When is a Floor-plan NOT a Floor-plan?

I’m going to do one more post after this one, with perhaps a summary of the main points later on.  I have enjoyed and benefitted from this interchange.  I hope Steve Hays can say the same, although his online manner is not encouraging.  Readers only of his blog will come away thinking Henebury just doesn’t get it (e.g. “As usual, Henebury can’t follow the argument.”).  I wonder how many other of Hays’ interlocutors would say the same thing?  Indeed, I witness against myself I am told: “by his own admission, dialoguing with Henebury is futile.”  I hadn’t realized until now that I’d said anything like that!  Thanks to Steve Hays for spotting it.   Maybe there was an underlying motif?  Steve permits himself considerable latitude when speaking about fellow Christians.  I do not.  While disagreements are inevitable, the Lord holds us to certain standards of communication.

I can’t keep up with him, and have other things to do.  Because of the piecemeal and asynchronous way he interacts I think I must pick a few topics and say what needs saying and then shut up.  This post deals in the main with Ezekiel’s Temple to try to show the many problems I see with Steve’s approach.

Interactions with Types & shadows although I notice others.

1. I am quoted:

“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?”

Hays: I haven’t said much about the interpretative relation between the OT and the NT because I’ve been trying all along to reorient the discussion away from how the NT interprets the OT to how the OT interprets the OT.

I understand this, but I see little or no proof of his thesis.  Please take note of the fact that he completely bypasses the references I gave above.  These examples, coupled with the others I have given (which were also bypassed), prove that the covenant promises were not viewed typologically as revelation progressed from one century to another.  This is the OT interpreting the OT.  It cannot be ducked because these passages do not comport with Hays’s argument.  Think about it: There is well over 1,200 years from Abraham to Jeremiah; 800 years from Phineas to Jeremiah, but the promises are not symbolized or typologized in any way (please read the passages).  Steve’s thesis of OT typology depends on the very opposite conclusion.  I’ve showed numerous examples of how later writers interpret earlier ones, especially in regard to the biblical covenants.  Covenants are not open to double-meanings (or typological fulfillments).  Covenants are like contracts.  If they don’t mean what they say what is the use of them?  If they do mean what they say then there cannot be motifs floating around that contradict them by what Steve evasively calls “recapitulation” and others call “reinterpretation” or “redefinition.”  Remember, any dispensationalist can hold to a recapitulation motif and come out in a very different place than Steve Hays.  It will be a place that can be clearly matched with the words of the OT.

Against this Hays compiles a small and unruly group of texts which he reads in terms of Frege’s work on sense and reference and Pierce’s work on types and tokens.  I say “unruly” only because he has passed over what the texts say (which I dealt with) and imported his typology into the group et voila! – out comes his preferred typological-eschatological picture.  Please read what I said in the last post, especially about Jer. 16.

2. While I’m at it I detect an equivocation on the word “type” in Steve’s argument.   In biblical typologies – which have in mind the OT/NT relation – a type is a genre; “a biblical event, person or institution which serves as a pattern for other events, persons or institutions.” (D. Baker quoted in D. Moo, “The Problem of Sensus Plenior,” in Hermeneutics, Authority & Canon, 195).  In semiotics it is part of a much broader linguistic sign system.  Hays relies greatly on the latter.  Most biblical hermeneuticians don’t; which accounts for the rarity of treatments of type/token in their manuals.

The Baker definition does not mean that the interpreter is free to find types everywhere – recall Spurgeon’s quip about B. Keach having types running on as many legs as a centipede! – because what one person will believe is a type another person will reject (I gave an example in the type scene from Gen. 24).  Types must be subordinate to sound exegesis, and are theologically loaded.

3. Steve doesn’t like it that I think he is presupposing his view of the NT to inform his OT typology.  He thinks I’m placing him within the lot of those who freely admit to doing just that (i.e. covenant theologians generally).  He’s right, and I’m sorry if that irritates him.  Nevertheless, I do concede the uniqueness of Steve’s alleged position.  Indeed, he is a veritable Robinson Crusoe of biblical typology.  I know of no one else who takes his OT-only typology position.  Let us hope a ship full of CT’s will spot him and pick him up and promote his ideas.  But I wouldn’t hold my breath.  You see, though these men might agree with the results of Steve’s interpretation, I seriously doubt they would be so reckless as to pretend to convince academia that the Hays typology makes no assumptions based on the NT witness.

Henebury has a tendency to overinterpret some of my statements. I didn’t say I don’t believe in shadows. Rather, I said I haven’t been using that category in my discussion.

Nope.  And as I’ve had cause to say, Steve’s tendency is to deny what most CT’s are happy to affirm.  Of course, I did not accuse Steve of not believing in shadows.  I assumed he would.  Hays once again puts himself outside the run of current CT’s by differentiating types from shadows.  Using Greg Beale again, check, e.g., page 805 of his A New Testament Biblical Theology, and you will see him speaking of “The Typological Function of the OT Laws and Institutions,” and then equating them to the “shadows” in Col. 2:17 and Heb. 8:5; 10:1.


Moreover, types and shadows aren’t an artifact of covenant theology. It’s a NT category. So both dispensationalists and covenant theologians have to come to terms with that.

Right.  It’s a NT category, not an OT one.  But it is Steve’s pushing his OT typology we are discussing.  He wants to start with it.  To make it his “benchmark.”  Now, if “both dispensationalists and covenant theologians have to come to terms” with types, he surely doesn’t think they do so in the same way!  He wouldn’t agree with some or much dispensational typology, and dispensationalists certainly object to the typology of CT.  This again goes to show what I have said: there is a connection between one’s typology and one’s theology, although Steve has not admitted it.

Regarding Ezekiel’s Temple:


Before we’re in a position to talk about the specific interpretation of Ezekiel’s temple, we need to understand the general function of temples–or sacred space. For Ezekiel’s temple is a particular instance of a larger motif.

We’re back to motifs again.  It is legitimate to inquire about what a temple represents.  A temple represents a “sanctuary” and a sanctuary is a designated holy place where God and man meet (Allen Ross).  There is more to it, but that will do for now.  But knowing what a temple represents does not give one carte blanche to turn it into a type (or token) and redefine or reconceptualize a schematic for a physical building as something else (e.g., CT’s view of the “New Creation”).  Recall that temples were built within the creation; they weren’t the creation itself.  As I said, before we talk about what a temple may represent we have to decide what the temple is.  Is the Universe a temple (Beale)?  Is it a designated space on Earth (Ross)?  Is it a physical or a spiritual temple?

Steve admits that there is a floor-plan in Ezekiel 40ff.  (Actually, it’s more than just a floor-plan but we’ll go with it – see Ralph Alexander’s  “Excursus” on these chs. in EBC Vol. 6, ed. Gaebelein).  How did Steve arrive at the opinion that there is a floor-plan there?  He read what it said and came to the obvious conclusion.  Good.  But the floor-plan is actually not really to be interpreted as a floor-plan.  How does Steve know?  Does Ezekiel tell us?  No!  It’s because of the presence of a “New Eden” motif.  That’s what settles it.  The fact that God made an everlasting covenant with Phinehas, the descendant of the Zadokites is insubstantial.  The fact that Jeremiah speaks of this covenant in Jer. 33 and Ezekiel speaks of it in Ezekiel 37:26-27 is bye the bye.  The fact that Malachi 3:2-4 speaks of a time when the Levites will be purified to offer before the Lord is passe.   We need to read these prophets again with Frege’s glasses on our noses.  Once we do that we shall know that God is speaking about the New Creation (which is the new heavens and Earth).

2. But I want to pause to ask a question: if that is true, why speak of sin offerings in the temple for the prince (45:22)?  And what does one make of this:

44:10 ” And the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray, who strayed away from Me after their idols, they shall bear their iniquity.

11 “Yet they shall be ministers in My sanctuary, as gatekeepers of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister to them.

12 “Because they ministered to them before their idols and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore I have raised My hand in an oath against them,” says the Lord GOD, “that they shall bear their iniquity.

13 “And they shall not come near Me to minister to Me as priest,
nor come near any of My holy things, nor into the Most Holy Place;
but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they
have committed.
 14 “Nevertheless I will make them keep charge of the temple, for
all its work, and for all that has to be done in it.
 15 ” But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept
charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from
Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall
stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,” says the Lord

God makes a separation between non-Zadokite Levites and Zadokites like Ezekiel.  Non-Zadokite Levites can serve in the temple but cannot offer before the Lord.  What’s all that about if the temple is the New Creation?  What is a non-Zadokite?  What does it mean that they cannot come before the LORD?  What’s the point of all this misleading talk if this is a picture of Glory?  Cf. also Isa. 65:20.


iii) Apropos (ii), the purpose of sacred space is to furnish a meeting point or meeting place between God and man. A place where God can be present with his people (e.g. Ezk 43:7)

The cross-reference is unfortunate because the chapter goes on to command:

10 ” Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern.

11 “And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple and its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, its entire design and all its ordinances, all its forms and all its laws. Write it down in their sight, so that they may keep its whole design and all its ordinances, and perform them.

12 “This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy. Behold, this is the law of the temple.

Steve may respond to this by pointing out the great time-gap between the Prophet and his first hearers and today.  I have replied that this will happen after Christ comes in power to earth (not His first coming; ergo His second coming).  This was the view of ancient Jewish Rabbis who believed that the temple would be built when Elijah returned (Cf. also Malachi 4 which many believe refers to the Second Coming).  They are still waiting for him.  Remember that although John the Baptist is like Elijah he flatly denied being Elijah (Jn. 1:21).

For yet more evidence that ancient Jews believed in a gloriously rebuilt temple and Jerusalem:

And that again God will have mercy on them, and bring them again into the land, where they shall build a temple, but not like to the first, until the time of that age be fulfilled; and afterward they shall return from all places of their captivity, and build up Jerusalem gloriously, and the house of God shall be built in it for ever with a glorious building, as the prophets have spoken thereof. – Tobit 14:5

Larry Helyer writes,

The Gospels must be read against the backdrop of a strong expectation that God would soon act to reestablish the Davidic Dynasty – Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period, 59.

Obviously Jews before and during the time of Christ (including Hananiah ben Hezekiah if Steve is to be believed) didn’t get the memo.  They had a false expectation.  Maybe if God would have said what He meant?  Of course, He did!

4. Steve continues,

So a temple is just a means to an end, not an end in itself. What’s essential is not the particular form, but the underlying function.

It is essential if that’s what God requires.  And God does require it in Ezekiel 43!  Moses’ Tabernacle on earth was a pattern of one in Heaven (Heb. 8:2, 5; 9:1,11, 23-24. cf. Exod. 25:8-9).  Therefore, to say the pattern and building are not essential is not only to ignore what is right in front of us but to forget our place.  The tabernacle on earth represented the one in heaven (not primarily, if at all, the universe).

5. Notice please how Hays’ view would strike many a reader.  How many of us read Ezekiel 40-48 with the “knowledge” that it is the “underlying function” that is important and not the form?  Recall I did previously refer to Ezekiel 43:10-12!

This, in turn, raises the question of the level at which that motif will be fulfilled (assuming we view Ezekiel’s temple as prophetic). 

Again attention is steered away from the text in context and on to the motif (laden down with Hays’s interpretation of course!).  Don’t miss this.  The words give place to the motif!

I don’t know any commentator, whether he believes in a physical temple in the chapters or not, who doesn’t believe Ezekiel’s temple is prophetic.  One of the first things most commentaries (liberal or evangelical) speak to is the strong eschatological orientation of the Book.  According to Marvin Sweeney in The Jewish Study Bible of the Jewish Publication Society, (2004), because of the discrepancies between Ezekiel’s temple and the Tabernacle,

“’Jewish tradition regards these chs as Ezekiel’s vision of the Third Temple to be built in the days of Messiah (Seder Olam 26; Rashi; Radak).” (1118. Cf. 1126).

They missed His first coming.  They will not miss His second (Matt. 24:27-31; Zech. 12).  Steve thinks I’m interpreting from my historical vantage point, but my interpretation matches the ancient Jewish interpretation (remember the quotation from Hess?).  The online Jewish Encyclopedia says Seder Olam is the “Earliest post-exilic chronicle preserved in the Hebrew language. “  I therefore judge Steve’s objection as a non-argument.

In Steve’s argument it is not the details in Ezekiel 40ff. which God SAID to observe that are important, but the underlying motif!  What the words say in context are less important than the “underlying motifs” Steve has been insisting upon.  But I do wonder why he takes this tack?  It’s not as if the words of Ezekiel tell him to.  He tells us it’s not because he’s presupposing his theology; nor is it because he’s presupposing the NT.  Maybe so, but his view is not in line with either the words on the page or the ancient (not modern) Jewish interpretation of them.


I don’t think of a physical building as a fulfillment.

So what?  That is a subjective opinion.  He’s entitled to it.  In fact, I believe that’s what’s driving his argument.  But why not a physical building if a floor-plan for a building is being spoken about?  If we have a floorplan and ceremonial details and commands to do them then surely the fulfillment must match the prediction?  If not, the tests of a prophet (Deut. 18) would be useless because the prophet could claim typological fulfillment!


Fulfillment has reference the goal, the telos. A physical building is just a means of illustrating something else, something more ultimate. It’s not the principle.

But Steve keeps ignoring the telos.  It’s in the biblical covenants (e.g. Jer. 33:14-26).  What I mean is, there is a goal for this earth; this history, before the New Heavens and New Earth.  Steve, like Beale and most CT’s does not hold this view, and therefore expects the New Creation to happen at the Second Advent.  They believe this creation will be cast off and destroyed without being returned to its pre-fall glory.  That colors their reading of the OT prophecies.  That’s why he places motifs above words in context.  That is why he has ignored my references.


In addition, as numerous scholars have pointed out, the archetypal temple in Scripture is the garden of Eden.

A temple is normally a physical building.  It is an example of a sanctuary (a “token” of a “type”).  The arrangements and decoration of the Tabernacle and Temple recalled Eden.  This is instructive as it tells us that God prizes the original creation.  This earth, though fallen, is not to be thrown-off when Jesus returns.  This earth will be restored.

And it’s not incidental that Ezekiel’s temple includes a new Eden motif (47:1-12).

Yes, those who believe in a rebuilt future temple can accept this too!  The reason Ezekiel 47 has a new Eden motif (Eden is not mentioned in the whole section, but we’ll play along) is because the land (in this case Israel) will be restored to Edenic beauty and productivity.  Hays has difficulty with accepting the Israel-centered focus of the OT.  What about the other lands?  Well, they too will be blessed through Israel (e.g Isa. 11; Zech. 10; 12; 14).  As an aside, Jesus speaks of the (future) “regeneration,” (Matt. 19:28), and Paul speaks of this world being glorified when we receive our redemption bodies (Rom. 8:19-23).  It is nor replaced until Jesus makes something of it (1 Cor. 15:20f.).  Thus, the expectation derived from the OT is not altered in the New.

In that respect, Ezekiel’s temple is retrospective rather than prospective. It looks forward by looking backward. Where the future and the past come full circle. Restoring what was lost. A recapitulation.

Once there was a Garden and in the future there will be a huge temple situated in an Eden-like Israel.  That’s a recapitulation unacceptable to my brother.


Of course, this isn’t a replica of the past. It’s not cyclical in that sense (pace Eliade’s myth of the eternal return). Paradise regained will be better than paradise lost.

Paradise lost had no sin in it.  Paradise regained (in the sense of Ezek 47-48) does have sin in it (Ezek. 45; Zech. 14).  Steve is wrongly equating Ezekiel 40 with the New Heavens and Earth.  We’ll see this next time.

I must qualify this by noting that many ancient temples were not seen in these terms.  They were not “sanctuaries.”  Moreover, it seems the people in general paid little attention to them.  Thus, temples qua temples did not equate automatically to a place where a god was present with its people.  More often than not, the god would be there for the nobility.  See, e.g., Rodney Stark, Discovering God, 64-66.

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