In my post Is Reinterpretation the Right Term? I noted Steve Hays’s objection to using the word. Steve wrote, “Does the NT reinterpret OT prophecies and promises? Dispensationalists are understandably critical of this suggestion,” and later, ” It is possible, therefore, to oppose “Zionist” exegesis without taking the position that the NT reinterprets the OT.”
Steve himself does admit that some scholars (he cites B. Waltke), do believe the NT reinterprets the OT (Not to be funny, but I’m not actually sure Hays is being fair to Waltke. I think I read somewhere where Waltke said he did not believe this). I cited K. Riddlebarger but didn’t reproduce the quote. Here it is:
“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…” – K. Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism, 37.
Steve prefers to go for “recapitulation.” He believes certain motifs are “recapitulated,” by which I take him to mean something like “repeated in a different form.” He offers a sample of what he means by linking Isa. 11:12-16 (sic) with 35:1-2, 6-7 and Jer. 16:14-15. Another example he offers is Isa. 51:3 with Ezek. 36:24, 33-36. In the former grouping he sees a New Exodus theme; in the latter, a New Eden theme. With both these themes he reads a typology of the land in the OT itself. If the land is typological in the OT, then, the argument goes, there is no problem with the NT carrying this on, and “reinterpretation” is not happening. What is occurring is “recapitulation.”
But I just don’t see it. And I wonder how he know recapitulation and typology is there? With all due respect I think Steve is letting a presumed theological motif pass rudely over what the texts are really saying. As I pointed out in Reason 37:
37. In reality what happens is that the theological presuppositions of the interpreter which 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 assumed 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.
Isaiah 11:12-16 reads:
12 He will raise a signal for the nations
and will assemble the banished of Israel,
and gather the dispersed of Judah
from the four corners of the earth.
[Notice the language of restoration for Israel. Cf. vv10-11 with v.1]
13 The jealousy of Ephraim shall depart,
and those who harass Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not be jealous of Judah,
and Judah shall not harass Ephraim.
[“In that day” (v.10), there will be no enmity between North and South. Cf. Ezek. 37:15-21]
14 But they shall swoop down on the shoulder of the Philistines in the west,
and together they shall plunder the people of the east.
They shall put out their hand against Edom and Moab,
and the Ammonites shall obey them.
[I take this to refer to the nations surrounding Israel at the time of fulfillment, whatever we might call them today. Cf. Obad. 15-21, which appears to fit the same timing].
15 And the LORD will utterly destroy
the tongue of the Sea of Egypt,
and will wave his hand over the River
with his scorching breath,
and strike it into seven channels,
and he will lead people across in sandals.
16 And there will be a highway from Assyria
for the remnant that remains of his people,
as there was for Israel
when they came up from the land of Egypt.
[The Lord (Christ at His Second Coming? – Cf. Mal. 4:1-2) will make a physical path from Egypt by forming the Red Sea into seven channels. This reminds us of the Exodus, but, as the next verse shows, it is not confined to Egypt. But nothing typological is said to be occurring. Jews need to get back to Israel, and this facilitates that return. As far as one can tell from the passage, this will actually happen].
The passage above is twinned with Isa. 35 and Jer. 16 thus:
1 The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
2 it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the LORD,
the majesty of our God.
6 For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
14 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when it shall no longer be said, ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ 15 but ‘As the LORD lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the north country and out of all the countries where he had driven them.’ For I will bring them back to their own land that I gave to their fathers. (Jer 16:14-15)
To understand Isa. 35 one must study the chapter before it. Isa. 34 has to do with “the day of the LORD’s vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (34:8. And see vv. 16-17).
Now, Isa. 35 dovetails into this:
35:4: “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, do not fear!
Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense
of God; He will come and save you.”
It also dovetails into what we have seen in Isa. 11:
35:10: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion
with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain
joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Please note the clear language of redemption for Zion linked with the time of vengeance (see “the redeemed” in v.9). In Lk. 4:18-19 Jesus quoted a similar verse from Isa. 61:1-2a but stopped short of speaking of the “day of vengeance” (v.2b), and the primacy of future Israel over the nations in the rest of the chapter (Cf. Zeph. 3:14-20). It is not too much to expect the One who said Isa. 61:1-2a was fulfilled at his first coming to fulfill the rest of Isa. 61 (and so Isa. 34-35) at His second coming.
Hays then links to Jer. 16:14-15, which houses a promise of return amid denouncement for sin. I think he is correct to see a connection with Isa. 11 & 35, but there is no typology and no alteration in the “land-motif.” Better places to go would be Jer. 30:1-10; 31:1-14, 21-16; 32:37-41; 33:14-26. These show again that there is no typology and “territorial referents,” as far as Israel’s land is concerned, are constant. Steve’s “typology” of recapitulation is not there. He has brought it with him. This shows why one should never formulate doctrine from supposed “types.” Hence, I must strongly disagree with Steve when he recommends “taking OT typology as your benchmark or starting-point.”
The truth is, something outside the texts he uses is making him see types that are not there. Could that something be that he is “reinterpreting” the passages because of his commitment to letting his understanding of the NT dictate what the OT must say, and what God intended to say? Perhaps not. But in my experience and reading, that is what is going on.
To quote William Edgar:
The presence of God in the life of Israel was real enough, but Israel was also a model, a type for the last days, of which the church is the antitype.” – Truth In All Its Glory, 130.
Steve does not think Israel is a type. Well. But that is not usual, and his method is somewhat elusive.
I will address the other example of Steve’s next time. He has written more on this since the first post. I shall have to try to catch up.