“What do you mean by what do you mean?”

This post responds to two by Steve Hays (link, link)

1. Revelation and Communication

Steve Hays wants to return to the issue of meaning.  He says I have not addressed it.  He is mistaken.

In the “More Responses” post I wrote:

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…..

By “truth” I mean “true to those to whom it came,” not “I guess that’s true, but I have no idea what it’s about.”  If he has read Reasons 11, 12, 26, 27, 28, 29, 39 he knows I have the Divine Author primarily in mind.  What I was trying to get across was; if the NT is needed to decipher the OT; or if Hays’s example of the land-promise was a type of something or other, then the meaning of the communication was not aimed at the original hearers of the prophet.  In the revised version of my “40 Reasons” kindly hosted by Fred Butler, I asked in my introduction, “Did God speak to men in times past in symbolic language so that we today could unravel what He really meant?  Doesn’t this strongly imply that the OT was not really for them, but for us?”  I want to avoid this.  I am uneasy, therefore, when Steve Hays says (my underlining):

For prophecies and promises have future referents. We must therefore distinguish between the meaning of the prophecy/promise and the future rewards or events to which they refer.

I believe that “the meaning of the prophecy” must be derived from the words and grammar employed in the situation in which they are used (just as in this correspondence or in any normal communication.  A blog or a book assumes this stance).  This is the case even if the prophecy is for a far future day (Dan. 12:4, 9).  Without this God’s communication is not revelation.

How can we find out details about Christ if, like the first Christians, we only have the OT?  His birth (Isa. 7:14), birthplace (Mic. 5:2), tribe (Gen. 49:10), substitutionary death (Isa. 53)?  How can we know that Christ is returning in a bodily form (cf. Isa. 63:1-3; Zech. 14:4)?, or, crossing into the NT,  that we shall receive a resurrection body (1 Jn. 3:2-3)?  We cannot do so unless there is a constancy of meaning between ancient words and our understanding of them.  In the same way, God is not speaking past the nation of Israel (Isa. 54:5), to the Church when He says, in Isa. 54:9-10,

 9 ” For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn
That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I
sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.
 10 For the mountains shall depart And the hills be removed, But
My kindness shall not depart from you, Nor shall My covenant of
peace be removed,” Says the LORD, who has mercy on you.

Now, I have already shown that later OT writers interpret the covenants literally.  This is another example of that.  My reasoning can be seen in my posts “The Parameters of Meaning 4a & b” (link, link), and the links therein.  I may sum it up by saying that there is a correspondence between what God says and what He does.  This correspondence is intensified when God enters into a binding oath on behalf of men.  Since no one disputes whether the Noahic and Mosaic covenants mean what they say; and since the hope of the Christian is founded on God meaning what He says in the New Covenant, it is not a far stretch to say that the same holds true for the Abrahamic, Priestly, and Davidic Covenants.

2. What this is about

Before I venture further in to this I must address a matter of real misunderstanding.  It begins to appear that Steve is not putting himself forth on behalf of CT’s in general but only on his own behalf.  I have tried not to paint him in foreign colors by accepting his rejection of “reinterpretation” for “recapitulation” and wot not, but I do not intend to turn this discussion down a narrow path.  Steve seems content to place me within the pail of dispensationalists and I had hoped he would, for sake of the discussion, allow me to view him as representative of CT – although noting any dissensions he might have from the CT’s I cite.  I shall continue to hold out for this.  I remind the reader, however, that we are talking about whether the NT reinterprets (or “recapitulates”) the OT.

3. What does he mean?

Steve is less than clear about his view of the interpretative relation of the NT to the Old.  If he would make his view plain perhaps we could avoid any further misunderstandings?  It appears now that while he accepts types I should not say he believes in “shadows” (although I shouldn’t have to say that nearly ALL CT’s do!).  As I review his posts I notice many assertions of what he doesn’t believe, but not much on what he does mean (beyond seeing certain recapitulative motifs in Scripture).  Does he believe ethnic Israel will get the land promised to them in blessing for (at least) “a thousand generations” (Psa. 105:8)?  Does he believe Ezekiel’s Temple is a physical temple like Solomon’s?  If not, what is it?  Does he believe the covenants God made to Abraham (Jer. 33:22, 26), David (Jer. 33:17, 21, 26), and Phineas (Jer. 33:18, 21) mean what they say, or did God intend to couch these promises as types to be properly understood many centuries later?  And how does he know?

If he advocates a typology then how does that line up according to this statement? (my emphasis):

God can’t intend it to mean one thing to him, but something very different to the audience. The audience should be in a position to understand what’s expected of it.

This is doubly true when an oath is involved (see Jer. 34-35).  My purpose in citing Psa. 105, Jer. 33 (cf. Ezek. 36-37; 40-48; Zech. 6 & 14) was to show how a covenant made earlier was interpreted at face-value by later authors (and by God Himself).  So I said (Reason 7 – revised),

7. … it would mean the seeming clear predictions about the Coming One in the OT could not be relied upon to present anything but a typological/symbolic picture which would need deciphering by the NT.  The most clearly expressed promises of God in the OT (e.g. Jer. 31:31f.; 33:15-26; Ezek. 40-48; Zech. 14:16-21) would be vulnerable to being eventually turned into types and shadows.


39. This view, which espouses a God who prevaricates in the promises and covenants He makes, also tempts its adherents to adopt equivocation themselves when they are asked to expound OT covenantal language in its original context.  It often tempts them to avoid specific OT passages whose particulars are hard to interpret in light of their supposed fulfillment in the NT.  Whatismore, it makes one over-sensitive to words like “literal” and “replacement,” even though these words are used freely when not discussing matters germane to this subject.

In the context of his remark (4. Authencial Meaning, viii) Steve is referring to Deut. 28 which is very appropriate, since the blessings as well as the cursings in that chapter were aimed at the Israelites present and Israelites thereafter.  There is no typology.  Was the Church in view?  No!  The Church is not in danger of cursing.  Have Israel been recipients of the cursings?  Who would deny it?  What about the blessings then?   Now we are supposed to admit typology!  But I invite those interested to read Deut. 30, which refers to Deut. 28, and compare it with Jer. 30 through 33 and Ezekiel 36-37.  Then tell me that “in the latter days” Israel (not the church) will not be the recipient of blessings.

I should like to see how Steve does it given what he has said above.

He has given me some passages to look at, and I have done so (link, link).  Pressing typology he says,

Likewise, in a type/antitype relation, the type is both like and unlike the antitype, or vice versa.

Granted.  So what?  Steve is persuaded that,

In the new Exodus motif, the Jews return to Eretz-Israel. However, they don’t return to Israel from Egypt.

They don’t?  One of his passages was Isa. 11:12-16.  Verse 15 says,

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.

This reads like a future coming out of Egypt to me! 

Rather, they return to Israel from Babylon. So there’s a shift in the territorial referents.

In Isa. 11 there is an addition.

In both cases [his two motifs], we’re dealing with a relation between two or more things. In the nature of the case, you can’t have a relation if it’s one and the same thing–salva veritate.

This presupposes a type is present in his example-passages.  It begs the question.

I am aware he believes the type/token relationship he sees in his passages seals the issue.  He declares,

It depends on the kind of motif. I specified the kind of motif I have in mind: a new Eden or new Exodus motif.

But specifying a motif does not mean proving there is any “type/token relationship” present.

As interesting as his post about “The Meaning of Meaning” is (btw, note the unavoidable equivocation: “meaning” in the first instance must be tacitly understood by the reader, but “meaning” in the second instance is in question.  This is one ‘restriction’ of language), it is an unnecessary rabbit-trail.  Perhaps if Steve would furnish some examples of his interpretative method (the only thing I know for sure is his view of Rev. 20) this matter would be more relevant.  As it is, I agree with nearly all of the post but I think it avoids the real issue, which, remember, is “Does the NT Reinterpret the New?”  All I have from Steve thus far is “No, it ‘recapitulates’ it”  (Although other CT’s say it does reinterpret the OT, and I’m not sure what the end product of Steve’s recapitulation looks like in terms of the passages we’ve cited).

Presumably the reason for shifting onto this ground is so that Steve can prove that my examples of the use of the OT by the OT (you read it right), e.g., Richard Hess’s opinion about Ezekiel’s Temple;  any statements I have made about Israel = Israel, land = land, Zion = Zion, and not Jesus or the Church (passim “temple” in the OT), do not hold water and “mean” something other than this.  I cannot say because he hasn’t addressed any of them.  Anyway, the only reason for doing this so far as I can tell, is to create enough doubt in our minds to allow in the preferred interpretations of CT, or his version of it.

Now, I hope that it is clear that I have principally had in mind God’s meaning as benign Communicator to men.  I hold that in the OT we can locate that meaning by paying attention to the words and sentences and paragraphs in context.  Thus, “Israel” means the nation God called by that name.  It never means the Church, and cannot mean that to Hays either (see here); at least not in the OT.  The Temple was the building for worship Solomon built which replaced the Tabernacle.  I believe that is what God meant by those names.  That said, I believe He did not mean what CT’s (whether Steve is with them or not) say he meant; for if He did, He would not have communicated the hidden or deeper meaning to the Jews in the OT (as shown by my examples of intertextuality etc., which have not been joined).

4. Typology?

I do acknowledge (and have done so) that there are often rhetorical strategies in the text.  But these underlying structures do not undercut or redirect the words of the prophet.  They point out major themes and characters.  Hence, there is always a plotline of some sort.  There is a reason for including some details and excluding others.  For example, John had a purpose in assembling his “Book of Signs.”  The writer of Judges was suggesting something in his “Bethlehem stories” at the close of the Book.  But Hays has won no kind of victory from this free admission.  He still has a considerable way to go to prove the typological interpretation he wishes to squeeze out of his “New Exodus” and “New Eden” motifs.

Remember, Steve started out by claiming that the OT itself provides examples of what he calls “recapitulation” (and others call “reinterpretation” and “spiritualization”) of earlier promises.  I dealt with his examples and showed that although themes were present, it was comparison and not typology which was evident.  Steve knows that a motif does not equate to a type, but he has only proved motif.

He also appears to disagree with my linkage of typology to theology.  Very well.  What about this example:

In the Genesis 24 story of the getting of a bride for Isaac there is a motif which is recapitulated in the church.  Eleazar (if it is he) is a type of the Holy Spirit, and he goes to Rebekah (type of the Bride of Christ) and finally through the servant’s efforts, she is asked “Will you go with this man?”  She answers, “I will go” (Gen. 24:58).  Then she is brought to Isaac (a type of Christ) to be his.  And there it is!  A typology of Semi-Pelagianism!  The motif is there.  It all fits.  Semi-Pelagianism must be true!

Will that satisfy Steve?  I assuredly hope not.  Neither do his efforts at typological interpretation satisfy me.  Typology is tethered to ones pre-formed theology.  That is why is can never be used to formulate (or even test) a theology.

In case this is still not accepted, I recommend another source: David F. Ford & Graham Stanton (eds.), Reading Texts, Seeking Wisdom, 108-109.  The author of the piece is Patristics expert Frances Young.  I might add to this James Orr’s opinion of covenant theology’s view of progressive revelation:

At the same time it failed to seize the true idea of development, and by an artificial system of typology, and allegorising interpretation, sought to read back practically the whole of the New Testament into the Old. – J. Orr, The Progress of Dogma, [1907], 303.

There is more to answer and more to say, but to get to this place has taxed the reader quite enough.


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