Monday, February 01, 2010

REVIEW: Suggestions for Expositional Preaching of Old Testiment Narrative

David C. Deuel. Suggestions for Expositional Preaching of Old Testament Narrative. The Master's Seminary Journal, Spring 1991: 45-63, http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj2c.pdf


                        David Deuel approaches the topic of expositional preaching of the Old Testament with pastors in mind.  This article, published in the Spring 1991 edition of The Master’s Seminary Journal, begins by pointing out that children in Christian education programs are instructed in one of the most effective ways possible which is by telling them stories.  Deuel goes on to point out that nearly one third of the Bible is narrative while questioning why many pastors abandon such an effective teaching technique in the pulpit. Using numerous references, the author divides the article into two main sections: “PREACH THE STORY LINE” and “LOOK TO THE TOTAL THEOLOGICAL MESSAGE”.  Each of these sections has a number of subheadings that Deuel uses to offer his suggestions to the reader.
                        In the first section of his article, Deuel states, “Following the story line facilitates a grasp of some of the characteristics of narrative.”  He goes on to argue that there are five characteristics that mark biblical narrative as being “story-like” that these narratives are best preserved by preaching them as God gave them to man in story-like form.  The first of these is that Narrative Has Literary Power.  Here the author points out that Biblical narrative have the qualities of both literature and history. 
Second, Narrative Is Patterned, Deuel points out that patterning is a primary characteristic of Old Testament narrative that offers two advantages in preaching.  These are a unifying framework marking the narrative’s parameters and its provision of a form for preaching.  In his remaining points in this section, Narrative Is Timeless and Universal, Narrative Relates Experience, and Narrative Is Difficult to Reduce, the author offers his insights and suggestions to those who would preach “the whole counsel of God”. 
In the second section of his article, “LOOK TO THE TOTAL THEOLOGICAL MESSAGE”, Deuel states that there are three possible ways of mishandling narratives portions of Old Testament narratives.  These are Substituting the Preacher’s Conceptual Structure of the Narrative’s Unifying Structure, Searching for Details in the Narrative to Illustrate NT or Other OT Passages, and Limiting the Narrative to an Ethical Reflex of the Law.  Here the author points out such things as the Biblical narratives are complete, unified stories and that some preachers ignore that unity by focusing on the colorful details.  This and other illustrations, says Deuel, emphasize the need for caution in preaching.  He goes on to say that these common mistakes in preaching fail to handle the entire textual unit and fails to seek the complete theological and ethical message in the story itself.
Deuel’s target audience is primarily those called to preach the “whole counsel of God” (preachers).  His style is academic in nature and the material likely requires more than “Sunday School” knowledge of OT scripture though his choice of language is easily understood by those with an interest in the subject.  Deuel succeeds in presenting quality suggestions those serving in a role that requires preaching of the OT.  One must keep in mind that the article was published in a scholarly theological journal whose audience is theologians and students of theology.  It is assumed that Deuel would likely write a very different article we the target audience different.
Perhaps it is the reviewer’s lack of experience in this arena but Deuel seems to present his article as being very authoritative without leaving open the possibility of other approaches or even that there are additional mistakes that preachers can make when using OT narrative in their sermons.  This is puzzling since the target audience is assumed to be pastors well-versed in scripture and also in sermon preparation.  While it is quite possible that this is a larger issue impacting the preaching in many churches, I am unaware of such a problem existing.  Further development would have clarified this in the mind of this reader.
Deuel cites well over 30 resources in his article.  This would suggest that there is in fact a great deal of material covering the various aspect of this subject.  Deuel is thorough and his article now nearly 20 years old, stands the test of time and is profitable for any preacher seeking to enhance the effectiveness of his preaching of OT narrative.

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