Dispensationalism Then & Now, Part 2

(From Dispensational Publishing House; used by permission. Read Part 1.)

A Renewed Understanding of Hermeneutics

My personal concerns have to do with some of the new proposals for a dispensational approach to the Bible, i.e., a critique of some of the structural points that hitherto were not characteristic of dispensational thought. One major principle will be discussed here—biblical hermeneutics. There are other factors that could be dealt with profitably as well.

Principles of Biblical interpretation are the first order of concerns in structuring a doctrine or a comprehensive method of interpreting the Bible, foundational to correct exegesis itself. Often the order is reversed. It is often asserted with vigor that Biblical hermeneutics must come from interpreting the Bible itself, i.e., a simple matter of exegesis. But this appears to be a circular procedure, i.e., using hermeneutical principles on the Bible in order to find the Bible’s hermeutical principles (to be used on the Bible).

But I would argue for a Biblical first principle or a presupposition regarding human language in the first place. This is drawn theologically from the Bible’s own use of language by human beings who possess rationality via the image of God in order to fulfill the dominion to rule the earth (cf. Gen. 1:26).

This methodology would then assert several principles for linguistic hermeneutics, Biblical or otherwise. One is that a word can only have one meaning in a usage, or in one and the same connection. Another is that words do not carry meaning autonomously but in combination with other words, i.e, a sentence. A third principle is that this selfsame word and its meaning cannot accrue or develop an expanding afterlife of changing meaning. A fourth factor is that the sentences thus constructed mean only what the author intended the words to mean. This is to say that language is univocal; it speaks with “one voice.”

A rule of thumb here is that “a text cannot mean what it never meant.” If words were equivocal in the same usage or connection, communication would be impossible. A language system then would need only one word, because that word would mean anything and everything, which is to say it means nothing—total irrationality.

This leads to the conclusion that the words of the Bible are not malleable in meaning because the authorship of Scripture is theologically unified. The miracle of Biblical inspiration guarantees a confluence between God and the human author, that what the human author wrote is what God wrote, and what the human author intended, God intended. And more importantly for Biblical studies, what the human author meant is exactly what God meant, no more and no less (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-13). The dictum of non-dispensational hermeneutics is that “God could mean more but never less than what the human author meant.” This assumes that words can take on enlarged meaning(s) once they leave the human author, or that some of the Old Testament words, propositions and prophecies cannot be interpreted simply as given because there is always some possible hidden freight of meaning yet to be found in them. This would abandon the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture.

This approach then calls for another authority, outside the text being interpreted, to extract the “real” meaning that God intended but of which the human author and his first readers/hearers were oblivious. Various interpretive methods external from the Old Testament, in this case, have been proposed to prevent the Old Testament author from being banished from his own writing. Basically these methods appeal to later written revelation to round out the Old Testament propositions. But in truth this only worsens the problem. Who or what is going to unpack the hidden meanings of the later revelation? Or is it simply presupposed that it is somehow exempt from all occult meanings whereas the earlier revelation is not? The danger here is that this methodology will (logically) land us in the morass of linguistic relativism that has plagued the hermeneutics of rational thought for millennia, including theology and Biblical exegesis. Call this complementing, spiritualizing, allegorizing or resignifying the earlier words, the overriding note of it all is the replacement of the original authorially-intended meaning, a fatal disease of hermeneutics.

It may be postulated that God’s infinite otherness and power remove Him completely from this mundane discussion of the relationship between the Bible and its human languages because “God can do anything.” Problem solved. But be reminded that this does not mean that “anything can happen.” My proposed understanding of this relationship yields a unified approach to the whole of the Bible. The truth-intentions of both the Old and New Testament authors are harmonized and correlated. Both therefore are mutually helpful and necessary for the consistency of the whole.

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Don Johnson's picture

At least, I think it is small!

We know that in Daniel 12, Daniel himself did not completely understand all that God meant by what God told him to say.

Having said that, I hold that the words Daniel (and other prophets) mean exactly what they meant when God inspired their writing, nothing more and nothing less. I think that is what you are saying also.

And I doubt we ouselves yet understand the full import of the words Daniel wrote!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

alex o.'s picture

For instance, we can be wrong in our determination to what the human author was referring. Sailhamer notes that Hosea was reading Messianic thought in the Pentateuch when he wrote: "out of Egypt I called my Son." So there is more than one counter proposal to faulty hermeneutics.  

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Ed Vasicek's picture

I wonder if  sometimes our hermeneutics are more the product of Western thought than Biblical observation. Although we have to start with some broad hermeneutics (like historical and grammatical approaches) we can still observe what we see.

I am among those who believe that when Joel is speaking of the locust plague as the "Day of the Lord," he is referring in one sense to the plague at hand and in another sense the Tribulation.

Isaiah 14 describes the fall of Lucifer and refers to the king of Babylon on one level but flashes back to a more literal fall, and this idea is affirmed in the New Testament (Luke 10:18, Rev. 12:1-8). Ezekiel 28 would be another case in point.

David refers to the King. of that name, but also to the ultimate heir of David who is sometimes called "David," not just the heir of David (Jeremiah 30:9).

We need to remember that it is the Bible that is infallible, not the hermeneutical principles through which the Bible is read and interpreted.  Those principles can get us started, but to refuse to hone them based upon what we actually observe in Scripture is like saying that the ancient Creeds take precedence over Scripture.  The creeds are good summaries (some better than others), but, the Reformers argued, even the creeds are subject to rigorous challenge by the Bible. I would suggest we take the same stance toward hermeneutics.  

Good hermeneutics, therefore, should lead us to adopt the logical system that the Bible's original authors embraced, not the system of logic that has evolved over the centuries.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Ron Bean's picture

Perhaps this needs a thread of it's own but I'll ask it anyway. How essential to dispensationalism is the pre-tribulational rapture? 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

ScottS's picture

I agree fully with Dr. McCune's point:

But I would argue for a Biblical first principle or a presupposition regarding human language in the first place. 

However, I would challenge a couple of his points (or his way of wording) of "several principles" that flow from that. These two in particular:

A third principle is that this selfsame word and its meaning cannot accrue or develop an expanding afterlife of changing meaning. [and related to that statement, this one] ... what the human author meant is exactly what God meant, no more and no less.

Whether I would agree or not depends upon what Dr. McCune means by his statements, but generally, how he has stated it I have issues with. I like to use Genesis 3:15 to discuss this aspect. Here it is from the NKJV (bolded for the point I will discuss):

    And I will put enmity
    Between you and the woman,
    And between your seed and her Seed;
    He shall bruise your head,
    And you shall bruise His heel.

Asking and answering a series of simple questions regarding the bolded referent of "her Seed":

  1. General Referent

    • Did the human author (I believe Moses) mean a descendent of Eve? Yes.
    • Did God mean a descendent of Eve? Yes.
    • Did Adam and Eve understand this as to mean a descendent of Eve? Yes.
    • Did the serpent (I believe Satan) understand this as to mean a descendent of Eve? Yes.
  2. Specific Referent
    • Did God mean Jesus Christ as the specific descendent referred to? Yes.
    • Did the human author mean Jesus Christ as the specific descendent referred to? Not likely. (Though Heb 11:26 makes one wonder just how much Moses knew of the Person of Christ.)
    • Did Adam and Eve understand this to mean Jesus Christ? No.
    • Did the serpent/Satan understand this to mean Jesus Christ? No.
  3. Alluded Details
    • Did the human author mean this descendent would only have a human connection through the mother and not the father, i.e. a virgin birth by divine conception? No.
    • Did God mean a virgin birth by divine conception? Yes.
    • Did Adam and Eve understand this to mean a virgin birth by divine conception? No. (I believe in Gen. 4:1, Eve is showing her belief that her first son was the promised one; and still holding on to that promise in 4:25 when Seth was born, having realized both Cain and Abel were lost to her with respect to God's promise.)
    • Did the serpent/Satan understand this to mean a virgin birth by divine conception? No.

That is my evaluation of the passage and what each author understood at the writing of it, was well as what would have been understood by those hearing it initially. By McCune insisting that: "meaning cannot accrue or develop an expanding afterlife of changing meaning" and "what the human author meant is exactly what God meant" ignores two important points of distinction between the human and divine authors and also the very linguistic principles of language he held as a first principle:

  1. God's omniscience: God can and does know more about any "referent" He refers to than any human author ever could. In the case noted, God certainly was referring intentionally with a vague reference to Jesus Christ using the description of "her Seed" to designate Him. But the human author, who in this case particularly was not present at the speaking of this, and those hearing that statement, only have an understanding of it on that "vague" level. In other words, only on level #1 are all parties on the same plane of knowledge. The verse certainly "means" a descendent of Eve is in view. The question is, did God also intend it to mean specifically who He has in mind and how He intends the promise to be fulfilled, i.e. the virgin born Son, Jesus Christ? Given omniscience (and His sovereignty to plan it out), the answer clearly must be "Yes," which means God means more than the human author understands (and more than what the recipients then are able to understand)—but how does this then relate to univocal nature of the statement? Does it destroy it? No. The second point relates to understanding that.
  2. Divine Authorship: God's authorship of Scripture spans the whole of it, not just Genesis. But Moses' authorship of Scripture is (largely) limited to Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch. Now an author has the linguistic privilege of being vague at one point, and bringing clarity to that vagueness at a later point. Human books do this as well. So there is no issue with a later book of Scripture, written by a different human author, revealing more insight as to what was meant by Genesis 3:15 referent, which is "expanding" the meaning by that divine Author's privilege to do so. The referent itself never changed, but the Author clarifies the meaning of it later in His text, a clarity the human author did not have and did not "intend" in his writing of it, but which the divine Author did "intend" and later clarifies. So if I write now and say "I pet my in-law's dog this morning," I've given you all the information I intend for you to know at the moment. But if 10 years from now, I refer back to this statement, and write to you again and say "what I meant by that was that I gave Dan's dog, a brindle pit-bull, a back rub at about 7:00am," suddenly you have much more insight into what I meant by "pet," "in-law," "dog," and "morning" in the original statement, without that statement losing its original meaning, yet my (the author's!) explanation gives it an expanded meaning.

So the above points relate then to McCune's next statement that I feel needs distinction:

A fourth factor is that the sentences thus constructed mean only what the author intended the words to mean. 

I agree with the statement. But in Genesis 3:15, I maintain that "what the [human] author intended" was only a subset of "what the [divine] author intended," because of God's omniscience and His divine Authorship of the whole text of Scripture, not just a part of it.

Because of the above points, I then have to disagree that ...

“God could mean more but never less than what the human author meant.” 

... is only ...

The dictum of non-dispensational hermeneutics 

... and not, rather, what should be the dictum of any hermeneutic based in the reality of God's knowledge and involvement in the authorship of all of Scripture (as a whole), which would include dispensational hermeneutics.

I do not believe this position:

[1] Would abandon the doctrine of the perspicuity of Scripture. ... [2] This approach then calls for another authority, outside the text being interpreted, to extract the “real” meaning that God intended but of which the human author and his first readers/hearers were oblivious. ... [3] it all is the replacement of the original authorially-intended meaning

Let me address those three points in reverse.

As to #3, the original human author's intended meaning is part of, and included in, God's intended meaning. So the "original authorially-intended meaning" is not replaced.

As to #2, there is not "another authority" involved in clarifying and/or expanding upon the understanding of the text. There is only God Himself, as the continued divine Author of later Scripture (working through other human authors), Who is the Authority helping bring understanding to the 'fuller' meaning (both the original understanding and the expanded understanding are equally "real" meanings, since the expanded meaning contains the lesser).

As to #1, I should start with what my definition of perspicuity is (since McCune's may be different):

The clarity of revelation both to the fact that the words mean what they say, and that the concepts man is most in need of knowing and believing are plainly stated.

Perspicuity cannot mean (and I am not saying McCune holds any of these, but others get confused by the term):

  • That believers will necessarily understand it (else every believer would be in total agreement on all passages and education level would be completely irrelevant)
  • That it is clear in and of itself (else historical studies, language studies, cultural studies, etc. would be completely unnecessary)
  • That it is clear on the major doctrines (else all reasonably educated believers would clearly understand the hypostatic union, election, or any of a host of other rather "major" doctrines that have been discussed for centuries)

So clarity or perspicuity do not relate to "understanding," but to the nature of the text itself. Yet even in my definition, there are still those presuppositional linguistic points that must be considered:

  • Not all the meanings of all the words are necessarily known
  • Not all people can necessarily understand even the plainest statements
  • Not all concepts are equally clear

Lack of specifics in earlier texts, given clarity in later texts by the same author, does not defeat perspicuity.

So to conclude this, I believe a proper dispensational hermeneutic still requires some understandings about expanding of meaning that McCune's definition does not appear to allow for, but never in such a way that eliminates what the less expanded meaning that the human author (and recipients at the time) would have understood.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

alex o.'s picture

You are much more generous with this *given rules of language* I than I am. This idea wants to tie God's hands (so to speak). The addressees at the Genesis judgment were all culpable and not deserving anything at all. Everything we have is a privilege since God is both Creator and Sustainer: "what do you have that was not given to you?"

 Also, how do you take 1Pet.1.11? The human author didn't even know what the content referred to as for timing and person so how could those who heard or read it understand? Trying to determine meaning was an exercise not ever fully mastered which kind of destroys this whole notion of original meaning.

No explicit statement exists that these rules of language were a given in the image of God. Further, the plain reading of scripture doesn't really support one referent. Additionally, the concept doesn't allow for multiperspectives because it doesn't recognize different facets of both persons and concepts.

The last point can be illustrated in that Christ was both the Door and the Shepherd of the sheep. The Spirit is seven-fold. As for concepts: the law functioned in several way such as if anyone kept it perfectly they would gain eternal life (Christ). If people kept it for the most part and had their sins atoned dutifully, "they would live a long time in the land." The law probably worked to give individuals a Rom. 7 type of frustration so they would recognize in the sacrifice the mercy of God. The law was a witness to the nations surrounding Israel of their Wise God. The law worked well to regulate society (the people failed, yes but not the perfect Law). It provided rest for humans and taught them not to be greedy and that God would take care of them (Sabbath, New Moon, Jubilees, etc.). This list is not even exhaustive. All this to say that no one to one correspondence existed. That God gave any disclosure has to be seen as gracious from the beginning.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

ScottS's picture

Sorry Alex, I'm not sure I am understanding your point.

Human language was God made to communicate His will to His creature, so that He could speak to Adam right from creation and Adam would "understand." It is this that I refer to as the rules of language, and which generally we continue to use even as you seek to understand me and I to understand you. Yes, that ability is a "gift" of God and "gracious from the beginning," but a grace I believe is related to Him creating people in His likeness.

Regarding 1 Pet 1:11, you state:

The human author didn't even know what the content referred to as for timing and person so how could those who heard or read it understand

I agree. That is my point, it took further revelation to show that it was Christ and he would suffer by the cross at the time of His crucifixion (God knew this at the writing of the prophecies). But still, what the human author's did understand from their writing was that (1) there was a Messiah (Christ), (2) there were sufferings of the Messiah, and (3) glories that would follow. But they did not know the details, which is what they sought for. So they knew what they wrote (their original meaning), in that they understood things generally, but were seeking more specifically what was meant by God. So 1 Pet 1:11 is a passage I use often to illustrate precisely my point about how inspiration must work.

You state:

the plain reading of scripture doesn't really support one referent

I'm not sure what you are referring to there, or if you speak "generally" yourself. Are you saying there is more than one referent for "her Seed" (in my example)? I would need more clarity on what you mean by that.

When you say...

the concept doesn't allow for multiperspectives because it doesn't recognize different facets of both persons and concepts

...I believe you are referring to the concept of "one referent." If so, I disagree with you. That Christ is both Door and Shepherd does not change that it is Christ that is the "one [Person as] referent." That "the law" had multiple functions does not change that it is the Law that is the "one [conceptual] referent." If this is not what you meant, then please clarify. 

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Rolland McCune's picture

In reply to "Our thinking, not the Bible's"

This heading to the response puts the reader in somewhat of a dilemma of two unmixed categories, the point being that one is trying to say that human language is NOT univocal by making a strong univocal statement to do so. It is a little confusing since both are talking unequivocally to each other while one is classed in the "our" (univocal) group (by  adopting "the system of logic that has evolved over the centuries"). The other is in the "Bible's" (equivocal) group (by adopting "the logical system that the Bible's original authors embraced." And both think he is with the Bible on this! 

To me, that human language is unambiguous in the same usage or connection is axiomatic; it cannot be disproved as true without assuming it is true and using it as such. It is apparently agreed that interpretation must begin with a presupposed linguistic first principle, an authority for which no greater authorization can be given. A truth that is self-sufficient, self-authenticating and self-fulfilling. Call it an axiom if you will. But there is great difference over where that first principle originates. To me it must begin where everything in the universe (all that is not God) began, and that is the God of the Bible, the uncaused, infinite and ultimate Personality through whom all things have their source, support and end. He created man as a person in His image and likeness, a self-conscious, rational and moral language-user. This was for theological purposes of intelligible communication between Himself and His image-bearers and their communication with each other. The Bible is quite clear that this communication was in rational, propositional, univocal truth-statements. This definitely does not appear to me as "the product of (evolving?) Western thought" vis-à-vis "biblical observation."

Another approach would say, for example: "Although we have to start with some broad hermeneutics (like historical and grammatical approaches) we can still observe what we see." The first question that came to mind was the original source of these "broad hermeneutics," i.e., the most primitive rubrics with which one first approaches the message of God in the Bible. These would include finding the means of reciprocal communication with God and with each other. In my view these primitive hermeneutical principles are indigenous to the human personality via the image of God, along the lines of the four principles in my first post.

Therefore I have great difficulty accepting the conclusion that usage of "those (fallible hermeneutical) principles can get us started, but to refuse to hone them based on what we actually observe in Scripture is like …" If by honing them means finding an enlarging afterlife of additional meaning than what the original author intended, I think we have let the allegorical genie out of the bottle. The history of biblical interpretation reveals countless examples, Rabbinic, Roman Catholic, and Protestant, to say nothing of the ics and tics of the nearly omnipresent cults and false religions. This has always led to countless controversies over the use of human language, the present discussion itself having tributaries of monumental consequences that came from the ill-fated communication between Eve and the serpent.

The comparison between an infallible Bible vis-à-vis non-infallible principles of hermeneutics is well-taken, although I don't think the structure is the most apt.  I would frame the matter in terms of correct and incorrect hermeneutical principles without getting into the infallibility issue. The death of Justice Scalia has thrown the fundamentals of human language into bold relief nationally. Like the poor these arguments are always with us because of the various philosophies of human language and their initial starting presuppositions.   

There is an unjustified but perhaps understandable idea that this whole across-the-board issue is answered by appealing to a continuum whose notches run from the univocal nature of meaning of some linguistic interpreters to the extreme opposite, i.e., the equivocal and incoherent ramblings of Humpty Dumpty via Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through the Looking Glass" ("a word means what I say it means").Its just a matter of "different strokes for different folks" in that scenario. While I know of no evangelical on the more extreme end of that hermeneutical proposal, I do believe it is a slippery slope that is worth a warning.

I will respond briefly to the biblical examples of honed meanings that have been proffered. The basic question of each is, e.g., how many locust plagues and Days of the Lord is Joel talking about? Would his first readers/hearers have thought of two Days or two "senses" (meanings?), or as the eschatological DOL?  I take Jer 30:9 as the resurrected David, along with Ezek 34:24-25; Ezek 37: 24-25; Hos 3:5, who will be sort of a viceroy over millennial Israel. I also understand the DOL to be eschatological, composed of a time of great suffering (Tribulation) followed by a period of great bliss and blessing (Millennium), aka "in that day."  Isa 14:1-20 is a little more involved, but I will say that the passage refers to the eschatological king of Babylon (Antichrist) and the energizing power behind him (Satan). (1) No Neo-Babylonian king fits the description, including Belshazzar the last such king.  (2) The context. (vv 1-4) is eschatological, following Israel's millennial kingdom rest and final triumph over her enemies. (3) The Babylon here is eschatological whose king  will be the Antichrist (Rev 13; 17:11-13;; Isa 13:1-14:32), which will fall in the Tribulation Pd. (4) The city will be destroyed by fire in a permanent destruction, not true of the overthrow by Cyrus in 539  BC. (5) This passage parallels Rev 14:8; 16:9, 18. (6) Vv 12-14 seem inappropriate when applied to a human being but better describe an extraordinary creature such as Satan.

I would take the same tack with Isa 7:14. I remember my Hebrew teacher asking of this passage: How many virgins is the prophet talking about here? I see only one, the virgin Mary. The sign must be a gigantic miraculous conception and birth as proffered to but piously rejected by Ahaz (v 11). It could not be Ahaz's wife because Hezekiah was already in early childhood. Isaiah's wife already had a child. However unlikely, one could, in  desperation perhaps, appeal to polygamy and concubinage. But there is no record of a miraculously conceived and birthed son named Immanuel. All is in keeping with Matthew's fulfillment formula (Matt 1:22-23).

Rolland McCune

alex o.'s picture

ScottS wrote:

Sorry Alex, I'm not sure I am understanding your point.

Human language was God made to communicate His will to His creature, so that He could speak to Adam right from creation and Adam would "understand." It is this that I refer to as the rules of language, and which generally we continue to use even as you seek to understand me and I to understand you. Yes, that ability is a "gift" of God and "gracious from the beginning," but a grace I believe is related to Him creating people in His likeness.

Regarding 1 Pet 1:11, you state:

The human author didn't even know what the content referred to as for timing and person so how could those who heard or read it understand

I agree. That is my point, it took further revelation to show that it was Christ and he would suffer by the cross at the time of His crucifixion (God knew this at the writing of the prophecies). But still, what the human author's did understand from their writing was that (1) there was a Messiah (Christ), (2) there were sufferings of the Messiah, and (3) glories that would follow. But they did not know the details, which is what they sought for. So they knew what they wrote (their original meaning), in that they understood things generally, but were seeking more specifically what was meant by God. So 1 Pet 1:11 is a passage I use often to illustrate precisely my point about how inspiration must work.

You state:

the plain reading of scripture doesn't really support one referent

I'm not sure what you are referring to there, or if you speak "generally" yourself. Are you saying there is more than one referent for "her Seed" (in my example)? I would need more clarity on what you mean by that.

When you say...

the concept doesn't allow for multiperspectives because it doesn't recognize different facets of both persons and concepts

...I believe you are referring to the concept of "one referent." If so, I disagree with you. That Christ is both Door and Shepherd does not change that it is Christ that is the "one [Person as] referent." That "the law" had multiple functions does not change that it is the Law that is the "one [conceptual] referent." If this is not what you meant, then please clarify. 

In my thinking Scott, yes language is univocal but God's disclosure doesn't have to be since He is in part concealing information for certain reasons. It would be odd if God were subject to His creation of language. So, I think it best to say and have tried to say, that we are not owed anything as fallen creatures and this includes clarity of disclosure. So, sometimes parables are explained and sometimes not. The cryptic communication can involve such devices as intercalation it seems. Also, an event which portends to a greater event. Word play and code where words can refer to other things than usually what is meant.

Eating Jesus' flesh and drinking His blood meant accepting Him. He used this device on the fickle and freeloading crowd because they became unmanageable and Jesus needed to teach certain things to His disciples and the redemptive agenda needed fulfilling. This was all valid. Jesus owed no one anything except what He decided to do ahead of time. He spoke to them in parables so that seeing, they would not see. God owes no one clarity but does share with His people truths in scripture. We have a relationship with Him now and He sanctifies us through His word.

Before the Fall undoubtedly things were different and noncryptic communication will return in the glorified state. So, my solution to the cryptic devices would be to differentiate relational status of the persons of address.

 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

J. Baillet's picture

Rolland McCune wrote:

I take Jer 30:9 as the resurrected David, along with Ezek 34:24-25; Ezek 37: 24-25; Hos 3:5, who will be sort of a viceroy over millennial Israel.

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he [David], foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up … Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God,…

“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:29-36)(NKJV)(boldface added).

King David, the son of Jesse and the father of Solomon, as a prophet, knew when he was speaking in the first person in Psalm 16:8-11—which Peter had quoted just before speaking at Pentecost as set forth above—that he was referring to himself as the representative head of his royal house, the Davidic dynasty. When God made covenant with David, He said to David, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” II Samuel 7:12-16)(NKJV).

David understood that one of his physical offspring, of the House of David, of the Davidic dynasty, would be the fulfillment of the prophecy that his throne would be established forever, as reflected in his response to God: “Now, O LORD God, the word which You have spoken concerning Your servant and concerning his house, establish it forever and do as You have said. So let Your name be magnified forever, saying, ‘The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel.’ And let the house of Your servant David be established before You. For You, O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant, saying ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found it in his heart to pray this prayer to You.

“And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant. Now therefore, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, that it may continue before You forever; for you, O Lord GOD, have spoken it, and with Your blessing let the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” (II Samuel 7:25-29)(NKJV).

When the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea spoke of David the King, they were not speaking of David the son of Jesse. Rather, they were invoking David as the representative head of his lineage, of his house. This second David, this last David, would be the fulfillment of God’s covenant with David and with his offspring. David knew this. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea knew this. They all knew II Samuel 7. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea knew this would be the King of glory who would reign over a Kingdom of peace and prosperity with justice and righteousness forever and ever—not some sort of a viceroy. David, the son of Jesse, as a viceroy, would not give full effect to the words of these prophets.

All that being said, this does not violate the axiom: “a word can only have one meaning in a usage, or in one and the same connection.” David, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea all meant David’s greater Son. This is the plain, literal reading of their words in context.

JSB

J. Baillet's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

I wonder if  sometimes our hermeneutics are more the product of Western thought than Biblical observation. Although we have to start with some broad hermeneutics (like historical and grammatical approaches) we can still observe what we see.

...

David refers to the King. of that name, but also to the ultimate heir of David who is sometimes called "David," not just the heir of David (Jeremiah 30:9).

We need to remember that it is the Bible that is infallible, not the hermeneutical principles through which the Bible is read and interpreted.  Those principles can get us started, but to refuse to hone them based upon what we actually observe in Scripture is like saying that the ancient Creeds take precedence over Scripture.  The creeds are good summaries (some better than others), but, the Reformers argued, even the creeds are subject to rigorous challenge by the Bible. I would suggest we take the same stance toward hermeneutics.  

Good hermeneutics, therefore, should lead us to adopt the logical system that the Bible's original authors embraced, not the system of logic that has evolved over the centuries.

Well put.  Fully agree.

JSB

Ed Vasicek's picture

Rolland, I appreciate your work. As far as I am concerned, if the entire evangelical world embraced Traditional Dispensationalism and there were no Progressive Dispensationalists, I would be happy.  I do think that Traditional Dispensationalists have most of it right, and the areas in which we disagree are secondary. 

But, since such is not the case, I think Progressive Dispensationalism is not only a better tweaking of the paradigm, but also answers objections raised by Covenant and Replacement Theologies in a fuller way.

Anyhow, I wanted to comment on your comment of my comment on your comment.  :)

1) No Neo-Babylonian king fits the description, including Belshazzar the last such king.  (2) The context. (vv 1-4) is eschatological, following Israel's millennial kingdom rest and final triumph over her enemies. (3) The Babylon here is eschatological whose king  will be the Antichrist (Rev 13; 17:11-13;; Isa 13:1-14:32), which will fall in the Tribulation Pd. (4) The city will be destroyed by fire in a permanent destruction, not true of the overthrow by Cyrus in 539  BC. (5) This passage parallels Rev 14:8; 16:9, 18. (6) Vv 12-14 seem inappropriate when applied to a human being but better describe an extraordinary creature such as Satan.

I do not disagree with you that this prophecy refers to Satan, but I am arguing it refers -- in a less literal way -- to the King of Babylon.  The prophecy is given in the form of poetry.  Its less literal (near) fulfillment is the King of Babylon.  It's far (either back in time, forward in time, or both), more literal fulfillment, refers to Satan.

Other examples of substititution (or a less literal fulfillment near at hand and a more literal fulfillment later) include: The virgin bith (Maher-Shallal Hashbaz near, less literal fulfillment, God With Us later, more literal fulfillment), Elijah's return (John the Baptist less literal near, one of the 2 witnesses the more literal far, Luke 1:17), Jesus anointed by Mary (of Martha and Lazarus fame) and His coronation anointing by the Father in the Millennium (Psalm 2), the Magi for the Kings of the earth (Isaiah 60:6),  Palm Sunday for Jesus’ future coronation, the Mount of Transfiguration for the Millennium then (2 Peter 1:16-18, coming of Jesus, which interprets Matthew 16:28-17:8 as the "Son of Man coming in His Kingdom"), Pentecost for the pouring out of the Spirit on Israel in the Tribulation, and the Cleansing of the Temple as a predictor of the full cleansing (Malachi 3:1-3).

The pattern to me seems clear.  Prophecy, being mostly written in poetry, has a certain flexibility that I wonder if all interpreters appreciate.  We may seek the MORE literal and sometimes LESS literal meanings.  Since no interpreters I have known take poetry with wooden literalism (the trees of the file clap their hands, e.g.,) we may differ in how much flex we have within poetic prophecy. 

When I say that the New Testament writers see a less literal and more literal fulfillment of certain things, I recognize they were authorized to write infallible Scripture, and thus their interpretations must be correct, albeit often partial.  My attempts to rightly divide the Word are fallible, and so is everyone else's. But whatever our hermeneutical system, it must NOT result in our condemnation of the interpretational examples we find within Scripture.

"The Midrash Detective"

ScottS's picture

I think you and I largely agree, though our terminology might be different. You give examples or reasons of what/why you believe God is not bound by "univocal" language:

  • "in part concealing information for certain reasons"
  • "intercalation"
  • "an event which portends to a greater event"
  • "Word play and code where words can refer to other things than usually what is meant" (i.e. "Eating Jesus' flesh and drinking His blood meant accepting Him.")

My contention would be that every example given is still God using univocal language and "God [being] subject to His creation of language." Regarding that last point, God voluntarily binds Himself to many things in His creation. His covenants are a voluntary binding of Himself. So by creating a creature such as humanity with which God designed to communicate with Him by language, it seems God at least chose to make Himself subject to language at the time of creating mankind; however, I think there may be something more profound with respect to pure language than that, as I take Gen 1:26 ("Let us") to be God speaking to the other members of the Trinity, so language was used "before" mankind for communication in the Godhead, and then language was what "created" creation to begin with (Gen 1:3, et. al.; cf. Heb 11:3). So there is likely fundamental rules of language inherent in the very nature of God Himself that He cannot but be subject to them because it is part of who He is.

Nevertheless, back to your example points.

  • "Concealing" of information does not mean that there is but one thing being concealed (i.e. univocal). So concealing and univocality are not mutually exclusive.
  • An "intercalation" still does not, by definition (#2), describe two things, but simple puts a gap between two events.
  • Portending one event by another event is also not breaking univocality. Rather, it is using the first event to become an illustration for the second event. This is related to a human author giving an illustration in order to make an application for another point. Only in God's case, He is able to control historical events in such a way, and then disclose critical points about those events in Scripture, such that the illustration in history/Scripture pictures yet future events He has planned and will later disclose in Scripture. Hence, my view of typology is that it is a confirming point of Scripture, more than a prophetic device; God put types in Scripture, not to prophetically clue in the original readers who would have no idea that God would later develop the historical illustration to be reflective of a future event, but rather to show later readers via the anti-type that the whole of His word is tied together through Him. The anti-type is what reveals the type, which revealing shows that God is the one true God that is in control of history, even to the point of using history to reflect later history. But the original event that is the type still refers to only that event, whereas the later event utilizes the earlier event as a parallel illustration to help the reader gain understanding of the future event.
  • That "words can refer to other things than usually what is meant" is figurative language, but that does not destroy the univocal nature of language. Your example proves the point, for you conclude that "Eating Jesus' flesh and drinking His blood" meant only one thing, the concept of "accepting Him." It did not mean both literally eating/drinking Him and figuratively doing so; nor did it mean both of those things and say a third point of cannibalizing all believers (i.e. those the Bible declares are part of His body), nor say a fourth point of eating and drinking all the animal sacrifices offered to Him in the Old Testament (i.e. the flesh and blood of all animals "owned" by Him via sacrifice). So the statement is referring to a single concept, which concept, I would agree in context, is essentially along the lines of what you stated, that of "accepting Him" (though I would probably phrase it as "choosing to partake in Him," i.e. in His sacrifice).

Thanks for the discussion.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Rolland McCune's picture

ScottS and Others on Expanded Meaning

There appears to be some misunderstanding over the idea of expanding meaning, additional meaning or new meaning of words after they leave the biblical author,  a period of time sometimes called the afterlife of words.  What is meant is that words cannot accrue changed meaning or different meaning than what an author intended and meant in his original use of the words. Otherwise his own, original words and truth-intentions become equivocal so that, for instance, Ezekiel's river of various depths really means the progress from ankle-deep, immature spirituality to deep overwhelming spiritual fullness in the Christian journey (Ezek 47:1-12). Another would see the dimensions, rooms, furniture, et. al., of the prophet's temple as having to do somehow with church architecture.

This is rejected on the basis that language is univocal, i.e., words can only mean one thing or have one signification in a given usage. Words can have but one set of propositional, cognitive values in any given place; they cannot have two or more meanings in the same usage. This is because of the organic oneness between God and the human author due to the divine, miraculous inspiration of Scripture. Indeed, it is the essence of inspiration. This is not "dual authorship" as such but is a "unified authorship" in confluent relationship. Thus it can argued or understood that what an Isaiah wrote God wrote, what he intended God intended,  and what he meant is what God meant, no more nor less. This can be construed as a one-for-one identity of meaning as Paul explained in 1 Cor 2:13: "which [revelatory] words we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words" (NASB).

The unitary authorship produced a single truth-intention in every passage of Scripture with meaning coextensive to the divine and human participants in authorship and in reading/hearing. Without words of univocal meaning human language is incapable of communicating anything coherent. It is axiomatic in that univocal language is a necessity for anyone even to attempt to disprove it. Only this can preserve the stability of human language to communicate divine truth. To deny it is self-defeating leading to incoherence, irrationality and inability to verbalize truth. Ambiguities such as puns and double entendres are effective only because language is stable. An entire language system cannot be constructed on such equivocation without producing sheer nonsense.

 

Correct biblical interpretation conveys the same meaning today that the Bible writers intended when they wrote. Thus "a text cannot mean what it never meant." This identity of meaning prevents one from saying that the human author meant one thing but God meant another, or that God could mean more but never less than the human author. Word univocality also serves as a limiting notion as to what a text can or cannot mean. This does not tie God's hands, making Him less than omnipotent and subjecting the Creator to the creature's logic. It is simply not true that "anything can happen" in God's universe. Can He create white blackbirds and square circles? Make a stone He cannot move? A shorter than a straight line between two points? Or, in Dr. Ryrie's words, cause an atomic explosion to make 2+2=6? No. These are intellectual asininities and not objects of divine power.

Does God's omniscience dictate everything he intends and means in a given proposition? If it does, would this destroy univocal communication from God to man, especially in prophecy and fulfillment type of contexts or any verbal communication to His language-users? I.e., does God therefore always mean more than man does, and can therefore actually change the original truth-intention of a prior statement, promise or prophecy by adding details of information? I think not. Did God personally intend and mean Mary as the referent in the case of Gen 3:15 as the seed of the woman, of which every human author and reader/hearer, say in the time between the serpent (Satan), Eve and Adam, until Joseph, Mary and the crucifixion and ascension of Christ, and a whole lot more, were oblivious? I do not mean or intend such a conclusion to the phrase "enlarged meaning." Further, there are interlocking, interconnecting components of God's knowledge, plan, purposes and actions in connection with Eve's "seed," including His sustaining and controlling every molecule and atom in the universe going back to the simple proposition of Gen 1:1. That would seem to be necessarily included in what God meant in His promise because He knew it all.

I can't quite grasp the enormity of that scenario. All I see in the promise here is someone of the human race--a descendant of Eve--who sometime, somewhere and somehow will deliver a fatal blow to Satan the archenemy of Eve, Adam, all people and Almighty God Himself.  Therefore the bulk of questions asked about Gen 3:15 concerning what information and who knew it and meant it, is not hermeneutically relevant.  This is to say nothing of the role, if any, of the near-infinite amount of implications in all this. And I have only bumped the innards of the sensus plenior issue.

Rolland McCune

Ed Vasicek's picture

I think a word limits a range of meaning.  There is a lot of play in language.  But, I would argue, that meaning can apply in greater or lesser ways to differing (but similar) situations.

For example, "they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced" can refer to those at the cross (John 19:37 quoting Zechariah 12:10), or to the final generation of Jews who mourn in repentance (as in Zechariah).  "They" here refers to a group of people -- genetically connected -- but nonetheless a different group.  One looks in rejection, the other in repentance.  But the words themselves in the quoted passage are limited.  "look" means "look, behold." "Him" doesn't refer to some pierced matzoh, but "him whom they have pierced," the Messiah.

The words all have one range of meaning.  "They" means at least two people, but can mean mliions as well, a broad range but a range.  But the application of the verse can be made to two situations.  And it is this latter part, I think, with which I and some others seem to be in disagreement, unless I have been misunderstanding, which has been known to happen!

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Rolland McCune's picture

Ed:

John's quote of Zech 12:10 in John 19:37 is a good test case of the use of human language in a univocal manner. Unmistakably Zecharia's intended meaning is the "look" of redeeming faith to Messiah by the remnant of Jews at His return to earth at the end of the Tribulation Period. John does appear to resignify the prophet's eschatological scene into the crucifixion of Christ in the 1st century AD, changing both the time and people.

I note that John's immediate context emphasizes, not the spectators' gaze ("look") which was not a look of repentant faith, but the piercing by the soldier's spear (v. 34). So I understand and would argue that John is indicating that the "piercing" was the literal fulfillment of an element of  the prophecy's intended meaning of Zech 12:10.

 

 

 

 

 

Rolland McCune

alex o.'s picture

Rolland McCune wrote:

1. Correct biblical interpretation conveys the same meaning today that the Bible writers intended when they wrote. Thus "a text cannot mean what it never meant." This identity of meaning prevents one from saying that the human author meant one thing but God meant another, or that God could mean more but never less than the human author. Word univocality also serves as a limiting notion as to what a text can or cannot mean. This does not tie God's hands, making Him less than omnipotent and subjecting the Creator to the creature's logic. It is simply not true that "anything can happen" in God's universe. Can He create white blackbirds and square circles? Make a stone He cannot move? A shorter than a straight line between two points? Or, in Dr. Ryrie's words, cause an atomic explosion to make 2+2=6? No. These are intellectual asininities and not objects of divine power.

2. Does God's omniscience dictate everything he intends and means in a given proposition? If it does, would this destroy univocal communication from God to man, especially in prophecy and fulfillment type of contexts or any verbal communication to His language-users? I.e., does God therefore always mean more than man does, and can therefore actually change the original truth-intention of a prior statement, promise or prophecy by adding details of information? I think not. Did God personally intend and mean Mary as the referent in the case of Gen 3:15 as the seed of the woman, of which every human author and reader/hearer, say in the time between the serpent (Satan), Eve and Adam, until Joseph, Mary and the crucifixion and ascension of Christ, and a whole lot more, were oblivious? I do not mean or intend such a conclusion to the phrase "enlarged meaning." Further, there are interlocking, interconnecting components of God's knowledge, plan, purposes and actions in connection with Eve's "seed," including His sustaining and controlling every molecule and atom in the universe going back to the simple proposition of Gen 1:1. That would seem to be necessarily included in what God meant in His promise because He knew it all.

3. I can't quite grasp the enormity of that scenario. All I see in the promise here is someone of the human race--a descendant of Eve--who sometime, somewhere and somehow will deliver a fatal blow to Satan the archenemy of Eve, Adam, all people and Almighty God Himself.  Therefore the bulk of questions asked about Gen 3:15 concerning what information and who knew it and meant it, is not hermeneutically relevant.  This is to say nothing of the role, if any, of the near-infinite amount of implications in all this. And I have only bumped the innards of the sensus plenior issue.

By numbering these paragraphs identifies my response.

1. What if the human author thought he knew what it meant but was wrong? What I mean is they received the revelation but didn't get it in many cases. I will hold closer to Scott's and Ed's position. Of course I am not saying white blackbirds or "anything can happen." This is not my position at all. We are limited in our understanding but God's hands are not tied in His revealing truth.

2. God doesn't tell everything to fallen man for certain reasons. Dr. McCune, could you please clarify what you are saying in #2. Did you leave some word's out? (after "oblivious?"-could you answer your own question for clarity?)

3. It sounds like you don't believe Christ was judging in Gen. 3.15 and seeing everyone in Adam as the two "seeds." It sounds like that Christ did not ordain all history by the statement, or did I misunderstand? Was Mary "the woman?"

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

alex o.'s picture

Rolland McCune wrote:

Ed:

John's quote of Zech 12:10 in John 19:37 is a good test case of the use of human language in a univocal manner. Unmistakably Zecharia's intended meaning is the "look" of redeeming faith to Messiah by the remnant of Jews at His return to earth at the end of the Tribulation Period. John does appear to resignify the prophet's eschatological scene into the crucifixion of Christ in the 1st century AD, changing both the time and people.

I note that John's immediate context emphasizes, not the spectators' gaze ("look") which was not a look of repentant faith, but the piercing by the soldier's spear (v. 34). So I understand and would argue that John is indicating that the "piercing" was the literal fulfillment of an element of  the prophecy's intended meaning of Zech 12:10.

Seeing how you explained this I get what you are saying between these two passages. I really don't see a problem with your explanation. That is how God fulfills sometimes and He is free to do it. I agreed with the number of virgins (one) in the Is. 7.14 passage earlier mentioned. I still think that redemption is the theme of the bible in practical purposes though and hold the accounts before and after as "secret things" (not revealed fully). D.T. and C.T. just don't measure up. One because it includes too much (over analysis) and the other because it adds too much that isn't explicit. 

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Ed Vasicek's picture

Good discussion, all. You guys float my boat.

 

Rolland wrote: can therefore actually change the original
truth-intention of a prior statement, promise or prophecy by adding details
of information? I think not.

Rolland, if you used the word "detract from" rather than change, I would agree.

But change can be an addition, too. So, if that is what you mean,  I do not agree. God cannot reduce the nature of the contents of His promises or prophecies, but He can expand them.  Unless He so limits things (e.g., no one comes to the Father except through Me), He is free to add.  In the parable of the laborers (Matthew 20:1-16), the point of the parable is made: "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’"

Here is my opinion: In the case of Israel, God has promised to exalt her ABOVE the other nations.  Israel, therefore, receives privileges that the other nations do not.  That is a limiting factor.  Yet, in other ways, other types of  God's blessing (individual status and privileges before God) will incorporate both Jew and gentile believers, a mystery (hinted at/not clearly revealed) in the Old Testament but expanded upon n the New.  That aspect of the Kingdom we enjoy now, which includes no distinction between gender, ethnicity, or social status.  But God's promises to Israel stand as originally understood.

Regarding the use of words, I think we agree all good interpretation begins with asking: What was in the mind of the speaker/author?  And, second, how would the ORIGINAL audience have understood it.

But when it comes to prophecy, the original author/speaker is more of a mouthpiece (I Peter 1:10-12).  I would argue that, while God guided the apostles when they wrote their epistles so that every Word was inspired and inerrant, the composition of the epistles required hard exposition of Old Testament texts and sometimes great effort on the part of the authors. This does not seem to be the case with prophecy in general (2 Peter 1:21).

If I am correct, the issue of "what was in the mind of the prophet" might include a sense of mystery and uncertainty, at least at times.  Now as to how the original audience understood things, they certainly understood pieces.  And the words themselves were defined based upon the current definition of the time.  Those definitions cannot be negated.  But God can add or "unlock" the mysteries already present.  

For example, when Moses heard God say, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," Moses would have understood this as identifying Who God is  -- the One true God in Whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had a faith relationship. Moses would NOT have understood this, IMO, as a teaching of the resurrection of the dead.  Yet, in Matthew 22:32, Jesus unlocks a mystery, already present (not added to the verse), that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive.  

Again, as others have pointed out, this might not so much be about the nature of the words, but rather the meaning of a verse.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

alex o.'s picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

For example, when Moses heard God say, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," Moses would have understood this as identifying Who God is  -- the One true God in Whom Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had a faith relationship. Moses would NOT have understood this, IMO, as a teaching of the resurrection of the dead.  Yet, in Matthew 22:32, Jesus unlocks a mystery, already present (not added to the verse), that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive.  

Moses would have understood the resurrection as a side note, a facet of relating to God. Paul said God promised eternal life from the beginning, so I think Moses knew this aspect and looked forward to it himself. Moses was tired at the end of Israel's wanderings and he didn't shrink at all from "being gathered to his people." yet Moses knew he had to solemnly charge Israel and transfer "the Spirit" to Joshua. I believe Moses understood the promise of life and that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were with God and the chosen would be with Him after death. The Sadducees had gotten this wrong and Jesus used the only scripture that they accepted, The Torah, to show that the dead rise.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Rolland McCune's picture

It has been noted, rightfully I fear, that parts of my posts are a tad shy of acceptable perspicuity. This shortfall probably comes from my reading so much of Cornelius Van Til who had a generous portion of the very unique gift of abstruseness, and he exercised it faithfully. I will try to crisply address many lingering questions that have been asked me on this important subject before us. These notes are predicated on the ideas that human language is univocal, that I am fully clothed and in my right mind, and am knowingly attempting to use correctly the univocal principles as applied to the Bible.

1. The perspicuity of Scripture. This means that all the bible is essentially clear although not all is equally clear; the bible is not inherently opaque.  But one surely could not equate, for applicable clarity, the incident of Benaiah and the lion in 2 Sam 23:20-22 with  John 3:16. On the other hand, what is required for salvation and an obedient spiritual life is unmistakably clear.

2. God’s omniscience and what it means in biblical authorship. This understands that God consciously knows everything, simultaneously and eternally, including all possibilities, in one indivisible instant of eternal intuition. This does not dictate that all  He knows, i.e., His  omniscience, is packed into the intent and meaning of His verbal disclosures to human beings. This would result in an infinite disjunction between God and the human author in every case, destroying the organic/confluent relationship between the two via inspiration. E.g., I don’t think that God meant the virgin Mary in the context of Gen 3:15, and that everyone else until the time of Matthew had no clue it was she. Nor did they know all that God knew it would take to get to her. Therefore, I conclude that by equating God’s omniscience with His intended meaning no one in the Garden actually even began to know what God meant in the Garden. Later, supplemental revelation does not change the meaning of His original words. The virgin in the NT is the same “woman” as in Genesis; the word “woman” has not changed its meaning in the NT, nor has it morphed into something else.  

3. Daniel didn’t understand his prophecies: 12:8-13  Daniel is not saying his own prophecies were unintelligible. He wanted to know the “outcome” of them (v. 8). He and his first hearers knew what they meant. Here the prophet wanted more details, i.e., supplemental revelation, to give further understanding. A rule of OT prophetism is that a true prophet had a conviction that he knew when was delivering a message from Yahweh and what that message meant. A Yahweh prophet was liable to execution if he falsified or disobeyed his message in any way (1 Kgs 24:1-32). Unlike pagan prophets, Yahweh prophets were not out of their minds; they were in control of their mental capacities. Details often came in later (enlarged if you wish) revelation, and Daniel wanted some of it right then. But he was instructed to seal his prophecies and thereby issue a certified document that others will read and increase their knowledge (v. 4). Meanwhile he himself was given a few more details but basically told to die and rest in Sheol until the eschaton (v. 13).

4. Is a pretrib rapture essential to dispensationalism?  To be consistent with the 3-fold sine qua non, yes. This is why, IMO, progressive dispensationalism with its rejection of essentialist dispensationalism can’t agree on the pretrib issue. One can’t disagree with the theological/political/ethnic difference between Israel and the church and be a futurist pretrib  premillennialist.  To me a premillennial posttribulational dispensationalist is a white blackbird, a total anomaly. I’ve never accused a “historic premillennialist,” such as J. Barton Payne, George E. Ladd and Clarence Bass, of being a dispensationalist.

5. A word’s range of meaning. Nearly all words have a semantic range of meaning. This comprises the possible meanings that arise through lengthy usage and are currently available to an author. An author normally uses a synonym for the word to avoid misunderstanding or monotony. Fortunately semantic ranges are usually small; rarely has a word been known to have a 180 degree range, but not impossible, even in the bible. Hermeneutically, only one of the possibilities must be chosen to convey an author’s intent, and its meaning accompanies the word in the same connections later in its usage. One cannot load a word with its semantic range and thus expound it. (I’ve heard the word logos in John 1:1-4 expounded as meaning every word within its semantic range.) Nor can another word within the range be used as a substitute if it will change the original meaning. E.g., one can legitimately use the word “female” for woman in Gen 3:15, but the “virgin Mary” violates the unified authorial intent. The authorship of Hos 11:1 had no other intent, meaning or referent than the Exodus from Egypt. Whatever application that God and Matthew were making in Matt 2:15, it was not to resignify Hosea into two flights from Egypt—a near and a far fulfillment and the like. Language will not bear that much semantic weight.

Rolland McCune

Aaron Blumer's picture

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For what it's worth it's all clear to me... 

The only point I wrestle a bit with is Daniel's understanding. It's possible to interpret Daniel's behavior and statements as meaning he got a chunk of revelation he didn't comprehend yet still fully embrace the fact that language, including biblical language, is univocal. Some have extracted too much from the premise that prophets might have occasionally missed the meaning of some aspects of their own visions.

To me, an important distinction is that a prophet who says "I had this vision, and here's what was in it" speaks univocally in reference to what's in the vision though he does not have to fully understand the vision. This is not the same thing as a prophet speaking as himself, but in an inspired capacity, and "not knowing the real meaning of what he was saying." I don't think that ever happened.

So maybe I'm trying to have my cake and eat it too, but I see a major difference between how prophets speak when revealing the meaning of visions and preaching etc. vs. how they speak when describing visions and reporting their own state of incomplete understanding.

The problem with the way some talk about double and triple meanings in OT prophets is that what are we then going to do with the writings of the apostles? Why should the rules be different for them? So if OT prophet A meant more than he meant, why don't Peter and Paul have lots of hidden meanings as well? Consistency on this point would lead to something toxic like Webb's "redemptive trajectory" hermeneutic.

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.

Rolland McCune's picture

Aaron:

What you say is very clear to me, and I agree. This was a very interesting and informative thread, a univocal "afterlife" that exceeded all  expectations.

Rolland McCune

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron,  the idea of possible double/triple meanings and fulfillment is not so much a matter of meanings but APPLICATIONS and EXTENT.  For example, the furniture in the Tabernacle had one literal meaning, but also a spiritual application as a shadow of things to come (Hebrews 10:1).  The same is true with the feasts, etc.  The Day of the Lord is a time of wrath that showed itself in a locust plague but more fully in the Tribulaiton.  Jesus was recognized as King by only the Palm Sunday crowd, but one day the entire world will recognize Him.  Elijah came, according to Jesus (Matthew 11:14), as John the Baptist.  If you believe this fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6 then you are done.  If you agree that (John 1:21) John is not Elijah, then you must harmonize it as the angel in Luke does (Luke 1:17), and, like me, you are expecting his return, perhaps as one of the two witnesses.

Prophecy is distinct from all other genres, especially the epistles.  As I mentioned before -- and I think we need to take note of this -- prophetic utterance is generally given in poetry.   By nature, poetry is less literal.  Visions report what is seen, as in Revelation.  These genres --poetry and apocalyptic -- are intentionally more tenuous.  The prophets understood what the vision they saw looked like, and the prophets understood the meaning of the individual words they used -- and, I think, very often, understood their significance.  But not always.  Not only did John not understand all the symbolism of Revelation, we still don't -- not for sure.  Ezekiel understood He saw wheels within wheels, but did he understand the significance of it all?  Do we understand it all with complete confidence?

My challenge is to examine how the Scriptures use the Scriptures, not the western-style approach we seem to be taking.

Rolland, I really appreciate your article.  You are a man of the Word and I recognize that I might be wrong and you might be right on these matters.  Still, I want to express my take on things. I hope you find this a good exercise for yourself as you hone your skills in dealing with a Progressive Dispensationalist of sorts (me).  I find this a sharpening in my thinking, too, which is the point of Sharper Iron!

Anyhow, I understand your concern that many Progressives are not Pretrib, although many are (like mystelf).  It is true that Progressive Dispensationalism accommodates a variety of positions relating to the timing of the rapture.  But a point I would make is that God's faithfulness and hesed (steadfast love) to Israel is very clear and obvious in Scripture (Jeremiah 31:35-36).  The Rapture, on the other hand, is much more ambiguous as to its timing (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, fore example, could easily be understood to suggest that believers will see the rise of the antichrist before the rapture; I don't agree with that view, but can understand how some would see it otherwise). 

In essence, your approach -- bundling dispensationalism with the pretrib rapture --  is perhaps one of the reasons some have abandoned any form of dispensationalism.  Historically, the church's refusal to recognize God's faithfulness to Israel  can readily be explained by the strong Anti-Semitism in the church in even the early second century.  I believe this is, in fact, what happened.   But there is no such historical explanation for the rarity of a pre-trib rapture view.  Unfortunately, the trend today is to weigh history too heavily and the Bible not heavily enough.  [ IMO, the evangelical world has moved from a passion to reclaim the original intent of the New Testament to, instead, reclaim the original beliefs of the Reformers with a few modifications (not many Calvinists today, for example, want to only sing Psalms non-instrumental).  But they want the Reformer's theological systems and are not longer challenging them with an openness to the Scriptures, but, instead, are defending them. from a deductive method. The inductive is out  That's my take.]

So when people question the pretrib rapture, they feel they have to also question God's (hesed) faithful- love commitment to Israel. Covenant theology is the newly returned fad du jour in the evangelical world, and there you have it.  

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Don Johnson's picture

Thanks Dr. McCune and Aaron for the comments on Daniel. That is helpful.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

alex o.'s picture

Rolland McCune wrote:

It has been noted, rightfully I fear, that parts of my posts are a tad shy of acceptable perspicuity. This shortfall probably comes from my reading so much of Cornelius Van Til who had a generous portion of the very unique gift of abstruseness, and he exercised it faithfully. I will try to crisply address many lingering questions that have been asked me on this important subject before us. These notes are predicated on the ideas that human language is univocal, that I am fully clothed and in my right mind, and am knowingly attempting to use correctly the univocal principles as applied to the Bible.

1. The perspicuity of Scripture. This means that all the bible is essentially clear although not all is equally clear; the bible is not inherently opaque.  But one surely could not equate, for applicable clarity, the incident of Benaiah and the lion in 2 Sam 23:20-22 with  John 3:16. On the other hand, what is required for salvation and an obedient spiritual life is unmistakably clear.

2. God's omniscience and what it means in biblical authorship. This understands that God consciously knows everything, simultaneously and eternally, including all possibilities, in one indivisible instant of eternal intuition. This does not dictate that all  He knows, i.e., His  omniscience, is packed into the intent and meaning of His verbal disclosures to human beings. This would result in an infinite disjunction between God and the human author in every case, destroying the organic/confluent relationship between the two via inspiration. E.g., I don't think that God meant the virgin Mary in the context of Gen 3:15, and that everyone else until the time of Matthew had no clue it was she. Nor did they know all that God knew it would take to get to her. Therefore, I conclude that by equating God's omniscience with His intended meaning no one in the Garden actually even began to know what God meant in the Garden. Later, supplemental revelation does not change the meaning of His original words. The virgin in the NT is the same "woman" as in Genesis; the word "woman" has not changed its meaning in the NT, nor has it morphed into something else.  

3. Daniel didn't understand his prophecies: 12:8-13  Daniel is not saying his own prophecies were unintelligible. He wanted to know the "outcome" of them (v. 8). He and his first hearers knew what they meant. Here the prophet wanted more details, i.e., supplemental revelation, to give further understanding. A rule of OT prophetism is that a true prophet had a conviction that he knew when was delivering a message from Yahweh and what that message meant. A Yahweh prophet was liable to execution if he falsified or disobeyed his message in any way (1 Kgs 24:1-32). Unlike pagan prophets, Yahweh prophets were not out of their minds; they were in control of their mental capacities. Details often came in later (enlarged if you wish) revelation, and Daniel wanted some of it right then. But he was instructed to seal his prophecies and thereby issue a certified document that others will read and increase their knowledge (v. 4). Meanwhile he himself was given a few more details but basically told to die and rest in Sheol until the eschaton (v. 13).

4. Is a pretrib rapture essential to dispensationalism?  To be consistent with the 3-fold sine qua non, yes. This is why, IMO, progressive dispensationalism with its rejection of essentialist dispensationalism can't agree on the pretrib issue. One can't disagree with the theological/political/ethnic difference between Israel and the church and be a futurist pretrib  premillennialist.  To me a premillennial posttribulational dispensationalist is a white blackbird, a total anomaly. I've never accused a "historic premillennialist," such as J. Barton Payne, George E. Ladd and Clarence Bass, of being a dispensationalist.

5. A word's range of meaning. Nearly all words have a semantic range of meaning. This comprises the possible meanings that arise through lengthy usage and are currently available to an author. An author normally uses a synonym for the word to avoid misunderstanding or monotony. Fortunately semantic ranges are usually small; rarely has a word been known to have a 180 degree range, but not impossible, even in the bible. Hermeneutically, only one of the possibilities must be chosen to convey an author's intent, and its meaning accompanies the word in the same connections later in its usage. One cannot load a word with its semantic range and thus expound it. (I've heard the word logos in John 1:1-4 expounded as meaning every word within its semantic range.) Nor can another word within the range be used as a substitute if it will change the original meaning. E.g., one can legitimately use the word "female" for woman in Gen 3:15, but the "virgin Mary" violates the unified authorial intent. The authorship of Hos 11:1 had no other intent, meaning or referent than the Exodus from Egypt. Whatever application that God and Matthew were making in Matt 2:15, it was not to resignify Hosea into two flights from Egypt--a near and a far fulfillment and the like. Language will not bear that much semantic weight.

It is clear what you are saying, and I agree for the most part. Specifically, #5 when speaking of Hosea's "fulfillment", that was the *the one fulfillment* when Jesus came out of Egypt. God taking Israel out of Egypt was a *type*. Sailhamer says Hosea was reading Balaam's prophecies which spoke of the Messiah in 11.1. So sometimes its hard to figure out how much and what exactly the prophet knew with much certainty.

The Abomination of Desolation was a *type* (or shadow, symbol, sign) when Antiochus Epiphanes did it in 168 BCE. Jesus told the disciples to watch for the fulfillment and then vacate Jerusalem when they see it in the future just before His return.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

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