Steve Hays thinks I am unprincipled. Well, he makes charges like that a lot. It’s a tactic. While I grant I may miss something here and there, I do not deliberately decide to skew people’s points – and I do not think any fair minded reader would claim I did.
4. A Metaphorical Bible
My main argument relies upon the weight of the wording of the biblical covenants. I call Steve’s interpretations prophetic bromide because they instantly wash away the meaning of words in those covenants, and associate contexts. In Steve’s vision theology Ezekiel’s temple structure (he was in it remember) is not a temple; the Levites are not Levites; the Zadokite/Levite distinctions and prescriptions are unreal; the “law of the temple” which must be done is not what it says it is; the new moon offering isn’t an actual new moon offering; the prince’s sin offering and other sin offerings aren’t; the river is not a river, and the medicinal trees aren’t for medicine and they aren’t trees; the tribes and their allocations in a regenerated land aren’t real either. It’s all emblematic Steve tells us. One gigantic “placeholder” or vehicle for the conveyance of a few truths about Christ and the Church! I’ve termed such an opinion Verbal Overkill because writing materials were expensive prior to a few hundred years ago and nine detailed chapters of script information which could have been communicated in half a page is a waste of time and paper. A huge over-the-top circumlocution (e.g. P. Fairbairn believed the entire vision could be summed up by John 17:21-23) – if Amillennialism is right.
Before some indignant person complains about what I’m saying about God let me assure them that I am not saying that about God. I don’t believe God is given to communicating in this way. Well meaning objections in the way of “God can do anything He likes” miss the point and misrepresent the biblical God. God cannot do anything He likes if that involves a contradiction in His character. God’s Word is the only access humans have to His character. Link
But things do not stop there. For all the passages from the Prophets which I cited will likewise be made metaphorical and symbolic. God’s oaths in Jer. 31:35-37 and Jer 33:15-26 mean what exactly? Certainly not what they appear to mean. And if such apparently unambiguous oaths, which bespeak covenant blessing for Israel by appeals to things like “the fixed order of the moon”, don’t mean what they appear to mean, on what basis do you make the Gospel mean what it appears to mean? We know the New Jerusalem has no need of the moon, so Jeremiah cannot be referring to that. Unless, of course, the troublesome details in Rev. 21 are emptied of significance. Steve will say that the Jewish readers understood it all as symbolical genre, even though there is not a shred of evidence from the Bible or elsewhere that they did. Rather, as I have shown, their combined testimony (and I have only given a selection) supports a temple after the Second Advent before the creation of the New Heavens and Earth. To stop this being seen, the genre card is played with alarming frequency in some theological circles.
Zechariah 14, which I have treated, is supposedly another extended metaphor, as is Isaiah 11 etc. In the NT, Revelation 20 is also metaphorical: Satan is bound and imprisoned but is free to pursue Christians; beheaded martyrs who are resurrected are in actual fact sinners becoming Christians; Christ’s thousand year reign is not a thousand years but is the Church age. In Revelation 7 the 144,000 men from the tribes of Israel are a symbolic number from all nations. It goes on and on. Without wishing to be rude, I can respect a man who is honest enough to tell me he is reinterpreting the data through the NT, or that he is “spiritualizing” or “transforming” the apparent meaning of these texts. I can respectfully disagree with Graeme Goldsworthy who says,
earlier expressions point to things beyond themselves that are greater than the meaning that would have been perceived by those receiving these earlier expressions.” – According to Plan, 123.
Likewise, Greg Beale comes right out with it:
Perhaps one of the most striking features of Jesus’ kingdom is that it appears not to be the kind of kingdom prophesied in the OT and expected by Judaism” – A New Testament Biblical Theology, 431 (my emphasis)
Germane to Ezekiel’s temple Iain Duguid asks,
Should we therefore look to a future millennial temple in which to see these provisions of heightened sanctity fulfilled? I don’t think so. Rather, we should do what it seems to me the New Testament does and see how the goal of Ezekiel’s temple finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. – Ezekiel (NIVAC), 481.
At least these men admit to what they are doing. Steve won’t join them but pins his hopes on the hypothesis that the exiles (meaning those hearing Ezekiel) and the returnees interpreted the vision as an emblem; although I don’t see how they could know about the Church!
In my exchanges with Steve Hays I have referenced many prophetic passages ( in the OT). I have also responded to the relatively few which Steve has cited. He says,
i) Let’s cut the dead wood. I truly wish he would deal with the texts I cited but he will not. He prefers to chop wood in a different forest.
The question at issue is whether Ezk 40ff. is referring to a physical endtime temple.
Well, the first question is whether Ezekiel’s temple ought to be interpreted literally. After that is decided one must look for a place to fit ones interpretation.
Dispensationalists think many prophecies about Israel were not fulfilled during the first advent of Christ.
He is right. Speaking only for myself, it is my contention that it is a huge mistake to seek for complete fulfillments of Messianic prophecies mainly at the first advent. Such a maneuver inevitably beckons for non-literal symbolic interpretations of many covenant passages. Many crucial Messianic texts like Gen 49:8; Num. 24:17; Isa. 9:6-7, 11:1-10; and Mic. 5:2 report more on events at or after the Second Coming than the First Coming. Even Genesis 3:15, with the crushing of the serpent’s head, stresses the Second Advent and after (Paul clearly didn’t think Satan’s head was crushed at Calvary – Rom. 16:20). See also this
Therefore, they cast about for some place to stick these outstanding prophecies. And they settle on Rev 20:4-6. They use three verses in Rev 20 as an empty container to stuff full of outstanding prophecies about Israel.
Good rhetoric, but quite untrue. In my case for a New covenant temple I appealed only to the OT. Revelation 20 says Christ will reign upon earth for a thousand years, so I fit the OT predictions in there. Amils like Steve try to stuff the entire church age in there of course. But they have to spiritualize (i.e. treat as non-literal) the thousand years.
iii) The obvious problem with Henebury’s appeal to Zechariah is that, in context, Zechariah is referring to the Second Temple.
Not in chapter 14 he isn’t. I have shown why (cf. Isa. 2:2-3; Zech. 8:3, 20-23; 14:16f.).
The temple built by Zerubbabel (Zech 4:6-10). Same thing with Haggai (2:2-4).
A person may grant that the temple in chapter 4 is the second temple. But I didn’t cite chapter 4. It’s obvious to me that Steve is ignoring the details of the passages I did cite.
Ezekiel’s vision is both predictive and prescriptive. Not only is this prophetic, but God is commanding Jews to build a temple according to this blueprint.
He does not command them to build Ezekiel’s temple. That is one of Block’s arguments for saying it is not literal. BTW, Steve previously denied it was a blueprint.
With irony Hays writes,
However, postexilic Jews were not supposed to build this temple. Jews are supposed to delay construction of this temple. Appearances notwithstanding, Jews would be disobeying God’s command to build the temple by building the temple. You see, Ezekiel really meant for Jews to postpone construction of this temple, even though he doesn’t say that.
I don’t really follow here. The Jews are never told to build it. The Lord will build it (cf.Zech. 6:12-13). I know he’s using irony to get a point across, which is okay with me, but there is no command to build this temple. That is because it cannot be built until after Zech. 14:4. Do we find a temple standing after Zech. 14:4? Indeed we do, and God Himself is in it (Zech. 14; cf. Ezek. 43).
Steve writes with more irony:
This is the actual order of events:
a) Zerubbabel is not supposed to build a temple according to Ezekiel’s blueprint. Ezra is not supposed to build a temple according to Ezekiel’s blueprint. That would wreak havoc with God’s eschatological timetable.
Ezekiel is shown a very detailed and huge temple which cannot be constructed on the present Mt. Zion. The setting of this temple will be paradisical (ch. 48). In the service of the temple only Zadokites are allowed to serve before the Lord (ch. 43). There is no veil over the Holy of Holies, and no high priest either. The glory-cloud resides in this temple (ch.43), whereas it did not come into Zerubbabal’s. Zerubbabel possibly would not have expected this absence (although Israel were ruled over by foreign powers in his day, whereas Ezekiel’s temple is built at a time when God again gives sovereignty back to Israel. Prophets predict both near and far off events.
b) Before Ezekiel’s temple can be built, the Second Temple must be built.
c) Then Herod must remodel Zerubbabel’s temple.
d) Then the Second Temple must be razed by the Romans in 70 AD.
e) Then the Jews must undergo a second exile when the Romans banish them from Palestine after the Bar Kochba revolt.
Right. And Israel was renamed “Palestine” by Hadrian at that time.
f) Then, after the second temple is destroyed, but before Ezekiel’s temple can be built, a third, Tribulation temple must be built, just before the Parousia, which the Antichrist will desecrate (Dan 9:27; 12:11; 2 Thes 2:4; Rev 11:1-2; 13:14-15). Cf. L. Cooper, Ezekiel (B&H 1994), 354; R. Thomas, Revelation 8-22 (Moody 1995), 81-82.
That seems to be what those passages necessitate, providing they too are not made to symbolize something else.
g) Then, when Jesus returns, the stop-work order will be rescinded [there wasn’t one issued in the first place], and builders who have no historical connection with Ezekiel’s contemporaries or the Jewish returnees in 6C BC, will finally erect Ezekiel’s temple, after two unspecified temples have come and gone. And that’s taking Ezk 40-48 at “face value.”
We’re not told how this temple is built. It is presented to Ezekiel as completed. Ezekiel isn’t about any other temples but Solomon’s and Ezekiel’s. But, for the rest of it, Hays has about got it. If I can be permitted a little irony of my own, all he has to do now is believe what he reads.
As for his reference to 1948, he needs to argue that with Hal Lindsey, not me. I do not teach that as a fulfillment of the OT.
The fact that Zerubbabel and Nehemiah made no attempt to build Ezekiel’s temple is good reason to think they didn’t interpret his vision literally.
Amils think it is.
So Henebury must interpret Ezekiel’s temple in light of Revelation
I interpret Ezekiel’s temple by reading Ezekiel. Then I look for compatible OT covenant equivalents. I said that Rev.20 is the only place I can fit the OT new covenant material.
Perhaps Henebury is alluding to John Walton. [I wasn’t] However, scholars like Desi Alexander and Gregory Beale document their position from Scripture.
I am very familiar with Beale and what he does with Scripture. He’s an impressive scholar, but I find his interpretation via allusion impossible. Beale believes the NT “transforms” the meaning of the OT.
The entire vision (40-48) is emblematic.
Saying it doesn’t mean it is. Talking about the supposed qualities of word pictures and poetry (which is easily discerned even in translation) doesn’t mean it is. I could say the vision was “semi-proto-apocalyptic rhetoric” and wax eloquent about the properties of that “genre”, but I wouldn’t be proving that Ezekiel 40-48 was, in fact, that genre. Steve claims to have presented evidence for his view. I cannot find it. Just assertions. In fact I find Hays’s approach quite similar to the Roman Catholic view (e.g. P. Grelot). Anyway, not seeing his evidence may be my fault. If so, perhaps some reader will tell me where it is.
He quotes Jn. 1:14 and says “Christ embodies what the Temple signifies.” The verse says “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” I take that to mean the Divine One who was with God in the creation became human and lived with humans. Steve infers it means the temple symbolism has become human and been realized. I rate his interpretation as loaded with outside assumptions. (In my RoA it warrants a C4 rating at least).
Yet, according to Henebury, when Christ returns, Ezekiel’s temple will coexist with Christ in Jerusalem. What’s the point of a temple when Christ himself returns to tabernacle with his people forever (Rev 21:22)? A temple is just a placeholder. [proof?] Once Christ returns, any temple would instantly outlived its purpose. [proof? Perhaps he has not fully understood the significance of God’s temple?] Indeed, the fact that we’ve had no temple for 2000 years already underscores the spiritual irrelevance of the temple at this juncture in redemptive history.
God is dealing with the Church, which is mainly Gentile. Paul tells us,
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” 28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom 11:25-29)
Steve’s paragraph is a good sample of the deductive theology of covenant theologians. They know what the verses say but they don’t believe what they say. They believe their true meaning must fit within their covenant of grace (which itself is found nowhere in Scripture). The main reason for their going figurative so much of the time is that their theology throws up objections which overrule the plain-sense of Scripture, forcing them to find “spiritual” meanings which fit their system better.
5. A Bald-Faced Lie
Yes, I sometimes disagree with what another amil says. So what?
Nothing, except I thought he’d made an appeal to guys like Beale!
I had written that “Steve’s approach to Scripture is all from outside of Scripture. He turns to modern understandings of genre and typology and picture theory and such and then declares that that’s what’s going on in a given context.” I stand by that statement and I do not think it’s a lie. It may be mistaken, but I don’t believe I am. He accuses me:
That’s just a bald-faced lie. (my emphasis) For instance, I classify Ezk 40-48 as belonging to the genre of visionary revelation. That classification doesn’t come from outside the text. That’s right there in the text.
The “genre of visionary revelation” depends on who you read. I have shown that visions can be of literal things – from the text. Again, compare Ezek. 8:3 with 40:2. The “visions of God” in chs.8-11 are of literal structures and happenings in Jerusalem. He has not shown they are always metaphorical symbols of other things.
To give another example of dubious use of “visionary genre”: Revelation 12:1-2, 5 is usually said by CT’s to represent the Church (for problems with that see Here). But Genesis 37:9-10, together with the fact that the Church did not give birth to Christ, surely identifies the woman as Israel (cf. Dan. 7:24-27 with Rev. 12:14).
Likewise, I’ve explained in some detail why Ezk 40-48 is pictorial. Does Henebury offer a counterargument in his latest reply? No. Henebury is not an ethical disputant. He routinely cuts corners with the truth. So I have to waste time correcting his latest falsehoods and contradictions.
I may be fooling myself, but I believe I have offered a solid counterargument, and Steve has talked about his pictorial theology without proving it applies to Ezekiel 40-48. Moreover, just because a vision pictures something does not automatically make that thing non-literal like Steve wants. In Ezekiel 11:13 the prophet saw Pelatiah die in Jerusalem. Did he not die because it was seen in a vision?
His lack of ethical consistency is reinforced by the cheerleaders at his blog, who always root for their own team regardless of what a fellow teammate does. They are team players first and Christians second.
People who comment at my blog are ripe for some well deserved stick from Hays if they agree with me.
6. The Obscurity of Scripture?
I said: “I wouldn’t trust any teacher who acted as a word-converter in the revelation process.”
Steve replies with,
So he just admitted that he wouldn’t trust God if the amils were right. That confirms my allegation.
No, but my doctrine of revelation would need to change. You see, when it comes to the Gospel, or indeed all the first rank fundamental verities of the Christian Faith, all believers give Scripture passages a normative meaning (as I have tried to demonstrate). When it comes to these truths revelation is clear. However, obfuscation enters into Amillennial interpretation of most prophetic texts. Every time we say a given Bible passage is typological or metaphorical or a shadow of some other thing we still have to ask “what then is it?” Liberal scholars like D. S. Russell or Paul Althaus make no bones about declaring the failure of the original predictions and their reinvention by the Apostolic authors. Conservatives who “spiritualize”, to use Goldsworthy’s and Riddlebarger’s word, simply get preachy and talk about how everything is fulfilled at the first coming. In both scenarios the clarity of Scripture is affected (e.g. Jer. 33:14-26 or Zech. 14:16ff., or Rev. 20 do not mean what they blatantly appear to mean), and the doctrine of Revelation must change to accommodate the non-literal fulfillment of a great many prophecies. Once the clarity of more than half the Bible is affected like this, so the sufficiency of the revelation is also affected; for what cannot be understood is not sufficient. Then the question must be asked what “revelation” actually means. In my opinion revelation isn’t happening if it is couched in confusing and ambiguous terms. I locate a hermeneutical benchmark in the biblical covenants, which provide a norm for interpreting the rest of Scripture.
That is a quick summary, so I hope it’s enough.
Henebury himself places this passage in the church age.
I had commented: “I beg his pardon, but I most certainly do not. Ezekiel’s temple will, I deduce, be built after Christ the King returns to reign in Zion (cf. Jer.33:14-26; Zech. 14).”
So Henebury has an idiosyncratic definition of the church age. [!!!! – I hold that the Church is a post-resurrection phenomena beginning at Pentecost and consummating when Jesus comes for us] In any case, the larger point is that Henebury doesn’t interpret Ezk 40-48 in terms of Ezekiel’s audience–their situation, their historical horizon.
I interpret it as a prophecy which shall come to pass after the Second Advent. Lots of OT prophecy reaches far beyond the times when it was written – e.g. all the prophecies about the first coming of Christ!
Henebury’s accusation is ironic seeing as he cited a 1C AD rabbi as his primary witness (Hananiah ben Hezekiah). Why is it so hard for Henebury to be honest?
Well, if I were honest I would feel the need to point out that what Steve just said is a blatant falsehood. My “primary witness” is palpably the Old Testament text.
Does he think we should take Scripture literally or at “face value” unless the writer includes an editorial comment to the contrary?
I think that “if the plain sense makes sense, then seek no other sense.” I believe the Bible is written for Everyman. Hence, if correct interpretation depended on the shifting trends in biblical scholarship we would all be up the creek without a paddle.
I leave it up to Steve to respond as he feels is fit, and I gladly yield the floor to Fred Butler’s study of Ezekiel 40-48.