The usage of the term ‘Biblical Theology’ in this thesis relates to a unique method of theological study though there are diverse ways through which it has been used in different other literatures. In evangelical faith, the term refers to an antagonistic movement. According to the works of Enns, the expression describes Biblical theology movement, which was originally a reaction to liberalism. The concept of biblical theology was used in pursuance of the traditional exegetical study of the Bible. The movement never detached itself from its initial liberal keystones; it continued to uphold the historical methodology.
Enns argued that although the movement documented liberalism’s weaknesses in relation to the 18th and 19th centuries’ message, it did not alter the liberal’s Bible presuppositions. Liberals who upheld revelation’s neo-orthodox view were inclined to the teachings of evolution in relation to earth’s origin while emphasizing the human instead of the divine aspect of the Bible, which made the movement self-defeating. It proved impractical to do exegetical Scriptural study while denying the Scriptures’ mandate.
The second usage of the concept of ‘Biblical theology’ is known as methodology approach, which is history oriented. The approach is exegetical and draws information from the Bible. The approach directs its major focus on historical circumstances behind the propounding of the doctrines and examines theology within a particular history such as Abrahamic, Mosaic and Noahic eras or of a particular writer such as Pauline writings. In this sense therefore, Biblical theology may be perceived as “the branch of theological science which deals systematically with the historically conditioned progress of the self-revelation of God as deposited in the Bible.” The definition provides a number of elements that are worth looking at, including systematization, history, revelation progress, and Biblical in nature.
A systematic approach has been employed by the various Bible authors in revealing God’s nature and exploring the various doctrines in the Bible. Biblical theology is different from systematic theology despite the fact that it is presented in systematized form. Systematic theology incorporates both Biblical teachings and external information in systematizing the doctrines of the Bible, which is different from narrower Biblical theology, whose emphasis is on various historical periods in Old Testament and particular author’s explicit teachings in New Testament. Historical circumstances surrounding certain Biblical doctrines define Biblical theology. It looks at the prevailing circumstances during the writing of various Scriptures. For example, what circumstances led Apostle Paul to write a certain epistle to the Ephesians?
The progression of revelation is based on a long-held belief among evangelicals that God never revealed His whole nature to man in an instance, but has continually made Himself known to men. Biblical theology has traced the revelation progress, noting the different revelations in different eras—His self-disclosure in Noah and Abraham’s era is different from Jeremiah’s era. This explains the different views of the church in James’ ‘primitive’ era vis-à-vis modern pastoral era. Unlike the systematic theology that combines the Bible and external sources such as philosophy in seeking to understand God, the Biblical theology has narrowed its focus to the Bible as the exclusive information source. Thus, Biblical theology is exegetical in nature, examining doctrines in different historical eras or through a particular author’s statements.
As examined in the introduction section, Biblical theology is different from systematic theology in a number of ways. Some of the features that define Biblical theology include restrictive study of the Scriptures, examination of the various parts of the Scriptures, compiling information on specific writer’s doctrines, seeking to understand how and why various doctrines developed, seeking to understand the different processes and results, and views God’s revelation in different eras. Of concern to this chapter is viewing of the revelation of God in different eras such as in Edenic era, Noahic era, Patriarchal era, Mosaic era, Monarchical era and Prophetic era.
Theology of Edenic Era
Creation and the Purpose
The Bible has not bothered to justify or provide a defense behind God’s decision to create. Pearlman has observed that the Scriptures have started by associating God with the creation of the earth and the heavens (Gen. 1:1 New International Version). Drawing from the 1980’s works of Scott, Enns noted that the Scriptures have assumed the existence of God and based His definition with His very own declaration that He is ‘Elohim’, related to ‘El’ with a root meaning of fear or power. Such a definition suggests the greatness of God as well as His superiority over all the other kinds of gods. The name emphasizes the sovereignty of God as can be witnessed in Isaiah 37:16 and Genesis 24:3; His role as a judge, which is evident in Psalms 50:6 and Psalms 58:11; His majesty as evident in Isaiah 40:28; His salvation role as can be seen in Genesis 17:8 and His intimacy with men, which is evident in Jeremiah 23:23.
In several Scriptures related to the creation and the creator, God presents Himself as an inspirational and immanent God who seeks fellowship with men. God used to come for a visit around the garden and would pass by Adam and Eve’s place. At one time, He came for His normal fellowshipping with the man and his wife but could not trace them, thus, He started calling after them (Gen. 3:8). He even recognized that the man He had created in His very likeness and image was very good (Gen. 1:31).
Pearlman observed that the reason why God thought of creating a human being who was like Him is so that He would be able to relate or fellowship with him. Man is the only creation that God could associate with; thus, spoke with man amidst all of His creation (Gen. 1:28-30). He also created a favorable environment for man and allowed man to have control over all that He had created just as He had dominion over man. Even when man had fallen, He did not forsake him; He did not kill or destroy him. Though their relationship had been affected by the disobedience, God still continued to look after man.
Genesis 1:1 provides a historical event that it calls the beginning when God created everything. Enns argued that the Scripture has presented the principal statement for creation with some circumstantial clauses, which suggests no gap between the first and second verses. The Hebrew word for created is ‘bard’, which tends to imply that the creation of the earth and the heavens were out of nothing. As notable in Hebrews 11:3, God did not create earth and heavens from some materials that He refashioned; He just called the things into being and they were created. Actually, Apostle Paul posits that it was just calling things that had never existed and through faith, they started existing (Rom. 4:17). The Scriptures identified different stages of creation, each taking a day. A day contained both evening and morning (24 hours), with statements such as ‘third day’, ‘fourth day’ providing a clear understanding of duration of the creation of the world.
The account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 renounces the evolution story of creation, which is popularly shared by scientists and philosophers among other experts. Enns argued that if man came to be through evolution, then he had no moral responsibility to God. The evolution approach refutes the reason for man’s creation, which the Bible identifies as fellowship with God. According to the 1964’s works of Sauer, the whole purpose of creation was just to glorify God.
Of all that God created from day one to the last day of creation, the creation of man was the most unique and special. God started by creating everything else before He decided to create man on the sixth day. After creating various other things, God posited that they were good but when He completed His creation of man, He looked at everything and stated that it was “very good.” The adjective ‘very’ plays an important role in showing that the creation of man brought about completeness. It seems that God was not completely satisfied with all that He had done for five days, but at the end of the sixth day when He had created man, He felt immense satisfaction and did not continue with creation. He saw that man’s presence in the middle of all that He had created made everything very good.
The genesis story of creation makes it very clear that man has nothing to do with evolution, but rather, he is a product of God’s creation. Some of the scriptures that seek to support this position include Genesis 1:27, 5:1 and Deuteronomy 4:32. Moses noted that since God’s creation of mankind, no other such creation has ever been done. Genesis 1:27 has presented a general statement about the creation of man but chapter 2 verse 7 provides some details of how God had created man from dust and the other activities involved in the creation process. Jesus Christ in Mathew 19:4 acknowledged that it was God who had created both man and woman. From Genesis 1:27, one can also note that the two species of human beings were as a result of God’s creation.
Of immense significance in the creation story is that God “created man in His own image and likeness” (Gen. 1:27). However, the statement does not imply that people physically looked like God. John 4:24 noted that God does not have a physical body because He is spirit, which means that man has a spirit just like God. Apostle Paul while writing to the Ephesians observed that “man as a regenerated being may have fellowship with God.” The author further noted that man has a nature like that of God, which relates to intellect, emotions, which makes it possible for man to commune with God. Man’s likeness of God relates to his morality, thus, enabling him to obey God’s precepts.
Even before God had created man, when He was contemplating on the same, He made man’s purpose clear. In Genesis 1:26, God posited that man would become a ruler over all the creatures God had created. According to Enns, God made man as a mediator; he was to represent God here on earth, fulfilling God’s will upon the earth and all that God had created. This can be further witnessed in the works of the Psalmist who was pointing out that God had made man the ruler over all that God had created. David further noted that man had been placed over every living thing, listing some of those things, including birds, fish and other animals that live on dry land (Psalms 8:6-7). As a mediator, man was to exercise authority over every form of creation and to rule over them.
Pearlman (1981) observed that although man was given all dominion over all of God’s creation, there were restrictions, thus, God required man to avoid eating fruits from certain trees. In the perfect environment that God had placed man, it was very possible for man to live to the purpose of God. However, man failed as a leader and therefore led to his fall, which interfered with God’s purpose for man. God had created a helper for the man and therefore it was expected that man had the overall responsibility to guide his wife. However, a serpent deceived the woman and the man did not stop her from violating God’s directives. He witnessed as the woman was being tricked by the serpent (Gen. 3:6) and followed suit in violating God’s decrees. At that point, man’s purpose changed as the original authority was taken away (Gen 3: 16-19).
Fall and Judgment
Temptation and sin
Although God had created man and given him a favorable environment to obey, He also gave him power of choice. God could have created an environment full of many trees that man could eat and many others that were forbidden, but He made many edible trees but only two forbidden. He could also have chosen to create a garden with only the forbidden fruits, thus, remove all possibilities of sinning. However, he minimized the temptation to sin by creating a garden with only two forbidden fruits to allow man to make a choice. Eating from the second tree (Tree of Life) would have led man into eternal blessing, thus, God chased man out of the garden so that they could bear the consequences of their sins. Adam and Eve had failed in their test for loyalty towards God by eating from the tree of knowing good and evil.
The serpent managed to tempt Eve, leading to the fall of man. The success of the serpent in tricking man towards evil can only mean that evil already existed. Romans 5:12 noted that even before the existence of the law, sin already existed in the world. One of the mysteries of life to this day is the origin of sin. Many philosophers, theologians and other stakeholders have attempted to explain how sin came into being. Although the serpent is the one that spoke to the woman, it is universally accepted that Satan was working within the serpent in tricking man into sin. The serpent was used by Satan because he was shrewd (Gen. 3:1; Matt. 10:16).
According to Pearlman, Satan’s plan was to destroy the fellowship between man and God, thus making man lose his position as the ruler God’s creation. Satan realized his goal by making the woman doubt God’s word (Gen. 3:1), after which it was easy to deceive her. The serpent used very convincing language, “You surely will not die” (Gen. 3:4), which made Eve to submit to the temptation to sin. As is common even in the modern society, Satan used human weaknesses to lure them into sins. Enns has observed that “through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life”  (1 John 2:16), man fell into sin. These sentiments were shared by Pearlman who posited that sin already existed, thus, man had a duty to keep off from sin, but unfortunately they succumbed, constituting the first sinners (Rom. 5:12-21).
As soon as Adam and Eve had violated God’s command, the world around them changed in their sight. While discussing the nature of sin, Pearlman (1981) observed that knowing good and evil made man and his wife recognize their nakedness, something they had lived with comfortably before they sinned. Although their eyes were open all along, their way of seeing things changed as soon as they ate the forbidden fruit. Enns posited that knowing good and evil defiled their minds and hindered their initial fellowship with God.
God had created man first and he had been made the custodian of God’s word or the mediator of the truth. Therefore, when God could not trace them in the garden, He called to the man. Adam being the head of humanity had to be held responsible for his failure. The serpent had been used as the agent that facilitated the fall of man, so he was the first to receive judgment (Gen. 3:14-15). Enns (2008) posited that it should always be noted that the serpent referred to Satan who was behind all these evils. Although he had only one victory, God posited that the seed of woman (who is Christ) would give Satan a deathblow (Gen. 3:15). The woman’s punishment was permanent subjection to man’s will and childbearing pains (Gen. 3:16). Adam’s punishment was hard work for survival. However, the most tragic punishment was the negation of the serpent’s statement that they would not die. God upheld His word that violation of the law would lead to death and He confirmed to them that they would return to dust/die (Gen. 3:19).
According to Pearlman, it was after the fall of man that God made an announcement of a new covenant with man. In Genesis 3:15, God declared an enmity between man and Satan, which served as a protevangelium or the very first Scriptural notice of the gospel. God posited that Satan was to be destroyed through a head-crushing blow, which was referring to the victory of Christ over Satan many years later (Heb. 2:14). In Colossians 2:14-15, the author noted that Christ canceled all the written codes through His sacrifice on the cross, thus, liberating all the people who had been held captive by the devil. Pearlman (1981) perceived human redemption/salvation as secure through the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. It is through the death and resurrection of Christ that the fellowship of man with God was restored, making it possible for man to regain the control and dominion originally intended by God in His purpose upon man. Satan was to have a minor victory, which is the killing of Christ on the cross, but that very death would spell the defeat of Satan.
Although Adam and Eve had sinned, incurring death, God moved to resolve man’s dilemma by pointing to future Savior who would eliminate death, restore believing man to fellowship with God, and consummate history with Messiah’s reign on earth to restore all that Adam had lost.
Through the sin of eating the forbidden fruit, Adam lost his authority over the earth as the mediator of God’s truth. However, it does not take long for God to show the future salvation of mankind through the Messiah who would restore the lost fellowship and give men everlasting opportunity to live with God in messianic kingdom.
Theology of Noahic Era
The Noahic era is characterized by the degradation and sinfulness of the human race. There were two types of people in the world, those who took after Cain and those who took after Abel. This was an era of natural development of humanity, with greater weight lying on the negative spiritual growth. The era was also characterized by minimal grace, thus, men indulged in all sorts of sins.
After the initial sin of the fall of man, the next generation of sin is characterized by the murder of Abel by his brother Cain because God looked at his brother’s sacrifice with favor (Gen. 4:1-8). God was more pleased with the sacrifice of Abel because it was offered in faith (Heb. 11:4). When God saw how bitter Cain had become, He cautioned him about sin, advising him to master it or else it would prevail over him (Gen. 4:7). According to 1 Peter 5:8, the devil who is the source of all evils moves around from one place to another searching for a heart that he can devour. It is apparent that Cain did not heed to God’s advise, he went ahead to allow himself be controlled by sin, leading to the killing of his brother. God informed Cain that the very ground that had received Abel’s innocent blood would resist Cain, making it unproductive for him (Gen. 4:12).
The murderous act by Cain led to development of a new civilization. Genesis 4:16-17 depicts the emergence of a city life characterized by polygamy, development of art, casting of metallic tools and weapons, and violence between people (Gen. 416-23). This appears as the initial development of human civilization whereby man attempted to mitigate God’s curse effects. In Genesis 5, the author outlines two types of lines of people, the Sethite and the Cainites. The first line was characterized by people who feared God while the second is made up of a line of sinners who were ungodly. Some examples of these were Enoch who was fifth in Seth’s line and Lamech in the fifth in the line of Cain. Lamech was the first man ever to be polygamous while Enoch marked the beginning of people who worshipped God.
The people continued to indulge in immorality until God’s wrath was released upon all mankind. Genesis 6 is marked with increase of immorality such that daughters of men and sons of God began to indulge in sexual immorality triggering the wrath of God. The evil in this generation resulted in the Noahic flood, but Noah stood out amidst all the other earth dwellers. He was the only righteous man living in the face of the earth (Gen. 6:9).
Although it is not usually clear and there are many controversies surrounding the issue of the sons of God, most theologians have posited that the Sethite line that was characterized by God-fearing men could be the one that had produced descendants known as sons of God. The ungodly line that produced the daughters who slept with the sons of God could be the lineage of Cain. The intermarriage between the Sethites (godly sons of God) and Cainites (evil daughters of men) led to the corruption of the whole human race, leaving Noah as the only righteous man. All the people surrendered to a life of sinfulness and immorality, thus, the whole world became deep rooted in sin and unrighteousness (Gen. 6:5). Every human thought was inclined towards wrongdoing and wickedness.
According to Leupold, Noah was the mediator of God in this generation and was determined to stand out in righteousness in the middle of such a sinful generation. God perceived Noah as a blameless man. The Hebrew term for blameless is ‘tamim’, which could be interpreted to mean ‘godward’ (Gen. 6:9). His lifestyle exhibited a direct contrast to the world in which he lived: He was a righteous man while the rest of the world was unrighteous or evil; he walked with God in a world that was defined by violence.
As evident in Genesis 6:7 and 13, God could not condone such level of sinfulness again, thus, He pronounced judgment against all living creatures. He posited that His spirit would no longer contest/strive with men. In a number of instances, the Old Testament defines the twofold concept of blessing and judgment. Genesis 6:7-8 explains the twofold approach to punishing the world, where God decided to destroy every living thing in the earth but spare the life of the only righteous man together with his family. God announced his judgment against the world and His blessing upon Noah who had stood out as the mediator of God’s kingdom. He promised that God would establish the Noahic line. These blessings are witnessed in Genesis 11 with the lineage of Noah through his son Shem. It is from Shem’s line that Abraham was born who became the father of Israelites and in whose lineage Jesus was born.
The flood destroyed everything in the surface of the earth, except what was within the ark, which included animals and Noah’s family. Immediately after coming out of the ark, Noah erected an altar; on it, he offered a sacrifice to God (Gen. 8:20). He sacrificed some clean birds and animals, marking the first account of worship through blood sacrifices on the altar. As highlighted in Leviticus 1:1-7, such blood sacrifices were later categorized as dedicatory offerings.
Following the sacrifice, God established His covenant with Noah (Gen. 9:9) and all living creatures. He vowed never again to destroy the whole earth with water because of human sins. In this covenant, several principles were established; man was to gain control over the earth. In Genesis 9:1, God allowed for human race transmission through procreation from the eight people who remained after the flood to fill the earth. It is important to note that though they were told to fill the earth in this new covenant, the command of subduing it was no longer there (Gen. 1:28 versus 9:1). The command had been forfeited by the entry of sin into the universe. In Noahic covenant, animals were subjected to fearing men (Gen. 9:2): Men had now become carnivorous, thus animals had to fear men for their own protection and so that men would strive even to hunt them for food. The covenant also gave a provision of sustenance (Gen. 9:3-4): God added to human meal by allowing them to be eating animals.
The Noahic covenant also extended provision of protection for their lives (Gen. 9:5-6), whereby Noah was required to guard sanctity of life. God elevated the worth of human life, positing that whoever shall kill a person would lose his or her own life. He perceived life as sacred especially because man was created in His image and likeness. Numerous other teachings on the Israelites and the Church during apostles’ era share in this new perception about human life. A system of punishing offenders, particularly murderers was to be established in all these teachings. In the Old Testaments, Israel community had an avenger of blood punishing persons who intentionally killed others or those who unintentionally killed but failed to run into the cities for refuge. Some of the common Scriptures in relation to sanctity of life include Exodus 21:12-24, Leviticus 24:17, Numbers 35:29-34, II Samuel 4:9-12, and Romans 13:4.
God did not give up on the human race with the flood; He indicated His will to bless people and increase them from the current eight people. He was to employ the same strategy in increasing the human race, as He had mentioned in Genesis 3:15 (woman seed). During the covenant with Noah and his family, God promised to bless Shem’s lineage (Gen. 9:26) and also indicated to narrow his focus to specific lineages. This indication implied that God would settle for the descendants of Shem for fellowship. It was apparent that the promised Savior or Messiah would be through the lineage of Shem. As mentioned earlier, it is through the descendants of Shem that the tribe of Israel came to be. Genesis 10 gives a lineage of Shem, which eventually ends with Abraham in Genesis 11.
God also promised blessings to Japheth, the second son of Noah. In Genesis 9:27, Japheth is promised blessings and expansion, though not in the same measure of Shem. The name Japheth is interpreted to mean “to be wide”, which was a suggestion for expansion of the descendants of Japheth. During the proclamation of Japheth’s blessings, God’s name ‘Elohim’ was also used, which suggested that God the universe governor and creator would bless the whole earth through physical blessings and Japheth would also be a partaker of those blessings.
God’s judgment and punishment through the flood did not imply that the world would no longer flourish—God still announced His blessing upon human beings dwelling in the earth. The blessing was to originate via His covenant to the house of Shem and his descendants. In these blessings, God was to administer the program of His kingdom through Shem’s lineage leading to the Hebrew community.
Tower of Babel
Genesis 11: 1-4 tells of a story of people speaking the same language who settled in a plain land of Shinar and decided to build a tower using bricks reaching heaven. God came down and confused their languages, thus they could not continue with their construction project. The term describing God’s action is illuminate, which translates to immanence (Gen. 11:7).
Theologians have argued that the reason why God decided to confuse their language is because the human actions were characterized by a number of weaknesses. In Genesis 9:1, God instructed the people to multiply and fill the earth. Man’s intention was to avoid scattering across the earth (Gen. 11:4), which was a violation of God’s command of multiplication and filling the earth. Second, these people were seeking their own glory as opposed to seeking glory for God (11:4): It was about fulfilling their own selfish desires. Third, the people sought to make a name for themselves: The intention was to bring honor to them. Their focus was about building a kingdom for themselves as opposed to building a kingdom for God.
God had to force the people to scatter (Gen. 11:9), thus, fulfilling the command in Genesis 9:1. When He confused their languages, they could understand each other, thus their mission became impossible. They did not have a way out other than to leave according to how they understood each other, which explains the numerous tribes of the earth today.
Theology of Patriarchal Era
Enns has observed that the concept of the kingdom became more obvious from Genesis 12. From this chapter, it is apparent that the manner in which God was dealing with human beings changed. In the initial chapters of Genesis, God related with men generally, with no specific attention to an individual or a group of persons. However, God’s attention to redeeming mankind narrows through a specific group of people that He perceives as His own. Abram, who was later renamed as Abraham, became the fundamental figure through whom God acted and brought about salvation. God promised to expand Abraham and to bless his descendants. Among the descendants of Abraham would be the Messiah who would bring salvation into the whole universe and establish everlasting kingdom of God (Gen. 12:1-3).
Through Abraham, God purposed to call a specific group of people to be His own people and through whom He was to bless the whole population of human kind. This covenant is among the most important concepts in the Old Testament because it creates a deeper understanding of the kingdom concept. The unconditional covenant between God and Abraham implied that its fulfillment had nothing to do with Abraham but was entirely the plan of God. This was a literal covenant whereby the promises God made to Abraham were to be interpreted literally, just as they appeared. For example, the land in question was not a spiritual or supernatural land but rather a real land that already existed and where the Canaanites were living. The promise also talked about an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his descendants, which meant that God’s promises to the Israelites were eternal.
The covenant’s features
Enns observed that the covenant between God and Abraham was characterized by some three main features: (1) Land promise, (2) descendant promise, and (3) blessing and redemption promise.
Land promise: In Genesis 12:1, God called Abram from among his people to a land that he promised to show him. Initially, God did not tell him where the land was located or even offer him any proof that there was such a land. Genesis 13:14-18 confirms the existence of the land as God shows Abraham the expanse of the land that He would give him and his descendants. Deuteronomy 30:1-10 expands the concept of the land promise, which is also known as the Palestinian covenant.
Descendants promise: In Genesis 12:2, Abraham was promised that he would become a great nation despite the fact that at seventy-five years, he had no child (Gen. 12:4). God promised to give him numerous descendants. Genesis 17:6 has the promises outlined, God promising that although he was aged, from him shall emerge kings and nations. The promise of descendants was expanded in II Samuel 7:12-16 in Davidic covenant that involved establishment of kingship and the eventual Messiah’s kingdom.
Blessing and redemption promise: God also promised that he would bless Abraham together with other families of the earth because of him (Gen. 12:3). Jeremiah 31:31-34 has amplified these blessings, which encompassed Israel’s spiritual blessing. God promised to make His laws dwell in their hearts and promised to forgive their transgressions, forgetting their sins. The promises were unconditional and eternal as reaffirmed to Isaac (Gen. 26:3-4). God vowed that he would do that which He had promised, not based on any condition. This covenant was affirmed in Genesis 28:14-15, whereby God promised Jacob that his descendants would be plenty and God would not forsake them. It is important to note that amidst the patriarchs’ sins, God still emphasized the unconditional nature of the covenant with Abraham.
The covenant’s fulfillment
Through history, God is seen to fulfill His covenant to Abraham and his descendants. His approach to fulfillment of the promises was literal. He gave Abraham the land that He had promised to him (Gen. 13:14-17). He also blessed Abraham spiritually as evident in Genesis 21:22 and 14:22. He fulfilled His promise of giving to Abraham many descendants when He gave him Isaac at his old age and through Isaac Jacob was born whose sons made the twelve tribes of Israel.
However, some of the promises were eternal and could not be fulfilled immediately, but had to wait until later days. For example, the promise of everlasting kingship is gradually being fulfilled up to this very day. Although the Messiah was born more than two-thousand years ago, His everlasting kingdom will be established when He shall come for the church and reign with them forever in heaven. Numerous passages in the Old Testament anticipated the blessing for Israel and the possession of Land, which was promised to Abraham. Prophet Ezekiel envisioned the restoration of Israel in the future, which has not yet been fulfilled (Ezek. 20:40-42; 33-37). The return of Jesus Christ will lead to the ultimate fulfillment of Abrahamic covenant. The Messiah’s magnificent kingdom and reign on earth, which will be characterized by forgiveness of sins and restoration of Israel will mark the fulfillment of Abrahamic covenant.
Theology of Mosaic Era
Israel in Egypt
Jacob and his family migrated into Egypt as a huge family where Joseph had become a ruler. However, the book of Exodus begins with the family that had already expanded to become a huge tribe under the oppression of the Egyptians. The nation of Israel was to become the key instrument in the journey of God revealing Himself to humanity. The Mosaic era starts with highlighting the sufferings of the Israelites under their slave masters, the Egyptians and God’s initiative to deliver them from their bondage. God appeared to Moses and gave him the assignment of delivering the Israelites from Egypt (Gen. 3) and to take them into the land that He had promised to Abraham in Genesis 12. In His mission of delivering Israelites, God caused many plagues upon the Egyptians but they continued to resist and refuse Israel their freedom (Gen. 7-11). Towards the climax of Exodus chapter 12, God struck the entire Egyptian population’s firstborns together with their cattle, causing a huge outcry among the Egyptians. The pain of the deaths propelled Pharaoh to release the Israelites from Egypt’s captivity.
This memorable deliverance act foreshadowed an even greater act of God’s redemption over the human race through Jacob’s descendant—the Messiah. After delivering them, God took the Israelites through the wilderness up to Mount Sinai where He entered into a covenant with them. God set the Israelites apart from the rest of the nations of the world and chose them as His own people. The Israelites, thus, became the mediators of the theoretical kingdom of God through the Mosaic covenant.
The Mosaic era cannot be understood in exclusion from God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 12. Genesis 3 highlights the fall of man through the consumption of the forbidden fruit and the judgment of God, which closes with Noahic flood. The second age began with Noah who was the only righteous man in his generation and closes with the Tower of Babel judgment and dispersion of people across the whole world. The third age began with the call of Abraham to whom God made many promises, including making him a father of many nations. In this age, God began to set people aside for Himself beginning with Abraham and his descendants. He separated Abraham from the rest of the people (Exod. 12:1). The descendants of Abraham were later taken to Egypt as explained above but later through Moses, God called them out (Exod. 4:22). God continued to separate His children from the rest of the nations and setting them aside for Himself to fulfill His promises. The doctrine of separation is evident even in the New Testament where Christ set aside some 12 disciples and later 72 others to help him realize his goal of salvation. While discussing the works of Christ, Pearlman observed that God purposed to save the whole humanity, but this could only be realized through setting aside some people who would go to proclaim the gospel.
God had to find the way out of the Egyptian bondage, which was also signifying man’s bondage in sin after Adam and Eve’s fall. Although God would have simply delivered the Israelites from Egypt through some easy means and short routs, He decided to employ a unique approach that was also significant in the journey of human salvation. He required each Israelite family to slaughter a lamb and to paint the blood on the doorpost, which was to be the mark of salvation. When the angel saw the blood, he passed over and went into the houses of Egyptians killing the firstborn. This was also significant in the concept of salvation through the Messiah where Jesus was to die on the cross and His blood was to serve as the mark of salvation to all men (Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:7). The author of Hebrews 9:12 noted that the blood of Jesus Christ was used in obtaining eternal redemption.
Looking at Exodus 2, 3 and 4, it is apparent that deliverance did not just happen. It was a process that involved some two critical stages: “Deliverance prepared for the people and the people prepared for deliverance”. In the first part, Moses was prepared to be the lead person in delivering the people. His growing up in the house of the king was not a mistake; it was necessary to teach him the necessary leadership traits. Exodus chapters 1 through 2 show the origin, experiences, education, upbringing and qualification of Moses as the leader. His training for the redemption plan of God took eighty years, forty in Pharaoh’s house and forty in the land of Median. Without such training, Moses would not have had the courage to face the rulers of Egypt because they were much mightier than Israelites.
The forty years in Median (desert and solitude land) were meant to train him about patience even in solitude. He was separated from familiar people and environment to be trained about trusting in God as an individual so that even when all people had rebelled, he would not lose his faith in God. The solitude and sorrow is evident in the name that he called his son, Gershom. He posited that he had been a stranger within a strange land. He needed to undergo both the experiences of royalty and leadership and desolation to learn to be a leader and patient for him to fit in God’s redemption plan. God prepared the redemption of the Israelites even before they knew of His plans. Then He commissioned Moses in chapter 3 with the assignment of delivering the Israelites.
Paul Enns (2008) observed that during Moses’ commissioning, some few things come out clearly—the entire Mosaic era has highlighted these lessons. The concern of God for His people was very evident during the commissioning. Similar concern is expressed by the commissioning of Christ to redeem mankind. He pointed out that He had seen their miseries, He was concerned, and thus, He had come down to deliver them (Exod. 3:7-8). His love and intent of fulfilling the promises He makes with men was very evident in the commissioning and in the whole journey from Egypt to Canaan. He also revealed His power not only to Moses but also to the people of Egypt to prove to them that He is God. He made it clear to Moses and the Israelites of His personality as God so that they would learn to trust Him. Although the whole Mosaic era is characterized by people full of doubts about God, severally, He proved to them that He was still God and committed to His purpose of bringing them to the land of their inheritance.
Enns (2008) observed that the Israelites had lost hope when they reached at the banks of Red Sea and Pharaoh and his chariots were coming after them. Actually, they started complaining to Moses that he should have left them alone to continue being slaves than die in the desert (Exod. 14:12). However, the Lord gave them His deliverance by creating a dry road through the sea through which the Israelites entered into the wilderness and the waters capsized and killed Pharaoh and his military men. The jubilation of Israel for the Lord’s deliverance did not last long—in three days, they had already started murmuring because of the challenges they were beginning to encounter in the wilderness (Exod. 15:22-26).
The journey in the wilderness was full of challenges, most of which were meant to train the Israelites about the nature of God so that they would learn to trust in Him at all times. When they thought they were about to be killed by Pharaoh and his chariots before crossing the Red Sea, God provided a way out. When they lacked food in the desert, He provided to them food that was unknown to them. When they were thirsty and had no water, He provided water from a rock. God did all these in an attempt to teach His children who He was (Exod. 14-17). God’s decision to take the Israelites through the desert for forty years was not because He could not fight for them if they had used a shorter route, but it was so that He would humble them and test them, thus determine whether they would obey His commands (Deut. 8:2-3). He also took them through the challenges so that they would learn to lean on the Word of God and His commands for their very existence (Deut 8:3).
According to the works of Monro, life in the wilderness was meant to fulfill the objective of God, which included revealing God to people and revealing men to God. For example, in times of calamities, God taught the Israelites that He is a loving God, an able God, a caring God, a faithful God, and a powerful God. Providing to them and having solutions for their numerous challenges proved all these aspects of Him.  On the other hand, Enns (2008) observed that calamities revealed the true nature of men’s heart to God. When they gave into troubles and temptations, it showed their weaknesses and their selfishness, which triggered God’s anger. Except for Caleb and Joshua, the rest never reached their promised land; only their children managed to get to the Promised Land. This also explains why men even in the modern society have failed to realize the purpose of God in their lives. Many fall prey to challenges and temptations, thus the challenges disclose human shortcomings.
One of the lessons emphasized by Biblical theology is that God’s purpose towards man is not to destroy them but to restore them in His vineyard, renewing His fellowship with them. Although God may punish offenders and disappoint their wicked plans and desires, He does so in the hope that they will turn away from their wayward ways and run unto Him. For example, when they spoke against God and against Moses because of the challenges they were encountering in the wilderness, God sent poisonous snakes to them and killed many people (Num. 21:6). When they repented, God brought about healing through a bronze serpent (Num. 21:8). He showed them that He is the Lord who heals them of their diseases. He also taught them that He is a forgiving God.
God taught the Israelites His laws and made both promises and curses to those who would obey and those who would rebel respectively. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 listed numerous blessings that God would bestow on those who would be obedient to His laws and decrees. From verse 15, God listed many of the curses that He would bestow to those who would choose to disobey Him. In Exodus 12:2, He promised to protect the Israelites from diseases that were common in Egypt, proclaiming His name as their Healer. By providing to them manna in the wilderness, God showed them that earthly food cannot give a person eternal life. In John 6:50-51, Jesus observed that those who had eaten manna had died but those who would eat of His flesh would live forever. The body/bread that Christ implied was His word, thus, confirming that man should live by the word that comes from God.
The whole journey from Egypt to Canaan was characterized by numerous experiences as the people witnessed the miracles and signs from God. The journey also had some unique experiences that continued to reveal the nature of God to people as God continued to teach them His ways. Among the most unique experiences was the Sinai revelation, which also incorporates the Sinai Covenant. The Sinai revelation includes the Leviticus laws given from the Tabernacle and the laws of Exodus given at the foot and the top of Mount Sinai respectively. Although all the laws given to the Israelites at the mountain were important, the Ten Commandments were unique in that they were spoken by God Himself to the people (Exod. 20:1-17). This truth was further confirmed in Deuteronomy 5:22, where Moses reminds the Israelites of how God had spoken to them at the mountain.
The Sinai covenant and the subsequent covenant book derive its content from Exodus 20:22 through Exodus 23. The covenant has several divisions according to different roles that the different laws were supposed to serve. The first division related to mode of worship, particularly in guarding its simplicity and purity (Exod. 20:22-26). Some elaborate Tabernacle rituals in the subsequent chapters filled in the outline, though the covenant book only highlighted the principles that would govern the people in worship.
The second division encompassed “the judgments”, which were meant to regulate civil relationships. Monro argued that the judgments were related to the second law table just as the regulations governing alter worship related to the first table. However, the mistake comes in when people attempt to confound them together, thus using them in justifying personal selfish ambitions such as using the law, “an eye for an eye” in justifying individual revenge. They were meant to be applied in those days according to the prevailing circumstances but not in the nineteenth century where they are inapplicable within the contemporary legal systems. The author further noted that they were only fitting in a theocracy system of Israel and not in republican and monarchical governments of today.
The third division of the covenant book dealt with issues relating to both worship and civil relations. Such include the yearly festivals, year of Sabbath, and the Sabbath day (Exod. 23:10-19). The five books of the law have highlighted the issue of Sabbath day, starting with Genesis 1, which talks about God resting on Sabbath, through the Ten Commandments that required the Israelites to honor the Sabbath to many other Scriptures that emphasized on the uniqueness of the Sabbath. There are some specific instructions about the year of Sabbath, with special attention to allowing the land to rest on that year.
The final division of the covenant book entails the promises that related to the covenant. These promises set forth the covenant’s divine part, including “promises of angelic guidance, victory, national prosperity and greatness, accompanied, however, with cautions against disobedience, and against yielding to the temptation of forsaking the God of Israel” (Exod. 23:20-23). The Sinai covenant was confirmed in the hearing of all the leaders of the Israelites who confirmed that they would do everything that the Lord had required of them (Exod. 24:1-3).
Lapses and restoration
It would have been expected that after the great experience with the Lord in Mount Sinai, the Israelites would embark on fulfilling whatever they had been commanded. God revealed Himself to them in different ways, so one would think that now they knew God and would endeavor to please and honor Him. But this was never the case; they did not show any eagerness to welcome the novel revelation. On the contrary, they embarked on activities that were displeasing to God, thus disappointing God and rebelling against their leaders. They went to an extent of casting a golden image when Moses took too long on the mountain and worshipped the idol.
Many people who read the history of the Jewish people do not understand why they had such a short memory or how they could turn to idol worship after witnessing all that their God had done for them and their forefathers. Of great importance to note is that they were not turning to idol worship because the calf was not meant to substitute God but to stand as a symbol of Him. This is affirmed by Aaron’s proclamation that the following day after he casted the calf would be a “feast to the LORD” (Exod. 32:5). The people had lived in Egypt all their life, thus, they believed in having a visible symbol of God.
When Moses descended from the mountain and saw what the people had done, he got angry and casted the tables off his hands breaking them at the foot of the mountain. This was a righteous indignation as opposed to loss of temper. The breaking of the tables indicated that the covenant had been broken together with all the blessings associated to the covenant. Moses demonstrated his derision for the Israelites’ idol by grinding it and forcing the people to drink the water mixed with it. The slaying of some three-thousand Israelites demonstrated the completion of the lesson: Sin has consequences and people must always be ready to bear such consequences. This was further emphasized by Prophet Ezekiel when he pronounced, that “the soul that sinneth it must die” (Ezek. 18:20).
The next question that obviously came to the Israelites and sinners even in the modern world is; what next? Is there hope for the future? The people had sinned, Moses had broken the tables, the revelation of the Tabernacle was set aside, and it may have seemed that the fulfillment of Abraham’s promise was impractical. The immediate reaction of God was evident that He was determined to destroy the people and create another generation from Moses (Exod. 32:9-10). But Moses pleaded with God to give them another chance reminding God of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (vs. 13). God is a merciful God, so he relented from doing what He had planned to do. Although God has revealed His nature as a forgiving and a loving God, this did not mean that He would let the sinners go unpunished. Exodus 34:7 noted, “He does not let the guilty go unpunished.” He gave them a second chance but still punished those who had sinned against Him.
Theology of Monarchical Era
Paul Enns (1982) observed that after the death of Moses, God appointed Joshua to lead the people of Israel across River Jordan into the land that He had promised Abraham and his descendants. Joshua led the people in fighting against the people occupying the land of Canaan and they captured it. He also facilitated the sharing of the land as the Lord guided him and after all the people had settled in their respective places, Joshua died. After the death of Joshua, the Israelites sought the Lord for guidance about the people to lead them in battles and God appointed Judah (Judg. 1:1-3). The generation of people who had crossed from the wilderness into Canaan died and a new generation was born. They forgot the Lord and worshipped the gods of the Canaanites. Then God allowed them to be defeated in all the wars until they repented. They did this many times and each time God forgave them and gave them a deliverer/judge to fight over them (Judg. 2-16).
Thus, the history of the Jews was not characterized by kingship and monarchies from the time of Moses through the reign of Joshua to the reign of the judges. After the judges came the prophets, such as Samuel who led the people, especially in relation to their spiritual life and guiding them during wars. The prophets acted as mediators between the Israelites and God, relaying God’s word to the people.
Israel’s Demand for a King
Although the idea of a monarchy was evident in the early prophecies regarding Israel, it took many years before it could come to be. When God was making promises to Abraham, He noted a possibility of a kingdom when He posited that kings would stem from Abraham (Gen. 17:6). When Jacob was about to die, he proclaimed blessings upon all his sons and indicated that a kingdom would be born among them. He told Judah that, “the scepter shall never depart from” him (Gen. 49:9-12). It is from Judah’s lineage that David was born (II Sam. 8:1-14) and the Messiah was later born from the same lineage.
However, one thing that comes out clearly when reading the Bible chronologically is that the idea of a monarchy was never supported by God. Although God had indicated that the Israelites would one day ask for a king (Deut. 17:14-20), He did not indicate that the move would be His will. On the contrary, God posited that by demanding for a king, Israel had rejected God as their king (I Sam. 8:7). God told Samuel to do what the people wanted (appoint a king for them (I Sam. 8:22), which served as a fulfillment of Deuteronomy 17’s prophesy. This was not the first time that the Israelites were rejecting God. Another such incidence of rejecting God had happened when they cast an idol in an attempt to be like other nations that worshipped visible and tangible gods. Actually, God posited that since the day He delivered them from Egypt, they had constantly rejected Him as their God, choosing to worship other gods (I Sam. 8:8).
Israel Become a Monarchy
Although reluctant, Prophet Samuel anointed a king over the Israelites (I Sam. 10:9). The appointment of the king laid down the foundation of a monarchy for the Israelites. Having been led by Judges and prophets for a period of 4 centuries, the Israelites had their first king ruling over them and leading them in battles as the other nations surrounding them. Samuel warned the people of their decision to have a king over them positing that an absolute monarch would end up ruining their lives. From 1 Samuel 8:9, the prophet told the Israelites what would be the consequences of their decision to appoint a king to rule over them. The monarch was to be established according to the directives of God and rulers would be appointed by God through the prophets (I Sam. 8:9).
The monarchy system was a very costly system as Samuel had warned the Israelites. Although the Israelites thought that the king would go out to fight for them or lead them in battle, God through Samuel informed them that the king would take their sons to become horsemen and charioteers, running before his chariot. This meant that the king would not necessarily fight for them but would make the Israelites fight for him. A proof of this prophesy is the fact that during the time of war, David could stay back at home and leave the men to go fighting alone. One such incidence is highlighted in II Samuel 11:1 where David was left in Jerusalem as his military men led by Joab went out to war. This was despite the fact that it was a season when kings went to war (II Sam. 11:1).
God did not establish the kingdom of Saul because he violated the Lord’s decrees by offering a sacrifice in place of Samuel. Samuel informed Saul that his kingdom would not endure because he had acted foolishly before the Lord (I Sam. 13:14). Saul was given an assignment by God to kill all the Amalekites and destroy every of their possessions but he spared the king and some fat sheep (I Sam. 15:8-9). In verse 16, Samuel informed Saul that God had rejected him as king because he had rejected God’s command. This led to the anointing of David as the person who would take after Saul (I Sam. 16:13).
After the death of Saul (I Sam. 31), David was anointed as the new king over Judah (II Sam. 2:1-7). He was different from Saul because he had a lot of faith in God, which enabled him to overcome numerous challenges in difficult times. After building his palace, he yearned to build a house for God within the city of Jerusalem. He had hoped to replace the tent that was used as the house for the Ark of the Covenant. However, God required him to leave the building of the temple to his son Solomon. God promised that He would establish Davidic line as kings eternally. God walked with King David and enabled him to conquer all the enemies of the Israelites (II Sam. 8:8-10). He was a very successful king and the kingdom became very prosperous during his reign. David expanded the kingdom of Israel by defeating their enemies.
II Samuel 9-20 together with 1 Kings chapters 1 through 2 have highlighted some history about King David’s children as they fought for the kingship position, thus, the dynastic succession. This narrative appears like a short story, which seems to have been composed within the records of the court with various authorities perceiving the account as the succession narrative and King David’s court history. The monarchy was led by kings who were human and susceptible to sin. During his reign, Saul had violated the decrees of the Lord such as failure to destroy all the Amalekites, leading to God’s rejection of him (I Sam. 15:8-9).
David was also not a supernatural being without flaws: He committed his fair share of sins, with particular attention to the case of adultery with Bethsheba and killing of her husband Uriah (II Sam. 11:1-17). He had also neglected his duties as a king, among them included leading the military in fights. His final flaw as the king of Israel included conducting a census between Judah and Israel (II Sam. 24). In all these incidences, God punished David for his sins. He did not spare the life of the child born from his relationship with Bethsheba and God exposed him to war and internal conflicts as He had promised (II Sam. 12:10-12). After conducting the census, God gave David three options for punishments (II Sam. 24:13). David chose to be punished by God hoping that His mercies would save the Israelites. The Lord sent a plague upon the Israelites for this sin, which lead to the deaths of seventy-thousand Israelites (II Sam. 24:15).
After the reign of David, Solomon took over in the leadership of the monarchy. He ruled the kingdom wisely after God gave to him astonishing wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-28). As God had promised to David, that his son would build the dwelling place for the Lord, Solomon built a magnificent temple for the Lord and brought the Ark of the Covenant into its new dwelling place (1 Kings. 6 and 1 Kings. 8 ). During the reign of King Solomon, the kingdom did not experience wars with its neighbors. However, just like the previous kings, Solomon had his flaws. During his reign, he overtaxed the people to finance his building projects and to establish a huge army (1 Kings 9 and 12). 1 Kings 11:1-3 tells of how King Solomon took many wives who led him astray, away from the Lord.
The kingdom split after the death of King Solomon when people rebelled against Rehoboam (1 Kings 12). Rehoboam had refused to renegotiate the tax policies of his father, which made twelve tribes to split off under Jeroboam’s leadership. Jeroboam became the Northern kingdom’s king with 10 tribes of Israel while Rehoboam continued to reign over Judah and Benjamin in the south.
Many other kings reigned over the two kingdoms after the death of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Such kings included King Asa, King Jehosophat, and King Jehoram, of Judah, and King Nadab, King Baasha, King Elah, King Zimri, King Omri, King Ahab of Israel, and King Jehu of Israel. The eventual attack of the two exiles by Assyrians led to the destruction of the kingdoms. By the time Christ was born in the house of Joseph, Israel was no longer a kingdom.
Theology of Prophetic Era
Enns (2008) observed that the destruction of both Judah and Israel and the exile of the people led to the emergence of the prophetic era. The prophets served as mediators between the Israelites and their God, seeking to explain why various things were happening among the people. The books of the prophets focused on explaining various events amongst the Israelites. The theology of prophetic era does not deal with the issue of prophesy in the Old Testament per se, because it does not cover the early days when Prophet Moses led the people across the wilderness and days when prophets like Nathaniel and Samuel instructed kings of Israel. The works of other prophets have been explored in seeking to understand the roles of the prophets among the Israelites.
The prophets are categorized into four major phases of Israelites’ lives, which include the pre-classical prophets, Assyrian period, Babylonian period, and the Persian period. The prophets during pre-classical period included Elisha and Elijah, during the Assyrian period included Amos, Micah, Hosea, and one section Isaiah, during Babylonian period include Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Nahum, Obadiah, and the second section of Isaiah, and during Persian Period included the third section of Isaiah, Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi.,
Approaches to the Prophets
Gowan has observed that in postexilic Judaism, the concept of a prophet was used in reference to “an inspired person.” The usage of this definition could be drawn from the early theology, including in the times of Abraham (Genesis 20:7) and times of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:10). Within the New Testament, the usage of the term prophet is apparently different from its usage in the Old Testament. John the Baptist and Jesus are categorized as prophets (Mathew 21:26 and 21:11 respectively). The canonical prophets stood in the position of martyrs, persons willing to surrender their lives for the truth. They were always calling upon the people and the kings to be faithful to God and thus suffered in the hands of the people when they disagreed with kings and their subjects. Even in the midst of persecutions of the Jews and Christians in the latter days of the church, the prophets continued to insist that people must uphold the fear of the Lord and faithfulness to God (Mathew 5:12; 23:30-31; Thess. 2:15; Acts 7:52).
The collections of the prophets contain stories of conflict and main clashes of culture. The foundation of the Israelite’s nation was through the act of God in delivering them from slavery in Egypt as well as by constituting them as the subjects of His covenant. Israel was ruled through divinely defined rules and regulations (theocracy). Enns (2008) observed that during the early days before they became a kingdom, the Israelites lived as a group of several tribes with no king. However, both external and internal pressures led to the formation of a monarchy, ruled by kings. The clash of the two models of ruling (theocracy vs. monarchy) often led to a violent tension within the society. The monarchy sometimes used the teachings of Moses as means to its own end but at other times, it employed the Canaanites’ components in seeking to realize its set objectives. The role of the prophets was to represent Mosaic tradition within the monarchy although several prophets aligned themselves to the royal programs.
Walton and Hill observed that the prophets used the traditional Godly principles in instructing the people, with some actually quoting some various sources such as the Mosaic teachings as the basis of their statements and teachings. They noted that there was a substantial network of interdependence, which linked different prophets to the Jewish traditions. As one explores the prophetic literatures, it does not take much experience to tell that the messages are obviously connected. The messages have also connected the various prophets to some convectional complexes of Biblical theology such as the Sinai revelation and covenant and the royal traditions. The authors further noted that the biblical traditions tend to be connected to both ideological differences and regional politics, thus, it is important for a reader to always ask himself or herself where the prophet in question worked or lived. For example, a prophet in Judah is very different from a prophet in Israel because the two monarchies had dissimilar administrations. Equally important while exploring the works of a particular prophet is the kind of speech he employed and the reason behind such an approach. Some prophets such as Hosea had to live in a lifestyle that reflected their message (Hosea 1:1-3).
All the prophetic books, whether latter or former, have a history behind their compositions. In most of the cases, the prophet books were written long after the events took place. This could imply that most of the literatures about the prophet tend to demonstrate how the different prophets were remembered for their works among the Israelites. The telling of history is usually for reasons beyond the reconstruction of various events that took place. Most of the theological investigations about the prophetic era have attempted to clarify the reasons that led to the prevalent circumstances or events. Therefore, on numerous fronts, the literature of the prophetic era challenges the modern readers and thus calls for extensive research.
The Prophetic Era Prophets
The prophets of the prophetic era are also known as the latter prophets. They dealt with the monarchy of Israel after the splitting, through the exile to postexilic era. They recognized both the spiritual and the social role among the Israelites who looked at their various misfortunes and occurrences from divine perspective. Such prophets include Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and the Book of the Twelve. The Book of the Twelve consists of some other prophets that were categorized as Minor Prophets, ranging from Hosea to Malachi. The theology of prophetic era has “confined itself to the message of the canonical prophets (formerly called writing prophets): Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Book of the Twelve.”
Both Israel and Judah had different prophet living within the reigns of different kings, some of whom extended tenure through the reign of several kings. In the northern Kingdom of Israel, Prophet Elijah lived during the reign of Kings Omri, Ahab, and Ahaziah while Elisha prophesied through the reigns of Kings Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, and Jeroboam. Prophet Amos and Jonah lived through the reign of Jeroboam II and Zachariah. Prophet Hosea also lived in the times of Kings Jeroboam II and Zachariah but his tenure continued through the reigns of Kings Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hoshea.
In the southern kingdom of Judah, Prophet Micah lived through the reign of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. Prophet Isaiah lived during the same time as Micah in Jerusalem but his tenure continued through the times of King Manasseh. The two prophets were followed by Prophets Nahum and Zephaniah who lived through the reigns of Kings Amon and Josiah in Judah. Prophets Habakkuk and Obadiah lived during Jehoiakim and Jehoiakin tenure in office and were succeeded by Prophet Ezekiel who lived through the reign of Kings Jehoiakin and Zedekiah. Jeremiah was also a prophet in Judah at the same time as Prophets Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Obadiah, and Ezekiel while Daniel lived from the reign of Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin, and Zedekia. Daniel’s tenure as prophet extended even after Nebuchadnezzar took the people of Judah into exile and partly during the time Babylon fell to the Persians and Medes. Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s tenure also extended to the early days of Nebuchadnezzar’s exile of Judah. Prophet Haggai, Zachariah, Joel and Malachi were Judah’s prophets in the post exile period.
The Themes of Prophetic Era
Although the various prophets lived during different dispensations and in different regions of Israel, Paul Enns (2008) observed that some themes come out clearly in prophetic theology. Several of the prophets shared a number of messages, some targeted to Judah, others to Israel and still others to the rest of the world and Scripture readers. Theology of prophetic era highlights five major themes in the works of the prophets which tend to be entwined all through the prophetic corpus. They have been bound together as a unified whole, thus filling various spaces in unfolding the redemption and salvation revelation.
The first theme in prophetic theology relates to the application and enforcement of Mosaic Law. Throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, the prophets did not develop their own unique ways of perceiving the world or God. In everything that the prophets taught, the background was the foundational Pentateuch works as well as the writings of the Old Testaments. Although the messages of the prophets may have seemed new because of the detailing and further exposure of human relationship with God, nothing was totally new. For example, their messages about denouncing sins and pronunciation of the coming judgment was in line with the blessings and curses of faithfulness and unfaithfulness in keeping the covenant as recorded by Moses in various books of Law such as Lev. 26:1-40, Deut. 4:15-40 and 28:1-32, and 42. The latter prophets pronounced both curses and blessings upon Judah and Israel in relation to their observation of the laws.
Nearly every commandment in the books of law is used by different prophets in accusing or condemning the people for their wickedness. They also used the same laws in pronouncing judgment in relation to what Moses had taught the Israelites. For example, Prophet Hosea in chapter 4 pronounces judgment against Israel for disobedience of the third, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth commandments as stipulated in Exodus 20.
The second theme throughout the prophetic era related to the covenant of God with His people. The works of the prophets was not limited to cursing the violators of the law and blessing those who abound in it. The prophecies were characterized by unconditional hope promises, some of which were allude to numerous other covenants within the same context. The prophets continually condemned the Israelites for their failure to honor God or keep His commandments but throughout the Scriptures, God continued to uphold the covenant that He had made with Abraham and would not break it. Severally, God was very annoyed by the Israelites and even handed them over to the Babylonians but He still did not violate the covenant (Gal. 3:17) and His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.
The third theme in prophetic era messages involved inclusion of all people across the world within the plans of God. Although most of the messages of the prophets made it clear that Israelites were God chosen people and He fought for them to fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the messages also indicated that God was governing the entire universe and was also concerned about other people across the world. The prophets regularly condemned the Gentiles not in relation with Mosaic Law but because of their ill practices, idolatry, pride, and violence (Amos 2:1; Isa. 16:6-7; Isa. 19:1). The people were also condemned and punished for mistreating the Israelites (Jer. 50:17-18). Moreover, the prophets also gave the Gentiles a message of hope and salvation through the New Covenant (Amos 9:11-12; Isa. 66:19-22).
Equally important theme in the works of the prophets related to the exile and the promise of restoration. Many prophets who lived before the exile pronounced God’s punishment for Israel’s unfaithful through captivity. The prophets together with those who lived during the exile pronounced the restoration of the Israelites based on continuous covenant of God’s grace. Through messages of various prophets such as Hosea, God declared His anger and even denounced the Israelites (Hos. 1:6-10), thus handing them over for oppression by their captures. However, the promise of restoration involves God calling back His people and sending His Son to redeem men for God. The promise of restoration does not end with the return of Israel from exile but also extends to the salvation of humankind through Jesus’ sacrifice.
The final theme of the prophecies displays Jesus Christ’s centrality in all the messages of the prophets. Christ is displayed as the consummation of the prophets as well as the fulfillment of all the prophecies (Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:19-23). Although the prophets pronounced curses upon the people for disobedience and unfaithfulness to God, they also prophesied that Christ would explicitly bear the law curses (Isa. 53). The messages of the prophets promised a covenant of blessings (Isa. 55:3), which is exemplified by Christ’s very presence among humans (Isa. 9:6-7; Ezek. 34:29-30). Moreover, the prophet’s central message of exile and restoration is evident in the coming of the Messiah whereby God rejects sinners for their wickedness but through mercy and grace restores them. The role of Christ in the messages was to placate the wrath of God, thus purchasing His mercies, which would enable the undeserving people to know God’s restoration by grace.
Theology of Synoptics
In his works on biblical theology, Paul Enns argued that it is imperative for one to understand the perspectives of the authors of synoptic gospel in an endeavor to develop the theology. He observed that one of the most critical questions to ask in seeking to understand the perspectives is to whom did Mathew, Mark and Luke write? Equally important to understand is to whom they were writing, the particular emphasis of each author and the themes stressed by each author. Such questions help one to determine the theological concerns and emphases developed by each individual writer. Biblical theology’s nature rests with the concerns of the writer without ignoring or disregarding the role of divine inspiration.
Enns observed that the term synoptic is derived from ‘sunoptikos’ (Greek word for seeing things together). The theology of synoptic characterizes the works of three gospel authors; Mathew, Mark and Luke. The three works are normally studied together owing to the fact that their view of Jesus Christ is seen as largely similar. The three authors tend to share in many of their literatures about Christ and unlike the Gospel of John, they agree in most of the aspects and personalities of Christ.
According to Enns (2008), one of the main problems in studying the Synoptic Gospels has to do with how the three books relate with each other. One of the most fundamental questions asked by scholars is whether the authors of the three books used each other’s works in writing their respective books. Equally important to understand is whether they had a common source from which all the three drew their contents. It is apparent that perusing through the three Gospels one can tell that they greatly agree on many things, especially in reference to the works of Mark. Drawing from the works of Westcott, Enns noted that approximately 93% of the works of Mark is found in all the three gospels. Thus, very little of Mark’s gospel is unique except for the questionable ending in Mark 16:9-20, where about 30 verses are unique to his works alone.
The three gospels are characterized by both differences and similarities, especially in relation to how they record various events such as in Mathew 9:6, Luke 5:24 and Mark 2:10-11. However, Mathew, Luke and Mark also record some differences in their books such as in relation to the narratives of the birth of Christ where Mathew and Luke’s genealogies tend to differ. Actually, Enns noted that even the parallel accounts differed such as the order of temptations in Mathew 4:11, Luke 4:1-13 and Mark 1:12-13. In the works of Mark, there were peculiarities of 7% and coincidences of 93%, in Mathew 4% peculiarities and 58% coincidences, in Luke 59% peculiarities and 41% coincidences, in John 92% peculiarities and 8% coincidences. One may therefore be left wondering of the relationship of the 3 books leading to a number of theories from different scholars.
One such theory is known as Oral Traditional Theory, which is, based on the belief that early church preaching ‘provided fixed forms to the life and ministry of Jesus, but there were no written forms behind the Synoptic Gospels’. The second theory is known as Interdependence Theory, which posits that the initial writer of the gospels based his literature on the oral tradition while the second based on the first author’s works, and the third based on the first and the second authors’ works. The Primitive Gospel theory posits that the writers of the three gospels borrowed their contents from a primitive literature known as Urevangelism, which existed many years back. The Fragmentary theory posits that the authors of the gospels compiled their respective literatures from different sources about Christ’s life. Other theories include the Two-Document Theory and Four-Document theory.
Different scholars in the modern society have developed several theories that sought to explain the origin of human beings and the production of the gospels. While the modern approaches seem to display some level of validity and thus are constructive in exposing the modern scholars and theologians to biblical records, they unfortunately display some level of inherent dangers. The approaches tabled by different authors can be more conservative or liberal depending on the authors.
Historical criticism: Whenever a text tends to display obscurity, scholars embark on seeking to understand or discover the cause in an endeavor to help clarify such a narrative. Such an objective is realized through identification of discrepancies in other such accounts, examination of the history of secular materials, determination of whether certain events in real life happened, recognition of supernatural happenings, and determination of invented stories among such other methods. The main shortcoming of such an approach is that it explores the Bible as any other literature, a process that is characterized by acknowledgement of errors. Such an approach is incompatible with biblical doctrines about inspiration (II Tim. 3:16).
Source criticism: This approach attempts to identify the various sources that the writers used in authorship of the Synoptic Gospels and tries to show their relationships to the gospels. Such approach may attempt to show an underlying source or explain the literary connection between duplicate stories. Wording agreement is also used to determine whether the sources for the two gospels were common. The advocates of this approach posit that the three authors drew from the same material but each had the freedom of adding items that they felt necessary without much worry of historical precision. However, this approach has two main problems; it ignores the divine inspiration element and acknowledges error in the Scriptures.
Form criticism: This approach regards the Synoptic Gospels as folk literatures based on the argument that the authors of the gospels collected and edited some materials according to the way the traditional understanding of events by the church as opposed to historically accurate events. This approach thus builds upon source criticism by arguing that Mark was the original writer of the gospels who drew from different literatures on the early church. The approach posits that Mathew and Luke wrote after Mark and developed their works from the Gospel of Mark. Thus, according to this approach, the Gospels have very little historical data but are made of early church’s embellishments.
Redaction criticism: This method of biblical criticism seeks to determine the perspective of the evangelists through ascertaining creative editorial works by the evangelist. It perceives the authors as theologians who modified the original compositions and traditions of creations, sometimes departing from historical events. The approach argues that some original sources were edited to fit the theological purpose. Redaction criticism distinguishes the theological perspective of the writer from the source material. However, the problem with redaction criticism approach is that it is based on conjectures alone. For example, there is no evidence to prove that actually there was a main source, which it refers to. Moreover, there is no proof that the Gospel of Mark was the first one to be authored. Actually, this assumption ‘militates against eighteen centuries of tradition and the comments of the church fathers’.
Several solutions in relation to the above problems in studying Synoptic Gospels have been highlighted. All the above theories stressed on human aspect of authorship of the gospels neglecting the divine element, which is equally critical as far as the Bible is concerned. In John 14:26, Jesus told His followers that when the Holy Spirit comes, He should remind them everything that He had told them. This element suggests the supernatural intervention in Scripture writing. The authors wrote from first-hand experiences such as Mathew and John who had walked with Christ and witnessed everything He did. Mark drew information for writing his gospel from Peter while Luke may have drew from Paul and other disciples. The authors were not the only eyewitnesses to the events and Christ ministry; Luke noted that other people would provide information on the same (Luke 1:3). Divine intervention was at work in writing of the Gospels as it is highlighted in Galatians 1:11-12 and Ephesians 3:3 that God made Himself known to Apostle Paul.
Synoptic Theology Introduction
Gospel of Mathew
Mathew who was among the 12 Disciples of Christ originally wrote the book of Mathew in Aramaic. Before his calling, Mathew was a tax collector (Mathew 9:9). While writing his gospel, Mathew’s original targets were the Jews who practiced Judaism. Mathew was originally published in Hebrew and was later interpreted by different people as they could. According to Irenaeus who was referred by Paul Enns, Mathew completed writing his gospel while Apostles Peter and Paul were still alive but Mark wrote when they were already dead.
Owing to the fact that Mathew wrote targeting the Jewish people, one may argue of an early date of writing the gospel. Enns (2008) posits that there I enough evidence to prove that there were at least 20,000 Christ followers within Jerusalem who needed explanation of what Christ had said during His ministry, His Messiahship, and encouragement of their faith from the standpoint of the Jews. The literature would also have served in confuting the opponents of Christianity that was already taking root across the region. The rapid growth of ‘Jewish believers constituted a primary and immediate need for a gospel written distinctively to Jewish believers’. Thus, Mathew was the first to compose his Gospel, which suggests that the Gospel of Mathew was written in A.D.50. Mathew’s audience seems to be the early church, which was predominately made of the Jewish people. The Jewish people had waited for a Messiah who would deliver them from the Roman Empire and bring the Kingdom of God to them. Therefore, Mathew needed to explain to the new converts why if Christ was the Messiah He had not fulfilled such promises.
The theological purpose of the Gospel of Mathew is evident in the fact that he captured the Jewish messianic expectation and hope. He informed his readers that the promised Messiah had already come and gone. Unlike the other Gospel authors who only talked of Jesus as the promised Messiah, Mathew uniquely presented Christ as the Messiah to the Jewish people. Beside presenting Christ as the Messiah who would bring salvation to Israelites and who was their king, Mathew works also sought to present the program of the kingdom of God. Mathew explained that the Jews had rejected the Messiah and thus the kingdom of God would be established during the Messiah’s Second Advent.
Gospel of Mark
John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, was Apostle Peter’s interpreter. He accurately wrote all that he remembered from his ministry with Peter. According to the works of Irenaeus, Mark wrote on what Peter had preached and presented his literature to the people who came after him. Mark’s writings were after the death of both Paul and Peter. Owing to the fact that Apostle Paul died about A.D. 66, Mark may have written between AD. 66 and A.D. 67. He has not mentioned anything to do with the destruction of the City of Jerusalem at A.D. 70, which may imply that he wrote his Gospel before the destruction.
Clement Alexandria, writing in A.D. 195, stated that the Romans had requested Apostle Peter to write an account of Jesus Christ’s life. Considering that Peter and Mark were working together in the ministry, it is possible that Mark helped him in fulfilling the task. Thus, the target audience of the Gospel of Mark may have been the Romans but some internal evidence indicates that Mark may have written to the non-Jewish audience.
Theological purpose of Mark’s Gospel may be derived from an understanding that the Romans were people of action rather than thought, thus Mark presented Christ to them as a mighty worker as opposed to profound thinker. His writing style as well as his content reflected his theological purpose of writing the Gospel. Mark omitted Christ’s genealogy and birth story because he presented Him as a man of action, beginning with baptism and immediately introduced His public ministry. He majorly displayed Christ as a servant who had come to lay down his life to save many (Mark 10:45), thus compelled the Romans to believe in Him.
Gospel of Luke
There is strong evidence to affirm that Dr. Luke was the author of the third Gospel. Writing in A.D. 160 to 200, Muratorian Canon observed that Luke and his companion Paul traced the matters about the life and ministry of Christ and wrote the gospel about the life of Christ. Writing in A.D. 185, Irenaeus testified that Luke who was Paul’s follower recorded the gospel as Paul presented it to the people. Clement of Alexandria also ascribes the authorship of the Gospel of Luke to physician Luke. The date of his writing is entwined with the writing of the Acts of Apostles, which was probably written about A.D. 63. However, in Acts 1:1, the author indicates that the Gospel of Luke was written before Acts. Probably, Luke wrote the gospel towards the end of his stay in Palestine, between A.D. 58 and A.D. 60.
Paul Enns (2008) observed that although the gospel seems to have been a dedication to Theophilus (Acts 1:1), it was undoubtedly targeted at the Gentiles audience. Paul’s ministry was to the Greeks and his three journeys indicate that he majorly visited the Gentiles to share the gospel. Considering that Luke was Paul’s companion, it can only imply that the people to whom they were preaching to were the same people Luke wrote to. Luke’s work has considerable evidence that it targeted the Greek audience. For example, he traced Christ’s genealogy to Adam instead of a Jewish patriarch, the Jewish term ‘rabbi’ is deliberately avoided throughout his works, and the Hebrew names were substituted with Greek ones (Luke 6:16; 23:33).
Theological purpose of the Gospel of Luke seems to emphasize gospel’s universality within a cosmopolitan environment. Such has been emphasized through the linking of Christ’s genealogy with common ancestor for all people, Adam. Severally, he indicated that admission to God’s kingdom was open to the Pagans (Luke 2: 32; 4: 25-27; 3: 6; 3: 38; 10: 1; 24: 47), Samaritans (Luke 9: 51-56; 10: 30-37; 17: 11-19) as well as to the Jews (Luke 1:33; 2:10). He also indicated that the Kingdom of God was open for the outcasts (Luke 23: 43; 5: 27-32), sinners (Luke 3: 12; 19: 2-10), respectable people (Luke 11: 37), and the wealthy (Luke 19: 2). The purpose of Luke’s literature was emphasized in Luke 19:10, where he noted that Christ had come “to seek and save that which was lost”.
Synoptic Theology Discussion
Doctrine of God
Paul Enns observed that it is important for one to study systematic theology if they desire to achieve biblically comprehensive understanding of the nature and the attributes of God. However, he cautioned that God is infinite and therefore it is not possible for humans to fully comprehend Him. Both the authors of the New Testament (including Synoptic Gospel writers) and those of the Old Testament have shared their perception of God based on their respective experiences. In the Synoptics, Mathew, Luke and Mark portrayed various attributes of God as highlighted in this section.
God’s attributes: In Mathew, God’s providence nature is evident in the words of Christ who was encouraging the disciples not to be worried because God who provides to birds would cater for their needs (Matt. 6:26). His attribute as a father who cares for His children is highlighted in the works of Mathew (Matt. 6:32). God is also identified as a giver of grace to His children (Matt. 5:45) and a king who is on the throne (Matt. 5:34). Both Mathew and Luke perceive God as the Lord (Matt. 4:7; Luke 4:8). He is also an avenging God who will avenge those that belongs to Him (Luke 18:7). God reveals His glory to men as was evident during the transfiguration of Christ (Mark 9:2-8; Matt. 17:1-8). God’s goodness is not comparable to any other (Matt. 19:17; Luke 18:18) and His power is displayed in His ability to resurrect the dead (Mark 12:24-27). God is severally depicted as one who can do anything and whose power is not limited, thus He can do anything (Luke 1:37; Mark 10:27). During the baptism of Christ as well as in apostles’ commissioning, God’s trinity was revealed (Matt. 28:19 and Mark 1:9-11). In the Lord’s Prayer (Mathew 6:5-14), several traits of God are displayed, including a forgiver of sins, a provider, one who guides people, and a deliverer. 
Virgin birth and humanity: In their gospels, both Mathew and Mark highlighted the role of the Holy Spirit in the birth of Christ, which was different from a normal birth. They noted that Christ was born of a virgin woman through the Holy Spirit (Mathew 1:18; Luke 1:35). Actually, Mathew emphasizes that Jesus mother had never had a sexual intercourse with a man prior to the birth of Christ. Although the Jewish custom named children after their fathers, Luke emphasized that Jesus was Mary’s son. All the three authors of Synoptic Gospels emphasized on Christ’s nature as a man/human, through human birth and normal childhood infancy (Matt. 1:1-17; 2:1-23; Luke 2:1-20). Luke noted that as a Jew, Christ conformed to the Jewish customs (Luke 2:21-24). The emphases of Christ’s human nature are more evident in the works of Mark who highlighted even his work, lifestyle and human activities. The three authors demonstrated Christ’s human nature during the temptations (Luke 4:1-13; Mathew 4:1-11; Mark: 1:12-13). Some of the behaviors that reflect Jesus’ human nature include crying for Lazarus, crying on the cross for abandonment, interacting with different people, attending feasts and weddings, paying taxes, and sweating blood at Mount Olives.
Sinless: Although the three Synoptic Gospels depicted Jesus Christ as a man, they were also quick to note that He was different from other men and was sinless. He was not like ordinary men who are born in sin and live in sin—though He was born of a woman, He was sinless from birth to death. As highlighted in the works of James 1:14-15, His birth was not natural, thus He did not have a nature of sin like other humans. Throughout His life, Jesus neither confessed any sins nor repented for He was righteous. Actually, unlike human baptism that tends to signify washing of one’s sins, the baptism of Christ sought to serve another purpose; it was meant to fulfill all righteousness (Mathew 3:15). Mathew, Mark and Luke noted that Jesus was tested like all humans are but He did not sin even in temptations (Luke 4:1-13; Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13). Jesus displayed His dissociation from all forms of sins when He rebuked Peter (Mathew 16:23).
Deity: all the three Synoptic Gospel writers displayed the nature of Christ as God. Severally, Jesus was referred to as the Son of David or the Messiah who was prophesied in the early days of Israelites (Mathew 9:27; 15:22; 21:9 and 22:42). Several people, including the blind man in Mathew 9:27 called Him Son of David or Lord, who was the promised Messiah (Isaiah 35:5). He was revealed as the coming Redeemer in Mathew 21:9 who would rescue men from their captivity (Psalms 118:25). The Gospel of Mathew continually presented Christ as the promised Messiah who fulfilled the Old Testament predictions (Matt 21:4-6; 23:39; 1:22-23).
Jesus was also God’s son in a unique way; He actually called God His Father on several occasions. He indicated that He was aware of His unique relationship with God, as did His Father (Mathew 11:27; 3:17). As God’s Son, He shared the nature and characteristics of God and God affirmed Him to be His son during His baptism by John the Baptist (Mark 1:11). By affirming Christ as His Son, God clearly indicated that He was the same as the father, thus confirming Jesus as a deity.
Anointing work: Jesus Christ was rejected by the very people He had come to save, thus, He foretold His sufferings on the cross for the sake of humanity (Mathew 16:21; 26:1-5; Luke 9:22; 18:31-33 and Mark 8:31). In various passages, Christ indicated that He would suffer on the cross then die and resurrect to save men from their sins. Through His teachings, Christ told the disciples that His death would serve as a substitution of human sin, which was to be an atonement for human guilt (Mark 10:45).
Resurrection: Although Christ had predicted His death for the sake of human sins, He had also indicated that He would resurrect after three days and ascend to the Father (Mathew 16:21; Mark 8:31). He clearly proved His omniscience nature when He gave details about His resurrection just as it happened. The three gospels emphasized on Christ’s physical death with witnesses confirming that He was really dead. His resurrection was more than an enough proof to the people who followed Him and even those who did not that indeed He was God.
Holy Spirit’s Doctrine
The doctrine of the Spirit does not begin with the Synoptic Gospels. In the early days of the Israelites, the Spirit used to come upon people such as Gideon, David and Samson for a particular task after which He would depart. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Holy Spirit is introduced in relation to the birth of Christ through Virgin Mary. Both Mathew and Luke highlighted the role of the Holy Spirit in Mary’s pregnancy and the subsequent birth of Christ (Luke 1:35; Matt. 1:18). The Holy Spirit did not only manifest in the narrative of Christ in facilitating His birth, He was with Christ right from the first day in the public ministry. This is affirmed during His baptism when the Spirit came from heaven in form of a dove accompanied by God’s confirmation that Jesus was His son. Thus, He revealed the origin of Jesus Christ, which was necessary for the ministry that Christ was bout to embark on. Immediately after the baptism, the Holy Spirit started guiding Christ by leading Him into the wilderness (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:1-2).
The whole ministry of Jesus Christ was to be achieved through the Holy Spirit. Jesus observed that His ministry in driving out demons was in accordance with the Word of God about His kingdom (Matt. 12:28). This is further affirmed in the works of Luke where Jesus proclaimed that the Spirit of God was upon Him enabling Him to do all that He did in relation the works of God. The Spirit had anointed Him for reaching of the gospel, enabled Him to set the captives free, release the oppressed, restore sight to blind men, and proclaim the Lord’s year of favor (Luke 4:18-19).
The Holy Spirit also facilitated the writing of the Scriptures through inspiration of the authors. In Mark 12:36, the author referred to Psalms 110 where David had claimed that his writing of the Psalms was through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The three Synoptic Gospels did not develop the doctrine of the church as much; actually, the term church is mentioned only three times in the book of Mathew while the other two books never mentioned it. In Mathew 16:18, the church is mentioned as something that would come but did not exist by then: Jesus promised to build a church upon Peter that Satan could not destroy.
Last Things Doctrine
The three Synoptic Gospels were quite extensive in relation to information about the last things. Among such things includes the kingdom, which was very predominant in the three books: In Mathew it appeared 56 times, in Mark 21 times, and in Luke 46 times (only 5 times in the Gospel of John). The term ‘king’ was also very predominant in the Gospel of Mathew, appearing 23 times. The three Gospels emphasized that one of the main roles of Christ was to establish millennial kingdom. John the Baptist called upon people to repent because of the coming Kingdom of God (Matt. 4:17). However, the people rejected the king, thus the kingdom was held in abeyance.
In Mathew 13 parables, Jesus described the period between His rejection and His second coming when He would establish the millennial kingdom. He noted that before then, numerous calamities would befall the whole world and the Israelites.  He talked about the tribulations (Mark 13:5-23; Mathew 24:4-28; Luke 21:8-23) followed by His second advent (Mathew 24:29-51; Luke 21:24-36; mark 13:24-37) when Israel will be judged for their privileged knowledge as the world is judged according to their response to the tribulation message.
Theology of Acts
The author of the book of Acts is Doctor Luke who also wrote the Gospel of Luke. He addressed the two books to Theophilus as evident in Acts 1:1 and Luke 1:3. According to Paul Enns (2008), “the authorship of one necessitates the same authorship for the other”
Enns observed that there is enough evidence to affirm that the book of Acts was authored at A.D. 63. The first evidence relates to the abrupt ending of the Acts. Apostle Paul was brought by his captures to Rome in A.D. 62 and he remained in their custody until A.D. 63. The book of Acts ends with the expectation of the release of Paul from prison. After the burning of Rome in A.D. 64, a fierce persecution of the Christians across the Roman region was initiated by Nero. If the book was written after A.D. 64, it would have closed with an optimistic note of the end of the persecutions. If the book was written after A.D. 67 when Paul was killed, it would certainly have mentioned something to do with his death. Moreover, the impact of Jerusalem destruction in A.D. 70 was so massive that everybody within the Roman Empire either heard or experienced it, yet the book of acts does not mention it, which can only mean that the book was written before the destruction.
The purpose of the book of Acts was majorly to provide an account of church’s origin as well as its early development under God’s guidance through the Holy Spirit. The main theme of the book is highlighted in Acts 1:8 where Jesus informed the disciples that they would receive the Holy Spirit, after which they will be able to go across the whole world preaching the gospel.
The Christianity apologetic also provides a detailed coverage of Luke’s account of Christianity movement. The apologetics seemed to look at the concept of early Christianity in two dimensions; the first one is in relation to the Jewish rejection of Christianity and the Christians and the second is the favorable light of Christianity within Roman’s world. In the early days, Christianity was criticized and rejected by both the Jews and Romans. Luke in the book of Acts attempted to show the relationship between Christianity and Judaism upon which its foundations were laid. In this sense, the works of Luke could be perceived as polemic towards the Jewish people who accused Christianity as revolutionary and seditious movement (Acts 18:14-15).
The book of Acts also served to reveal that the authority of Apostle Paul was nothing lesser than that of Peter who had walked with Christ and on whom Jesus had promised to establish the church. This is evidenced by the fact that Paul could perform the same miracles that Peter performed. For example, both Peter and Paul healed the lame (Acts 3:2 and 14:8), confronted sorcerers (Acts 8:18-20 and 13:6-10), raised the dead (Acts 9:36-40 and 20:9-10), and chased out demons (Acts 5:16 and 16:18). Both of Peter and Paul’s shadows caused healing of the sick (Acts 5:15 and 19:12).
The book of Acts is also characterized by the continued rejection of Christ as the Messiah among the Israelites. Actually, those who preached in the name of Christ proclaiming that He was the Messiah were imprisoned and prohibited from using that name in preaching. For example, in Acts 4:1-22, John and Peter were apprehended and imprisoned for preaching in the name of Christ and were later discharged and warned to do so again. Many other apostles were arrested and jailed for preaching in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:17-18). The Sanhedrin could not bear hearing the apostle preach in the name of Christ, such that they even incited the people to stone Steven to death for continuing to proclaim Christ as the Son of God (Acts 6: 12—7:60). Jews who did not believe that Christ was the Messiah or God persecuted Paul for continuing to preach in the name of Christ at Antioch (Acts 13: 45); he was later stoned and almost killed (Acts 14:19). By the end of the book of acts, Luke notes that the Jews had not accepted Paul’s message (Acts 28:17-28).
Theology of Acts Discussion
A number of themes are quite conspicuous in the book of Acts, including God, Christ, Holy Spirit, salvation, and the church.
Acts describes God as sovereign in the analogy of the death of Christ through God’s decree (Acts 2:23). The term decree is employed in reference to God’s predetermined and inflexible counsel. The terms also mean that the decree was resolute, thus inviolable. The disciples realized that they could not change God’s decree thus encouraged themselves through His sovereignty (Acts 4:24-31). The Scriptures referred to God as Lord (in Greek despota), which means despot in English. Though it does not attempt to show God as an authoritarian, tyrant, or dictatorial being, the term refers to His power and absoluteness, thus no other like Him exist anywhere else. In Acts 13:48, God’s sovereignty is evident in His appointing of a specific number of people for salvation.,
The works of Luke in the book of Acts also highlights about the existence of God as well as His grace that was common to all people. While preaching in Lystra, Apostle Paul talked about the living God to those who were listening to him and reminded them that God was the creator who had given people rain and seasons of fruitfulness (Acts 14:15-18). In Athens, Paul reminded the locals that it was through God they had the breadth of life, noting that He had marked out boundaries as well as time for all people (Acts 17: 22-30).
The book of Acts talked about Jesus Christ in two main dimensions: One, he stressed on His crucifixion as well as His death and secondly on His resurrection. Most of the statements about the death of Christ in Acts tend to reflect the disciple’s indictment of the Jewish people in the crucifixion. The godless people nailed and hanged Jesus on the cross (Acts 2:23). The author also highlights how Christ who was innocent was shamefully put to death through crucifixion and hanged as a cursed man on the tree (Acts 3:15; 10:39; 13:28-29). They highlight that Christ was righteous although He was still crucified and killed (7:52).
The second main theme about Christ in the works of Luke relates to His resurrection from the dead as He had promised. Some of the most emphasized themes in relation to resurrection include the prediction by some early prophets (Psalms 16:8-11) and fulfillment of the same (Acts 2:22-32; Psalms 2:7; Acts 13:33-37). The second theme relates to the resurrection with power (Acts4:2, 10, and 33). The third theme on resurrection related to the raising of Christ and His exaltation by God to a higher authority (Acts 10:40-41). The fifth theme associated the resurrection of Christ with the future judgment of all people (Acts 17:31). The final theme on the resurrection of Christ relates to the proclamation of the resurrection to both the Gentiles and the Jews in fulfillment of the prophesy (Acts 26:23).
The book of Acts has also emphasized about the return of Christ. During the ascension of Christ in Acts 1:9-11, the disciples were left looking at the sky even as He disappeared into heaven. Some two angels appeared to them and informed them that in the same way Christ had gone, He would return to the earth. Peter preached about the second coming of Christ to establish His kingdom when he expounded on the topic of restoration of all things in Acts 3:21-26. The preaching about the death and resurrection of Christ were significant within the early church, especially in giving hope to those who may have felt that Jesus was just another prophet among the Jews who lived and died.
The book of Acts identifies the Holy Spirit as God. When Ananias lied to Peter about the money of the possession he had sold, Peter rebuked him positing that He had lied to the Holy Spirit. In verse 4 of acts 5, Peter in a parallel statement noted that Ananias had tried to deceive God, which cost him his life. He equated the Holy Spirit to God in this Scripture, which is an affirmation of the deity of Christ.
Luke in the Acts also covered the subject of the works of the Holy Spirit, especially in Christ and among the Apostles and in the early church. Christ had promised to send a helper to the Apostles upon His ascension (Acts 1:5). The promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit came upon all the disciples locked in a house and they spoke in different tongues (Acts 2: 1-13). The Spirit enabled the disciples to witness (Acts 2: 14-40). He also led them in their respective ministries across Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and other regions across the world as Christ had commanded them (Acts 8: 26-30; 11: 19; 21: 4; 21: 11; 16: 7).
Equally explored in the theology of Acts is the concept of salvation through faith in Christ. The various speakers in the book of Acts, including Peter and Paul proclaimed the salvation of the Jews and the Gentiles through believing in Jesus Christ (Acts 16: 31; 14: 23; 11: 21).
The teachings of the Acts emphasized that salvation can only be achieved through believing which goes hand-in-hand with repentance of sins. On many occasions, the authors of the gospel exhorted the people from all regions, whether Jews or Gentiles to believe in Jesus Christ. On several other occasions, they called upon the people to repent their sins for forgiveness and salvation of Christ (Acts 2:38; 5: 31; 11: 18; 26: 20; 17: 30; 3:19). Such indicates that the terms of salvation and repentance must be seen and understood synonymously as opposed to in separation. The authors implied that salvation could never take place without repentance. The statement of Apostle Paul in Acts 20:21 “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” tend to suggest that the concept of repentance is bound up with the concept of faith in Christ, which also implies that men can only repent if they have faith.
The Apostles also preached that salvation is achieved through God’s grace. While in Achaia, Apostle Paul ministered to the locals who had believed in God through the grace (Acts 18:27). God also displayed His grace upon Lydia and others who believed in Him as He had resolved before the genesis of times (Acts 16:14; 13: 48). The book of Acts also emphasized that salvation was not achieved through the works of men such as circumcision. Peter informed the Gentile believers that circumcision was not a requirement for salvation as some people were preaching, thus he opened the doors to all people who believed as opposed to working for salvation (Acts 15).
Luke’s purpose of writing the book of Acts was to account for the launch and development of the church. Although the Gospels, including the works of Luke, did not talk much about this concept, in the Acts of Apostles, Dr. Luke presented considerable amount of information about the doctrine of the church. It is in this book that the church is born and grows.
Church formation: The formation of the church was based on the Holy Spirit’s baptism of the believers. Through this baptism, believers were introduced to Christ’s body (I Cor. 12:13). According to Dr. Luke in Acts 1: 5, the baptism work had not yet to began, which implied that the church was yet to be born. In Acts 11:5-16, Peter noted that the Holy Spirit came upon the people in the beginning. The beginning that Peter was referring to is Acts 2, where the Holy Spirit had descended upon the believers in Jerusalem, which also marked the birth of the church. The baptism was not limited to the Jews but also came upon the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48) and the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17) who formed the first church.
Church organization: After the Apostle had founded the church, some elders took over as the leaders of the local churches (Acts 2:42 and Acts 14:23). The Greek term for an elder is ‘presbuteros’, which stands for dignity and maturity. The elders of the church had the responsibility of running the church and leading the assembly of believers (Acts 14: 23; 11: 30). Although the term deacon was not used in Acts, it appears that they were the people who were selected in Acts chapter 6.
Church functions: The book of Acts presents a wide range of responsibilities assigned to the church. The church had a duty to draw its teachings from the Scriptures (Acts 4:2; 13: 46; 17: 35; 20: 2; 19: 2) and was entrusted with teaching the truth to both believers and non-believers (Acts 2: 42). The church was to teach people about the resurrection of Christ (Acts 4: 33; 26: 8; 28: 23; 13: 16-41). It was also encouraged to have a fellowship of believers (Acts 4: 32-35; 16:34; 16:1-3). Some of the other issues associated with the church included suffering (Acts 5:17-42; 4: 1-21), and prayers (Acts 2:42; 20:36; 13: 3). The main service for the church involved reaching out for the lost souls (Acts 9:42; 10: 34-48; 13: 12; 13: 48; 8: 4; 8: 26-40; 17: 2-3; 17: 22; 17: 26; 28: 23-31).
Theology of James
The authorship of the theology of James is accredited to James, who was Christ’s half brother. This position is based on two main reasons; similarity of language in the epistle of James to the speech of James in Acts 15 and the similarities between the teachings of Christ and the epistles of James in James 1:22, Mathew 7:20, James 3: 12, Mathew 7: 24, James 2: 5, and Mathew 5: 3. Recognition of James the half brother of Jesus as the author of the theology of James implies that he wrote his works from Jerusalem. The mentions of the effects of the hot winds upon the vegetation in James 1:11, the early and later rains in James 5:7, the cultivation of olives and figs in James 3:12, the bitter springs and the salt, as well as the familiar imagery of the nearby sea in James 1:6 and 3:4 are all indicators of the characteristics of Palestine.
According to the works of Josephus, James was one of the victims of martyrdom, who was killed in A.D. 63. This implies that the book of James must have been written before A.D. 63. The content of the book of James seems to imply that its targeted audience was the 12 tribes of Israel who were dispersed across the region. In James 1:1, the author stated “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” Reference to the book of Deuteronomy 28:25 indicates that people were to be scattered across the nations for their disobedience to God. Moreover, the audience were monotheistic (James 2:19) and they were congregating in synagogues (James 2: 2), which was a culture of the Jews. James seems to be referring to people who were familiar with the Jewish oath formulae.
The purpose of James’ theology can be derived from the historical happenings among the Jews. Reading through the book seems to indicate that the people were going through tough times, facing trials and persecution from unbelieving Jews. James seems to have written to the believers who did not know how to respond to the challenges and persecutions giving them insight on how to cope and overcome. His assembly was undoubtedly divided between the rich and the poor, and seems to have been emphasizing on the rich people’s problems.  Just like Prophet Amos in the Old Testament who wrote against the rich people who were oppressive to the poor, James seems to be sharing the same message, criticizing oppressions. His literature served as an antidote to challenges and problems among the faithful across the nations.
Theology of James Discussion
Theology of James, just like that of Acts, has some outstanding themes that the author sought to expound. This section has explored the various themes, including Scriptures, God, man and sin, and salvation.
According to the works of Paul Enns (2008), the book of James was characterized by strong emphasis on Scriptures and teachings in the Old Testament. From his first to fifth chapters of his book, James referred or alluded to 24 Old Testament books. In so doing, the author obviated the need for any ceremonial inspiration statement; actually, he merely assumed it. His reference to the teachings of the Old Testament further affirms that he was writing to the Jewish people who were familiar with the teachings and accepted the doctrines as theirs. However, because the audience of the epistle was wider than Jews, the approach of referring to the old teachings emphasized on the need of the Old Testament within the modern church.
The works of James also emphasized on the teachings of Christ. The book of James contains 15 illusions for the Sermon on the Mount (Mathew 3: 6 with 5: 22, Mathew 3:12 with 7: 16, Mathew 4: with 7:1). However, there is no evidence of James’ conversion during the ministry and life of Christ, thus he must have derived his information on Christ’s teachings from those who were close to Christ as he continued with His ministry.
The epistle of James also emphasizes on the scriptural authority and works of the Scriptures. In James 1:8, he referred to the Scriptures as the ‘Word of Truth’ with the potential to save people. He also perceived the Scriptures as the last point of appeal (James 2: 8; 4:5) or as the final authority. In his literature, James rebuked the quarreling of the people to whom he targeted the message basing the rebuke on the Scriptural authority (James 4:5-6). In the first chapter, James called upon his addressees to discard all evil and accept the Word planted within them which had the potential to save them (1:21). He posited that the Word of God had the power to reveal the real image of a man to himself and could change the person to be that which is expected of him by God, thus attracting the blessings of the Lord (James 1:23-25). He noted that the Scriptures or the Law will judge people and could accord their freedom (James 2: 12).
The view of James about God reflects concepts derived from the conditional relationship between God and Israel under the Mosaic Law. The Lord had made it clear to the Israelites that if they would be obedient to Him, doing everything that He had commanded them through Moses, He would bless them and reprimand them for their disobedience. He promised to protect them from their enemies for obedience but expose them to the enemies even allow them to be taken to captivity if they disobeyed and worshipped other gods (Deut. 28).
Therefore, the book of James presents a sinner as God’s enemy, noting that friendship to the world (synonymous to friendship with the devil) is enmity to God (James 4:4). James posited that violation of God’s decrees such as oppressing the poor attracts misery and punishment (James 5:1-8), which was also a common theme among the prophets of the Old Testament as evident in the works of Prophet Amos 2: 6-8. In seeking to reveal God to the Jews believers in suffering, James encouraged them that He rewards those who are faithful even in suffering (James 1:17) and those who ask of Him in faith receives wisdom (James 1: 5).
Man and Sin
In his epistle, James acknowledged the weakness of men and their vulnerability to sin, thus he cautioned them to be careful of how they use their tongues, which subjects them to temptation and sin. In James 3:9, the author shows the connection between the doctrine and its application within the lives of believers. He posited that the tongue is created to worship God but not for cursing the people that God has created in His image. Through that statement, he affirmed God’s creation of humankind.
Although man is created in God’s image, man became a sinner through his initial fall into temptations. He possessed nature of sin, which James perceives as lust (James 1: 14), which often drives men into sin. According to Enns, ‘it is this lust that is the inner response to the outré solicitation that results in sin (James 1: 15)’. The discussion of the author on the issue is very critical because it provides a more vivid understanding of the process that leads to sin than any other passage throughout the Scripture.
According to James, sin is simply defined as missing the mark, positing that sin emanates from the innate nature of lust in a man (James 1: 15). He perceived the main consequence of sin as death. The author also defined sin as partiality (James 2: 8-10) or a man’s failure to do good knowingly (James 4:17). James encouraged the believers that their sins can be forgiven, thus they should not give up their walk with God because of falling into sin (James 5:20). His third definition of sin is transgression of the standards of God (James 2:9-11).
An equally important concept discussed in the works of James relates to salvation. Although James has been perceived as a lost or confused author because of his perception of faith, which almost contradicts with that of Apostle Paul, which involves justification through faith alone, his works, is quite capturing of the concept of faith. According to James 1: and 5:15, James perceived faith as the path through which men approach God. He also posited that the faith should be in Christ, whereby the works is a demonstration of the existence of faith (James 2:1 and 2:18). The disparity between Paul and James’ faith has nothing to do with works versus faith. The differences emanate from their emphases; while Paul relates faith to Christ’s work, James relates faith to believers’ work.
Theology of Paul
Theology of Paul is also known as Pauline theology and was authored by Apostle Paul. Born of a prestigious family of Roman citizens (Acts 22:27-28) in A.D. 3, Paul lived in the city of Tarsus and pursued his dreams as a young man. He was raised within a Jewish family (from the tribe of Benjamin) who were strict observers of Mosaic Law. He was circumcised on the eighth day (Philippians 3:5) and was later trained under a Pharisee who was also a respected Sanhedrin member (Acts 5: 34). The Pharisee, Gamaliel, was among the only 7 scholars in the nation’s history to ever receive Rabban (master) title.
Paul was a Pharisee who adhered to all Jewish customs as explained in Philippians 3:5. His passion and commitment to Judaism propelled him to persecute Christians (Philippians 3:6 and Acts 9:1-2). Actually, Paul’s persecution of the Christians was in pure conscious (II Timothy 1:3) until the Lord appeared to him so that he perceived the actions as blasphemy (I Timothy 1:13).
Paul’s Travel and Ministry Outline
After his call by the Lord and the subsequent conversion in A.D. 33, Paul spent some few months within Damascus (Gal. 1:17; Acts 9:23-24) and when those who opposed his ministry sought to kill him, he went back to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26) and later left for Tarsus, his hometown (Acts 9:30). Apostle Paul spent three years in Arabia, where it is thought that he was still doing ministry considering that he had began serving immediately after the conversion. He later returned to Jerusalem (Gal. 1:18) before departing for Syria and later to Cicilia (Gal. 1:21). When he was 46, Paul visited Jerusalem yet again (Gal. 2; Acts 12:25).
The church at Antioch sent Paul together with Barnabas for their first journey for mission work (Acts 13: 1-4; Acts 28). The two missioners ministered in Cyprus Island and in Asia Minor. At Asia Minor, Apostle Paul began his ministry to the Gentiles even as the Jews rejected the gospel (Acts 13). His ministry to the Gentiles majorly emanated from Jews rejection of the gospel and denial of opportunities to minister in the synagogues.
Paul was officially allowed to continue preaching to the Gentiles after the Jerusalem Council in A.D. 49, which opened the doors for non-Jews to receive the gospel (Acts 15). The Council did away with the Jewish encumbrances that were hindering the Gentiles from receiving the gospel. Some of the things that they did away with included following Jewish customs such as circumcision. The decision was critical for the modern-day gospel, which sought to separate the law from the grace.
Paul’s second journey for mission work took place between A.D. 49 and 52 as expounded in Acts 15:36 through to Acts 18. In this journey, Paul and Silas preached across Asia Minor, revisiting the churches in the region before heading to Europe (Acts 16). Paul’s third journey for mission work took place between A.D. 53 and 57; it involved regions such as Ephesus (3 years), Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 18; 23:16). Upon returning to Jerusalem, Paul was arrested and jailed for two years (Acts 24:1 to Acts 26:35). He was discharged from the arrest in A.D. 63 and continued with the ministry, traveling all the way to Spain. He was arrested again in A.D. 67 in Rome and later executed (II Tim. 4:6).
Pauline Theology Discussion
The theology of Paul has explored several outstanding subjects, including God, sovereignty, Christ, Holy Spirit, sin, salvation, and the church. In this section, this paper shall discuss such issues based on the works of Apostle Paul.
According to the works of Enns (2008), the Pauline theology ‘represents a high watermark in terms of theology of God.’ His works portrayed God as sovereign and one who reveals His nature through Christ in grace (Romans 1:16-17; II Cor. 2:10). He posited that everything that God had purposed to make known to men had already been revealed. The revelation is Christ manifestation as the savior and one who eliminated death through bringing life and immortality (II Tim. 1:10; I Tim. 3:16). Paul did not preach a gospel with a human origin but one that had been received directly from Jesus Christ when He appeared to him in his conversion (Acts 9; Gal. 1:12).
Paul observed that God reveals Himself to the sinners/unbelievers through judgment and in His wrath against the ungodly (Rom 1:18; II Thess. 1:7). The wrath of God emanates from His righteousness and holiness owing to the fact that God’s holiness cannot overlook sin. To the believers, Paul posited that God would reveal Himself in splendid blessings (I Cor. 1:17; Rom. 8:18; II Cor. 5:10). He further noted that in glory, Christ will return for the believers with all the blessings in store for them. God has made known to men His church program though it had previously remained a mystery to all people (Eph. 3:3; Gal. 3:23; Rom. 16:25). Through blinding of believers, Paul observed that Satan has been attempting to hinder God’s revelation and church work (II Cor. 4:4).
Paul also discussed the concept of the sovereignty of God, which dominated Pauline theology. In an endeavor to emphasize the concept of sovereignty, Paul employed several different terms, including Predestine, Foreknow, elect/chose, adoption, called, purpose, and will.
Enns defined predestine as “making known beforehand” (Eph. 1:5; Rom. 8:29; I Cor. 2:7). He noted that the term has been used 6 times throughout the New Testament, 5 of which are in the epistles of Paul. According to Paul, the salvation of believers has its roots on eternity past with God’s predestining work. Foreknowledge, on the other hand, stands for “knowing beforehand, taking notice of” (Rom. 8:29). The concept of foreknowledge does not only emphasize about the foresight but also incorporates the idea of the relationship between the person with such an insight and the foreknown.
According to Ephesians 1:4 and I Thessalonians 1:4, elect of chosen means to call out, whereby Paul believed that believers were chosen of God in eternity past (Eph. 1:3-4). He posited that God chose certain people for Himself. Enns defined adoption as placing as a son, which in Roman’s culture involves taking one’s son into adulthood status and allowing them to access all the privileges of the status. In Romans 1:1 and 8:28, Paul posited that adoption a product of predestination of believers in eternity past. Paul perceived called as God’s effectual call for men into salvation. He posited that it is the call of God that enables a person to believe. However, Paul noted that the calling was unconditional and based on irresistible grace.
According to Paul, the term purpose means to place before, which suggests the purposes of God, which sums up all things (Eph. 1:9). The term will refer to God’s supreme counsel upon which He does everything (Eph. 1:1). God sovereignty acts are evident in securing believers’ salvation and in all His works in human history are consummated via His sovereign will. In summation, Paul’s sovereignty teachings indicate that the ultimate predestination source is God, predestination’s purpose is salvation, and predestination is independent of the responsibilities of man.
Although throughout Pauline theology Christ is exhibited as a deity and as God, Paul does not fail to acknowledge the human nature of Christ during His stay on earth. In Galatians 4:4, Paul noted that Jesus was born of a woman and His human nature emanated from the earthly mother. Christ was born from the lineage of King David (Rom. 1:3; II Tim. 2:8). Although He was human, Paul observed that Christ did not commit any sin because He did not have a sin nature within Him (Rom. 8:3). He was a representation of the last Adam and had come to rectify the mistakes of the first Adam by redeeming humankind (I Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:15; I Cor. 15:45).
The deity of Christ is evident in the fully developed Pauline theology. Paul perceived Christ as the creator and through whom everything was created. He also noted that besides being the creator, Christ had all the laws and principles that govern the operations of all the creations within Him. Therefore, it is through Him everything in the universe operates and based on the principles that He Himself established. Severally, the teachings of Paul highlighted that Christ came from heaven and He lived even before the genesis of time (II Cor. 8:9; I Cor. 15:47). Paul’s writings made it clear that the fullness of deity dwelt in Christ (Colossians 2:9). He also perceived Christ as perfect God, existing in the form of God (Philippians 2:6). In several occasion, Apostle Paul addressed Jesus Christ as God (Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:3). Paul did not perceive Christ as a lesser God.
Paul also perceives Christ as Lord, which is a designated term for His deity nature (Phil. 2:9; I Cor. 12:3; Rom. 10:9). The name Lord is a translation of the popular term Adonai in Hebrew language, which views God’s character in Jesus Christ. God the father employs the same term in reference to Jesus. The term Lord in reference to Jesus designated several aspects of Him, including His power (Phil. 2:9), His divine sovereignty (II Cor. 4:5), and His kingship (I Tim. 6:15; II Cor. 15:25). The power of Christ was evident throughout His ministry in performing miracles, preaching the gospel with authority, and as people bowed to Him in worship. On several occasions, people acknowledged the Lordship of Christ in humility and adoration of Him as God. Jesus exercised His kingship over the Israelites and the people also served Him as their king.
The theology of Paul presented a very extensive discussion about the Holy Spirit attributes as a person. Among such attributes includes intellect, will, emotions, and deity. The epistles of Paul described the Holy Spirit as a person. In relation to His intellect, the Holy Spirit is responsible for investigating/searching deep things of God (I Cor. 2:10). He is also responsible for teaching people/believers all things that Christ taught (I Cor. 2:13). In relation to His will, the Holy Spirit distributes the various gifts as He wills (I Cor. 12:11), which implies that He has a will. He does not base His distribution of the gifts on the wishes of men or according to one’s qualifications/merit, but He does so according to His will.
The Holy Spirit has emotions, thus He can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30). Holy Spirit is God and His deity is evidenced by the fact that He intercedes for believers just like Christ does (Romans 8:26-27). The facts that He dwells within believers together with God the father and Son (Romans 8:9) also affirm this fact. According to the benediction in 2nd Corinthians 13 verse 14, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are equated as equal.
Pauline theology also expounds on the many works of the Holy Spirit as a trinity member. Some of the works of the Holy Spirit includes regeneration, baptizing, indwelling, sealing, giving gifts, filling believers, and empowering believers. While regeneration work of the Spirit involves bringing new life to believers (Titus 3:5), baptism encompasses joining believers to Christ through placing them into Christ’s body (I Cor. 12:13). One of the determinants of whether a person is a believer is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within them (Rom. 8:9) while sealing involves putting God’s identity mark (Eph. 1:13). Holy Spirit is a seal that verifies existence of salvation in a human being. In 1 Corinthians 12:4, and 12:7, Paul acknowledged the Holy Spirit as the one who gives spiritual gifts to men. The Holy Spirit controls the believers through His filling of them so that they do that which He guides them (Eph. 5:18). Empowering work of the Holy Spirit involves enabling believers to live in line with God’s power (Gal. 5:6).
Pauline theology employed several Greek terms in description of the nature of sin. In Romans 4:7 and Romans 11:27, Paul used the term ‘Hamartia’, which is generally used in reference to sinful acts. He also used the term in showing the relationship between the death of Christ and the sins of men (I Cor. 15:3). In its plural, the term is used in Paul’s works to imply a multitude of sins (Gal. 1:4), which is different from its singular form where it refers to a state of sinfulness (Rom. 5:20; 3:9; 6:23). Paul also used the term ‘paraptoma’, which means a false step against a true step (Eph 2:1; Gal. 6:1). Also used in the theology is ‘parabasis’, which stands for stepping aside or deviation from the true faith (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 4:15). The word ‘anomia’ was widely used in Pauline theology in reference to lawlessness (II Cor. 6:14; II Thess. 2:3).
Paul described sin as a debt, with emphases on man’s obligation as well as inability to foot/or meet his debt (Col. 1:14). When sin involves deviation from the main course/path, it majorly refers to straying away from the decrees and the laws of the Lord as the Israelites did in the wilderness. When a man falls short of the standards of God, that person is counted as a sinner unless he acknowledges his sins and repents (Rom. 4:15). Lawlessness leads to rebellion, which instead leads to both internal and external attitudes. Some of the acts that amount to sin include murder, drunkenness, envy, homosexuality, immorality, foolishness, and faithlessness. The Pauline theology posited that sin suppresses the truth and replaces it with a lie (Rom 1:25; Rom. 1-18).
The Pauline theology brings some of the greatest themes of salvation into full development. His concept of salvation is centered upon the doctrine of God’s grace. His arguments are based on the belief that the concept of salvation was initiated by God Himself purely based on His grace. The grace satisfied God’s divine justice, thus causing the release from the bondage of sins and the legal declaration of believers’ righteousness.
The concept of salvation is tied to the concept of forgiveness, which is tied to the concept of God’s grace. When God forgave human sins, He did so through His grace as Paul explains in Colossians 2:13. In Greek, the term “forgiven” means “to grant as a favor, to give graciously, to forgive out of grace.” Enns (2008) observed that the term closely related to the Greek term for grace, which further puts emphasis that forgiveness of sin comes through or is rooted in the grace of God. This also means that forgiveness has nothing to do with human merit. The concept of forgiveness, therefore, has a connotation of debt cancelation, discharge from prison, or pardoning.
Paul also uses the term “aphesis”, which is a Greek word that means release in reference to forgiveness. The term also means to send away though technically it implies to cancel a well-deserved punishment or pardon (Col. 1:14; Eph 1:7). According to the theology of Paul, God’s grace reaches its apex in that He has canceled the sins that men would never be able to pay for.
Paul’s theology also highlights the concept of redemption while discussing sin, salvation and forgiveness. The Greek term for redemption is “apolutrosis”, which is basically Pauline term. The term has been used 10 times within the New Testament, 7 of which are in the works of Paul. To redeem is to set free through payment of the set price. Its background is Roman slave market where people could pay a certain price for the slaves to be set free. Paul’s usage of the term is in reference to release of believers from the enslavement of sin through the payment by the blood of Christ. Only through the death of Christ would men be redeemed because the price of their sin had to be paid, thus delivering them from sin (Rom. 3:24). It is through the death of Jesus Christ that God’s wrath was turned enabling the redemption of men.
Paul’s theology also links the concept of redemption to the conception of justification. He posited that man’s redemption made man to be complete, thus declaring him righteous (Eph. 1:7; I Cor. 1:30; Eph. 4:30; Rom. 8:23; Gal. 3:13).
Equally explored in the works of Paul is the concept of propitiation. He used the term four times throughout his various books, including in Romans 3:25, I John 2:2, Hebrews 2:17 and I John 4:10. The Greek word for propitiation is “hilasmos”, which stands for turning away the wrath through an offering. It also means to expiate or atone. In using the term, Paul sought to expound on how Christ had fully met as well as satisfied the holy and righteous God’s demands. The shedding of the blood on the cross meant that the holiness of God was satisfied and His wrath had been averted. In his works in Romans 3:26, Paul observed that that through the sacrifice of Christ, God maintained His integrity (can be just) and yet declare Christ’s believers as righteous.
However, Paul pointed out that God does not miss out on man’s sin. Christ’s death was sufficient to provide atonement for human sins, thus satisfying God’s holiness and justice. Propitiation is significant in demonstrating how sinful people can be reconciled to God who is holy: The atonement brought about by Christ makes this possible. God becomes satisfied with Christ’s death as a payment of sins committed by men.
As observed earlier, Pauline theology tied the concept of forgiveness to the concept of justification. Justification is peculiarly Paul’s term. The term is used 40 times within the New Testament 29 of which are Paul’s. Paul Enns defined justification as a legal act of declaring believing sinners as righteous based on Christ’s sacrifice. God declares men as righteous because their penalty has already been paid by the savior on the cross. Apostle Paul also perceives the concept of justification as the gift of God (Romans 3:24) which is appropriated via faith (Galatians 3:24) and made possible through Christ’s blood (Rom. 5:9). Paul also sees the concept of justification as apart from the law (Gal. 3:11; 2:16), which is one of the major emphasis of Pauline theology and the theses for the book of Galatians. He emphasized that man’s justification is not through law but through faith in Christ.
The Greek word for church is “ekklesia” which means “a called out group.” Technically, the term is commonly used in reference to a group of believers called out from the world/among sinners for God. However, the term is severally used in nontechnical context in reference to a mob or an assembly (Acts 19:32). In the New Testament, the term is used in two major ways—the local church and the universal church.
In Pauline theology, the term refers to a wide company of believers who transcends as a single congregation (Eph. 3:10; 5:29; 5:32; Gal. 1:13). When Paul used the term in reference to the body of Christ, his intent is the universal sense (Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:22). When he uses the term in reference to a small group of believers or an assembly of Christ followers within a particular setting in a specific time, he refer to the local church. Paul’s reference to the local church is evident when he is writing to the church at Corinth (II Cor. 1:1; I Cor. 1:2), Philippi (Phil. 4:15), Thessalonica (II Thess. 1:1), and Colossae (Col. 4:15).
The concept of the church was not known within the Old Testament but in the New Testament it also refers to the union of both the Gentiles and the Jews as equal followers as well as heirs in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:6). The knowledge on the church was received by Paul through a revelation as mentioned in Ephesians 3:3.
Church organism: While exploring the concept of the church as expounded in Pauline theology, Ryrie (1959) depicted church as an organism that makes up the “complex structure of the Body of Christ which carries on living activities by meanings of the individual believers, who are distinct in function but mutually dependent on and governed by their relation to Christ, the Head.” Paul perceived the entry into church as through the Holy Spirit’s baptismal work who is responsible for placing believers into unity with Jesus Christ as well as with other believers (I Cor. 12:13). Paul Enns posited that the Spirit’s baptismal work takes place at the same time with the saving faith and it is non-experimental, including all believers irrespective of their social position or class.
Christ is church’s head, thus He is responsible for giving directives and directions over it (Eph. 1:22-23). According to Paul, Christ’s union with the church makes it possible for the church to grow towards maturity even as it subjects itself to His authority (Col. 2:19 and Eph. 1:22). Paul’s theology claims that God has issued spiritual gifts to the believers for building up Christ’s body (Eph. 4:11), with the doctrine of spiritual gifts exclusively resting on his theology. The only other place in the New Testament where the concept is spiritual gifts is mentioned is in I Peter 4:10, which can be interpreted as grace gifts. Pauline theology highlights about the gifting in Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and I Corinthians 12.
Church Organization: Pauline theology also perceives the church as an organization which involves functional offices. Some two designated church offices are apparent in the works of Paul: The office of elder and the office of a deacon. The Greek word for elder is “presbuteros” which tends to emphasize the concept of dignity and maturity. It also refers to the maturity of an older person (Titus 1:5). Some other related terms to the works of an elder include overseer or bishop, which basically refers to the shepherding role of an elder. An elder has several duties including teaching, ruling, shepherding, caring for the flock and nurturing (I Tim. 5:17; 3:1-7). The second church office outlined in Pauline theology, deacon, means serving. Deacons were also involved in ministering to the spiritual needs of the people (I Tim. 3:8-13) mainly as subordinates to the elders. From Philippians 1:1, it is apparent that the deacons had authoritative position within the local church.
Baptism: Equally discussed in Pauline theology is the doctrine of baptism. Although the doctrine was quite prominent within the New Testament, Paul was not as emphatic on it within his theology. The term is used about 80 times across the New Testament but Paul only used it 16 times across his theology with only 11 of these references referring to water. Moreover, 6 of the times Paul used the verb baptizo was in denial that he had not been sent by Christ to baptize people (I Cor. 1:13-17). Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that baptism was not part of the gospel (I Corinthians 1:17). His emphasis was on the baptism of the Holy Spirit as opposed to water baptism (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; I Cor. 12:13).
Lord’s Supper: Paul also explored in details the Lord’s Supper in his theology positing that he had received revelation about it from the Lord (I Cor. 11: 23-24; Gal. 1: 12; I Cor. 15: 3). He perceived the Lord’s Supper as a commemoration of Christ, admonishing people not to take it casually (I Cor. 11: 25). He believed that taking it casually would amount to drinking God’s judgment. He equally cautioned believers about the accompanying meal, which he noted that some take it in unworthy manner, thus resulting to drinking and eating instead of reminding the consumers of the Body of Christ and His death for their salvation.
Theology of Hebrews
Several questions are asked while studying the gospel of Hebrew, especially in relation to purpose, addressee, and occasions surrounding its authorship. The responses to such central issues determine the cause in discussions of Hebrew theology. The interpretation of this book greatly depends on the views adopted in relation to such issues.
Paul Enns has noted that one of the most contentious issues about the book of Hebrew relates to its author. Throughout history, the question of authorship of the book has remained problematic even as different schools of thoughts present different arguments and reasons about who the author was. In the whole book, the author did not identify himself though several of his Scriptures seem to indicate that he was known to his readers (Heb. 5: 11-12; 13: 9; 13: 18-19; 13: 23; 5: 11-12; 12: 4). It is also apparent that the author understood the circumstances of the people he was writing to.
Clement of Rome referred from the book of Hebrew in his works of A.D. 96, which means it was written before then. The date of its authorship is derived from the present tense terms employed in reference to the sacrifices (Heb. 7: 8; 8: 4; 8: 13; 9: 1-10) are suggestive that the temple in Jerusalem was still standing, thus, it must have been written before A.D. 70, which was the year of temple destruction. Drawing from Hebrew 12: 4, it is obvious that the believers then were undergoing persecution but they had not yet suffered martyrdom. Owing to the fact that the ferocious persecutions began in A.D. 64 with the blazing of Rome, it is likely that the book had been written before then.
Paul Enns (2008) noted that it is relatively difficult to determine the place of authorship of the book of Hebrews. But from Hebrew 13: 24, one may assume that the book was written from Italy because the author sends greetings positing that they were from people in Italy.
The earlier readers of the book posited that it was written to the Hebrews, thus they added the title “To the Hebrews.” The intrinsic evidence across the book indicates that the destination for the book was the Hebrew believers. Some of the arguments points out that the book follows an argument from Jewish perspective through comparison of Christ to the Levitical system. The second argument claims that the book heavily referenced the quotations of the Old Testament, which implies that the author sought to link it with the Jewish Scriptures. The third argument is based on the book’s mentioning of the Levitical priesthood. The forth argument relates to the book’s usage of terminologies that were exclusively Jewish, including the Law, Moses, Aaron, tabernacle, covenant, high priest, holy place, miracles, blood, sacrifices, and angels. The fifth argument is based on the fact that Hebrews has an elaborate resume of the Jews’ history. The sixth argument is based on the fact that the book as an elaborate discussion of the concept of the tabernacle.
The author of the book of Hebrews does not explain or give a specific location of the target population. However, some few clues are evident in the book about the specific location of the audience. For example, the present tense terms used in reference to the sacrifices are indicative that the targeted population was living in Jerusalem (Heb 8: 4).
The purpose of the book of Hebrews seems to be to demonstrate of the superiority of Christ and Christianity over the Jewish religion, Judaism. As mentioned earlier, the author seems to have been targeting the Jewish believers/Hebrew Christians in Jerusalem. This is affirmed by the author’s reference of them as “holy brethren” (Heb. 3: 1), “partakers of Christ” (Heb 3: 4) and “heavenly calling partakers” (Heb. 3: 1). Although the book seems to indicate that their present condition was unfavorable or dangerous, he nonetheless considered them as saved (Heb. 6: 9).
The author cautioned the Hebrew believer that they were in danger of falling back to Judaism (Heb. 5: 11; 10: 19-24). From this theology, it seems that the believers were undergoing immense suffering from the persecutions, thus were becoming discouraged (Heb. 10: 32-34; Heb. 12: 4). The believers had lost their possessions and were subjected to public ridicules and exclusion because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They were perceived by the other Hebrews as betrayers of their faith, Judaism, and deserving to die as stipulated in Mosaic teachings. The writer of the book of Hebrews addressed such circumstances and exhorted the believers to persist in their faith towards maturity (Heb 4: 4; 6: 11, 10: 23; 12: 1). The author also warned them about the consequences of apostasy (Heb. 12:14-29; 10:26-31).
Hebrews Theology Discussion
This theology explored diverse critical subjects that would help the Hebrew believers in their walk of faith. Such subjects included God, Christ, Holy Spirit, sin, and salvation.
The author of the book of Hebrew emphasized both the personhood of the majestic God as well as the manner in which God had revealed Himself to the people.
God’s Person: The author has pictured God as the Father who is exalted in the heavens and also crowned in the high places (Heb 1:3). In Hebrew 8:1, the author shares a similar picture about God who is exhibited as majestic in heaven and sited on the throne. Owing to the fact that the book’s audience were the Jewish people, the concept of Majesty undoubtedly referred to God’s glory that was resting on His seat of mercy within the Holy of Holies. The book’s author also discussed the approach to God in relation to His throne which was very significant for the believers in revealing their association with the God in authority. By drawing near to God, the author encouraged the believers that they would find forgiveness of their sins and receive mercy from Him because He was the king and had power to do so (Heb. 7: 25; 9: 24; 12: 22-24; 12: 2).
The author also sought to remind the believers that the God that they had believed in and whom they were serving was different from the gods of the other people because He was living. He therefore exhorted the believers not the dead systems that were based on idols but to serve their one true and living God (Heb. 10: 31; 9: 14; 12: 22). Paul Enns observed that the employment of the concept of fire in describing God was important in symbolizing His judgment on those who did not live according to His decrees (Heb. 12: 29). The symbol relates to one of the main themes in the book which involved warning the people if they forsook God as their Lord. It indicated that withdrawing from God would result to disciplinary judgment.
The author concludes the book of Hebrews with a motion about God of peace (Heb. 13: 20). His nature of peace was evident in the fact that He gave peace to the believers amidst the persecutions and they coped without renouncing Christ or going back to their former beliefs.
God’s Revelation: The author posited that the apex of the revelation of God was through Jesus Christ (Heb. 1: 1-2). Although in the Old Testament God revealed Himself in numerous different ways and towards the end started to reveal His Son through the prophets, in the New Testament, including Hebrews’ work, God is widely revealed through the Son. Paul Enns posited that there was no greater revelation of God than that of Jesus Christ. As a witness to this revelation through Christ, God performed numerous and outstanding miracles through Christ, the Apostles, and other witnesses, thus testifying to Christ’s salvation (Heb. 2:4). Through his literature, the author of Hebrews seems to place himself off the miracles’ age, which indicated that he was in the generation that preceded that.
God also revealed Himself as a gracious God through the death of Christ for man’s salvation. The death of God’s only Son was meant to show His magnificent degree of grace that would propel Him to give up His Son to suffer ridicule, persecution, and death on the cross for the sake of human’s redemption. The author of Hebrews sought to expound on the concept of God’s grace through Christ in encouraging the believers to appreciate the God of grace and to approach Him so that they may find the grace through Christ (Heb. 12:15).
The author stressed on the theme of judgment across the book of Hebrews because of the fear that faced with immense challenges, the Hebrew believers would withdraw from their worship of God and Christ and go back to Judaism. He reminded them to walk in Christ through whom they had been set apart for God, cautioning them that those who withdrew would be judged by God for repudiating Christ’s blood (Heb. 10:30). However, the author revealed to his readers that if God were to punish them, it would be disciplinary just as a parent/father deals with his child (Heb. 12:5-12). What the author wanted the believers to see is a picture of a loving and caring God who would only discipline them for their offences but still continue showing them love. He also sought to explain to them that the essence of the disciplining is so that they will conquer and the faithful believers would eventually be rewarded (Heb. 6:10).
One of the major theological emphases of the book of Hebrews is Christology. During the development of his works, the author demonstrated Christ’s superiority compared to the prophets of the Old Testament (Heb. 1-3) (including Moses [Heb. 3:1] and Aaron [Heb. 4:14]) and to the angels (Heb. 1:4-2:18). From chapter 1 to 10 of the book of Hebrews, Christ stands out as the center of everything that the author wrote about. Enns posited that the Christological emphasis was important in addressing this particular audience. The Christians were undergoing immense persecutions because of their faith in Christ, thus it was inevitable for them to consider reverting to their former religions. The author’s mission was to emphasize that they were following the superior and right path and reverting would mean resorting to some inferior systems. He showed to them that they had received a superior revelation of Christ, which was worth the sacrifices and the sufferings.
The author of Hebrews used several different titles in reference to Christ majorly based on His nature and His works. Such titles include “The Anointed One” (Heb. 3:6; 9: 11; 9: 24; 11: 26) reminding them that the kingly Messiah had already come. The second common title used throughout the book was the “The High Priest” (Heb. 9:11), a name that sought to show to the believers that He was from God and that He was their representative before the Father.
The name “Jesus” sought to emphasize the humanity of Christ as a human high priest. The title was important in highlighting the failure of the earthly high priests and the role of Jesus in the office of the priesthood (Heb. 10: 19; 7: 22; 13: 12; 6: 20). The role of his human name was also to demonstrate how He had taken the human nature to suffer on behalf of men (Heb. 2:9). The title of a Son of God was important in emphasizing the higher relationship between Him and the Father (Heb. 1: 8; 1: 2; 1: 5; 5: 8; 5: 5). The title of a “Son” showed Christ’s higher position that the angels as an heir and a representation of God the Father (Heb. 1: 3). The title also sought to position Christ in the position of a ruler just like the Father (Heb. 1: 5; 5: 5). The title of a Son also implied that Christ was greater than even the prophets that had walked and interacted with God such as Moses (Heb. 3: 6). Finally, the title of a Son signified that Christ was greater than Mosaic Law because unlike the Levitical priests, He did not have any weakness (Heb. 7: 28).
Equally emphasized in the book of Hebrews is that Christ was God though in human nature. The deity of Christ was affirmed in the names that were ascribed to Him by the author. The author referenced Psalms 45:6 and Psalms 102: 25in accrediting Christ His title as God’s Son (Heb. 1: 8). The Son was also referred to as God whereby the author notes that His throne would be everlasting (Heb. 1: 8). The author states, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore, God your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with oil of joy’” (Heb. 1: 8-9).
Christ’s deity was also evident in His intrinsic being and nature. In various areas of his works, the author of Hebrews depicted the deity of Christ. He perceived as the creator of the world “the sum of periods of time” (Heb. 1: 2). He also perceived Him as the sustainer responsible for carrying things forward in their most appropriate time.
The author of Hebrews also emphasized on the human and sinless nature of Christ. He posited that Christ had to become human so that He could bring salvation to man through bringing the full provision for sin. Christ had to partake of blood and flesh in demonstration of His true humanity (Heb. 2:14) and had to be subjected to the temptations of other humans (Heb. 2: 18). Jesus was not immune to the sufferings of other human beings, thus in His human nature He went through what other people were going through (Heb. 5: 7). Just like other men, Christ in His human nature submitted to God (Heb. 2: 13) but was still without sin (Heb. 4: 15).
Unlike the earthly priests, Christ was a high priest because His priesthood was better (Heb. 7: 15: 7: 19; 8: 6) and newer, for replacing the failed human priesthood. His priesthood was also better because it was permanent unlike that of men that lasted just for some few years of their life on earth (Heb. 7: 16; Heb. 7: 24). Finally, the author of Hebrews posited that Christ’s priesthood was superior because it was based on a better covenant than that of the previous priests (Heb. 8: 6). Exploration of the whole book of Hebrews can tell that although the author covered numerous other topics in his work, his major focus was Christology.
The author of Hebrews did not extensively cover the doctrine of the Holy Spirit but a number of themes are obvious in his works. First, the signs and the gifts in the church were displayed through God’s sovereign will and made possible through the Holy Spirit (Heb. 2: 4). Second, It is through the Holy Spirit that the Holy Scriptures were authored (Heb. 3: 7; 10: 15). Third, salvation of mankind is made possible through partaking of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 6: 4). Finally, renouncing salvation through Christ amounts to an insult to the Holy Spirit (Heb. 10: 29).
Just as the doctrine of Christology is critical in the book of Hebrews, the doctrine of sin is equally important among the Hebrew believers. The main reason the author wrote about sin was to discourage the Hebrew believers about the consequences of sin and why they needed to avoid indulgence in sinful nature. In Hebrews 6: 4, the author gave a stern warning that anybody who had been enlightened through salvation would not be able to come back if they fell back into the sinful nature. He posited that it was not possible for them to repent and be restored if they sinned against God after He had saved them. He gives a similar stern warning in Hebrews 10: 26-30 when he informed the believers that there would be no other sacrifice for their sins other than the one of Christ that had already taken place.
The author of Hebrews indicated that Christ had already become the sacrifice for sin, thus if they went back to Judaism, they would not find a Levitical sacrifice to save them yet again. To him, the only thing that those who fell back would expect from God is judgment for their sins and not forgiveness nor salvation. In this way, he warned them against hardening of their hearts and refusing to receive Christ (Heb. 3:7) but exhorted them to pursue the sanctification through the blood of Christ and not to subject themselves to life without God’s grace (Heb. 12: 14). He called upon the believers to endure suffering for the sake of righteousness, reminding them of Moses who followed in that path and refused the pleasure of sin (Heb. 11: 25). The author perceived sin as the root of believers’ problems, thus called upon them to lay aside the unbelieving sin which was entangling them. He directed them to look unto Jesus who had saved them and who would lead them until they had finished their race for the crown (Heb.12: 1-2).
Contrasting Christ to angels, the author of Hebrews posited that the angels’ role was to offer aid to those who were accepting Christ’s salvation (Heb. 1:14). He exulted salvation and perceived it as the only channel for men to escape from sin. He stated, “How will we escape of we neglect so great a salvation” (Heb. 2:3). By this, the author perceived Christ as superior to all the sacrifices of the Old Testament. He noted that Christ had brought the ultimate salvation by atonement. The Jewish Christian believers who were regressing to Judaism were the main target of the author who emphasized on superiority of Christ’s salvation over all the other forms of redemption.
The author further put it to the believers that salvation was not achievable through blood of goats and bulls (Heb. 10:4) but through the blood of Christ. He emphasized on the role of Christ in the one-for-all death, which secured men salvation in eternity (Heb. 2: 9). The Hebrews author indicated that in the traditional Jewish religion, there was no similar salvation or sacrifice that would cover everyone. The new covenant sacrifice secured all men who would turn unto God and shun their sinful ways and He would save them without another sacrifice. Equally emphasized by the author is that the sacrifice of Christ had brought a completeness of His assignment, thus, it was up to human beings to decide whether they would go for His salvation or they would chose the eternal damnation. Christ had become the ultimate source of salvation for all people (Heb. 5: 9).
Theology of Peter
First epistle: The theology of Peter is divided into two major sections: The first epistle and the second epistle. The first epistle was authenticated early by Eusebius, Irenaeus and Tertullian as well as by the early church fathers. The internal evidence points at Peter (the Apostle) as the author of the epistle. In 1 Peter 1: 1, it is clearly mentioned that the apostle was the author and actually the book rhymes with his speeches outlined by Dr. Luke in the book of Acts. The book seems to have been written before A.D. 64 and was directed to the Hebrew Christians who dwelt among the Gentiles (I Pet. 1:1).
The purpose of the author in writing this epistle was to encourage his audiences who were undergoing distress and diverse trials (I Pet. 1:6). These believers were charged as disloyal to the state, thus were exposed to slander, criticism, and ridicule for their refusal to indulge in the practices of the heathens (I Pet. 3: 13-17; I Pet. 4:4-6). Apostle Peter perceived the suffering of these believers as “fiery ordeal” (I Pet. 4:12). Peter’s first epistle’s thesis was can be derived in 1 Peter 5:12 which is a call to believers to stand firm in the grace of God amidst their suffering.
Second epistle: Paul Enns (2008) posited that the second epistle of Peter seems like the weakest evidence of New Testament book, but was not rejected anyway. The book was also never perceived as a forged literature. It was not until A.D. 240 that the book was attributed to Apostle Peter by Origen. The book’s internal evidence points to the apostle as the author of this epistle. In II Peter 1:1, the piece of work is accredited to Simon Peter the apostle and follower of Christ. It is further indicated that the author was an eyewitness of Jesus Christ (II Pet. 1:16), which suggests that he was one of the three. The book also has several similarities with the speeches of Simon Peter in the book of Acts. This epistle was written around A.D. 65 probably for a wide audience.
The purpose for writing this epistle seems to be two-fold (warning believers about antinomianism breakout) and exhortation of believers “to grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord” (II Pet. 3:18). In relation to the first purpose, it seems Peter had observed extensive disregard of the commandments of the Lord and emergence of profane teachers who were permeating the assemblies of believers.
The author: Simon Peter was Jonah’s son as noted in the works of Mathew 16:17. He was the brother of another disciple known as Andrew (John 1:40). Originally, Peter was from Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44) but relocated to Capernaum later on (Mk. 1:21). His profession before he met with Christ was fishing (Luke 5: 1-11). He was called by the Lord Himself to join Him in the public ministry (Jn. 1:42) and later became an apostle of Christ (Mathew 10:1-2). Christ gave Peter apostolic power to perform miracles, thus vindicating the messianic message (Mathew 10:1-15) and was the frequent speaker for the group of disciples and early believers (Mathew 15:15; 18:21; 16: 16; 19: 27).
Simon Peter was among the selected three disciples and close friends of Christ together with James and John. The three witnessed the transfiguration of Christ (Mathew 17: 1), which Peter wrote about in II Peter 1:16. He was one of the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9) and was assigned the responsibility of leading the rest of the team by Christ. He was Christ’s successor, taking over church leadership after the ascension of Jesus Christ. In the selection of the replacement of Judas, Peter was the spokesman, taking the leadership position as expected (Acts 1: 15). He addressed the congregation during the Pentecost on behalf of the other believers after they had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:14) and was also among the members of council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:7). The speeches of Peter indicate that his apostleship was to the Jews (I Pet. 1: 1).
Peter’s Theology Discussion
The theology of Peter seems to be centered upon Christ, emphasizing and expounding on messages related to the person Jesus Christ. The author recounted the sinless nature of Christ, His atonement, His resurrection, as well as His glorification. The author spent ample time discussing Christ’s sufferings, rejection and humiliations.
The works of Peter demonstrated his high esteem and regard for Jesus Christ. The names he employed in reference to Christ are quite elucidating. In his speeches highlighted in the book of Acts, the apostle identified Christ as “Jesus of Nazareth” perhaps reminding the listeners of the rejected Christ. The term Nazareth was not highly appreciated and may have been perceived in negative way. In his speech of Acts 2:36, Peter referred to Him as Jesus but went ahead to notify them that He was not a mere man because God had made Him “both Lord and Christ”, using the terms “know for certain” (Acts 2:36) in emphasizing the nature of Christ. The reference was so powerful that immediately listeners sought from Peter what they were supposed to do to be saved.
In Acts 3:13, Apostle Peter referred to the glorification of Christ and likened it with several titles, including “Prince of Life” (Acts 3: 15), “servant” (Acts 3: 13), “Righteous One” (Acts 3: 14), and “Holy One” (Acts 3: 14). Thus, while he mentioned Christ again in Acts 3:16, He emphasized on His authority and power, which were connected to His name.
In many areas across his two epistles, Peter referred to Christ as the Messiah in description of His sufferings. In 1 Peter 1:19, he noted that Jesus Christ had shed His blood and suffered instead of the people who deserved the punishment for their sins (I Pet. 2: 21). He also highlighted about Christ suffering in His flesh (I Pet. 4:1) and the sufferings in the presence of the witnesses (I Pet. 5). Peter pointed out that Christ had suffered to death (I Pet. 3:18) for sins of all people. Peter uses the argument of suffering and death of Christ in calling upon the people to set Christ in their hearts as their Lord (I Pet. 3: 15). He calls upon the believers to rejoice in the midst of suffering (I Pet. 4:13) and to keep their good consciousness irrespective of the sufferings that they were experiencing (I Pet. 3: 16). Peter promised believers that by so doing, God would eventually call them to eternal glory because of their union with the savior Jesus Christ (I Pet. 5: 10).
Apostle Peter also used the name “Lord Jesus Christ” in completeness, not in reference of His sufferings but emphasizing the concept of resurrection, glorification in heaven and His second coming for the church. He pointed out that through Him people can be born again and live in hope (I Pet. 1:3) having received their salvation through Jesus Christ’s resurrection (I Pet. 3: 21). He posited that the believers were presently being built up (I Pet. 2: 5) and were glorifying Christ Jesus through exercising of their respective spiritual gifting (I Pet. 4: 11) even as they grew in the knowledge of Christ Jesus (I Pet. 3: 18). Peter posited that through this, the believers can anticipate the glorious appearance of Christ Jesus when their sufferings would glorify Him (I Pet. 1: 13; 1: 7; II Pet. 1: 16).
Throughout the works of Peter, the most conspicuous theme relates to Christ as well as His salvation. Peter made it clear that the works of Christ would have seemed irrelevant they were not accompanied by the fundamental theme of salvation. Peter defined Christ as the perfect sacrifice without blemish or spot (I Pet. 1:19). He emphasized that Christ had not died because of His sins because He never committed any sin (I Pet. 2: 22) but served as a substitute for the sins of all men (I Pet. 3: 18). One of the most emphatic messages in the works of Peter is that Christ had died for other humans not for Himself. In 1 Peter 2:24, Peter emphasized that Christ had died “in the place of sinners” in an endeavor to show his readers that Christ was not guilty of any sin and did not deserve to die but chose to stand on the gap for sinners who deserved to die. Christ ransomed sinners from slavery to sin (I Pet. 1: 18).
Peter noted that the death of Christ was not a mistake but was planned during the eternity past (I Pet. 1: 20) though it had been revealed in history. The process of salvation would not have been complete if Christ did not resurrect, thus Pater points out that Christ gave the believers a living hope through His resurrection on the third day (I Pet. 1: 3).
Apostle Peter provided one of the most extensive discussions about the doctrines of the Scriptures. Peter provided immense insight about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in affirmation and inspiration of the works of Apostle Paul. Peter provided one of the most comprehensible studies of the Scriptures through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Peter perceived the Scriptures as prophetic (II Pet. 1: 19), which denoted the whole of the Old Testament works. He posited that the Old Testament teachings had been ascertained through the coming of Christ. He posited that the Scriptures are live and would never end but remain eternally (I Pet. 1: 23). He also perceived the Scriptures/God’s Word as incorruptible and uncontaminated but nourishing and enables believers to grow (I Pet. 2: 2). He further posited that the Scriptures in New Testament are also inspired and not works of flesh (II Pet. 3: 16). He placed Apostle Paul’s letter together with the other scriptures and also noted that the Scriptures provide the basis of truth (I Pet. 2: 6).
Although Peter wrote about several aspects of a Christian’s life, one of his central focuses related to sufferings of believers. His epistles targeted the early Hebrew Christians who were experiencing immense sufferings and test of their faith (I Pet. 1: 1). His main mission was to encourage the believers amidst their sufferings, explaining to them how they were supposed to respond to those challenging experiences. He pointed out that some of the sufferings they were encountering were undeserved but encouraged them to persist in their faith in Christ and not to allow the temptations and the sufferings to overwhelm them (I Pet. 1: 6).
Peter’s works were characterized by words of encouragement and caution in relation to the sufferings. He taught them that they ought to expect the sufferings because they were inevitable for believers and be prepared in their mind for same because even the Christ they had chosen to follow had gone through such sufferings (I Pet. 1: 11; I Pet. 4: 12). He also taught them the need of rejoicing in their sufferings even as they anticipated the coming of Christ (I Pet. 4: 13). Peter notified the believers that often they would suffer unjustly (I Pet. 2: 19; 3: 17), positing that there was no credit if they suffered for wrongdoing but they would be rewarded for the unjustified sufferings (I Pet. 2: 20; 2: 21). Peter noted that the sufferings of Christ had given Christians a pattern to follow whenever they were subjected to the sufferings and pains because of their faith in God (I Pet. 4:1). He finally enlightened the believers that they may also suffer because of God’s will (I Pet. 3: 17) though he encouraged them that they would be strengthened by God amidst their suffering (I Pet. 5: 10).
The speeches and the epistles of Peter did not mention the term church but his works discussed the church doctrines to a certain degree. Just like Dr. Luke in the theology of Acts, Peter’s discussion of the church doctrine involved two types of churches: The local church and the universal church.
While discussing the duties of an elder (I Pet. 5: 1-4), Peter displayed a picture of a local church. He talked of an assembly of believers or a flock of God upon whom the elder was supposed to exercise his duties as a shepherd. The tasks associated with shepherding denoted tending/feeding the flock which is interpreted as teaching them, protecting and caring for them as well as nurturing them. Peter’s gospel emphasized on the need to show love and compassion in conducting these duties as opposed to being domineering. He discouraged the love for money especially for the elders because it would affect their service to the Lord’s flocks but emphasized on eagerness and godliness as among the main behaviors that elders ought to display to the flock, thus becoming role models to them.
In relation to the universal church, Apostle Peter recognized the unity of the Gentiles and the Jews as the body of Christ (Acts 10: 34-43). Although he was an apostle for the Hebrews, it is apparent that he recognizes the role of the Gentiles in formation of one body, which is one of the responsibilities assigned to him by Christ. Peter declared that the Gentiles were also welcome to join Christianity without having to change into Jewish proselytes first via the Jewish rituals (Acts 1:35). Previously, the followers of Christ were making it impossible for people who were not Jews to join the new faith. They were demanding that the people follow the various rituals such as circumcision and offering of sacrifices for them to be accepted in the camp of the Jewish Christians. He confirmed the truth of avoiding such rituals within the universal church in his works as highlighted in Acts 15:7-11.
Some of the other issues highlighted in the epistles of Peter include the issue of baptism and the return of the Lord. In relation to baptism, Apostle Peter did not go into details about this concept but he briefly mentioned about it in relation to the analogy of Noah’s flood. He perceived the water during the flood, which destroyed people leaving only eight people alive, as symbolic of today’s salvation. The water within the flood symbolized a breakage from the older life of disobedience and resistance of God to a new life in God, which is the same concept shared in the modern baptism where the water is symbolic of breaking from the old life of sin into a new life with Christ.
While discussing the second coming of Christ, Peter discussed the conditions which would preface His return. Peter observed that the world would be full of false teachers before the coming of the Lord who would be seeking to turn believers from their faith in God. Such individuals would be known because of their falsified doctrines, which would involve denial of their Master (II Pet. 2: 1). The false teachers would also be recognizable because of their immorality (II Pet. 2: 14) and would lead unsuspecting people away from Christ (II Pet. 2:9).
In the two epistles, Peter distinguished between the church’s rapture and the second coming of the Lord who would judge the wicked according to their sins. The rapture will involve Christ taking the believers from the world, thus exempting them from the coming tribulations that would befall the earth dwellers. He indicated that the present suffering among the early Christians would be culminated with honor and praise during the revelation of Christ (I Pet. 1: 7). Thus, Peter encouraged the believers to continue holding unto their faith and preserving the sufferings, thereby implying the rapture (I Pet. 1: 13). Peter also implied the judgment when he posited that those who had refused Christ but chosen to mock Him would suffer the consequence during His return (II Pet. 3:1-7). He posited that during the day of the Lord, the ungodly would be destroyed.
Theology of Jude
The book of Jude was written by a brother of James according to Jude verse 1. The James suggested here was the head of Jerusalem church, which means that the author of the book is the half brother of Jesus Christ (Mathew 13:55). The audience of the book of Jude seems to be persons living in the neighborhood of Israel. The internal evidence points the audience as the Hebrews.
The writing of the book seems to share the occasion of Pater, which is majorly about the emergence of false teachers among the believers. In verse 3, the author highlights the purpose of writing the book of Jude—“contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude recognized the need for warning the early believers about the libertines threatening their faith in Christ. Thus, he called upon them to stand firm in their faith, heeding to the teachings of the apostles.
Jude Theology Discussion
Sharing in theology of Peter, the author of Jude warned believers about false teachers among the Lord’s followers. He noted that such teachers were denying Christ as the only Master over believers (Jude vs. 4). In this Scripture, one of the titles of Christ that is clearly displayed by the author is “Master and Lord.” Referring to Christ as Master meant that He was the “absolute ruler”, a gospel that was also shared by Peter (II Pet. 2:1). Jude also perceived Christ as a deity in his reference of Him as Lord, which was commonly used within the New Testament in reference of Yahweh or Jehovah, which is a clear demonstration of the deity of Christ. In verse 5, the author equated Christ with the Old Testament’s Yahweh. He also perceived Christ as the “Messiah” (Vs. 25), which was a title for the Old Testament’s anticipated Redeemer of Hebrews and a Ruler. Although the book of Jude was quite brief, the author did not fail in accrediting splendor to Christ.
The letter of Jude was addressed to the early believers/Christians/the called. In referring to the believers as the “called”, the author denotes the election doctrine. He was referring to people who had been elected for salvation through God’s grace. This kind of grace is irresistible by men. He emphasized on salvation’s security when he affirmed that God would enable Christ followers to stand before His presence (vs. 24). When the author talked of “standing before God”, he meant being able to maintain oneself in Christ or as a believer. The assurance of salvation was based on the eternal election and God’s ability to keep believers for glorification.
The author of Jude briefly talked about the angels who had forsaken their proper abode (vs. 6) most likely in reference to Satan and his angels who had been thrown out of heaven for dishonoring God (Isaiah 14: 12-17). He indicated that some of these angels were kept in bondage while others were free and serving as agents of Satan. The author of Jude also recognizes angels’ hierarchy while talking of Michael who had fought Lucifer and his followers (vs. 9). He was a defender of the chosen people of Israel.
Theology of John
Apostle John was one of the sons of Zebedee and a brother to James according to the book of Mark 1:19. John was a fisherman prior to his calling and lived in Galilee. It seems his business was doing well because he had hired some servants to help him in the venture (Mk. 1:20). He was a relative of Christ (cousin) because the mother (Salome) was Mary’s sister (mother of the Lord) (Jn. 19:25; Matt. 27:56; Mk. 15:40). John’s mother was among the faithful followers of Christ and supported His ministry (Matt. 27:55-56; Mk. 15: 40). Right from the early stages of Christ’s ministry, John was one of the 2 disciples who accompanied Him and later was named as part of the twelve (Jn. 1: 35-37 and Matt 7: 1-8).
John was among the three chosen disciples together with Simon Peter and James who were also the witnesses of Christ’s transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-8). He was the most beloved of Christ amongst the Twelve Disciples and was sitted besides the Lord (favored position) during the Last Supper (Jn. 13: 23). During the death of Christ, He committed His mother under the care of John (Jn. 19:26). After the resurrection of Christ, John saw Him at least two times before Christ ascended (Jn. 20:19-25; 21:2) and also saw Him at least three times thereafter (Rev. 1: 12-18; 5: 4-7; 19: 11-16). In the works of Dr. Luke (Acts 3: 1; 4: 13; 8: 14), John was in a prominent position within the ministry together with Simon Peter and was among the three church pillars (Galatians 2:9).
The theology of John can be derived from several sources, including the gospel of John, the three epistles, and the book of Revelation. The most commonly employed approach involves the reference of Jesus’ teachings as recorded by Apostle John. John unlike most of the other disciples is believed to have recorded the actual words of Christ and through which he wrote his gospel and epistles. John’s theology is centered on the Person of Christ as well as the revelation which God brought to him in relation to the advent of Christ. John perceived Christ as one who had been with God since eternity and who had become flesh and in whom he had beheld the glory. Through his theology, John introduced Christ as one who had brought light into the dark world of sin but the world had rejected His light.
Gospel of John
John’s authorship of the gospel of John was confirmed through the external evidence of Tatiana, Theophilus, Ignatius and Polycarp. The internal evidence also points to Apostle John as the author of the gospel of John. Evidence posits that John was the last one to write the gospel and was dated between A.D. 80 and A.D. 95. However, Robinson T. John (a liberal writer) posited that the final composition of the gospel took place around A.D. 65. However, the general agreement among scholars is that John’s gospel was the latest and was probably meant to supplement the previously written gospels. Thus, the author probably wrote in the view of the general world and the church.
Unlike the synoptic that were written to specific audiences, John wrote for general readership. His gospel is unique (about 92%) from the Synoptics. He included great discourses as well as events of Christ’s life that were not found in all the other literatures (Jn. 6: 22-71; 7: 11-52; 8: 21-59; 17: 1-26; 11: 1-44; 13: 1-20; 9: 1-41; 14: 1-16). His theology used certain words more than all the other authors; such words include light (twenty-one times), and love (thirty-one times), life (thirty-five times) among other concepts such as “Son of God”, “witness”, “truth”, “believe”, and “world”. His purpose of writing the gospel was to incite belief in Christ (Jn. 20: 30-31). He selected signs that sought to demonstrate the authority of Jesus Christ over certain realms, which confirmed Christ’s authority as the Messiah (Jn. 20:30-31).
Epistle of John
1st epistle: This epistle has extensive evidence about John’s authorship with Polycarp and Papias confirming his authorship. John is depicted as an eyewitness to the ministry of Christ (1 Jn. 1:1-4) and also shows the connection with his gospel (1 Jn. 3:21; 8:44; 8: 23). Evidence indicates that the first epistle was written in A.D. 80 from Ephesus and majorly directed to the churches in the neighborhood. Some two factors may have propelled the writing of the first epistle: First, the presence of false teachers and spiritual laxity among believers and second, the spiritual conditions of the believers (carelessness in faith walk) (1 Jn. 2:15-17).
2nd Epistle: The internal evidence of the second letter of John points to John as the author. The letter follows the structure, style and language of first epistle and the gospel of John. Some of the terms in the second letter that identifies it to the first letter include “truth”, “love”, “walk” and “new commandment.” The epistle also seems to have been written from Ephesus during the same period of the writing of the first epistle. The audience for the second epistle is “the chosen lady and her children” (II Jn. vs. 1), referring to universal church, local church and a specific lady. The apostle may have written to a specific woman that is known to the modern scholars. It was a warning letter to her and the church that met at her place about false teachers (II Jn. vs. 10).
3rd Epistle: The close relationship of this epistle to the other two epistles suggests belong to the same author and written from the same venue at the same period. The letter’s destination was John’s friend (Gaius) and was meant to instruct him about Diotrephes who was an influential church member who desired prominence. John denounced the sins of Diotrephes such as gossiping and refusal to accommodate brethrens (III Jn. 9-11).
There is more than enough external evidence about the authorship of the Book of Revelation. Some early writers such as Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Justin Martyr identified John as the author of Revelation. The internal evidence also points John as the author (Rev. 1: 1; 1: 4; 1: 9; 22: 8). The structure and the simplicity in style of the Book of Revelation are similar to that of the gospel of John and his epistles. Moreover, John used some common terms that he had previously used in writing of his gospel, including “fountain of living waters”, “overcome”, “witness”, “dwell”, “true”, “Lamb”, “Jesus”, and “Logos.”
According to some early writers such as Westcott and Hort, the most possible dates for the authorship of the Book of Revelation is between A.D. 68 and A.D. 69 although the traditionally identified date for writing Revelation is A.D. 95. The audiences for Revelation are the seven churches within Asia (Rev. 1: 4). The authorship was motivated by several reasons, including the encouragement of the early Christians in the midst of their persecutions, demonstrate fulfillment of Old Testament’s prophecies, remind the believers about Christ’s final triumph, and provide Christ’s triumphant picture in His judgment and the millennial reign.
Theology of John Discussion
In His works, John saw Christ’s revelation in two main perspectives: Via the Scriptures and via the Son.
In relation to Scriptures, Christ reminded the Hebrews that the Holy Scriptures bore a witness of Him as noted in John 5: 39. Christ affirmed the Scriptures as truthful and revealing of God’s light through His Son. The present tense in the term “revealing” implied that revelation was continuous. Christ also reminded the readers that His coming was prophesied by Moses but it seems people had not believed him (Jn. 5: 45). He also highlighted the authority of the Scriptures, positing that it cannot be broken (Jn. 10: 35).
In relation to the Son, John declared that God’s revelation was manifested through His Son. In John 1: 1, the apostle noted that Christ had been with the Father through all past eternity. The author further noted that Christ revelation was through God’s grace (Jn. 1:16-17) and His authority and position as God’s Son was revealed during the transfiguration (Jn. 17: 1-8) and in performing of miracles (Jn. 2: 11). John showed the difference between the role of Moses and the role of Christ in relation to the law and grace respectively. While Moses had introduced the Law and required all Jews to follow it for God to continue dwelling among them, Jesus represented God’s grace by which men are saved.
The term “world”, which was only used 15 times throughout the Synoptics, was widely used in the gospel of John (78 times in the gospel alone and 27 times in his other literatures). Often, the author used the term in demonstration of sin and darkness in the universe as well as Satan’s domination. John depicted a world characterized by sinfulness and Christ opposition, hostile to everything that Christ represented because of its blindness. He noted that the world had failed to recognize the Messiah when He came. John categorized those who dwell in the world as of two classes: light haters and those who love light and moves towards it (Jn. 1:12; 3: 19-20). He depicted Christ as the light and noted that the world had hated Him (Jn. 7:7). According to John, sin results from people’s refusal to have faith/believe in Christ (Jn. 3: 19) although the Holy Spirit continues to convict sinners about this refusal (Jn. 16:8). John pointed the final tragic end for disobedience as death (Jn. 8:21).
The gospel of John also emphasized on the role of Satan in the world. He noted that words of Christ about why people continue to sin positing that they are Devil’s children, thus they continue to do his will (Jn. 8:44). He noted that the devil was a liar and that it was his nature to lie, which also propels his descendants to disobey God. In John 3:8, the author posited that sinners belong to the devil in reference to the spiritual relationship between violators of the law and the devil. But he emphasized the role of Christ in delivering the people from Satan’s bondage.
While discussing the concept of personification/incarnation of Christ, John used different references throughout his gospel and in the Book of Revelation. Such terms include light, life, Son of God, and Son of Man.
Light: Among the most popular terms in the writings of John is light, which was majorly employed in the reference to Christ or His Word (Jn. 1: 4; 5: 35; 9: 5; 12: 35; 12: 46; Rev. 18: 23; 23: 5; 21: 24). In relation to incarnation, John used the term light in reference to Jesus Christ who is the light that had come to the world that was already darkened by sin. He perceived Christ as men’s source of light (Jn. 1:4). Reference of Christ as light is an outright indication of His deity. John sought to call upon people to believe in the Christ that had descended as the light and representation of God.
Life: Equally popular in the works of John is the term “life”, which he used 36 times across the gospel, 13 times in his first epistle, and 15 times in the Book of Revelation. In relation to incarnation, John perceived Christ as life (Jn. 1:4). He also equated Christ to God the Father as the foundation of life (Jn. 5: 26), which was a strong affirmation of Christ’s deity. The life in Christ is very important to all humans because the life of all people is dependent on it. Christ chose to lay down His life so that all men would have an access to eternal life (Jn. 3:16). John also compared Christ to Satan noting that Satan’s role is to destroy and kill but Christ’s role is to give abundant life (John 10:10). It is through the resurrection of Christ that men have life.
Son of God: Apostle John described Christ’s incarnation through referencing Him as “Son of God”, a term that even Jesus Himself used. The Jewish people perceived this reference as blasphemy and even thought of stoning Him for equating Himself to God (Jn. 5:18). By claiming that He was God’s Son, Jesus indicated that He was equal to God (Jn. 10: 36), which sanctioned His deity. John was in the frontline emphasizing this message about the deity of Christ and proclaiming that He and the Father were equal. This was demonstrated by His power to raise the dead, give life to men, forgive sins, receive honor, and set slaves free (Jn. 5: 21-25; 8: 36). As the Son of God, Christ was an object of faith (Jn. 6:40) and prayer (14: 13) and could actually answer prayers (Jn. 14: 13). Often, Christ referred to God as His Father, which emphasized on His position as equal to God (Jn. 20: 17).
Son of Man: The term “Son of Man” was often used in reference to Christ in relation to His mission (Jn. 1: 51; 6: 27; 8: 28; 12: 23; 12: 34). This term was derived from Daniel 7:13 and was used to refer to “heavenly being who receives the kingdoms of this world.” However, Enns noted that the use of the name did not seek to equate Christ to men but to show the deity in the Son. Daniel had noted that the Son deserves to receive dominion and glory. The humanity of Christ was demonstrated through the identification with man (Jn. 3: 14; 12: 34) but did not alter His mission as God’s Son, which was to bring about redemption and salvation upon all men. The term is therefore in reference to Christ as having a heavenly origin but with heavenly glory while pointing at His lowliness and men’s sufferings.
While Jesus was in the upper room together with His disciples, He taught about the Holy Spirit and His works as recorded by John from chapter 14 through 16. The three chapters have provided detailed information about the person as well as His works among believers.
Holy Spirit’s person: The Holy Spirit’s personality is evident in the personal pronouns used by John to describe Him. Jesus had noted that one of His roles was to be a teacher, stating “He will teach you…” (Jn. 14:26). The pronoun “He” indicates His masculine nature. One may have expected that the pronoun in His reference be “It”, but that would have been wrong because He is a person just like the Father and the Son. The use of the pronoun “He” by Christ in reference to the Holy Spirit confirmed His personality (Jn. 15: 26).
Holy Spirit works: John highlighted some of the key duties of the Holy Spirit as including convicting the world (Jn. 16: 8), which is a role played by a prosecutor. His role in this case is to convict the world about sin because of refusal to accept or believe in Christ. The Holy Spirit also has a duty of convincing the world about Christ’s righteousness and of judgment because Satan stood judged by the works of the cross. The works of the Holy Spirit also involves regeneration. While explaining about new birth to Neccodemus, Christ indicated that it is a birth through the Spirit (Jn. 3: 5-6). As mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit is also a teacher (Jn. 14:26) entrusted with the duty of teaching the disciples all things. Finally, John posited that the Holy Spirit indwells believers (Jn. 14: 16-17). Unlike in the Old Testament where He was temporary in people’s lives, the Holy Spirit came to dwell among people as evident in the day of Pentecost. His permanent habitation was within men (Jn. 14:16).
John’s work explored some other fundamental items such as the rapture, tribulation, antichrist, and Second Advent.
Rapture: Although John’s theology does not explicitly mention the term rapture as Paul did, he undoubtedly referred to the concept in John 14: 1-3. He related the rapture to Christ’s church, which will involve taking of believers into heaven. The rapture would mark the end of their sufferings and grieving even as they join the Lord in the place He had gone to prepare for them. He had promised that once He was through with the preparation, He would descend to collect the believers (Jn. 14: 3).
Tribulation: From Revelation 6 through 19, Apostle John gave detailed coverage of the concept and the events of tribulation. It would involve unleashing of seven seals upon the earth which will mark its beginning, the triumph of the Beast, war and famine, death, martyrdom, and celestial and earthly convulsions (Rev. 6: 1-17). The opening of the seals will continue even after the tribulation even as the final seal initiated the 7 trumpets (Rev. 8:2—11: 19). After the sounding of the trumpets, supply of oxygen and food will diminish causing numerous deaths of both human and sea life (Rev. 8: 2-7). This will be followed by water pollution, killing of a third of the people on the universe, and immeasurable torments (Rev. 8: 12—9: 21). The final trumpet will inaugurate bowls of judgment (Rev. 11-16).
Antichrist and Christ’s Second Advent: The tribulation will be culminated with Christ’s return. He will subjugate nations of the world (Rev. 19: 11-21). John also talked about antichrist in reference to the people who had renounced Christ and denied His true doctrine. The very final person to deny Christ will be the Beast (political ruler) (Rev. 11: 7; 13: 1). He will be followed by the second Beast who will also support the first Beast in denying Christ and misleading people (Rev. 13: 1-10) and will be empowered by Satan. The second Beast is a false prophet and will force people across the earth to worship the first Beast (Rev. 13: 11-12). He will perform signs and wonders deceiving many and restricting commerce to people who will have the mark of the Beast (Rev. 13: 14-16).
The two Beasts will be thrown into the lake of fire upon Christ’s Second Advent (Rev. 19:20), which will mark end of tribulation. John envisioned victorious Christ returning with His bride (Rev. 19: 6-8). This will be followed by the millennial kingdom on earth (Rev. 19: 9-10).
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 Enns, p. 120.
 Enns, p. 121.
 Westcott, B. F, The Epistle to the Hebrews (1965, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans) 37-43.
 Enns, p. 121.
 Westcott, p. 213.
 Enns, p. 121-122.
 Enns, p. 122.
 Enns, p. 122-123.
 Enns, p. 123.
 Enns, p. 124.
 Pearlman, n.d.
 Enns, p. 125.
 Rienecker, p. 664.
 Enns, p. 125-126.
 Pearlman, n.d.
 Enns, p. 126.
 Pearlman, n.d.
 Enns, p. 124.
 Pearlman, n.d.
 Enns, p. 125.
 Enns, p. 127.
 Enns, p. 127.
 Enns, p. 127.
 Enns, p. 127-128.
 Pearlman, n.p.
 Enns, p. 128.
 Pearlman, n.p.
 Enns, p. 128.
 Enns, p. 129.
 Pearlman, n.p.
 Enns, p. 129.
 Rienecker, p. 748.
 Enns, p. 130.
 Enns, p. 130.
 Enns, p. 131.
 Enns, p. 131.
 Enns, p. 131.
 Walvoord, John and Zuck, Roy, The Bible knowledge commentary, (1983, Wheaton I11: Victor) 2.
 Ryrie, p. 286.
 Enns, p. 132.
 Harrison, Everett, Introduction to the New Testament, (1964, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans) 406.
 Enns, p. 132.
 Enns, p. 132.
 Enns, p. 133.
 Enns, p. 133.
 Enns, p. 135.
 Hiebert, pp. 167-170.
 Robinson, John, Re-dating the New Testament (1976, Philadelphia: Westminster) 307.
 Enns, p. 136.
 Enns, p. 137.
 Enns, p. 137.
 Enns, p. 137.
 Harrison, pp. 441-442.
 Enns, p. 138.
 Enns, p. 139.
 Morris, John, The Gospel according to John, (1971, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans) 126-128.
 Enns, p. 139-140.
 Enns, p. 141.
 Morris, pp. 172-173.
 Enns, p. 142.
 Morris, p. 173.
 Enns, p. 143.
 Pearlman, n.p.
 Pearlman, n.d.
 Pearlman, n.p.
 Enns, p. 144.
 Pearlman, n.p.
 Enns, p. 145.