The Map

Adventure Awaits

It is a ubiquitous feature of modern life. In our hands we hold, via our smartphones, maps which would have astounded the explorers of old. Not only are these modern miracles accurate and incredibly detailed, they are alive. They change, morph, and update along with the dynamics of the changing day and a constantly changing world.

In your hands you can also hold a living map, though its material appearance may seem, at first blush, less “alive”. In the vast expanse of religious literature and sacred texts, the Bible stands out not just as a repository of divine revelation, but as a meticulously designed map that guides believers towards a profound treasure—the intimate knowledge of God in His person and His thoughts. This understanding of the Bible transcends the traditional view of it as merely a historical record or a moral compass. Instead, it positions the Scriptures as a divine labyrinth, full of symbols, types, and narratives, each leading the diligent seeker closer to the heart of God. At the forefront of advocating for this enriched perspective on biblical interpretation is James B. Jordan, whose work, particularly Through New Eyes, offers a fresh lens through which to view the entirety of the biblical text.

Jordan’s contributions to Biblical theology—focusing on symbolism, typology, and the significance of liturgical practices—paint the Bible as a vibrant and dynamic narrative that reveals the character and plans of God in intricate detail. His insights encourage believers to see beyond the surface level of the text, urging them to delve into the rich tapestry of God’s redemptive history as it unfolds from Genesis to Revelation. In this way, Jordan acts as a modern-day Virgil, guiding readers through the Divine Comedy of Scripture, where every symbol, every festival, and every sacrificial act points beyond itself to reveal deeper truths about God and His relationship with humanity.

This profound understanding of Scripture implies a significant role for teachers within the Christian tradition. Just as explorers rely on experienced guides to navigate through unfamiliar terrain, so too do believers benefit from knowledgeable teachers who can illuminate the path through the biblical landscape. These teachers, equipped with a deep understanding of biblical hermeneutics and a Jordan-esque insight into the Scripture’s depths, serve as invaluable companions in the journey of faith. They do not merely impart information but facilitate encounters with the divine, enabling believers to engage with the Bible not as a static text, but as the living word of God.

Embarking on this adventure of discovery, believers are invited to engage personally with Scripture, to wrestle with its complexities, and to seek the treasure hidden within its verses. This journey is not a solitary endeavor but is undertaken within the community of faith, where shared insights and revelations enrich and deepen the experience for all. Through this communal exploration, guided by the wisdom of teachers like James B. Jordan, the Bible reveals itself not just as a map to be studied, but as a pathway to be walked, leading each believer closer to the treasure of knowing God in all His complexity and beauty.

The heart of our journey is this: understanding the Bible as a kind of treasure map. This perspective, richly advocated by Jordan, illuminates the Scripture not just as a narrative or a set of commandments, but as a carefully designed atlas, crafted by God to lead us to Himself. This section unfolds the intricate design of this map, highlighting how symbols, typology, and narrative serve as guideposts and coordinates in our spiritual exploration.

Divine Authorship and Design

At the foundation of viewing the Bible as a map is the acknowledgment of its divine authorship. Unlike human-crafted maps, which may suffer from inaccuracies or omissions, the biblical map is infallible, designed with purpose and precision by God. Jordan emphasizes that every word, every verse, and every book in the Bible has been placed with intention, each serving as a breadcrumb on the path to understanding God’s character and redemptive plan for humanity. This divine design assures us that no exploration of the Bible is in vain; every study, every reading, every meditation brings us closer to the treasure of divine wisdom and knowledge. Being crafted by God, it is alive via the illumination of the Spirit. Each time we ponder, each time we gaze at the well-worn pages, new insights leap to mind.

Symbolism and Typology

Central to Jordan’s thesis is the role of symbolism and typology in the biblical map. These elements act as markers, pointing beyond themselves to deeper realities. For example, the tabernacle, with its precise layout and furnishings, is not just an historical account of ancient worship practices but a typological blueprint revealing truths about Christ’s mediatory role and the nature of the church as God’s dwelling place. Similarly, biblical festivals such as Passover and Yom Kippur offer layers of meaning, foreshadowing Christ’s sacrifice and the ultimate redemption of God’s people. Jordan guides us to see these symbols and types not as mere religious artifacts but as signposts, directing us toward understanding God’s grand narrative of salvation.

Narrative and History as Guideposts

The narrative and historical accounts in the Bible also serve critical functions on this map. Jordan posits that these stories are not simply records of what happened but are imbued with theological and moral truths, instructing us about God’s nature, His dealings with humanity, and His sovereign plans throughout history. The stories of Abraham’s faith, David’s kingship, and Elijah’s prophetic ministry, among others, are waypoints on the map, offering insights into God’s faithfulness, justice, and mercy. These narratives invite the believer to see their own journey reflected in the lives of these biblical figures, encouraging a deeper trust in God’s guidance and providence.

Through the lens of divine authorship, symbolism, typology, and narrative, the Bible unfolds as a rich and complex map, leading believers toward the treasure of knowing God. Jordan’s work challenges us to engage with Scripture not as passive readers but as active explorers, equipped with the tools to decipher the map’s symbols and to trace the routes laid out by its narratives. In this way, the Bible becomes more than a book; it becomes a journey, an adventure, and a quest for the ultimate treasure of divine knowledge and intimacy with God. As we proceed, the role of teachers in this exploration becomes increasingly apparent, serving as guides who help us navigate the complexities of the biblical map and to encounter God in ever-deeper ways.

Traveling deeper into the terrain mapped out by the Bible, the role of teachers as guides becomes indispensable. These teachers, much like seasoned explorers who have traversed similar paths before, possess the knowledge, insight, and experience necessary to navigate the complexities of Scripture. Their guidance is crucial, not only in understanding the map’s symbols and signposts but also in applying its truths to our lives. In this journey of discovery, teachers according to the vision of Jordan, play a pivotal role in unveiling the depths of God’s word, acting as intermediaries between the text and the believer’s understanding.

Role of Biblical Teachers

In the biblical landscape, teachers serve as custodians of wisdom, entrusted with the task of decoding the symbols, types, and narratives that populate the scriptural map. Their role is not merely to impart information but to foster an environment of discovery and insight. Drawing from Jordan’s approach, effective biblical teachers encourage their students to question, to seek, and to knock, thereby engaging with Scripture as active participants in their spiritual journey. These teachers use the Bible as a living text, one that speaks into the personal and communal aspects of faith, guiding believers towards a deeper communion with God.

The Importance of Hermeneutics

Central to the teachers’ toolkit is the discipline of hermeneutics—the art and science of interpretation. Jordan underscores the importance of a sound hermeneutical approach in navigating the Bible’s map. This involves understanding the historical context, literary genres, and covenantal framework within which the biblical texts were written. By employing these hermeneutical principles, teachers help students to avoid common pitfalls in interpretation, such as anachronism or eisegesis, leading instead to a more faithful and fruitful engagement with Scripture. Good teachers, therefore, do not only provide answers but equip their students with the tools to ask better questions, fostering a culture of discernment and discovery.

Equipping for the Journey

The ultimate goal of biblical teachers, as envisioned by Jordan, is to equip believers for their personal and communal journey through the biblical map. This equipping goes beyond mere academic understanding to include spiritual formation and practical application. Teachers guide students in how to live out the truths discovered within Scripture, how to discern God’s will, and how to embody the kingdom values revealed in the biblical narrative. In this way, teachers act as mentors, not merely guiding students through the intellectual aspects of biblical study but also shepherding their hearts towards a deeper love for God and His word.

Teachers, in the mold of Jordan’s vision, are therefore more than informants; they are instruments in the hands of God, used to shape the hearts and minds of His people. They provide the compass and the map, helping believers to navigate the vast riches of God’s word, uncovering the treasure of knowing Him more intimately. As guides, they illuminate the path set before us in the Scriptures, encouraging us to explore, to understand, and ultimately to embody the truths found within. In the adventure of discovering God through His word, teachers stand as vital companions, pointing us towards the ultimate treasure of a deeper and more profound knowledge of God Himself.

Furthermore, the role of teachers as guides has an multilayered importance, highlighted in the idea of the guides as wise guardians against the errors of straying too far. They not only illuminate the path forward but also caution against the missteps and pitfalls that have ensnared others; they are envisioned not merely as instructors but as seasoned navigators of the biblical terrain, keenly aware of its challenges and dangers. Their guidance becomes essential in steering believers away from doctrinal errors and spiritual pitfalls, towards a more fruitful engagement with Scripture.

The Guide’s Awareness of Dangers

In the journey through Scripture, these teachers act as vigilant guides, acutely aware of where danger lies. Just as a skilled guide knows the safe paths through treacherous terrain, so too do biblical teachers understand the theological dangers that can lead believers astray. They are familiar with the history of interpretation and the various ways in which certain passages have been misused or misconstrued. By highlighting these historical pitfalls, teachers safeguard their students against similar errors, ensuring that the pursuit of biblical truth remains on solid ground. This aspect of teaching is critical, as it helps maintain the integrity of the journey, preventing the traveler from veering off into the wilderness of misinterpretation and heresy.

The Teacher’s Knowledge of the Map’s History

Jordan highlights the importance of teachers not only being well-versed in the Scriptures themselves but also in the history of those who have navigated the biblical map before us. They share tales of both triumph and failure, of saints who have successfully followed the map to deepen their relationship with God, and of others who, having ignored the guideposts and warnings, have lost their way. This historical perspective enriches the teaching, providing contemporary believers with a sense of continuity and caution. It reminds us that we are part of a larger story, one filled with examples to emulate and mistakes to avoid. Teachers, in this regard, do more than transmit knowledge; they connect us to the broader narrative of faith, showing how our journey intersects with those of believers throughout the ages.

Equipping for the Journey with Caution and Wisdom

In equipping believers for their journey, teachers imbue them with not only the tools for exploration but also the wisdom to discern the correct path. This includes teaching how to navigate the complexities of biblical interpretation, how to apply Scripture to life’s challenges, and how to avoid the doctrinal traps that have ensnared others. Such equipping is vital for ensuring that the journey through the biblical map is both enlightening and safe. It fosters an environment where questioning is encouraged, but so is caution, where exploration is paired with discernment.

Teachers are therefore indispensable companions in the journey of faith. They provide not just the map and compass but also the wisdom gleaned from those who have journeyed before us. By highlighting the dangers, celebrating the victories, and mourning the losses of past travelers, they enrich our understanding and appreciation of the biblical map. In this way, teachers do more than guide; they mentor, they caution, and they inspire, helping us navigate the complex yet rewarding journey of discovering God through His word.

Embarking on the journey through the Bible, armed with the map of Scripture and guided by seasoned teachers, believers find themselves at the threshold of an unparalleled adventure of discovery. This journey is not merely academic or intellectual; it is a voyage into the heart of divine revelation, where each step taken in faith reveals deeper layers of understanding about God and His kingdom. It is here, in the personal engagement with Scripture, that the map truly comes to life, transforming from ancient text to living word, inviting the traveler into an ever-deepening relationship with the Creator.

Personal Engagement with Scripture

The adventure begins with personal engagement. The Bible, as a map, demands more than passive observation; it calls for active participation. This means not only reading the words on the page but meditating on them, wrestling with them, and ultimately allowing them to shape one’s life. This engagement with Scripture is akin to exploring a vast and rich landscape filled with treasures waiting to be discovered. Each passage, each story, each commandment holds the potential for revelation, offering insights into the nature of God, His desires for humanity, and His plans for the world. This personal journey through Scripture is both challenging and rewarding, as it requires vulnerability before God’s word, allowing it to critique, correct, and comfort.

Experiencing God Through His Word

The true treasure of this adventure is the experience of God Himself. As believers navigate the biblical map, they encounter God in profound and personal ways. This is not merely an intellectual acknowledgment of God’s existence but an experiential knowledge of His presence, character, and love. Through the Scriptures, God reveals Himself as Creator, Redeemer, and King, inviting believers into a relationship that transcends the written word. This relationship, nurtured through prayer, meditation, and obedience, becomes the ultimate goal of the journey. It is in these moments of discovery that the map of the Bible serves its highest purpose: not just to inform about God but to transform into the likeness of His Son.

The Community of Believers as Fellow Travelers

While the journey through Scripture is deeply personal, it is not meant to be solitary. The community of believers acts as fellow travelers, sharing the road, exchanging insights, and supporting one another. This communal aspect of the adventure enriches the experience, as each believer brings unique perspectives and revelations to the table. Teachers and mentors, seasoned by their own journeys, share wisdom and guidance, while peers provide companionship and encouragement. Together, the community of faith navigates the challenges and celebrates the discoveries, making the journey through the biblical map a shared adventure that binds believers together in their quest for God.

I remember learning to fly, and the importance of my flight instructors not only imparting knowledge but guiding me personally away from the very real dangers posed by indelicately running into the ground. When later taking my IFR checkride (so that I would be licensed to fly under “Instrument Flight Rules”), I missed a midway point on an extended final approach, descending too early. “I have the controls,” my examination pilot said, then he both explained the error and maneuvered to keep us safe. He later, graciously, allowed me to do it again, this time successfully.

The adventure of discovery through the Bible, guided by the insights of dedicated men like James B. Jordan and the wisdom of other dedicated teachers, is a journey without end. A life of ever more deep and meaningful “checkrides”. Each reading, each study, each reflection reveals new depths of divine wisdom and love. This should be an exciting process! The map of Scripture, far from being a relic of the past, is a living guide that leads believers into a deeper, more intimate relationship with God. It is an invitation to explore, to question, to learn, and to grow. In this journey, the ultimate treasure is not just knowledge about God but an ever-deepening love for Him, experienced in the company of fellow believers and guided by the Holy Spirit. This adventure, with all its challenges and joys, is the heart of the Christian life, a journey of transformation into the image of Christ, as we walk the path laid out in the divine map of Scripture.

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Ronald Dodson

Ronald Dodson is CEO and Portfolio Manager of Dallas North Capital Partners, a private fund management firm. He also frequently writes on geopolitical developments and global risk. He has worked with the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts. His interests include the Noahic Covenant gentile believers in the ancient world, continental theology and coaching soccer. He is a deacon in the PCA.

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