Falling Through the Porch: My Reply to a Critique (2)

Part One

Any Old Port in A Storm

We’re still on the ‘Conversations on the Porch’ objection to the first of my Forty Reasons why the OT is not reinterpreted by the NT, since according to my three protagonists, if this first one falls, they all fall.

There are always stock passages that are referred to by proponents of reinterpretation.  For example, 1 Peter 1:10-12 says this:

Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.  To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

The first thing to take notice of here is what Peter himself tells us he is talking about; and it is decidedly not the use of the OT in the NT.  It is the subject of salvation.  In particular it has to do with Christ’s passion and what it would bring about.   The passage therefore has nothing to say about my 40 Reasons.  It surely does not say anything about my first reason, which concerns whether or not the Apostolic authors give clear instructions for us to reinterpret the meaning of OT passages.

But the first Reason went on to assert that, “No Apostolic writer felt it necessary to place in our hands this hermeneutical key, which they supposedly used when they wrote the NT.”  What about that?  The guys on the Porch have a reply: “The hermeneutical key is the way the NT writers interpret the OT.”  Well, there’s no key in 1 Peter 1. There’s a deduction that Peter is giving permission to reinterpret the OT with the New when he isn’t writing on that issue.

After this we’re taken to Galatians 3 and informed that, “Paul is telling us how this Abrahamic covenant is fulfilled.”  I dealt with this issue in a series of posts, Galatians 3, the Land, and the Abrahamic Covenant, (which I want to update), but what is significant here is that one of these objectors admits that the Apostle quotes only one of the promises within the Abrahamic covenant.  Well, that gives the farm away.  That is exactly what I claim.  Ergo, Galatians 3 does not deal with the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant en toto, but only with the provisions for blessing to the nations (Gen. 12:3).

Acts 2, Acts 15, and Galatians 4

The podcast mentions Acts 2 and Acts 15 as examples of fulfillment texts which encourage us to view fulfillments in unexpected ways.  I covered some of the Acts 2 issues here.  I will not repeat myself.  Patently, the things described in Joel did not occur in Acts, although they might have done.  But that takes us too far afield.  Even many non-dispensationalists admit that there is more going on theologically in Acts 2 than people like G.K. Beale and my objectors will admit.  And it is passing strange that Beale will insist on being a “literalist” in Acts 2:16 when it permits him to spiritualize the verses surrounding it.  This falls foul of “Rule 9” of my Parameters of Meaning (not that it is a rule for anyone save myself.)  Here it is:

Parameters of Meaning – Rule 9: If a literal interpretation leads you into wholesale allegorizing, or causes head-on conflicts with other clear texts, which then have to be creatively reinterpreted, it is an illegitimate use of “literal”. There will always be another literal meaning available which preserves the plain-sense of the rest of the passage in its context. (N.B. I promise I will complete that series)

In Acts 15:14-19 James uses Amos 9 to prove that Gentiles turning to God was always God’s intention.  He does not say that Amos 9 was fulfilled in Acts 15.

The three NCT’s then venture into the allegory in Galatians 4:21-31 to prove, well, that the Apostle is taking the liberty to reinterpret the Scripture!  Closer inspection will reveal that Paul is illustrating the way inclusion into either the Mosaic covenant or the New covenant results in bondage to the one or freedom in the other.  It is an allegory, not a green card into the reinterpretation of the covenants themselves.

Moving Along – Objection Two

Here is my second Reason: 

Reason 2. Since the OT was the Bible of the Early Christians it would mean no one could be sure they had correctly interpreted the OT until they had the NT. In many cases this deficit would last for a good three centuries after the first coming of Jesus Christ.

How is this one tackled?  Well, they do refer to Colossians 1:23 and such (e.g. 2 Thess. 2:15), but they read into Paul’s recalling of unspecified teachings and traditions the content they want to find there; namely, that the Apostles “transform” the OT promises and so should they.  They make the easy assertion that the earliest Christians had the Apostolic interpretations.  My response to this is to state several things which ought to be obvious.

a. The Apostles were not ubiquitous and the Letters of Paul, for instance, demonstrate the wide ignorance of vital truths which needed to be addressed in Rome, Corinth, Colossae (where Paul hadn’t visited) and many other places.

b.  Many major cities of the time (e.g. Antioch, Edessa, Pisidian Antioch, Petra, Damascus, Athens) were not recipients of Apostolic epistles, nor, as far as the NT tells us, were they graced by any extended stays by Apostles.

c. If anything is clear from reading the NT epistles it is that the danger of apostasy was never very far away (e.g. 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians).  This was exacerbated by the presence of false teachers and false epistles.  We know also that the second and third centuries A.D. evidenced the greatest threat to truth in the form of heresies.

d. The circulation of Apostolic materials from circa 50 to 100 would have been piecemeal.  This is borne out by what we know about the distribution of collections of the Gospels, or the Pauline Epistles, etc., toward the latter part of the first and into the second and third centuries A.D.  It appears, for example, that Augustine (d. 430) did not possess all the NT books.

e. And lest we forget, none of these passages in the NT have been shown to teach that the OT meanings have been “transformed” (i.e. reinterpreted) by the Apostles anyway.

The three men who criticized my 40 Reasons speak about a period of transition.  But they underestimate the length of that transition.

Do Specified Referents Change in Waldo World?

My third Reason addressed the matter of changing what the OT writers were referring to into new “expanded” places and things:

Reason 3. If the OT is in need of reinterpretation because many of its referents (e.g. Israel, land, king, throne, priesthood, temple, Jerusalem, Zion, etc.) in actual fact refer symbolically to Jesus and the NT Church, then these OT “symbols” and “types” must be seen for what they are in the NT. But the NT never does plainly identify the realities and antitypes these OT referents are said to point towards. Thus, this assumption forces the NT into saying things it never explicitly says (e.g. that the Church is “the New Israel,” the “land” is the new Creation, or the seventh day Sabbath is now the first day “Christian Sabbath”).

The answers given to this Reason were, quite simply, silly.  For example, “Where is the temple identified in the NT?  It’s us, it’s the church.”  And where precisely are we told that the Body of Christ is the temple spoken of in the OT?  Nowhere.  

I deal with the different use of “temple” by the NT authors here.  I also had occasion to write this in reply to Knox Seminaries ill-advised Open Letter of several years ago:

Though the Church is a spiritual temple and a spiritual priesthood, each individual Christian is also a spiritual temple (1 Cor. 6:19), and we have already seen that Christ’s physical body is also called a temple (Jn.2:19-21). Therefore, if (as the authors of the Open Letter seem to want to do), one includes the two literal temples, the completed Church cannot be the third, but the fifth temple. But it ought to be obvious that calling Christ’s physical body, or our physical bodies, or Christ’s mystical body (the Church), temples does not mean that the two future literal temples (i.e. the Tribulation temple – Dan. 9:26-27; Matt. 24:15; Rev. 11:1-2), and the Millennial Temple, should not be recognized for what they are.

While seeking to counter this third Reason one of the brethren hit upon the notion that finding Christ in the OT is like trying to find Waldo in those picture puzzle books.  It doesn’t dawn on him that he is saying that God deliberately hid predictions of Christ in the Hebrew Bible so as to make it difficult to find Him.  Naturally, it would be even more difficult than finding Waldo because the OT is bigger and in the Waldo books one is shown clearly what Waldo looks like.  But if you don’t know what Christ looks like in the OT (because He is not very plainly discovered there) how can you confidently expect to find Him?  And if He is “not readily apparent” in the OT then how can Jesus fairly criticize the Jews of His day for not finding Him (e.g. Jn. 5:39-40)?

Of course, Christ is not hard to find in the OT.  He is plainly there in many Messianic passages which the Jews identified as such before the time of Jesus.

Continued next time…

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3 comments

    1. In a crude way, this defence for the transformation claim sounds alarmingly like a defence for the church having authority to interpret or reinterpret the Scriptures as the Orthodox and Cathlics claim, to this simpleton!

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