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

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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.

Forty is not enough

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

Interesting. I've been

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.

True

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

Don't have time to say much

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.

I didn't cherry pick that

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.

Fit a Pre-conceived NT Theology?

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

Brother Barkman, It seems to

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? 

 

Here we go again

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

Brother Barkman

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.

To Repeat

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.

Emmaus Road

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

Bro. Barkman

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.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Couldn't Have Known

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

Christ's encounter with the

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. 

 

Disciples

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

Appreciate the comments

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.

Brother Davis comes in to

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.

I didn't claim that

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.

For me the shift in thinking

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.

AT least you might consider thanking me

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

Changed Things

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

Most of God's people were

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. 

You are jumping over the main point

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

To GNB (and Bro Davis)

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.

True Jewishness

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.

40 Reasons

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.

 

Steve

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.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Convergent

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. 

"Reinterpretation"

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.

A Mystifying Statement

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

Reinterpreting

It is "reinterpreting" if one has already arrived at an interpretation which is altered upon the reception of additional information.  I have done this with many OT texts, as I began to gradually question some of the interpretations of my DT training in the light of a more careful examination of the NT.  Have I reinterpreted some OT passages?  Yes.  Guilty as charged, if indeed this is a chargeable offense.

There are many other OT passages of which I had no prior opinions.  In this case, no reinterpretation is involved, simply interpreting.  In the first case, I consider it honorable to be willing to change a previous interpretation in the light of additional understanding.  Does anyone think this is dishonorable?  I intend to continue this practice as long as I live.  I pray that God will enable me to constantly refine my interpretations of Scripture.

For those who were not trained in Dispensationalism, no reinterpretation is involved.  Unless, of course, they reinterpret their formerly non-dispensatioinal interpretations into a dispensational understanding.  That would be reinterpretation that DTs would surely applaud. I think Dr. Henebury is making too much of the concept of "reinterpretation."  I fail to see the import of the term.  Surely what we all desire is to be enabled by God to interpret all of Scripture as accurately as possible.  If in the work of exegesis, we reinterpret something that we now believe was a formerly incorrect interpretation, that should be applauded.  That is simply the work of "interpretation" to which all Bible teachers are called.

G. N. Barkman

No one is a Jew who is merely

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. 

I don't think that's the point of the passage. The point of the passage here, as in Romans 9, is that a true Jew is separate from ethnic identity. It is more than ethnic identity. In other words, a true Jew is not a Gentile who has been inwardly or outwardly circumcised. It is a Jew who has been inwardly circumcised. 

It could be clearer by using the word Greek or Gentile (as he often does) or church (as he often does). But instead he uses a word packed with theological meaning which never clearly means anything other than an ethnic Jew. Why does he do that?

Let's ask the question differently: Suppose Paul wanted to say that it wasn't enough to be a ethnic Jew who had been circumcised but rather each ethnic Jew with physical circumcision also needed heart circumcision. How would he say it? I suggest he would say exactly what he said in Romans 2. 

Further, your understanding of "Jew" creates a problem when in the immediately following sentence (unfortunately separated by a big number 3 in our Bibles, though not separated by anything in Paul's writing) he uses "Jew" to mean an ethnic Israelite. Such a change would be odd.

There may be a case to be made for understanding the church as the new Israel (I don't think it is a good case, but I will admit that a case can be made), but Romans 2 is not the place that can make that case it seems to me.

Quibbles

Quote:
21. Saying the NT must reinterpret the OT also devalues the OT as its own witness to God and His Plans. 
Or it allows us to see the OT for its full value (or fuller).

Quote:
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. 
This reasoning, in my opinion, inappropriately blames God for man's misinterpretation of God's Word.

In general terms, it asserts, "If interpreters interpret the Word in a certain way, saying they were wrong (or incomplete) means God wrote in a way He knew would be misinterpreted (or incompletely)."

This "Reason" also implies that IF the above is ever true, that is a bad thing. It isn't. See:

Luke 8:9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’..."

It is ok for God to deliberately speak in such a way that some fail to understand.

Far Worse than I Thought

I confess that I had merely perused Paul’s 40 Reasons before this. Many of them are much worse than I imagined – not the least because he claims that those with whom he disagrees attack the veracity and the character of God and his Word based on what he calls reinterpretation. He sets up “reinterpretation” as the problem in his first paragraph in his first article ("It seems to be almost an axiom within contemporary, evangelical Bible interpretation that the New Testament must be allowed to reinterpret the Old Testament"), and then proceeds to describe and ascribe all manner of imaginary problems. His interpretations are real interpretations. Others are only reinterpretations.

These are only representative from the second batch. My comments are bracketed.

“21. Saying the NT must reinterpret the OT also devalues the OT as its own witness to God and His Plans.” 

(What he calls reinterpretation is simply interpretation. The NT sheds light those in the OT did not have. Neither Paul's nor my interpretations are authoritative.)

“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.”

(If God gives OT saints through the covenants more than what they understood and gives through the gospel more than we understand, I fail to see the problem. Does Paul really imagine that we understand all that God will do for us in the future due tour union with Christ? To imagine that the God of those who differ with him on the fulfillment of OT prophecy cannot be trusted is a sign of desperation.)

“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.”

(It does nothing of the sort except that’s what Paul imagines. Why does God have to tell people something in the way Paul thinks he should. So if one does not understand the temple prophecy as Paul does it’s as if they were saying that God is a rambler and gave misleading words? There must be a literal future temples and sacrifices. Because Paul says so in his interpretation and he understands the OT like those who heard it did.)

“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.”

(Once again if one does not understand the disciples question as Paul does then it reflects badly on the clarity of the Lord’s teaching (thus on the Lord himself) not on the disciples who after 40 days of teaching still clung to their idea of an politico-ethnic kingdom. It’s interesting to me that at the end of Acts Paul is “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus.” Was Paul teaching about a future Israelite kingdom? I think not. Jesus did answer the disciples in Acts 1:8 but not in the way they expected. He told them “when.” It would begin with the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. What God fixed by his authority (v. 7) is now promised in the power they will have to witness. The disciples were still thinking small, a restored Israel with OT boundaries. just liked Paul and DT. Jesus was thinking of the ends of the earth.)

“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”?

(How much is there in the numbers to “keep”? This one baffles me. Once again, Scripture becomes an absurdity unless you share Paul's interpretation.)

“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.);….”

(Read Ephesians 2 where Jews and Gentiles are “both one,” “one new man in place of the two,” “one body,” “access in one Spirit.” The two peoples theory is one of the worse features of DT although I don’t think all hold to it.)

“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.”

(The reinterpretation view is first made up and then those who hold it make God a liar. I’ll stop here because it’s clear Paul is so sure of his position that others make God a liar if they disagree with him. This is nonsense and unworthy of Paul even putting it out there except that he needs to defend his position at all costs, even attacking the integrity of others. I disagree with Paul on many things. I think he's wrong but I would hope to have enough humility to not say that his views make God a liar.)

Finally, I predict that no one will be persuaded by Paul’s 40 inventions to embrace his form of DT. That can be interpreted any way one wants. 

Steve Davis

Good Stuff

I think Paul's "40 reasons" are excellent, and this series serves as a reminder of the great interpretive divide. There are two completely different sets of interpretative glasses here, and everyone wears one of them. I believe it comes down to this:

  1. Does God means what He says in His various covenants?
  2. Was God's revelation about His covenants clear and understandable to the original audience?

If you believe the answer is "yes," then you'll:

  1. See Israel and the church as two peoples of God
  2. See complementary plans and purposes for each people, culminating in the eschaton

This issue will likely always fascinate me, because the presuppositions really are that simple. For example, in 1 Peter 2:4-10, Peter quotes from or alludes to OT texts about Israel six times, and applies all of them to his audience's contemporary situation. What should we do with this? One side sees the church fulfilling the OT Scripture, the other side sees Peter applying these principles to the "new people" God has revealed, without cancelling later fulfillment among the Israelites.

The fun never stops! To move the discussion forward, I really think the most profitable thing would be to have a written exchange on some texts.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Point still stands.

Paul Henebury wrote:

The OT covenants are not parables.  

My point was only that if God chooses to, He can write in such a way that even though it is misunderstood, He is not discredited as a writer. 

My point was only that if God

My point was only that if God chooses to, He can write in such a way that even though it is misunderstood, He is not discredited as a writer.

Parables were for the purposes of hiding it "so that" those under judgment would not understand. To make that a parallel, it seems you would have to argue that God didn't want those to whom he made covenant promises to understand because they were under judgment. I am not sure how far that argument will run, but I imagine not very far. The covenants were made, not to prevent faith, but to increase it.

 

Read Ephesians 2 where Jews

Read Ephesians 2 where Jews and Gentiles are “both one,” “one new man in place of the two,” “one body,” “access in one Spirit.” The two peoples theory is one of the worse features of DT although I don’t think all hold to it.

This has always been a mind-boggling argument to me. In Ephesians 2, the "one new man" is the church. It is not the conflation of the OT people of God and the NT people of God. To the contrary, the NT consistently delineates the Jews and the Gentiles as in Romans 2, 3, 9, 11, Galatians, among others, all of which make no sense to me in a non-dispensational scheme of understanding.

Everyone acknowledges that in the NT church there is no distinction among ethnic identities. That's all Eph 2 says. It says nothing about the OT people and the promises God made to them one way or the other. So indeed there might be "one people of God" throughout the Bible, but Ephesians 2 doesn't address that question at all.

Parables...covenant people

Larry, I see your point. And yet it depends on the idea that saints won't make mistakes. And it assigns a present-for-them understanding or application to be a misunderstanding if it misses the full picture. 

Paul talks about "mystery" teachings like the meaning of marriage. The full meaning was hidden from OT saints.  I don't take that to mean God has deceived. He just allowed people to marry without understanding the full meaning. 

I Peter 2:4-10

Tyler,

You introduced a good text for discussion.  You correctly stated that Peter utilyzed a number of words and phrases used in the OT to describe Israel, and applied them to the Church.  You noted the different ways DTs and CTs understand this passage.  Here's my perspective.

If we had only the OT, I doubt that anyone would have predicted that these terms would be applied to anyone but ethnic Israel, but here it is.  Peter, under Divine inspiration applied them to the Church.  Now there is no question that they apply accurately to the Church, for inspired NT revelation tells us so.  The thing we do not know for certain is whether they still apply to ethnic Israel.  Our interpretation of the OT now comes under scrutiny.  To say that this changes nothing in our original perspective on Israel is to make a statement based upon interpretation.  We are saying that our original understanding of the OT could not possibly be incorrect.  But how do we know?  We don't.  We affirm that based upon our original understanding, but we have no way to test that interpretation at this point.  We ought to consider that possibility that these terms originally were intended to apply only to true spiritual Israel within ethnic Israel, and spiritual Israel now includes believing Gentiles.  Is it possible that we missed some of the fullmess as originally intended?  The only way to know for sure is to wait and see how this unfolds in the future.  If at His second coming, Christ ushers in a Jewish millennial kingdom, our original interpretation will be confirmed.  Until that happens, we really don't know because we cannot be certain that our original interpretation is infallible.

What we know for certain at this point is that terms that we formerly assumed applied exclusively to ethnic Israel now apply to the Church.  We don't know if  this demonstrates a newly revealed understanding of the meaning of "Israel," or a newly introduced people of God in addition to the OT people of God.  It seems audacious to insist on the latter based upon an OT interpretation which has now been altered by the application of Jewish termanology to the Church made up of believing Jews plus believing Gentiles.  Our original interpretation might be correct, but at this point, there is no way to be certain.  A large dose of humble caution is what the present situation requires, not dogmatic assertion.

G. N. Barkman

Agreed

Bro. Barkham stated:

A large dose of humble caution is what the present situation requires, not dogmatic assertion

I agree with this.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

1 Peter 2:4-10

In this passage, Peter:

  1. Applies the prophesy from Isa 28 directly to the congregations he's writing to. In the OT context, this is referring to the Israelites.
  2. Applies Ps 118:22 to all generic unbelievers. In the OT context, it is likely referring to David's enemies in Israel (i.e. Saul's followers) who did not want him to reign as King. In the synoptics (e.g. Mk 12:1-12), Jesus interpreted it the same, and said it referred to the apostate Jewish leadership. Peter agreed with this in Acts 4. However, in this passage, he generically applied it to all unbelievers. He may be drawing an analogy from Scripture, but he is clearly not sticking rigidly to the original context.
  3. Applies Isa 8:14 to all unbelievers in a generic sense, even though Isaiah was referring to apostate Israelites.    
  4. Applies Ex 19:5f to the Christian congregations he's writing to, a startling application. This lends enormous weight to the contention that there is really only "one people" of God. Of course, Peter doesn't say it does not rule out blessings for Israel later. Still, this is a hard passage for DTs.
  5. Applies Hosea 2 to the Christian congregations, a stunning application. In the original context, Hosea was clearly referring to the future exiles from the Northern Kingdom who God promised He'd gather back to the land, under one King.

I'd be lying if I said this isn't compelling, and difficult for the DT position. Of course, CTs have their own problems, too . . . Smile

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

CTs Have Their Own Problems

Indeed they do, which is why I usually hesitate to identify myself with CT.  It only seems that way when I am dealing with problematic DT interpretations.  Being non DT does not automatically equate to CT.  However, if I must choose between them, I find CT comes closer to my understanding of Scripture than DT.  Perhaps "Modified CT" would be reasonably accurate.

G. N. Barkman

But...

Dan Miller wrote:

Larry, I see your point. And yet it depends on the idea that saints won't make mistakes. And it assigns a present-for-them understanding or application to be a misunderstanding if it misses the full picture. 

Paul talks about "mystery" teachings like the meaning of marriage. The full meaning was hidden from OT saints.  I don't take that to mean God has deceived. He just allowed people to marry without understanding the full meaning. 

This makes a lot of sense provided one believes the doctrine of marriage in the OT pictured Christ and the Church.  But since the Church is a post-resurrection reality and since some of us respectfully disagree with Dan's assumption, I must disagree with his conclusion.

Finally, as I said above, Gal. 3:15 and Heb. 6:16 show that covenants don't have hidden meanings, neither can they and be what they are supposed to be.

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

No Offence: Some Responses

In the present discussion the role of arch-villain will be played by yours truly....or so it seems.  Steve believes that I just think my interpretation has to be accepted and that whoever disagrees with me must be badly in the wrong.  My 40 Reasons are worse than he imagined now that he has read them.  Also, just because Henebury accuses CT's of "reinterpretation" doesn't mean they actually do it. How can I answer?

Well, first, I don't to wish to raise heckles but I think I am being falsely accused.  May I explain why?

1. In my Introduction I am very clear in the fourth paragraph that no one should feel that they have to agree with me.  I simply put these Reasons forth for consideration.  

2. Steve writes that Henebury thinks:

that those with whom he disagrees attack the veracity and the character of God and his Word based on what he calls reinterpretation. He sets up “reinterpretation” as the problem in his first paragraph in his first article ("It seems to be almost an axiom within contemporary, evangelical Bible interpretation that the New Testament must be allowed to reinterpret the Old Testament"), and then proceeds to describe and ascribe all manner of imaginary problems. His interpretations are real interpretations. Others are only reinterpretations.

Okay, anybody can go to a dictionary and find out what "reinterpretation" means.  They can also imagine themselves reading the Hebrew Bible before NT times and believing what God says in His own covenants, backed up by very many prophetic texts.  Those would be interpretations.  Further, if he studied the way latter OT authors utilize earlier ones (see e.g., Reason 23 and para. 5 of the Intro), his confidence that his interpretation was in accord with the rest of Scripture would be increased and he would put his faith in it.  

Now imagine one could live hundreds of years so that one could be around reading the complete NT and interpret it along the lines CT's do.  His interpretation of the NT texts would cause him to go back into the OT and reinterpret it.  Of course, this thought-experiment would be unnecessary for people who were reading the Bible for the first time from front to back.  If they were in Isaiah 11 they would interpret the words to mean that the wolf will indeed, at some future day, lie down with the lamb.  If they reached Ezekiel 40-48 they would interpret it as describing a temple building wherein Zadokites would approach God in their priestly service but other Levites would not.  They might even recall that God made a covenant with Zadok's ancestor, Phinehas, in Num. 25 (cf. Psa. 106:28-31).  

You see, if you read a text you are interpreting it.  So when a CT reads the Book of Revelation he interprets it.  I may not agree with the interpretation, but that is what he is doing.  But when a CT takes his understanding of the NT and employs it as a lens upon the plain wording of the OT he is not interpreting the OT words, he is reinterpreting them in light of the NT.  This is what I was alluding to when I wrote about the OT writers using a sort of Bible Code which, interpreted one way (the words taken to mean what they say) would procure certain expectations which would turn out to be erroneous because once the NT lens was applied, the words would have to be interpreted "in a new or different way."  N.B. Reinterpretation is an act of interpreting, but not the initial act.  

3. It ought to be obvious that in saying CT's reinterpret the OT with the conclusions given them from their interpretations of the NT I am not claiming my "interpretations are real interpretations. Others are only reinterpretations."  My interpretation of the Olivet Discourse or Romans 11 and Steve's interpretations of the same passages ARE interpretations.  But his view that, e.g., the four Divine covenants mentioned in Jer. 33:14-26 and Ezek. 37 are fulfilled in very different terms than the oaths contain based upon overlaying the OT words with his NT interpretations is reinterpretation.  Whatismore, I can produce any number of scholars who share Steve's (and GNB's) point of view who state categorically that they are reinterpreting because the NT requires it.  Here are just a few (all emboldening is mine):

“Historically, Protestant interpreters have argued that the New Testament provides the controlling interpretation of the Old Testament. The goal of the interpreter of eschatology is to determine how prophecies made in the Old Testament are treated and applied by writers of the New. If the New Testament writers spiritualize Old Testament prophecies by applying them in a nonliteral sense, then the Old Testament passage must be seen in light of that New Testament interpretation, not vice versa…
Old Testament prophets and writers spoke of the glories of the coming messianic age in terms of their own premessianic age. They referred to the nation of Israel, the temple, the Davidic throne, and so on. These all reflect the language, history, and experience of the people to whom these prophecies were originally given. But eschatological themes are reinterpreted in the New Testament, where we are told these Old Testament images are types and shadows of the glorious realities that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. According to amillenarians, this means that Jesus Christ is the true Israel. Jesus Christ is the true temple…” – Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism, 37.

For as we shall see (and as commentators regularly show) while the land itself had a concrete application for most in Judaism, Jesus and his followers reinterpreted the promises that came to those in his kingdom. – Gary M. Burge, Jesus and the Land, 35

Steve says I made this "reinterpretation view".  Well, if I am a bad guy for using the term then so are several CT's. What can I say?  

4. Steve has another charge:

if one does not understand the temple prophecy as Paul does it’s as if they were saying that God is a rambler and gave misleading words? There must be a literal future temples and sacrifices. Because Paul says so in his interpretation and he understands the OT like those who heard it did.

I did not say CT's and NCT's accuse God of being a rambler.  I said their interpretation has that consequence.  Why all the detail about the dimensions of the temple in Ezek. 40ff.?  Why all that stuff about the separation of the Zadokites from the Levites?  What was the point?  No really?  The culture was shaped by the words revealed to it.  This was a culture of temple and sacrifice.  So if they are promised a future kingdom temple and sacrifices how would they interpret the promise?  Wrongly apparently.  They needed the light of the NT.  Granted readily, but what for?  To understand about Jesus being Messiah?  No, but in order to understand all the covenants and prophetic words given to them which had raised expectations which were errant.  Who raised the expectations and how did He raise them?  But let me address the bit about me agreeing with the OT saints.  Here is Richard Hess:   

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

– From Richard Hess’s review of Robin Routledge’s OT Theology in Denver Journal   (See also Seder Olam 26)

Now I ask anyone interested to read Reason 32.  And let's not forget Reason 23!  I personally cannot see why claiming the OT Hebrews didn't have the light of the NT gets God off the hook for using equivocation in His words to them (if the words don't mean what they say).  Reason 12 comes into play here.  How can we be sure that the words of the NT mean what they appear to say?  I move on.   

5. I attack the integrity of others and I am "so sure of [my] position that others make God a liar if they disagree with [me]."  

I think Steve is probably a man of great integrity who is getting a little hot under the collar because he has not discerned that I am not imputing motives to anyone.  His reaction is understandable if I am being accusatory.  But I am being no more accusatory than a five-point Calvinist who says that someone who doesn't hold to limited atonement thinks man is his own savior, or a supercessionist who claims DT's do not see that the NT MUST be the lens by which the OT is understood (i.e. through their approach to hermeneutics), and if they don't they don't comprehend the finished work of Christ.

Steve sadly did not take the opportunity to interact with the texts save for Acts 1:6 (the disciples were mistaken, which is an interpretation), and the Reasons he did cite were only half-quoted.  No OT text was engaged.  No argument was refuted.  I addressed the necessary hermeneuitcal stasis of Divine covenants here  and the previous installments, as well as in this series. 

  

Paul H

             

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

Amos 9 and Acts 15

Paul, I have read your 40 reasons and I admit to being at a bit of a loss.

I think if you were to walk us through a passage where the NT seems to "reinterpret" the OT, I would be greatly helped.

Amos 9 says "In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name," declares the LORD who does this” (Amo 9:11-12 ESV).

If my understanding is correct, God, through Amos (a prophet during the reigns of Uzziah and Jeroboam), promised the people of his day at least 2 things:  1) God would restore the house of David, and 2) David’s descendants, in that day, would possess the remaining people of Edom

My questions arise from James’ use of Amos in Acts 15.  The church in Acts 15 is dealing with the issue of Gentiles coming to Christ and their reception into the church family.  James quotes Amos and applies it directly as the fulfillment of Amos (and other prophets) – “Simon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name.  And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things" (Acts 15:14-18).

It seems to me that James is not taking Amos in a "normal, plain" way.

My questions are:

1) Is James correct in his understanding of Amos 9? 

2) If James is correct, how is the situation in Acts a fulfillment of Amos 15 in any literal (normal) reading of Amos 9? 

3) If James is not correct, why does Acts 15:22 say that this “seemed good to the apostles and elders”?

Thanks for the help!

 If James is correct, how is

2 If James is correct, how is the situation in Acts a fulfillment of Amos 15 in any literal (normal) reading of Amos 9? 

Who said it was a fulfillment? That's not in the text. I think that is one of the problems -- that people add things in that aren't there.

James does not say that Amos’ words were being “fulfilled,” but that the “words of the prophets were in agreement.” 

Follow-up for Larry

Thanks Larry.  I am unclear on what you mean by not a fulfillment but in agreement.  How is Acts 15 (Gentiles wanting to join the church) in agreement with a normal, plain-sense reading of Amos 9 (the  restored-Davidic-line reigning again over the people of Israel possessing its neighbor, the literal kingdom of Edom)?

At first blush, they don't seem to agree if we maintain a normal, plain-sense of both texts.  Can you help my understanding here?

There is a problem

Surely we must all admit that there is a serious problem here, one that is not easily resolved. As both Tyler and Joe have demonstrated, NT authors apply OT passages in ways that seem to contradict DT interpretations. Some insist that we must not accept what the NT passages appear to say because they contradict what OT passages appear to say. We must not examine the OT through the lens of the New. Instead, we must examine NT texts through the lens of the Old.

But its difficult to find anyone versed in the OT Scriptures who correctly understood NT fulfillment from their reading of the OT. NT teachers, beginning with Jesus, seem to regularly correct those who failed to understand NT truth in light of the OT. Apparently it wasn't as plain to them as we think it was. They needed the addition of NT revelation to bring it all together. What "appears" to be the plain meaning of the OT, and what appears to be the understanding of inspired NT authors cannot be easily reconciled. Something's got to give. Must NT revelation must be squeezed into an OT box, regardless of the damage that does to the plain meaning of the NTt? My DT friends refuse to squeeze the OT into a NT box because of the damage they believe this does to the plain meaning of the OT. Are we at an impass? So it would appear. I have concluded that the light of NT revelation must help inform the way I should understand the OT. That follows the narrative of illumination, surprising fulfillment, and corrected understanding I see documented with God's OT people who first entered the New Covenant in the first century.

G. N. Barkman

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