How does an understanding of Biblical Theology shapes the way you would teach a course on the Synoptic Gospels?
As most Christians would have known that the bible consists of two books, the two testaments new and old, but how many of them read and understand the interrelations between the two books and the theory or the theology that is behind it? Would they have known the importance of understanding of the Old Testament gives a better and clearer picture of the salvation that brought to us by Jesus as recalled in the synoptic gospel?
Although the links between the OT and the NT may be recognise may not be as clear cut as the death on the cross, careful reading from the bible will always give us a pointer. For example, the promise made by God to use Eve's offspring to crush the head of the serpent in Genesis can be trace all the way to Jesus because none other kings or decedents from Adam's bloodline is able to conquer death and sin except for Jesus, as referred to by Paul in Romans 5:12.
Most teachers regardless of subject area would know the truth of teaching- first time is hard; teaching out of area makes it ten times as hard. This rule seems to be universal to all teachers including Sunday school and scripture teachers, and one of the easiest ways to work around it is to go simple.
It is not uncommon for teachers to plan without a plot or a big picture of what they wanted to convey at the end on a series of teachings. Teachers who struggle in this scenario can trace their problem to a two main root causes. One is they genuinely have no idea on the big picture. Two, they have been taught in the very same way they are now teaching since they were young.
What then lies ahead for them is a greater problem, if a teacher uses the stories of the one of four gospels as a start the problem is where is he going to end, or worse what that series of lesson he tries to teach is all about? And the problem may not surface well until the middle of the topic when one of the students raises his hand and ask: 'Sir, what's the point?'
The two scenarios mentioned have a very high potential to become a lesson of false teaching, but more importantly they explain how little knowledge some bible teachers may have to the big picture of what the bible has intended, the picture on the redemptive history of God acted on his grace to sent Jesus to die once and for all, so that in Christ man created in his image can now be save.
For many young Christians and inexperienced scripture teachers, the purpose of teaching the synoptic gospels may be nothing more than a memory game which tries to remember the name of the twelve apostles and the miracles that Jesus did throughout his life on Earth.
Take the Gospel of Luke as an example, to understand each part of Luke's Gospel fully, the reader must first have some understanding to the Old Testament. Without the understanding of the OT, some feature of the Luke's Gospel will not be fully understood since the New Testament is written with the presumption that readers will have some knowledge and understanding of the OT. This is the same if not more important in teaching the word of God. If the teacher doesn't have the knowledge of sacrifice of atonement from the OT, the teacher is most likely going to skip or left out the part where John the Baptist refer Jesus as the Lamb of God.
As mentioned, when teaching the gospel in particular the synoptic gospel, a solid idea of how the promise to Abraham can relate to Jesus is useful. This is not only because it gives us the knowledge we need to make sense of some part of the bible, but to a greater scale we can understand how the salvation process is span out across the bible from creation to the end. All too often without the link from NT back to the OT, teachers turns a recount of what Jesus did or say into an allegory or a mere narrative like the story of the good Samaritan; while a teacher may emphasis on the need to do good deeds, he may entirely forgot why Christians need to obey the commandments.
In Luke 20:9 -19 with the presume knowledge of the OT in general tells us that the owner of the vineyard is the creator of the world -God, whereas the farmers who rented the vineyard is the people (as God gave command to Adam to look after and rule the world). The messengers are the prophets and the son would be no other than the Son of God. Without the OT knowledge before hand, the passage in v.19 would be completely incomprehensible to readers and even to those who are teaching it.
Therefore to be able to fully understand and teach the synoptic gospel, we must (lets presume there is a little OT knowledge floating around the room) first find out the original meaning of the text (exegesis) with the help of some OT references if necessary, then interpret it in a way that we can relate to the bible, without the relationship between the readers and the text the final part of finding application is pretty hopeless. For it is the NT that gives us reasons to study the OT, and in turns the understanding of the OT helps exegeses the NT which the history and the continual process of the redemption and salvation can be reveal, and the revelation of salvation and relationship between us and the bible rests on Jesus alone.
Without Jesus as the centre of the teaching in the study of synoptic gospel - which is written for us to know about Jesus, the whole point of studying the synoptic gospels would have been lost in the moment we study it, even more serious is that the rest of the bible would then become a book for teaching of moral and ethics with a taste of spirituality through the appearance of angles, spirit, and weird looking monsters with a slaughtered lamb. One of the best examples when reading without the big picture in mind is the interpretation of the Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5-6).
Therefore the teaching of the synoptic gospels is not how many things that we can remember by hard but it is how the teacher uses his knowledge and understanding of the OT and relates it back to the NT and makes the big picture clear for the students, and this is where the difference can be make by teaching the synoptic gospel with clearness of a hundred percent hindsight with the view of Christ being the centre of our focus.
- Intro to the Bible, Moore College Th.C study notes
- G.Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom, part of The Goldsworthy Trilogy (Carlisle: Paternoster, 200)
- New International Version (NIV) Bible (International Bible Society, 1978)