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Matthew Harmon

  • 5 Foundations for Unity in the NT

    One of the perennial issues when discussing NT theology is the tension between the diversity of the individual documents and the claim that they contain a unified message. When reading through the NT, it does not take long to realize, for example, that Luke sounds different than John, and Paul different than both of them.

    So what basis is there for seeing unity in the midst of such diversity? I suggest the following five foundations, offered in approximate order of significance in my mind.

    1. The various NT authors explicitly or implicitly work from the same basic kerygma. A comparison of the Gospels with the speeches in Acts as well as the teaching in the epistles reveals a basic sequence of events and actions pertaining to Christ that unify their message and establish parameters for true in contrast to false doctrine. Especially helpful in this regard is the work of C.H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and its Development.
    2. The various NT authors all wrote in the context of the mission of Jesus and the extension of that mission through the church. Each of the NT documents arose in the context of missionary expansion of the church. The Gospels testify to the mission of Jesus, Acts connects the mission of the church to the mission of Jesus, the Epistles address issues arising in the advance of mission, and Revelation describes the consummation of Jesus’ mission in a new heaven and new earth. Particularly noteworthy on this point is the work of David Wenham, “Unity and Diversity in the NT,” in G.E. Ladd, A Theology of the NT, 712-713.
    3. The various NT authors all claim continuity with and fulfillment of the OT hope. Although done in a variety of ways (promise/fulfillment, typology, salvation-history), all of the NT authors see the person and work of Jesus as the realization of what the OT promised. Note here should be made of C.H. Dodd, According to the Scriptures: The Sub-structure of NT Theology. The OT supplies the conceptual framework for their understanding of Jesus and significance of his actions.
    4. The divine inspiration of the various NT authors produces a demonstrable unity of thought. I have placed this one fourth for the simple reason that I want to show that arguing for unity in the NT does not exclusively hinge on accepting the inspiration of the NT. Of course, as one who firmly believes in the inspiration of both the OT and NT, it makes sense that there would be unity in the various documents if He was in fact responsible for their production. In one sense then we could argue that the diversity of the NT documents is a product of the individual human authors and their peculiar modes of thought/expression, while their unity is the result of the one Spirit inspiring those different authors to produce exactly what God wants said exactly how he wants it said.
    5. The recognition by the church of these NT documents as inspired and authoritative led them to organize them into the canon. The very fact that the church recognized some documents as authoritative and others as not demonstrates a conviction that there is in fact a core to the apostolic message. While not denying that this was a process not without dispute, the church’s recognition of these documents indicates a perceived unity among the 27 documents that should not be dismissed lightly.

    This is not intended to be an exhaustive list; no doubt others can think of other reasons for seeing unity in the 27 diverse NT documents. As to the order, I have chosen to prioritize the first three in order to stress that claiming unity in the NT does not rest solely on one’s belief in divine inspiration and the acceptance of the canon.

  • Week 12 – Conclusion and Review (Jeremiah)

    Now that we have reached the end of our journey through Jeremiah, we spent our final class period reflecting on what we have learned about God, humanity, and redemption. It was a great discussion of what God was doing in people’s lives through the timeless message of Jeremiah.

    On a personal note, I think the most significant insight I gained was seeing a glimpse of imputation in Jeremiah I had never noticed before. In Jer 23:5 YHWH promises to “raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shalll reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” He will be called “The LORD is our righteousness” (23:6). Later in Jer 33:15 God reiterates this promise of a righteous Branch from the line of David. But in this passage it is Jerusalem that is given the name “The LORD is our righteousness” (33:16). The righteousness of the righteous Branch is given to the people whom he redeems. As such it aligns with what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    Interested in hearing more? You can listen to the audio below and follow along with the handout:


    Week 12 -Conclusion and Review (Handout)

    Dr. Matthew S. Harmon is a Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Find out more at his blog, Biblical Theology.

  • Week 11 – God Destroys Jerusalem (Jer 52:1–34)

    As we come to the final chapter of Jeremiah, we find a simple (albeit extended) narrative description of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, as well as the exile of a remnant to Babylon. The chapter is nearly identical to sections of 2 Kings 24–25, and this material may have been added by Baruch to the end of the book as a way of confirming the truthfulness of Jeremiah’s prophetic words.

    But the chapter ends with a note that Jehoiachin, the last Davidic king, was given a seat at the king’s table and a daily allowance. By ending the book this way, Jeremiah leaves us on a note of hope that the Davidic line remains alive; God’s promises will be fulfilled. We see this come to fruition in Jesus Christ, who according to Matthew 1:11 was a descendant of Jehoiachin (also known as Jechoniah).

    Because I was in San Diego for the ETS conference this past week, I asked my former student and good friend John Sloat (you can follow him on Twitter @John_Sloat). So the voice you hear is his, but there is no handout. Enjoy!


    Dr. Matthew S. Harmon is a Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Find out more at his blog, Biblical Theology.

  • Week 10 – God’s Judgment on the Nations (46:1–51:64)

    Whereas Jeremiah 34:1–45:5 focuses on God’s judgment on Judah, chapters 46–51 describe his condemnation of the nations. Among the nations that receive special attention are Egypt (ch. 46), Moab (ch. 48), and Babylon (chs. 50–51). Yet in the midst of these oracles of judgment there are glimpses of hope. YHWH will not bring Judah to a complete end (46:27–28) but rather restore them (50:4–10, 17–20), and his salvation will extend to the nations in the latter days (46:27; 48:47).

    As believers we have been saved through judgment. By faith we have died with Christ, been buried with him, and raised with him to new life. In him we have experienced a mini-“day of YHWH” in which our sins have been judged and we have emerged vindicated with Jesus through his resurrection.

    Want to hear more? You can listen below and follow along with the handout:


    Week 10—God’s Judgment on the Nations (Handout)

    Dr. Matthew S. Harmon is a Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Find out more at his blog, Biblical Theology.

  • About Matthew Harmon

    Since 2006 Dr. Matthew S. Harmon has served as Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. He is also a member of Christ’s Covenant Church, where he serves on the Preaching Team, leads a small group, and teaches regularly in their Life Education classes.

    Find out more at his blog, Biblical Theology, which is a forum for all matters pertaining to biblical theology (and some entirely unrelated).

    Follow him on Twitter: @DocHarmon