This is the fourth and last installment of my reply to some NCT’s who did a critique of my Forty Reasons For Not Reinterpreting the OT with the NT. (link, link) I believe I have probably given their podcast more attention than it deserved; not because it criticizes me (which is fine), but because of the sloppy and frankly facetious way the criticism was done.
At the end of the last post I mentioned their reference to Galatians 6:16. Here is the verse from the NASB:
And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. – Gal. 6:16
Their opinion is that reading the passage as dividing “those who walk by this rule” and “the Israel of God” (as the NASB does), “overthrows Paul’s whole argument”, whereas CT’s and NCT’s, who want to read the kai in the verse as “even” are rightly understanding Paul in equating the two. As I showed last time, many top-flight biblical scholars insist that the Apostle intentionally separates the two groups with the kai (the primary meaning of which is “and”) and does not conflate them. If he had wanted to make them one and the same all he had to do was not place a kai in the sentence.
But what about Paul’s argument in Galatians? In the immediate context in chapter 6 we see that the first six verses concern person-to-person good works. There follows a section (6:7-10) which warns against evil works and urges again good works. The next section turns back to the Judaizing influence of those who were insisting that these Christian Gentiles had to be circumcised to be really right with God. A key verse says,
As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. – Gal. 6:12
As you can see the verse refers to a group of false teachers who have secondary motives for their heresy. Which group do you think those advocating for circumcision would be? They would be Jews. But they would not be godly Jews representing godly Israel (whom Paul calls the Remnant in Rom. 11:1-5). So what would someone who would go on to convey his “great sorrow and continual grief” for his own people (Rom. 9:2-3) say about those Israelites (see Rom. 9:4) who were people of God? Might he not call them “the Israel of God”? And might he not hold out a hope for an eventual national restoration after “the fullness of the Gentiles”? (Rom. 11:25). Paul continues,
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. – Gal. 6:15
As far as the gospel is concerned it is justification by faith plus nothing. Then we get,
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and (kai) upon the Israel of God. – Gal. 6:16
First, which “rule” is he talking about? Obviously, the rule of care or love he has just been talking about. So there is good reason to think that Paul was contrasting godly Christians with the ungodly Jewish teachers, but that he, being zealous for the doctrine of the Remnant of Israel, would want to teach his readers that God has not forgotten about restoring the nation of Israel. Therefore, no, in their “Conversation on the Porch” my three critics’ argument that the traditional separation undoes Paul’s argument is completely bogus.
A Few More Tries
Our friends now jump to evaluating Reasons 15, 16 and 17. I’ll reproduce them for reference:
15. Saying the types and shadows in the OT (which supposedly include the land given to Israel, the throne in Jerusalem, the temple of Ezekiel, etc.), are given their proper concrete meanings by the NT implies neither the believer nor the unbeliever can comprehend God’s promises solely from the OT.
16. Thus, no unbeliever could be accused of unbelief so long as they only possessed the OT, since the apparatus for belief (the NT) was not within their grasp.
17. This all makes mincemeat of any claim for the perspicuity of Scripture. At the very least it makes this an attribute possessed only by the NT, and only tortuous logic could equate the word “perspicuity” to such wholesale symbolic and typological approaches.
When dealing with Reason 15 they claim that “God has revealed with more clarity the things given in the OT.” What about the land? These folks will tell us at one time that the land promise is absent from the NT, and then they will go to Romans 4:13 to prove that it was expanded to cover the entire surface area of the planet. Which is it? Naturally, they take us to Joshua 21:43-45 and 1 Kings 4:21 (cf. Neh. 9:8) to show that God’s land promises were fulfilled (hence, there is no need to look beyond these texts for fulfillment). But this is plainly false. A cursory look at Joshua 23:11-12 proves that Israel had not driven out all the indigenous tribes from the land. True, God had fulfilled His word in bringing Israel into possession of Canaan (hence Neh. 9:8), but Joshua 21:43f., and 1 Kings 4:21 do not match the extent of the land which is described to Abraham in Genesis 15:18, which pushes the borders of the Promised Land out to the Euphrates – an extent not described in Joshua and 1 Kings.
Moreover, as I have shown many times before, the Prophets do not agree with NCT’s and CT’s about their ascription of fulfillment of the land promise before the Prophets ever wrote. See, e.g., Isa. 5:25-26; 11:11-12; Jer. 12:14-17; 23:5-8; 30:18; 31:27-40; 33:10-13, 18-21; Ezek. 34:11-31; 37:1-14; Hos. 13:9-14:9; Mic. 2:12; Zeph. 2:19-20; Zech. 12:10-11; 14:16-21.
I may have stopped listening for a minute, but in a sort of aside, my critics said that Jesus was drawing on the typology of Numbers 21:8-9 in John 3:14. Of course, Jesus was doing no such thing. He said “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness…”. He did not allude to typology or prophecy or fulfillment at all.
Now Reason 16 is clearly linked with Reason 15, which means one shouldn’t read Reason 16 on its own. But what do the three men on the Porch do? They sever Reason 16 from what precedes it and then mock Reason 16 as “crazy”. How do men who thought they saw connections between all 40 Reasons (recall their comments on Reason 1) not detect the connection between these three Reasons? I pass on.
I’ll also leave their comments on Reason 17 alone because they fail to actually interact with it. It was about the clarity of Scripture. Their wholly predictable answer was that the NT clears up the murkiness of the OT.
In their review of Reason 30, which deals with the problem of reading prophecies in the same passage both literally and non-literally they respond, “Is there something wrong with that?” Well, yes! Take the prophecies that fit your theology literally and spiritualize the ones that contradict it. Can they not see a problem with that? They then look at Luke 1:31-33 without commenting on the references to “Jacob” (i.e. Israel) and “David” (i.e. his literal throne), but they refuse to go in to the OT to see what it says about these things. Why should they? The NT must (re)interpret the OT anyway right?
Reason 37 deals with presuppositions (the kind illustrated above). They of course reply that we all have presuppositions. Okay, does that mean we are at an impasse? In no case does it mean that. They want to push Luke 1:31-33 back on me. But I am not the one claiming the prophecies about Christ reigning over Israel from a literal Davidic throne are fulfilled spiritually in the Church via some sort of hermeneutical alchemy!
The last one these men decide to critique is Reason 38 about equivocation. I am content to let the rest of what I have written in these articles about their approach to both Scripture and my 40 Reasons stand as confirmatory evidence of what I said. Their attempt to prove a spiritual resurrection just here has to be heard to be believed. They insist on asking about the context, and then totally ignore the context. I think that has everything to do with their presupposition that the NT must reinterpret the OT.