To Know the Son is to Know the Father

I have recently been going through items in storage to select what to keep and what to discard. Yesterday I discovered a DVD of a lesson I taught in the adult Bible class at Christian Life Center in Stockton, California. I taught this class for almost twenty-five years. This lesson deals with the deity and the humanity of Christ. I am preserving it here for those who are interested in this essential subject.


The Use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament: An Introduction to Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

Early this morning I spent some time in one of our storage rooms, rearranging boxes, deciding what to move to other locations and what to discard. In the process, I came across a bound copy of the notes for one of the courses I took in the process of earning the Ph.D. at the Regent University School of Divinity. The course “Interpreting Scripture” was taught by Graham Twelftree, Ph.D. during the Spring 2004 residency.

Among other requirements, all students were required to present papers they had written and to respond to papers written by other students. The paper I wrote and read was titled “The Use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament: An Introduction to Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics.” The paper is long and detailed, but I am posting it here in case some who read my blog may be interested.

I regret I was unable to transfer the Hebrew font that appeared originally in this paper. To compensate, I represented the Hebrew font in English italics.

The Use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the New Testament:

An Introduction to Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

Daniel L. Segraves


  1. The Problem

A comparison of New Testament (NT) references to their Old Testament (OT) sources invites the question as to whether the meaning found by the NT writers is the meaning intended by the authors of the OT sources.[1]  The problem is such that Bultmann argued for complete theological discontinuity between the OT and NT.[2]  In Bultmann’s opinion, we need to “give up the naïve, traditional meaning of prophecy and fulfillment, and go on indeed to ask if we may legitimately speak of prophecy and fulfillment at all.”[3]  In Hasel’s view, Bultmann’s mistake is “to approach and criticize the NT’s method of quotation from the point of view of modern literary criticism.”[4]  Instead, “one must maintain that the NT quotations presuppose the unity of tradition and indicate keywords and major motifs and concepts in order to recall a larger context within the OT.”[5]  Hasel’s point is that in Bultmann’s failure to see any anticipation of NT persons or events in the OT and in his view that the NT authors read meaning into the OT texts,[6] Bultmann read Scripture anachronistically; rather than recognizing the ancient literary devices that shaped the meaning of the OT, he read the OT through the lens of modern literary techniques.  Bultmann’s reading focused narrowly on individual verses quoted or alluded to in the NT rather than on the larger inter-textual context; he certainly did not take into account the canonical-compositional issues that lend meaning to smaller portions of the text.

  1. A Possible Solution: Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

This paper suggests that the idea of discontinuity between the NT authors and their OT sources is due to an excessively narrow perspective on OT theology.  This narrow perspective fails to read the OT as a book.  Instead, it is read as a collection of books or, worse, as a collection of books lacking internal integrity.  This literary fragmentation strips the OT of cohesion and thus of any unity of focus.  This approach, unprecedented until the eighteenth century, has its origins in the rise of historical criticism.[7]  The vision of historical criticism was to discover the supposed history behind the text; the reconstruction of the events that gave birth to the text became more significant than the exploration of the text itself.[8]  The OT, which had previously been read from Genesis 3:15 onward as anticipating the coming of a messianic figure, was transformed into little more than an historical account of past figures and events.

In contrast to the hermeneutical methods associated with historical criticism, a canonical-compositional hermeneutic focuses on the final shape of the TaNaK.  This final shape is viewed as intentional and informative.  Scholars working in this field view the canonical context as more determinative of meaning than the original author.[9]  There are four common emphases of canonical criticism: (1) Since the church has received the Bible as authoritative in its present form, the focus should be on that canonical form rather than on a search for the sources behind the text; (2) the text must be studied holistically to determine how it functions in its final form; (3) the theological concerns of the final editor(s) must be explored; and (4) in later texts, the canon provides clues in the use of earlier biblical texts.[10]

Brevard Childs asserts that “the lengthy process of the development of the literature leading up to the final stage of canonization involved a profoundly hermeneutical activity on the part of the tradents.”[11]  The idea is that those who were involved in the preservation of literary tradition shaped the text in such a way that the shape influences interpretation.

The first thing noticed in a comparison of NT references to their OT counterparts is that all references are not created equal.  Moyise suggests that it is “helpful to distinguish between quotations, allusions and echoes.”[12]  Citation formulas usually indicate quotations.  Key words characterize allusions.  Verbal links that do not seem to reflect authorial intention to specify an OT source may be described as echoes.[13]  In spite of these variations, canonical-compositional hermeneutics emphasize continuity between the testaments.[14]

  1. An Illustration of Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

In order to illustrate an application of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, we will explore Paul’s use of Ps 14 in Rom 3:10-12.[15]

The similarities between Pss 14 and 53 are such that Ps 53 is often thought of as merely a doublet, revision, or corruption of Ps 14.[16]  One proposed reason for the differences is that Ps 53 appears in the Elohistic book of the Psalter,[17] whereas Ps 14 appears in the Yahwehistic portion of the Psalter.[18]  Another proposed reason is that Ps 53 is a revision of Ps 14 done in the northern kingdom and reflecting a more generic view of the identity of God.[19]  There are, however, more differences between the two psalms than the name by which God is identified.

From the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, Pss 14 and 53 are intentionally placed in the Psalter in their precise locations.  This placement reflects the overall messianic theme of the book.  The context in which each psalm is found informs intentional and inspired differences between the two.  Each serves an intended purpose in advancing the theme of the Book of Psalms.

In the context leading up to Ps 14, the focus is on Israel’s covenant relationship with YHWH and specifically on sinfulness within the covenant community.  The nature of the sin is an attempt to thwart God’s messianic purpose through David.[20]  That this is the covenant community is demonstrated by the use of the name YHWH in each psalm leading up to and including Ps 14.  The use of YHWH in Ps 14 in contrast to the use of Elohim in Ps 53 is significant.  As Mitchell points out, “A tendency can be discerned in the Bible to use the name Yhwh in contexts referring to God’s mercy and steadfast love (Exod. 33.19; 34.6), and the term Elohim in contexts referring to his judgment or universal sovereignty (Exod. 22.7, 8 [8, 9]).  This was recognized by rabbinic interpreters, for whom it was a fixed interpretational principle.”[21]

In the immediate context of Ps 53 (Pss 51-54), the focus is on sinfulness in the Gentile community and God’s judgment of Gentiles.  The specific sin is the same as the sin of Israel; Gentiles also seek to frustrate the messianic promise.[22]  That this is the Gentile community is demonstrated by the use of Elohim in the psalms that provide the immediate context for Psalm 53 (i.e., Pss 51, 52, 54[23]).  It is also demonstrated in that all of the psalms in this context have to do with Gentiles in some way: Ps 51 with David’s sin with a Gentile woman;[24] Ps 52 with David’s betrayal to Saul by the Gentile Doeg; Ps 53 with the Israelite Nabal behaving as a Gentile;[25] and Ps 54 with David’s betrayal to Saul by the Gentile Ziphites.[26]

From the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics, Ps 53 is intentionally placed in the Psalter immediately after Ps 52.[27]  When read with intentionality in mind, Psalm 53 demonstrates the judgment of God upon the Gentile world.  In order for it to serve its literary purpose, the psalm was amended by inspiration[28] to identify God exclusively as Elohim rather than Yahweh, God’s covenant name by which He revealed Himself to Moses in conjunction with the deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt.[29]  Together with this development, other changes were made to effect a change in the psalm’s focus.  These changes can be seen as follows:

There they were in great fear, for God is with a righteous generation.  You would confound the purpose of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge (Ps 14:5-6).[30]

There they were in great fear where there was no fear, because God scattered the bones of him that camps against you.  You have put them to shame, because God has rejected them (Ps 53:5).

In Ps 14, Gentiles are in great fear because God is with Israel (i.e., a righteous generation).  These Gentiles may seek to confound the purpose of the poor (i.e., Israel), but Yahweh is the refuge of the poor.  Ps 53 reveals a subtle but significant difference: A new fear has gripped the hearts of the Gentiles.  It is not just because God is on the side of Israel, but because God is aggressive in destroying the Gentiles.  He scatters the bones of those who seek to destroy Israel.  Whereas in Ps 14 the Gentiles seek to confound Israel, in Ps 53 Israel shames the Gentiles.  Indeed, God has rejected those who intend to harm Israel.  The ultimate harm that could come to Israel would be the destruction of the messianic hope.

In both psalms, Israel and the Gentiles appear.  But in Ps 14 the focus is on God’s covenant with Israel; in Ps 53 the focus is on God’s universal authority over the entire world of unbelievers.

Both psalms conclude with a nearly identical focus on Zion theology:

Who will give the deliverance of Israel from Zion?  When the Lord returns the captivity of His people, Jacob will be glad; Israel will rejoice (Ps 14:7).

Who will give the deliverance of Israel from Zion?  When God returns the captivity of His people, Jacob will be glad; Israel will rejoice (Ps 53:6).

The only difference between these verses is that Ps 14 identifies God as Yahweh and Ps 53 as Elohim.  Thus, Ps 14 focuses on the return of Israel from captivity from the perspective of the covenant God had with Israel.  Ps 53 focuses on the return from the perspective of God’s universal authority over all peoples of the world, including those who held Israel captive.[31]

Regardless of the perspective, salvation comes out of Zion.  The Psalter’s Zion theology begins in Ps 2:6; the messianic King, the Son, has been set by God on the holy hill of Zion.  Throughout the Psalter, messianic deliverance is seen as originating in Zion.  Although the Psalter recognizes the judgment of God upon His holy city due to the sinfulness of its inhabitants, the psalms are oriented toward a bright future beyond the Babylonian captivity, a future involving the restoration of Zion and the establishment of a literal kingdom governed by the Messiah from His headquarters in Zion [Jerusalem].[32]  Their references to Zion as the source of deliverance tie Pss 14 and 53 together with the messianic theme of the Psalter.

It is significant that Paul, in a series of quotes from the OT to demonstrate the sinfulness of the Jewish people, uses the LXX version of Ps 14:3, not from Ps 53:3.[33]  That this was intentional is indicated by the context in which Paul uses this quote.

In Rom 1:18-32, Paul establishes the universal sinfulness of Gentiles, whose revelation he portrays as limited to creation and conscience.  But in Rom 2:1 – 3:19 he establishes the universal sinfulness of Jews, whose revelation included the written Scriptures.  Thus he appeals to a psalm that, in its original context, described the same ethnic group he sought to portray.  Paul’s use of Ps 14 rather than Ps 53 is an apparent acknowledgment of the significance of the context created in the composition of the Psalter.  In his treatment of the universal sinfulness of Gentiles, Paul quotes no OT text.  In his treatment of the universal sinfulness of Jews, Paul quotes three OT texts[34] before the lengthy reference to the OT in Romans 3:10-18.  This suggests that rather than reading meaning into the OT, Paul uses the OT carefully, contextually, with due regard for the preservation of meaning.  Certainly he could have found references to endorse the idea of Gentile sinfulness.  But since his point is that their revelation was limited and did not include the written Scriptures, Paul does not appeal to the written Scriptures to demonstrate their sinfulness.  But when he seeks to establish the sinfulness of the Jews, Paul appeals to an abundance of Scriptures.  He is careful, however, to use those Scriptures that are contextually about Jewish sinfulness, even if other very similar Scriptures are available (e.g., Paul uses Ps 14 rather than Ps 53).

  1. Strengths and Weaknesses of Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics

3.1. The strengths of canonical-compositional hermeneutics include its high view of inspiration, its apparent literary validity, and its relevance to the use made of the Hebrew Scriptures in the NT.

3.1.1. Canonical-compositional hermeneutics extend inspiration beyond individual words and immediate contexts to the full scope of Scripture.  Inspiration is not merely in-textual or even inner-textual; it is inter-textual.  We might call it “macro-inspiration” as opposed to “micro-inspiration.”  The final work commonly referred to as redaction is identified as composition and included in the process of inspiration.  Inspiration is not attributed to scribal copying.  Sailhamer explains:

A canonical theology of the OT is based on the canonical text of the OT rather than a critically reconstructed one.

Because our approach begins with a theological premise, that is, the verbal inspiration of Scripture, we believe the biblical text must be taken as authoritative, that is, as canonical.[35]

Sailhamer recognizes the value of biblical criticism and the challenges associated with distinguishing between the work of an author, a redactor, an editor, and a scribe, but points out that “the canonical OT theology which we are proposing, does not have to resolve the question of an original text—even though we hold it to be possible to do so.  A canonical approach to OT theology focuses its attention on the shape of the OT text at the time of the formation of the Canon.”[36]

Although after the time of Christ fluidity existed in the order of the canonical books in both the Jewish and Christian traditions, Roger Beckwith points out that “the earliest evidence is of a single agreed order, and since this order is referred to by Jesus, it provides a measure of confirmation that the closing of the canon had already taken place in Jesus’s time.[37]  Walter Brueggemann suggests that the three-fold shape of the Hebrew Scriptures described by Jesus as the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44) is anticipated in Jer 18:18.[38]

3.1.2. The literary validity of canonical-compositional hermeneutics is apparent in view of the discoveries made by scholars currently working in this field.  Although an exploration of these literary discovers is beyond the scope of this paper, Sailhamer’s comments are helpful:

By paying careful attention to the compositional strategies of the biblical books themselves, we believe in them can be found many essential clues to the meaning intended by their authors—clues that point beyond their immediate historical referent to a future, messianic age.  By looking at the works of the scriptural authors, rather than at the events that lie beyond their accounts of them, we can find appropriate clues to the meaning of these biblical books.  These clues . . . point to an essential messianic and eschatological focus of the biblical texts.  In other words, the literal meaning of Scripture . . . may, in fact, be the spiritual sense . . . intended by the author, namely, the messianic sense picked up in the NT books.[39]

This is not to say “that the authorially-intended meaning can only be ascertained when the books are read in a certain order.  Rather, the order is instructive, helping [us] to see what is already there in the text.”[40]

3.1.3. The relevance of canonical-compositional hermeneutics to the use of the Hebrew Scriptures in the NT has to do with the NT writers’ apparent recognition of how the meaning of specific texts is influenced by their literary context.[41]  After a discussion of the way the literary shape of the Pentateuch influences the reading of Deuteronomy 18 in the direction of eschatological messianism, Sailhamer points out that this is precisely the way the text is read in Acts 3:22; 7:37.  Thus,

When the NT writers appear to us to read their OT typologically and counter to its “historical” sense, we may have to exercise more caution before drawing the conclusion that they have misread their Biblical texts.  When viewed from the standpoint of the final shape of the canon, their reading of the Bible may be much closer to the original intention than our own. . . . Such a reading may be more in harmony with the intention of the original authors of the Hebrew Scriptures than that of our own historical reconstructions.[42]

3.2. The weaknesses of canonical-compositional hermeneutics include as yet unanswered questions about the authority of the LXX[43] and, since the NT is equally inspired with the OT, questions about the order of books in the NT.[44]

3.2.1. The fact that more than one-half of the quotations from the OT in the NT are from the Septuagint (LXX) invites the question of the authority of the LXX.  Since it is a translation, is the LXX authoritative only insofar as it is quoted in the NT?  Does the fact that the LXX order of books does not follow the Hebrew canon invalidate the idea that the relationship between the books informs interpretation?  In James Barr’s view, errors in the LXX became the basis for theological claims in the NT, thus invalidating the concept of an inerrant text:

The New Testament did not build its interpretation upon the Old Testament text as it originally was or upon the meanings which it was originally intended to convey.  . . . Thus some very important features in the New Testament owe their entire existence and form to the fact that the Old Testament had been inaccurately transmitted.[45]

Sailhamer recognizes the challenges associated with the theological influence of the LXX on the NT writers, but the issue has yet to be adequately addressed from the perspective of canonical-compositional hermeneutics.[46]

3.2.2. Canonical-compositional hermeneutics claim that the TaNaK order of the Hebrew Scriptures contributes to the meaning of the entire text.  But does this hold true for the order of books in the NT?  The order of the books was fluid in the earliest days of the Christian church.[47]  Childs believes that a basic error is involved, however, in “the assumption that the literature was shaped by historical, literary, sociological, and history-of-religion forces, but that the theological struggle of its tradents with the literature’s normative function was insignificant.”[48]  Instead, Childs agrees with S. Pedersen that the NT canon has theological content and that “certain aspects of the struggle to bring to bear content-oriented norms on the process of selecting and ordering the New Testament writings”[49] is reflected in selected texts.

  1. Conclusion

There is sufficient evidence for the validity of canonical-compositional hermeneutics to merit the investigation of its significance for Renewal Theology.  In Acts alone, there are at least forty-five verses containing direct quotes from the OT.[50]  At least twenty-nine of these verses present their OT source as having to do with Christ or with events or persons associated with him.[51]  Much of Peter’s Pentecostal sermon consists of direct quotes from the OT.  These quotes validated Jesus as the promised Messiah and connected the events of Pentecost with specific prophecies.

Although Paul quoted directly from the OT when he addressed Jewish audiences,[52] it is significant that he did not quote from the OT when addressing Gentiles.  In his sermon at Athens, his only literary source consisted of quotations from the Greek poets Epimenides and Aratus.[53]

If the first apostolic renewal theologians found a rich source of authority for their experiences by reading the OT in a way that reflects values consistent with canonical-compositional hermeneutics, the church in this era may discover an inexhaustible wealth of theological insight from the same practice. [end]

[1] A classic point of debate is the use of Isa 7:14 in Matt 1:23.  Matthew claims that the promise of Isa 7:14 is fulfilled in the virginal conception of Jesus.  But it is common to read Isa 7:14 as a promise to Ahaz, who was dead long before the birth of Christ.  As Moyise notes, “Jewish scholars have always protested that many of the cited texts have been taken out of context. . . . If this is a prediction of the birth of Jesus 700 years hence, then it makes utter nonsense of the story being narrated in Isaiah” (Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New: An Introduction [The Continuum Biblical Studies Series; ed. Steve Moyise; London and New York: Continuum, 2001], 2-3).  Other related questions include: (1) Why do the NT writers usually quote from the Septuagint (LXX)?; (2) Why do the NT references to the OT sometimes vary significantly from both the Hebrew text and the LXX?; (3) Are post-apostolic believers at liberty to follow the example of the NT writers in the interpretation of the OT?  These questions are, however, outside the scope of this paper.

[2] Gerhard Hasel, Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate (4th ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991; reprint, 2001), 173.

[3] Rudolf Bultmann, “Prophecy and Fulfillment,” in Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics (ed. Claus Westermann; ed. English translation, James Luther Mays; trans. James C. G. Greig; 2nd ed.; Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1964), 74.

[4] Hasel, Old Testament Theology, 176.

[5] Ibid.

[6] See Bultmann, “Prophecy and Fulfillment,” 51-55, 72-75.

[7] A survey of historical criticism’s rejection of the pre-Enlightenment Christological understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures is offered by Ronald E. Clements, Old Testament Prophecy: From Oracles to Canon (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 49-61.

[8] John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology: A Canonical Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 36-85.

[9] Mary C. Callaway, “Canonical Criticism,” in To Each Its Own Meaning: An Introduction to Biblical Criticisms and Their Application (ed. Steven L. McKenzie and Stephen R. Haynes; Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1993), 126.  See also Rolf Rendtorff, Canon and Theology: Overtures to an Old Testament Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 51, 55.

[10] Ray Lubeck, “An Introduction to Canonical Criticism,” Evangelical Theological Society Papers 1995 (Portland, OR: Theological Research Exchange Network, 1-2.

[11]Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992; reprint 1993), 70.  The word “tradent” refers to someone who studies or preserves tradition and is increasingly used by scholars in place of “traditionist.”  This may be due to possible confusion between “traditionist” and “traditionalist.”

[12] Steve Moyise, The Old Testament in the New: An Introduction [The Continuum Biblical Studies Series; ed. Steve Moyise; London and New York: Continuum, 2001), 5.  Steve Moyise, Ph.D., is Professor of New Testament at University College Chichester and an editor of the three volume The New Testament and the Scriptures of Israel soon to be published by T & T Clark International.

[13] Ibid., 5-6.

[14] The variety of approaches by which continuity is emphasized is represented by Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology: A Proposal (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002); Bruce K. Waltke, “A Canonical Process Approach to the Psalms,” in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg (ed. John S. and Paul D. Feinberg; Chicago: Moody Press, 1981); Walter C. Kaiser, “The Single Intent of Scripture,” in The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Texts? (ed. G. K. Beale; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994); G. K. Beale, John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998); Scott A. Swanson, “Can We Reproduce the Exegesis of the New Testament?  Why Are We Still Asking?” Trinity Journal 17:1 (1996): 68-76; Ray Lubeck, “An Apologetic for Canonical Shaping of the Old Testament (TaNaK),” Evangelical Theological Society Papers 2000 (Portland, OR: Theological Research Exchange Network); and John H. Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology.

[15] The connection between Ps 14 and Rom 3:10-12 is explored in Daniel Lee Segraves, “An Application of Canonical-Compositional Hermeneutics to Psalms 14 and 53” (Th.M. thesis, Western Seminary, 2003).

[16] See Anthony Tyrell Hanson, Studies in Paul’s Technique and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974), 22; W.O.E. Oesterley, The Psalms: Translated With Text-Critical and Exegetical Notes (London: S.P.C.K., 1962); James L. Mays, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Psalms (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1994).

[17] The term “Elohistic Psalter” refers to Pss 42-83.  In these psalms, God is ordinarily referred to by the word ~yhiOla/ rather than hw”hy>.  It should be noted, however, that hw”hy> does appear frequently in the Elohistic Psalter and that ~yhiOla/ often appears in the Psalter outside of Pss 42-83.

[18] See Willem A. VanGemeren, in Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 388.

[19] See Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II: 51-100 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1968), 19.

[20] That sinfulness has infected the covenant community may be seen in that much of the focus of this section of the Psalter, beginning with Ps 3, has to do with rebellion within the house of David.

[21] David C. Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms, JSOT Supplement Series, 252 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 172.

[22] An examination of the contexts of Pss 14 and 53 may be found in Segraves, 22-54, 75-93.

[23] Ps 54 does have one use of hwhy in David’s prayer, but this use is disputed by Kraus.  See Marvin E. Tate, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 20. Psalms 51-100 (gen. eds. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker; OT ed., John D. W. Watts; Waco, TX: Word Books, 1990), 45, n. 8.b.

[24] Although Bathsheba’s ethnic origins could be debated, Yehoshua Gitay writes, “The name ‘Sheba’ (‘Shua’ in 1 Chron. 3:5) probably refers to a foreign god, which may indicate the family of Bathsheba was of non-Israelite origin” (Paul J. Achtemeier, gen. ed., Harper’s Bible Dictionary [San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), s.v. “Bathsheba”).  Bathsheba’s father was Eliam (2 Sam 11:3), whose name means “god of the people.”  Eliam’s father was Ahithophel the Gilonite (2 Sam 23:24).  Ahithophel means, “My brother is foolish.”  Ahithophel – Bathsheba’s grandfather – was David’s counselor, but he betrayed David in the Absalom incident.  Even if Bathsheba were Jewish, she was married to a Gentile.  This supports the contextual relationship of Ps 51 with Pss 52-54.

[25] The idea that Ps 53 recalls Nabal is based on the observation that the arrangement of Pss 52-54 follows the order of the events in 1 Sam 21-26.  David’s betrayal by Doeg is found in 1 Sam 21:7; 22:9-23.  Nabal’s rejection of David is found in 1 Sam 25:2-44.  Ps 53 concerns the fool, the lb’n’, who lives as if there is no God.  Nabal’s denial of David’s legitimacy (1 Sam 25:10, 11, 22, 38), since David had been anointed by Samuel (1 Sam 16:1-13), was essentially a denial of God.  Although Nabal was an Israelite (1 Sam 25:3), he behaved like a Gentile, as suggested by Ps 53.  The background of Ps 54, concerning David’s betrayal to Saul by the Ziphites is found in 1 Sam 26.

[26] Although Ziph belonged to the tribe of Judah (Josh 15:20-24), those from that area who betrayed David are described as “strangers.”  Even if they were Israelites, they were behaving like Gentiles.  Literarily, this conforms Ps 54 to the general context of Gentile treachery.  Dahood is of the opinion that Ps 54 “distinctly emerges as the supplication of a king for deliverance from his foreign enemies” (Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II: 51-100 Anchor Bible 17 (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968), 23.

[27] See Norman Whybray, Reading the Psalms as a Book, JSOTSup 222 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996); Gerald Henry Wilson, The Editing of the Hebrew Psalter (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1985); J. Clinton McCann, Jr., ed., The Shape and Shaping of the Psalter (Sheffield: JSOT, 1993); idem., A Theological Introduction to the Book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993); William L. Holladay, The Psalms through Three Thousand Years: Prayerbook of a Cloud of Witnesses (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993); Nancy L. DeClaisse-Walford, Reading from the Beginning: The Shaping of the Hebrew Psalter (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1997); David C. Mitchell, The Message of the Psalter: An Eschatological Programme in the Book of Psalms (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997).

[28] In his approach to canon criticism, Brevard Childs does not clearly define inspiration or distinguish between the relative value of literary activity and scribal activity.  (See Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture [London: SCM Press, 1979].)  Canonical-compositional hermeneutics, developed more recently, attributes inspiration not only to the original authors, but also to those involved in the final composition of the text.  (See, e.g., Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 36-85.)

[29] Exod 3:14-15; 6:1-7.

[30] Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are by the author.

[31] The final verse may be an inspired post-exilic addition.  If so, Israel was not in captivity when these psalms were originally written.  See Norman Whybray, Reading the Psalms as a Book, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 222 (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 61; Willem A. VanGemeren, in Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1991), 15.

[32] See, e.g., Pss 48:2; 110:1-2.

[33] That Paul quoted from Psalm 14 rather than Psalm 53 is demonstrated in Segraves, 132-140.

[34] These texts are Prov 24:12 (in Rom 2:6), Ezek 36:22 (in Rom 2:24), and Ps 51:4 (in Rom 3:4).

[35] Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 222.

[36] Ibid., 223.

[37] Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985), 222.

[38] Walter Brueggemann, The Creative Word: Canon as a Model for Biblical Education (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), 7-10.

[39] Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 154.

[40] Lubeck, “An Apologetic for Canonical Shaping of the Old Testament (TaNaK),” 8. Emphasis in original.

[41] This has been illustrated in this paper by an examination of Paul’s use of Ps 14 in Rom 3:10-12.

[42] John H. Sailhamer, “The Canonical Approach to the Old Testament: Its Effect On Understanding Prophecy,” JETS 30:3 (1987): 315.

[43] Since it is a translation, is the LXX authoritative only insofar as it is quoted in the NT?  Since the majority of NT references to the OT is from the LXX, and since in the LXX the order of books does not follow the Hebrew canon, does this invalidate the idea that the relationship between the books informs interpretation?

[44] Luke and Acts were apparently originally written as one volume or at least as companion volumes intended to be read together.

[45] James Barr, Beyond Fundamentalism: Biblical Foundations for Evangelical Christianity (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1984), 144.

[46] Sailhamer, Introduction to Old Testament Theology, 18, n. 12.

[47] See Authur G. Patzia, The Making of the New Testament: Origin, Collection, Text and Canon (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995).

[48] Brevard S. Childs, The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), 22.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Acts 1:16, 20; 2:17-21, 25-28, 34-35; 3:22-23, 25; 4:11, 25-26; 7:3, 7, 27-28, 32-35, 37, 40, 42-43, 49-50; 8:32-33; 13:22, 33-35, 41, 47; 15:16-17; 28:26-27.

[51] Acts 1:16, 20; 2:17-21, 25-28, 34-35; 3:22-23; 4:11, 25-26; 7:37; 8:32-33; 13:22, 33-35; 15:16-17; 28:26-27.

[52] Acts 13:22, 33-35, 41, 47; 28:26-27.

[53] Acts 17:16-31.


What I’ve been doing in the writing ministry since 2017

I don’t remember exactly what our church typewriter looked like in 1964, but I don’t think it was much different from the one in this picture. I used it to try to produce a flyer advertising a special meeting sponsored by our church, but my father, our pastor, was not impressed.

Many years later, when I owned an IBM Selectric needing repair, I discovered the difficulty of finding a typewriter repair shop. Formerly, there were nineteen such shops in Stockton, California. That number had shrunk to one.

Over the years, I have written twenty-one books, some before I had a computer. Most of the notes I took as a seminary student in the process of earning the degree Master of Arts in Exegetical Theology were hand-written. I took a course titled “Introduction to Computers” before I owned a computer. All I had was a textbook on the subject.

When I took a twelve-month sabbatical from teaching at Urshan Graduate School of Theology, my stated purpose was to write the second volume of my commentary on Psalms. It is still a work in progress, even though I have gone through several desktop and laptop computers, six iPads, and I have forgotten how many smartphones. I am still, however, on my first Apple Watch. I have made no attempt to do much writing on the watch.

So have I slowed down writing or stopped altogether? Where is the second volume of my psalms book?

No, I still feel called to write, and I am quite busy doing it. This morning, for example, I rose from bed at about 3:00 to work on the psalms project.

But other writing projects have crept into my schedule. Let me tell you about them.


I have written two books in recent years:

  • Looking Forward: A Clear View of Biblical Prophecy (this book has also been translated and published in the Spanish language)
  • The Holy Spirit: A Commentary (this hard-cover project discusses almost every reference to the Holy Spirit in the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation)


I have contributed two significant chapters for up-coming Early High Christology projects.

  • “Andrew D. Urshan: An Eastern Voice in Early Twentieth Century Oneness Pentecostalism” (I have signed the contract for this project, and it will soon be published by Pennsylvania State University Press under the title Oneness Pentecostalism at One Hundred).
  • “James and First-Century Jewish Christology.”

Magazine Articles

I have written about thirteen articles now published in the “Pentecostal Herald,” more recently known as “Pentecostal Life” magazine.

  • “The Seven Motivators”
  • “Yahweh, Jehovah and Jesus”
  • “We Have Been Where You Are … Let’s Talk About It” (I wrote this article together with my wife, Susan. It is the story of our marriage following the loss of our spouses, Robert Fuller and Judy Segraves).
  • “You Already Know Some Hebrew”
  • “The Everlasting Father”
  • “Greater Than”
  • “Bumper Stickers, Kool-Aid, and Submission”
  • “God Choose a Day of Rest: The Principle of the Sabbath”
  • “Is There a Difference between Joy and Happiness?”
  • “Marriage without a Helpmate?”
  • “Preach Recovery of Sight to the Blind”
  • “Worthy of Double Honor”
  • “You Shall be Baptized with the Holy Spirit”

So never fear. I’m still writing. The second volume of my Psalms commentary titled The Messiah in the Psalms, vol. 2, is still in the works. It keeps getting moved from burner to burner as other projects come to the forefront, but I have finished the following psalms:

  • Psalm 73
  • Psalm 74
  • Psalm 75
  • Psalm 76
  • Psalm 77
  • Psalm 78
  • Psalm 110
  • Psalm 132

I am currently working on Psalm 79.




“I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy”

This morning after breakfast I sat down at the piano to play a song written almost 100 years ago. Susan came into the room to record it. What a privilege we have to come into the presence of God to worship Him!

Verse 1

I dreamed I went to that city called glory

So bright and so fair.

When I entered the gate I cried Holy;

The angels all met me there.

They carried me from mansion to mansion

And Oh, the sights I saw.

But I said I want to see Jesus,

The One who died for all.


Then I bowed on my knees and cried Holy, Holy, Holy

I clapped my hands and sang glory,

Glory to the Son of God

Verse 2

I thought when I entered that city,

My loved ones all knew me well.

They showed me all through heaven;

The scenes are too num’rous to tell.

They showed me Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!

Mark, Luke, and Timothy.

But I said I want to bow down and give praise

To the One who died for me.

Verse 3

I thought when I saw my Savior

Oh, glory to God!

I just fell right down before Him,

Singing praise the name of the Lord.

I bowed down and worshipped Jehovah,

My friend of ‘calvary,

For I wanted to give praise to Jesus

For saving a sinner like me.

Words by Nettie Dudley Washington and music by E. M. Dudley Cantwell (copyright 1923, 1925 by Hill & Range Songs, Inc.).


Draw Me Nearer: A good theme for 2022

Now that I am retired, I enjoy the opportunity to take a few steps from my home office to what we sometimes call our “music room” or “piano room.” When I am in the office, I am often working on writing projects. At the piano, I usually take a few moments to play whatever comes to mind. When Susan hears me playing, she may come into the room with her iPhone or iPad to record what I’m doing. Often, she posts the song on Facebook or Instagram.

Last evening, during the extremely cold weather here in the Midwest, I sat down to play “Draw Me Nearer,” written in 1875 by Fanny Crosby. It is always interesting to read the thoughts of those who listen. Today, some have said it has been a long time since they heard the song and that they would like to hear more like it. One person said she has been singing it and her husband has been humming it since Susan posted it.

I have no complaints about our current worship music. The Holy Spirit moves among us as we worship our Lord in spirit and truth. As it has been pointed out, however, some of our favorite songs will always be those that were in vogue when we first came to the Lord.

I don’t spend a long time practicing these songs, and my versions are usually quite short. One reason for this is that I may be in the middle of a writing project with a looming deadline. I’m happy if you enjoy them.


The day I wore suspenders to school

Last week I began to wear suspenders again. This reminds me of an event in 1956 or 1957. I was enrolled in the fifth grade of school in Rector, Arkansas, where my father was the pastor of the local United Pentecostal Church.

As I was getting ready for school one morning, I couldn’t find my belt. When I told my dad, he presented me with a pair of suspenders. I protested. The boys in my class didn’t wear suspenders. I didn’t want to be the brunt of their ridicule.

“Wear these suspenders,” Dad said. “If anyone makes fun of you, just put your thumbs behind the suspenders. Pull them out, let them snap, and say, ‘It’s not every day a boy gets to wear suspenders to school.’”

Then Dad said something that convinced me to follow his advice. “If other boys are not wearing suspenders the next day, I’ll give you one dollar.”

A dollar was a lot of money in the 1950s.

I wore the suspenders. I said what Dad told me to say. The next day, nearly every boy in the class wore suspenders. For those who had none, a classmate whose father owned a clothing store brought a shoebox full of suspenders so they wouldn’t be left out.

I learned some lessons. There’s no need to avoid a good course of action merely because no one else is doing it. It’s possible to influence others. Parents can have creative ideas. You may miss a dollar, but you can still wind up with a good story to tell.

“A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!” (Proverbs 15:23, NKJV).


How has God directed your steps in the early days of 2022?

As you look back on the second day of the new year, does it seem your steps were directed by the Lord? What could you have done to be more certain of this?

In New Testament terms, those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God. But what does it mean to be led by the Spirit of God?

Paul wrote, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14, NKJV). This doesn’t mean the sons of God are characterized by sinless perfection (see I John 1:8), but that they deal with all of life — even their sins — as the Spirit of God directs. The Spirit of God leads believers to confess their sins (I John 1:7, 9; Romans 2:4). Those who are unregenerate are led by the flesh, the Adamic nature. (See Romans 6:19-20).

There are many ways the Lord can direct our steps by His Holy Spirit. This includes gifts of the Spirit, like the word of knowledge. For instance, I have experienced the word of knowledge in the form of names of individuals who had a specific need. In one case, the name “Fred” came to me. I asked if that name meant anything specifically to anyone in the room. One of the ladies present said she had come that night especially to have prayer for a sick little baby in a distant state. The baby’s name was Frederick. We were then able to pray intelligently and with faith for the child. Within a couple of weeks we had a picture of the child and a testimony as to how God had touched the baby.

Think about the first days of this year. Is there anything you wish you had done differently? If you could have, would you? Would you have spoken different words, entertained different thoughts, or made different decisions?


Who will direct your steps in 2022?

What steps will I take this year? I may make plans and set goals, but it is God who will direct my steps.

Solomon, who took both wise and foolish steps, wrote, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NKJV).

Even Jeremiah, to whom came the word of the Lord, wrote, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. O Lord, correct me . . .” (Jeremiah 10:23-24, NKJV).

I pray that by the end of this year, I can look back and see that at least most of the steps I have taken were wise steps, directed by the LORD.

What about you? What can we do to minimize how many wrong steps we take and how many are the right ones?