Forty Reasons for Not Reinterpreting the OT by the NT: The Last Twenty

Read the first twenty.

21. Saying the NT must reinterpret the OT also devalues the OT as its own witness to God and His Plans. For example, if the promises given to ethnic Israel of land, throne, temple, etc. are somehow “fulfilled” in Jesus and the Church, what was the point of speaking about them so pointedly? Cramming everything into Christ not only destroys the clarity and unity of Scripture in the ways already mentioned, it reduces the biblical covenants d own to the debated promise of Genesis 3:15. The [true] expansion seen in the covenants (with all their categorical statements) is deflated into a single sound-bite of “the Promised Seed-Redeemer has now come and all is fulfilled in Him.” This casts aspersions on God as a communicator and as a covenant-Maker, since there was absolutely no need for God to say many of the things He said in the OT, let alone bind himself by oaths to fulfill them (a la Jer. 31 & 33. Four covenants are cited in Jer. 33; three in Ezek. 37).

22. It forces one to adopt a “promise – fulfillment” scheme between the Testaments, ignoring the fact that the OT possesses no such promise scheme, but rather a more relational “covenant – blessing” scheme.

23. It effectively shoves aside the hermeneutical import of the inspired inter-textual usage of an earlier OT text by later OT writers (e.g. earlier covenants are cited and taken to mean what they say in Psa. 89:33-37; 105:6-12; 106:30-31: 132:11-12; Jer. 33:17-18, 20-22, 25-26; Ezek. 37:14, 21-26). God is always taken at face value (e.g. 2 Ki. 1:3-4, 16-17; 5:10, 14; Dan. 9:2, 13). This sets up an expectation that covenant commitments will find “fulfillment” in expected ways, certainly not in completely unforeseeable ones.

24. It forces clear descriptive language into an unnecessary semantic mold (e.g. Ezek. 40-48; Zech. 14). A classic example being Ezekiel’s Temple in Ezek. 40ff. According to the view that the NT reinterprets the Old, it is not a physical temple even though scholars across every spectrum declare that a physical temple is clearly described.

25. It impels a simplistic and overly dependent reliance on the confused and confusing genre labeled “apocalyptic” – a genre about which there is no scholarly definitional consensus.

26. It would make the specific wording of the covenant oaths, which God took for man’s benefit, misleading and hence unreliable as a witness to God’s intentions. This sets a poor precedent for people making covenants and not sticking to what they actually promise to do (e.g. Jer. 34:18; cf. 33:15ff. and 35:13-16). This encourages theological nominalism, wherein God’s oath can be altered just because He says it can.

27. Since interpreters in the OT (Psa. 105:6-12); NT (Acts 1:6); and the inter-testamental period (e.g. Tobit 14:4-7) took the covenant promises at face value (i.e. to correspond precisely to the people and things they explicitly refer to), this would mean God’s testimony to Himself and His works in those promises, which God knew would be interpreted that way, was calculated to deceive the saints. Hence, a “pious transformation” of OT covenant terms through certain interpretations of NT texts backfires by giving ammunition to those who cast aspersions on the God of the OT.

28. The character of any being, be it man or angel, but especially God, is bound to the words agreed to in a covenant (cf. Jer. 33:14, 24-26; 34:18). This being so, God could not make such covenants and then perform them in a way totally foreign to the plain wording of the oaths He took; at least not without it testifying against His own holy veracious character. Hence, not even God could “expand” His promises in a fashion that would lead literally thousands of saints to be misled by them.

29. A God who would “expand” His promises in such an unanticipated way could never be trusted not to “transform” His promises to us in the Gospel. Thus, there might be a difference between the Gospel message as we preach it (relying on the face value language of say Jn. 3:16; 5:24; Rom. 3:23-26), and God’s real intentions when He eventually “fulfills” the promises in the Gospel. Since it is thought that He did so in the past, it is conceivable that He might do so again in the future. Perhaps the promises to the Church will be “fulfilled” in totally unexpected ways with a people other than the Church, the Church being just a shadow of a future reality?

30. Exegetically it would entail taking passages in both Testaments literally and non-literally at the same time (e.g. Isa. 9:6-7; 49:6; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 9:9; Lk. 1:31-33; Rev. 7).

31. Exegetically it would also impose structural discontinuities into prophetic books (e.g. God’s glory departs a literal temple by the east gate in Ezekiel 10, but apparently returns to a spiritual temple through a spiritual east gate in Ezekiel 43!).

32. In addition, it makes the Creator of language the greatest rambler in all literature. Why did God not just tell the prophet, “When the Messiah comes He will be the Temple and all those in Him will be called the Temple”? That would have saved thousands of misleading words at the end of Ezekiel.

33. It ignores the life-setting of the disciples’ question in Acts 1:6 in the context of their already having had forty days teaching about the very thing they asked about (“the kingdom” – see Acts 1:3). This reflects badly on the clarity of the Risen Lord’s teaching about the kingdom. But the tenacity with which these disciples still clung to literal fulfillments would also prove the validity of #’s 23, 26, 27, 28 & 32 above.

34. This resistance to the clear expectation of the disciples also ignores the question of the disciples, which was about the timing of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel, not its nature.

35. It turns the admonition to “keep” the words of the prophecy in Revelation 1:3 into an absurdity, because the straight forward, non-symbolic understanding of the numbers (7, 42, 144000, 1260, 1000, etc) and persons and places (twelve tribes of Israel, the Two Witnesses, the Beast and False Prophet, Jerusalem, Babylon, New Jerusalem, etc.), which is in large part built upon the plain sense of the OT is rejected in favor of tentative symbolic/typological interpretations. But how many people can “keep” what they are uncertain is being “revealed”?

36. It makes the unwarranted assumption that there can only be one people of God. Since the OT speaks of Israel and the nations (e.g. Zech. 14:16f.); Paul speaks of Israel and the Church (e.g. Rom. 11:25, 28; Gal. 6:16; 1 Cor. 10:32; cf. Acts 26:7), and the Book of Revelation speaks of Israel separated from the nations (Rev. 7), and those in New Jerusalem distinguished from “the kings of the earth” (Rev. 21:9-22:5), it seems precarious to place every saved person from all ages into the Church.

37. In reality what happens is that the theological presuppositions of the interpreter are read into the NT text and then back into the OT. There is a corresponding breakdown between what the biblical texts say and what they are presumed to mean. Thus, it is the interpretation of the reader and not the wording of the biblical text which is often the authority for what the Bible is allowed to teach.

38. This view also results in pitting NT authors against themselves. E.g. if “spiritual resurrection” is read into Jn. 5:25 on the rather flimsy basis of an allusion to Dan. 12:1-2, that interpretation can then be foisted on Rev. 20:4-6 to make John refer to a spiritual resurrection in that place too. Again, if Jesus is said to refer to His physical body as “this temple” in Jn.2:19, then He is not allowed to refer to a physical temple building in Rev. 11:1-2. This looks like what might be called “textual preferencing.”

39. This view, which espouses a God who prevaricates in the promises and covenants He makes, also tempts its adherents to adopt equivocation themselves when they are asked to expound OT covenantal language in its original context. It often tempts them to avoid specific OT passages whose particulars are hard to interpret in light of their supposed fulfillment in the NT. What is more, it makes one overly sensitive to words like “literal” and “replacement,” even though these words are used freely when not discussing matters germane to this subject.

40. Finally, there is no critical awareness of many of the problems enumerated above because that awareness is provided by the OT texts and the specific wording of those texts. But, of course, the OT is not allowed a voice on par with what the NT text is assumed to make it mean. Only verses which preserve the desired theological picture are allowed to mean what they say. Hence a vicious circle is created of the NT reinterpreting the Old. This is a hermeneutical circle which ought not to be presupposed because it results in two-thirds of the Bible being effectively quieted until the NT has reinterpreted what it really meant.

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There are 58 Comments

G. N. Barkman's picture

While respecting Dr. Henebury's perspective, I disagree with this article for a variety of reasons.  I don't think it's possible to list enough reasons to deny the obvious, namely that we not only can, but must utilize the New Testament to correctly interpret the Old.  To deny this is to say that the OT must be interpreted without benefit of the New.  That elevates the OT above the NT, the exact reverse of what Dr. Henebury decries about using the NT to augment our interpretation of the OT.

There are so many examples of why the OT must be interpreted in light of the NT that I scarcely know where to begin.  Does anything believe that OT saints understood Psalm 22 to be describing exact and graphic details about the crucifixion of Christ without benefit of NT fulfillment?  There is so much in the OT that is vague and mysterious until clarified in light of the NT.

I think Dr. Henebury puts too much emphasis upon the concept of "reinterpreting."  Perhaps it would be best to simply say "interpreting."  Reinterpreting supposes that one's interpretation ought to be established from the OT without benefit of the NT.  Then having locked in an interpretation based upon partial revelation, that interpretation must not be questioned, altered, or revisited in any manner in light of the New Testament.  That simply won't work for me.  I need all the revelation of God upon which to base my interpretation of any portion of sacred Scripture.

G. N. Barkman

pvawter's picture

Interesting. I've been preaching through the psalms for about 2 years now, and I'm getting close to finishing Book 2. This Sunday, I'll be preaching the 69th psalm which is quoted or alluded to in more than half a dozen NT texts, but you'd have to work pretty hard to prove that the NT readings are the primary interpretations. The psalm is a unified whole which speaks with one strong voice, not a collection of disconnected prophetic references.

Consider Psalm 69:25 as an example. It is used by Jesus in Matthew 23:38 as a lament for the city of Jerusalem for rejecting Christ. But it is also used by Peter in Acts 1:20 to explain the necessity to replace Judas. Which of these is the real interpretation? Neither. The real meaning is found in the context of psalm 69 where David is praying an imprecation against those who have hated him unjustly and sought to destroy him. The Lord and Peter both made use of David's imprecation by applying it to their own circumstances.

Interpreting the psalm in this way does no violence to either testament. David's voice is heard loud and clear, without obscuring our Lord's or Peter's use of this verse.

At the same time, when I have the opportunity, I try to find another sermon from the psalm I am preaching once I have written my manuscript. This gives me a chance to see how someone else handles the text. In my observation, when I download a message from a Presbyterian brother, I hear no exposition of the psalm as he runs to tell me of Christ, using some verse from the psalm as a jumping off point. I keep waiting for the covenant theologian's exposition, but I am usually disappointed.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Clearly not every NT use of an OT text will significantly shape an enlarged understanding.  The examples cited above are good choices to demonstrate your point.  But what about Psalm 22 that I cited above?  How would you understand that text as nothing more than a description of David's suffering?  How do you understand it after you consider the NT descriptions of the crucifixion?

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

Don't have time to say much but first, David was a prophet.  Second, though there are some figures of speech ('bulls of Bashan) in the Psalm noting is typological.  Three, nothing requires a spiritualizing or (re)interpretation of the salient parts of the psalm to make it "fit" a preconceived NT theology.   

Further, although you did provide a fine statement of your position you failed to actually interact with anything I wrote.  

God bless,

 

PH 

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

pvawter's picture

I didn't cherry pick that example. It just happens to be in the passage I'm studying this week. As far as Psalm 22 is concerned, I'll have to look at my notes from when I preached it in January of 2016 and get back to you.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Hmmm.  So we ought to avoid using the NT to examine our interpretation of the OT in order to protect a pre-conceived OT Theology at all costs?   I thought we ought to be constantly examining and re-examining all theologies in as we grow in grace and knowledge.

 

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Brother Barkman, It seems to me that there are still the same unanswered questions that we have had all along and perhaps this will end where the other attempts have, but let me point out a few.

You say,  "we not only can, but must utilize the New Testament to correctly interpret the Old." This raises several questions.

First, how can you be sure you are interpreting the NT correctly? What do you not know that would change how you read the NT? How you say we should interpret the NT is how we say we should interpret the whole Bible. But if you can't interpret the OT using the same methodology/hermeneutic that you interpret the NT, why not? If it is not reliable for the OT, then why would it be reliable for the NT? And if it is reliable for the NT, then why not for the OT?

How are we not to conclude that Jesus was wrong when he told the Pharisees or the men on the road to Emmaus that they could have properly interpreted the OT? In fact, he called them foolish and slow of heart because they didn't believe the OT on its own terms. They didn't even have the NT yet and yet they were held responsible to read and understand the OT. Yet you say we cannot do that, indeed, must not do that. So Jesus seems to believe that the OT was intelligible on its own without the NT. Why do you disagree?

We have to admit that some of how the NT uses the OT isn't interpretation at all. So how can we follow that? 

There are so many examples of why the OT must be interpreted in light of the NT that I scarcely know where to begin.  Does anything believe that OT saints understood Psalm 22 to be describing exact and graphic details about the crucifixion of Christ without benefit of NT fulfillment?  There is so much in the OT that is vague and mysterious until clarified in light of the NT.

Perhaps you could begin by giving some of these examples. You offer Psalm 22. Does anyone argue that an OT saint should have or would have understood "exact and graphic details about the crucifixion of Christ" from Psalm 22? That seems a straw man, a kind of hyperbole that clouds the real issue. I have never seen anyone say that, but perhaps I have missed it. I don't think anyone argues that the OT is complete revelation or that the OT is the final revelation. Not even the NT is complete or final. There will surely be more in the eschaton. 

 Then having locked in an interpretation based upon partial revelation, that interpretation must not be questioned, altered, or revisited in any manner in light of the New Testament.  That simply won't work for me.

Again, does anyone say this? 

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Larry,

You are correct.  We are, in fact, returning to the same issues discussed and unresolved previously because Dr. Henebury's two articles targeted those issues.  I'm not sure how to answer your questions, "Does anyone say this?"  My reading of Dr. Henebury concludes that he is saying that we must lock in our OT interpretations and never allow the NT to alter our previous understanding.  You are essentially saying the same thing by your reference to Christ's words on the road to Emmaus.  The fact is, we have a difficult time finding anyone in the NT who understood OT prophecies correctly until further enlightened by NT revelation.  That is what Jesus did on the Emmaus road.  How do I know my NT interpretations are absolutely correct?  I don't, anymore than you know your OT interpretations are absolutely correct.  We interpret the best we are able, recognize that we are not infallible, and continue to sift and evaluate all interpretations as we improve our understanding of Scripture.

"Does anybody say this?"  I presume you are looking for citations from the writings of others.  I am not interested in what others say at this point.  I am only interested in answering Dr. Henbury's defense of interpreting the OT without benefit of the NT.  I am giving my own evaluation and response without reference to what others have said.  Dr. Henebury states that I failed to interact with what he has written.  That is true, if he means taking one or more of his 40 reasons and answering them specifically.  Instead, I have answered the general premise, which I believe is flawed.  If the premise is flawed, the details are of little consequence.  An additional forty reasons are insufficient to deny the obvious, which is that we should use all Scripture to interpret any Scripture.  Psalm 22, since it's not a particularly controversial passage, should serve the situation well.  What does Psalm 22 mean apart from the NT?  Could an OT saint be expected to see the details of Messiah's crucifixion in that Psalm?  If not, Dr. Henebury's theory, and your Emmaus Road conclusion fall short.  We need all Scripture to inform our understanding of any Scripture.

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

You say, "My reading of Dr. Henebury concludes that he is saying that we must lock in our OT interpretations and never allow the NT to alter our previous understanding." 

In my Intro I said: "I believe, of course, that the NT does throw much light upon the OT text. But it never imposes itself upon the OT in such a way as to essentially treat it as a sort of palimpsest over which an improved NT message must be inscribed. By way of illustration, there are huge ramifications in making a dubious allusion in John 7:38 to Zechariah 14:8 a basis for a doctrine of the expansion of the spiritual temple over the face of the earth. Such a questionable judgment essentially evaporates huge amounts of OT material from, e.g., Numbers 25; Psalm 106; Isaiah 2, 33, 49; Jeremiah 30-33; Ezekiel 34, 36-37, 40-48; Amos 9; Micah 4-5; Zephaniah 3; Zechariah 2, 6, 8, 12-14; and Malachi 3, as well as all those other passages which intersect with them. I believe that the cost is too high as well as quite unnecessary."

More to say, but someone isn't reading closely enough.

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

Paul Henebury's picture

Psalm 22 includes a prophecy about the sufferings of Christ.  The NT adds revelation in line with true progressive revelation to this effect.  But the NT does not alter the meaning of the words in Psalm 22.  Bones are bones, garments are garments, etc.  Along the same lines one might point to Acts 8:34-35.

But this is not the procedure you advocate.  You advocate for example, in line with your understanding of the NT, that OT covenants do not mean what they appear to say.  Hence, the land of Gen. 15:18 which is given to a geo-political entity,Israel, is reinterpreted (that is the right word) to mean either heaven or the whole world given to the non-geo-political entity, the church.  On what basis?  A false non-contextual reading of Romans 4:13.  This clashes with the expectation of the disciples in Acts 1:6, asked after Jesus had been instructing them about the kingdom (Acts 1:3).  How is this clear hermeneutical continuity reinterpreted?  By reading into Jesus' answer in Acts 1:7 to mean something He plainly did not say, that is, that the disciples were mistaken about the nature of the kingdom.

You see brother, I (we) are not against the progressive revelation given in the NT.  We are against a system of interpretation which makes the OT (and in particular God's solemn oaths) mean something quite other than what the plain words say because of the way the NT is being (mis)interpreted.  

In order to defend your position you must do a lot more than simply reassert your dogma.  You must see that we are locating the problem in your interpretation of the NT and the assumptions which are leading you (and others of course) to these wrong views.

P.S. I deal with some of the issues here   

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

G. N. Barkman's picture

Larry,

Christ's encounter with the disciples on the Emmaus Road does not support the assertion that OT saints were expected to understand the prophecies about Christ prior to His resurrection. Christ called them "fools and slow of heart to believe" only after the resurrection.  Before the resurrection, we read language like this, "For as yet they did not know the Scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead."  I find no scolding prior to the resurrection for their failure to understand.  Evidently, Jesus knew that these OT prophecies which seem clear enough to us, were not sufficiently clear to them.

Only after the additional light of NT revelation clarified the OT were they expected to understand and upbraided for their failure.  It was precisely the addition of NT revelation which gave the necessary clarity to the OT.  That's my point, which is, apparently, Jesus point as well.

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

I think you may be overstating your case about the OT saints (i.e. before Pentecost) not understanding. You seem to assume they couldn't have known, or that is wasn't clear. I take the explanations (e.g. "For as yet they did not know the Scripture . . .") as negative editorial comments by the Gospel writers. That is, they should have known, but they didn't.

There are numerous passages in Luke's Gospel (twice in ch. 9 and once in ch. 18, I believe). where Luke remarks that the truth "was hid from them" after Jesus prophesied His own death. When you look at the commentaries, folks are divided over whether this is (1) Satan's doing (i.e. "blinding them"); (2) their own folly and misinterpretation (i.e. they didn't believe because they couldn't accept the idea of Messiah dying, due to their preconceived ideas), or (3) due to God. I, obviously, shade towards option #2.

Actually, in Lk 18 (as He neared Jerusalem), Jesus specifically said everything written in the Scriptures about His arrest, torture and execution was about to be fulfilled. This means it's all there in the OT. The disciples appear to bear some real responsibility for their ignorance.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

G. N. Barkman's picture

Tyler,

Thanks for your response.  I think we must separate "couldn't have known" from "that it wasn't clear."   Could they have known?  Yes, if....   Here we get into speculation.  We don't know why they didn't understand, but the indications point to a failure on the part of the Holy Spirit to make it clear to them.  So yes, they could have known if they had understood what they were reading.  But no, they didn't know because God did not make it clear to them.  Be that as it may, my observation is that there is no specific rebuke given because of their lack of understanding until after the resurrection.  You read the statement, "For as yet they did know know the Scripture..." as a negative editorial, which is possible, though far from certain.  But even granting that possibility, no rebuke is given.  When Christ rebuked them on the Emmaus Road, we are not left to wonder if He intended His words to be a rebuke.  No question about it. 

Why no rebuke prior to the resurrection?  We are not told, but to say that they should have known, when no rebuke is given, is going beyond the clear statements of Scripture.  I would expect those with a DT perspective to say this because their theory seems to depend heavily upon it.  But only after the resurrection are we specifically told that they should have known.  Prior to that, we can only read into the situation what we may be inclined to believe.  It was after clear NT revelation was given, and they failed to apply that revelation to the OT Scriptures that Jesus issued a strong rebuke.  I see this as support for my perspective that we are supposed to factor NT revelation into our interpretation of the OT.  The failure to do so is what Christ rebuked.

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Christ's encounter with the disciples on the Emmaus Road does not support the assertion that OT saints were expected to understand the prophecies about Christ prior to His resurrection. Christ called them "fools and slow of heart to believe" only after the resurrection.

Luke 24:26 says, "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then down in vv. 44-46 he says, "Now He said to them, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day;"

It seems clear to me that they were to have understood the sufferings ahead of time. The clarity problem was not in Scripture at all. It was in their minds. And nothing in that means that the OT was changed somehow. It was all there and they were responsible to have understood it. 

Even 1 Peter 1:11 says all the OT prophets didn't know was the person and time. They knew what would happen--the sufferings and the glory to follow. Jesus repeatedly appealed to the Scriptures (meaning the OT) before his death. He upbraids the Pharisees for searching the Scriptures and yet missing him.

You ask, "Why no rebuke prior to the resurrection?" There was in John 5 for instance, or Luke 20 when Jesus invokes the OT about the Cornerstone and the Pharisees knew he was condemning them for it, or John 3 with Nicodemus, who as a teacher of Israel should have understood these things regarding the new birth and probably the Messiah to come.

That some prophecies became more clear later is indisputable. But it seems to me that the weight of Scripture is that the OT was sufficiently clear to bring condemnation for unbelief apart from the NT. 

 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Larry,

My "no rebuke until after the resurrection" observation applied only to the disciples. 

I didn't claim that additional NT clarity in the accomplishment of the resurrection changed anything in the OT.  It simply made clear what was previously obscure.  Nothing in the NT changes anything in the OT.  But it can change our interpretation of what we think the OT means.  God's Word is settled and unchanging.  Our interpretations are fallible and subject to misunderstanding.  We need the light of the NT to bring full understanding to the OT.

I fully agree that the OT by itself contains sufficient truth to condemn those who do not believe it.

G. N. Barkman

Steve Davis's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Larry,

My "no rebuke until after the resurrection" observation applied only to the disciples. 

I didn't claim that additional NT clarity in the accomplishment of the resurrection changed anything in the OT.  It simply made clear what was previously obscure.  Nothing in the NT changes anything in the OT.  But it can change our interpretation of what we think the OT means.  God's Word is settled and unchanging.  Our interpretations are fallible and subject to misunderstanding.  We need the light of the NT to bring full understanding to the OT.

I fully agree that the OT by itself contains sufficient truth to condemn those who do not believe it.

Thank you brother Barkman for your responses. I didn't comment because it really is "Here we go again." And trying to respond to 40 reasons of anything is tiring especially when there is little hope of much of anything productive coming from it.

For me the shift in thinking came from reading the NT that true Jewishness is no longer tied to ethnicity or outside observances (Rom. 2), that ethnic Jews receive the promises given their ancestors only in Christ (prophet, priest, king, sacrifice, temple) as do Gentiles, that there is no going backward to an obsolete system of temple, priesthood, and sacrifices, and that there is one people of God. 

I also suspect, that for some, not necessarily those writing on SI, they might be too deep in their commitments to DT that to consider something else might be too costly since they teach in institutions or pastor churches which require adherence to DT or were built on DT. I don't mean to imply they don't hold their position with conviction but they might not be open to anything else. Just so no one thinks I'm being snarky the same may be true for those who hold to CT. Hard to change midstream or in twilight years. So it's best to dig in or stay in. I've been in ministry for almost 40 years. I think I've seen it both ways.

Paul Henebury's picture

Brother Davis comes in to tell us that he has considered both sides and that it is useless debating with those who believe as he used to do - especially if they are stuck in a theological rut because of outside influences.  He may be right.  He says,

"For me the shift in thinking came from reading the NT that true Jewishness is no longer tied to ethnicity or outside observances (Rom. 2), that ethnic Jews receive the promises given their ancestors only in Christ (prophet, priest, king, sacrifice, temple) as do Gentiles, that there is no going backward to an obsolete system of temple, priesthood, and sacrifices, and that there is one people of God."

That precommitment pretty much settles things for him.  No reason to debate the issues.  I again would agree that if that is ones stance there is no point in debating.  

Still, some of us, while respecting our brothers and their right to disagree with us, still believe it is right to discuss the issues and the texts rather than broad-brush everything.  I read many evolutionists who use exactly this way of arguing to reject ID and Creationist counter-arguments, while of course permitting themselves the privilige of attacking those positions.

It is fine to disagree, but the 40 Reasons are a not insubstantial challenge to CT and NCT presuppositions.  If I saw, say 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism I would think I would like to test the mettle of my position against them.  Oh wait... 

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

Larry's picture

I didn't claim that additional NT clarity in the accomplishment of the resurrection changed anything in the OT.

It sure seems like it though. It seems like it changed things like "Israel" to "not Israel" and "Promised Land" to "heaven." Those things weren't obscure in the OT, but I think an argument can be made that some have obscured them by appeal to the NT.

Larry's picture

For me the shift in thinking came from reading the NT that true Jewishness is no longer tied to ethnicity or outside observances (Rom. 2)

How did you conclude that the "true Jew" in Romans 2 is not an ethnic Jew? That doesn't seem to make sense of the context in which Paul is contrasting Gentiles who do not have the Law with Jews who do. Paul's point about circumcision there seems not to be that it supercedes the Law and renders the Law irrelevant, but that circumcision without keeping the Law is useless. The whole passage even into Rom 3 only makes sense if "Jew" refers to an ethnic Jew as it does all throughout Romans and the NT. 

Paul's point there is that true Jewishness is not tied only to outward observance but to the heart. A true Jew is not a non-Jew. It is a Jew who has not only been circumcised in the flesh but also in the heart.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Dr. Henebury,

You may not agree with my comments, but at least my response finally triggered some interest in your two articles which until then, seemed to be lacking. :)  I was hoping someone else might respond, but since that wasn't happening, I decided to take the plunge. 

I think your comments above are a bit unfair to Steve.  It seems to me that he is only saying that he understands both positions by virtue of having been on both sides of the issue at different times in his life.  Believe me, that does bring a helpful perspective.  He is also correct that many find it very difficult to examine the opposite position when the church or institution they work for requires a particular position in their doctrinal statement.  I have often thanked God that I was not bound by that restraint.  I have seen it's effect in others on both sides of the equation.  I can also appreciate Steve's feeling of "what's the use" in debating this again.  I felt much the same, but finally decided to offer a small rebuttal before the two articles completely disappeared from the front page.  I knew I didn't have enough time to try to discuss 80 reasons in detail, nor did I see much use in doing so.  It's clear that there is a great divide in our thinking.  I do not expect to be able to persuade you, nor can you persuade me.  For my part, like Steve, I've already been down the road you are on, and it just didn't fit what I was seeing in Scripture.  You really can't unsee what you have come to see.

G. N. Barkman

G. N. Barkman's picture

Larry,

Most of God's people were convinced, from the OT, that the coming Messiah would usher in an earthly Kingdom with Messiah reigning as David's successor on Israel's national throne.  New Testament revelation significantly altered those expectations.  Did NT revelation change anything in the OT, or did it enable God's people to correctly understand what the OT was actually saying all along?

No matter which position you take, that the original understanding was essentially correct but will now be delayed until the second coming, or that the original promises were intended to be fulfilled in the first advent with a different kind of kingdom, the fact remains that NT revelation changed the way everyone now understands the OT.  I would be hard pressed to find evidence of a single OT saint who correctly understood this issue.  Can you?

We may, and obviously do differ on how much OT interpretation needs to be revised in light of the NT, but it seems foolish to me to argue that the NT must not be allowed to alter any interpretation of the OT that was derived strictly from OT study without benefit of the New.  To deny this is to deny the obvious.  Two hundred reasons are insufficient.

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Most of God's people were convinced, from the OT, that the coming Messiah would usher in an earthly Kingdom with Messiah reigning as David's successor on Israel's national throne.  New Testament revelation significantly altered those expectations.

I don't think the NT altered it at all. There is no basis I can find for this.

No matter which position you take, that the original understanding was essentially correct but will now be delayed until the second coming, or that the original promises were intended to be fulfilled in the first advent with a different kind of kingdom, the fact remains that NT revelation changed the way everyone now understands the OT.  I would be hard pressed to find evidence of a single OT saint who correctly understood this issue.  Can you?

It seems to me that the evidence of the early NT people (in the gospels) was consistently that the OT kingdom was an earthly kingdom with the Messiah on David's throne. And nothing in the NT changes that. In fact, when the disciples asked about it, Jesus didn't correct them. He simply told them the timing was none of their business. 

If your argument is that some expected a different timing, I suppose you can say that the NT altered that expectation, but James in Acts 15 points out that the OT completely anticipated the incoming of the Gentiles so it should have been expected. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Larry,

After denying that the NT altered expectations regarding what the coming Messiah would accomplish, you finally acknowledge in your last paragraph that it did.  Don't you understand that one of the main reasons the Jews would not accept Jesus as the Messiah is because He did not fulfill their messianic expectations drawn from the OT?  That's what was altered--the virtually universal Messianic expectation that the coming of Messiah would usher in an earthly kingdom.  It did not.

NT revelation significantly changed the way first century Jews understood OT prophecy regarding Messiah.  Even Christ's disciples were slow to accept the altered understanding, but finally did.  Those who would not accept NT revelation rejected Jesus and continued to look for a Messiah who fit their expectations based upon their interpretation of the OT.  The NT did not change what the OT actually said, but it sure changed the common interpretation of that day.  What James says in Acts 15 is based upon his now clarified interpretation of the OT based upon NT revelation.  Of course "it should have been expected."  And yet, obviously, it was not.  Why not?  Answer:  faulty OT interpretation.  What changed?  Answer:  New Testament revelation that brought clarify and correction to faulty OT interpretation.

Once again, I am NOT saying the NT alters anything said in the OT.  I am saying that the NT alters the way many people improperly interpreted the OT.  My consistent point in this tread is that we NEED the light of the NT to help us correctly interpret the OT.

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

Dear brother,

While I do appreciate your attempts to counter these Reasons, and I fully accept your time limitations which do not allow you the luxury of actually engaging the arguments, I have to say that what you do write (and this goes for Bro Davis - another very capable brother) often fails to tackle any point I make, whether in these or past posts, head-on.  There is just this repeated refrain of "the OT must be interpreted by the NT" which seems so axiomatic to you, despite the practical and theological problems with it highlighted above.  

If I may quote you:

 "Nothing in the NT changes anything in the OT.  But it can change our interpretation of what we think the OT means.  God's Word is settled and unchanging.  Our interpretations are fallible and subject to misunderstanding.  We need the light of the NT to bring full understanding to the OT.

I fully agree that the OT by itself contains sufficient truth to condemn those who do not believe it."

This is a mystifying statement.  While I agree with the first sentence, I do not see how you can.  To Larry you wrote,

"Most of God's people were convinced, from the OT, that the coming Messiah would usher in an earthly Kingdom with Messiah reigning as David's successor on Israel's national throne.  New Testament revelation significantly altered those expectations..."

And, 

"We may, and obviously do differ on how much OT interpretation needs to be revised in light of the NT, but it seems foolish to me to argue that the NT must not be allowed to alter any interpretation of the OT ..." [N.B. isn't that what reinterpretation is?  Look it up in a dictionary.]

Well, if language means anything you have plainly contradicted yourself.  This sort of problem is what I was concerned with in Reason 39.  The only way to reconcile these propositions is to say that the words God used in the OT, and the expectations those words raised (Reasons 27 & 28) were misleading.  This creates problems with the doctrine of clarity (R17), as well as making the Lord speak one way for two thirds of the Bible (R23) and then change the way He communicates for (some) of the last third.  But philosophically this raises concerns about whether God means what He says now (R29).  If you want a corollary to this just think of how the unitarianism of Allah threatens to undo his self-sufficiency since he would need to create to actualize many of his attributes - which demand a "other".  One cannot critique a false god on one hand while not being willing to see problems with ones formulation of the true God on the other.

An implication of your view of the NT's role seems to be that you are interpreting what the NT plainly says which is what forces you to (re)interpret the OT.  But again, where does the NT give you clear license to do this (R1)?  And what controls are there to prevent wholesale spiritualization and allegorization?

Perhaps the most potent of the Forty Reasons (well, for me) is R 26 about covenant oaths.  If you want to know what the NT says about oaths read Gal. 3:15 and Heb. 6:16.  But your views clash with the oaths God took.  All covenants are hermeneutical and, where they apply, control interpretation.

Anyway, thanks for your interaction.  Iron sharpens iron provided the two really engage.  As with witnessing to unbelievers, the encounter may well not persuade them, but it is far from fruitless.

God bless you and yours.

Paul H 

 

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

Steve Davis's picture

Larry wrote:

For me the shift in thinking came from reading the NT that true Jewishness is no longer tied to ethnicity or outside observances (Rom. 2)

How did you conclude that the "true Jew" in Romans 2 is not an ethnic Jew? That doesn't seem to make sense of the context in which Paul is contrasting Gentiles who do not have the Law with Jews who do. Paul's point about circumcision there seems not to be that it supercedes the Law and renders the Law irrelevant, but that circumcision without keeping the Law is useless. The whole passage even into Rom 3 only makes sense if "Jew" refers to an ethnic Jew as it does all throughout Romans and the NT. 

Paul's point there is that true Jewishness is not tied only to outward observance but to the heart. A true Jew is not a non-Jew. It is a Jew who has not only been circumcised in the flesh but also in the heart.

"No one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly........, (ethnic or circumcised). But a Jew is one inwardly." I don't know how it can be clearer. A Jew is someone who has experienced circumcision of the heart whether they be ethnic Jews or ethnic Gentiles.  Ethnic Jews did have an advantage in that they were recipients of the law. Ethnic Jews are true Jews if they have experienced circumcision of the heart and are in Christ where there is neither Jew not Gentile. "Are [ethnic] Jews any better off? No, not at all" (Rom. 3:1). They are in the same position as Gentiles. They need a Savior.

Steve Davis's picture

The first couple paragraphs of the first article were enough to convince me of the fruitlessness of trying to answer 40 reasons or far fewer reasons stated in different ways. Proponents of NT priority "use slippery words like 'expansion' or 'foreshadowing'..." when they are really reinterpreting the OT and that passages are "altered and mutated" to mean something else.

I respond briefly since GNB put some tread on the thread so that other readers may consider the positions and their merits. He is correct in the difficulty of considering another position if your job depends on the right view. I wish that weren't the case. I wish places where I used to teach would want me back to teach in my area of (relative) expertise, which is not DT or CT. But my wishing won't change things and there are probably other reasons why my old friends at various institutions prefer I not teach their students - Harley and tattoos for starters   :-) Anyway I'm glad SI hasn't banned me (yet).

There's also the repeated concern about how "the original recipients of the OT covenants and promises" understood the OT. This in the face of the fact that 1) the recipients were often if not mostly unbelievers who would not have any of the promises fulfilled to them anyway, 2) and that even the Apostles understood very little before the Resurrection. The NT does not reinterpret the OT. It provides needed light to correctly interpret it in light of Christ who is the final and fuller revelation. So what if unbelieving Jews in the OT understood that there would be the establishment of a Jewish kingdom with David as king with a new temple? Their interpretation is not authoritative. I am not that concerned about how OT people would've understood prophecy. Some may've understood more than others but their understanding doesn't determine authorial intent. But when Jesus declares that he is David's Lord and the true king and declares that he is the temple that when destroyed will be raised in three days, WE understand what the OT pointed to and that the OT recipients did not, could not fully understand. God's revelation was progressive. We have more interpretive light. NT priority does not alter or mutate anything. It illuminates and elucidates.

 

TylerR's picture

Harley? Tattoo? You're clearly a convergent . . .

I think this issue needs to be addressed with individual texts first. I've never seen discussions at the systematic level go anywhere. It has to begin with texts.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Steve Davis's picture

TylerR wrote:

Harley? Tattoo? You're clearly a convergent . . .

I think this issue needs to be addressed with individual texts first. I've never seen discussions at the systematic level go anywhere. It has to begin with texts.

Actually I'm proudly Pre-Convergent. I had my first Harley in 1989, my first tattoo in 1967 or 1968 when I was 13-14 years old.  I'm not proud of that. That's where I was in life BC. The tattoos weren't that good. Neither was I. I think I was one of the few BJ students with tattoos when I went there in 1974 a year after my conversion. For years I toyed with whether to remove them by laser or to cover them with "better" tattoos. I choose the later. It was far cheaper. I tell people the best thing about getting tattoos or re-tatted later in life is that you have less time to regret them :-) 

And you're right about texts. As I teach and preach I try to emphasize what is clear - Jesus is coming again. He will reign forever. Whether he comes in phases and reigns in a temporal, pre-eternal kingdom is a possibility. Whether he reigns in a pre-eternal kingdom with restored Israel in prominence seems less clear to me although not impossible. But we don't all see this or see all this with equal clarity. 

Paul Henebury's picture

The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines the term first as "the act of interpreting something in a new or different way."

That is precisely what Brothers Barkman and Davis advocate.  Yet they will not admit to reinterpreting.  That is why I referred to their use of "slippery words" in my intro.  People like Beale use "transformation" while brother Barkman likes "interpretation" (while maintaining that the meaning changes!).  Other writers DO admit to reinterpreting.  What I struggle with is the denial of the obvious.  They ARE reinterpreting and they ought to just admit it.  I do not think this is always intentional "cover-up", but that once this position is taken it must be held in the face of what appear to be uncomfortable consequences (although I for one have no problem with someone who admits that they are reinterpreting the OT with the NT on THAT score).  I say this so as not to charge my brothers with falsehood.

Brother Davis yet again avoids any textual examples.  Previously I asked him about Jeremiah (31 or 33, I can't recall which)  and he did not interpret it in context but went to the NT (his interpretation of it).

Surely he knows that Romans 2 is not a clear passage for his point of view.  Larry has given a brief exposition above.  Yet Bro. Davis cannot see that there is any other way to interpret "not all Israel" than to include Gentiles into their number.  No matter that the OT doctrine of the Remnant covers the meaning, as Paul himself shows in Romans 9:1-5.  

So much rides on turning Israel into the Church that one would think that unambiguous texts in the NT could be found to give the go-ahead.  But Steve produces Romans 2!  Is his view the unambiguous interpretation of the passage.  It certainly is not, and even some CT's acknowledge this fact. 

Finally, although this is always dodged, it is crystal clear from intertextual usage of promises in the OT that the OT SAINTS agreed on interpretations and passed them on to future generations (Reason 23), so Steve's point about what unsaved Jews did or didn't understand is an evasion.

This article is not an argument FOR Dispensationalism or Biblical Covenantalism (my position).  It is a challenge to CT interpretations based upon years of study and familiarity with the sources.    

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

G. N. Barkman's picture

Dr. Henebury,

I have learned that when someone says something like, "While I agree with the first statement, I don't see how you can," he evidently does not understand what the other person is saying.  Perhaps I have not been clear.  Please forgive me.  I've tried to be as clear as I know how to be.  But is it possible you can't understand because your theology colors what you think others are saying?  You seem to think you already know what I believe, so when I say something that doesn't fit your conception of what I'm supposed to believe, you don't see how I can believe that.  Is it possible you deem some of my statements self-contradictory because you are reading into them things I have not actually said?

I hope I haven't treated your statements in this manner.  If so, please forgive me, and feel free to let me know whenever I do so.  I promise to do my best to take your statements as an honest expression of your position, and hope you can do the same for me. 

G. N. Barkman

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