Redemptive History Misunderstood

I found this interesting video the other day of an 11 yr old boy “preaching”(?) Christ throughout the Bible. I thought it would be good to listen to so I gave it a go.  While I must admit that I was entertained by the little man passionately praising Christ, I was struck by the thought, “this is not Redemptive History!” What I was hearing was really a string of topics which vaguely summarized the content of each book of the bible and then simply ascribed them to Christ. While I agreed with most of the statements as far as they go (i.e. Jesus really is our kinsman redeemer in Ruth et al.) – they had no basis in the text, no demonstration of the truth of the statement. Is this what passes for Redemptive History these days?

Ruth, Naomi and Obed. Pen and brown ink over p...

Ruth and Naomi

Redemptive History Defined

So what is Redemptive History (RH)? According to Geerhardus Vos, “Biblical Theology (or RH) is that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible… It has not completed itself in one exhaustive act, but unfolded itself in a long series of successive acts… Revelation is the interpretation of redemption; it must therefore, unfold itself in installments as redemption does.” Vos goes on to state, “the process of revelation is not only concomitant with history, but it becomes incarnate in history. The facts of history themselves acquire a revealing significance.” We could summarize by saying that RH is the organic unfolding of God’s Redemption (Through Christ) revealed in actual history.

Redemptive History Delineated

What is wrong with simply attaching Christ to the broad topical summaries of biblical books then is that its is missing the particular history. Missing the tree for the forest. I have heard many accuse RH of focusing only on the ‘birds eye view’ ( which is what this 11 yr old demonstrated) but in reality, RH is all about seeing the ‘tree’ because of the ‘forest’. The historical details matter. More than that, they are the content of the revelation.


  1. Dave

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say the following: “RH is all about seeing the ‘forest’ (the gospel) because of the ‘tree’ (the passage).”

    Also, I’d argue that there is nothing wrong with the 30,000ft view in certain contexts – i.e. so long as that 11 year old didn’t just give the sermon. Jesus does fill those roles and there is nothing wrong with an overview. If that’s all the exposition those books get, there’s more wrong than just glossing over RH elements.

    • samoht

      Hey Dave,

      Thanks for the input. I can see how “RH is all about seeing the ‘forest’ because of the ‘tree'” as you say. I also see nothing wrong with 30,000ft view – but what struck me was the inaccuracy of even the overview. The inaccuracy was from a lack of concern for the text. For example: “Jesus is our Mordecai…” is simply bad attention to the text. Mordecai is in no way a type of Christ! If you want a birds I view of Ester – maybe you could say “Christ is our Purim” or something reality to God’s gracious sovereignty in spite of our sin. But Mordecai and Ester are no true TYPEs. I love RH and I don’t want it to get a bad rap because its presented with little care for the text.

      • Dave

        I’m going to be honest… I didn’t watch the whole video. I’m not OK with making redemptive-historical connections where none exist.
        I’m teaching some college students about this right now and warning them against making shaky connections so that hits home with me for sure.


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