Israel And The Nations: An Essay In Biblical Theology -- By: Charles H.H. Scobie

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 43:2 (NA 1992)
Article: Israel And The Nations: An Essay In Biblical Theology
Author: Charles H.H. Scobie


Israel And The Nations:
An Essay In Biblical Theology

Charles H.H. Scobie

Summary

The theme of the relation of God’s chosen people Israel to the other nations of humankind constitutes a test case for ‘Biblical Theology’: is it possible to produce a synthesis of the apparently diverse Old Testament and New Testament materials? Israel relates to other peoples in the Old Testament in two ways: historically, through incorporation, and eschatologically, through the ingathering of the Gentiles. It is the Old Testament eschatological expectation which provides the clue to understanding the New Testament theology of mission to the Gentiles, as with the Christ Event the new age is inaugurated. This approach is illustrated through study of the Old Testament theme of ‘The Tribute of the Nations’ in three New Testament books.

I. Introduction

The subject of ‘Biblical Theology’ continues to attract attention and discussion.1 I have tried to make a case for Biblical Theology as an intermediate or bridge discipline which would assume and accept the fruits of historical-critical study of the Bible, but go on to undertake some kind of synthesis of the biblical material, which would mediate the results of specialised biblical studies to those who use the Bible in dogmatics, in ethics, and in the life and work of the Christian community generally.2 Such a Biblical Theology would be ‘canonical’ in the sense that it would be concerned with both Old and New Testaments, would be based primarily on the final canonical form of Scripture, and would deal with the full range of canonical materials. It would seek to locate major overarching themes in the biblical material and identify underlying structures, while taking the greatest care not to impose a structure which is alien to the material.

It would seek an underlying unity without obliterating the rich diversity.

The theme of the relation of God’s chosen people Israel to the other nations of humankind constitutes a test case and a major challenge to any would-be biblical theologian. In the Old Testament Israel is a national group, while in the New Testament Christianity is a universal religion; how can such diverse Old Testament and New Testament materials be synthesised? Not only so, we are dealing here with a classic case of the question, ‘Who was the real founder of Christianity, Jesus or Paul?’ Are their attitudes not totally at odds? Finally, even within the New Testament itself, are the views of e.g. Paul and John on the question of mission not so diverse that we can only talk of ‘New Test...

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