More Responses About Types and Such

I am a good three posts behind Steve Hays, but I hope to stay in sight, even if I lag behind.  As I have said many times, I am not interested in defending dispensationalism as a system.  Yet I have to confess that when a brother has the gall to challenge my conclusions my flesh immediately consoles my wicked heart with the reassurance that they can’t possibly have a good argument.  On my better days, I hope I listen and learn!  I don’t expect to persuade Steve and he probably has the same opinion of me.  But I appreciate his posts and how he forces me to think.

All underlining is mine.

This post mainly concerns Steve’s one entitled Type/token .

He says,

“It’s true that I see one people of God in both Testaments. I don’t have to call that the “church.” The “church” has more specific connotations. If you restrict the “church” to the NT, then, by definition, there is no OT church. But that’s semantic.”

I am eager not to put words in Steve’s mouth.  Let me note a few things.

First, if the church is specific to the NT, but there is one people of God in both Testaments, then we cannot call that one people of God by the name “church.”  That puts paid to common appeals to Acts 7 and the church being in the OT.  Second, if we cannot call the one people of God by the name “church” what shall we call it?  Third, if the church is a NT phenomenon (as I believe it is) then those saved in the OT are not in the church, and are thus separate from it (creating two peoples of God).  If not, then surely it is okay to call the one people of God “the church.”

Finally, the Westminster Larger Catechism does speak of “the church in all ages” (Answer to Q. 43), and makes it clear by referencing Jn. 1:1, 4 and 2 Pet. 1:21 that the term refers to OT saints.

I’d use a more general term: we have covenant communities in both Testaments. There are continuities and discontinuities between the two based on similarities and dissimilarities between the respective covenants that govern them. Yet they are one people of God inasmuch as both groups are saved by grace; both groups share a common destination.

Any dispensationalist would agree to this statement, barring the last clause.  Therefore, Hays needs to be more precise in his identification of this one people who are two communities.

 Let’s take a borderline case. Take 1C proselytes or Godfearers. These are ethnically Gentile, but religiously Jewish. They belong to the OT covenant community. When they convert to Christianity, they now belong to the NT covenant community. There’s “newness” in their Christian identity, but Cornelius the Godfearer is the same person as Cornelius the Christian. And his conversion from Judaism to Christianity is a continuum rather than a quantum leap.

First century Jewish proselytes were not considered full Jews, and I’m sure Cornelius would not have considered himself an Israelite.  When he was saved he became a Gentile Christian, not a Jewish Christian.  But this is beside the point.  No one says saved Jews and Gentiles in our era are not members together of the church.  But that does not mean the church is Israel, or that the OT promises must be turned into types.

In my experience, “replacement theology” is not a term that CTs generally use to designate their own position (although Waltke is a partial exception). Rather, that’s a term of abuse which dispensationalists use to characterize covenant theology. So I don’t see that CTs are “redefining” the term “replacement.”

I understand Steve’s sensitivity here, but “replacement” was one of several examples.  I assure him when I use the word I do not intend to smear my CT brothers.  I mean to clarify.  The fact is, as I have documented in the past from men like H. Bavinck, and as M. Vlach has also documented, CT’s do use the term to describe their view.  My point was that there is a temptation to go word-hunting to avoid getting pinned down.  I hope never to pin a label on a brother unfairly, but when it has been shown that prominent CT’s use the words “replacement” and “reinterpret” themselves, what is one to do?

I quoted G. Goldsworthy as saying, “Some literalists have an aversion to spiritualizing, but it is clear that there is a real sense in which the New Testament spiritualizes the Old.” – Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, 248, n.14.

Steve replies: “I don’t think the NT spiritualizes the OT. Rather, I think NT writings understand OT writings the same way later OT writings understand earlier OT writings. I think there’s a common typology which carries over from the OT to the NT.”

Okay, but many major figures who share Steve’s theology do use the term.

ii) Using the NT to interpret the OT doesn’t presume that the NT is reinterpreting the OT. For one thing, promises and prophecies are inherently future-oriented. So it makes sense that we’d grasp them better retrospectively than prospectively. You have a better understanding of the future when the future becomes the present or the past.

Sure!  But we must be quite certain that what we think is a fulfillment is actually that.  And that is the problem, since many propose to see a fulfillment which is non-literal and unexpected (I cited an example from Beale on this previously).

In a promise/fulfillment scheme, living in the time of fulfillment gives you a better perspective on where the promise was heading.

But are we living in the time of the fulfillment of, say, Jer. 30-33, or Isa. 61:2bff., or Ezek. 36-48, or Zech. 12-14?  I do not think so.  Although I cannot stop to demonstrate it further, these passages all hinge on the Second Advent.  Steve believes he is “living in the time of fulfillment” because of the way he is interpreting the NT and reading typological “fulfillment” back into the Old.

And let us not forget that for many Christians in the early church who only had the OT, that practice was not open to them.  Without the NT they could not know they were “living in the time of fulfillment.”

I do not mean to wander into “unprofitable” territory here.  But the fact is, we are discussing the problems engendered by reinterpreting (or recapitulating) the OT with the NT.  Dispensationalists try not to do that, so the tables cannot in this regard be reversed.

iii) …It’s not as if there’s a special problem for CT. Dispensationalists have the same duty to come to terms with apostolic exegesis. Dispensationalists must also understand OT promises and prophecies consistent with how NT writers understood them.

Good point.  He is quite right.  This is an ongoing task for dispensationalists and more work needs to be done.

If you want to make the OT your benchmark, so be it. But even if you take the OT as your point of departure, your understanding of the OT can’t be at odds with how the NT understands the OT.

Again, Steve makes a great point.  I am presently trying to “see” this problem as I teach Biblical Theology of the NT.  But this doesn’t brush the “40 reasons” away.  There are at least four ways to view the NT use of the OT, and there is no sign of consensus between them.  Mike Vlach has a useful overview here.

Hays quotes me: To be clear about this, Beale, as Goldsworthy, and most contemporary CT’s, thinks Jesus is Israel (thus, the church is “new Israel” in Him).  Jesus is also the temple (ditto the church).

Then replies,

I think the identity language (“is”) is shorthand. If you press the identity language, that’s reductionistic. It’s not that Jesus is (i.e. identical with) Israel, but that Jesus recapitulates Israel. Yet where Israel is the faithless son, Jesus is the faithful son.

But the covenants were made with Israel, not with a recapitulation of Israel in another form.  Yes, Israel is a faithless son.  That is why they need grace!  They will get it and their covenants will be fulfilled just as God promised them (Cf. Jer. 31 & 33).

That, however, doesn’t eliminate Israel as an entity distinct from Jesus. Rather, it’s a vicarious principle, where the Redeemer acts on behalf of, and in place of, the redeemed. But we’re not actually collapsing two parties into one.


I’m not following him here.  Perhaps Hays will clarify.  It might help if he told me if the redeemed of OT Israel were/are “in Christ”?

1) A promise involves two parties: the promisor and the promisee. For a promise to be a sincere, good-faith promise, it must mean the same thing to both parties. If the promisor intends the promise to mean something different to him than it does to the promisee, then that’s deceptive.

How were God’s oaths interpreted in Psalm 105:6-11?  What did He mean by citing four covenants in Jer. 33:14ff.?  If Christ’s own disciples were still ignorantly expecting a literal kingdom being restored to Israel (see Reason #33), doesn’t that show how they were misled if it was a type?  I have had cause to cite Richard Hess’s words about Jewish expectations for Ezekiel’s Temple before.  Here it is again:

“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 R. Routledge’s OT Theology in Denver Journal.

I ask then, did God’s promise “mean the same thing to both parties”?  Hays asks “what would a land-promise mean to Abraham?”  I shall let the reader look up Gen. 13:14-17; 15:7-21 and Psa. 105:6-11 and come to a conclusion about that.

Don’t space and time go together? Is the land the same land in every century or millennium? Doesn’t the same place change over time?


But it is the same place!  It is not somewhere else.  The land “changed” over the two millennia from Abraham to Christ, but it was still the same place.  Further, according to Zech. 14:4f., there will be massive topographical changes in the land when Christ returns, but it will still be Israel!

Is modern Tel Aviv equivalent to that address in c. 2000 BC? What could be more equivocal than that?

Making the land of Israel “heaven” or somewhere other than “the Holy Land.”  Making the covenant with Phineas (Num. 25. Cf. Jer. 33; Ezek. 40ff.; Mal. 3) into something non-levitical, and Ezekiel’s temple into the NT church.  In short, turning God’s covenanted promises into types and shadows.

See further:

3) Let’s put this another way. Suppose God fulfills the land-promise to Abraham in the world to come by recreating a replica of the ANE, minus the damned. [Is that what was promised?  See Isa. 2, 11, 65-66; Ezek. 34, 40-48, etc., etc.] Wouldn’t that be a more “literal” fulfillment of the promise to Abraham than reassigning the promise to the modern state of Israel?


I think Steve is implying that I see 1948 as a fulfillment of the AC.  I don’t.  The consummation comes via the New Covenant at the Second Advent.  Do I believe it will continue in the New Heavens and Earth?  I see no reason why not.  I am content to let God work out the details.

4) Dr. Henebury is also glossing over the meaning of meaning.

It can be made complicated.  My main concern in the “40 Reasons” was God’s intention.  Second to that is the inspired author.  As both are benign communicators, the assumption is that they wanted their first hearers to grasp their intentions.  If that were not the case we could not say “truth” was being aimed at.  Therefore, there could be no meaning.  Of course, if they needed the NT…..

If the land always had a typical significance, if that was frontloaded, if there always was a one-to-many relation between the type and its multiple tokens, then we’re not “reinterpreting” the land.

Those are very big “ifs”!  As I have said, types stand vacant without their antitypes.  To know the type one must know what it is typical of, and this presupposes “knowing” the NT.

Not to be pushy, but I did look up Waltke’s OT Theology (560, 577) and he does not use the word “reinterpret” but “redefine.”  I’m good with either.  Again, for what it’s worth, in his essay in J. S. Feinberg, ed., Continuity and Discontinuity, 284, Waltke does say that the “canonical process” he endorses “disallows the possibility of reinterpretation.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s