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Biblical Theology and Covenant Theology (2)

Here's the handout for the next seminar in the current course at Emmanuel Training and Resources, Biblical Theology and Covenant Theology.

Emmanuel Training and Resources


We’re continuing in this seminar with our study of the doctrine of salvation (soteriology), looking at the next section of Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2000), pp. 129-214.

You will recall from the previous seminar that this course is deliberately structured to help you see how a Reformed evangelical doctrine of salvation emerges from a systematic reading of the whole Bible, taking into account the progressive character of God’s revelation to humanity and the coherence and interconnectedness of the Scriptures. Here’s a reminder of the overall shape of the course:

Biblical theology. We begin with Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name, which helps us to read the Scriptures as an integrated whole by highlighting some of the important biblical images and themes that highlight how the Bible hangs together.

Covenant theology. We turn next to the topic of covenant theology with O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants. Historically, Reformed theologians have recognised that the apparently diverse strands of the Bible’s teaching may helpfully be integrated by tracing the theme of God’s covenants with man. This enables us to see how the Bible’s story reaches its climax in Christ, while at the same time giving a fully biblical picture of Christ’s work by setting it in the context of the whole Bible.

Divine election. Standing behind God’s purposes in history (revealed in the unfolding plan of his covenants with humanity) are God’s purposes in eternity – in particular, the decree of election. It is appropriate, therefore, to conclude this course by exploring the relationship between covenant and election (Barach, “Covenant and Election”), and the doctrine of election itself (Calvin, Institutes, III.xxi-xxiv).

Having completed this material, we’ll then be in a position to examine in more detail the saving work of Christ in the following course, The Doctrine of Redemption (T1.5).

Finally, do remember that Peter Leithart’s book, though quite readable, is so full is stimulating and thought-provoking material that it’s unlikely you’ll have time to reflect in detail on everything. I therefore suggest you don’t try. Instead, here’s an approach you may find useful: (1) Read a chapter through; (2) Look at the questions for that chapter, and reflect on a few of them as your mood takes you; (3) Move on to the next chapter.

If you’re pressed for time, omit the questions marked with a *.

Introductory questions

a. What do the following passages have in common: Genesis 3:15; Judges 9:53; 1 Samuel 17:49; Psalm 74:14; John 19:2?

b. What do the following passages have in common: Genesis 3:15; 2 Kings 18:4? What light do they shed on Saul’s character and actions in 1 Samuel 11? (Hint: the name “Nahash” means “Serpent,” and is very similar in Hebrew to “Nahushtan”.)

Study questions on chapter 4: The House of David and the House of Yahweh

1. What parallels does Leithart identify between the capture of the ark by the Philistines (1 Samuel 3-6) and Israel’s exodus from Egypt (pp. 129-130)? What “important difference” does he highlight (p. 130)? What according to Leithart, is this difference “a picture of” (p. 130)?

For reflection: What do you think of the parallel Leithart draws between this OT narrative and the work of Christ? If Leithart is right, what implications would this have for how you read the Bible?

2. What is sinful about Israel’s request for a king in 1 Samuel 8 (pp. 133-134)? How does the LORD respond to Israel’s request (pp. 134-135)?

3. In what ways does Saul initially appear to be “an ideal choice to lead and judge Israel” (pp. 136-137)?

4. “In 1 Samuel 13-15, Saul commits three sins” (p. 137). What are these three sins (pp. 137-140)? How are they related to the “three areas” of the earth: “garden, land, and world” (p. 139)? What is significant about this (pp. 139-140)?

*5. As Saul goes to meet Samuel, he meets some women at a well (1 Samuel 9:11-13). How is this occasion similar to the scenes in Genesis 24, Genesis 29 and John 4? How is it different? Why is this significant?

6. “Goliath wears ‘scale armour,’ dressing himself like a serpent (1 Samuel 17:15)” (p. 142). Why is this significant? (Remember your answer to introductory question a, above.)

7. In what ways are God’s promises to David (1 Samuel 7) similar to the promises he made to Abraham (pp. 148-149)? In what ways are they different?

For reflection: How does this relationship between God’s promises to Abraham and his promises to David help us to understand the overall “shape” of God’s saving purposes for the world?

8. “Solomon has moved beyond Adam, and God allows him, as it were, to eat from the tree of knowledge” (p. 154). What does Leithart mean by this? Do you agree?

9. In what ways is Solomon’s temple different from the Mosaic tabernacle (pp. 155-156)? Why is this significant?

For reflection: Why do you think the episode of the two prostitutes (1 Kings 3:16-28) is placed at this particular point in the narrative?

Study questions on chapter 5: Walking in the Customs of the Nations

10. “Elijah ... follows closely in the footsteps of Moses” (p. 169). How (pp. 169-172)?

11. “Two things help to explain why Jonah flees to Tarshish rather than going to Nineveh” (p. 180). What are these two things (pp. 180-182)?

*12. “Just as Jonah is thrown into the heart of the sea, so Israel will be flooded by the Gentile nations … Converts in Nineveh will be like the fish, rescuing Israel from drowning in the Assyrian sea” (p. 185). What does Leithart mean by this? Do you agree?

Study questions on chapter 6: The Last Days of Judah

*13. In what ways is “Judah’s deliverance from Assyria ... like Passover” (pp. 191-192)”?

*14. In what ways does Jeremiah resemble Moses (pp. 198, 200)?

*15. What is the meaning of the imagery of “the cup of God’s wrath” (p. 210)? Who drinks it? What happens as a result?

For reflection: What light does this shed on Luke 22:42?

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