Review: New Creation Eschatology and the Land, by Steven L. James

Image of New Creation Eschatology and the Land: A Survey of Contemporary Perspectives
by Steven L. James
Wipf and Stock 2017
Paperback 182

This book provides an informative introduction and critique of the recent trend among scholars to stress earth-centeredness of the eschatological passages of Scripture rather than heaven-focused scenarios. The trend is most noticeable among amillennialists, especially since the publication in 1979 of Anthony Hoekema’s The Bible and the Future. That book called upon believers (especially Hoekema’s fellow amillennialists) not to spiritualize the OT passages that speak of a coming era of peace and righteousness on the earth. This planet, in its restored state, is the venue for the enactment of God’s eschatological promises.

The author, who serves as a Professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, examines the works of several prominent teachers of the “New Creation” eschatology; namely, N. T. Wright, J. Richard Middleton, Russell Moore, Douglas Moo, and Howard Snyder. Not all of these writers were directly influenced by Hoekema’s work. He notes that although they correctly stress the earth’s central role in our future, he argues (again correctly) that they ignore the specificity of the land promises to Israel and thus contain a major contradiction. The contradiction is this: how can the OT promises of restoration and renewal be taken literally and every mention of Israel or Jerusalem be treated as metaphorical? It is a very good question.

In the first chapter James gives a survey of these men’s approaches. He notes that the arguments of these men are grounded in OT passages such as Isaiah 2, 11, 52; 60, 65-66; Micah 4; etc. These passages stress both the reign of justice and peace on the earth. James says that all his chosen scholars emphasize “the coming of God’s kingdom, bodily resurrection, and the reconciliation of all things.” (26).

The second chapter demonstrates that New Creation authors all believe that there is continuity between this present earth and the next. They all emphasize God’s “mode of materiality.” As he says,

The idea of transformation of the present materiality is important to new creationists. Because matter is not understood as inherently sinful, it does not have to be utterly disposed of… New creationists affirm that, instead of being annihilated, the present creation will be renewed or transformed. (31)

Several pages are dedicated to showing how New creationists tackle such dissolution passages such as 2 Peter 3:8-9 (32-36). The arguments which James records were not very convincing.

Chapter three discusses “Land Theology” as it has been presented by the likes of W. D. Davies, Walter Brueggemann, Christopher Wright, Gary Burge, and others. These influential works all contain supercessionist theology, and have been relied upon by many in the New Creation movement. The basic outlook is that the land of Israel is treated as a metaphor (77-94).

Having documented the views of New creationists, in the fourth chapter the author begins to highlight the inherent contradiction of asserting earth continuity on the basis of OT texts, while at the same time treating territorial promises to Israel as metaphors, when those promises occur in the very same passages! James states the sane conclusion:

The language in the prophets in no way suggests that the particular territory of Israel or Jerusalem somehow envelops the territory of the rest of the world. More importantly, the idea that a particular territory of the earth somehow transforms into the entire earth makes no sense in a new creation conception that envisions the restoration of the present earth. (117)

Chapter five is where the author shows that there is no need to create metaphors of the land of Israel, and that, in fact, the notion of territorial particularity and nationhood is a clear biblical teaching of both Testaments. Here he notes the work of dispensational authors Craig Blaising and Michael Vlach (131-132), who are more consistent in their attention to scriptural details. He also mentions amillennial writer Vern Poythress, who appears to accept the reality of nationhood in the new heavens and new earth (132-134).

In his conclusion the author points to a few areas of fruitful exploration, such as the study of “place,” and ends with a plea for further work in this area.

In my opinion New Creation Eschatology and the Land is a very worthwhile monograph, filled with good exposition, logical thinking, and solid argumentation. He is fair-minded and irenic throughout. I hope many students of theology will take the time to give the book a close reading.

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There are 74 Comments

pvawter's picture

Who'd you have for Greek? I might know him. Smile

TylerR's picture

Editor

Andrew Hudson. He was a PhD classmate with Rod Decker at Central. He's left Maranatha Seminary, and is now pastoring a church in Wisconsin.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

G. N. Barkman's picture

Dispensationalists believe non-dispensationalists refuse to accept the clear and obvious meaning of certain OT texts.  Non-dispensationalists believe that dispensationalists refuse to accept the clear and obvious meaning of certain NT texts.

For the life of me, I can't see how anyone could deny that the New Covenant was ratified by the shedding of Christ's blood!  To me, it looks like exegetical gymnastics to produce a justification to deny the obvious.

G. N. Barkman

pvawter's picture

TylerR wrote:

Andrew Hudson. He was a PhD classmate with Rod Decker at Central. He's left Maranatha Seminary, and is now pastoring a church in Wisconsin.

Yep. I know him. He's about 30 mins away, and we get together monthly for prayer with a group of area pastors. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

GN wrote:

For the life of me, I can't see how anyone could deny that the New Covenant was ratified by the shedding of Christ's blood!  To me, it looks like exegetical gymnastics to produce a justification to deny the obvious.

Amen to that!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

pvawter's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Dispensationalists believe non-dispensationalists refuse to accept the clear and obvious meaning of certain OT texts.  Non-dispensationalists believe that dispensationalists refuse to accept the clear and obvious meaning of certain NT texts.

For the life of me, I can't see how anyone could deny that the New Covenant was ratified by the shedding of Christ's blood!  To me, it looks like exegetical gymnastics to produce a justification to deny the obvious.

Well, if it's settled, then I guess there's no need for any discussion. Moving on. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

Well, that's surprising progress!  Smile

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

Dispensationalists believe non-dispensationalists refuse to accept the clear and obvious meaning of certain OT texts.  Non-dispensationalists believe that dispensationalists refuse to accept the clear and obvious meaning of certain NT texts.

For the life of me, I can't see how anyone could deny that the New Covenant was ratified by the shedding of Christ's blood!  To me, it looks like exegetical gymnastics to produce a justification to deny the obvious.

I completely agree with the second para.  One of the reasons I am a reluctant dispensationalist (actually Biblical Covenantalist) is over their positions on the NC.  With respect to Paul V, I have read Beacham, and I find that he completely misses the point.  I believe the problem has a lot to do with trying to structure the Bible with dispensations - which the Bible doesn't. 

However, again with respect, Greg's (thanks!) first paragraph is nonsense.  Non-dispies DO refuse to accept the plain meaning of very many OT texts.  But dispies DO NOT, as a rule, refuse to accept the plain meaning of the NT.

In fact, I would challenge my non-dispy friends to prove Greg's assertion.  To me it is just plain false.  Yes, they get the NC wrong because they fixate on Jer. 31 and fail to remember their own position that the church is not in the OT.  But generally they DO take both Testaments at face value (they are inductive), whereas non-dispies turn much of both Testaments into symbols, types and shadows (they are predominantly deductive).   

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

G. N. Barkman's picture

Paul H, with all due respect, it seems to me that your agreement with my second paragraph demonstrates agreement with the first.  My first paragraph was a general statement, my second a specific illustration of the first.   As far as inductive/deductive, I have been strongly inductive all my life.  It was my inductive study of the NT that led me to move away from life-long dispensationalism.  It didn't alter my approach to become predominantly deductive.  I was forced by inductive studies to re-visit my former interpretation of certain OT passages to keep them from conflicting with my enlarged understanding of the NT.  IOW, my inductive studies forced me to be willing to revisit the OT and consider deductive ways to harmonize some of the OT with the NT because that's what I realized inspired NT authors were apparently doing.

But isn't that what DT's often do with the NT?   Inductively, it's hard to miss the inauguration of the New Covenant upon the shedding of Christ's blood.  But that creates problems for DT in regard to the OT.  Solution?  Deductively re-interpret problematic sections of the NT so that they harmonize with OT inductive interpretation.  As I said earlier, somethings' got to give.

If Aaron decides to post an article I sent yesterday, perhaps my reasoning will become more clear.

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

Greg,

I hope Aaron posts your piece soon.  But in my last I agreed with you that many (not all) dispies have issues with the NC.  However, I indicated that it is an exception to the rule and therefore cannot be used to prove your general assertion.  You can't just cite the NC and assert "But isn't that what DT's OFTEN do with the Nt?"  You need to bring forward more proof to establish your point.  I have provided many instances where non-DT's reject the plain-sense of Scripture in both Testaments.    

Further, no inductive study of either Testament leads to the assertion that the Church is the New Israel, and that Israel as a nation no longer has national promises in line with God's covenants.  If you arrive at such a conclusion (and you have already stated that the Church = "the Israel of God" in this thread), it is because you have deduced it.  The Bible nowhere plainly declares your position.  You speak of "a New Testament hermeneutic" as if your interpretation of the NT is it.  But there are serious matters that need addressing.  E.g., Gal. 6:16 is far from a clear text for asserting the Church is the Israel of God, and many non-dispy scholars reject that as a valid interpretation.  At the very best it is a disputed text.       

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

G. N. Barkman's picture

Yes, Galatians 6:16 is unquestionably a disputed text.  Not surprisingly, DT's understand "Israel of God" as a reference to national Israel.  Non-DT's understand it as a reference to the Church as the Israel of God.  Do "inductive/deductive" approaches color this debate?  (I've never considered this text necessary to establish the church as spiritual Israel.  There are other passages that indicate it more clearly, in my opinion.  Not enough time to cite them now.  I'm up against a deadline.  But I also know that no matter what passage I present, it will be rejected by those with a Dispensational perspective.  It will become an exercise in assertions and denials without resolution.  I don't think I'm up to that kind of tug of war just now.  Maybe another day.  Smile )

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

Gal. 6:16 was not my main point.  My main concern had to do with your erroneous assertion that DT's adopt the same approach to the NT as non-DT's do with the OT.  I can quote your actual words again, but I don't think it will make a difference.  My issue is that we don't just make assertions without proof. 

Furthermore, very many non-DT's don't believe that Gal. 6:16 refers to the Church.   

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

pvawter's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

So when the Apostle Paul taught the church at Corinth how to observe the Lord's Table with instructions he received from Christ, and quoted Christ as saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, this do as often as you drink it in remembrance of me,"  he wasn't including the church in the New Covenant?  That's an astonishing proposition.

I think I missed this comment earlier. Not sure how you could assume that Jesus is saying anything about the church in that sentence other than instructing believers to drink the cup. He doesn't say, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, drink it as full participants in the covenant," or anything like that. Unless you presuppose that the church participates directly in the NC, I'm not sure that verse makes a strong argument either way. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

We don't seem to making much progress in this discussion, although I think there is merit in airing different points of view.  But let's try another approach.

Take the doctrine of the Trinity.  Does Scripture clearly state anywhere that God exists eternally in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and yet is one God?  Does that mean the doctrine is not true?  Paul V, you seem unwilling to allow any Biblical evidence unless it states the proposition in the exact words that satisfy you.  Anything less  is considered inadmissible, regardless of how a truth may be stated in words different from the ones you desire.  At that rate, I'm surprised that you have many doctrines that you believe assuredly.

For Paul H, is the doctrine of the Trinity derived inductively or deductively?  My answer would have to be deductively.  Does that mean it is untrue?  To require inductive evidence for every Bible teaching is to ignore the way God wrote the Bible and the way we come to understand what He has written.  Biblical truth is sometimes derived inductively, and sometimes deductively, and often a combination of both.

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Moderator

 Does Scripture clearly state anywhere that God exists eternally in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and yet is one God?

Isn't this stated clearly? Which part of it isn't clear?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Just as we don't really know what OT prophecy means apart from NT interpretation

I think this is the crux of the matter: Is the OT intelligible on its own? If not, what purpose did it actually serve? Why did God hold Israel accountable for it? And why didn't Christ correct the multitude of misunderstandings of it? If so, why must we reinterpret it based on the NT? Why would prophecy be unintelligible but everything else would be? In fact, why would prophecies about Christ's first coming be intelligible but prophecies about his second coming not be intelligible?

The dispensational position (and some others) believe the OT is intelligible on its own. We can believe it and trust it, just as Israel could. That does not mean we understand it fully. No one claims that. But to say that we don't really know what it means seems strange. They knew it meant a Messiah born to to a virgin. They knew it meant restoration from captivity. They knew it meant the Messiah would suffer and have glory to follow. 1 Peter 1:10-12 spells out that they knew a lot.

I think this is a point where many are inconsistent on their OT hermeneutic. My guess is that Brother Barkman thinks the OT is abundantly clear on its own and needs no NT interpretation in many cases. Why he punts on certain aspects of prophecy is not clear to me.

A helpful read on this is Kaiser's response to Enns in the Three Views on the NT use of the OT (or the OT Use in the NT ... I can't remember the exact title and am too lazy to look it up). Kaiser makes a strong argument that the apostles had to use the OT in a way that would be recognizable by the Jews. Here are a couple of key quotes:

The first New Testament believers tested what they had heard from Jesus and his disciples against what was written in the Old Testament. They had no other canon or source of help. How, then, were they able to get it right?

Thus, from a methodological point of view, reading the Bible backward is incorrect historically as well as procedurally. ... [The early Christians] could not have tested what was established (and true) for them (possessing only the Old Testament) by what was being received as new (the New Testament). (Kaiser 2003, 26)

The early church could not have done what Greg says we must do. That is a major (and insurmountable, IMO) problem. They, in fact, verified the newer revelation (NT) by the older revelation (OT), not the other way around.

For Kaiser, the very fact that they used the OT to persuade their hearers means that their arguments from the OT could have been seen in the OT by those they were trying to convince. He argues that the apologetic value of the OT would be minimized if the appeal to it was clouded. If the Messianic meaning was hidden or less than obvious, “how could it have been persuasive for those considering whether Jesus was the one sent from God according to his plans for all eternity?” (Kaiser 2003, 22). If their intent was to convince people, particularly Jews, that the church was the next step in God’s plan (however that might be construed), it would not do to use the OT in a way that was unconvincing. The Scripture would need to be used straightforwardly, in a way that induced as little controversy as possible.

I don't think it is that confusing if we simply read it and don't try to complicate it.

The idea that DTs disagree on the NC is hardly troubling. There are all sorts of things people disagree on. If we discount a position because adherents of said position disagree on something, everything would get discounted. 

If the church is party to the new covenant numerous questions arise among which are:

  1. When was the church in bondage in Egypt and led out by the hand of YHWH?
  2. When was the church party to the Mosaic covenant which they broke? If they weren't party to the Mosaic covenant, then in what sense is the NC new?
  3. Where is the rebuilt city existing in peace?
  4. How can the church be part of Israel when God specifically declares he has made Jew and Gentile into one new man? (Not included into the old man of Israel.)
  5. If Hebrews includes the church in the NC, why does it only cite part of the NC?

I don't imagine these questions will generate any more discussion than they have in the past, but they are among the many issues that I have been unable to find convincing answer to.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Larry, I have time for a quick answer to your first post.  The second is much longer and I don't have the time just now.

Isn't the doctrine of the Trinity stated clearly?  Yes, if you are willing to gather several texts and analyze them deductively.  No, if you insist upon citing one text that inductively states the doctrine of the Trinity in the language of the orthodox creeds.  

G. N. Barkman

Paul Henebury's picture

For Paul H, is the doctrine of the Trinity derived inductively or deductively?

Come on.  You keep avoiding my main point and taking the conversation elsewhere.  You made an assertion that you cannot back up.  That's MY point directed at you.

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

Paul Henebury's picture

Larry poses several questions:

If the church is party to the new covenant numerous questions arise among which are:

When was the church in bondage in Egypt and led out by the hand of YHWH?

When was the church party to the Mosaic covenant which they broke? If they weren't party to the Mosaic covenant, then in what sense is the NC new?

Where is the rebuilt city existing in peace?

How can the church be part of Israel when God specifically declares he has made Jew and Gentile into one new man? (Not included into the old man of Israel.)

If Hebrews includes the church in the NC, why does it only cite part of the NC?

Let me have a quick (though inadequate) go at these:

1. The first question is telling only if Jer. 31 is the only passage on the New Covenant.  But it isn't.

2. The Church is not a party to the NC, but it doesn't have to be.  The basis of the MC is the Ten Commandments, and nine of them are universally binding, and are repeated to the Church in the NT.

3.  This is an example of Abrahamic and Davidic covenants being included and revitalized by the NC.

4.  The NC is not just promised to Israel, unless you think Jer. 31 is the only NC passage. Other passages plainly include the Nations.

5.  Because Hebrews is written to Hebrews, in my view it is not written to the whole Church, although many of its truths apply to the Church.  It might be profitably viewed as the 40th OT book if you like.

Yes, there's a lot more to say, but I think I can back up these basic assertions.  Perhaps I'll address this issue soon.

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

pvawter's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Paul V, you seem unwilling to allow any Biblical evidence unless it states the proposition in the exact words that satisfy you.  Anything less  is considered inadmissible, regardless of how a truth may be stated in words different from the ones you desire.  At that rate, I'm surprised that you have many doctrines that you believe assuredly.

Greg,

You and I both know that the actual words of Scripture matter. You want me to believe that "this is the New Covenant in my blood" means the church either takes Israel's place or at least joins the NC as a full partner alongside the houses of Israel and Judah. So, yeah, I call foul.

And I chuckle at the silly assertion that I must deny the Trinity because I refuse to argue like a reformed theologian. For the record, my argument for the Trinity is inductive, not deductive. The undeniable statements of Scripture compel me to believe that God is triune, not some commitment to a systematic theology textbook or creedal confession.

Larry's picture

Moderator

When was the church in bondage in Egypt and led out by the hand of YHWH?

1. The first question is telling only if Jer. 31 is the only passage on the New Covenant.  But it isn't.

But the NC isn't less than Jer 31, is it? It specifically tells us who the parties are. That doesn't change anywhere else, does it?

When was the church party to the Mosaic covenant which they broke? If they weren't party to the Mosaic covenant, then in what sense is the NC new?

2. The Church is not a party to the NC, but it doesn't have to be.  The basis of the MC is the Ten Commandments, and nine of them are universally binding, and are repeated to the Church in the NT.

You are going to answer this differently because of your view of the NC. I am not sure what you mean by "basis." I don't think I would use it that way, but the Ten Commandments are the expression of God's law for that time and people. The repetition of them in the NT is not because they are the 10 commandments but because they are part of God's way of living. Those 9 existed prior to the MC. No one prior to Exodus 20 was allowed by God to worship something else, to make a graven image, to steal, to commit adultery, etc. The 10C was the codification of God's law for a particular people at a particular time. We, as Christians, follow the 9, not because they are part of the MC/Law of Moses but because they are part of God's created order.

Where is the rebuilt city existing in peace?

3.  This is an example of Abrahamic and Davidic covenants being included and revitalized by the NC.

I agree. But it still has to happen, doesn't it?

How can the church be part of Israel when God specifically declares he has made Jew and Gentile into one new man? (Not included into the old man of Israel.)

4.  The NC is not just promised to Israel, unless you think Jer. 31 is the only NC passage. Other passages plainly include the Nations.

Eph 2 is different though. The Gentiles there are not included in the OT covenant people; they are strangers to the covenant, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. They are not then included into the covenant people. There is a "new man" created--the church, not Israel. 

If Hebrews includes the church in the NC, why does it only cite part of the NC?4

5.  Because Hebrews is written to Hebrews, in my view it is not written to the whole Church, although many of its truths apply to the Church.  It might be profitably viewed as the 40th OT book if you like.

This is an old dispensational view that I can't affirm. It was written to Hebrews, but to Christian Hebrews--the church. But even that doesn't answer the question. Why does it omit the rest of the NC? Even if we grant that it was written to Hebrews, not the church as a whole, we still have to answer the question of why it omits part of the NC.

We could answer with Dodd perhaps, that citing part of an OT passage is invoking the whole passage, though I am not sure that works here. It would be better, IMO, to say that he quoted only the part that applied to his audience. He didn't cite the whole thing because he took the dispensational view that the whole NC was not applicable to the church for obvious reasons.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Paul H, if I will concede that I don't have any additional examples, will you answer my question about how the doctrine of the Trinity is derived?  (inductively or deductively)

I don't have any examples at hand, and am too pressed for time to begin searching.  So, to move the discussion along, let me concede that I made a general statement that I am not currently able to support.  (Perhaps another time when things aren't quite as busy.)

But, it seems the Trinity question is pretty fundamental to your point, unless I misunderstand what you are saying.  I hear you to say that doctrine derived inductively is superior to conclusions arrived at deductively.  I don't think I am avoiding your point.  I think I am answering it with an illustration about the doctrine of the Trinity.  Without deductive reasoning, would we have this doctrine?

G. N. Barkman

pvawter's picture

The question of which scriptural texts inform our understanding of the NC seems to be pretty significant. Different interpreters place different weight on a variety of texts, and this contributes to some of the difficulty in arguing the different views within dispensationalism. To me, Dave Frederickson's contribution to Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant is very helpful on this score. Promises made in the Abrahamic covenant, for instance, cannot be said to be "new covenant" blessings, yet that is exactly what many seem inclined to do. A little clarity on which texts reveal distinct NC elements goes a long way. 

G. N. Barkman's picture

The New Covenant may, or may not be the primary example of dispensationalists failing to accept NT statements at face value.  But it is obviously a major issue.  The discussion on this thread pits two men, more highly educated and capable than I, against each other.  Both claim to study the Scriptures using the same hermeneutic, but are seriously at odds over the inauguration of the New Covenant.  Perhaps starting with the OT, and interpreting the NT in light of the OT is not so perspicuous as supposed.  (My point?  Perhaps this is because the approach is backwards.  Maybe we should revisit our understanding of the OT in light of the NT.  I know.  I'm a glutton for punishment.  I will get ready to duck.)

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Moderator

Perhaps starting with the OT, and interpreting the NT in light of the OT is not so perspicuous as supposed.  (My point?  Perhaps this is because the approach is backwards.

How would the early church have done what you suggest since they didn't have the NT? Was there anything from the OT that they (and those before them) should have believed "at face value"?

How do you evaluate Kaiser's statement above because he says the opposite, that it is backwards to require later revelation to interpret earlier revelation, precisely because the early Christians could not do that?

I would also press back on the whole idea that dispensationalists are failing to accept NT statements at face value. What is the evidence for that? It seems that the argument is based on two things: (1) Communion and the "new covenant in my blood" with respect to inauguration or participation of some sort and (2) the partial citation of the NC in Hebrews 8. Are there other lines of argument that are slipping my memory?

G. N. Barkman's picture

By taking the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles as their guide.  (cf. Luke 24:27)  Clearly first century Jews had difficulty understanding prophetic portions of the OT.  They needed the coming of Christ to bring clarity.  (And as much as I enjoy Kaiser, I disagree with him on this particular perspective.  But he was a very interesting and engaging public speaker.)

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Moderator

By taking the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles as their guide.

But Jesus and the apostles didn't address everything. And much of the apostles teaching came decades after the church had begun. So isn't this clearly an unworkable option? To this day, much of the debate about the OT is because the NT doesn't address it. If we are to take the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles as our guide, we are stuck with no options.

Furthermore, this doesn't address the OT generation, who were expected to understand and live their lives by this revelation without benefit of any of the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. 

(cf. Luke 24:27)  Clearly first century Jews had difficulty understanding prophetic portions of the OT.  They needed the coming of Christ to bring clarity.

Was is that they had a difficult time understanding or was is that they didn't believe? Jesus did not rebuke them in Luke 24 for lack of understanding but for failing to believe all that the prophets have spoken. 

Might it be that our problem is not lack of understanding in some of these things but failure to believe what was spoken? As I said earlier, I think we have really overcomplicated this because ... well, who knows. Is it really that hard to believe that there is a future for national Israel when the NC is fulfilled with them? Why is there so much objection to that? Yes, it's a simple solution, but why is that bad?

G. N. Barkman's picture

No, Jesus and the Apostles probably didn't address everything.  That's why I said the early Christians took their teaching as their guide.  (Of course, we can't be sure they didn't teach verbally more than is recorded in Scripture.)  But surely you don't intend to assert that the Apostles teaching didn't come until decades after the church began.  The Apostles were teaching immediately after the church began.  Peter's sermon at Pentecost is an example, and his treatment of Joel's prophecy is an early indication of how the Apostles treated OT prophecy.  The Apostles early teaching became the basis for NT doctrine beginning days after Christ's ascension.

Furthermore, Jesus and the Apostles didn't have to address everything.  A dozen examples of their handling of OT prophecy is a helpful guide to interpreting the rest.

G. N. Barkman

Larry's picture

Moderator

But surely you don't intend to assert that the Apostles teaching didn't come until decades after the church began. 

In some cases it didn't come until decades after, particularly probably Hebrews that is being appealed to here.

Peter's sermon at Pentecost is an example, and his treatment of Joel's prophecy is an early indication of how the Apostles treated OT prophecy.  The Apostles early teaching became the basis for NT doctrine beginning days after Christ's ascension.

Yes, and I would argue this is strong evidence for a dispensational view. The fact that the NT apostles used the OT so widely and freely indicated that they believed that their "new teaching" could be easily seen in the "old teaching." Again, it would not do to use a text in a way in which every Jews would say, "No, that's not what it says." 

A dozen examples of their handling of OT prophecy is a helpful guide to interpreting the rest.

This actually depends on what ones thinks the apostles were doing--whether operating by exegesis or revelation. Here I will commend the articles of Longenecker ("Can We Reproduce the Exegesis of the New Testament?") and Walton ("Inspired Subjectivity and Hermeneutical Objectivity").

Longenecker says, “Apart from a revelatory stance on our part, I suggest that we cannot reproduce their pesher exegesis” (Longenecker 1970, 36). He further affirms that “Our commitment as Christians is to the reproduction of the apostolic faith and doctrine, and only secondarily (if at all) to the specific apostolic exegetical practices” (Longenecker 1970, 38).

Walton says, "The NT authors never claim to have engaged in a hermeneutical process, nor do they claim that they can support their findings from the text; instead, they claim inspiration … For the NT authors, the response to the question “Why should I believe that” is that they got the information for their interpretation from God … If you have inspiration, you do not need historical-grammatical hermeneutics. If you do not have inspiration, you must proceed by the acknowledged guidelines of hermeneutics." (Walton 2002, 70)

The primary issue here is that of authority: By what authority does a preacher say what he says? By what means will he attempt to convince an audience to agree with him? It seems that the fundamental answer to this question must be “the text.” A message can be authoritative only if it can be shown that it is what God said in that particular text. To appeal to imagination, however “Spirit-led” it might be, is ultimately to place the authority in the mind of the interpreter, in this case, the preacher.

We must remember that the NT authors’ goal was to convince their readers that Jesus was the Christ of God, sent for the salvation of the world. To prove this with an illegitimate or unapparent use of Scripture would hardly have been convincing. The Scriptures continually appeal to the OT for its authority by using phrases like “It has been written” (e.g., John 6:45, Rom 3:10, Rom 9:13) or “As the Scripture says” (e.g., Rom 9:17, 1 Tim 5:23, Jas 2:23). Such appeals only make sense if it can be shown that “it” has indeed been written or has been said in the Scriptures. After all, if the Christological interpretation was hidden, “then how could it have been persuasive for those considering whether Jesus was the one sent from God according to his plans for all eternity?” (Kaiser 2003, 22).

 

Paul Henebury's picture

Greg, I accept your response.  To your question about the deductive nature of the doctrine of the Trinity, let me supply a fuller answer.

When I characterized non-DT as "deductive" I was not denying that it does inductive exegesis, nor a I saying that DT's don't do deduction.  In fact, I think much of their dispensational structure is deductive, which is another reason I go by God's covenants.  As a mater of fact, theology mixes both approaches (which is "abduction").

But I think it is demonstrably true from reading their commentaries and theologies, as well as from their interactions and defenses of their position(s), that non-DT's do a great deal more deduction than do DT's, both in their starting assumptions, and in their exegesis.  This is why they are attracted to theological interpretation and the widening of the "context" to include the whole Bible. 

So as to the Trinity, as I demonstrated in my Rules of Affinity posts a while ago, that doctrine is a 'C2'  in the affinity between its texts and its propositions.  That is to say, direct passages tell us that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God, yet we are told just as strongly that God is one.  So out of these inductively arrived at truths we are forced to deduce that God is a Trinity.

Now this is NOT what is happening with the claim that the Church is Israel.  I showed this here.  There is no direct statement to this effect, and the proposed verses (e.g. Rom. 2:28-29; 9:6; Gal. 6:16 etc.) are heavily disputed, by non-DT's as well as DT's.  Therefore, there is no comparison between the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and the Church = the New Israel.   

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

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

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