And Behold, It Was All A Vision: Last Response
This post will be my final say in my debate with Steve Hays. It’s becoming personal and I never intended that to happen.
This responds somewhat “scatter-gun” to the posts below. I have decided to hone in on the most salient topics from my point of view.
Steve’s latest offering: http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/03/rocinante-to-rescue.html lowers the bar considerably and is a pugnacious and emotion-driven effort paying still less regard to my words even when printing them.
If you wish to know about Rocinante, and what Steve may be implying you can read about it here. I shall not respond in kind.
Visions Are Uncertain Things – or Not
Ezekiel has several visions. For example he has a vision of the glory of the LORD departing the Temple in Jerusalem in Chs.10-11. It departs through the East Gate. So far as I know, nobody believes the temple in the vision was not the actual physical temple in Jerusalem. Turning on to the Temple vision of Ezek. 40-48, we see the Prophet expressly told:
40:4 And the man said to me, “Son of man, look with your eyes and
hear with your ears, and fix your mind on everything I show you; for
you were brought here so that I might show them to you. Declare to
the house of Israel everything you see.
One of the things he saw was the the Glory of God coming via the Est Gate into the Holy Place (43:1-5). The third verse explicitly relates this later vision to the earlier one in chapter 10:
43:3 It was like the appearance of the vision which I saw — like the
vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. The visions were
like the vision which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face.
The first vision was of an actual temple standing in Jerusalem. Thus, just because something is seen in a vision does not at all mean it is symbolical. To base ones interpretation on the symbolical nature of visions is therefore irresponsible. As the later vision is also of the glory coming through the East Gate into the inner court, we are encouraged to take the vision as representing a real temple structure – but of the future. What future? The return from exile but without independence? That might have been the expectation of those in Babylon, but it became clear that that was not going to be so. The full blessings of restoration which the prophet foretells would not be realized in “the day of small things” (Zech. 4:10). In Ezek. 48:35 we are given an indication of when this will occur:
“…the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD Is THERE.”
So when Jerusalem will be known by the name “The LORD is there” will be the time of fulfillment of the whole vision.‡
Now, many interpreters, because they cannot see how a literal interpretation of these chapters harmonizes with the NT, use their understanding of the teaching of the NT as a reason to conclude that the whole later vision is non-literal and typological. But many of us see no reason to go that route. We think God said what He meant and if He wanted us to think of this vision in symbolical terms He would have said so somewhere in the context. And because this vision comports with the covenant promises God made (e.g. in Num. 25 & Jer. 33), we believe the major stumbling block to a plain-sense interpretation is simple disbelief, perhaps engendered by a faulty understanding of, say, the book of Hebrews. We may be wrong. But the discussion must be on the basis of the text of Scripture and not the current fashion among language philosophers.
Ancient Interpretations: Typological or Not?
Let me serve up another sample of what ancient Jews believed on this issue. This time it’s the ancient view of Malachi 3. It’s a bit long, but well worth reading:
“Other aspects of the imagery of the book of Malachi, and particularly its ending, have brought much hope and comfort. In fact, the reference to Elijah in 3:23-24 was often understood as an affirmation of hope for a final liberation, one even greater than the exodus from Egypt, for after Israel’s first liberation it eventually becomes enslaved, but it will not after the one promised in Malachi (see Pesiq. Rab. 4.3). Similarly the language of 3.4 is repeated often in traditional Jewish liturgy as an expression of hope about the restoration of appropriate worship in a future, third Temple” – Ehud Ben Zvi, “Malachi,” in The Jewish Study Bible, Tanakh Translation, 1269.
Hays represents this as me interpreting the OT via extraneous sources. But I’m doing nothing of the sort. My purpose is simply to show how ancient readers, including the disciples in Acts 1:6, understood, e.g., Ezekiel’s vision and Malachi’s prediction; and show thereby that his objection that my interpretation is conditioned by my timeline and/or by my dispensationalism is plain wrong.
To bring up G.K. Beale once again, anyone interested in this ought to read chapters 3 and 4 of his A New Testament Biblical Theology. They will there see adequate corroboration of what I have been saying from an author who will then spend the rest of his book trying to prove how the NT “transforms” and “changes” “unexpectedly” what is seen in the Old. (I hope to review this book later in the year).
Still Hays thinks it’s me:
Henebury isn’t putting himself into the historical situation of the original audience. He’s not hearing the text the way the first hearers heard it.
He’s been shown to be wrong. And all he puts up in response is philosophy mixed with supposition. It’s not enough!
I can’t decisively prove that the first hearers of the Prophets interpreted them differently than those witnesses, both biblical and non-biblical, that I’ve produced within Second Temple Judaism and after. But when that is combined with the above and the intertextual links I have provided I’m content to rest my case and let the reader decide if Steve’s objection has any bite.
I had a quotation from B. Childs which agreed with Ben Zvi, but enough is enough.
I can’t keep back from quoting from pages 113-114 of Beale’s book where Beale is referring to G. B. Caird. First, Beale cites Caird
“1. The biblical writers believed literally that the world had had a beginning in the past and would have an end in the future”
Again, in this sentence it is taken for granted we know what “literally” means. It is not a technical word of course. But we usually all know what it refers to.
Then Beale talks about Caird’s description of prophets having short and long-range “sight” and adds,
This is quite close to the definition of typology given by many in which an OT person, institution, or event has analogous correspondence to and is a foreshadowing of a later event in the NT age.
Not Talk Philosophy
John Frame has said he wants to do theology with more appeals to scripture and less to philosophy. I entirely agree! Steve plies his trade in sense/reference, type/token, authorial/audiential, etc., but never actually does anything with it. He never applies it exegetically. Observing a “New Exodus” or “New Eden” motif does not automatically mean we are alerted to a biblical type. I know Steve complains he never said such a thing – and I acknowledged it – but when he introduces types and tokens he is doing so to disprove my interpretations. Fine. But every time he does that he clearly does imply his putative typology of the OT.
Steve says I’m tilting at windmills. He thinks I’m misrepresenting him. Listen:
What I said, rather, is that when the same plot motif is repeated with variation, then that’s a type/token relation.
He sees this in his proffered texts (Isa. 11; 35; Jer. 16; and Isa. 51 and Ezek. 36). These were examined here and here. He also faults my inability to see that “the Fregean distinction between sense and reference” nobbles my interpretations. But how does all this work on Ezekiel 10-11? If Ezekiel tells us he saw the Temple in Jerusalem, are we to decide he is not referring to to the Temple in Jerusalem? No, he assuredly is referring to it. Very well, how come things change when we get to the Temple Vision at the end of the Book? What magic ingredient causes us to idealize the future Temple? That temples represented other theological truths is well known (I recommend Allen P. Ross’s outstanding, Recalling the Hope of Glory on this subject). But the representation of, say, Eden or New Eden no more dissolves the representative entity then God’s image dissolves the man who bears it. Likewise, the Temple in Ezekiel 10 represented old and new Eden just as much as the Temple in chs. 40-48.
It’s the same with plot lines. Steve thinks certain plot lines lead one to typological interpretations. For example,
Actually, it’s just a case of taking narrative theology seriously. Biblical narratives often embed a metanarrative that’s driving the action.
Guess where Steve thinks the action is being driven to? His typology.
As usual, Henebury can’t follow the argument. I didn’t say plotlines necessitate typology.
I didn’t say he did. I inferred that his argument implied it which is very different. He does not take the next step and demonstrate how the motifs he sees drive the action toward a typology. He merely points to a plot line or motif and says “QED.” Embedded narratives may drive the action, but they never contradict the words of the author. That would put the author in conflict with himself.
Steve thinks we should all get this:
The sense/reference (or intension/extension) distinction is pretty mainstream in hermeneutics and semiotics.
But we’re not talking about mainstream hermeneutics and semiotics. We’re supposed to be talking about biblical typology. “Type” re. “type/token” is a different animal than “type” re. typology of Scripture.
This distinction is important in the work of Quine and Ricoeur.
That’s reassuring. Ricoeur, the man who thought the story of the fall contained “nothing like Augustine’s doctrine of original sin” (K. Vanhoozer, “Ricoeur, Paul,” Dict. for Theol. Interp. of the Bible, 694)!
Unwelcome Uses of Motif
Mention of the story of the fall makes one think of the way the first chapters of Genesis are “interpreted” by old-earth creationists (M. Kline, V. Poythress), and theistic evolutionists (B. Waltke, J. Collins, P. Enns) by their employment of motif and literary theory. Doesn’t this tell us that merely pointing to literary and linguistic features does not procure correct interpretation? I repeat, the words in context must determine the meaning. Any motif will not contravene the “plain-sense.”
Does this mean exegesis equates to “face-value” meaning? Not necessarily. But the first, most apparent meaning must be given first shot, and the exegesis must uncover good reasons for departing from what most would call, for right reasons of expediency, “the plain-sense.” It may be that figures and symbols and structure have to be taken into account. Thus, in the case of Ezekiel’s Temple we must decide on what grounds, if any, the Temple in chapter 40ff. is symbolic or figurative. As I pointed out last time, the reason Hays recognizes a floor-plan is because of the meaning imparted by a normal reading of the text. The reasons for departing from that must be set out and weighed. Still, the assumption must be that God said what He meant to say and that the Bible is revelation and not obfuscation. I know of no fundamental Christian doctrine that can be maintained by any other method.
I shall not tarry here, there is ample material on this (e.g. R. Thomas, Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Versus the Old. See also these two pieces by Andy Woods).†
Being Serious About “The Plain-Sense”
Okay, did I claim Beale and Poythress believed in “plain-sense” hermeneutics?
Henebury can’t be serious. One of Beale’s primary interests is how the OT is fulfilled in the NT. He’s devoted years to refining a highly nuanced explanation.
I know it. But despite that he expects us to know what he means by “literal” and “face value”! I proved it. That is not the same thing as saying Beale holds to a “plain-sense hermeneutics.” If he did, I would have had no reason to have quoted him.
The same with Poythress,
With all due respect, it’s simply ridiculous for Henebury to attribute a “plain-sense” hermeneutic to Poythress.
And just where did I attribute any such thing to him?
I said, Vern Poythress assumes a plain-sense when writing about the 8th Commandment in his paper on “Contracts and the Destructive Effects of Unfaithfulness” (6).
Ditto John Frame. Actually, ditto everybody in normal conversation.
While we’re dealing with misunderstandings, I recommended Douglas Moo’s essay “The Problem of Sensus Plenior” in the Carson and Woodbridge book, Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon for those who wish to see something close to my position. I singled out pp.195-198, which deal with typology, “although noting that Moo falls foul of Sailhamer’s critique of the usual promise-fulfillment schema.”
But Steve asks, Since I set my own position in explicit contrast to the sensus plenior, how’s that relevant? Read what I said and judge. I wasn’t talking about Steve’s position on sensus plenior.
And he wants to know, “does Henebury endorse Moo’s section on typology?” Well, I recommended it.
While I’m on the subject, I believe I did misrepresent Steve on what he said about land-referents changing. I also should have been clearer by what I meant when I compared his view of “recapitulation” with “reinterpretation.” I should have separated Steve’s view more. for that I apologize. Finally, I took for granted Steve believed this world would be destroyed and replaced at the Second Coming. Beale does and Steve may, but he didn’t say he did. Howbeit, nothing hinges on it. I may also be guilty of misrepresenting him elsewhere (these long blog debates run without editors and are liable that way), although I am not impressed by his other attempts at crying wolf.
Caution: Conspiracy Theorist
Steve says “It’s difficult to have a constructive conversation with a conspiracy theorist…
Henebury constantly suspects that I’m really reinterpreting the OT through the lens of the NT. No amount of correction or explanation on my part disabuses him of his suspicions. It gets to be a bit paranoid.
Let us be clear on this. I don’t think Steve is being disingenuous on this issue. I think he really believes, at least at one level, that his view is self-evident from the pages of the OT and OT saints knew that the covenants and promises were to be interpreted via the “underlying motifs” much along Steve’s lines. But since his view belies all the internal and external evidence I have brought up, and since it so closely resembles the procedures of CT’s who openly profess to read the OT through the New; and since his examples are so unpersuasive as they stand, then I’m sorry but I think he is presupposing his knowledge of the NT and it is driving what he looks for in the OT. That is why he doesn’t interact with the text itself. He’s more concerned with motif-spotting than following what the words of the text are saying in context.
I mean no offense to him. I’m just being honest. I take no offense when he accuses me of doing likewise, although I think I have far less reason to operate that way. The problem for dispensationalists is to line up the NT with the OT, whereas the problem for covenant theologians is the reverse. Hence, DT’s are perhaps tempted to read the OT into the NT. I feel that tension sometimes.
He writes about me:
In all candor, I think Henebury is oblivious to how the NT is conditioning his own interpretation of Ezekiel. To situation Ezekiel’s temple within a premillennial eschatology is hardly something he could get from the text of Ezk 40-48 alone.
This is bogus. As I have shown, ancient Jews managed it without reference to the NT. I have demonstrated intertextual covenantal linkage in the OT itself (none of which has been joined). That this intertextuality agrees with Jewish expectations at the time of Jesus and before, and also with later premillennialism, shows it has explanatory durability and force. Hays just thinks we all start at Rev. 20 (which only gives the duration), and read it into the OT. He is badly mistaken. My position bears resemblance to that of those who reject the NT – Rev. 20 included!
We can, for present purposes, easily set aside the NT and simply examine OT texts to present a coherent picture of future hope for Israel, and the world through Israel. Steve just doesn’t like what these many passages say, so they must undergo artificial typological treatment to make them conform to his theology. Modern philosophy is drafted in to shore up a poor argument. Let Hays interact with the textual and background evidence that has been produced before he makes such cavalier remarks.
I want to mention that a person can admit these passages present a glorious picture for renewed Israel and yet apply them to the church by redefining or transforming them in light of their understanding of the NT. This is what covenant theologians routinely do.
Steve says he isn’t guilty of doing that. Not explicitly no. Presumably he has persuaded himself he stands with the original interpreters of these messages and is simply republishing their views. I have shown otherwise.
Sneeking in the Church
Henebury: “The church was a mystery not revealed to them (Eph. 3:3-6; Col. 1:26). All they needed to know was that it would be fulfilled.”
Hays: Oh dear. I hope Henebury isn’t using the NT to interpret or “reinterpret” the OT. Surely he’s not reading the NT back into the OT to tell us what the exiles were in a position to anticipate. Doesn’t sound very dispensational to me.
He ought to have quoted the entire paragraph. No matter, no OT text was interpreted by use of the NT to show that the church was not in view for the Jews. Steve had asked, “When did they think Messiah would come? At the end of the church age?” As Steve thinks the Church is a NT phenomenon he shouldn’t complain if I have to go to the NT to answer him.
Henebury: “Steve acts as if the OT saints understood all these underlying patterns and believed it. If that is true I don’t know what to make of the disciples’ question in Acts 1:6.”
Acts 1:6 is simply cited as another ancient witness to the way Jews of that period understood the promises to Israel. Steve had written: If they understood the fulfillment as taking place when Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian exile–or even before the exile (depending on the date of a given oracle), then that’s at odds with postponing the fulfillment to the end of the church age.
I have shown they didn’t understand it that way. This reference to Acts as an ancient witness is relevant to the question Steve put. There was nothing “schizophrenic” about it. As every commentator I know of thinks the disciples understood “the kingdom” of Israel as a literal restoring of a literal kingdom to literal Israel it serves to demolish Steve’s anachronistic view of how Jews of the day took the OT. Notice he ignored the main point.
Steve links to “a lengthy discussion of Ezekiel’s temple.”
His discussions of Ezekiel’s temple did not address the issue raised by Hess citation, nor many issues raised in this correspondence.
If Henebury indexes meaning to what it meant to the first hearers or original audience, then their expectations are, by his own definition, highly relevant to the correct interpretation. If they understood the fulfillment as taking place when Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian exile–or even before the exile (depending on the date of a given oracle), then that’s at odds with postponing the fulfillment to the end of the church age.
Since they didn’t, and since they couldn’t know “the church age” would intervene,and since they still await the restoration of Israel, well Hays is answered.
Of course, if we think the land-promises are inherently emblematic, then that’s not a problem.
True, it’s a good way to get rid of “problems.” Translation: “If we interpret the words of God through domineering motifs interpreted through the Hays typology then we can move along without dealing with the words in context.”
In his most recent foray:
Henebury is still committing a level-confusion by confounding the visionary narrative with what it analogizes. Ezk 40-48 is a figurative montage which combines a number of different, complementary themes. It’s not a photographic preview of the world to come. I’m not the one whose “equating” Ezk 40-48 with the future.
I can’t find it now, but he did equate Ezekiel’s temple to Rev. 21! I said I would comment on that to show how the two things are very different, but this post is too long anyway. Let the interested reader run the comparison himself. And let him not dance over the sin issues in Ezekiel the way Hays has!
Given the numerous discrepancies between Ezk 40-48 and the Mosaic cultus, if we take Henebury’s objection to its logical conclusion, then that would make Ezekiel a false prophet. If Deut 18 sets the bar, and Ezk 40-48 contradicts the blueprint which God gave Moses, then, by Henebury’s logic, Ezekiel should be stricken from the canon.
I just printed this to have a record of it. It’s for those who like a chuckle.
Appealing to Zech 6 & 14 merely relocates the same issue. Zechariah is a book full of obscure symbolism. So obscure that Zechariah needs angelic commentators to interpret the symbolism. So there’s no presumption that we should take the imagery in Zech 6 & 14 at “face-value.”
There are no angelic communicators in Zech. 6:9f. (the temple section pertinent to the discussion), or Zech.14! I could go on and on with this. For instance, the fact that “all flesh is grass” is a figure of speech in a poetic section of Isaiah is supposed to alert us to the figurative nature (?) of nine chapters in a non-poetical temple account in Ezekiel!
The People of God?
Okay, I’m nearly done. I was going to go into this but, as I said, it’s too long. Suffice then to say that Turretin believes the OT saints were in the Church:
the proper signification of this word [church called catholic] teaches that…in whatever place they have been or will be, and in whatever time they have lived from the beginning of the world or will live unto the end. In this sense, “The whole family of God” is said “to be named in heaven and on earth (Eph. 3:15). Therefore, in the Apostle’s Creed the church is properly called catholic. – Institutes of Elenctic Theology, (Trans. Giger, ed., Dennison1997), Vol. III, 18th Topic, Sixth Question, II, p. 30. (See also Fifth Question: IV, p. 27).
In 6.V he speaks of the term “taken more strictly for the church of the New Testament” but only because of its OT restriction to the Jews.
I was going to cite D. Dickson’s Truth’s Victory Over Error, 194 to show that the Westminster Confession disagrees with Hays on restricting the term Church to the NT saints (I know he will play the semantics game but either way, it’s clear he doesn’t jibe with them). Hays says we are to call the whole people of God in both Testaments “the covenant community.” That is what Beale calls the NT church on page 203 of his NT Biblical Theology.
That’s more than enough, though the flesh wants to keep going!. Steve is welcome to have the last word(s). Despite his obvious annoyance at me I would like to thank him for the exchange. I am the better for it. I wish him God’s blessing.
† I should explain why I did not speak about “Grammatical-historical hermeneutics” in this exchange. It is because the term has come to mean different things to different people, and is, therefore, unsatisfactory without further qualification. E.g., CT’s speak of it but usually introduce the Analogy of Faith very early on in the process of exegesis. They also freely employ theological and especially Christological categories in their interpretations. I intend to write on this matter separately.
‡ It seems I need to clarify. The city will bear the name Jerusalem, but it will be known by other names: “The LORD is there”; “The LORD our Righteousness”; “The City of Truth.” This is like Jesus being called “Immanuel.” He IS God with us!