Aspects of Grace in the Pentateuch -- By: David W. Baker

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 29:0 (NA 1997)
Article: Aspects of Grace in the Pentateuch
Author: David W. Baker


Aspects of Grace in the Pentateuch

David W. Baker

David Baker (Ph.D., University of London) is Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at ATS.

Teaching Old Testament in a conservative Evangelical seminary, especially one in the middle of the ‘Bible belt’ in the central United States, has necessitated a frequent response to the question “Why should we study the Old Testament anyway, since it is ‘Law,’ which was done away with by the gospel of the grace of Christ?1 Haven’t you read Galatians (2–3) and Romans 6:15?” Many students also point to the “authoritative” notes in their Scofield Reference Bible to give validity to their questions.2 My own dispensational upbringing, with its strict dichotomy between Old Testament = law and New Testament = grace has also contributed to the dilemma.3 This problem is not just recent, of course, with even Tertullian facing it in his response to Marcion:

[Marcion’s] whole aim...centers in this, that he may establish a diversity between the Old and New Testaments, so that his own Christ may be separate from the Creator, as belonging to this rival god, and as alien from the law and the prophets...Marcion has laid down the position that Christ...is a different being from Him who was ordained by God the Creator for the restoration of the Jewish state, and who is yet to come. Between these he interposes the separation of a great and absolute difference—as great as lies between what is just and what is good; as great as lies between the law and the gospel, as great (in short) as is the difference between Judaism and Christianity. (Against Marcion, Bk IV, Chap VI)

In other words, the logical extrapolation of a Marcionite position is that the Creator God of the Old Testament is Jewish and not the same as the redeeming God of grace in Christ of the New Testament. Christianity is not simply an extension and fulfillment of Judaism, but is a radically different religion.

Articles and books, ranging from minor to massive, from profound to puerile, have addressed this issue of law vs. grace, and I cannot, nor do I care to, review them or their arguments here. What I hope to do is much more basic, and possibly also minor and puerile. Before making dogmatic statements based on systematic theological categories concerning the existence or nature of grace in the Old Testament, can we take a biblical theological approach, searching the texts themselves to see what they might actually contain

concerning gra...

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