I have to admit: I don’t like reading prefaces. When I start reading a book I am looking forward to quickly jump to the main content. Reading some (suspicious) good things written by a friend of the author or the editor himself is not the most exciting thing for me.
However, when I started reading The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament by Edmund Clowney, I read the preface. I did so for one reason only: J. I. Packer wrote the foreword. The doctrine of the unity of the Bible is here presented with such a clarity and awe that brings you to worship the Author. There are no empty compliments to the author, who is little mentioned, but it is full of sound theology about the Bible. So I decided to share it with you on this post. Here it is:
THE BIBLE IS A UNITY. That is, perhaps, the most amazing of all the amazing things that are true of it. It consists of sixty-six separate units, written over more than a thousand years against a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, by people who for the most part worked independently of each other and show no awareness that their books would become canonical Scripture. The books themselves are of all kinds: prose jostling poetry, hymns rubbing shoulders with history, sermons with statistics, letters with liturgies and lurid visions with a love song.
Why do we bind up this collection between the same two covers, call it the Holy Bible, and treat it as one book? One justification for doing this—one of many—is that the collection as a whole, once we start to explore it, proves to have an organic coherence that is simply stunning. Books written centuries apart seem to have been designed for the express purpose of supplementing and illuminating each other. There is throughout one leading character (God the Creator), one historical perspective (world redemption), one focal figure (Jesus of Nazareth, who is both Son of God and Savior), and one solid body of harmonious teaching about God and godliness.
Biblical theology is the umbrella-name for those disciplines that explore the unity of the Bible, delving into the contents of the books, showing the links between them, and pointing up the ongoing flow of the revelatory and redemptive process that reached its climax in Jesus Christ. Historical exegesis, which explores what the text meant and implied for its original readership, is one of these disciplines. Typology, which looks into Old Testament patterns of divine action, agency, and instruction that found final fulfillment in Christ, is another.
In both these arts, Edmund Clowney is a veteran and a master, combining in himself the sobriety of a wise and learned head with the exuberance of a warm and worshiping heart. The Unfolding Mystery, a study of the Old Testament frame for understanding Jesus, is vintage Clowney.
The importance of this theme—the Old Testament pointing to Christ—is great, although for half a century Bible teachers, possibly embarrassed by the memory of too-fanciful ventures into typology in the past, have not made much of it. (Its abiding importance, we might say, is commensurate with its current neglect!) For this reason, Dr. Clowney’s admirable treatment of it should be greatly valued; it fills a gap, and supplies a felt need.
Expect your heart to be stirred, as well as your head cleared, as you read.
J. I. Packer
I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but so far it is great. The amazing preface fits perfectly in this book, as it presents how we should view the Old Testament as the most amazing preface ever, serving as a fair, not suspicious, God-inspired foreword for the living Word, Jesus Christ, who ultimately reveals God to us.
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:1–3, NASB95)