Types in the Textual Undergrowth?

This is a continuation of the one on Recapitulation and Typology in Isaiah and Jeremiah.  This time we deal with Isaiah and Ezekiel.

One of the things to look out for in this exchange is that Hays is not your run-of-the-mill covenant theologian (he doesn’t think OT Israel is a type, although I can’t see why he makes the exception Actually, he clarified that point in a post I missed, so I am happy to be corrected.  I confess I don’t know how he writes so much so quickly!), and yours truly is a “reluctant” and slightly maverick dispensationalist.  In truth, I am a dispensational premillennialist but I really don’t like the dispensational scheme.  I think “dispensations” are theologically mute and hermeneutically semi-redundant, and one can and should construct a scheme based on God as Speaker and Oath-Taker, which has far more traction than dispensational-ism.  The “dispensations” are tertiary elements of such a scheme.  They should play about the same role as they do in the works of Witsius or Hodge.   I have given some glimpses of my view, but I need to say more, and (DV) shall.

I am most appreciative of Hays’s posts, even where he appears to have gone off on a tangent after quoting me.   Whatever, the important thing is, he raises several good questions about my approach.  I am having trouble keeping up with him, but shall try to be faithful as the weeks pass.

Let me continue with his example of land-typology in the Prophets:

Likewise, the OT has a new Eden theme. For instance:

3 For the LORD comforts Zion;

   he comforts all her waste places

and makes her wilderness like Eden,

   her desert like the garden of the LORD;

joy and gladness will be found in her,

   thanksgiving and the voice of song.

(Isa 51:3)

[There are so many passages which corroborate this theme of future comfort and safety in the Prophets that it should be seen as a major concern of theirs.  A selection would include Isa.52:7-10; 54:1-10; 55:1-5, 10-12;  Jer. 31 & 33;  Ezek. 34:11-30; Hos. 2:14-23; Mic. 4:1-5; Zeph. 3:14-20; Zech. 2:10-13; 8:1-3, 18-23].  In none of these passages is there a hint of typology.  Why not take them at face-value and let them mean what they say?  

Have they been fulfilled yet?  If not, what is stopping them from being fulfilled?  The answer is in this very chapter:

 10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea, The waters of the
great deep; That made the depths of the sea a road For the
redeemed to cross over? [Recalling the Exodus]
11 So 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; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
12 ” I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you
should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who
will be made like grass?
13 And you forget the LORD your Maker, Who stretched out the
heavens And laid the foundations of the earth; You have feared
continually every day Because of the fury of the oppressor, When
he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor?
14 The captive exile hastens, that he may be loosed, That he
should not die in the pit, And that his bread should not fail.
15 But I am the LORD your God, Who divided the sea whose
waves roared — The LORD of hosts is His name.
16 And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with
the shadow of My hand, That I may plant the heavens, Lay the
foundations of the earth, And say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’ “

The redemption of Israel will take place at the Second Coming (Zech. 12:10 – please pay attention to the repetition of the phrase “in that day” in Zech. 12-14).  If that is so, then the blessings of these passages will be realized after that event when “I will return to Zion, And dwell in the
midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The
Mountain of the LORD of hosts, The Holy Mountain.” (Zech. 8:3).

Steve again makes a good connection with Ezekiel 36.  He cites 36:24, 33-36:

24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land

[One of the interesting characteristics of Ezek. 36 is how the prophet connects the land as God’s possession with Israel and their possession (E.g., see 36:5 “My land” with v.17 “their own land”)

33 “Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. 34 And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. 35 And they will say, ‘This land [not some antitype] that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it. (Ezk 36:24,33-36)

If we explore the context a bit more we find the following: God will cause all this to happen for the sake of His Holy Name (36:21-23).  Why is God’s Name at stake?  Because of his covenants with wayward Israel (see 37:21-28, which implies the Abrahamic (v.22), New (vv.23, 26), Davidic (v.24-25), and Priestly (vv.26-28) covenants.

Steve says,

In context, the setting is exilic and postexilic. The Babylonians laid waste to the promised land. But God will restore the exiles to Israel.

Correct.  We know this by reading the text at face value.  In the same way we can know what that restoration of the exiles to Israel will look like.  But we must let the prophet tell us. 

Only this is depicted in terms of paradise lost and paradise regained. The promised land is portrayed in Edenic imagery. The Babylonian exile is analogous to the ancient expulsion from Eden. The post-exilic homecoming is analogous to returning to the ancestral garden.

The reason for the Edenic portrayal is because it will actually occur.  Why should we believe otherwise?  Do we not have clear covenant predictions of this very thing elsewhere?

Why then, I ask, are we constrained to see all this as typological?  Let us be clear what this implies.  A type is not the reality but points to something beyond itself.  Hence, the interpretation which follows the plain-sense of the passage and sees a literal fulfillment of a rejuvenated and fecund land would be incorrect because it would only be a type.  What then?  These types must be reinterpreted to reveal their hidden antitypes once they show up.  Where are we told they show up?  Answer; in the NT in Jesus Christ the “true Israel” and the Church, also the “true Israel.”  That is, the preferred interpretation of the NT is being read back into the OT to reinterpret the OT.  As J. Sailhamer says, the Bible is being read backwards.  

Once again, the plot motif or structural motif (i.e. banishment/restoration) remains the same, but the territorial referents change.

That there is a motif there is not at issue.  There are motifs all throughout the Bible, including in the ministries of Jesus and the Apostles.  That does not automatically signal a concealed type in the motif.  That that is Steve’s leaning is clear from what he says next:

It is possible, therefore, to oppose “Zionist” exegesis without taking the position that the NT reinterprets the OT. In principle, you could do that by taking OT typology as your benchmark or starting-point.

But has he proved the presence of typology?  I don’t think he has even begun. 

On a related matter, if one is going to follow Hays’s recommendation and take typology as a benchmark or starting-point, it seems inevitable that one will come a-cropper.  A type must be identified as a type.  for this to occur the antitype must be known, otherwise calling something a type would be like calling it a thing-a-mi-jig.  But if the antitype must be known it must be shown to be indeed an antitype.  Thus, where there is good reason to question the identification (read interpretation) of the said antitype, we must examine the reasons for arriving at the identification of the antitype as an antitype.  Are we told directly that Y is an antitype of X?  If not, how “thick” (to use W. Brueggemann’s word) is the connection?  That is to say, with what amount of confidence may we invest an object with the status of a type?  As I see it, the chances of Hays’s texts being typological are wafer thin.

More to come…


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