The “Real” Bible Code

I’m going to have to be more selective with Steve Hays’s posts.  It is important to me not to misrepresent him, even while I may spot tendencies which I believe he should be more forthcoming about.  The pace that Hays goes at it is almost impossible to keep up.  This addresses parts of Salva veritate plus.  

Before kicking off in earnest here’s another example of taking the “plain-sense” for granted.  It comes from the title of chapter 5 of G. K. Beale’s The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism.  

A Specific Problem Confronting the Authority of the Bible: Should the New Testament’s Claim That the Prophet Isaiah Wrote the Whole Book of Isaiah Be Taken at Face Value?

I feel like saying,”I don’t know.  What do you mean by ‘face value?'”

That said,

Steve’s basic argument is that the OT taken without the New carries underlying patterns or motifs which clue us into the true intentions of the Divine Author.  How well these motifs were understood by the original recipients, or by the saints before the Christian era is an open question, but from Steve’s argument against “the plain-sense” it would appear he thinks the saints knew these patterns were there and therefore understood types were strongly involved.

He quotes me:

“If we start seeing a “New Exodus” motif as a typological signal to deny the return of Israel to its land in fulfillment of its covenants, we are not doing it because Jeremiah instructs us to do so.  No, it is because the motif is a necessary hermeneutical vehicle to arrive at the desired theology.”

He replies:

Likewise, in the new Eden motif, the Jews return to the Eretz-Israel, except that Israel typifies Eden. That’s what makes it a homecoming. So land has already acquired an emblematic significance, where Bible writers can substitute one territorial referent for another.

He says I miss the pointThe point is – as seen above – the motifs lend the referents “emblematic significance” and direct the words toward the “true” fulfillment.  I get his point; I just don’t accept it.  Take the “land-motif.”  I believe “land” in Genesis 13 and 15 is interpreted as the very same “land” in Psalm 105:6-11:

Attention please!

  6 O seed of Abraham His servant, You children of Jacob, His chosen ones!
 7 He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth.
 8 He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He
commanded, for a thousand generations,
 9 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to
 10 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an
everlasting covenant,
 11 Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment
of your inheritance,”

And when we reach Jeremiah 16 the “land” hasn’t changed:

13 ‘Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do
not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve
other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor.’
 14 ” Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that
it shall no more be said, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the
children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’
 15 “but, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from
the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven
them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their

This last example, part of which was used by Steve Hays to demonstrate a “New Exodus” motif which pointed to fulfillment beyond the “land,” is helpful because once we see how “land” is used in verse 13 (which Steve did not quote), we can understand what he means by “land” being returned to in verse 15.  

So, in spite of Steve’s insistence to the contrary, Eretz-Israel is constant!  And Israel as a people is constant.  The only change is when and where they’re returning from!  Steve wants to find “emblematic significance” there and I must inquire “what for?” Emblematic of what?   The only reason I can see is that he wants to say that Eretz-Israel is typological and its (NT) antitype is not the land covenanted to Israel spoken of in these passages.  And all the talk in the world about motifs and Frege doesn’t change that fact.

He thinks that as “we’re dealing with one of the master plot lines of Scripture: banishment and restoration,” that he now can use it to draw his desired conclusions.  I’m saying that’s a faux pas.  He assuredly doesn’t believe plot-lines necessitate typology.  But it looks like he is assuming that in his examples.

The fundamental constant is the underlying exemplar, and not the differing ways in which that’s exemplified

The underlying exemplar’s the thing!  That is what is constant for Hays.  The land of Israel is secondary to this.  This beneath-the-surface “key” has power over covenants, oaths and words in context.  Steve may cry “foul,” but again these words carry a surface meaning which cuts across the meaning he sees in his motifs.  It is as though these motifs are more important than the words and paragraphs in context.  It is no longer “Thus says the LORD,” but “Thus prefigures the LORD.”

Steve thinks my opposition to his scheme comes from what I want to see and not see in the Bible.  Well, he’s partly right.  It’s hard to keep the emotions out of it.  But if I have a strong reaction to CT or Steve’s arguments it could be because I am persuaded they contradict the Bible!  Indeed that is true.  Without wishing to insult or disparage anyone, I believe covenant theology is unbiblical.  I believe it is a system based almost wholly upon inference.  CT’s are free to disagree with dispensationalism just as strongly – and do.

He quotes me:

“The trouble with this way of speaking is that it ends up converting eschatological Israel into non-Israel, denying them the promised-land; the Jerusalem temple morphs into the church; Zadokites into Christians; the throne of David is another name for the throne of God, etc., all because types must be produced for certain theological views to be sustained.  It is question-begging.”

i) I’m hardly begging the question when I argue for my position.

Notice how he does not engage the problem; only the last remark!  As I have said, Steve reads his typology into the motifs/underlying exemplars, thereby making the motifs the keys to a correct understanding and not the words and sentences and paragraphs in context.  I’m not sure what “position” Steve has in mind.  I daren’t impute the views of other CT’s to him lest he tell me he didn’t say that.  But I’m still without proof that these underlying exemplars (granting, for sake of argument that they are there) must be interpreted in Hays’s terms.

ii) If anything, Henebury is begging the question. It only “denies them the promised-land” if he assumes the very issue in dispute.

I’m assuming Israel means Israel, Zion means Zion, Ezekiel’s Temple is a real temple; that the covenants mean precisely what they say, etc.  To me, Steve’s position is like saying “a car is a car” is begging the question.  But i’m not the one converting land promises into types.  If Steve wants to dispute that by introducing typological interpretation when he has not yet proved types are present, then I’m sorry, but he is begging the question.

iii) I wouldn’t say the temple morphs into the church. Rather, both church and temple prefigure God’s presence with his people in the world to come (Rev 21:3). God dwelling with his people is the type, of which the temple (Exod 29:44-45) and the church (2 Cor 6:16) are tokens.

We are back to types and tokens.  The literal temple [tabernacle] and the NT church instantiate the people of God type.  But I want to ask how he knows “the people of God” – something we’ll be returning to – is a type?  A type of what?  The people of God?  Where in the text is he getting this from?  Where exactly does God tell us this?  Steve’s answer will be that they are in the motifs.  But since when did motifs usurp words?  Besides, it’s not enough to point to the motifs themselves.  What Steve wants is his interpretation of the motifs.  That is where the types and tokens reside.


“This is precisely why one ought never let a type in until one knows what any passage is saying, and so whether any type has warrant.  There is no such warrant in Steve’s passages from the Prophets.  Types are tethered to theologies, and are therefore apt to promote Eisegesis.  If one is not careful, every stubborn covenant promise will be made to bend because it has been burdened with the label “type”, ready to perform in the way described above.”


i) Henebury hasn’t presented a counterargument in this paragraph. Rather, he’s treated the reader to a dismissive and tendentious characterization of my argument.

I rather thought I was presenting the obvious.  CT’s have their typology; DT’s have theirs;  Roman Catholics theirs; Arminianism and Calvinism have theirs.  Lazarus (Jn.11) is often used to typify the dead sinner (Eph. 2) for instance.

He quotes me:

“Steve will strongly disagree with me, but what I see is a “theological function” borne by the motif, being read into the OT.  The “theological function” is wrought from the particular interpretation of NT passages.”

But Steve thinks I’m “tilting at windmills.”

He keeps attacking an argument I never use. Does this reflect an inability to adapt to an argument he’s not used to?

It reflects an inability to believe that Steve procures his view of OT typology without any regard to his interpretation of the NT.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying he is lying.  We are both presuppositionalists and we both know that when confronted on some central issues we have reasons which we hide from ourselves for believing what we say we believe.  I have admitted my presuppositions.  Steve is less forthcoming.  But anyone who has even a little familiarity with the writings of covenant theology or Bible typology knows that you cannot keep the NT out of it.  Although I do grant that Steve is trying to champion a typology of the OT only, his reasoning is virtually the same as all those men, from Ball to Beale, who admit the critical role of the NT plays in their understanding of the OT.


“Since Israel does not yet bear a comparison to Eden we must look for a future fulfillment.”

i) But in context, the “future fulfillment” wasn’t a golden-age millennium at the end of the church age, but the postexilic period (c. 5C BC).

This is a real hang up for Steve.  I don’t know why.  The procedure is logical enough.  I have said already that fulfillment comes at the time Israel is redeemed and dwells safely (e.g. Jer. 30-33; Ezek. 34, 36-37) which hasn’t happened yet.  They didn’t need to know how long.  They were not told it would be after the Babylonian exile.  They didn’t need to know about the church.  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.

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; or Hess’s opinion about Ezekiel’s Temple (which was ignored but for a quip about preterism). link

ii) Of course, it’s quite possible to view the new Eden motif as having future counterpart (future to us), but that would commit Henebury to a typological view of land.

Of course it wouldn’t.  Steve is acting as if his typology is the only thing to accept.  Again notice how Steve equates his new Eden motif with “a typological view of the land.”  I repeat.  Motifs do not equate to types.

It’s just a fact that theological motifs in Scripture are subject to development.

But development grounded in the text, not development founded on typology.

Time to stop for now.  I close by noting that although I have never read Frege (and do not intend to mend the deficiency any time soon), I am familiar with work on sense and reference.  My observations about words and motifs overlap with it.  Steve thinks it is important.  Most hermeneutics manuals demur.  Hardly any of them pay much attention, if any, to Frege.  Hays’s stress on Frege sounds more impressive than it is.  To read him one might think that to know Frege the philosopher is to agree with Hays the interpreter.  That simply does not follow.

5 thoughts on “The “Real” Bible Code”

  1. @Paul, I did look up at 5-second references to Frege and sense and reference on the net. Much of that ultimately, as secular knowledge agrees, harks back to Aristole and Plato. Isn’t that a classical case of using philosophy (not necessarily a Christian one) to interpret the Bible.

    It probably sheds some light on why a lot (not all, but a lot) of apologetics on predestination at Calvinistic churches (particularly those with significant catchment of university student believers) go off the deep end on philosophy of knowability, etc. Not to say they aren’t important, but are we trusting in God’s revelation as in ways those without PhD in philosophies can understand?

    It doesn’t matter how clever or fancy or sophisticated the argument goes, to me this branch of Covenant theology is ultimately resting on the Greek philosophies of this world. And to think the OT was written in Hebrew, to the nation of Israel….

  2. Met you at Eric Peterman’s new church in Redwood Valley, look forward to reading more here on your site. A car is a car, by the way, and the tabernacle was a tabernacle and Soloman’s Temple was a temple and dozen’s (hundreds?) of literal prophecies were fulfilled at the first advent but now all that is off the table because………..of Gal 4:21-27?……So: Ez Temple will be a temple and man will it be GLORIOUS!!!!! Look at the size of that beauty!!!!!!! BTW I drive a Porsche and it is a car.

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