Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism, Part 6

Republished with permission from Dr. Reluctant. In this series, Dr. Henebury responds to a collection of criticisms of dispensationalism entitled “95 Theses against Dispensationalism” written by a group called “The Nicene Council.” Read Part 1Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Thesis 27

Contrary to the dispensationalists’ claim that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ … were all fulfilled ‘literally’ ” (Charles Ryrie), many such prophecies were not fulfilled in a “plain” (Ryrie) literal fashion, such as the famous Psalm 22 prophecy that speaks of bulls and dogs surrounding Christ at his crucifixion (Psa 22:12, 16), and the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy regarding the virgin, that “she will call His name Immanuel” (cf. Luke 2:21), and others.

Response: The premise behind this objection is that since the Bible employs figures of speech and imagery it cannot be interpreted “literally.” The beasts in Psalm 22:12, 16 are literal men. They symbolize the animosity of the people towards David, and, prophetically, towards Christ on the Cross. The poetic use of these beasts only intensifies the literal predicament being expressed.

The Isaiah prophecy is fulfilled in Christ since He is, literally, “God with us.” But here at last we are presented with an issue which might give us pause. Mary called Him “Jesus.” Does this mean that we are to infer that Mary did not call Him “Immanuel”? It is true that on the basis of this passage some may have expected the Messiah would receive the proper name “Immanuel,” when in fact, this was a descriptive identification of Christ’s person.

Our reply is that the “plain” sense will not always provide us with a complete set of precise data; sometimes details are slender. This is why one must not push secondary matters (e.g. the timing of the Rapture) to the extent that we present them as though they had the same biblical support as, say, the doctrine of justification by faith or the deity of Christ. One may, for example, have the sense of a sentence right but get the reference wrong—as in equivocation.

However, what the grammatical-historical hermeneutic does is to serve up parameters within which one may interpret the Bible accurately. It does not permit us to use verses like Isaiah 7:14 as an excuse to spiritualize Ezekiel’s temple or the land promises to Israel. These involve (biblical) covenantal conditions to which God has committed Himself. They cannot be altered in any way (cf. Gal. 3:15).

Thesis 28

Despite the dispensationalists’ argument that “prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ … were all fulfilled ‘literally’ ” (Charles Ryrie), they can defend their argument only by special pleading and circular reasoning in that they (1) put off to the Second Advent all those prophecies of his coming as a king, though most non-dispensational evangelicals apply these to Christ’s first coming in that He declared his kingdom “near” (Mark 1:15); and they (2) overlook the fact that his followers preached him as a king (Acts 17:7) and declared him to be the “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev 1:5) in the first century.

Response: We would like to ask these brethren to prove that Christ (Messiah) is even in the OT without literal interpretation. In fact, we would like them to prove any doctrine whatever without literal interpretation. Just because figurative language is used in Bible prophecy does not mean the prophecies cannot or should not be taken literally. The Nicene Council, and many other non-dispensationalists, define “literal” as “literalistic,” so that if the mountains don’t really skip the whole approach must be abandoned. Yet this is not how any person operates in everyday life. For example, is “circular reasoning” actually circular in shape? Or is the circle a symbol for a certain type of reasoning? When Robert Reymond says dispensationalists have “thrown down the gauntlet,” how does the Nicene Council recommend we interpret his meaning? Let us say dispensationalists have issued a challenge (which is a dubious claim), are we to go further and employ a hermeneutic which pronounces that this challenge is not really a challenge at all but something entirely different?

The verses cited do not decide the issue of Jesus’ kingship one way or another. The Acts quotation is an accusation brought by the Jews against the Christians and cannot be used to settle the matter since it was intended to inflame the authorities. Revelation 1:5 does not call Christ a present king but a “ruler” over kings. Since He possesses all authority (Matt. 28:18) and is Lord of all (Acts 10:36) He is, of course the Ruler of the kings of the earth. The term “king” is usually reserved by dispensationalists for Christ’s coming messianic reign.

Nevertheless, there is no problem in saying with Chafer that Jesus “…came as a King (Lk.1:32-33)…was rejected as a King (Mk. 15:12-13, Lk. 19:14)…[and] died as a King (Matt. 27:37)” (Systematic Theology 7.223). But dispensationalists insist the Bible teaches that Christ is yet to reign as “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 19:16) at His second coming. So Mark 1:15 does proclaim the presence of the kingdom in one sense (cf. Mk. 10:15, Lk. 17:20-21), even though the full realization of the kingdom awaits the second advent (Matt.25:31).

Thesis 29

Despite the dispensationalists’ central affirmation of the “plain interpretation” of Scripture (Charles Ryrie) by which their so-called literalism provides “a coherent and consistent interpretation” (John Walvoord), it ends up with one of the most ornate and complex systems in all of evangelical theology, with differing peoples, principles, plans, programs, and destinies because interpreting Scripture is not so “plain” (despite Charles Ryrie).

Response: This is a hard objection to respond to because it is (1) rather subjective as to the complexity of the system, (2) quite irrelevant if dispensationalism is true, and (3) contrary to the experience of many of the Lord’s people for whom the Bible was a closed book, requiring insider knowledge of various forms of hermeneutics and literary genres, and for whom dispensationalism made it finally intelligible.

Thesis 30

Despite the dispensationalists’ argument for the “literal” fulfillment of prophecy, when confronted with obvious New Testament, non-literal fulfillments, they will either (1) declare that the original prophecy had “figures of speech” in them (Scofield), or (2) call these “applications” of the Old Testament rather than fulfillments (Paul Tan)—which means that they try to make it impossible to bring any contrary evidence against their system by re-interpreting any such evidence in one of these two directions.

Response: We may begin our reply by saying that it is not special pleading to say that original prophecies contained figures of speech. This is simply an observation of an established fact. The interpreter must decide what to do with the features he meets within Scripture.

The second objection is more weighty and requires dispensationalists to examine themselves to ferret out any biases which would too speedily cause them to dispatch a troublesome “fulfillment” into the drawer marked “application.” (We would say in passing that the opposite bias may afflict our friends on the Nicene Council—i.e. to turn applications (recall Rom. 15:4, 1 Cor. 10:11) into fulfillments, or partial fulfillments into complete fulfillments).

Dispensationalists recognize that prophecies can have more than one fulfillment. This is what is called “the law of double reference.” An example is Zechariah 12:10: “They shall look upon me whom they pierced,” which was partially fulfilled in John 19:37 at the crucifixion, but will also have a future fulfillment in accord with its original context (cf. Rev. 1:7).

The charge that dispensationalists have deliberately fortified themselves against rival interpretations is not very charitable. Neither is it very far-sighted. The truth is, we all are tempted to protect our systems of theology by subtle subterfuge. But we think it will become apparent which group is a regular offender as we continue these responses to the Nicene Council’s Theses.

For an excellent treatment of this issue the reader is referred to the article by Charles Dyer, “The Biblical Meaning of Fulfillment” in the book Issues in Dispensationalism, edited by J. Master & W. Willis.

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Jack Hampton's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
However, what the grammatical-historical hermeneutic does is to serve up parameters within which one may interpret the Bible accurately.

Dr. Henebury, I agree with you completely. But it seems that some dispensationalists abandon the grammatical-historical hermeneutic when it conflicts with their pre-conceived ideas. For instance, take the following words of Peter spoken on the day of Pentecost:

"For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams…The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come" (Acts 2:15-17,20).

Charles Ryrie attempts to answer Peter's words "this is that" by saying:

"If language means anything Pentecost did not fulfill this prophecy nor did Peter think that it did. The usage need not raise theological questions at all, for the matter is primarily homiletical and any problems should be solved in that light. Peter's point was that the Holy Spirit and not wine was responsible for what the Jews had seen. He quotes Joel to point out that as Jews who knew the Old Testament Scriptures they should have this as the Spirit's work. In other words, their own Scriptures should have reminded them that the Spirit was able to do what they had just seen" [emphasis added ] (Charles C. Ryrie, "The Significance of Pentecost," Bibliotheca Sacra, [Oct. 1955, Vol. 112, # 448 ] p.334-5).

Despite the fact that Peter said "this is that" Ryrie says that the events of the day of Pentecost were not fulfilling Joel's prophecy. Why would he do such a thing? Well, he teaches that the Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost and according to classic dispensationalism the Body of Christ is a "parenthesis" or distinct interlude in God's program for Israel:

"Classic dispensationalists used the words 'parenthesis' or 'intercalation' to describe the distinctiveness of the church in relation to God's program for Israel. An intercalation is an insertion of a period of time in a calendar, and a parenthesis in one sense is defined as an interlude or interval (which in turn is defined as an intervening or interruptive period). So either or both words can be appropriately used to define the church age if one sees it as a distinct interlude in God's program for Israel (as clearly taught in Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks in 9:24-27)" [emphasis added ] (Ryrie, Dispensationalism [Chicago: Moody Press 1995 ] p.134).

The prophecies of Joel are in regard to God's program for Israel so if those things were being fulfilled at the same time when the Body of Christ was in existence then the Church age could not be described as being either a "parenthesis" or a "intercalation." Therefore Ryrie just denies that what was happening on the day of Pentecost was a partial fulfillment of the prophecies of Joel which were in regard to God's program for Israel.

If the dispensationalists want to claim a grammatical-historical hermeneutic then they should remain consistent and employ that same hermeneutic in all instances. If my points are too far off subject then I apologize. But as a dispensationalist myself I believe that Ryrie's approach leaves the very basics of dispensationalism open to question from those who are not dispensationalists.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Despite the fact that Peter said "this is that" Ryrie says that the events of the day of Pentecost were not fulfilling Joel's prophecy. Why would he do such a thing?

Jack, Peter's use of Joel 2 has been studied and debated for a long time. Those committed to grammatical-historical method have arrived at multiple conclusions. The GH paradigm alone does not lead to a single clear answer.
Why? Mainly because most of the things in Joel's prophecy did not occur that day.

I reproduce Peter's full statement for clarity...

Ac 2:16–21 NKJV 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.’

Note what Joel predicts:

  • Pouring of the spirit
  • Prophecy (by pretty much everybody)
  • Visions
  • Dreams
  • Blood, fire & smoke
  • Sun --> dark
  • Moon --> blood
  • Deliverance by calling on the name of the Lord

So, the scene in Acts 2 really leaves us no choice but to interpret Peter's statement as something other than a simple statement of fulfillment. Options include partial fulfillment, a beginning of fulfillment, or even simply an analogous relationship. "This is that" is not one of the usual fulfillment phrases, and there are only two possible points of similarity between the scene there and Joel's prophecy: the Spirit activity and the deliverance of those calling on the name of the Lord.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

G. N. Barkman's picture

It sounds like Riley is saying, "this is that" is really "this is not that." Hmmm.

G. N. Barkman

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Jack, Peter's use of Joel 2 has been studied and debated for a long time. Those committed to grammatical-historical method have arrived at multiple conclusions. The GH paradigm alone does not lead to a single clear answer.

Why? Mainly because most of the things in Joel's prophecy did not occur that day.


Aaron, it is not difficult to understand why the rest of the things did not follow the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. The rest were events which will precede the setting up of the earthly kingdom, and here we see Peter telling the nation of Israel that if she will repent and turn to God then the Lord Jesus will be sent back to restore all things:

"Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets" (Acts 3:19-21).

Quote:
"This is that" is not one of the usual fulfillment phrases, and there are only two possible points of similarity between the scene there and Joel's prophecy: the Spirit activity and the deliverance of those calling on the name of the Lord.

How better could Peter have expressed himself if he wanted to say that what was happening then was a fulfillment of Joel's prophecies? If he did not believe that was was happening then was not at least a partial fulfillment of the prophecies of Joel then he certainly would not have said "this is that."

If we are to use a grammatical-historical hermeneutic there is only one option--the words "this is that" can only mean that was was happening then was a partial fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. If someone interprets Peter's words as meaning "this is like that" then it is obvious that the grammatical-historical hermeneutic has been abandoned. Less than two years after Ryrie's article was published in Bibliotheca Sacra the following article written by Roy Aldrich appeared in the same journal:

"Although Joel's prophecy refers primarily to the future kingdom, it is clear that it also has a definite reference to Pentecost. 'This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel' surely means more than merely 'Joel gives us an illustration of this' " [emphasis added ] (Roy L. Aldrich, "The Transition Problems in Acts," Bibliotheca Sacra [July 1957, Vol. 114, # 455 ], 236).

According to Dr. Aldrich Joel's prophecy "has a definite reference to Pentecost." Another dispensationalist, Stanley D. Toussaint, realizes that Peter's words "this is that" do not mean "this is like this":

"Instead of being drunk the believers were experiencing what was described in Joel 2. In Peter's words, 'This is what was spoken by the Prophet Joel. This clause does not mean, 'This is like that'; it means Pentecost fulfilled what Joel had described. However, the prophecies of Joel quoted in Acts 2:19-20 were not fulfilled. The implication is that the remainder would be fulfilled if Israel would repent" [emphasis added ] (Walvoord & Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary; New Testament [Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1983 ], 358).

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jack Hampton wrote:
Aaron, it is not difficult to understand why the rest of the things did not follow the pouring out of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost

Indeed it is not. But we weren't talking about why the events that didn't occur didn't occur. We were talking about why the grammatical-historical (GH) method does not, in itself, require interpreters to see Peter's remark as a statement of fulfillment.

JH wrote:
How better could Peter have expressed himself if he wanted to say that what was happening then was a fulfillment of Joel's prophecies?

For the record, I'm not arguing against partial fulfillment. I see that as one of the possibilities GH interpretation can support.
But how could Peter have been more clear if he meant fulfillment? For starters, he might have used the word "fulfilled" as Matthew does more than a dozen times, Mark does a couple of times and Luke does about half a dozen times, and John several times. See also Acts 1:16 and 3:18.

JH wrote:
If we are to use a grammatical-historical hermeneutic there is only one option--the words "this is that" can only mean that was was happening then was a partial fulfillment ...

No, this is not true. The case can be made that the grammatical-historical evidence supports one option better than another, but those who do not see "fulfillment" there are not arriving at that conclusion by using a different hermeneutic. They just believe the evidence better supports a different conclusion.

I'm not going to get into dueling quotations on who favors one view over another. There are lots of representatives of several views employing GH hermeneutics.

As I said, I'm not convinced that Peter was drawing an analogy or making an application. I don't frankly know for sure what he was getting at. But those who hold to non-fulfillment make there case on grammatical historical grounds. We could argue that they are not using GH method very effectively, but it is the method they are attempting to use. (The ones I've seen did good work. Just not work that has me completely convinced...yet.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
But we weren't talking about why the events that didn't occur didn't occur. We were talking about why the grammatical-historical (GH) method does not, in itself, require interpreters to see Peter's remark as a statement of fulfillment.

Aaron, are we supposed to imagine that those using the GH method are not to take into consideration the possibilites as to why the rest of Joel's prophecies were not fulfilled? In other words, is the meaning of all verses to be understood in isolation without regard to the larger context? To you it is perfectly valid for Ryrie to ignore what Peter said in the very next chapter of Acts and make a blanket statement that since all the things of Joel's prophecies were not fulfilled then it is certain that the Apostle Peter did not mean "this is that" but instead he meant "this is NOT that." From what you say I can only conclude that you believe that his method is a fair representation of grammatical-historical hermeneutics.

According to you it is perfectly rational and within the bounds of the grammatical-historical hermeneutic for Ryrie to take the words "this is that" and change the meaning of those words to "this is NOT that."

Quote:
For starters, he might have used the word "fulfilled" as Matthew does more than a dozen times, Mark does a couple of times and Luke does about half a dozen times, and John several times. See also Acts 1:16 and 3:18.

I do not see how that is any more clear than him saying "this is that." After all, even if he used words that included the word "fulfilled" there would be those who point to the following verse and say that this verse says "fulfilled" but there was no literal fulfillment. They would say that "this is LIKE that":

"Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not" (Mt.2:17-18).

So I would say that Peter's words "this is that" provides as sure a proof of fulfillment as does any verse that uses the word "fulfilled."

Quote:
The case can be made that the grammatical-historical evidence supports one option better than another, but those who do not see "fulfillment" there are not arriving at that conclusion by using a different hermeneutic. They just believe the evidence better supports a different conclusion.

What you mean is that ignoring evidence, like what Peter said in the very next chapter, gives one the license to change the meaning of Peter's words "this is that" to "this is NOT that." Unfortunately, that method is not representative of the GM hermeneutic.

If we use your methodology then we can argue that the man named Jesus was not the Messiah because all of the things which were prophesised of the Messiah have not yet been fulfilled. And we can come to that conclusion only if we ignore the rest of the evidence that points to the fact of at least one more advent.

Jack Hampton's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Jack,

If Acts 2 is only a partial fulfillment, then why doesn't Peter say "this is partially that?" instead of "this is that."


Ted, at the time when Peter said "this is that" he did not even know that there would be only a partial fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. There is nothing in Joel's prophecies that indicate that all of the things which were foretold would happen all at once, is there?

So how is it that you would have expected him to say that what had happened was only a partial fulfillment?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
why the rest of Joel's prophecies were not fulfilled?

Jack, why what didn't happen didn't happen isn't the issue. You could believe any number of things about that and your view of the prophecy's relationship to Acts 2 be unaffected. It's not relevant.

Quote:
According to you it is perfectly rational and within the bounds of the grammatical-historical hermeneutic for Ryrie to take the words "this is that" and change the meaning of those words to "this is NOT that."
Not what I said... and not what Ryrie said.

Quote:
I do not see how that is any more clear than him saying "this is that."
I can't really help you see it. The word "fulfilled" exists for a reason. Apparently it says a bit more than "this is that."

Quote:
What you mean is...
Nope. Just meant what I said, pretty much.

Quote:
If we use your methodology then we can argue that...
No, I'm afraid not. If one takes the position that you only have fulfillment when it says "fulfilled" he loses almost nothing prophetic from any of the other passages. The vast majority say "fulfilled." There are a few that put it differently, as I recall. But the non-fulfillment view is even more particular. The view (which, again, I'm not persuaded is correct) is simply that "this is that" in a passage where much of "this" doesn't match "that," means something other than fulfillment.

Since we don't have any other "this is that" passages involving prophecy, this view does not affect how any other passage is read.

Jack wrote:
Ted, at the time when Peter said "this is that" he did not even know that there would be only a partial fulfillment of Joel's prophecy.

Jack, the other stuff hadn't happened. Peter was talking about what had just happened... it was already evident that the sun had not gone dark or the moon turned to blood... and that the kids were not all prophesying.

So he had to know that, at best, he was looking at partial fulfillment--if fulfillment at all.

I personally think partial fulfillment might be what he had in mind and this is why he did not say "fulfilled." It could be that "this is that" is his way of saying "partly fulfilled."
But I don't know either way. To me, it's just not clear what he meant.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jack Hampton wrote:

Ted, at the time when Peter said "this is that" he did not even know that there would be only a partial fulfillment of Joel's prophecy.

You've only side-stepped the question.

Peter's prophecy was given to him by the Spirit of God, and the Spirit is omnicient. So I'll rephrase my question.

If Acts 2 is only a partial fulfillment, then why doesn't Peter say, under guidance of the Holy Spirit, "this is partially that?" instead of "this is that."

Where is there any indication in Peter's words (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit), that only some of Joel's words as applied to Pentecost, are "this is that"?

Jack Hampton's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Peter's prophecy was given to him by the Spirit of God, and the Spirit is omnicient. So I'll rephrase my question.

If Acts 2 is only a partial fulfillment, then why doesn't Peter say, under guidance of the Holy Spirit, "this is partially that?" instead of "this is that."


Ted, sometimes we must use our common sense. Obviously the thing which Peter was speaking about when he said "this is that" was the fact that there were some who were speaking in languages in which they were unlearned. The word "this" points back to the following words in "bold":

"And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?...For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:7,8,15-17).

The word "this" refers to what the people were seeing, men speaking in tongues. So when he said that "this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" he was referring specifically to the part of Joel's prophecy which says--"your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

That is exactly what those hearing Peter's words would have understood. The Greek word translated "prophecy" has a much wider meaning than foretelling future events. It also means "to utter forth, declare, a thing which can only be known by divine revelation" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon). That is exactly what happened when the believers began to speak in tongues on the day of Pentecost.

Again, when Peter said that "this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" he was referring specifically to those who were speaking in tongues and nothing else. And that is exactly what those hearing his words would have understood. I believe that Peter was absolutely right when he said that which was happening was that which was spoken by Joel because at that time Peter was being guided in all truth by the Holy Spirit:

"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (Jn.16:13).

To me Peter's words "this is that" mean just that. No one has provided any evidence that those words mean "this is LIKE that" or anything other than "this is that." So I will take Peter at his word and that means that he was saying that the events which he saw that day were a direct fulfillment of Joel's words that "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
I personally think partial fulfillment might be what he had in mind and this is why he did not say "fulfilled." It could be that "this is that" is his way of saying "partly fulfilled."

But I don't know either way. To me, it's just not clear what he meant.


Aaron, I believe that when Peter said "this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" he was referring specifically to what was happening when believers began to speak in tongues. So he was saying that only a partial part of the whole prophecy was being fulfilled at that time, specifically in regard to the words "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

So when he said that this is that he meant just that. The events when believers were speaking in tongues was a direct fulfillment of the part of Joel's prophecy that reads--"your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." How do we know that those events were a direct fulfillment of that part of the prophecy? Because Peter used the words "this is that."

Here is what Ryrie himself says about the grammatical-historical hermeneutic:

"If God is the originator of language and if the chief purpose of originating it was to convey His message to humanity, then it must follow that He, being all-wise and all-loving, originated sufficient language to convey in his heart to tell mankind. Furthermore, it must also follow that He would use language and expect people to understand it in its literal, normal, and plain sense. The Scriptures, then, cannot be regarded as an illusstration of some special use of language so that in the interpretation of these Scriptures some deeper meaning of the words must be sought" [emphasis added ] (Ryrie, Dispensationalism [Chicago: Moody Press, 1995 ], p.81).

So by Ryrie's own words in regard to the grammatical-historical hermeneutic Peter's words spoken to the Jews would be understood in its literal, normal and plain sense.

Since those who heard his words understood him to be speaking specifically about those who were speaking in tongues they would understand Peter's words "this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" to be referring to a literal fulfillment of these words: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

Therefore by understanding Peter's words in their literal, normal and plain sense Peter's hearers would understand that the events when believers began to speak in tongues were a direct fulfillment of Joel's words here: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

Also, the point is not what you might understand but instead what is the meaning to those who use the grammatical-historical hermeneutic. And there is no question as regards to what Peter was saying to those who are consistent in their employment of that method.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
Aaron, I believe that when Peter said "this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" he was referring specifically to what was happening when believers began to speak in tongues. So he was saying that only a partial part of the whole prophecy was being fulfilled at that time, specifically in regard to the words "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

Joel did not mention tongues and it is not all that apparent that prophesy was occurring in Acts 2.
Maybe.

About the GH thing... "literal, normal and plain sense" assumes "in context." If we took Peter's remark in an isolated way--and take it as fulfillment language--we'd have to conclude that he was claiming the entire prophecy was being fulfilled. Why don't we? Because the context makes it clear that much of Joel's prophecy did not happen that day. So the context forces us to limit the fulfillment sense we give to Peter's words.
The question is how much to limit it. Some believe the context requires "limiting" the fulfillment idea out completely. They do this on grammatical historical grounds. Others say, no, it's only partly limited. They also derive this view on grammatical historical grounds. But the context requires some kind of mitigating of the fulfillment idea regardless.

It would be far more fair to say--if you disagree with Ryrie--that he is not executing the grammatical historical method very well in this case. It is not accurate to say he is using some other hermeneutic. It is, at worst, a problem of execution. He is using the same principles everybody does who believes in GH hermeneutics.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Steve Davis's picture

Paul Henebury wrote:
However, what the grammatical-historical hermeneutic does is to serve up parameters within which one may interpret the Bible accurately. It does not permit us to use verses like Isaiah 7:14 as an excuse to spiritualize Ezekiel's temple or the land promises to Israel. These involve (biblical) covenantal conditions to which God has committed Himself. They cannot be altered in any way (cf. Gal. 3:15).

Here's a subject I would like to see developed more fully. Does Ezekiel's prophecy require a rebuilt millennial temple? The prophecy follows the battle with Gog and Magog (Ezek. 38-39) which takes place at the end of the Millennium (Rev. 20:8). Would not the temple imagery in vision form fit more naturally with the new creation where Christ is the temple (Rev. 21:22)? Or will there be a literal temple for 1000 years that will be destroyed? If so what purpose does it serve? When I studied dispensationalism this temple was for Jews who come out of the Tribulation into the Millennium in natural bodies. It also required animal sacrifices as a memorial. And what do we do with all the New Testament language which speaks of the church as the temple, of Jesus' body as the temple, the church as a royal priesthood, etc. I do not know if a rebuilt temple is essential to dispensationalism but I have not yet seen convincing arguments for a rebuilt temple which was part of a system declared obsolete (Hebrews 8:13).

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Joel did not mention tongues and it is not all that apparent that prophesy was occurring in Acts 2.

Aaron, the Greek word translated "prophecy" has a much wider meaning than foretelling future events. It also means "to utter forth, declare, a thing which can only be known by divine revelation" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon). That is exactly what happened when the believers began to speak in tongues on the day of Pentecost.

Peter, who was led by the Holy Spirit in all truth when he spoke, certainly believed that what was happening was a fulfillment of a part of Joel's prophecy.

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About the GH thing... "literal, normal and plain sense" assumes "in context." If we took Peter's remark in an isolated way--and take it as fulfillment language--we'd have to conclude that he was claiming the entire prophecy was being fulfilled.

Again you are mistaken. The thing which Peter was speaking about specifically when he said "this is that" was the fact that there were some who were speaking in languages in which they were unlearned. The word "this" points back to the following words in "bold":

"And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?...For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:7,8,15-17).

The Greek word translated "this" means "it refers to a subject immediately preceding" (Thayer's Greek English exicon).

This is in reference to what the people were seeing, men speaking in tongues. So when he said that "this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel" he was referring specifically to the part of Joel's prophecy which says--"your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

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It would be far more fair to say--if you disagree with Ryrie--that he is not executing the grammatical historical method very well in this case.

If he were using the GM method he would not have said that the words "this is that" mean "this is like that." That is now the literal and plain meaning of those words. There is no doubt that in this case Ryrie completely abandoned the grammatical historical hermeneutic.

Aaron, are you willing to argue that "this is like that" is the literal, normal and plain understanding of the words "this is that"?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
It also means "to utter forth, declare, a thing which can only be known by divine revelation" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

Yes. It is not at all obvious that this is what was occurring in the Acts 2 scene. It can easily be seen simply as preaching.

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certainly believed that what was happening was a fulfillment of a part of Joel's prophecy.
This is not clear either. What's clear is that Peter saw a relationship. It's not so clear what the relationship was.

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If he were using the GM method he would not have said that the words "this is that" mean "this is like that." That is now the literal and plain meaning of those words. There is no doubt that in this case Ryrie completely abandoned the grammatical historical hermeneutic.

Aaron, are you willing to argue that "this is like that" is the literal, normal and plain understanding of the words "this is that"?


I have already argued that "literal, normal and plain" must include context and that the context clearly requires some limiting of the fulfillment idea. It's a question of how much. Ryrie makes his case on GH grounds just as the other views do. Whether he is right or not is certainly open for debate but it is not fair to claim he abandons GH hermeneutics there. Even you do not believe "this is that" means pure fulfillment--as I've pointed out already. That would mean all of it was fulfilled on that occasion.
So, yes, perhaps Ryrie is saying it means "this is like that," but you are saying it means "this is part of that."

Neither view can claim the other is using a different hermeneutic.

Steve-- Ezekiel's temple continues to baffle me a good bit as well. I don't personally see a problem with a temple that exists for 1000 yrs and is then destroyed. You asked what would be the purpose? The same as any other temple in Israel's history. And 1000 yrs of faithful worship centered at the temple would be a beautiful thing. But I'm not sold on the idea that it goes there.
Most days, I'm content to look at it and say "Well, there's going to be an amazing temple somewhere down the road" and leave it at that.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Steve Davis wrote:

Here's a subject I would like to see developed more fully. Does Ezekiel's prophecy require a rebuilt millennial temple?... When I studied dispensationalism this temple was for Jews who come out of the Tribulation into the Millennium in natural bodies.

Steve,

I have profited from a series by Jerry Hullinger in Bib Sac, "The Function of the Millennial Sacrifices in Ezekiel's Temple," parts 1 and 2. He makes a great case for the millenial temple sacrifices having a cleansing function based on Ezekiel, and especially Leviticus. Part 1 was this past winter, part 2 was this past Spring.

You can also get Thomas Ice's summary at http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/why-sacrifices-in-millennium, although its hard to read.

I haven't seen people struggle with the literal temple based on its placement after Gog and Magog. It is an interesting observation. It appears that Ezekiel's prophecies are not arranged chronologically, but theologically. This appears to be how he faithfully reports them - not based on chronology but how they came to him by the Spirit.

Here's some of their divisions:

Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones...

Prophecy of Gog and Magog

Ezekiel 38:1-2 And the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh...

Ezekiel 39:1 "And you, son of man, prophesy against Gog and say...

Prophecy of Future Temple

Ezekiel 40:1-2 In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, at the beginning of the year, on the tenth of the month, in the fourteenth year after the city was taken, on that same day the hand of the LORD was upon me and He brought me there. In the visions of God He brought me into the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, and on it to the south there was a structure like a city.....

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Even you do not believe "this is that" means pure fulfillment--as I've pointed out already. That would mean all of it was fulfilled on that occasion.

aaron, please read what I said again. I do believe that Peter's words "this is that" were referring to pure fulfillment. As I said before, the word "this" refers to the following in bold:

"And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?...For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" (Acts 2:7,8,15-17).

The word "this" refers to event where believers were speaking in tongues. Nothing more. And that is exactly how those who heard Peter would understand his words. They certainly had no reason to think that the word "this" meant anything more than that. After all, the was the very subject of discussion before Peter used the phrase "this is that."

And Peter, being guided by the Holy Spirit in all truth, said that the event where believers were speaking in tongues "is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams."

Those hearing would understand that the only thing which Peter was referring to as being fulfilled would be the following part of the prophecy: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

I also said that the Greek word translated "prophesy" means "to utter forth, declare, a thing which can only be known by divine revelation" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

To which you replied:

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It is not at all obvious that this is what was occurring in the Acts 2 scene. It can easily be seen simply as preaching.

Peter, who was there and was guided by the Holy Spirit in all truth, certainly believed that the speaking in tongues fulfilled the part of the prophecy that says: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."
Quote:
This is not clear either. What's clear is that Peter saw a relationship. It's not so clear what the relationship was.

If we take a literal approach to understanding Peter's words describing the relationship then the the relationship is clear--"this is that."

Paul Henebury's picture

Hi Steve,

This is a good example of how G-H hermeneutics cannot decide interpretations definitively, but may circumscribe what can and cannot be the case in a given context. Here’s how I approach the issue:

First, I try to remember that some doctrines can be formed by direct reference to the wording of Scripture. Such a doctrine would be justification by faith (appealing to e.g., clear statements in Romans 3:23 – 4:25 and Galatians 3). I refer to them as Category 1 Formulations; not because they are the most fundamental necessarily, but because they are most easily formulated.

Then there are those doctrines which cannot be discovered that way. The Trinity would be one of these. However, the plain statements of Scripture which tell us that God is One (Deut. 6:4), but that the Father is God (take your pick), the Son is God (e.g. Jn. 1:1-3; 8:58; 20:28), and the Spirit is God (e.g. Acts 5:3-4), demand we resolve on Trinitarianism. This inference from a consideration of plain texts for related doctrines is what I call a “strong inference” and is non-negotiable. To help myself I call them Category 2 Formulations.

Next, there are passages which point to certain doctrinal conclusions such as the rapture. By themselves these passages do not tell us enough for us to be able to come to surefire doctrinal conclusions (as is the case with the Trinity). But we can infer the timing of the rapture by a consideration of all the pertinent texts. From this consideration we will arrive at a defeasible position based upon what view of the rapture we think is least problematical. I personally believe the pre-trib position answers the most questions and has the least difficulties to overcome, but I may be wrong. Hence, I cannot accord pretribulationism the same doctrinal credence as I give to justification by faith or the Trinity. This is a Category 3 Formulation.

Finally, Category 4 Formulations are those doctrines which are not really plainly based upon any passage of Scripture, but are theological inferences wrought from other theological inferences. Though I may regret it I will say that infant baptism, grounded as it is in a certain forced typology and an implied covenant of grace is such a doctrine. This theological conclusion ought to be held tenuously if at all, since it has no direct support from any passage with a proven relation to itself.

All this to say that the reality of a rebuilt Ezekiel’s Temple belongs, I believe, either in Category 2 or in Category 3. I would feel quite comfortable in making it a borderline Category 2 Formulation. Here are some of my reasons. My reasons would include: 1. The prophetic import of Numbers 25 (a unilateral covenant), Jeremiah 33, Zechariah 14, and Malachi 3. 2. The immense amount of detail in Ezekiel’s description and the fact that it is amenable to physical modeling. 3. The structural “arc” in the book of Ezekiel from the departure of the Shekinah from Solomon’s Temple (ch.11) over to its return to Ezekiel’s Temple (ch.43). 4. The differences between the Mosaic pattern and that in Ezekiel (e.g. no High Priest, no Day of Atonement, etc.).

These sorts of considerations encourage me (recklessly?) to rank Ezekiel's Temple within my Category 2.
The problems you highlight must not be overlooked, but I think most are only apparent while none constitute insuperable barriers to a building of Ezekiel’s Temple given certain Millennial conditions.

I don't want to make this post any longer, but I hope this shows what i was thinking when I wrote about spiritualizing Ezekiel's Temple in the paragraph you quoted.

God bless

Paul H.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Paul Henebury's picture

I forgot to add that the G-H method is required for the formulations of Categories 1 through 3, but is usually abandoned for Category 4 formulations.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jack... I don't know if I should keep answering.

For what it's worth, I am quite comfortable understanding Peter's "this" to refer simply to the act of speaking in toungues, or--for sake of argument--prophecy. It remains true that the tongues speaking/prophecy does not exhaust the "that" Peter quoted from Joel, as the context makes clear.

So the context requires that the fulfillment idea be limited in some way. We either have to read "this is that" to mean "this is part of that" or "this is like that" or some other variation because of the context. There is no abandoning of GH when you derive the meanings of words from their contexts.

Paul's last two posts are certainly helpful for understanding the boundaries of GH.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

For what it's worth, I am quite comfortable understanding Peter's "this" to refer simply to the act of speaking in toungues, or--for sake of argument--prophecy. It remains true that the tongues speaking/prophecy does not exhaust the "that" Peter quoted from Joel, as the context makes clear.

Aaron, those who heard Peter speak would have understood that the word "that" was only in regard to the following part of the prophecy: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

So if you understand that the word "this" was strictly limited to the event when believers were speaking in tongues and the "that" was strictly limited to "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy" THEN it becomes obvious that the fulfillment was not partial in any way.

For some reason you want to read more into the meaning of "that" than Peter meant and more than those who heard him understood. You need to imagine you were there and try to understand what Peter was saying from that perspective. There is no way that his audience imagined that that he was saying that the reference to "that" included the following part of the prophecy: "And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come."

From what I understand by your response I can only believe that you think that when Peter used the word "that" he was including the part of Joel's prophecy that included the signs that will happen in the sky and upon the earth. But that is not what those who heard him would have understood.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Dear Sharper Iron writers,

Thanks to all of you for a good discussion. I have always been troubled by the way some dispensationalists, such as Ryrie, handle this passage. It seems to me that Ryrie ends up saying, "This is that does not really mean this is that." What seems clear enough to me is that Joel's prophecy, which within it's context, might have been understood to have an end time fulfillment (ie, second coming of Christ in judgment), turns out to have a more immediate fulfillment on the Day of Pentecost.

In other words, in some way, and at least to some degree, the events of which Joel prophecied began at Pentecost.

I think Ryrie's approach is designed to remove any commonality between Israel and the Church. Hence, "this is not really that." If I were reading Joel's prophecy without benefit of NT insight, I would assume the same. But Peter links Joel's prophecy, with it's strong Israel language, to what God did at Pentecost, and the launching of the Church and the ingathering of Gentiles. This is another good example of how I think the NT causes us to re-think our understanding of OT prophecy.

Be that as it may, the discussion here has been solid and helpful. Thanks again!

Cordially,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

Jack Hampton's picture

I would appreciate some opinions considering the following verses:

"Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley" (Zech.14:1-4).

I believe that these verses should be taken literally, especially because it speaks of the Lord's "feet" standing on the mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the "east."

The details concerning His feet and the direction of the mount of Olives in relationship to Jerusalem almost forbids anything other than a literal understanding. But my question is: Where on the timeline of the end times can the fulfillment of this take place?

To me it seems as if it must happen before the end of Daniel's 70th Week:

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy" (Dan.9:24).

By the end of the 70th Week there will be brought into Jerusalem "everlasting righteousness" so it seems unlikely that the events described at Zechariah 14:1-4 can happen any time after the end of the 70th Week.

However, there seem to be problems with this understanding.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Jack H. wrote:
Aaron, those who heard Peter speak would have understood that the word "that" was only in regard to the following part of the prophecy: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

No, I don't think so, because Joel kept talking. His "that" is the whole section he quoted from Joel... or would certianly have been understood to be by some... and I could not blame them.

Jack Hampton wrote:
THEN it becomes obvious that the fulfillment was not partial in any way.

I thought I saw your earlier arguing that it was partial fulfillment. In any case, it has to be since he quoted a big chunk of Joel but only some (if any) of those events had occurred on that occasion.

At any rate, as I said before, I'm not convinced that Ryrie is right. But he is not using a different hermeneutic. He just sees contextual and theological evidence pointing toward a different take on what is unusual language for fulfillment ("this is that").

70th week and Mt of Olives
I don't think it's necessary to read "to bring in everlasting righteousness" as having to happen "by" the end of the 70 weeks. It can occur immediately at the end of the 70th week. Since bringing in the everlasting right. appears to happen very quickly, it could literally be the same day (maybe the same hour) His feet rest on the Mt. of Olives.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Jack Hampton's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Jack H. wrote:
Aaron, those who heard Peter speak would have understood that the word "that" was only in regard to the following part of the prophecy: "your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

No, I don't think so, because Joel kept talking. His "that" is the whole section he quoted from Joel... or would certianly have been understood to be by some... and I could not blame them.

So you would not blame them if they believed that Peter was telling them that the followeing was being fulfilled then?:

"And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come."

If they believed that Peter was telling them that that was being fulfilled as he spoke those words then they would have believed that Peter had temporarily lost his mind.

Quote:
I don't think it's necessary to read "to bring in everlasting righteousness" as having to happen "by" the end of the 70 weeks. It can occur immediately at the end of the 70th week. Since bringing in the everlasting right. appears to happen very quickly, it could literally be the same day (maybe the same hour) His feet rest on the Mt. of Olives.

The verse says that "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city...to bring in everlasting righteousness":

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy" (Dan.9:24).

To me this means that everlasting righteousness will be brought in within the time period specified to be 70 weeks. So if it is brought in after the 70th week comes to a close then it cannot be said that ""Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city...to bring in everlasting righteousness."

In any case are you saying that the Lord Jesus' feet will stand on the Mount of Olives sometimes close to the end of the 70th week?

Thanks!

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