Editorial: Reading and Applying the Book of Exodus Today -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 12:3 (Fall 2008)
Article: Editorial: Reading and Applying the Book of Exodus Today
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

Editorial: Reading and Applying the Book of Exodus Today

Stephen J. Wellum*

*Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Wellum received his Ph.D. degree in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has also taught theology at the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Canada. He has contributed to several publications and a collection of essays on theology and worldview issues.

As the old adage goes, the three rules of real estate are summed up in three words: location, location, location. By analogy, we can say that the three rules of biblical hermeneutics are also summed up in three words: context, context, context. To read and apply the Bible correctly, it is crucial that we always ask ourselves: What is the context of this text?

But more needs to be said. In asking, “What is the context of this text?” it is also important to remind ourselves that correct biblical interpretation cannot simply begin and end with a text’s immediate context, as important as that is. Given the fact that Scripture, like God’s plan of redemption, has not come to us all at once, but, instead, has progressively come over time, we must learn to read every biblical text in light of the entire canon of Scripture. In other words, if we are going to interpret Scripture correctly and not simply read biblical books in an isolated fashion, we must learn to read the “parts” in terms of the “whole” and vice versa, otherwise we will fail to interpret Scripture accurately.

In contemporary idiom, the discipline which best helps us read Scripture in its overall context is “biblical theology.” At its heart, biblical theology is the discipline which seeks to understand the whole Bible by carefully interpreting biblical texts in light of the entire canon, taking into consideration the progressive nature of God’s redemptive plan and revelation of himself through human authors. That is why biblical theology, rightly understood, seeks to examine the unfolding nature of God’s plan as it thinks through the relationship between before and after in God’s plan, along the Bible’s own storyline. In this light, as we read Scripture, it is helpful to think of interpreting biblical books according to three horizons: textual, epochal, and canonical.

The textual horizon involves reading texts in light of their immediate context, which is normally associated with grammatical-historical exegesis. The epochal horizon goes one step further and seeks to think through where the text is placed in the unfolding plan of God. Lastly, the canonical horizon reads the book in light of the fullness of revelation that has ...

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