For the Record (Chip McDaniel): Why the Old Testament is Important for the Great Commission Task: Some Thoughts from the Mission Field

[Editor’s Note: This post by Dr. Chip McDaniel, Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Southeastern, continues our “For the Record” series by Southeastern faculty. In this post Dr. McDaniel addresses the relevance of the Old Testament for cross-cultural Christian mission. He surveyed several current and former missionaries to get their thoughts.]

The study of the Old Testament is important for all Christians everywhere in the world who seek to walk with God, understand His program on earth and interpret the New Testament.  There are additional considerations for those who are involved in a mission context.  I have asked several friends who have served in missions for their thoughts on this.  Together they have over 130 years of cross-cultural experience

With respect to all believers:

  • The NT shows the OT’s importance by example.  It often uses the OT as proof for its doctrine (e.g., the many times it uses the formula, “that it might be fulfilled”).  The “all Scripture” of 2 Timothy 3:16 includes the OT.
  • Theologically the message of the NT is clearer with knowledge of the OT.  Regarding the “New Covenant” one friend writes, “The ‘New’ Covenant in the NT isn’t really new, in the sense that it is related to Jeremiah’s teaching on the New Covenant in the OT!  A tracing of the major covenants through the OT can help put the New Covenant into the context of God’s redemptive program.” [EB]  The OT also shows that the Church is not divorced from God’s people and working from the very beginning of time (cf. Hebrew 11).
  • The NT makes allusions to OT persons, places and events.  The message of the NT is clearer if one knows these references.
  • Narrative teaches theology by what it affirms or decries.  There are many more lessons from the narratives of the OT than the NT.  We are told to remember the wife of Lot (Luke 17:32) and to draw lessons from Job’s patience (James 5:11).
  • One of the most beloved sections of Scripture for believers of all ages is the Psalms because it helps us enter into the thinking and emotions of the writers more than other types of biblical literature.  When Paul tells of speaking, teaching and admonishing with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, the Psalms are certainly a part of what is in view (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians  3:16).  The NT quotes or alludes to the Psalms more than any other book of the OT.

Practical considerations for missions:

  • The educated of other cultures thirst for Western knowledge (especially science) and will be increasingly confronted by a naturalism that ignores God’s part in the origin and maintenance of the earth.  Though the NT teaches that Christ made and sustains the world, much of the doctrine of creation is derived from the book of Genesis and passages scattered throughout the OT.
  • Some cultures identify better with the social setting of the OT.  Tribal and pastoral cultures will be able to identify with the lives of those in the OT.  One of my sources writes that when they told the story of Abraham’s seeking a wife for Isaac, the people were more accepting of the Gospel.  They said, “Up until now we’ve been debating whether we want to hear more from you, whether your stories will just end up Westernizing us and turning our people into moral retards.  But now we know that you’re not importing your Western culture.  Everyone knows that people in the West don’t find their wives that way.  This is our kind of story from God’s holy book.  We are now sure that we want to hear everything you have to tell us [about God].”  [DR]  Another source tells that many cultural bridges to his people group opened when they were exposed to the teachings of the OT.  [DS1]
  • The study of the OT plugs all cultures into God’s total program.  He is not a Western God.  His desire is for a relationship with and praise from His creation.  Those who see the Hebrew Bible as just for Jews and the Greek NT just for Christians are confronted in the OT with the view that, as one friend wrote, “The God of the OT is a missionary God with interest in all nations.” [KH]  Genesis, the Psalms and Isaiah are especially helpful here.
  • The NT is built on the story of God’s solution to the problem but the OT teaches abundantly and clearly what that problem is.  It shows the origin of evil and the career of the evil one in society.  In this regard one writes, “Sadly, many people we meet see that Gospel as being irrelevant and meaningless because they don’t even begin to have an accurate OT worldview from which to appreciate the power and genius of the Gospel.”  [DR]
  • The OT has more illustrations of the futility of false worship.  Those trapped in idol worship must come to realize that idols “don’t provide the solution that’s being sought or advertised.”  This awareness of the vanity of false worship is an important lesson for Gospel messengers to teach in an unreached culture.  [DR].
  • Liberal theologians are taking to the Two-Thirds World a message of liberation theology with much of the teaching from the OT, particularly the prophets. Some are exporting a prosperity gospel with much of its teaching coming from the OT, particularly Deuteronomy and the book of Proverbs.
  • Experience demonstrates the value of a chronological presentation of the stories of the OT leading up to the teachings of the Cross and the Christian life.  One friend writes regarding the teaching through the OT narrative, “…the best evangelism (and discipleship) takes place when placing the content of the gospel in the context of God’s total revelation…many of us are now promoting and training our missionaries to do evangelism ‘slower’ by presenting the OT story first and then the NT continuance of that story.”  [DS2]
  • Some religions of the world derive teachings from the OT, some venerate the OT prophets and some encourage the seeking of truth or wisdom wherever it might be found.  Dialog concerning portions of the OT can serve as a bridge to the claims of Christ.
  • The knowledge of the OT that historically could be presupposed in the West is not present in many cultures (or in the West anymore for that matter).  The significance of the coming of Christ is abundantly displayed in the OT.  One friend writes, “I spend much less time debating Jesus vs. [other faiths’ leaders] and more time from the OT showing why Jesus was necessary and how he came to be through the history of the prophets and the people of Abraham.” [RN]

DR, church planting in Asia

DS1, church planting in Central America

DS2, church planting in Europe and South America

EB, theological education in Europe

KH, theological education in Africa

RN, church planting in Africa and Europegames rpg

An Invitation to Study Old Testament at Southeastern

One of the greatest 20th century triumphs of The Bible Obfuscation Department has been the sometime relegation of the Old Testament to the sidelines in biblical studies, theology, and preaching. The problem with such relegation is that the only “Scriptures” that Jesus, the apostles, and the New Testament authors had were the Old Testament scriptures, which they which they referred to as being divinely inspired, authoritative, and sufficient (see 2 Tim 3:16). Moreover, Jesus referenced the Law, Prophets, and Writings (i.e. Old Testament) as ultimately fulfilled in him (Luke 24:44). Therefore, if we wish to know about creation (Gen 1-2; Pss 8; 24; 100), the problem with humanity (Gen 3; cf Judges 21:25), the unfolding solution for that problem (Gen 12; 15; 17; 22; Ex 19-Deut 30; 2 Sam 7; Pss 78; 105; 106), the character of God who brings this all about (Ex 34:6-7), and the proper relationship with that God (Gen 15; Hab 2:4) in order to live a blessed life (Pss 1-2; Prov. 1:7), we ought to know the Old Testament and that in Hebrew. Knowing the Old Testament enables one to know the New Testament to know Jesus Christ in order to know and love the God who creates and redeems his people.

For this reason, Southeastern has worked to build an Old Testament faculty that will prepare our students to preach the gospel both faithfully and meaningfully. By faithfully, we mean that one will be prepared to expound the Christian Scriptures (in their entirety) accurately. By meaningfully, we mean that one will be prepared to communicate it in such a way that the audience understands it in the way the biblical author intended and with an application that fits the particular social and cultural contexts of the hearers.

In this installment, we provide a brief highlight the Old Testament faculty at Southeastern, followed by an invitation to study the Old Testament at the undergrad, grad, and post-grad levels.

Todd Borger (Ph.D., Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. Dr. Borger served in Asia for years before coming to teach at SEBTS.

Bob Cole (Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles) is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages and author of Psalms 1 and 2: Gateway to the Psalter (Sheffield Phoenix, forthcoming) and The Shape and Message of Book III (Pss 73-89) (Sheffield Academic Press). Dr. Cole enjoys playing intramural soccer with SEBTS students, and sports a robust and enviable moustache.

Shawn Madden (Ph.D., University of Texas at Arlington) is Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Director of Library Services and author of Kings: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text (Baylor Press, forthcoming). Before coming to SEBTS, Dr. Madden served in the United States Marine Corps.

Chip McDaniel (Th.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and author of several Greek and Hebrew interlinears for Logos Bible Software and “Mission in the Old Testament” in Mission in the NT: An Evangelical Approach (Orbis Books). Dr. McDaniel has been known to grow his beard to epic proportions, especially during the winter months.

Tracy McKenzie (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies and author of Idolatry in the Pentateuch (Wipf and Stock). Dr. McKenzie is presently working on a second Ph.D. in Germany.

Allan Moseley (Th.D., New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Post-Doctoral Study, Duke University Divinity School) is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and author of Thinking Against the Grain: Developing a Biblical Worldview in a Culture of Myths (Kregel). Dr. Moseley is the pastor of Christ Baptist in Raleigh and is known as a top-shelf expository preacher.

Mark Rooker (Ph.D., Brandeis University; Additional studies: Hebrew University, Jerusalem) is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, author of The Ten Commandments: Ethics for the Twenty-First Century (B&H); Leviticus, NAC Commentary (B&H); Biblical Hebrew in Transition: The Language of the Book of Ezekiel (Sheffield); and co-author with Eugene Merrill, Michael Grisanti of The World and The Word: Introducing the Old Testament (B&H). Dr. Rooker is from Texas, played QB in his football days, and brings to the table a deceptively keen sense of humor.

Heath A. Thomas (Ph.D., Old Testament, University of Gloucestershire) is Assistant Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and author of Poetry & Theology in Lamentations: The Aesthetics of an Open Text (Sheffield Phoenix Press, manuscript accepted); ‘Until He Looks Down and Sees’: The Message and Meaning of the Book of Lamentations (Grove). Dr. Thomas bears an uncanny resemblance to Patrick Jane, the lead star of the TV series The Mentalist.

Southeastern offers several degrees with a focus on the Old Testament. The Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies with a minor in Biblical Studies introduces undergraduate students to the knowledge and skills central to the work of pastors, particularly in the area of Old and New Testament competency. The Master or Arts (Biblical Languages) prepares students to serve as translators and as field supervisors for Bible translation teams. The Master of Arts (Old Testament) provides serious students with an opportunity for advanced study beyond the Master of Divinity or baccalaureate degrees.

The M.Div. with Pastoral Ministry prepares students for pastoral ministry in the local church with and is grounded in study of the Old and New Testament. The M.Div. with Christian Ministry offers the same strong core education while giving one freedom to pursue elective courses in the area of Old Testament and Hebrew. The M.Div. with Advanced Biblical Studies offers the greatest opportunity for focus in Old Testament and Hebrew exegesis, preparing one for a pastoral or teaching ministry. The Th.M. in Biblical Studies equips post-M.Div. students who want to enhance their theological training, either for preparation for doctoral study or as an advanced degree for service in the church. Students can take the thesis or non-thesis tracks under the supervision of a professor in the area of Old Testament. Finally, the Ph.D. in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Old Testament prepares students to teach Old Testament, Hebrew, and other courses to college or seminary students, and to write about the interpretation and theology of the Old Testament.

We invite you to come study with our preaching faculty in the B. A., M.A., M.Div., Th.M., or Ph.D. programs of Southeastern. For more info visit our website (http://www.sebts.edu/) and check out the Admissions and Academics links.for mobi