Rolfing Unshelved

Books, news, and events from TIU's Rolfing Library


Preaching Christ in the Old Testament: A Look Forward to the Upcoming Table Talk with Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy

On Wednesday, November 11 from 12-1:15 pm at the front of the library, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will be facilitating a discussion on preaching Christ in the Old Testament. We will be examining some of the different perspectives and issues involved in that endeavor. Because of the complexity of this topic and the many subjects it raises to our attention, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will begin the Table Talk by making some brief introductory comments. These initial remarks will serve to focus subsequent discussion. And after discussing these matters in groups, we look forward to a time of interaction with Dr. Luy and Dr. Scharf on further questions and group observations.

I hope that you will bring your lunch and join us!

This blog post seeks to introduce you to the subject at hand–preaching Christ in the Old Testament–and to expose you to some of the issues involved in that conversation.

As Dr. Scharf recently wrote me in an email,

The practice of preaching Christ in the Old Testament raises a host of questions and subjects the preacher to significant perils as well as offering great promise. Navigating these waters requires that the preacher have a defensible theology, a valid hermeneutic, and exegetical expertise (enriched ideally by a grasp of the history of interpretation of the preaching text) as well as a love for his or her listeners, the required spiritual gifting, and prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

You’ll immediately notice from his statement that the issues involved here are multi-faceted.

On the one hand, there are hermeneutical questions.

For example, many are concerned about preserving the original authorial intent of the text in its immediate literary and historical context. You may share my experience of sitting in classes with professors, typically Old Testament professors, who express such concerns. One question for preaching Christ from Old Testament texts then is, how do I connect the apparent authorial intent of this text to Christ (or, maybe better: preach Christ from this text) and still preserve faithfulness to its authorial intent, that is, without engaging in what might be called “Christo-eisegesis”?

Sometimes this particular question is posed in terms of an “either/or” issue. “Either you can preach the original intent or you can preach Christ. But, if you preach Christ, then you are necessarily not preaching the original meaning.” But are preaching Christ and preaching the authorial intent mutually exclusive or necessarily incompatible, or might that original meaning be organically related to Christ? Is not the latter the very claim of thoughtful advocacy of preaching Christ from the Old Testament, an advocacy based on a presupposition of the unity and Christocentric nature of scripture itself?

And with that latter point, what do we mean when we speak of ‘meaning’? Is it appropriate to make a distinction between two dimensions of meaning–original meaning and meaning unveiled through Christological connections?

These are some of the sorts of hermeneutical questions with which we need to wrestle if we are to think well about this matter.

But we can go on. It’s one thing to say we can preach Christ from the Old Testament, i.e., that it’s legitimate to do so and doing so does not necessarily violate scripture’s intention and meaning. But it’s another thing to actually do that sort of preaching.

The question at hand here may be, for example, “How does this text relate to Christ?” And this may be where Biblical theology enters the discussion as at least one possible avenue for answering that question. How does the Bible hold together? And where does this particular text fit into that larger redemptive-historical unity?

Second, I want to bring up the “why” question–why preach Christ from the Old Testament? What’s the point, the motivation, the driving assumption behind such preaching methodology? Is preaching Christ merely an alternative approach to preaching, one as equally as valid as others? Or do we have an obligation as Christian preachers to preach all of scripture in light of Christ?

One might argue that there is nothing wrong about preaching the Old Testament simply in terms of its original meaning, in terms of its immediate grammatical, historical, and literary context without consideration of its relationship to the broader Christian canon and Christ in particular. I mean, God purposed that original meaning. Thus, we may have a sense of wanting to guard ourselves from somehow implicating that this original meaning is deficient if preached solely on its own terms. But, at the same time, we may worry, “Can this sort of preaching be described as ‘Christian’?” In other words, what is distinctively Christian about it in such a case?

I’ve heard some claim that the Old Testament is inherently Christian. Thus, we don’t need to somehow Christianize it. The text does not need to be “baptized.” Preaching the original meaning is Christian preaching. To argue otherwise is to claim, by implication, that the text is deficient, somehow less than Christian.

But, to come at things from another angle, would this sort of preaching disclose the full significance of this text in light of the full witness of scripture and especially in terms of its relationship to Christ? Is that is what we mean by a distinctively Christian form of preaching, one the considers those broader theological connections?

How we answer these sorts of questions will likely effect the importance (or imperative) we place on preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

Along with these “why” questions are the often uninvestigated “what” questions. For example, when we say, “preaching Christ?” what do we mean by “Christ”? Is the goal to simply show the unity of scripture, i.e., how everything relates to Jesus? Or (and?) by “Christ” do we mean the Gospel, in which case “preaching Christ” is a synonym for “Gospel-centered preaching”?

We would do well to examine the nature of our particular contrual of “preaching Christ” before we enter discussions about what it would look like to do that from the Old Testament.

In other words, I’m trying to point out that many times when people advocate preaching Christ from the Old Testament, there are often (stated or unstated) assumptions about what this sort of preaching is and why it should be pursued. And, I think, in order to sort out our disagreements over these matters, we would do well to disclose those conceptions and their motivations and ask if they are legitimate. In short, let’s go to the source of the debate.

Finally, I want to revisit the “how” question I introduced above. As I said, it’s one thing to say we can (or ought) to preach Christ from the Old Testament, but it’s another thing to actually do it, and do it well. We must move beyond theory to methodology and practice if any of this discussion will affect our pulpits.

It’s worth asking a range of homiletical questions. For example, how do I convey these connections to Christ effectively? Winsomely? When do I preach Christ in the sermon? Do I tag it onto the end as a neat ‘bonus feature,’ or does the reality of Christ somehow pervade my entire message? How do I preach the original meaning of the text and preach Christ within my time restraints (presuming we have those)? These are a few of the sort of homiletical questions I think we want to ask as we approach the matter of preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

I hope you have found these thoughts stimulating and informative. I look forward to meeting with you at the Table Talk and continuing the discussion!

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Graham Cole on Christianity and Contemporary Sexualities: A Table Talk Prelude

On Wednesday, October 21st at noon, our very own Dr. Graham Cole will be facilitating a Table Talk discussion on homosexuality and the Bible and Christianity.

On Tuesday Cole delivered a “Dean’s Hour” lecture entitled “Following Christ in a LGBTIQQAAP’s World.” In many ways, this talk served as an introduction to the conversation that will continue at the Table Talk on October 21st.

In this post I’d like to relay some of the key points of this recent talk as a way to stimulate your thinking and prepare you for further conversation at our Table Talk.

First, Dr. Cole addressed the context in which we engage these matters.

(A) For many of us, these matters are extremely personal. Either we experience same-sex attraction ourselves or we know others–friends, family members–who do. We cannot engage this issue as a purely theoretical one.

(B) Furthermore, we engage this issue in a drastically changing culture, a culture of which the fast-past political changes are symptomatic. We live in a world in which these matters are cast as civil rights issues and opposition to them is addressed with a shaming rhetoric and ostracizing actions.

(C) And, finally, whereas in past times we may have engaged homosexuality and lesbianism, now we are aware of other identifiers and expressions of sexuality (and gender) such as the transgendered, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, etc.

(D) We are living in an ever-changing world. And this ever-changing world brings us to thinking about recent government decisions such as Obergefell. We are now also living in an ever-changing legal world where concerns arise over losing tax-exempt status and preserving religious liberty. But the political climate is such that even individuals such as queers opposed to marriage equality are silenced.

How does all of this effect the church? Cole supports Russell Moore’s statement that such changes in our culture may be “bad for America, but it’s good for the church.” These changes will likely result in the demise of ‘folk evangelicalism,’ in which ‘cultural Christianity’ thrives, and the rise of a church that is clearly distinguished from its society. That is a good thing, as bad as it may be for our society.

Cole noted that recent Supreme Court decisions raise questions regarding religious liberty. For many in our culture, religious liberty is shrunk down to worship. Noteworthy is the failure to consider religious practice, i.e., living Christianity outside of the home and church walls such as in the public square, as under the cover of religious liberty. Cole stated provocatively, Christians are essentially forced to practice atheism in the public square.

Cole argued that our Bibliology–our view of the Bible–ultimately must flow out of Christology, specifically how Christ viewed scripture. Scripture is the authority for what we ought to believe. And when we look at the key Biblical texts on same-sex sexual behavior, a rather consistently negative picture emerges. “There’s not a positive text of scripture on this subject,” Cole said.

However, as evangelicals, although we are often quick to stress the negative strands of scripture on these topics, we too often fail to emphasize the positive and beautiful strands of Biblical teaching on gender, sexuality, and marriage. Taking Christ seriously, we must take this testimony of scripture seriously as well.

But we must do more than merely hold to scripture with conviction. We must act wisely as we engage the church and society.

In our overly sexualized culture, “sex has replaced the soul”; and many things that are not inherently sexual are often times tied up with a sexual identity and orientation. As Christians, we need to practice discernment in order to sort out these cultural associations and clustered-attachments.

“God is not as interested in our happiness as in our holiness,” Cole stated, loosely citing C.S. Lewis. If we are going to be a people that “holds the line” on these issues, we need to become a community in which such convictions make sense, a community that strives after holiness no matter what the issue.

But, not only are we to be holy, we are to be loving. We are not out to offend. We are not to go out of our way to offend. Yet, at the end of the day, we can’t control whether or not people take offense. People will take offense. And following Christ in this world may mean facing shaming rhetoric. But, as much as we are able, we ought to be characterized by “convictional civility.”

In summary, Cole argued that the central issue at stake in the Christian relation to these controversial matters is loyalty. It all boils down to loyalty. Bearing the name “Christian” is a statement of our fundamental, primary loyalty–loyalty to Christ. If we believe in Christ, if we follow Christ, and if we come to grips with his view on scripture and scripture’s take on this topic, we will remain convictional on these matters. And being convictional, and facing all that means in our society (e.g., marginalization, shaming rhetoric, etc.), we would do well to re-read and give more attention to those parts of scripture that speak of the normal place of the Christian in society–marginalized, persecuted, etc.

As Cole closed he said, “Friends, the Dean’s Hour is over; but Table Talk is coming.” Certainly it is!

I hope you benefited from this summary of the key points from Dr. Cole’s lecture. And I hope you are able to attend our Table Talk Wednesday, October 21st at noon.

* This Dean’s Hour was video recorded. So if you are interested, you should be able to track that video down eventually.

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What’s Up with This Old Desk? “Uncle John’s” (John Stott) Connections to Trinity


The library recently received several items from John Stott’s personal study: his desk, bookshelf, and chair. These items are currently being displayed adjacent to the John and Susan Woodbridge Reading Room in Rolfing Library.

A bunch of us seminary students were geeking out (see here and here). It’s pretty neat. I mean, we just received a crate from England containing a bunch of John Stott’s personal belongings! Michael Cromartie once said, “If evangelicals elected popes, they would have chosen Stott.” Well, if that’s true, than I guess that means that if evangelicals had relics, this desk would be one of them!

But maybe you’re wondering, why? Why did we receive these materials? What’s so special about Trinity? How did we manage to make a successful bid to receive these things?

I was not previously aware of this; but apparently John Stott had some significant connections with Trinity, some connections that made Trinity a natural place to display these items.

So, in order to learn more about these connections and share them with you, I visited our very own Dr. Greg Scharf, a student, mentoree, and friend of Stott, who he (among others) affectionately refers to as “uncle John.”


John Stott offered Bible expositions six times at InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Conference. During this time many Trinity students had contact with Stott and his preaching.

In addition, Stott frequently visited Trinity, preaching numerous times in chapel.

And for one term, the Fall semester of 1972, Stott even taught preaching courses at TEDS.

A claim to fame–TEDS was the first American school to award Stott with an honorary Doctor of Divinity (DD) degree (1971). And because Dr. Stott did his undergraduate studies at Trinity College of Cambridge University, Scharf noted that Stott would jokingly refer to his educational experience as “Trinity” from first to last.

In 1974, Stott founded what became the Langham Partnership International (formerly known in the U.S. as John Stott Ministries) which seeks “to see churches in the Majority World equipped for mission and growing to maturity in Christ through the ministry of pastors and leaders who believe, teach and live by the Word of God.” Among other things, this organization grants scholarships for Majority World students to receive theological education. Many such students have attended TEDS, furthering Stott’s ties with the institution.

Dr. Scharf himself is a significant connecting point between Stott and Trinity. When Stott came and taught preaching courses in ’72, Scharf was actually one of his students. Later Scharf would accept an internship under Stott at All Souls and even join the church staff for two years. During this time, Scharf was mentored by Stott. And finally, Scharf was on the board of the Langham Partnership for a time and has written for their publishing house.

Thus, when Dr. Scharf made a bid, Stott’s connections with Trinity as well as Dr. Scharf in particular made Trinity a natural recipient for these items from Stott’s study.

A great thanks to Dr. Scharf for helping me with this project, entertaining my inquiries, fact checking my article, and being willing to answer any questions I had.

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Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools: Commentaries

This post is part of a series entitled Key Bible and Theological Reference ToolsThis series seeks to provide one with an introduction to some key Biblical and theological reference tools. In this series one will find basic explanations, significant examples, and other information about these reference tools.

Basic Description of Commentaries

A Biblical Commentary is a book that provides an interpretive explanation of a Biblical book or books. Commentaries provide a detailed explanation of specific Biblical passages, an explanation of a Biblical book’s larger structure or argument, and typically engage with introductory matters such as authorship, audience, date of writing, purpose of writing, composition, etc.

Key Commentaries Series

  • Anchor Yale Bible (AYB).
  • Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (BCOTWP).
  • Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT).
  • Expositor’s Bible Commentary (EBC) and Revised Expositor’s Bible Commentary (REBC).
  • Hermeneia (HERM).
  • International Critical Commentary (ICC).
  • IVP New Testament Commentary (IVPNTC).
  • JPS Torah Commentary Series (JPSTBC).
  • New American Commentary (NAC).
  • New Century Bible Commentary (NCB).
  • New International Commentary on the New Testament (NICNT).
  • New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICNT).
  • New International Greek Testament Commentary (NIGTC).
  • NIV Application Commentary (NIVAC).
  • Old Testament Library (OTL).
  • Pillar New Testament Commentary (PNTC).
  • Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (TNTC).
  • Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (TOTC).
  • Word Biblical Commentary (WBC).
  • Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary (WEC).
  • Zondervan Exegetical Commentary (ZEC).
  • Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary (ZIBBC).

Tips for Selecting Commentaries

  • Note the type – Many types of commentaries exist, e.g., expositional, devotional, technical, etc. Therefore, one does well to know what kind of commentary for which he or she is looking. This involves knowing basic information about the various commentary series (below).
  • Note the series – Knowing the series of which a commentary is a part can tell you a lot about what the commentary will be like, e.g., theological persausion, quality, emphases, format, etc.
  • Note the author – When presented with an array of commentaries, knowing something about the available authors provides one with a good place to start.
  • Note the date – By offering some historical perspective, older commentaries possess a unique value. On the other hand, contemporary commentaries often make a practice of engaging with previously proposed interpretations. Thus, the newer commentaries carry a unique value as well.

Resources for Selecting Commentaries

  • Best Commentaries – A site dedicated to providing reviews and rankings for a variety of Biblical resources including commentaries. Offers basic information about each commentary, e.g., author, date, series, and type (technical, pastoral, devotional, Jewish, special).
  • Other seminaries’ recommended commentary lists.
  • Ask professors.

Commentary Sample

Romans by Douglas Moo in The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996), pg. 748-749. * Click on photo for larger image.


* This post’s information can be found within Rolfing Library’s research guides. See the guide to commentaries here.



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Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools: Interlinears

This post is part of a series entitled Key Bible and Theological Reference ToolsThis series seeks to provide one with an introduction to some key Biblical and theological reference tools. In this series one will find basic explanations, significant examples, and other information about these reference tools.

Basic Description of Interlinear

English interlinear Bibles present the Biblical text in its original language along with a more literal English translation immediately below each word. Some English interlinears are formatted reversely, i.e., they present an English translation with the corresponding original language immediately underneath.

Helpful Interlinears

Bible Hub’s online interlinear – This interlinear will prove especially helpful for those who do not know the Biblical languages because it provides “Strong’s numbers” above each word. Clicking on a “Strong’s number” provides one with helpful concordance and lexical information about that specific word (e.g., see רֵאשִׁית 7225).

Use of Interlinears

Interlinears are helpful tools for those who do not know the Biblical languages (or whose skills are rusty) but would like to involve the original languages in their studies.

For those who know the Biblical languages, interlinears are helpful when one would like to involve and interact with the Biblical languages in his or her study, but not to the extent of a raw exegesis of the original languages “from scratch.”

Interlinear Samples

The NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament, Vol. 1, edited by John R. Kohlenberger (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1979), 50-51.

The NRSV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English with Interlinear Translation, edited by Alfred Marshall (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), 266-267. * Click on photo for larger image.

* This post’s information can be found within Rolfing Library’s research guides. See the guide to Interlinears here.

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Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools: English Translations

This post is part of a series entitled Key Bible and Theological Reference ToolsThis series seeks to provide one with an introduction to some key Biblical and theological reference tools. In this series one will find basic explanations, significant examples, and other information about these reference tools.

Basic Description

English Bible translations are publications that seek to faithfully render the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek text of the Bible in the English language.

Prominent English Translations

  • New International Version (NIV).
  • Today’ New International Version (TNIV).
  • New Living Translation (NLT).
  • Revised Standard Version (RSV).
  • New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
  • English Standard Bible (ESV).
  • American Standard Version (ASV).
  • New American Standard Bible (NASB).
  • New English Translation (NET).
  • King James Version (KJV).
  • New King James Version (NKVJ).
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).
  • New American Bible (NAB – Roman Catholic translation).
  • The Message.

Reason for Differences

Generally speaking, significant differences between translations are due to two reasons:

  1. Different base texts – Differences in translations are often due to the fact that different translations are often based on different source texts in the original languages. As such, these differences are not actually differences in translation but differences in what is being translated.
  2. Different translation philosophy – Other differences can often be explained by differences in translation philosophy and methodology.

Translation Approaches

Generally speaking, two approaches to translation exist with specific translations falling somewhere on the spectrum between the two poles.

  1. Formal equivalence – Commonly referred to as “literal” or “word for word” translation; seeks to retain a formal correspondance (in terms of vocabulary as well as grammar and syntax) between the original and receptor language as much as is possible in the translation process.
  2. Dynamic (or functional) equivalence – Commonly referred to as “thought for thought” translation; seeks to produce a clear and natural translation based on a functional meaning-based correspondance between the original and receptor language.

The following chart presents where prominent English translations roughly fall on this spectrum.

The above chart is taken from Fee, Gordon D., and Mark L. Strauss, How to Choose a Translation for All Its Worth: A Guide to Understanding and Using Bible Versions (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), pp. 28.

* This post’s information can be found within Rolfing Library’s research guides. See the guide to English translations here.

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Key Bible and Theological Reference Tools: Lexicons

This post is part of a series entitled Key Bible and Theological Reference ToolsThis series seeks to provide one with an introduction to some key Biblical and theological reference tools. In this series one will find basic explanations, significant examples, and other information about these reference tools.


Basic Description of Lexicon

A Biblical lexicon is a reference tool that provides meanings, semantic ranges, and significant uses of Biblical words in their original language. This data is organized according to an inventory of lexemes (i.e., a meaningful linguistic unit). Lexicons are particularly helpful in word studies.


Although not lexicons, these resources are primarily useful for conducting word studies. They provide background information and theological reflection on Biblical Hebrew and Greek words.

Lexicon Samples

HALOT by Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner (New York, NY: Brill Academic, 1994), pg. 185. * Click on photo for larger image.

BDAG by Walter Bauer and Frederick William Danker (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), pg. 610. * Click on photo for larger image.

* This post’s information can be found within Rolfing Library’s research guides. See the guide to Lexicons here.