Theology of Mission: General Introduction

 

A mission theology of the Old Testament may surprise some people and they may ask why such a theme of mission in the Old Testament. This may be because either they deny or ignore the theme of mission in the Old Testament. The intention of choosing the theme of mission in the Old Testament for the thesis is not in any manner meant to be provocative; rather the intention is only to draw attention to a much neglected aspect of the Old Testament theology. Since this topic being one of the much neglected topics in the Old Testament we have made a deliberate attempt to bring out this theology of mission with a heavy reference to scripture. This emphasis is brought to the notice in order to avoid a further misunderstanding that the heaviness in the usage of scriptural text in this thesis should in no way lead one to the conclusion that this thesis is an exegetical study of mission from the Old Testament in its purest form. Rather it is a study of the theology of mission from the Old Testament which is well placed within the discipline of Missiology. The reason, if anyone need to ask, why such a heavy usage of scriptural text if it is from the discipline of Missiology is because we are trying to bring out this theology of mission from the Old Testament mainly from the constant journeys which Israel as an individual as well as a nation undertook either by the command of Yahweh or by forced deportation by other nations. Hence to spring forth such a mission theology from the journeys of Israel requires a constant background of the scripture.

The method used in this thesis is inter-textual and canon conscious.[1] By canon conscious we mean the full meaning of text is not restricted to its immediate context, but that effort needs to be made to trace possible adaptations and re-interpretations of it in the Old Testament itself. By inter-textual we mean that the text of the Bible relates to all other texts, including the literary and religious classics of humanity at large. The canon conscious approach is made use in the thesis with the view that the canon is ‘adaptable for life’ and that the various layers of a text should be in dialogue with each other. When such an approach is applied, it is often seen that Jewish and Christian interpretations are both possible of the one tradition, and often share a common ground from which they move in divergent directions. In some parts of the thesis, it also becomes evident that the Christian interpretation is not a monolith, but a diversity of interpretations often influenced by differing a priori dogmatic or/and hermeneutical stances. We have also brought to the task a historical consciousness that allows texts meaning within their historical and cultural contexts, without locking them up within such contexts. Our own interpretative tradition is in line with the Roman Catholic tradition.

The thesis is ordered in the following manner[2]. It is divided into three chapters each having three main themes. In Chapter One the first theme ‘Introduction’ gives the necessary background to the thesis by laying out the issues and the approaches used. The second theme ‘general understanding of ‘Mission’ in the Old Testament’. The rest of the thesis is arranged according to the four phases of mission outlined in the General Introduction. The third theme is ‘the universality of salvation’ – the first phase of mission in the Old Testament. In Chapter Two the first theme ‘a divine call to be missionary’ acts as the transition to the remaining phases of mission by giving the overall view of Israel’s mission from Abraham to Diaspora. The second theme is ‘Prophet Amos’ – his challenge of Israel to reflect on earth the righteousness of Yahweh. The third theme ‘community-in-mission’ – illustrates the second phase of mission in the Old Testament.  In Chapter Three the first theme ‘centripetal mission’ illustrates the third phase of mission in the Old Testament. The second theme ‘transition’ – from centripetal to centrifugal mission. The third theme ‘centrifugal mission’ – the fourth phase of mission in the Old Testament. A General Conclusion at the end of this thesis summarizes the phases of Israel’s growth as she understands her role in Yahweh’s mission to the Gentiles. It thus becomes clear how the tension between God’s special election of Israel and God’s care for the nations is resolved through mission. Israel is chosen to be “a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isa 49,6).


[1] J. C. Okoye, Israel and the Nations: A Mission Theology of the Old Testament, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, (2006), xvi-xvii.

[2] The idea of division of the thesis in this manner is taken from the following author. J. C. Okoye, Israel and the Nations: A Mission Theology of the Old Testament, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, (2006), xvii.

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