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The interpreter who meddles with these things must know that he deals with aspirations and emotions which are at the heart of people's sense of identity, and with issues which can literally have life and death implications.
Gordon Mc Conville is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and is a member of the Faculty of Theology at Oxford University.
He is the author of Law and Theology in Deuteronomy and Judgement and Promise: Interpreting the Book of Jeremiah.
He is the author or co-author of fourteen books and many articles, with special interests in Deuteronomy, the prophets, and Old Testament theology and interpretation. He is currently working on Old Testament spirituality, and is co-editor of the Two Horizons Commentary (Old Testament) with Craig Bartholomew. Introduction The purpose of the present paper is to consider the topic of Jerusalem in the Old Testament both in its own terms and from the perspective of Christian interpretation.
Such a task is somewhat daunting because of its huge importance in the lives of many people.
For many, Christian as well as Jewish, the Old Testament promises about Jerusalem have been gloriously vindicated in events of the present century in modern Israel, while for others; the same events seem to threaten their very existence.
Many of the latter are also Christians, and therefore also understand themselves in relation to the biblical revelation.
These very different self-understandings imply, naturally, different interpretations of the Old Testament on the subject of the ancient 'promised land' in general, and on Jerusalem in particular.
The topic well illustrates the close connection between interpretation and total personal commitment.
The reading of individual texts is only a part of a whole reading of Scripture, and for Christians it belongs within the wider endeavor of Christian biblical theology.
This puts a question-mark against the idea that texts have an obvious, plain sense, an idea which can carry the implication that to opt for any sense other than the 'literal' is to undermine the authority of Scripture.
There is confusion in this line of thought, for we have in fact no choice but to understand the part, as best we can, in terms of the whole. In it we will consider in turn the major sections of the Old Testament which are relevant to the topic; it proceeds in this way-rather than by looking at a series of potential proof-texts for the reason (already given) that context must always be respected.