Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher Wright :: Review

This review can also be found in my writing section in a PDF download format. In the text by Christopher J. H. Wright titled Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, Wright outlines a precise argument for the existence of Jesus of the New Testament, as seen from within the Old Testament.  It is evident, from the opening chapter, that Wright’s intention for writing this volume was to take his readers deeper into the life of Jesus while showing the audience a side of Jesus not often studied in the current evangelical culture today.

This review will present an overview and critique of Wright’s Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament through a summarization of the text and a discussion on Wright’s conclusions.

Wright, born to missionary parents serving in Brazil during the Second World War, grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as an Irish Presbyterian and was educated in Cambridge in the 1960’s.  Before being ordained in the Anglican Church of England in 1977, Wright served as a high school teacher, and later would go on to serve as an associate pastor before moving his family to India to teach at the seminary level.  Wright continues to work as an author and is the International Director for Langham Partnership International (LPI), a ministry that works with other pastors, publishers, and educators.

Wright has authored several books that focused attention towards interacting with the Old Testament, God, and the Holy Spirit.  With the depth of Wright’s books, He is sometimes viewed as an author who writes more for those seeking solid food than for the spiritual infant (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Summary of “Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament”

Wright takes on the task of showing Jesus in the Old Testament by examining Jesus in five different dimensions; the story of Jesus, the promises declared and fulfilled, and His identity, mission, and values.  Pulling heavily from the book of Matthew, Wright takes time in the first section to examine the importance of the genealogy of Jesus in a way not often addressed by the casual congregant.  This in depth look at the foundation of the story of Jesus is tied back to the Genesis stories and the historical context of Abraham to David to Jesus Himself.  While the book of Matthew does this as well, Wright goes beyond Matthew to pull from historical information including a look at how Jesus interacts with historical Israel and the inter-testamental period (Wright 1992, 19-24).

In the second section of the book, Wright reviews the promises of Jesus from the time they are declared in the Old Testament text, methodically moving through the various covenants, or guarantees, made leading up to and including the New Covenant promise of the New Testament.  Wright equates the covenants of the Old Testament to that of tributaries, which all feed into a main large stream, and that the life of Jesus must be viewed in light of all the previous covenants.  According to Wright, the New Testament writers based their knowledge of Jesus and His ministry upon already known Hebrew scriptures, showing that the Old Testament “declared the promise which Jesus fulfilled.” (102)

Section three focuses on identifying Jesus as son.  In this section Wight looks at the relationship the New Testament has with Jesus and compares that to the family relationship that Israel has to God (118).  Expressed in the father-son relationship, the comparison made is shown through the attitude of God, and the expectations of God, towards the Israelites, and broken down from a national level to a personal level. (122)

As Wright moves through the main portions of his text into section four, the discussion turns to the mission of Jesus, the expectations of the Jews at the time of His ministry, and how His mission is related to the Old Testament.  Relying heavily on the book of Isaiah here, Wright identifies Jesus, the Servant, with the Israelites and with the coming restoration of Israel from captivity (158, 161).  The argument continues by pointing out the promise and message of God was to first go to the Jews, then to the Gentiles as Paul stated in Romans.  Wright concludes this section with a look at the mission of the church as servant, highlighting the historical abuse of servant-hood by the church that it must now overcome (180).

The fifth and final section examines, in depth, the scriptures and values that Jesus pulled from during His earthly ministry.  Wright shows how much Jesus relied on the Old Testament, and the Law, from everything to being tested in the wilderness by Satan to His many parables while teaching others.  As Wright systematically walks through the teachings of Jesus he again points out the universal message of salvation is to go out in obedience to God, first to the Jewish nation, and then to the Gentiles, while correlating Jesus’ words in the New Testament to that of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.  As Wright concludes, he takes a look at Jesus and his use of the book of Psalms and the reign of God.  Examples are taken from various Psalms that show reference to Yahweh as king, sitting on the thrown of God, and how God’s rule aligns with human life on earth, even in it’s current form (243).

Interacting with “Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament”

Wright has taken a complex topic, one that is rarely discussed in the evangelical “New Testament” Church of today, and presented a historical and possibly more complete biblical view of Jesus.  As is often the case in the 21st century Church, many fail where Wright has succeeded in conceptualizing a true picture of Jesus portrayed in the Old Testament.  Although at times Wright uses large blocks of Old Testament text tied together to describe seemingly less complex conclusions (see 107-116 to conclude Jesus is the Son of God), he provides a valuable resource for the Christian able to consume “solid food” (Hebrews 5:12).[1]

The initial section largely pertaining to the genealogy of Jesus started an important basis for interweaving the life of Christ and the stories of the Old Testament.  Something seen as perhaps not stimulating enough for the modern reader, the genealogy is of the utmost importance and provides that direct connection of Jesus to the Old Testament.  Wright properly compares and contrasts the less interested Christian, and other concepts he has discovered in areas throughout the Old Testament, as the ‘Caroling Christians’ (8).  This premise used to describe our modern day luke-warm Sunday going Christians of our culture today is not only something that Wright brings to light, but he also indirectly charges those current teachers and pastors with the responsibility of connecting Jesus with the Old Testament, and therefore bringing discipleship to the ‘Caroling Christians’, and the Church body.

As Wright moves forward, he often pulls from history and what it offers in teaching and reproof.  His look at the inter-testamental period showed how much the Jew of that time depended and relied on scripture (23), later showing that Jesus also relied on the Old Testament text as well, even going as far to point out the obvious, that Jesus didn’t even read the New Testament (ix).  The author makes the point to show how utterly deficient the modern, or post-modern, Church is in understanding the importance of the Old Testament text in regards to their own faith.  While this is most certainly the case today as countless scholars and pastors have pointed out, Wright could have examined this even closer going beyond the preface of the text, although the completed work is a conclusion to this premise.  Jesus did not have the New Testament to use and evaluate His own life, as Wright points out, Jesus answered the questions of His own life by using the text of the Old Testament.[2]

As Wright continues into the heavier sections of the book he does not stop challenging his reader to a higher understanding of the complex issues at hand like the differences between a guaranteed promise and it’s corresponding fulfillment with the predictions made (68).  The extended discussion on the covenants, or international treaties as he properly describes them, is so vital to understanding the Old Testament and how it relates to Jesus, that Wright does well in almost placing a mandate on pastors and teachers to examine these topics in greater detail for the benefit of their own students (78-80).  Many full-length scholarly reviews have been completed on Wright’s work, most complimenting the ability of Wright to explain a more proper understanding of the relationship between Israel, God, and His Son Jesus, while taking an approach using biblical scholarship rather than systematic theology.[3] Paul Alexander notes that Wright’s work can “help us avoid becoming practical Marcionites” by only preaching the Old Testament as an introduction to the New Testament.[4]

Conclusion

Wright presents the Church with an opportunity to bring the Old Testament back into the fold of Sunday morning worship.  Jesus Himself relied on the Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God, which is often put aside in the more modern form of evangelism.  Although possibly repetitive at times, Wright’s arguments are presented in a clear and rationale manner and provide a concise correlation between the Jesus of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament.  A thorough examination of this book, and perhaps Wright’s other two books as well, would not only benefit the reader but those people the reader currently leads in faith.

Works Cited

Alexander, Paul. “Book Review: Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament.” IX Marks. September 2008. http://www.9marks.org/books/book-review-knowing-jesus-through-old-testament (accessed June 25, 2010).

Murray, David P. “Jesus never read the New Testament.” The Gospel Coalition. April 21, 2010. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/04/21/jesus-never-read-the-new-testament/ (accessed June 25, 2010).

Wright, Christopher J. H. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.


[1] Brian Tubbs, “Jesus and the Old Testament: A Review of Christopher J.H. Wright‟s Book on Jesus in the OT.” Suite101, May 11 2007, http://protestantism.suite101.com/article.cfm/jesus_and_the_old_testament (accessed June 25, 2010).

[2] David P. Murray, “Jesus never read the New Testament,” The Gospel Coalition, April 21, 2010, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/04/21/jesus-never-read-the-new-testament/ (accessed June 25, 2010).

[3] Tubbs, 2007.

[4] Paul Alexander, “Book Review: Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament,” IX Marks, September 2008, http://www.9marks.org/books/book-review-knowing-jesus-through-old-testament (accessed June 25, 2010).

Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by Christopher Wright :: Review

This review can also be found in my writing section in a PDF download format. In the text by Christopher J. H. Wright titled Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament, Wright outlines a precise argument for the existence of Jesus of the New Testament, as seen from within the Old Testament.  It is evident, from the opening chapter, that Wright’s intention for writing this volume was to take his readers deeper into the life of Jesus while showing the audience a side of Jesus not often studied in the current evangelical culture today.
This review will present an overview and critique of Wright’s Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament through a summarization of the text and a discussion on Wright’s conclusions.

Wright, born to missionary parents serving in Brazil during the Second World War, grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as an Irish Presbyterian and was educated in Cambridge in the 1960’s.  Before being ordained in the Anglican Church of England in 1977, Wright served as a high school teacher, and later would go on to serve as an associate pastor before moving his family to India to teach at the seminary level.  Wright continues to work as an author and is the International Director for Langham Partnership International (LPI), a ministry that works with other pastors, publishers, and educators.

Wright has authored several books that focused attention towards interacting with the Old Testament, God, and the Holy Spirit.  With the depth of Wright’s books, He is sometimes viewed as an author who writes more for those seeking solid food than for the spiritual infant (Hebrews 5:12-14).

Summary of “Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament”

Wright takes on the task of showing Jesus in the Old Testament by examining Jesus in five different dimensions; the story of Jesus, the promises declared and fulfilled, and His identity, mission, and values.  Pulling heavily from the book of Matthew, Wright takes time in the first section to examine the importance of the genealogy of Jesus in a way not often addressed by the casual congregant.  This in depth look at the foundation of the story of Jesus is tied back to the Genesis stories and the historical context of Abraham to David to Jesus Himself.  While the book of Matthew does this as well, Wright goes beyond Matthew to pull from historical information including a look at how Jesus interacts with historical Israel and the inter-testamental period (Wright 1992, 19-24).

In the second section of the book, Wright reviews the promises of Jesus from the time they are declared in the Old Testament text, methodically moving through the various covenants, or guarantees, made leading up to and including the New Covenant promise of the New Testament.  Wright equates the covenants of the Old Testament to that of tributaries, which all feed into a main large stream, and that the life of Jesus must be viewed in light of all the previous covenants.  According to Wright, the New Testament writers based their knowledge of Jesus and His ministry upon already known Hebrew scriptures, showing that the Old Testament “declared the promise which Jesus fulfilled.” (102)

Section three focuses on identifying Jesus as son.  In this section Wight looks at the relationship the New Testament has with Jesus and compares that to the family relationship that Israel has to God (118).  Expressed in the father-son relationship, the comparison made is shown through the attitude of God, and the expectations of God, towards the Israelites, and broken down from a national level to a personal level. (122)

As Wright moves through the main portions of his text into section four, the discussion turns to the mission of Jesus, the expectations of the Jews at the time of His ministry, and how His mission is related to the Old Testament.  Relying heavily on the book of Isaiah here, Wright identifies Jesus, the Servant, with the Israelites and with the coming restoration of Israel from captivity (158, 161).  The argument continues by pointing out the promise and message of God was to first go to the Jews, then to the Gentiles as Paul stated in Romans.  Wright concludes this section with a look at the mission of the church as servant, highlighting the historical abuse of servant-hood by the church that it must now overcome (180).

The fifth and final section examines, in depth, the scriptures and values that Jesus pulled from during His earthly ministry.  Wright shows how much Jesus relied on the Old Testament, and the Law, from everything to being tested in the wilderness by Satan to His many parables while teaching others.  As Wright systematically walks through the teachings of Jesus he again points out the universal message of salvation is to go out in obedience to God, first to the Jewish nation, and then to the Gentiles, while correlating Jesus’ words in the New Testament to that of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.  As Wright concludes, he takes a look at Jesus and his use of the book of Psalms and the reign of God.  Examples are taken from various Psalms that show reference to Yahweh as king, sitting on the thrown of God, and how God’s rule aligns with human life on earth, even in it’s current form (243).

Interacting with “Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament”

Wright has taken a complex topic, one that is rarely discussed in the evangelical “New Testament” Church of today, and presented a historical and possibly more complete biblical view of Jesus.  As is often the case in the 21st century Church, many fail where Wright has succeeded in conceptualizing a true picture of Jesus portrayed in the Old Testament.  Although at times Wright uses large blocks of Old Testament text tied together to describe seemingly less complex conclusions (see 107-116 to conclude Jesus is the Son of God), he provides a valuable resource for the Christian able to consume “solid food” (Hebrews 5:12).[1]

The initial section largely pertaining to the genealogy of Jesus started an important basis for interweaving the life of Christ and the stories of the Old Testament.  Something seen as perhaps not stimulating enough for the modern reader, the genealogy is of the utmost importance and provides that direct connection of Jesus to the Old Testament.  Wright properly compares and contrasts the less interested Christian, and other concepts he has discovered in areas throughout the Old Testament, as the ‘Caroling Christians’ (8).  This premise used to describe our modern day luke-warm Sunday going Christians of our culture today is not only something that Wright brings to light, but he also indirectly charges those current teachers and pastors with the responsibility of connecting Jesus with the Old Testament, and therefore bringing discipleship to the ‘Caroling Christians’, and the Church body.

As Wright moves forward, he often pulls from history and what it offers in teaching and reproof.  His look at the inter-testamental period showed how much the Jew of that time depended and relied on scripture (23), later showing that Jesus also relied on the Old Testament text as well, even going as far to point out the obvious, that Jesus didn’t even read the New Testament (ix).  The author makes the point to show how utterly deficient the modern, or post-modern, Church is in understanding the importance of the Old Testament text in regards to their own faith.  While this is most certainly the case today as countless scholars and pastors have pointed out, Wright could have examined this even closer going beyond the preface of the text, although the completed work is a conclusion to this premise.  Jesus did not have the New Testament to use and evaluate His own life, as Wright points out, Jesus answered the questions of His own life by using the text of the Old Testament.[2]

As Wright continues into the heavier sections of the book he does not stop challenging his reader to a higher understanding of the complex issues at hand like the differences between a guaranteed promise and it’s corresponding fulfillment with the predictions made (68).  The extended discussion on the covenants, or international treaties as he properly describes them, is so vital to understanding the Old Testament and how it relates to Jesus, that Wright does well in almost placing a mandate on pastors and teachers to examine these topics in greater detail for the benefit of their own students (78-80).  Many full-length scholarly reviews have been completed on Wright’s work, most complimenting the ability of Wright to explain a more proper understanding of the relationship between Israel, God, and His Son Jesus, while taking an approach using biblical scholarship rather than systematic theology.[3] Paul Alexander notes that Wright’s work can “help us avoid becoming practical Marcionites” by only preaching the Old Testament as an introduction to the New Testament.[4]

Conclusion

Wright presents the Church with an opportunity to bring the Old Testament back into the fold of Sunday morning worship.  Jesus Himself relied on the Old Testament as the authoritative Word of God, which is often put aside in the more modern form of evangelism.  Although possibly repetitive at times, Wright’s arguments are presented in a clear and rationale manner and provide a concise correlation between the Jesus of the New Testament and the God of the Old Testament.  A thorough examination of this book, and perhaps Wright’s other two books as well, would not only benefit the reader but those people the reader currently leads in faith.

Works Cited

Alexander, Paul. “Book Review: Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament.” IX Marks. September 2008. http://www.9marks.org/books/book-review-knowing-jesus-through-old-testament (accessed June 25, 2010).

Murray, David P. “Jesus never read the New Testament.” The Gospel Coalition. April 21, 2010. http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/04/21/jesus-never-read-the-new-testament/ (accessed June 25, 2010).

Wright, Christopher J. H. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992.


[1] Brian Tubbs, “Jesus and the Old Testament: A Review of Christopher J.H. Wright‟s Book on Jesus in the OT.” Suite101, May 11 2007, http://protestantism.suite101.com/article.cfm/jesus_and_the_old_testament (accessed June 25, 2010).

[2] David P. Murray, “Jesus never read the New Testament,” The Gospel Coalition, April 21, 2010, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2010/04/21/jesus-never-read-the-new-testament/ (accessed June 25, 2010).

[3] Tubbs, 2007.

[4] Paul Alexander, “Book Review: Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament,” IX Marks, September 2008, http://www.9marks.org/books/book-review-knowing-jesus-through-old-testament (accessed June 25, 2010).

The Principle of Context from Joshua 7:1-26

Something my study of Joshua examined this week was the correlation between the Old Testament literary devices (plot, characters, conflict), and the principles we the church try to pull from the Old Testament that don’t actually apply when viewed in the context of scripture. The post below was the result of that particular study.

Literary Features of Joshua 7:1-26

This section of Joshua addresses two interconnected stories, the defeat of Israel at Ai and the sin of Achan.  This was basically Israel’s first defeat in the conquest, and after a stunning victory by God at Jericho, Israel suffered a humiliating defeat by a small city said to be no match (Joshua 7:3) for Israel’s might of 30,000 men.[1]

In this narrative, the author, generally said to be Joshua, uses a bit of irony by comparing and contrasting, the previous story in Joshua 2 about Rahab and the sheltering of the spies.  The irony used by Joshua is that someone who had only heard of the God of Israel listened and obeyed (Joshua 2:21), while the sons of Israel who had actually witnesses God’s fulfilling promises and power, disobeyed (Joshua 7:1).  Throughout both narratives many parallels are seen like this one.  Rahab, a woman, was a Canaanite, and her family survived, while Achan, a man, was an Israelite, and his family perished.  Rahab hid the spies on her roof, and Achan hid his stolen items under his tent.  The Israelites, through God’s hand, won a great victory at Jericho by following God’s instructions, and they were humiliated at Ai when they failed to follow God’s instructions.

Another literary feature used in Joshua chapter 7 is a somewhat obvious cause and effect.  When looking at Israel’s sin, the author makes a point to show that this sin was a grievous act against God Himself.  More than just a theft and violation of the Eighth Commandment, (Exodus 20:15) it was an adulterous act.  This was the same Hebrew term used in Numbers 5:12-13 to describe the betrayal of an adulterous wife, now used to describe Israel.[2] This act of sin was the cause of Israel’s defeat at Ai as the Lord’s anger burned against Israel (Joshua 7:1, 11-12).  Joshua 7 is split into two sections, verses 1-15 dealing with Israel’s defeat, and verses 16-26 dealing with Israel’s sin.  One section examines the event or action that then caused the effect in the other section.  Ai was a small city, one that Israel should have easily taken (Joshua 7:3-4), but instead Israel lost 36 people (Joshua 7:5), and the previously promised city of Ai.

Interpretive Issues or Problems Often Presented Today

Many times the 21st century church is quick to point out all kinds of life application principles from the Old Testament that just are not present in the context of the written text.  Context is extremely important when dealing with the Old Testament and many times the principles taken can do, what Haddon Robinson describes as, “the heresy of application” by creating what was never there in the first place (see “The Heresy of Application” by Robinson).[3]

In Joshua 7, principles from all across the spectrum of sin can be used for life application.  Some principles are better than others, but some, like “effectively overcoming defeat” and “how to fight despair and depression” are probably not the principles the author had in mind when he wrote Joshua 7.  Yes, Joshua basically whined, moaned, and mourned about Israel’s sin and loss at Ai (Joshua 7:6-7), much like they had done in the past (Numbers 11:4-6 and many others), but the overall context of the entire book of Joshua was not out to teach a principle about how to overcome depression.

Contextual Application Principles from Joshua 7:1-26

The application we can take away from Joshua 7:1-26 is about sin.  This can be presented in so many different ways like fighting covetousness, secret sins, sin effecting more than just the individual, hidden sin that harms the whole church body, the small sin, fighting the sins of the flesh like gossip, criticism, envy, jealousy, and countless others examples that could be extracted from the reading of Joshua 7.  An overall principle in the context of the book of Joshua is probably closer to a statement like “the worst enemy that you have is yourself.”[4] “[You] are the greatest handicap that you have in your Christian life”, and often the most destructive block to God’s blessings.[5] Israel was given the land by God; all they had to do was take it.  There were three small enemies that stood in the Israelites way when they arrived, Jericho, Ai, and the Gibeonites.  Israel’s army of 30,000 fighting men (Joshua 8:3) was no match for Ai (7:3); all they had to do was to keep from defeating themselves.

Another similar, in context, principle that can be taken from Joshua 7 would be that Christians today are given enormous spiritual blessings by God, but how many Christians live as if they have none, as if that are not really entitled to the blessings of God.  Israel was given a huge piece of land (Joshua 1:3).  God gave them title to over 300,000 square miles of fruitful land, and even at the height of Israel’s day, they only took possession of 10% of God’s promise to them, only about 30,000 square miles of the Promised Land.[6] How many Christians or churches in our 21st century culture are not taking possession of 90% of God’s blessing because of sin and unfaithfulness to God? Principles, even heretical principles, can easily be taken from the Old Testament scriptures and applied to our 21st century culture.  Perhaps the most important principle in teaching from the Old Testament is the principle of context.


[1] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen and H. Wayne House, , Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, ed. Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen and H. Wayne House (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), 284-285.

[2] David M. Howard, Jr., The New American Commentary: Joshua, Vol. V, Joshua (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 188.

[3] Haddon Robinson, “The Heresy of Application,” Preaching Today’s Sermons, 2001, http://www.preachingtodaysermons.com/heofap.html (accessed June 18, 2010), 16-19.

[4] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vols. 2, Joshua-Psalms, 5 vols. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982), 16-19.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

The Principle of Context from Joshua 7:1-26


Something my study of Joshua examined this week was the correlation between the Old Testament literary devices (plot, characters, conflict), and the principles we the church try to pull from the Old Testament that don’t actually apply when viewed in the context of scripture. The post below was the result of that particular study.

Literary Features of Joshua 7:1-26

This section of Joshua addresses two interconnected stories, the defeat of Israel at Ai and the sin of Achan.  This was basically Israel’s first defeat in the conquest, and after a stunning victory by God at Jericho, Israel suffered a humiliating defeat by a small city said to be no match (Joshua 7:3) for Israel’s might of 30,000 men.[1]

In this narrative, the author, generally said to be Joshua, uses a bit of irony by comparing and contrasting, the previous story in Joshua 2 about Rahab and the sheltering of the spies.  The irony used by Joshua is that someone who had only heard of the God of Israel listened and obeyed (Joshua 2:21), while the sons of Israel who had actually witnesses God’s fulfilling promises and power, disobeyed (Joshua 7:1).  Throughout both narratives many parallels are seen like this one.  Rahab, a woman, was a Canaanite, and her family survived, while Achan, a man, was an Israelite, and his family perished.  Rahab hid the spies on her roof, and Achan hid his stolen items under his tent.  The Israelites, through God’s hand, won a great victory at Jericho by following God’s instructions, and they were humiliated at Ai when they failed to follow God’s instructions.

Another literary feature used in Joshua chapter 7 is a somewhat obvious cause and effect.  When looking at Israel’s sin, the author makes a point to show that this sin was a grievous act against God Himself.  More than just a theft and violation of the Eighth Commandment, (Exodus 20:15) it was an adulterous act.  This was the same Hebrew term used in Numbers 5:12-13 to describe the betrayal of an adulterous wife, now used to describe Israel.[2] This act of sin was the cause of Israel’s defeat at Ai as the Lord’s anger burned against Israel (Joshua 7:1, 11-12).  Joshua 7 is split into two sections, verses 1-15 dealing with Israel’s defeat, and verses 16-26 dealing with Israel’s sin.  One section examines the event or action that then caused the effect in the other section.  Ai was a small city, one that Israel should have easily taken (Joshua 7:3-4), but instead Israel lost 36 people (Joshua 7:5), and the previously promised city of Ai.

Interpretive Issues or Problems Often Presented Today

Many times the 21st century church is quick to point out all kinds of life application principles from the Old Testament that just are not present in the context of the written text.  Context is extremely important when dealing with the Old Testament and many times the principles taken can do, what Haddon Robinson describes as, “the heresy of application” by creating what was never there in the first place (see “The Heresy of Application” by Robinson).[3]

In Joshua 7, principles from all across the spectrum of sin can be used for life application.  Some principles are better than others, but some, like “effectively overcoming defeat” and “how to fight despair and depression” are probably not the principles the author had in mind when he wrote Joshua 7.  Yes, Joshua basically whined, moaned, and mourned about Israel’s sin and loss at Ai (Joshua 7:6-7), much like they had done in the past (Numbers 11:4-6 and many others), but the overall context of the entire book of Joshua was not out to teach a principle about how to overcome depression.

Contextual Application Principles from Joshua 7:1-26

The application we can take away from Joshua 7:1-26 is about sin.  This can be presented in so many different ways like fighting covetousness, secret sins, sin effecting more than just the individual, hidden sin that harms the whole church body, the small sin, fighting the sins of the flesh like gossip, criticism, envy, jealousy, and countless others examples that could be extracted from the reading of Joshua 7.  An overall principle in the context of the book of Joshua is probably closer to a statement like “the worst enemy that you have is yourself.”[4] “[You] are the greatest handicap that you have in your Christian life”, and often the most destructive block to God’s blessings.[5] Israel was given the land by God; all they had to do was take it.  There were three small enemies that stood in the Israelites way when they arrived, Jericho, Ai, and the Gibeonites.  Israel’s army of 30,000 fighting men (Joshua 8:3) was no match for Ai (7:3); all they had to do was to keep from defeating themselves.

Another similar, in context, principle that can be taken from Joshua 7 would be that Christians today are given enormous spiritual blessings by God, but how many Christians live as if they have none, as if that are not really entitled to the blessings of God.  Israel was given a huge piece of land (Joshua 1:3).  God gave them title to over 300,000 square miles of fruitful land, and even at the height of Israel’s day, they only took possession of 10% of God’s promise to them, only about 30,000 square miles of the Promised Land.[6] How many Christians or churches in our 21st century culture are not taking possession of 90% of God’s blessing because of sin and unfaithfulness to God? Principles, even heretical principles, can easily be taken from the Old Testament scriptures and applied to our 21st century culture.  Perhaps the most important principle in teaching from the Old Testament is the principle of context.


[1] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen and H. Wayne House, , Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, ed. Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald B. Allen and H. Wayne House (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), 284-285.

[2] David M. Howard, Jr., The New American Commentary: Joshua, Vol. V, Joshua (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 188.

[3] Haddon Robinson, “The Heresy of Application,” Preaching Today’s Sermons, 2001, http://www.preachingtodaysermons.com/heofap.html (accessed June 18, 2010), 16-19.

[4] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vols. 2, Joshua-Psalms, 5 vols. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982), 16-19.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Three Solutions to the Problem of Evil

In one of my discussions this week we took a brief look at some of the reasons and solutions to evil.  Using Erickson’s Christian Theology as a base, he identifies three solutions to the problem of evil and how God’s greatness, goodness, and the presence of evil can all be active forces at work in the world today.  The three solutions outlined are; a rejection of Omnipotence in the form of Finitism (a finite God), a modification of the concept of God’s goodness, and the outright denial of evil.

  • Rejecting Omnipotence
    The first solution, rejecting Omnipotence, is something the 21st century culture has embraced with open arms.  Not only has society accepted a finite God, the eastern philosophy also known as dualism has taken a stronghold in western society Christianity.  This form of dualism present today was introduced by subtle infusion over an extended period of time to where today; even Christians accept dualism.  The worldview promoted in this respect is good verses evil, dark verses light, and ultimately God verses Satan.  The problem with this solution is that it philosophically fails when compared to scripture.  God and Satan are not on even ground, battling against each other for supremacy.  God created everything, including Satan, the fallen angel.  Angels are perhaps shown to be more powerful than humans (2 Peter 2:11; Psalm 103:20), but nowhere in scripture does it say they are equal with God.
  • Modification of God’s Goodness
    The second, a modification of God’s goodness, is sometimes seen by a hyper-Calvinist view (a view some argue is more Calvinist than Calvin himself was), where God is the ultimate cause of everything, including sin, and man has no freedom of the will to do anything other than what God has predisposed man to do.  God’s cause of good and/or evil that occurs is simply what God does.  This view brings forth its own questions; such as, if evil is good, then what is recognized as good, lending itself to ask, does evil even exist.  This view is also inconsistent with God’s own nature since we know that God, by nature, is good.
  • A Denial of Evil Itself
    The third, a denial of evil, is also a popular notion in the 21st century worldview. Known as the option for Christian Science, they believe that matter or material is just an illusion where evil does not really exist. Their conclusions, based upon the notion that (1) material existence is an illusion, (2) since all is God, all is good, (3) therefore evil is an illusion.  The issue with this view is somewhat obvious in the fact that evil has not ceased to exist just because this particular worldview exists, and there is no explanation to the “illusion” of evil.

In an oversimplification stated here, Erickson’s conclusions are that evil is a necessary accompaniment to human existence and that evil in general is the result of sin, Adam’s choice to sin, and God’s allowing this sin to take place.[1][2]


[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 437-456.

[2] This is a greatly over simplified post on a very complex topic. The solutions provided are an overview of the scholarly examples currently being studied. C.S. Lewis also had some great arguments on the problem of evil and why it exists in the world today.