Character is Growth

In my view, the goal of growth is character, and in the Platonic sense of forms, but not aligned with Platonic morality, the form of growth is a positive transformation in flux. The reader may inquire what is positive, and this writer would say that doing the right action even if it does not result in the best outcomes is positive in a deontological sense. Therefore, the views of this writer differ from the Greek form of character in that they support deontology, and they are also that of a born again Christian. N.T. Wright shares insights related to the kind of character that Aristotle believed all should aspire to in life in the form of dedicated behavior transformation. N.T. Wright said, “Sooner or later, you’ll be acting naturally. Second nature. That’s how virtue works” (Wright, 2010, pg. 262). Wright argued that the Christian theory of virtue is, to paraphrase, “to be learned” (pg. 223). Moreover, character in the Christian worldview or belief is the development of the God’s royal priesthood, prophet kings rather than Platonic philosopher kings. Wright’s distinction was between the theological view of character that Christians should aspire to and the prior Greek view of repeated cultivation of strengths.

N.T. Wright asserted that character transforms by a process of steps. Wright argued, “First, you have to aim at the right goal. Second, you have to figure out the steps you need to take to get to that goal. Third, those steps have to become habitual, a matter of second nature” (Wright, 2010, p. 29). Therefore, it is the view of this writer that the goal of character transformation is a consistent process of behavior. This is in agreement with Wright’s view on teleos, the goal of humanity in the world after Christ lived on earth.

In my view, the opposition of this position may be that humanity has the autonomy to decide whatever it wants in a Sartrean form of identities, that humanity is simply the result of behaviors. However, this argument excludes the morality of behavior transformation in favor of the concept of free will. Without morality, behavior alteration can be described as a story foregoing structure in that people may behave in life with certain views about humanity and the world, but this view lacks the understanding of human reason as necessary, though not sufficient to be aware of true duty. Andy Crouch shares this position in relation to cultural behaviors. To paraphrase, Crouch stated, “culture is not finally about us, but about God” (Crouch, 2008, p. 13). Therefore, starting with faith will lead to understanding of objective morals in an Anselmian sense.

During the process of leadership, students ought to consider those who came before as stated in the Biblical Scriptures as the Kouzes and Posner model asserts. An anonymous writer wrote, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (NIV, Heb: 13:7). Step one of the Kouzes and Posner model consists of “Model the Way” (Kouzes, Posner, 2004, p.38), and my understanding of that begins with the formation of a personal stance that agrees with the shared values of others. In a Christian context, this likely forgoes the corruption of Scripture that those who believe in God should worship other gods, breaking Mosaic law; rather that leaders may share the love of liberty with fellow United States citizens, for example, and can inspire the protection of that very same liberty. While the Christian view is that freedom comes from God, non-Christians can share in the care for liberty in promoting the freedom to have differing views without persecution by the law of the land. As Paul defined, to paraphrase, “for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Rom 13:1). Having that in mind, this writer’s view argues that character relates asymmetrically to the various consistent personal views that an individual person holds. Therefore, who the reader reflects on ultimately describes our own character when views undergo inversion.

While Joseph L. Badaracco Jr. wrote about the flexibility of a personal moral code, he asserted a critical point about receptiveness. The question Badaracco asked was, “Do I Have the Courage to Reconsider?” (Badaracco, 2006, p. 45). By observing Okonkwo, Badaracco defines moral flexibility as the ability to persevere through tumultuous moral dilemmas, reflect on personal failures, respond to ethical surprises, and improve personal conviction. In essence, there may be the thought that it conflicts with the Christian view of the Kouzes and Posner modeling of the way in that Jesus the Christ gave a warning of judgment. The Christ spoke, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Mat 7:1), there may, therefore, be a common view that argues all judgment should cease, but to stop all practice of considering decisions probably contrasts Jesus’ purpose in saying that. A way of interpreting this is that those seeking to learn from others should be willing to allow others to reflect on them correctly. As the Kouzes and Posner model asserts that of the Christian worldview, which considers the Christ as an authority on morality, they probably considered this to a certain extent. Furthermore, Badaracco’s reflection on Okonkwo includes the intention of others reading Badaracco’s views thus he willingly submitted to judgment, himself. Therefore, there should be no tension between the Kouzes and Posner model and Badaracco’s views on moral flexibility.

It follows that there should be flexibility in the reader’s moral code. When speaking of flexibility, this writer views that there should be, in the economic sense, substitutes for consideration with respect to the objective morals of God. For example, when King Solomon heard a dispute between two prostitutes in 1 Kings 3, he considered the substitute for the first female’s argument in the form of the second female’s argument. The lying prostitute had an inflexible moral code in that she willingly accepted the death of her own would-be baby divided by a sword in favor of the argument that she would have any portion of the baby only for herself after demanding to retain a relationship with the baby. This directly contradicts her supposed motherly behavior. Differently, the true mother had a flexible moral code, willing to lose her baby’s guardianship to save her baby’s life. This reflected King Solomon’s true intention thus the mother and baby reunited. In the Biblical context, flexibility in moral code can be the defining trait of a person’s life thus character is a goal in flux.

Bibliography

Badaracco, J. L. (2006). Questions of character: Illuminating the heart of leadership through literature. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Crouch, A. (2008). Culture making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

Kouzes, J. M., Posner, B. Z., & Kouzes, J. M. (2004). Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wright, N. T. (2010). After you believe: Why Christian Character Matters. New York, NY: HarperOne.

 

The Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecy in the New Testament

During the early formation of Christianity, the writers of the New Testament considered the Biblical Scriptures of the Old Testament in order to understand the significance of Jesus Christ. As a Christian, this writer holds the view that Jesus Christ is the son of the Most High God of the Old Testament of the Bible thus this paper shall reflect that. There are contrasting views about whether or not the New Testament fulfills Old Testament prophecy, and this writer shall seek to clarify an interpretation that is most likely as plausible both with the exegetical understanding of the Old and New Testament writers, and the hermeneutics of personal interpretation. Further, contemporary reflection will suggest the relevance of studying the Biblical Scriptures as we may understand them with the now available scientific process of evaluation. This paper examines various research by scholars throughout history to understand the merit of New Testament interpretation of Old Testament prophecy.

Prophecy in the Old Testament

About the future, the Old Testament has much to say, and among the many prophecies, there are many verses about the future messiah of Israel. The reader may wonder what the messiah is. In the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah says that “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (NIV, Isa 7:14). Immanuel means “God with Us” (Gundry 2012, pg. 197). Further description of the messiah is in Isaiah 9:6-7. These were saying that the Lord would show humanity a true savior of his people with specific signs, and furthermore, there would be a general narrative fulfilled.

For Old Testament Jews, prophecy of the messiah was that he would be a sacrifice for sin (Isa 53:5-12), he would be an aforementioned virgin (Isa 7:14), and perhaps that he would be reborn from the dead (Psa 16:10). Together, these three parts of the Old Testament are collectively a message stating that the messiah would be an extraordinary person who ultimately does what other ancient religions viewed as not possible in the form of resurrection. Robert H. Gundry shared insights into the religion of ancient Egypt. Gundry said, “When the fourteen pieces of the dismembered corpse of Osiris were reassembled, for example, he became the king of the dead in the underworld” (Gundry, 2012, pg. 70). The ancient Egyptians believed that the most that could transpire after death is a transition to the another world that is not becoming born again but rather confirming the utter finality of death as a state of being from which no one may return.

In contrast, according to R. L. Routledge, the Old Testament does have some information about resurrection. Routledge said, “It is a common view among scholars that the idea of resurrection was a relatively late development in Old Testament theology—found in the Old Testament only in Daniel 12:1-3, which is generally dated in the second century BC” (Routledge, 2008, pg. 23). Routledge’s comment is regarding the passage in Daniel related to the end times, when “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2). The understanding of this writer is that the passage from the book of Daniel expresses a resurrection from death. G. Goswell shared insights about the meaning of sleep in Daniel 12:2. Goswell asserted, “It is plain that the reference to ‘sleep’ in Dan 12:2 is a metaphor for death (cf. 1 Sam 28:15; Ps 13:3 [Heb 40; Jer 59:39, 57; Job 3:13, 14:12; 1 En. 90:9-10” (Goswell, 2013, pg. 149).

While this is approved by the scholarly community, an alternative view on the meaning of sleep in Dan 12:2 was proposed by C.E. Armerding. Armerding wrote in a periodical titled Asleep in the dust (1964), to paraphrase, “The translators of the Septuagint evidently believed that katheudo gave the sense of the word yashen (sleep) in Daniel 12:2, rather than the word koimao (death)” (Armerding, 1964, pg. 156). However, modern analysis of ancient texts has resulted in the New International Version that states, to paraphrase, “or I will sleep in death” (Psa 13:3). This can be cross-referenced with Isaiah 26:19 in, to paraphrase, “But your dead will live, LORD; their bodies will rise—let those who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy” (Isa 26:19). Therefore, it is likely that the original text in Daniel 12 meant to sleep in death, rather than to sleep and stay alive as the Greek Septuagint argues. Theologically, the ancient Israelites were seeking a messiah who would be the basis of an eschatology for realized hope in life rather than a final death, sheol.

Interpretation in the New Testament

When the New Testament writers formed their theology, they utilized hermeneutical understandings of Old Testament prophecy in order to process the events of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. Shirley Jackson Case explained the methodology that they enacted was not strictly logical. Case said, “But the New Testament writers and their readers, rigid logic was not a necessity. They were moved by suggestions, figures, types, analogies, allegories” (Case, 1911, pg. 100-101). Case was saying that both the New Testament writers and readers in the early Christian churches interpreted Christ’s personhood and divinity as characteristically unexpected. Therefore, Immanuel’s statement about law requires understanding that comes with faith that leads to reason.

Within the Bible, there is the verse, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mat 5:17). One thousand years ago, Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the famous phrase, “’credo ut intelligam’” (Cessario, 1990, pg. 209). This means having faith to understand. It is this writer’s view that St. Anselm and the early Christians were in agreement about the interpretation of the Old Testament related to Jesus Christ because of the fact that Jesus Christ lived on earth during history. N.T. Wright shares what the first-century world was probably like for the average Jewish person. N.T. Wright said, “It was never envisaged that one person might receive “the resurrection” while the rest of history continued unchecked” (Borg, Wright, 1999). While this is argued, so too is likely that there were many aspects of the messiah that were expected of him on his arrival that occurred, such as his triumphal arrival on an unridden donkey recorded in all four Gospels (Mat 21:1-11, Lu 19:28-44, Joh 12:12-19).

The sight of the lowly Christ on a donkey entering Jerusalem, for example, perfectly matches Zechariah 9:9. Having said that, there were other aspects of Old Testament culture that were relevant to its interpretation, and Samuel E. Balentine shared information about them. Balentine said, “For this purpose three sources are of primary importance: the rabbis, Philo, and Qumran” (Balentine, 1981, pg. 48). According to Balentine, beyond the Old Testament, extra-Biblical aspects of intertestamental culture was involved in the formation of New Testament theology. The inverse of this can be hermeneutically understood as the Old Testament Scriptures thus not being isolated to one part of culture. As rabbis who were “ritualistic” (Gundry, 2012, pg. 86), Philo’s combination of “Judaism and Greek philosophy” (pg. 91), and Essenes who “produced the Dead Sea Scroll from Qumran” (pg. 30), it is thus that the interpretation of the Old Testament came from a variety of backgrounds, which were both Jewish and Gentile, in order to understand how the messiah was someone who was punished, died and rose again of all the possible outcomes.

Conclusions and Contemporary Reflection

In the New Testament, there is the realization of Old Testament proposals and assertions about revival. Ervin Budiselić asserted that the Old Testament concept of revival is present in the New Testament. Budiselić supported, “We should not seek to experience revival without anticipating true reformation” (Budiselić, 2014, pg. 46). This is saying that revival leads to what could be correctly described as an improvement. Biblically speaking, this is what Jesus Christ intended for the God’s people when he fulfilled the Mosaic law. As a result, the law has been perfected. Thematically, the New Testament tells a story of new beginnings without forgetting the past. On the contrary to forgetting the past, it has utilized it to thoroughly supplant itself in the world as a source of moral guidance that goes even further beyond the law to describe a kind of grace that could be said to delineate the purpose of the third commandment.

The Bible says, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Exo 20:8). After the bondage of the Hebrews in Egypt essentially considered beasts of labor, the single day of rest changed humanity from that to sanctified creatures. In the same way, the act of grace by Jesus Christ fulfills this commandment’s full purpose by giving humanity, which is, to paraphrase, “formed from the dust of the earth” (Gen 2:7), a piece of divinity in the form of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s perfect law is God’s kingdom on earth, and God’s dwelling place is the body of human being. As Paul said to the Corinthians, to paraphrase, “your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God” (1 Cor 6:19). It follows that in addition to the narrative of the Biblical Scriptures saying that the Jews’ messiah shall come and do as Old Testament prophecy says he would, New Testament reformation shows that the meta-narrative of the Biblical Scriptures is that God intends for his people to receive blessings exceedingly.

The Bible’s meta-narrative can be said to represent a kind of epistemology about the world based on faith. Jacobus W. Gericke said that the writings of the Old Testament are philosophically interesting because of this. Gericke (2013) asserted:

For whilst the Old Testament is not philosophical in nature, the prophecies in the world in the text contain nascent metaphysical assumptions about the nature of divine foreknowledge, the deity’s relation to time and human freedom, whether the authors were aware of holding these or not. (pg. 2)

For the reader who studies the Biblical Scriptures, it is this writer’s assertion that understanding the exegetical assumptions of the writers of the Old Testament and the New Testament can assist in apprehending, to paraphrase, the meaning of Paul’s statement, “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16). Therefore, it makes sense to assert that the New Testament interpreters were aware of assumptions as the world equally similar to that of Old Testament prophesiers as the message of the Biblical Scriptures seems consistent.

References

Armerding, C. E. (1964). Asleep in the dust. Bibliotheca Sacra, 121(482), 153-158.

Balentine, S. E. (1981). The interpretation of the Old Testament in the New Testament. Southwestern Journal Of Theology, 23(2), 41-57.

Borg, M. J., & Wright, N. T. (1999). The meaning of Jesus: Two visions. San Francisco, CA: Harper.

Budiselić, E. (2014). The Old Testament Concept of Revival within the New Testament. Kairos: Evangelical Journal Of Theology, 8(1), 45-74.

Case, S. J.. (1911). The New Testament Writers’ Interpretation of the Old Testament. The Biblical World, 38(2), 92–102. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/3141526

Cessario, R. (1990). The Godly Image: Christ and Salvation in Catholic Thought from St. Anselm to Aquinas (Vol. 6). St Bede’s Publications.

Goswell, G. (2013). Resurrection in the Book of Daniel. Restoration Quarterly, 55(3), 139-151.

Gericke, J. W. (2013). Why Old Testament prophecy is philosophically interesting. Hervormde Teologiese Studies, 69(1), 1-6. doi:10.4102/hts.v69i1.1197

Gundry, R. H. (2012). A Survey of the New Testament (5th ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Pg.197

Routledge, R. L. (2008). Death and Afterlife in the Old Testament. Journal Of European Baptist Studies, 9(1), 22-39.