT, there are literary units and text hierarchy. Literary units can be quotations, paragraphs, stories, songs, or even an entire book. There are several matters to keep in minds to establish these units. First, an interpreter should not automatically follow an English translation’s verse and chapter divisions. They were added much later and, at times, do not help to interpret a text well. Second, some of the multivolume works in English Bibles were single books in Jesus’ Bible; for example, 1 and 2 Kings was just “Kings.” Third, an interpreter should look for recognizable beginning and ending markers. The former includes statements like “A prayer of…” whereas the latter would be conclusion-type statements like “And there was evening and there was morning.” These statements serve as book-ends. Fourth, literary units should be treated as a whole. Fifth, an interpreter should check his/her own decisions about a literary unit with English translations and, if possible, the standard Hebrew text. Text hierarchy refers to a graphical presentation of. . .[...]
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How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament: Twelve Steps from Exegesis to Theology