John Walton has made a lasting impression on me as a student of Scripture. One thing he impressed upon me was that we shouldn’t be reading the Old Testament to glean moral lessons from David, Abraham, Sarah, Esther etc. The Old Testament is a revelation of God. Here’s how he explains it in his Genesis commentary:
“Solomon is not offered as a model of setting up an administration (1 Kings 2), Esther is not offered as a model for how to change government policy (Est. 4-7), David is not offered as a model for how to get out of a rough spot (1 Sam 21:10-15)–though each is successful and receives no condemnation for how they conduct themselves. We must take our lead carefully from what can be determined to be the agenda of the text.” (692)
I know what you’re thinking. “But doesn’t the New Testament do this very thing?” Walton has an answer.
“The fact that the New Testament in few places (e.g., 1 Cor. 10:6-13; Heb. 11) draws its teaching based on role models does not thereby offer a blanket approval for us to do the same. We can readily accept the New Testament’s interpretation of the role models, but our confidence as a result of recognizing their inspiration does not necessarily make their hermeneutic repeatable.” (ibid 694 n.56)
Now this will, no doubt, open a can of worms and could destine a whole lot of sermons for the trash can. But I think Walton needs to be heard. Coming this September from Crossway is a book that John and his wife, Kim, have put together called The Bible Story Handbook: A Resource for Teaching 150 Bible Stories from the Bible. Here’s the catalog description:
“How do Sunday school teachers lead children through the stories of Cain and Abel or Judas’s betrayal in a way that reflects the authority of Scripture? Sunday school curricula often glosses over difficult lessons or focuses too much on characters in Bible stories, neglecting God’s self-revelation in Scripture. John and Kim Walton have created this handbook for
175150 [I found three different numbers in various places. I think the 150 is correct.] Bible stories to assist teachers and parents in knowing what each story teaches and how to present it in a God-centered way.”
“As they work their way through the Bible, the Waltons examine seven elements in each story: focus, theme, application, place in the Bible, interpretational issues, historical and cultural background, and age-group appropriateness. The Bible Story Handbook includes introductory articles on why we teach the Bible, right and wrong ways to use the Bible, and ends with a two-year teaching plan. Every parent and Sunday school teacher will find this unique resource to be invaluable in teaching children to know and love God.”
This may be a book primarily for Sunday school teachers but I think there is something here for all of us to learn from. The Bible Story Handbook will have 352 pages and sell for $21.99.