Book Review - Waiting for the Land: The Story Line of the Pentateuch

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Image of Waiting for the Land: The Story Line of the Pentateuch
by Arie C. Leder
P & R Publishing 2010
Paperback 224

Over the past few years I have fallen in love with the Pentateuch. I now see it as some of the richest theology in all of Scripture. So when I saw this book from P & R Publishing, its title and evocative cover had me hooked in no time flat. Waiting for the Land: The Story Line of the Pentateuch by Arie C. Leder did not disappoint. Instead old insights were crystallized and new gems were discovered as I paged through this wonderful book.

My copy of this book is so dog-eared and underlined that for a long time I’ve hesitated to write this review. I know I won’t be able to say everything I want to about this book, or share every insight that I gained through reading it. I almost want to read the book again right now, as I prepare to finish this review!

What Leder does in this book is to look at the Pentateuch as a whole, and to find the big picture behind it. He analyzes each part and applies the insights of a variety of scholars, yet maintains an evangelical approach throughout. He unpacks the power of narrative and then provides detailed analyses of the structure of each of the Pentateuch’s five books. He argues that the Pentateuch is the ultimate cliff-hanger. The final editors of the Pentateuch know the ultimate ending (as recorded in Joshua), yet they deny the reader the benefit of seeing the end. Like Moses, we are left on a hill overlooking the promised land. And this is an intentional part of the book. Israel is “waiting for the land”, and this waiting continues down to today. Leder argues, and I agree, that this waiting shaped Israel’s experience of the land itself, and shapes how the church views its own wilderness pilgrimage.

The narrative structure of the Pentateuch

The narrative problem of the Pentateuch, as expressed by Arie Leder, is that Israel refused Divine Instruction and was thus exiled. Therefore, the message of the Pentateuch as we find it in its canonical form, speaks directly to the Jewish people post-exile. The structure of the Pentateuch is one gigantic chiasm. Genesis stands opposed to Deuteronomy, each dealing with the separation of Israel from the nations, blessing, seeing the land (but not permanently dwelling in it) and promises concerning descendants and the land. Exodus and Numbers both detail Israel’s desert journeys, describe apostasy and plagues, have a role for magicians (Pharaoh’s magicians and Balaam), and discuss the first-born and Levites’ dedication to God. Then Leviticus is the crux, dealing with sacrifices, cleanliness and holiness. The center of Leviticus is the Day of Atonement, and since all of the Pentateuch is about how to live life in God’s presence in the land of promise, it is interesting to note how central a redemptive sacrifice is to it all.

Central to the Pentateuch is the role of fellowship with God, and building projects. God builds the world to be the place of fellowship, but this is marred by sin. Then mankind rebels and builds a tower for their own fellowship apart from God’s presence. Ironically the Israelites are forced to build the towers of Egypt, but end up voluntarily building a tabernacle for the LORD. This tabernacle allows God to dwell in Israel, albeit with barriers to separate His holiness from their sin. God is the one who undoes what man had done: God initiates this building project, and ultimately no temple will be needed as God will finally dwell with his people (of all ethnicities) in the new Jerusalem, where the Lamb is the temple.

Divine presence and the promised land

Leder argues that the Divine presence is the defining characteristic of the promised land, and that all too often this is forgotten in discussions of the nature of the promised land. The church is to be viewed as God’s desert people today, as Hebrews 3 and 4 intimate. Leder explains:

Israel’s desert transition from Egypt to Sinai defines how believers at all stages of sanctification wait for the land: not in triumphal transformation of the desert, but in the regular testing of a rebellious heart and the experience of God’s surprising provision of daily sustenance. (p. 198-199)

Israel foreshadows the body of Christ as the temple of God, in which each member is a living, priestly stone (1 Peter 2:5, 9; cf. Ex. 19:5). (p. 201)

The desert is not only an historico-geographical reality but also a theological reality, one that teaches Israel not to think of herself as a landed people, for no earthly soil can produce the fruit of righteousness. (p. 203)

Ultimately,

…Jesus completes the desert journey for his people. With his ascension he brings them into the intimate presence of God (Heb. 10:19), from where he pours out the Holy Spirit to indwell the body of Christ, the church, God’s temple (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19) on earth. Thus indwelt, the church of Jesus Christ awaits a promised future: not land to cultivate, but rest from her work just as God rested from his (Heb. 4:6-11), a full rest in God’s presence for all who have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 21). (p. 204)

Separated from earthly cultures and ethnicities, and in transition to the heavenly city, God’s people will suffer a constant uprooting from the soils of their past and will be eager for enduring instruction in righteous cultivation of the fruit that produces holy distraction from the world and its interests. (p. 205)

I could go on offering quote after quote, but you’ll have to get the book and read it for yourself.

Replacement theology?

Some may take issue with supposed “replacement theology” here. But such is not the case. He sees the church as the ultimate fulfillment of believing Israel, not a replacement of it. Furthermore, the argument is directly tied to and springs from the text itself. Since the Pentateuch itself was concerned with the presence of God more so than mere land, the New Testament’s claims about God’s presence and the church are rightly seen as an outgrowth of this native OT concern. Even if you disagree with some of Leder’s theology, studying this book will prove immensely rewarding as time and again he focuses us on the power of the text.

I devoured this book and I expect you will too. It’s written in an accessible and clear way, with many helpful charts and diagrams. You will be blown away by the connections Leder finds throughout the Pentateuch, so you’ll want to take notes. Perhaps after reading this book, you too will fall in love with the Pentateuch anew.

Author Info: Arie C. Leder is Martin J. Wyngaarden Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies at Calvin Theological Seminary.

Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.

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Pentateuch's Date?

Bob,

How much weight does Leder put on source, form, and redaction criticism? Do you think that the Pentateuch was written by Moses (with the exception of the last few verses, and maybe a few late edits)? Or compiled by exilic/post-exilic editors? You state that he maintains an "evangelical approach throughout." How can a late Pentateuch be considered an "evangelical approach?"

By the way, fundamentalists and the more conservative (but non fundamental) evangelicals (think Westminster) fought that battle a hundred years ago (O.T. Allis - "The Five Books of Moses"). Many evangelicals within Old Testament studies, in order to be considered "relevant" in the scholarly world have gone back to the higher critical positions (Dillard, Longman, Enns, et. al).

Being a Pentateuch guy, I'll get to this book eventually.

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Replacement vs fulfillment

I'm not clear on what the difference is in this case. If the church "fulfills" does that imply that Isreal does not fulfill? And fulfill what?

I would expect replacement theology from a Calvin Seminary guy, so that doesn't really alarm me. But I suspect the distinction between fulfillment and replacement is ultimately imaginary. We're probably talking about a fulfillment that involves/includes replacement because the entire national identity of Israel is put in the same bucket with tabernacle/ritual elements of the Old Covenant that are fulfilled in (and replaced by) Christ. So Israel, in this way of thnking, is likewise fulfilled-by-replacement.
At least, this is what I've read elsewhere from that neck of the woods.

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Review

Thank you for this review. Putting the book on my CBD Wishlist.

Mathew Sims

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From Paradise to the Promised Land

Bob, have you read From Paradise to the Promised Land (2nd ed.) by T. D. Alexander? Based on your review here, I think you would find it well worth your time.

Aaron, it's about how the debate is framed. If the starting assumption is that the church is not Israel, then some sort of replacement follows. But if the church is a developed form of Israel, then replacement isn't really appropriate, just as a butterfly does not replace a caterpillar. Pauline scholars are pretty consistent on this point. See Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul, for an insightful intertextual read of the Israel/Church relationship in Paul.

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CAWatson wrote: Bob, How

CAWatson wrote:
Bob,

How much weight does Leder put on source, form, and redaction criticism? Do you think that the Pentateuch was written by Moses (with the exception of the last few verses, and maybe a few late edits)? Or compiled by exilic/post-exilic editors? You state that he maintains an "evangelical approach throughout." How can a late Pentateuch be considered an "evangelical approach?"...

Chris,

He would except the last few verses and a few late edits, I believe. He seemed similar to John Sailhamer on that, whom I've also read. Sailhamer argues for an inspired redaction applying the Pentateuch for the exilic time but that it is still almost entirely Mosaic.

Do we know when the Canon was shaped together as we have it today? It is clear there is a shape to the Hebrew canon and the time period when that was done was most likely post-exilic, in the time of Ezra and company. And furthermore, God in His wisdom knew the shape the canon would arrive at and intended the Pentateuch to speak not only to Moses' contemporaries but to later generations, on down to today.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Charlie, I haven't read that

Charlie,

I haven't read that one but I'm familiar to a degree with Alexander. I'll have to look out for that one too. Thanks for the recommendation.

Bob

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Aaron Blumer wrote: I'm not

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I'm not clear on what the difference is in this case. If the church "fulfills" does that imply that Isreal does not fulfill? And fulfill what?

I would expect replacement theology from a Calvin Seminary guy, so that doesn't really alarm me. But I suspect the distinction between fulfillment and replacement is ultimately imaginary. We're probably talking about a fulfillment that involves/includes replacement because the entire national identity of Israel is put in the same bucket with tabernacle/ritual elements of the Old Covenant that are fulfilled in (and replaced by) Christ. So Israel, in this way of thnking, is likewise fulfilled-by-replacement.
At least, this is what I've read elsewhere from that neck of the woods.

Aaron,

As a rule I take issue with the term "replacement theology", it is not a label that almost anyone self-identifies with (as opposed to dispensationalism and covenant theology). It is a pejorative term almost as it frames the debate in only one way. G.K. Beale uses an analogy in his book on the Temple and the Church's Mission (which I'm working through now, almost finished actually). He says imagine that a father told his young son in, say, the year 1900 that when he grew up he was going to give him his very own horse and buggy. When the son finally is a man of his own, the father goes and purchases a Model T automobile and gives it to his son in fulfillment of his promise. Now the son isn't going to complain and say, but I thought you were going to give me a horse and buggy. Everything intended in the promise is fulfilled, it is just superseded by advancement in techonology and life and all. In a similar way, God's fellowship and presence with His people in the Church and ultimately in the recreated earth is not less than the promises in Ezekiel about the Temple or about the restoration to a plot of land. It is far more. (And ultimately, in my view, the new earth qualifies as whatever plot of land you want it to be and Christ rules from a throne in that land which is the earth, redeemed... So that fulfills any millennial type promise, in my understanding.)

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Also, one more thing. Chris,

Also, one more thing. Chris, I will say he does make use of some narrative theology and other theologies I may not agree with wholesale. He definitely doesn't do redaction criticism of the J,D,E,P mold. But his use of these other theologians is tempered and careful, and mainly he's drawing ideas and avenues for reading the Pentateuch from them, not adjusting the theology of the Pentateuch or its date from them. Most evangelical OT scholars, allow for a late editor's hand in parts of the Pentateuch to bring it to its final form, but still hold to a Mosaic authorship. At least that's what I get from reading Sailhamer, Leder and interacting with Jason DeRouchie, the OT prof for The Bethlehem College and Seminary in Minneapolis.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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If anyone's interested in my

If anyone's interested in my take on the land promise and that theological question, you are welcome to look at a blog series I did a while back called http://www.fundamentallyreformed.com/category/blog-series/understanding-... Understanding the Land Promise .

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Expansion/Fulfillment not Replacement

As Charlie mentioned above, replacement is the only view one can take if you first start with the Classic (even progressive) Dispensational understanding of Israel & the Church. On the other hand, if you see the Reformed connection then as Kim Riddlebarger puts it you have expansion theology. The church includes Jews (including believing Israelites from the 1st century onward) and Gentiles.

Just read 1 Peter. It is written to Jews from the Disporia who are the church (not doubt it included Gentile believers). Peter uses OT terminology used to describe Israel and now describes the church with it.

There may be an older Reformed way of thinking that used the term replacement but it is not really in use presently.

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You've hooked me

Bob,

I read a good portion of Beale's Temple and the Church's Mission as part of some other studies and really benefited from it. I see from your later comment that you're reading it too. I don't think I read the portion with the horse-and-buggy analogy, but it's a good one, as is Charlie's butterfly analogy.

Coming into covenant theology from a dispensationalist background, I've realized, "What do they mean, replacement theology?" I still have plenty of room to believe in present and future salvation for the physical descendents of Abraham....just, under the New Covenant, not the Old.

I studied through the narrative of Exodus and (tentatively) concluded that its central question is "How can a holy God live with an unholy people?" Israel presents itself as a greater obstacle to God's plan than pharaoh did. The narrative's climax is the golden calf incident, after which God actually threatens not to go with His people, a "damned if they do, damned if they don't" situation, because if He does go with them, He'll consume them. Of course, after Moses' intercession and God's declaration of His just and merciful character, they proceed to build the tabernacle, and the book concludes with the cloud of glory descending.

Anyway, now I really want to read this book. Thanks for the review.

Grace and peace,
Mike

Michael Osborne
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Quote: He sees the church as

Quote:
He sees the church as the ultimate fulfillment of believing Israel, not a replacement of it.
Bob, I am curious about this. It seems a semantical game in a way. It seems to me that if the church is not ethnic Israel (to whom are the promises, Rom 9), then it replaces ethnic Israel, even if it includes Jews. You are right that hardly anyone self-identifies as "replacement theology," which doesn't seem to be helpful, IMO, since we are dealing with what the reality of the belief is, not what the label is.

Quote:
If the starting assumption is that the church is not Israel, then some sort of replacement follows.
Charlie, not following this either. For dispensationalism, that the "church is not Israel" is not an assumption but rather a conclusion based on prior facts (such as hermeneutics, exegesis, etc). But that aside, how does this mean that some sort of replacement follows? The replacement idea is generally that the church has now taken ethnic Israel's place in God's place; the church as "replaced" ethnic Israel as the recipient of the promises and all that they entail. So how does "some sort of replacement" follow from the church not being Israel.

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Mike, Glad I whetted your

Mike, Glad I whetted your appetite, I'm sure you'll enjoy that book. It's not very long and is fairly easy reading, although technical in the comments. Nothing like Beale's book as far as how technical and difficult it can be to read through.

For Larry and others,

More on "Replacement" Theology

Most people would agree that the Church is part of the new covenant, it enjoys blessings stemming from the new covenant, even though the new covenant was made with "the house of Israel and Judah". But passages like 2 Cor. 3 & 4 where Paul in his gospel ministry is a "minister of the new covenant", and Heb. 8 where the "New Covenant" is applied to the believing church make us realize the new covenant includes more than just Israel/Judah strictly defined.

Now some would still hold a future mass conversion of Israel from Romans 11. Many who are not dispensationalists still hold to that. In other words there is perhaps still some promised future for ethnic Israel (of course only for Israelites who embrace the Messiah). For my part, I could allow this in the new earth time. But the Gentiles are included too. So it's not really that Israel is replaced but that the Gentiles are included.

Of course, there have been many threads about this whole debate and this is just one part of it. But Craig's bringing up 1 Peter is important here. I'll just say a bit more and then try to just leave this lie for now (as I don't have much time to devote to this debate at present).

Follow this progression with me.

Ex. 19:5-6 (ESV) "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel."

1 Pet. 2:9 (ESV) "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

(they were likely Gentiles per 1 Pet. 1:14,18 and 4:3-4)

Rev. 1:6 (ESV) "and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Rev. 5:9b-10 (ESV) "...for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."

Just like Israel was called to be a royal priests -- kings and priests for God, so too we are God's "treasured possession" and God makes us a kingdom and priests to God.

And if you want it to get clearer than that, trace out the phrases found in Rev. 21:3 and where they appear previously in Scripture. Rev. 21:3 (ESV) "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God."

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Some Scholars Speak In Terms of Replacement

For what it's worth, here are a few scholars who are not as diffident about the Church replacing Israel:

Quote:
“The community of believers has in all respects replaced carnal, national Israel. The Old Testament is fulfilled in the New.” – H. Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol.4, 667.

Quote:
"The church, then as the people of the New Covenant, has taken the place of Israel..." - H. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 354-55

Quote:
"It will be concluded that the kingdom promises are comprehensively fulfilled in the church, not in the restored national Israel." - B. Waltke, in Continuity and Discontinuity (ed. John S. Feinberg), 263

Quote:
"The evidence is clear: Israel today is not in covenant with God." - Louis A DeCaro, Israel today: Fulfillment of Prophecy?,220.

If God is not in covenant with Israel today, who is He in covenant with? A. A different entity, the Church.

Ross House released a book by Charles Provan called The Church is Israel Now: The Transfer of Conditional Privilege This book was recommended by the Met Tab in London. It was recommended at the Seminary I attended, where replacement terminology was thought to be perfectly biblical.

I accept that it is more common today for those who refer to the church as the "New Israel" to speak in terms of "transformation" (change?; alteration?; transmutation?). Perhaps we should call them "Mutationists"? Only kidding!

Dr. Paul Henebury

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Thanks Bob. I am well

Thanks Bob. I am well familiar with all that. My question is on the semantic value of saying "it's not replacement, it's fulfillment." I don't see how that distinction carries. To the point of the reality (not the terms) I don't think the passages you list make your point conclusively; there are alternative explanations that do justice to the whole Bible, including the promises made to Israel as Israel. The church certainly participates in the blessings of the New Covenant, but I think it is more than significant that Hebrews 8 only quotes half of the New Covenant. I think the reason is because that half (forgiveness) is the only part that applies to the church. The rest of the NC is still for Israel.

But like you, I don't have a lot of time to engage this, and it's a bit off topic. I was simply wondering about the distinction.

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I guess it's just pejorative

I guess it's just pejorative in my mind or something. The charge is that replacement theology just sets aside the promises to Israel and says they weren't fulfilled. But if it is fulfillment by expansion, the promises are fulfilled just with spiritual Israel, or the Israel of God, rather than merely physical Israel. So in that sense I think "fulfillment" language is better than "replacement". Because it isn't that God ignores promises, but that he fulfills them in an unexpected way and degree (again going back to the analogy Beale uses with the horse and buggy and the automobile).

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Two Questions

I am a moderate dispensationalist (of sorts), and I would like to pose two questions, just to get some understanding of how others might answer:

1. In the "Horse & Buggy" analogy wasn't the promise made to the exact same boy who became a man? But what Beale and others envisage is that the promise was made to one entity (Israel as a nation), but the Model T was given to another "boy" (e.g. the Church). Surely the analogy needs to take this into consideration?

2. If God makes specific promises to the Jews and seals them with the strongest possible oath to do what He says (as in e.g. Jer. 33:14-26), but then "fulfills" them in a fashion other than His original promises would lead men to understand them; and if God knew this misunderstanding would come about because His promises were "spiritual," doesn't that mean it is in God's nature to equivocate? That is, if His covenants could not be understood at face value by those to whom they were first made, how can such a God escape the charge of prevarication?

Can someone address these questions directly, (without resorting to analogies)?

Cheers!

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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The New Testament says we

The New Testament says we Gentiles are grafted into the olive tree. It isn't as if God promises one thing to one group and gives it to another. He clarifies the true nature of the group he originally promised it and its condition up on faith. The New Testament interprets the OT promises and for us to ignore the NT in reading the Old is to do exegesis standing on our head.

God defines what it is to be a true Jew, and throughout the New Testament the Church is referred to in just about every term for Israel that you can use. And if you're with me on Gal. 6:19, with the term "Israel" as well. Non-Christians are not true Jews, the Jewish synagogues despising Christianity aren't Jews at all. The church is the true circumcision. Believers in Jesus have Abraham as their father and share in the inheritance to Abraham's seed. They are the true seed just like Isaac was preferred over Esau. They are in a "dispersion", and James even addresses the believers as "the twelve tribes". The new covenant is ministered by Paul preaching predominantly to Gentiles. We are the temple of God, God dwells with us. God walks with us and is our God. Over and over the New Testament uses Old Testament terms to define the New Testament Gospel. This is that, over and over.

What's so hard about that? How is that equivocating? In 1 Peter 1, we are expressly told that even the prophets sharing God's promises didn't understand their message. Paul says things of Old happened for our benefit. So the fact that the Old Testament Jews didn't fully comprehend all that was entailed in God's promises, doesn't mean God is lying. He uses terms they can understand, and even in the Old Testament conditions so many things upon faith. Deuteronomy is all about the fact that faith and trust is really required to truly inherit the promised land. That theme is found again in Psalm 37.

Have to run, but hopefully this helps a little.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Bob, are you saying that when

Bob, are you saying that when God promised Jer. 33:14ff. He was speaking to the Body of Christ?

Dr. Paul Henebury

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The language in that passage

The language in that passage links to other new covenant passages in Jeremiah which are explicitly called out as applying to believers today. The linking of the Davidic promises and promises to the Levites/Priests foreshadows Christ being the ultimate Priest-King, and we being a kingdom and priests to our God (as in the verses I quoted earlier). Hebrews and other passages emphatically deny the possibility of continued sacrifices after Christ's once-for-all work. And if you can spiritualize the offerings the Levites offer from being atoning sacrifices to some kind of memorial sacrifice, then why not just spiritualize it all the way and say these sacrifices are symbolic of Christ's mediatorial work and the prayers of the saints (which are equated with incense in both the old and new testaments). Again I don't have time to get into this all the way, but my bent is to let the New Testament help me have the right perspective on the old. And while I might not have a full fledged answer for every text, the bigger picture seems so much clearer now.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Thanks

Bob,

I thank you for your reply. I don't see that you really answered my question, which was about what God said and to whom at the cusp of the 6th Century. Do you think God was referring, not to ethnic Israel (as the passage states), but to the Body of Christ? I simply wanted a Yes or No. I'm not spoiling for a fight. I know we are both trying to study God's Word carefully and faithfully. I'm just trying to get some feedback on these issues from your perspective. You have provided something of a response to my "Two Questions" above (though there is a great deal asserted which one might legitimately call into question Smile ), but in #20 you have really only said that the Jeremiah passage is reapplied in the NT context, not whether God was, in the historical context, actually speaking past the Jews of c. 600 B.C.-26 A.D. and was talking to the NT Church.

Perhaps you believe the Body of Christ is present in the OT? - in which case I would have my answer.

Further, if I may cite you:

Quote:
. And if you can spiritualize the offerings the Levites offer from being atoning sacrifices to some kind of memorial sacrifice [I do neither ], then why not just spiritualize it all the way and say these sacrifices are symbolic of Christ's mediatorial work and the prayers of the saints.

I am glad you come out out clearly state that you are spiritualizing "all the way." Too often this form of interpretation is not labelled for what it is.

At the present time, i am an incurable dispy (again, of sorts - i think the "dispensations" are pretty useless theologically speaking). I thank you for your answers. I know you were a bit rushed.

God bless you and yours.

Paul H.

P.S. I appreciated the review

Dr. Paul Henebury

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@ Paul Henebry - Sure there

@ Paul Henebry - Sure there are those in the Reformed camp that use the term "replacement" but that cannot be used as a blanket statement about all of them. From my reading in contemporary Reformed literature that term and idea is out of date. If one wants to label contemporary Reformed theologians as holding to replacement theology then we could do the same thing with Dispensational theologians. We could label progressives with classical terms and thought but that would not be fair or accurate.

Further, the term replacement in the mind of a Dispensationalist is different for a Reformed theologian. I dare say that the term replacement in the mind of a Dispensationalist smacks of no future for ethnic Israel which is why one would get bent out of shape over the term. However, for a Reformed theologian I think it means something different. In my mind at least I see replacement referring to the form in which the one people of God exists. There is one people of God, though made up of different ethnicities, that exists in one form on the OT and another in the NT. The church replaces Israel in that much of the religious system has changed (sacrifices, priesthood, etc.). Remember the church includes both believing Gentiles and Jews.

I see Romans 11 this way:

1. Vs. 1-10 - Paul points out that though Israel does not exist as it did in the OT God has been faithful to them. Paul cites himself as an example of a believing Jew as one who is part of the believing remnant. The idea of Israel existing as a remnant runs throughout the OT. If Paul were the only Jew that believed then God was faithful to His people. No doubt there were many other Jews during Jesus' ministry, at Pentecost and throughout the book of Acts that believed. These believing Jews made up reconstituted Israel.
2. Vs. 11-24 - As was the task of Israel in the OT, now it is the task of Israel as the church in the NT to evangelize Gentiles and bring them into the covenant people - grafting them in as Paul says. That the Gentiles were brought/grafted into the people of God gives first priority to ethnic Israel as seen in the OT and the NT ministry of Jesus and the Apostles - to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. They went to the Jews first because it was the Jews who were to be the light to the nations. They were to be the blessed people who mediated those blessing to the other nations. The NT follows the same pattern.
3. Vs. 25-32 - Here Paul tackles the issue of a hardening of Israel that is partial. The question is, in what way is the hardening partial? It is either in (1) time referring to all of Israel for a short period of time or (2) in number in that a hardening has happened to part of ethnic Israel. I think we would have to go with #2 because if one Jew is saved (and there were more than that) after Christ then #1 cannot be the case. So, eventually this hardening will be removed once all of the elect Gentiles have been grafted in and much of national Israel will believe.

After Christ came there was never a chance of OT Israel being restored to how it was. Their entire religious system was done away with in Christ and His fulfillment of what it foreshadowed. It is a farse to think that in order for God to keep his covenant promises with Israel they have to be restored in the millennial kingdom and have their sacrificial system and priesthood restored as some Dispensationalists believe. This totally undermines and ignores what Christ has done as the final sacrifice and now high priest.

More can be said but this is a start.

I recently read Goheen's A Light to the Nations which makes a lot of this very clear. You can read my review here - http://craighurst.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/book-review-a-light-to-the-na... .

The book is on mission but in reading it you will see how it fits in with this discussion. One of the best books I have read this year!

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Paul, I don't see a

Paul,

I don't see a disconnect between the promises in Jer. 34 and the audience of its day, and the later revelation that those promises really find their yes in Jesus Christ and that the incoming of His Kingdom and His priestly work ultimately fulfill them both for the descendants of those in Jer. 34 and for others who by faith are grafted into the people of God.

The body of Christ isn't there in Jer. 34, but the body of Christ has been grafted into the intended audience there so we share in the promises by our faith in and union with Christ.

Furthermore, if you don't spiritualize at all, then, what's going on with eternal sacrifices by the Levites? I wouldn't call it spiritualizing so much as symbolizing, but that's for another debate at another time.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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To add to what Bob mentioned

To add to what Bob mentioned about in reference to the sacrifices, the church is a body of believer priests and we offer up daily the sacrifice of our lives to God (Rom. 12).

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Some Responses to CP Hurst

Hi CP, you say:

Quote:
@ Paul Henebry - Sure there are those in the Reformed camp that use the term "replacement" but that cannot be used as a blanket statement about all of them. From my reading in contemporary Reformed literature that term and idea is out of date.

My point in listing the quotes was to show that "replacement" has and is used by this approach to the Bible. If some modern people don't like it it is pretty hard to argue that Dispensationalists are wrong to use the word if Covenant theologians (and major figures at that) use it. But I have a theory about this. Availing myself of Bob's candor for present purposes, I think the issue comes down to whether one spiritualizes the Bible (or the many parts of it which "need" spiritualizing), or takes it literally as far as possible. "Literalists" like me see one state of affairs - the OT people of Israel, related by natural birth to the Patriarchs, under the Law but also heirs of specific covenant promises (like Jer. 33:14-26!); in other words a geopolitical entity with whom God is in inviolable covenant relationship. They were made very specific promises by God. God must fulfill the words of His oaths to those to whom He made them.

Now the Church, in my understanding, began at Pentecost (e.g. Matt. 16:18; Jn. 7:39; Eph. 2:20). so it is not OT Israel. Ergo, it is not the people-group to whom God entered into covenant in the OT. Therefore, if God fulfills His covenant promises upon the church He has de facto fulfilled them with a different group than those who received the covenant promises in the OT. The only way this could be (from a literal point of view) is if Israel has been replaced by the Church. That is the logic, and it is quite within the boundaries of normal speech.

Those who adopt a spiritualizing view, because of the way they interpret the NT (not, I would argue, because the NT must be interpreted that way!) do not always view their procedure as involving replacement because they have a much more fluid understanding of what words mean in their context. Thus, Israel can be morphed into the church and it is seen as a sort of transforming of the original entity into another. Again, "the throne of the house of Israel" (Jer.33:17) is God's throne in heaven (which is from eternity), not David's throne on earth (which is not). "The Levites" (Jer.33:18, 21-22) are not Jewish priests but Christian saints from all nations; "the rulers" and "descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Jer. 33:26) are not Israel but the Church. There is "continuity," but not at the literal level, and only if spiritual interpretation is maintained.

What this means is that any Jew who took God to be speaking about these literal things (Israel, Judah, Jerusalem, David's throne, Levites, and such like which we meet with here) when He was underlining these covenant promises in Jeremiah 33, was mistaken. There was an equivocation between God, who didn't mean it literally, and Jews who thought He did. The equivocation could not be blamed on the people. There is nothing in these promises to indicate to them that they needed to interpret God spiritually. The equivocation came from God!

According to OT scholar Richard Hess, in a recent review:

Quote:
“In terms of the future and the Messiah, Routledge views things from an amillennial context. Everything prophecied in the future was symbolized and fulfilled in Jesus. There is no future temple or time of peace before the new heavens and new earth. So when Ezekiel 40-48 describes this in detail, he was just condescending to people who could not otherwise understand except by making them think there was really going to be a temple and a repopulated Promised Land. Somehow Routledge doesn’t find this deceptive in the least, despite the fact that every example we have until after the New Testament was written believed in a literal fulfillment of a restored temple.” (my emphasis)

- From Richard Hess’s review of R. Routledge’s OT Theology in the latest Denver Journal.

Indeed this taking God at His Word can be illustrated from the pages of the OT itself.

Now you write about Romans 11:

Quote:
1. Vs. 1-10 - Paul points out that though Israel does not exist as it did in the OT God has been faithful to them. Paul cites himself as an example of a believing Jew as one who is part of the believing remnant... No doubt there were many other Jews during Jesus' ministry, at Pentecost and throughout the book of Acts that believed. These believing Jews made up reconstituted Israel.
2. Vs. 11-24 - As was the task of Israel in the OT, now it is the task of Israel as the church in the NT...

Here is Paul:

Quote:
Romans 11:1 I say then, has God cast away His people?
Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of
the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do
you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with
God against Israel...

This jives with his words in Romans 9:1-4 and his use of Israel in Rom. 11:7, 25-26 and by the "them and us" language of Rom. 11:11-24, 28-29. Taking Paul at face value I feel no compulsion to believe you are reading him accurately.

You opine:

Quote:
It is a farse [sic ] to think that in order for God to keep his covenant promises with Israel they have to be restored in the millennial kingdom and have their sacrificial system and priesthood restored as some Dispensationalists believe. This totally undermines and ignores what Christ has done as the final sacrifice and now high priest.

That, I respectfully submit, is your opinion. It is upheld by relegating God's covenant language (e.g. Num. 25; Jer. 33; Ezek. 40-48; Zech. 12; Mal. 3, etc.) to the status of prevarications.

God bless you

Paul H

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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another response to the question

Paul Henebury wrote:
I am a moderate dispensationalist (of sorts), and I would like to pose two questions, just to get some understanding of how others might answer:

1. In the "Horse & Buggy" analogy wasn't the promise made to the exact same boy who became a man? But what Beale and others envisage is that the promise was made to one entity (Israel as a nation), but the Model T was given to another "boy" (e.g. the Church). Surely the analogy needs to take this into consideration?

2. If God makes specific promises to the Jews and seals them with the strongest possible oath to do what He says (as in e.g. Jer. 33:14-26), but then "fulfills" them in a fashion other than His original promises would lead men to understand them; and if God knew this misunderstanding would come about because His promises were "spiritual," doesn't that mean it is in God's nature to equivocate? That is, if His covenants could not be understood at face value by those to whom they were first made, how can such a God escape the charge of prevarication?

Can someone address these questions directly, (without resorting to analogies)?

Cheers!


In relation to these questions/assertions, some issues have been on the mind for some time. I'm just throwing these ideas out there for some interaction. In the first point, where Paul goes after the horse & buggy analogy, the typical dispensational distinction between Israel and the church is assumed. This creates a difference between the boy(s) in the analogy. However, this is one of the points at issue that is being question begged. The question relates to the real nature of the entity to which the promises have been made. Paul assumes "Israel as a nation" is the entity. I often see, perhaps wrongly, in dispensational understandings of Israel a false bifurcation between the sacred and the secular. In other words, Israel is a secular entity; the church is a sacred entity. Is this a proper bifurcation? Certainly, we all approach the Scriptures with presuppositions. However, are Israel and the church really "that" distinct. Certainly, there is a unity between the two in that "people" are involved. Certainly, there is a unity in that the same God is involved. Certainly, there is a unity in that "promises" are involved. So what is really meant when the dispensationalist states that there is a distinction between Israel and the church? Is "nation" really supposed to be antithetical or "distinct" from spiritual realities?

One aspect of this discussion revolves around the nature of the promise and to who this promise is made. I have found the book of Romans quite interesting in this regard. I'll just quote some verses and leave others to make comment on them. The key issue revolves around the meaning of "promise" in this chapter.

Quote:
12 And he became the father of the circumcised, not only to those who are circumcised, but also to those who follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. 13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would inherit the world was not through the law, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 If those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made empty and the promise is canceled. 15 For the law produces wrath; but where there is no law, there is no transgression. 16 This is why the promise is by faith, so that it may be according to grace, to guarantee it to all the descendants —not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of Abraham's faith. He is the father of us all 17 in God's sight. As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He believed in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist. 18 Against hope, with hope he believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what had been spoken: So will your descendants be. 19 He considered his own body to be already dead (since he was about a hundred years old ), and the deadness of Sarah's womb, without weakening in the faith. 20 He did not waver in unbelief at God's promise, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 because he was fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. 22 Therefore, it was credited to him for righteousness. 23 Now it was credited to him was not written for Abraham alone, 24 but also for us. It will be credited to us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

Often, in the book or Romans, the issue of God's truthfulness is called into question in relation to the promises that He has made. Has God's word fallen because "Israel" is going to hell? Romans 3:2 & Romans 9:1-6 speak to the matter. And the answer seems to come about by distinguishing between Israel and true Israel. The promise was made to the later, as opposed to the former.

Certainly, the previous was from a NT perspective. However, the context in which God's promise was made to Abraham in the OT has been an object on interest. All sorts of assumptions are being made in the following that require a ton of explanation, but I'll be writing shorthand to conserve space and be concise. Through a literary-theological method Genesis 1-11 sets up Abraham as a way in which God is reversing the effects of the fall. The five "blessing" statements in ch12 parallels the five "curse" statements in the opening chapters (1-11). The geneology just before 12 is not evidencing the same focus upon death but upon life. The Abrahamic narrative is hugely about the ability of God to produce life from the seemingly dead in overruling the curse. The issue of "seed" comes into play in a huge way in the narrative; first Lot is presented as the possible seed; then Abraham's son through Hagar is possible; then the seed through Sarah is possible; then Sarah is seemingly delayed beyond possibility; then Isaac is finally born whose name is a rebuke to the laughter of both parents; then Abraham is finally told to sacrifice his son. There is certainly a ton of drama while all the while highlighting the power of God in giving life in what seems to be dead and lifeless. The drama conveys God's providential beginnings and continued reversal of the curses of the fall. The point is this. Israel's beginnings are understood in a redemptive historical context. (For the anti-covenantal dispensationalist, this is different than the redemptive historical context provided through covenant theology, and so it cannot be dismissed upon the same grounds) It is this redemptive historical context, evidence through a literary-theological method of exegesis, that makes it utterly impossible to have a bifurcation between the sacred and the secular. This in turn creates significant overlap between Israel and the church. The particulars I will leave others to point out.

With these points in place, then "equivocation" and "different boy" does not even make sense. Such accusations are only formed by dispensational assumptions, which may or may not be grounded in the text of Scripture.

Again, I must place the disclaimer that this is hardly an exhaustive accounting of the features of the text; nor is this a full accounting of the method and its mechanics and the significance of the observations of the text.

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few bullet pts on why reject disp

Caleb S wrote:

Again, I must place the disclaimer that this is hardly an exhaustive accounting of the features of the text; nor is this a full accounting of the method and its mechanics and the significance of the observations of the text.

I tend to reject dispensationalism on several grounds. (1) The gross imprecision of the meaning of "literal" hermeneutic. Closer inspection tends to reveal that "literal" means what the system reads back into the term. Closer inspection reveals that "literal" is not really literal in the sense of being opposed to the non-literal, for literal somehow encompasses the metaphorical non-literal elements of speech. My discussions with dispensationalists have tended to be "goal post moving" sessions where I'm trying to pin down the meaning, while the other keeps shifting the categories. What is literal? I tend to agree with Poythress's critiques and Longman's understanding of "his" literal hermeneutic (sources can be provided if needed). (2) The Israel and church distinction is too discontinuous to have meaning with the Bible informing our categories of the two entities (see previous post's discussion for a glimpse at the reasons). (3) The "glory" sine qua non is ridiculous to use against other theologies and betrays the tendency of reading other theologies through the dispensational lens rather than understanding them within their own assumptions. "God's glory" is just viewed differently; it is not that one holds to God's glory and the other does not. (4) The common tendency of dispensationalists to assume that the historical audience is the only way to read what the author could intend the meaning to be. This is certainly a factor, but often the author Himself is missed. Reader response is a somewhat backwards way of understanding authorial intent. Certainly it is helpful to know the audience, but especially when God Himself is speaking another both/and way of understanding authorial intent is helpful.

Here is a very simply easy way to understand what I mean. A Sunday school teacher is teaching 1-3rd graders, and he is attempting to tell them what "adultery" means. After explaining promises made when mom and dad get married (forsaking all others). The teacher simply says that adultery is when mom or dad treats another person in a way that is reserved only for the spouse (I'm shortening this by using the word "spouse" which a child would probably not follow). The level of communication is meant for the level of the child. Certainly, the audience is key in this regard. There is certainly a specific meaning conveyed to the child. However, it would be a terrible error to make this the sole meaning of adultery conveyed by the author. The definition is very broad and simple; it is for the child. However, what is meant by the author is also fuller than what is understood by the child. This is an example of the fuller meaning approach; it is not a double meaning or sensus plenior. Common rules of language rules out a restrictive understanding of the "audience" as determining the only possible meaning of authorial intent. While significant, it is not the only determining factor of authorial intent.

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additional point

Caleb S wrote:
I tend to reject dispensationalism on several grounds.

(5) The historiography is wrong as found in Ryries's dispensationalism (going from memory, so no page # available). This is in comparison to the historiography found in Murry (work on wisdom literature) and Hill&Walton (Old Testament Today).

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Caleb

You have written much. Some of it I agree with, some I think is off-subject, and some I disagree with. I wish I had time to "pin you down" on your comments, but one can spend too much time on forums and I got what I came for. Your first post would clearly have you in the camp of those who believe the church is in the OT (i.e. the "boy" in the horse & buggy scenario is the same boy). You did not address Jer. 33:14-26, but, then, that is usually the case with brethren who reject plain-sense interpretation (the kind you took for granted when you wrote your posts) Smile

You refer to a "literary-theological exegesis." But this would permit the interpreter to read a text with their theology already in hand - a rather perilous way to discover what a text is saying. After all, we do exegesis to find out what God is saying so that we can build an accurate theology. And to grasp the literary structure one would have had to study the text first. But then how? Thus, while your favored method may produce good results after exegesis, it cannot be employed in initial exegesis. Richard Hess (cited above), Allen Ross, and John Sailhamer employ literary-theological interpretation where appropriate. But they don't use it until they "know" the text. As Sailhamer says, we must read and re-read the Bible. There is no substitute for it. When we have a grasp of a Book, we may then spy literary, compositional and theological links within it.

We are all trying to understand what on earth God meant when He spoke. To me it is a case of reading God's Word as I would read most anything else - yes, even poetry (though not the intentional gibberish of modern stuff). That is how I know God created the world. That is how I know Christ died on a Roman Cross and not a Roman slave ship. That is how I know justification is by faith and through the power of Christ's physical resurrection. In fact, every basic doctrine is arrived at via this "literal" method (Again, every author who wants to be understood wants to be taken "literally." Yes, "literal" like any other term, is hard to define with absolute philosophical precision. But it works for most communication. I see no reason to give up on it when reading scripture).

I believe I can use it to unify the Testaments without needing to constantly call upon typology, symbol, allegory, etc. I may be wrong of course (and I'm sure I am 20% of the time). But I don't think abandoning the plain-surface meaning is the way to go.

I am not here to debate dispensationalism. I couldn't care less about defending a system (I defended Dispensationalism against the 95 theses because they were ridiculous and unfair). I am interested, as are we all, in correct interpretation. That is why I asked my questions.

I'm afraid I shall have to leave things there. Over at my http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/let-god-be-true-and-say-what... blog I have written more on this issue, and shall do so in future (DV). Perhaps you might pop in there?

God bless you and yours,

Paul H.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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Thanks Bob

Bob,

Here are a few thoughts then I must go:

Quote:
The body of Christ isn't there in Jer. 34, but the body of Christ has been grafted into the intended audience there so we share in the promises by our faith in and union with Christ.

If the Church is not there in Jer. 33 then who is? I would say ethnic Israel. Not all of them, since "not all Israel is Israel" (i.e. just the eschatological Remnant who will be Israelites). You claim the church "has been grafted into the intended audience" and you employ Paul's language in Rom.11. But in Paul Israel are "the natural branches" and the Gentiles are the wild branches (see, e.g. Rom. 11:24). therefore, the "olive tree" is not a people in Romans. It also cannot be Christ because He didn't come till after the OT was closed (and you agree that the church is not in the OT). I think the olive tree is the covenants (cf. Rom. 11:24-26).

Now, we must ask how these godly Israelites would have understood Jer. 33 before they got hold of a NT. Since they had no NT they could hardly have known that God was speaking to them in types and shadows. But if they understood God to mean precisely what He said in Jer. 33:14-26, without typology, surely you can see that equivocation was happening?

Quote:
Furthermore, if you don't spiritualize at all, then, what's going on with eternal sacrifices by the Levites?

Answer? I'm not sure! I'm not sure of a lot of things, like the mystery of the hypostatic union (I agree with Chalcedon btw). But just because I can't figure everything out doesn't mean I am free not to believe it. If Abraham had not taken God literally in Gen. 22 he would doubtless have concluded that since what God asked him to do with Isaac didn't make sense, He must not have meant it literally. He didn't of course. He took God at His Word (and was prepared to kill his son) and let God worry about bringing Isaac back to life (Heb. 11:17-19). I do the same with the Levitical sacrifices since I know what God covenanted in Num. 25:11-13 and Jer. 33 and Mal. 3:1-6.

Thanks for the exchanges and may God bless you.

P.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder/ President of Telos Theological Ministries, and teach at

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bulleted response

First and foremost, thank you for your response; I appreciate the criticism as it makes me think and evaluate. Regardless of what I will state about the potential problems of the literary theological method, I appreciate having to deal with a potential objection.

Paul Henebury wrote:
You have written much. Some of it I agree with, some I think is off-subject, and some I disagree with. I wish I had time to "pin you down" on your comments, but one can spend too much time on forums and I got what I came for. Your first post would clearly have you in the camp of those who believe the church is in the OT (i.e. the "boy" in the horse & buggy scenario is the same boy). You did not address Jer. 33:14-26, but, then, that is usually the case with brethren who reject plain-sense interpretation (the kind you took for granted when you wrote your posts) Smile

-Again, "plain sense" is just like "literal"; it is virtually meaningless. You cannot take for granted a non-entity.
-It would be a straw man for you to say that my post leaves me in the camp of those who believe the church is in the OT. The options are not just (1) either the church is Israel or (2) the church is not Israel; that would be a false dilemma. Your comment does not do justice to the continuity AND discontinuity inherent in my position. Even in the illustration, it is not the same boy even though it is the same boy, for he is older in the second. There is a continuity and a discontinuity, and no this is not me speaking out of both sides of my mouth, for the labels apply to different areas.
-Jeremiah 33:14-26 was indirectly address rather than directly addressed. Part of the reason is that my understanding of Scripture is still a work in progress.

Paul Henebury wrote:
You refer to a "literary-theological exegesis." But this would permit the interpreter to read a text with their theology already in hand - a rather perilous way to discover what a text is saying. After all, we do exegesis to find out what God is saying so that we can build an accurate theology. And to grasp the literary structure one would have had to study the text first. But then how? Thus, while your favored method may produce good results after exegesis, it cannot be employed in initial exegesis. Richard Hess (cited above), Allen Ross, and John Sailhamer employ literary-theological interpretation where appropriate. But they don't use it until they "know" the text. As Sailhamer says, we must read and re-read the Bible. There is no substitute for it. When we have a grasp of a Book, we may then spy literary, compositional and theological links within it.

-I can assert a Biblical doctrine of grace, but it can be abused by "sinning it up". I can carefully explain and assert the Trinity, but it can be abused to form "tritheism". Dr. Henebury can explain and assert the "plain" meaning of the text, but it can be abused by the reader assuming that his idea of "plain" is what the author of Scripture intended when in reality it is just his modern bias being read into the text. Sovereignty can be taught, but it can be abused where people don't move into action in their Christian lives. Responsibility and relationship can be taught, and then it can be abused by the promotion of Open Theism. The point is this. The abuse of something good is no argument against its validity; it is only an argument pointing to the corruption of man. So, while a literary theological method can be abused; it is no argument against its validity. This is especially true when the ancient historiography matches the method, which I tried to warn you that I did not write everything that could be written on the subject.
-Regarding looking into the text and doing exegesis: What do you think that I'm talking about? You must have a horrible idea of what I'm saying because we are clearly not on the same page in the definition. Of course, one looks into the text; none of your post pointed out the textual points that I indicated. Rather, they were simply glossed over, and then the worst was assumed. Certainly, anachronism needs to be avoided, and the text needs to be studied, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Paul Henebury wrote:
We are all trying to understand what on earth God meant when He spoke. To me it is a case of reading God's Word as I would read most anything else - yes, even poetry (though not the intentional gibberish of modern stuff). That is how I know God created the world. That is how I know Christ died on a Roman Cross and not a Roman slave ship. That is how I know justification is by faith and through the power of Christ's physical resurrection. In fact, every basic doctrine is arrived at via this "literal" method (Again, every author who wants to be understood wants to be taken "literally." Yes, "literal" like any other term, is hard to define with absolute philosophical precision. But it works for most communication. I see no reason to give up on it when reading scripture).

-What God meant was often conveyed through a human author. Hence, we have personality coming through in the NT books. One author writes in one way, and another writes in another. This is an aspect of "preparation" in the whole doctrine of inscripturation. God often did not simply use mechanical dictation. Hence, it is entirely proper to speak of ancient historiography as affecting how the author wrote the OT.
-Reading God's word just like anything else is a perfect recipe for not taking into account the Biblical worldview and the historical context. Distanciation is not being practiced when one does that. You get on to me for reading a theology into the text when your method makes it almost certain that a person will read modern assumptions into the text: double standard.
-again, "literal" is an undefined meaningless term that often just means I can read my theology back into the text and call it literal. A case in point is that the Open Theist is reading the text "literally" when he takes God at his word when God asks Adam where he was. God must not have known; therefore, Open Theism is proved through the "literal" method.

Paul Henebury wrote:
I believe I can use it to unify the Testaments without needing to constantly call upon typology, symbol, allegory, etc. I may be wrong of course (and I'm sure I am 20% of the time). But I don't think abandoning the plain-surface meaning is the way to go.

I am not here to debate dispensationalism. I couldn't care less about defending a system (I defended Dispensationalism against the 95 theses because they were ridiculous and unfair). I am interested, as are we all, in correct interpretation. That is why I asked my questions.

I'm afraid I shall have to leave things there. Over at my http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/let-god-be-true-and-say-what... blog I have written more on this issue, and shall do so in future (DV). Perhaps you might pop in there?

God bless you and yours,

Paul H.


-regarding typology, symbol, allegory: I don't know who you are talking to. Perhaps it is someone else's position.
-I agree very much that we are interested in correct interpretation.
-regarding defending dispensationalism: my focus was on the sine qua nons, of which you are seeking to follow the "literal" sine qua non. I'm giving you a bit of grief on that point.

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Quote: the typical

Quote:
the typical dispensational distinction between Israel and the church is assumed.
Why do people say this distinction is assumed? I would say it is derived from exegesis. The "assumption" is that biblical language works just like normal language. When we assume that, the distinction between Israel and the church flows out of the text itself, I would argue.

Quote:
The gross imprecision of the meaning of "literal" hermeneutic. Closer inspection tends to reveal that "literal" means what the system reads back into the term. Closer inspection reveals that "literal" is not really literal in the sense of being opposed to the non-literal, for literal somehow encompasses the metaphorical non-literal elements of speech. My discussions with dispensationalists have tended to be "goal post moving" sessions where I'm trying to pin down the meaning, while the other keeps shifting the categories. What is literal?
There are no doubt some who use it imprecisely (on both sides). But I would not build your case on the worst of dispensationalism, anymore than I should build my case on the worst of one of the alternatives.
Quote:
"literal" is an undefined meaningless term
It's not really undefined. Here are three definitions:

"This recognition of a metaphorical style is not to be thought of as a return to allegorization, nor is it a “spiritualizing” of the passage. When a writer employs metaphor he is to be understood metaphorically and his metaphorical meaning is his literal meaning: that is to say, it is the truth he wishes to convey. The term “literal” stands strictly as the opposite of “figurative,” but in modern speech it often means “real,” and it is used this way by those who want to be sure that they know what the writer really and originally meant. In this sense a metaphorical saying is “literally” true. … Thus a metaphorical statement is “literally” true but cannot be “literalistically” true. The “literal” meaning, then, is what the particular writer intended, and although he used metaphor, no one familiar with the language in which he expressed himself could reasonably misunderstand him" (Kevan, “The Principle of Interpretation,” in Revelation and the Bible, ed Henry, p. 294).

"Dispensationalists claim that their principle of hermeneutics is that of literal interpretation. This means interpretation that gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage, whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking. It is sometimes called grammatical-historical interpretation since the meaning of each word is determined by grammatical and historical considerations. The principle might also be called normal interpretation since the literal meaning of the words is the normal approach to their understanding in all languages. … Symbols, figures of speech, and types are all interpreted plainly in this method, and they are in no way contrary to literal interpretation. After all, the very existence of any meaning for a figure of speech depends on the reality of the literal meaning of the terms involved" (Ryrie, Dispensationalism, p. 80).

"The literalist (so called) is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols, are used in prophecy, nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position is, simply, that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i.e., according to the received laws of language) as any other utterances are interpretation—that which is manifestly figurative being so regarded" (Lange, Revelation, cited in Ryrie, p. 81).

So I don't think anyone who knows what they are talking about argues that literal is the opposite of figurative or or metaphorical. Literal encompasses figurative and metaphorical. Literal is normal. The opposite would something like spiritual or allegorical.

I think the mistake made by the opponents of dispensationalism is focusing on the meaning of "literal," and thus saying something that dispensationalism doesn't say. The real issue is not "literal" vs. "figurative" but the "consistent use" of literal or normal hermeneutic. The problem with the alternatives to dispensationalism is that they are inconsistent in their use of a normal hermeneutic when it comes to the Scripture. So going after dispensationalism based on "literal" is the wrong tack, IMO, first because the opponents use the exact same hermeneutic, and second, because they don't use it consistently.

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Larry wrote:
Quote:
the typical dispensational distinction between Israel and the church is assumed.
Why do people say this distinction is assumed? I would say it is derived from exegesis. The "assumption" is that biblical language works just like normal language. When we assume that, the distinction between Israel and the church flows out of the text itself, I would argue.
I apologize for the lateness of getting back to you, and I hope that you don't miss the response because of moving on to other things due to the progress of time. This just happens to be a time of life where I can interact again in this forum. Larry, you make some good observations, and I hope to provide some good interaction with it. When it comes to my statement about the Israel/church distinction being assumed, I think that I was specifically speaking in regard to Paul's question in particular. His question assumed the distinction, so it was my aim to point out the assumption and note the false dichotomy (either the church is Israel, or the church and Israel are completely distinct). I was not speaking in general, like your address appears to assume. However, to deal directly with what you have said, I have not seen the exegesis if there is any; and the exegesis that I've seen generally puts the Abrahamic narrative into the broader context of Genesis 1-11, which does not serve the disp position. Further, and my memory is a few years removed from having read them, but disp literature for the general public seems to simply assume rather than exegete. I'm sure you can easily produce something that would refute this, and I would be happy to read it.

Regarding the assumption of the normalcy of language: I would only ask one question at this point. Of what historical setting is "normal" and "plain" determined by? I believe this to be an utterly crucial question.

Larry wrote:
Quote:
The gross imprecision of the meaning of "literal" hermeneutic. Closer inspection tends to reveal that "literal" means what the system reads back into the term. Closer inspection reveals that "literal" is not really literal in the sense of being opposed to the non-literal, for literal somehow encompasses the metaphorical non-literal elements of speech. My discussions with dispensationalists have tended to be "goal post moving" sessions where I'm trying to pin down the meaning, while the other keeps shifting the categories. What is literal?
There are no doubt some who use it imprecisely (on both sides). But I would not build your case on the worst of dispensationalism, anymore than I should build my case on the worst of one of the alternatives.
Then I will go after what appears to be the best of dispensationalism, where "literal" appears to mean "grammatical/historical" context. Does the meaning of "literal" here allow for an author's intended use of metaphor? The question about metaphor becomes extremely relevant when dealing with Brent Sandy's book "Plowshares & Pruning Hooks" where he establishes the norm of prophetic genre to be highly metaphorical, secondarily about the future, with a primary focus upon persuasion (preaching at his contemporaries). The question also pits the disp definition of literal "in theory" against the disp "practice" when encountering an actual situation. Second question: does the meaning of "literal" here allow for the literary theological method? This has to do with dispensationalism's acceptance of an authorially intended use of history to convey a primarily theological message. What this means is that modern "scientific" assumptions have to be pushed to the side (not excluded altogether), for history is used as a vehicle to convey a theological message.

Larry wrote:
Quote:
"literal" is an undefined meaningless term
It's not really undefined. Here are three definitions:

"This recognition of a metaphorical style is not to be thought of as a return to allegorization, nor is it a “spiritualizing” of the passage. When a writer employs metaphor he is to be understood metaphorically and his metaphorical meaning is his literal meaning: that is to say, it is the truth he wishes to convey. The term “literal” stands strictly as the opposite of “figurative,” but in modern speech it often means “real,” and it is used this way by those who want to be sure that they know what the writer really and originally meant. In this sense a metaphorical saying is “literally” true. … Thus a metaphorical statement is “literally” true but cannot be “literalistically” true. The “literal” meaning, then, is what the particular writer intended, and although he used metaphor, no one familiar with the language in which he expressed himself could reasonably misunderstand him" (Kevan, “The Principle of Interpretation,” in Revelation and the Bible, ed Henry, p. 294).

"Dispensationalists claim that their principle of hermeneutics is that of literal interpretation. This means interpretation that gives to every word the same meaning it would have in normal usage, whether employed in writing, speaking, or thinking. It is sometimes called grammatical-historical interpretation since the meaning of each word is determined by grammatical and historical considerations. The principle might also be called normal interpretation since the literal meaning of the words is the normal approach to their understanding in all languages. … Symbols, figures of speech, and types are all interpreted plainly in this method, and they are in no way contrary to literal interpretation. After all, the very existence of any meaning for a figure of speech depends on the reality of the literal meaning of the terms involved" (Ryrie, Dispensationalism, p. 80).

"The literalist (so called) is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols, are used in prophecy, nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position is, simply, that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i.e., according to the received laws of language) as any other utterances are interpretation—that which is manifestly figurative being so regarded" (Lange, Revelation, cited in Ryrie, p. 81).

I don't doubt that dispensationalists include the non-literal in their definitions of "literal", and I never assumed anything other to be the case. My problem tends to focus upon (1) the use of the confusing language just to keep clinging to the term "literal" and (2) to the tendency to be oblivious as to how one's theology often determines what one sees as "literal". Again, no one dealt with my Open Theism example on this point. It is almost as if the disp sees literal as if the data in Scripture is "brute fact", which is an impossible position.

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As the first definition above really seems to emphasize, "literal" is really meant as the opposite of "allegorization" and "spiritualization". When dealing with the issue of metaphor, I really think that Sandy is much more clear than the first definition. You don't take the "surface meaning" as the meaning {Sandy, D Brent, Plowshares & Pruning Hoods, (IVP Academic: Downers Grove, 2002), p. 39}. In other words, you don't take metaphor literally. Much like our expressions of "freeze," ect. You don't take it literally. The opening definition has to add another term to "literal" in order to clarify this issue. Now we have "literalistically" added into the mix because you really can't take figurative language literally. But because we have to protect the label of "literal" we have to add "literalistically" instead of saying that we don't read the surface meaning literally. The reader has to note that "the specific words of the text are pointing to a meaning beyond the surface meanings of the words. (p.39)" Sandy goes on in the same page and the next to point out that there are degrees of being removed from the literal meaning/surface meaning; hence, "literalness" is not a black or white issue. What is taken from the word "freeze" is the idea of rigidity or immobility; a person is to cease from activity in a manner like unto a froze state. This is the meaning. The first definition above would apparently call this the "literal" meaning, with the "literalistic" meaning being that of a person thinking that he would have to "literally" become frozen. The key also becomes understanding the language, which requires a historical context, which may be remarkably different than how a person in modern culture would "normally" or "plainly" read it; so the definition itself can be at odds with other labels like "plain" and "normal". So my problem with the first definition has more to do with its wording than with its content; its wording lends itself to the creation of confusion and a lack of clarity. My problem with the second definition is that "normal" must be understood under the umbrella of "historical context"; it is not as though the modern reader reads it normally, with his modern scientific assumptions and historiography intact. So while the second addresses the grammatical/historical, it unfortunately does not connect "normal" with the previous. Also, when it says that symbols, figures of speech, and types are interpreted plainly, I am forced to ask once again; what era defines "plainness"? Is not the modern reader at a disadvantage in recognizing past figures of speech? Perhaps this question is completely lost to those who are monolingual; in fact, the question is probably lost. When the Hebrew speaks of a person being "long nosed", does the modern reader read that normally? Again, this is one example of many. Here is another example. Do we read "bulls of Bashan" normally? Do you see how this language (the disp definition) is horribly confusing? The first example was of an idiom, and both are examples of how the reader cannot simply read the surface level meaning of the text. One has to go beyond the surface level meaning. The third definition above is simply too vague. The reader is left wondering, "What are these laws of language?" And "what is this normal interpretation?" Heaping undefined terms together doesn't help the definition. So to terms used to define literal are too elastic, and thus "literal" can mean way too much or too little.

Larry wrote:
So I don't think anyone who knows what they are talking about argues that literal is the opposite of figurative or or metaphorical. Literal encompasses figurative and metaphorical. Literal is normal. The opposite would something like spiritual or allegorical.

I think the mistake made by the opponents of dispensationalism is focusing on the meaning of "literal," and thus saying something that dispensationalism doesn't say. The real issue is not "literal" vs. "figurative" but the "consistent use" of literal or normal hermeneutic. The problem with the alternatives to dispensationalism is that they are inconsistent in their use of a normal hermeneutic when it comes to the Scripture. So going after dispensationalism based on "literal" is the wrong tack, IMO, first because the opponents use the exact same hermeneutic, and second, because they don't use it consistently.


Regarding people who know what they are talking about: I hope this is in reference to people who know what they are talking about with respect to the self-understanding of disp. Otherwise, I disagree that those who know what they are talking about (broadly stated outside the bounds of disp). One such individual is Brent Sandy (p.40). I'll quote him, and "yes" his book is one of the best treatments on the whole issue of "metaphor" that I've ever seen (not saying too much, as I'm not a huge literary person). Here is the quote. "For the purposes of this book, it is not a matter of literal opposite the historical sense but literal opposite the figurative sense and the degrees away from the surface meaning." Here, one individual, who knows what he is talking about (he is a linguist) argues that literal is the opposite of figurative or metaphorical.

In continuing on with your own comments in your first paragraph, you continue by defining "literal" in dispensational terms rather than how it is commonly understood to be literally used. Your understanding is that it is opposite to spiritual/allegorical. Again, this is a definition based out of a reaction against certain hermeneutical abuses of the past and covenant theology in particular. It is not the "normal" understanding of literal.

Contrary to what you state, I think that it is very important to focus upon what "literal" means to the dispensationalist, for therein is found their system tied up with their terms in a way that is not normal or literal (since literal now encompasses the non-literal). The facade of approaching the text as "brute fact" or in terms of common sense realism appears to be near the root of it. This leads to a remarkably inability to observe personal assumptions, theological assumptions, and world view (subjective elements) that are often brought into the interpretive process.

In regard to consistency: I may be inclined to agree with you if you were pointing to how one uses an "allegorical" use here and a "literal" approach there. However, I'm hitting at a different level. It is the dispensationalist that has defined himself into ALWAYS being literal even when he is not, so now he is "consistent"! Oh the irony! Also, the only options available are not "literal" vs "spiritual/allegorical". There are many more issues and options even within the category of "literal" as my questions above have indicated. This means that "consistency" is relative. Certainly, according to the self-definition of dis, others are not consistent. But who is really going to let dispensationalists define/determine what is consistent? In other words, the "consistency" jab only begs the question of dispensationalism. In other words, such a statement is only preaching to the choir, to borrow a non-literal metaphor.

I hope that this explains things a little bit better, and I hope that it points out more clearly why I write these things in opposition to disp.

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