Episode Two is centered around the reading and interpretation of Scripture, and doing so in the right way. Our different conclusions from the Scripture come from reading it with different assumptions on the nature of things, the authority of the Bible, and how we read the text.
We believe that when we read Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, that they tell one, overarching, universal story. This is very different from the modern evangelical method of reading book by book, chapter by chapter, or even verse by verse as if it stands and is to be interpreted as it stands by itself rather than interpret it from within the whole of Scripture. This is a nail in the coffin for the convenient practice of proof-texting, but that is a small price to pay for a more accurate, consistent reading of the Holy Word.
People are often distrustful of those with those interpretive method because of how we try to relate things to eachother (like say, circumcision and baptism). They may think those trying to link/relate things are being dishonest or reading too much into the text rather than let it stand on its own (see above). The problem is that if everything is unrelated to everything else, then there is no real meaning to the text at all anyway. But, if the concepts do relate to eachother then there is a realator, one who organizes things. If there is order then there is meaning and we must see and receive that meaning rather than construct it ourselves. As readers of Scripture, we are not sovereign over the text. We are not to read it with the lens of how it relates to us. Rather we are subject to the text. By saying the Bible has an overarching story, we are not trying to impose our will or interpretation on others, rather we are merely asserting that the book has meaning. This is possible due to the influence of the guiding inspiration of one Holy Spirit, who allows for one meaning amidst many particulars.
Dispensationalists believe the Bible has a unifying story, but it’s a story centered around national Israel. Everything in the Bible prior to the establishment of national Israel leads up to it and everything afterwards is about the restoration of national Israel. It is a national/ethnic-centric, or Israelocentric view of the Scriptures.
The modern method of reading the Bible is how it directly relates to the reader. It does not matter what the author intended to communicate or any historic/literary context, what matters is what it means to the reader. This is commonly known in literary criticism circles as ‘Death of the Author’ (that the author’s intent is meaningless, what matters is what the reader can read into it for himself), Even in Bible studies conducted by faithful, well meaning churches we read the text and are then asked what that text means to us. You cannot read Scripture subjectively like this. You wouldn’t put your own meaning/interpretation on a stop sign, how much less should you attempt to force it upon Scripture? This sort of literary method is contra-Christian Charity (Love thy neighbor as thyself). When we write letters (or blog posts!) we want others to read us charitably, that is, to be read as we intended to be read, with no additional or entirely different meaning foisted upon us. We must do the same for others, including biblical authors.
Neither the modern or dispensational methods are historical methods for reading Scripture. Neither are how Scripture reads itself! It assumes the authors did not understand what they were writing, or know what they were doing. In Luke 24, before the first words of the New Testament were inked, Christ claimed that the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms were about him. When he opened their mind to understand the Scriptures, he opened their mind to understand the Old Testament and how its overarching story is about him, Christ. The pharisees also did not interpret the Bible correctly. Many think they had the proper system, but reached the wrong conclusion. Jesus tells us otherwise in John 5 when he tells them that they have set their hope on the Mosaic law, but if they truly read and understood Moses, they would believe Jesus. But since they don’t truly understand, or even believe Moses, why should we expect them to believe Jesus?
The next section of the episode is very interesting and is something I’d love to delve into in more detail at a later date. It’s about theophany, the appearance of Christ in the Old Testament. A common misconception of the Bible is that before the New Testament, believers had direct access to God the Father. However, it’s Jesus, God the Son, who is our mediator to God the Father. “Whoever sees me, sees the Father”. The Son is the revelation of God. “No one has seen God, the only begotten God has seen him” Thus all incarnations of God in the Old Testament, He who walked in the Garden, that Jacob wrestled with, Moses saw the back of on Sinai, and Gideon interacted with, were all incarnations of the Son.
In John 8, the pharisees claim to be children of Abraham. Jesus repudiates this based on their conduct and treatment of him, and claims that Abraham rejoiced when he saw the coming of Christ. “Before Abraham was, I Am” A clear echo of “I Am That I Am”. Jesus interprets Psalms to be about him (John 18:11 for one example) and as we saw previously in Luke 24-25, the entirety of the Old Testament was centered around him. Thus we are not reading Christ INTO Scripture, he simply refuse to read him OUT of it.
Reading the Bible with one overarching story helps us see that there was also one overarching plan for salvation, the Covenant of Grace. This Covenant is not merely unifying in the typological sense (Types and Shadows pointing to the actual fulfillment in Christ), but it is unifying in its substance. We are all saved in the same way by the same Gospel by the same Savior. We are saved in the same way that God saved his people even before his Incarnation as Jesus Christ. Abraham was the first Christian, thousands of years before the Incarnation. While there were believers before Abraham, it is the same Covenant of Grace that you and I share with Abraham. God did not start over and re-work the plan and method of salvation after the Resurrection.
As we established above, all mediation with God done in the Old Testament was done via the mediator, the Son. Thus the incarnation of Christ did not cut off our access to God, rather it became something greater as he became like us (Hebrews 4:15). As the mediator, it is the Son, or Jesus, who was with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Thus it was the Son who committed himself to conquer the enemy in an act of self-sacrifice. He also passed through the pieces for Abraham, swearing an oath against his own life. (My note: This raises quite the conundrum for those who view a vast gulf between a vengeful, angry OT God and a loving God and Jesus in the NT)
So we see that the Bible is not a random collection of stories, it is one story told throughout every genre and at every point of history. It is not about you or me or a particular nation or race, it is about the Son of God Incarnate.