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The Structure of Biblical Authority Paperback – November 5, 1997
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He wisely observes that the approach to canon found in many modern higher-critical schools errs by viewing the end process of canonization as the only process. Rather than seeing an organic development of a canon as the necessary correlate to a royal covenant, and the Church simply recognizing the authority already derived from Divine inspiration, the modern approach sees the final recognition as the authoritative process altogether.
In other words, rather than receiving the covenant canon from the Sovereign Suzerain, some ironically propose that the covenant canon was the fabrication of the vassal, ignoring both the formal claims of Scripture and historical precedent. In short, a covenant implies an accompanying, defining canon.
Below is a more detailed summary of the book:
In Part One of the book, Kline argues his thesis in four stages.
First, the international treaty as a literary form was readily available for acquisition by Moses at the time of Israel’s founding, which does not preclude the ability for God to take and inspire the document form, but rather served as an accessible and culturally understood matrix in which God could establish his covenantal rule with the people of Israel (ch. 1).
Second, the Old Testament in its variety of genres all relate intrinsically to covenant. The Law is the treaty itself. The history is prophetic witness to the covenant faithfulness and unfaithfulness of Yahweh and Israel, respectively, fueling the courtroom prosecution of covenant infidelity in the later prophets. The Psalter serves as means of maintaining proper covenantal relationship, with the wisdom literature portraying the way and benefit of covenant fidelity, honing in on theodicy. The OT, thus conceived represents a covenant document through and through, and Kline obscurely recognizes a parallel structure in the New Testament, calling for more detailed evaluation of this proposal. Kline summarizes, “in short, the Bible is the old and the new covenants” (75, ch. 2).
Third, Kline argues “in terms of its edificatory purpose, covenantal canon may be thought of the architectural model for God’s sanctuary residence” (85). In other words, the canon documents have as their primary purpose the “plan for the community structure of God’s covenant people” (88). This view emphasizes the priority of corporate rather than individual interpretation of the Scriptures (ch 3).
Fourth, the house-model lends itself to viewing key discontinuity between the two covenants. Kline argues that while certain aspects remain continuous from the OT into the NT, if “canonicity precisely and properly defined is a matter of community life norms,” then it follows that “the OT, though possessing the general authority of all the Scriptures, does not possess for the church the more specific authority of canonicity” (102). So, polity becomes the dominant discontinuity between the OT and NT, contra Dispensational and what Kline calls “evolutionary” biblical theology.
Part two of the book, “Collateral Studies,” seek to bolster Kline’s thesis with specific case studies, arguing for duplicate rather than divided tablets (ch 1), the essential unity of Deuteronomy as a dynastic succession document (ch 2), the resolution of seemingly contradictory ethics by eschatological intrusion (ch 3), and the parallel literary structure of Exodus and the gospel narratives (ch 4).
One quick insight I learned from this book:
The 10 Commandments were treaty documents. There were two tables because there were two copies, one for the Suzerain and one for the Vassal. Each copy of the treaty document was stored where the two parties would meet, which was at the ark of the covenant. Kline demonstrates that this is the pattern of the Ancient Near East.
Much more could be said about this book; it's small, but it's packed from front to back.