Interpreting the Old Testament


(This is the second post in this series)

I bet you thought I was going to share something that I know about interpreting the Old Testament, didn’t you? Well, L.O.L. Because I will be the first person to admit that I know precious little about that. I want to learn! I am learning! I am determined to learn! Therefore, most of what I share will be a regurgitation of what I read or heard from someone else.

A few weeks ago, as if I haven’t mentioned it enough already, Karl and I attended Secret Church. Before Dr. Platt got into that portion of teaching that involved how Christians are to relate to money and possessions, he explained a few foundational precepts that he wanted us to keep in mind while he explained all that the Old Testament has to teach us about prosperity and possessions. It is relevant to my seeking an answer to the Promised Land question, so I want to share Platt’s words here. What follows comes straight out of the Secret Church resources which are available online.

Interpreting Old Testament Narratives

On a whole, Old Testament narratives ARE NOT…
::Allegories filled with special meanings.
::Intended primarily to teach moral lessons.
::Intended primarily to teach doctrine. (Illustrate it? Yes.)

On a whole, Old Testament narratives ARE…
::Stories with a specific purpose.
::Accounts of what happened, not what should have happened or ought to happen every time.
::Selective and incomplete.

Identify theological principles in the Old Testament.

Filter those theological principles through the New Testament.
::Does the New Testament add to that principle?
::Does the New Testament modify that principle?

Interpreting Old Testament Law

We wonder about some laws: Leviticus 13:40; Deuteronomy 22:5
We violate some laws: Deuteronomy 14:8; Leviticus 19:28
We obey some laws: Leviticus 19:18; Exodus 20:13
So how do we know when to wonder, when to violate, and when to obey?
Remember… The Old Testament law is not our Testament law.
::The general rule:  Unless an Old Testament law is somehow restated or reinforced in the New Testament, it is no longer directly binding on God’s people.
::Laws that ARE NOT reinforced: a) The Israelite civil laws.  b) The Israelite ritual laws.
::Laws that ARE reinforced: a) Law renewed or restated in the context of the new covenant.  Examples: Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37-40

Realize…All of the Old Testament law is still the Word of God for us even though it is not still the command of God to us.

Interpreting Old Testament Prophets

Old Testament prophets were enforcing and mediating the old covenant.
::The prophets’ message is unoriginal.
::The prophets’ message is confrontational.
::The prophets’ message is completed (about 99%).

Old Testament prophets were God’s direct representatives.

Old Testament prophets spoke in oracles.
::You have broken the covenant; repent of idolatry (Jeremiah 10:5), do social justice (Micah 6:7-8), and God rejects religious ritualism (Isaiah 1:11-13).
::If you don’t repent, you will experience judgment.
::However, you have hope beyond judgment for future restoration.

Interpreting Old Testament Wisdom Literature

Difficult to follow the line of thinking.
Difficult to understand literary styles.
Difficult to determine meaning.
Remember…the goal of wisdom literature is to apply the Word to practical living.
Realize…the wisdom books contain insights and guidelines for developing godly character; they are not a collection of universal promises. Examples: Proverbs 22:11 and Proverbs 29:12)

Interpreting Old Testament Poetry

Old Testament poetry is emotional.
Old Testament poetry is metaphorical.
Old Testament poetry is variable.

Interpreting the Old Testament

Look at specific contexts.
Identify eternal content.
When New Testament authors/speakers quote or affirm Old Testament teachings, pay close attention.
When New Testament authors/speakers do not mention Old Testament teachings, give cautious consideration.

I hope understanding this will help me discern an answer to my question. Anyone want to add to, point out, and/or clarify any of this?

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2 thoughts on “Interpreting the Old Testament

  1. Excellent post, my friend. I often get “muddied down” when it comes to the Old Testament. Wish more pastors/teachers understood this stuff and how it applies. Love what you said about filtering everything through the New Testament!!!

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  2. Leslie,
    I found this very helpful. I have followed the historical redemptive approach to OT teaching—showing God’s redemptive plan accomplished in the NT through the stories and prophecies of the OT. I don’t think this instruction defers from that, but some of Platt’s points I do want to think more on. Particularly the wonder, violate & obey idea regarding OT law. I’m also intrigued by the statement that, “All of the Old Testament law is still the Word of God for us even though it is not still the command of God to us.” I believe if I had been asked this directly I would have answered that all of God’s word is God’s command because what He says He does.

    You’ve given me much to think about. Thanks for stretching my brain.

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