This little book by a 1950s-era Greek scholar from the University of Glasgow is absolutely delightful. It was first published in 1968 to provide the text of the initial Laird Lecture. There are four parts:
1. Communicating the Gospel in the prophets. Here Barclay draws on the diverse prophets (Amos, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, who lived 8th and 7th centuries BCE) and paints a compelling picture of their world view. Above all they despised idolatry and understood Israel to have a vocation of inviting people to God. As preachers they “loved words, and used them lovingly, like artists.” (p23) They also had a way of startling their hearers by the way that they delivered their message: dramatic prophetic action.
2. Communicating the Gospel in the apostles. The creed of the early church was: Jesus Christ is Lord. There follows all the various meanings of the Greek word kurios, which means “Lord.” Barclay also describes how sermons were presented in the Acts of the Apostles.
a. The fist and essential message was kerugma: “The new age has dawned, and it has dawned through the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (p35)
b. The second item of the kerugma was that Jesus’ life was the direct fulfilment of prophesy.
c. The third item in the apostolic announcement was the declaration that Jesus Christ has ascended to the right hand of God and that he would come again to judge the quick an the dead. (Note to self: “It is possible to hold, and many Christians in all ages have held, that the Second Coming happened at Pentecost, that then Jesus came powerfully in the Spirit, never again to be separated from his own.” p44)
d. The fourth item in the apostolic preaching is an invitation to repent and a promise of forgiveness of sins.
3. Communicating the Gospel today.
a. Approach the New Testament as literature.
b. Second must be the linguistic approach.
c. Third is the historical approach.
d. The fourth approach necessary to communicate the New Testament is the psychological approach. (Investigate not only what people did, but why they did it.)
e. Lastly, we must take the devotional approach to the new testament.
4. The Gospel in tradition. This chapter discusses the paradox of the Bible needing to be open and accessible to all, yet it being a dangerous book. So there is a tension between out being able to interpret it for ourselves, and the weight of tradition (the church’s historical interpretation). Roman Catholic Church cites four people to define how scripture must be interpreted:
a. Irenaeus (c. 180 CE, in refuting the Gnostics): Jesus himself taught the true exegesis of Scripture, and through apostolic succession, that authority comes to us today in our bishops.
b. Tertullian (c. 200 CE): The scriptures are the exclusive property of the Church, and no one has any right to use them except the Church. (p90)
c. Augustine (c. 397 CE) gave two principles. The first is the test of correct interpretation, which requires it to increase love of God and love of many. The second is that, if there are doubts, consult the rule of faith (where the deciding factor is the tradition of the church).
d. Vincent of Lerinum (c. 434 CE): Scripture is to be interpreted according to the tradition of the church. See also 2 Peter 1:20, which says that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.