The Promise Theme and the Theology of Rest -- By: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 130:518 (Apr 1973)
Article: The Promise Theme and the Theology of Rest
Author: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.


The Promise Theme and the Theology of Rest

Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

[Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Associate Professor of Old Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.]

In 1933 Gerhard Von Rad aptly observed that “Among the many benefits of redemption offered to man by Holy Scripture, that of ‘rest’ has been almost overlooked in biblical theology….”1 Forty years have not substantially changed that assessment of the situation. In fact, except for the brief and conflicting opinions delivered in commentaries on Hebrews 3 and 4, only a few major articles in the journals and fewer graduate theses have been devoted to the concept of “God’s Rest” in the last century. Most biblical theologies of the Old Testament and New Testament, biblical encyclopedias, theological wordbooks, Festschriften, and systematic theologies are ominously silent on the topic. The question is why?

While reasons may vary, the overriding cause lies in the sheer difficulty of the concept. Added to this obstacle are the problems of one’s hermeneutical posture and his solution to the authoritative boundaries placed by the biblical writers on the lines of continuity and discontinuity found between the two testaments. But it is for precisely this reason that expositors of Scripture should be willing to re-examine once again this neglected biblical concept, for it promises to provide another clue to contemporary readers as to how the two testaments are related to each other.

The Promise Theme

Promise Theology in Genesis

No other theme provides such a comprehensive insight into the

plan and program of our Lord in both testaments as the “promise.”2 Beginning with the promise of a victorious “seed” in Genesis 3:15, the content of this single, all encompassing theme builds. A constellation of terms is used in the Old Testament to teach that the promise is God’s “word,” “blessing,” and “oath,”3 to his chosen “seed,” while the New Testament focuses the now enlarged picture by limiting the terminology to that of God’s “promise,” epangelia.4 Both testaments can also depict the promise doctrine under one of the most ubiquitous formulas in the canon: “I will be your God, you shall be my people, and I will dwell in the midst of you.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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