The Relationship of the Testaments: Apostolic Hermeneutic

One of the most complex issues facing the student of biblical hermeneutics today is the significance of how the NT authors quote or allude to the OT in their writings. One popular view is that modern-day interpreters have a mandate not only to understand, but also to imitate the hermeneutics modeled by the NT writers in their handling of the OT.  

According to Moises Silva, “If we refuse to pattern our exegesis after that of the apostles, we are in practice denying the authoritative character of their scriptural interpretation–and to do so is to strike at the very heart of the Christian faith.” In similar fashion, S. Lewis Johnson writes, “We not only can reproduce their exegetical methodology, we must if we are to be taught their understanding of Holy Scripture.” Curtis Crenshaw and Grover Gunn agree, writing, “Anything else than the apostles’ hermeneutic is based on speculative human reasoning.” 

These kinds of assertions raise a significant question: Should we seek to reproduce the hermeneutics of the NT writers? Is this truly the goal of the modern-day interpreter as he approaches various passages of Scripture? As John Walton notes, in considering this question, we find ourselves “torn between following the objective methods that we espouse in theory, or following the lead of the authors of Scripture and utilizing the methods they model.” Although imitating the apostles in this way sounds like a noble path to travel, several difficulties arise when one considers the issue more closely. I would like to suggest three.  

First, patterns are not prescriptions. As John Feinberg points out, “Because something is done a certain way does not mandate it as right or the only way.” Therefore, the example of the apostles is not necessarily the mandate for modern-day interpreters. This is a simple point, but one that is often overlooked in the discussion. 

Second, there doesn’t seem to be any one, clearly discernible “hermeneutical pattern” that the apostles followed in their use of the OT. According to Silva, “the New Testament writers used the Old Testament at different times in different ways for different reasons.” In light of this, the question must be asked: What exactly is the “apostles’ hermeneutic”? What exactly is this pattern that modern-day interpreters are to follow? What specific hermeneutical principles are modeled by the NT writers that should guide contemporary interpretation? Can they be stated propositionally? If so, what are they? 

It seems more accurate to say, along with Feinberg, that “there is no such thing as the NT pattern of OT usage” but rather that “there are varieties of NT uses of the OT.” In his book Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy Zuck lists ten different ways NT writers use the OT, and even those who advocate using the apostles’ hermeneutic recognize a plurality of ways in which the OT is used. With so many varieties, one might legitimately ask which pattern is to be followed, and with which passages they should be followed. 

This difficulty seems to have been recognized by some of those who advocate imitating the pattern established by the NT writers. This recognition manifests itself in warnings to be careful in how one employs the apostles’ hermeneutic. Silva, for example, warns against “indiscriminate imitation” and cautions that we are not to reproduce the exegesis “in all its features.” Douglas Moo writes that “while there is some truth to the assertion that the New Testament practice of interpreting the Old Testament should inform our own interpretation, we should be very cautious about suggesting ‘deeper meanings’ in the text that are not clearly enunciated within Scripture.” Almost always absent from these kinds of discussions, however, are any clear, objective guidelines regarding how to heed these warnings. This poses a major problem for the modern interpreter who is committed to the apostles’ hermeneutic. 

When one recognizes the plurality of ways in which the NT writers use the OT, it becomes clear that the NT writers often referred to the OT without seeking to interpret it. Helpful here are the insights of Moo: “Much like the speech of a person raised on the classics will be sprinkled with terminology and idioms drawn from those texts, New Testament writers often–without intending to provide a ‘correct’ interpretation of the Old Testament text–use Old Testament language as a vehicle of expression.” Silva notes that the NT writers were so acquainted with the Scriptures that they would often make “relatively casual references” to the OT. “If they did,” Silva writes, “these casual references would reveal nothing about their exegetical method.” I couldn’t agree more.  

John Walton takes this a step further. According to Walton, the “NT authors never claim to have engaged in a hermeneutical process, nor do they claim that they can support their findings from the text; they claim inspiration” (more on this below). With this in mind, it is obvious that the modern-day interpreter who seeks to imitate the NT writers’ “interpretations” of the OT will be led astray at times, for often the NT writer is not engaging in the process of interpretation.  

One area where some have gone astray is typology. As Moo notes, the debate regarding typology is whether it is prospective or retrospective: “Does the Old Testament type have a genuinely predictive function, or is typology simply a way of looking back at the Old Testament and drawing out resemblances?” Some have understood typology as possessing a prospective element and have therefore come to some wrong conclusions regarding the apostles’ method of interpretation. They reach this conclusion because, as Walton states, they fail to recognize that the NT typologists “did not get their typological correspondence from their exegetical analysis of the context of the OT.” As a result, the modern-day interpreter seeks to imitate “NT hermeneutic,” but, in doing so, he fails to recognize that the NT typologists are not engaging in a procedure of unearthing a meaning latent in the Old Testament text. A helpful remedy is found in the words of Walton: “Since this correlation is not identifiable until both type and anti type exist, typology is always a function of hindsight. One thing is never identified as a type of something to come. Only after the latter has come can the correspondence be proclaimed.” 

Third, the difference between human interpretation and divine inspiration separates the modern-day exegete from the NT writer in such a way that the former is not able to employ the methods of the latter. As Walton writes, “We cannot speak of reproducing the methods of the NT authors, for the subjectivity of their methods is not allowed to those of us whose interpretation does not enjoy the affirmation of inspiration.” To state it another way, the NT writers were superintended by the Holy Spirit, and modern-day interpreters are not. Therefore, as Walton writes, “We do not wish to reproduce the hermeneutics of NT authors because they, by virtue of inspiration, accrued authority to themselves by means unavailable to us.” 

G.K. Beale challenges this argument, stating that “it is not necessary to claim that we have to have such inspiration to reproduce their method or their conclusions. The fact that we don’t have the same ‘revelatory stance’ as the New Testament writers only means that we cannot have the same epistemological certainty about our interpretation conclusions and applications as they had.”  

While Beale’s distinction between exegetical method and epistemological certainty is a helpful one, his argument fails to address the fact that the New Testament writers’ use of the Old Testament was a function of divine inspiration, and not simply a matter of human interpretation carried out in accordance with divinely revealed hermeneutical principles. In other words, when the apostle Paul quoted or alluded to the OT in his epistles, he wasn’t applying God-given hermeneutical principles to various passages in the Old Testament; he was being superintended by the Holy Spirit in such a way that he wrote precisely what God was pleased to communicate through him. The NT writers, then, do not claim a superior hermeneutical approach to the OT; they claim inspiration. For those who are not able to claim inspiration, this method cannot be employed.

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33 responses to this post.

  1. Matt

    Thanks for this article. Very helpful.

    Charles

  2. Matt, you have really got to the heart of the matter on the millennial debate. Great post.

  3. Only one post on this – NO!

    But good post – however what is the context of S. Lewis Johnson’s quote ?

  4. I fail to see the problem of modeling our interpretation after the interpretation of men who interpreted Scripture through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

    What I mean is this…If Paul says the promise was to Christ (Galatians 3:16), why can’t I base my interpretation of the promises made to Abraham on that point?

  5. John,

    The “fuller sense” of the Johnson quote, which I think Matt summarized well, is as follows :

    “Can we reproduce the exegesis of the New Testament?’ Unhesitatingly the reply is yes, although we are not allowed to claim for our results the infallibility of the Lord and His apostles. They are reliable teachers of biblical doctrine and they are reliable teachers of hermeneutics and exegesis. We not only can reproduce their exegetical methodology, we must if we are to be taught their understanding of Holy Scripture. Their principles, probably taught them by the Lord in His post-resurrection ministry, are not abstruse and difficult. They are simple, plain, and logical. The things they find in the Old Testament are really there, although the Old Testament authors may not have seen them fully” (The Old Testament in the New: An Argument for Biblical inspiration [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980], pp. 93-94).

  6. Jeremy,

    Though I would not follow all of this writer’s arguments, below is from an article that answers some of the particular questions more fully (note to John who commented above: this article is answering the same Johnson quote that Matt cited):

    “It is my contention that, unless we are ‘restorationists’ in our attitude toward hermeneutics, Christians today are committed to the apostolic faith and doctrine of the NT, but not necessarily to the apostolic exegetical practices as detailed for us in the NT. What the NT presents to us in setting out the exegetical practices of early Christians is how the gospel was contextualized in that day and for those particular audiences. We can appreciate something of how appropriate such methods were for the conveyance of the gospel then and of what was involved in their exegetical procedures. And we can learn from their exegetical methods how to contextualize that same gospel in our own day. But let us admit that we cannot possibly reproduce the revelatory stance of pesher interpretation, nor the atomistic manipulations of midrash, nor the circumstantial or ad hominem thrusts of a particular polemic of that day – nor should we try. For various reasons, neither we nor our audiences are up to it. Ours, rather, is to contextualize the gospel in our own day and for our own circumstances, speaking meaningfully to people as they are and think today. Ours is to reproduce the faith and doctrine of the NT in ways appropriate to the apprehension of people today, not to attempt to reproduce – or to feel guilty about not being able to reproduce – the specific exegetical procedures contained therein” (Richard N. Longenecker “Who is the Prophet Talking About?’ Some Reflections on the New Testament’s Use of the Old” [Themelios 13.1 (Oct./Nov. 1987)]: 4-8).

    You can access the entire article here: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_otnt_longenecker.html

  7. I totally affirm everything Matt has communicated here, as well as the point provided by the Longnecker quote. This is the touchstone issue surrounding the amil hermeneutic. There is no such thing as an normative NT herm. model provided by the apostles. As Longnecker illustrates they engaged in all kinds of herm. techniques available to them in the first century-albeit under the “inspiration” of the Holy Spirit–which by definition disallows the possibility for the amil. herm. model to even get off the ground. There are many passages, in the OT (i.e. Is. 2, 11; Ez. 37; etc.), that the apostles did not interpret for us, any attempt to engage in an “atomized” or “midrashic” interpretation of such passages, by the amil. exegete, engages in a “reader-response” hermeneutic constructing meaning via inference from passages that the Apostles actually did interpret for us. Unless the amil interpreter is willing to assume the APOSTOLIC mantle, and claim “inspired” interpretations of the text of scripture–then their argument is, moot.

    Great article, Matt!

    In Christ

  8. How about just interpreting the what the Apostles said using the literal-grammatical herm? Paul used a grammatical hermeneutic when exegeting the Abrahamic Covenant, right? Yes, of course, he even was noting that the word “offspring” was not plural but singular. Then he explained that it referred to Christ. Then he explained that the Abrahamic Covenant, which is the foundation of all the covenants including the Davidic and NC, is therefore a covenant with all people who have the faith of Abraham, namely faith in Christ.

    Thus every OT text that speaks in any way concerning the promises to Israel must be interpreted in light of Paul’s literal-grammatical hermeneutic.

    So therefore, we Amillers are not advocating necessarily using some “sensus plenior” hermeneutic (as Dr. Thomas refers to it), but we are simply interpreting the prophets based on a proper exegesis of the Abrahamic Cov.

    Please somebody explain to me how this is false. If the Abahamic Covenant was not a covenant with Abraham’s physical descendants but with anyone, including Rahab and Ruth, then how can one possibly read into the eschatological prophecies that they are referring to some future group of ethnic Jews?

  9. “Anyone” meaning people from any ethnic group who has faith in Christ.

  10. Jason,

    Abraham’s Covenant indeed is with all, and is the basis for “universal salvation” (i.e. trans-national to all “elect”)–but Yahweh saw fit to uniquely call and use the “nation” of Israel (Deut. 7:7-8) as the instrument through which He would provide salvation for all nations. Part of this call came loaded with parameters that were intended to set this nation apart (i.e. Mosaic Cov.), and was conditional upon obedience. Furthermore another feature of the Cov. with the nation Israel, if obedient, was the ability to inherit and posess the “Land” (see Gen. 15; 17). Anyway these are some of the features of the Old Covenant unique to the nation of Israel, and not applicable to “all”, as the Abe. and New Cov. are. The Abe. Cov. reflects a unilateral cov. contingent on Yahweh’s faithfulness, while the Mos. Cov. reflects a bilateral cov. contingent on a “divine pactum” of sorts. Jason it seems you are equivocating on the distinctiveness and purpose of these two disparate covenants (i.e. they are distinct and yet inseparably related relative to Yahweh’s unfolding salvation history).

    Also one other quick question, if you do see such heavy continuity, Jason, what keeps you from slipping into a theonomist reconstructionism–this is the logical conclusion to your trajectory, in my view. Also your comments on Rahab doesn’t really provide the continuity you’re looking for either, since according to the Mos. Cov. Gentiles had to become “Jewish”, i.e. they were enfoled into the features of the Mos. Cov. that are, and were unique to the “nation of Israel”.

    And then again, you still haven’t dealt with the complexities of how the NT authors quoted and interpreted the OT, as highlighted by this article. In other words, the NT authors engaged in pesher, midrash, atomization, allegory, etc. How do you know which one to use when working with passages like Is. 11:11 (which speaks of two returns of Israel to the “Land’ the latter being set in proleptic terms–i.e. eschatological). Again, just saying that you’re engaging the grammatical-literal herm. of the Apostles must assume an “mantle of inspiration” that you nor I are privy to. I understand why you don’t want to see this, but you should try. The amil herm. works great in the system in originated in, complete with Apostolic Succession, and the Magesterium of interpreters–viz. the Roman Catholic Church; but not so great for the Protestant tradition–which is why I think you should re-think your position, and return to your prior position of premillenialism.

    In Christ

  11. (Thanks for the replies Paul)

    Okay I’m Glad I read Dr. Robert Thomas’ article on sensus plenior (http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj13d.pdf) before I came back here or else it would’ve all went over my head.

    I’ve had a real interest in this topic for a while now, but it really started to pique my interest after I saw how Paul used Psalm 68:18

    “You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives;
    You have received gifts among men,
    Even among the rebellious also, that the LORD God may dwell
    there. ”

    in Ephesians 4:8-10 – where he says that Christ gave gifts to men (instead of receiving them) and he seems to exegete in some detail the word “ascended” in quite some detail.

    I (slighty) agree w/ S. Lewis Johnson in that we should use the Apostolic hermeneutic for the OT BUT diagree with him b/c I believe we should emulate them only for the passages that the Apostles explicitly use in this way (that also means excluding the verses , as Silva points out, they use as a “vehicle of expression” ).

    I also agree that there is a possibility other verses could have a second “spiritual” meaning, but without the gift of inspiration we can never discover them.

    These posts have helped me see and understand more (but need to go a long ways more) of how and why Paul used that quote in his epistle – thank you!

  12. Bobby, two words in your comments proves that you missed everything I said: “if obedient.”

    Concerning Dr. T.’s article I commented at length at FIDE-O on the fact that Dr. T.’s dispensational presuppositions drives his interpretations of OT texts. Thus he is forced, as admitted in the article, to claim that Jesus and the Apostles found “new” meanings in the OT texts.

    Amillers are simply claiming that the interpretations of Jesus and the Apostles are the primary meaning of the OT texts and then there are the secondary, clothed in typological purposes, meanings.

    Thus, Dr. T.’s entire claims of Amillers finding “new” or “fuller” meaning in the OT is just false. In fact, this is why we love him so much, because we agree with him in principle, but believe that he has wrongly applied his principles.

    Oh, by the way Bobby, the error of the Reconstructionist has nothing to do with what we are saying. Their error stems from the fact that when the Great Commission says “make disciples of the nations” they interpret that as meaning the actual nation rather than the elect found within all the nations.

  13. Jason,

    I think I see where you’re coming from though I don’t agree. Am I correct to assume that you believe the Apostle Paul is employing a “literal gramatical hermeneutic” of a passage in Genesis to arrive at his conclusion in Galatians 3 that Christ is the “Seed”?

    If Paul is employing such a hermeneutic as you have claimed here then we should be able to go to the passage in Genesis and do the exegesis and arrive at the same conclusion as Paul. However, I think you know that’s not possible. The reason is, as Matt pointed out in his article, Paul is not doing interpretation but is giving the inspired message of Scripture. The information Paul gives in Galatians is not the result of any style of hermeneutics but is the result of the Spirit’s inspiration of Scripture.

    Here’s what you said, “Paul used a grammatical hermeneutic when exegeting the Abrahamic Covenant, right? Yes, of course, he even was noting that the word “offspring” was not plural but singular. Then he explained that it referred to Christ.”

    If you maintain your current position then you need to demonstrate 1) which passage in Genesis the Apostle exegeted in a grammatical-historical manner, then 2) what in the Apostle’s exegesis of the Genesis passage showed that the Seed is Christ.

    I hope what you will find is that the only possible explanation for the Apostle’s message in Galatians 3 is the inspiration of Scripture. Therefore, any attempt to copy his method is spurious at best and even heretical (in the extreme form which I know you do not believe).

  14. Jason said:

    Bobby, two words in your comments proves that you missed everything I said: “if obedient.”

    Please explain your assertion here, Jason. Obedience is indeed part and parcel with the fulfillment of the Mosaic Covenant, made with the nation of Israel, not with you.

    Jason said:

    Amillers are simply claiming that the interpretations of Jesus and the Apostles are the primary meaning of the OT texts and then there are the secondary, clothed in typological purposes, meanings.

    W/o regard to their primary historico/socio milieu, and the original audience? What do you do with Matthew’s usage of Hos. 11:1–was that the primary meaning “then” (i.e. the time of Hosea)? Your thinking on the secondary “meanings” “clothed in typological purposes” is indeed where your system breaks down, Jason, in my view. Who’s to say what is typology, and what isn’t? Who has the keys, Jason (the amil interpreter with all his/her “presuppositions”). Was Joseph a typology of Christ, is Israel in the OT, esp. the prophets, when spoken of within an eschatological context, always referring to the “Church”–according to your view indeed. But you have to assume your interpretive model (with your “presuppositions”) in order to make that “type/anti-type” interpretation–which gets circular.

    Jason said:

    Oh, by the way Bobby, the error of the Reconstructionist has nothing to do with what we are saying. Their error stems from the fact that when the Great Commission says “make disciples of the nations” they interpret that as meaning the actual nation rather than the elect found within all the nations.

    That might be one part of the reconstructionist dilemma, but not the whole. They fail, as you do, to make any distinction between Israel and the Church consequently leaving them no option relative to Law and Gospel, but to consistently follow through and bring all the “elect” (whether election out of the nations or not is the case, my point here would still stand, if you’re going to be consistent) people under the all three prongs of the Mosaic Covenant (e.g. Ceremonial, Civil, and Moral). It seems artificial to me, to argue the way you are, about the covenants, and not come to the conclusion that all of “Torah” is still in force today–given the continuity between the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and New Covenants. I’m afraid you’ve missed everything I was getting at in this regard; hopefully this will clear that up for you.

    Not only that, Jason, back to the first point here. The Abrahamic Cov. was made prior to his cirucumcision (see Gen. 15:6); this indeed is the basis of salvation for all nations–i.e. for all uncircumcised, and I agree with you here, this ultimately serves as the basis of salvation for both Jew and Gentile; nevertheless there is still a distinction between the circumcised and uncircumcised that Yahweh is obligated to honor given His promise to David (II Sam. 7–not in vs. 10–11 the referent to “Land” or “place” that is tied into the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant). Rom. 4:11-12:

    11. and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of righteousness of the faith which he had while circumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12. and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.

    vs. 11. presupposes a distinction between the circ. and uncirc. in order to assert what it does about the basis of salvation.

    Darrell Bock summarizes what I’m getting at here, nicely, he says (in response to classic disp., but this will work to bring the amiller insight as well):

    Two criticisms have tended to come from those of a more traditional form of dispensationalism. One is that the promises of the covenants are for Israel only. The second is to declare that allowing for such fulfillment means Israel and the church are not distinct, a supposed denial of a key indicator of what dispensationalism is.

    Both criticisms are incorrect. The opening up of blessing through the seed to the world as indicated in the promise made to Abraham in Gen 12 means that God’s program always had the nations in view as coming into the blessed people fo God. Israel was to be a means through which such blessing came, which is precisely what happened through Jesus. This criticism also ignores God’s right to expand the beneficiaries as he wishes (as he does through Christ). God can add to his promise without taking away from those he made promises to earlier. So Gentiles can be included in Christ without Israel losing her benefits or promises. In this way, Israel and the church can remain distinct structures in God’s program (a dispensational distinction) without losing the oneness of God’s people Christ was called to bring accordng to Eph 2:11-22. (quote taken from:
    http://dev.bible.org/bock/node/29)

    We obviously disagree, Jason, and I think you still haven’t answered the dilemma Waymeyer’s article, and my comments, have raised. Stating that there is a secondary meaning clothed in typological clothing, relative to interpreting certain OT passages fits well within a self-referentialist system of theology–but not outside of that system. It’s interesting, Jason, when you take a look at how the apostles used the OT, there is some disparity of usage on some of the same passages (and this gets down to the text-types the apostle’s were working from–sometimes they used the LXX and other times the Hebrew, which makes for some interesting exegetical discussion–I’ll post an example of this at my cite).

    Great discussion, Jason. And thank you Matt for posting an excellent article here–its quite “indubitable”.

    In Christ.

  15. Paul,
    I could answer your questions but they still will miss my point. My point is simple: Since Paul gave us the proper interpretation of the Abrahamic Covenant, we MUST use that interpretation. And thus every prophecy and every covenant that builds off of the Abrahamic Covenant MUST be consistent with Paul’s interpretation.

    I am not saying that we should try to reproduce Paul’s hermeneutic. I am simply saying that we can not ignore it. And, Paul, every one besides Premillers can see that Premil hermeneutics ignores Paul’s interpretation of the Abrahamic Covenant.

    Furthermore, Paul is not the only source for this understanding of the OT and its covenants and prophecies and typology. Peter mentioned in Acts that David understood that the covenant given to him was in reference to the “NC church”, and Peter mentioned the same about the prophets in his first epistle.

    Now, lets assume you are right just for the sake of time and space in this comment section that if we were to exegete the OT without Paul’s or Peter’s or Jesus’ sayings then we would not come to their conclusions. My question for you would be: still, who is right and who is wrong. Is our failure to come to the same understanding of Scripture an excuse to ignore Christ and the Apostles? In fact, if you are right then maybe the Jews were justified in rejecting Christ with all his “new” exegesis of the OT.

    But I cannot believe that. I can believe based on the biblical record that Joel, Isaiah, Moses, David and even Abraham all understood MORE than we give them credit for. Zacharias even prophesied that John the Baptist was preparing the way for the arrival of the kingdom that had been promised in virtually every covenant. John the Baptist himself said that the kingdom was at hand. These men didn’t look at the OT, without the NT, and get it wrong. And Jesus surely didn’t get it wrong or even use it in a way that it was not originally meant to be used (as Dr.T. asserted in his TMSJ article.).

    No I believe that Dispensationalism ignores the NT in order to presuppose or read into the OT texts the their system of theology.

    You may say that we Amillers presuppose our system into the OT texts too — fair enough, but at least our system is based on the NT’s own interpretations of the texts. At least our system does not ignore Paul or Jesus or Thomas or Peter or John. At least our system does not say, “Well you can’t let what Paul said about this interfere with your own interpretation.” YIKES!

    And so the bottom line is, if the Abrahamic Covenant is not about ethnic Jews but anyone who believes in Christ, then Premillennialism collapses. So, I will not even attempt to out-do Paul with my own exegetical skills — But I will use Dr. T.’s principles and grammatically and literally interpret Paul’s interpretation of the Abrahamic Covenant. And, behold the covenants have always been for both Jews and Gentiles alike, with no partiality to some future group of ethnic Jews.

  16. Bobby,
    The Mosaic Covenant was based on grace (an expansion of the Abrahamic Covenant) not works. See Deuteronomy 7:6-8 and remember that the Mosaic Law was given within a framework were a covenant relationship was already established. Thus the Law was an expansion of God’s law that had already been given on the hearts of people since Adam and Eve. Thus the giving of the Law was an act of God’s grace to reveal to us His holy standard and cause us to look to our Savior. Thus, that Law is also applicable to us in that it is the eternal Law of God and was fulfilled with perfection by Christ himself FOR US! Oh, how great is the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ and the imputation of His righteousness to us!

    And concerning your statement that we “fail” to make a distinction between Israel and the Church is just false — for two reasons:
    #1 – our distinctions are clearly laid out in our Covenant Theology (google Fide-o for plenty of posts on that)
    #2 – we do not fail to make a distinction between the Israel of faith in the OT and the Church. Indeed we REFUSE to seperate what God has not seperated! Consider Hebrews 11:39-40 when the writer of Hebrews who has described the church of the OT says that “all these… did not receive what was promised… that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”

    For God’s OC and NC church to be divided is completely unbiblical. Jesus sits today upon the David Throne at God’s right hand and rules and King of kings. And all his elect globally shall hear his voice, and be placed into one fold with one Shepherd (John 10).

    So in short, I disagree with you and Bock. But thanks for the discussion.

  17. And to all,
    (especially in light of Dr. MacArthur’s last assertion in his speech that Amillennialism harms evangelism to Jews)

    I will share with a Jew the same gospel I will share with a Gentile, “Jesus is Lord, right now! He forgives and gives eternal life. Believe in Him and be saved. Or perish. In Christ you have all the promises of the Bible, you are heirs of His kingdom, He is your “Canaan rest”, He is your priest, He is your “promised land”, He is your all in all.” And if that is not good enough I have no other Gospel, especially one that would appeal to someone’s materialism.

    To believe otherwise is a denial of the sufficiency of Christ!

    May we never preach a kingdom that is “of this world.” For Christ declared that his kingdom is not of this world. May we interpret every promise for Israel based on a proper understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant as given to us by Paul in Galatians. May we understand that the original meaning of the text, the meaning that all the prophets understood, was the one that Paul gave to the Galatians and Peter preached in Acts to the Jews. Such will protect us from ever declaring a gospel that appeals to the flesh of any man, including Jews.

  18. Jason,

    Please read my comments again and see that I did not make a single argument that you have insinuated. I’ll give you time to think it over and respond again if you like. We are trying very hard here at ET not to talk past one another when there is a disagreement so let’s make sure we are hearing each other clearly before assumptions are thrown around (this is why I asked you for clarification).

    The contributors to this blog are not all cut from the same cloth so be careful about ascribing things to us that you have never heard us say or write. I don’t think any of us feel a strong loyalty to any particular system of theology. We are simply trying to work out our exegesis and our faith with fear and trembling. So at times that may cause us to look like system “A” and at other times system “B” and then there are those times when no label seems to fit at all.

    You’re the only one here who is making this an issue of eschatology. You seem intent on letting everyone here know that you are amill, well okay great. I think anyone who has even blinked at your blog the past week knows this already but it’s not what this post is about. Matt quoted S. Lewis Johnson (a dispensationalist) as one that he takes issue with and then we would find men like Walter Kaiser (nondispensationalist) agreeing with everything this post has defended. This topic is related to eschatology but it’s not the point nor the reason why we have done this series.

  19. Jason said:

    Bobby,
    The Mosaic Covenant was based on grace (an expansion of the Abrahamic Covenant) not works. See Deuteronomy 7:6-8 and remember that the Mosaic Law was given within a framework were a covenant relationship was already established. Thus the Law was an expansion of God’s law that had already been given on the hearts of people since Adam and Eve. Thus the giving of the Law was an act of God’s grace to reveal to us His holy standard and cause us to look to our Savior. Thus, that Law is also applicable to us in that it is the eternal Law of God and was fulfilled with perfection by Christ himself FOR US! Oh, how great is the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ and the imputation of His righteousness to us!
    .

    I agree with your very last clause here, the one that begins with “Oh”; but beyond that I, of course, disagree, with one more caveat. I do agree that the Mosaic Covenant was based on God’s grace (not the “Covenant of Grace” ;), since God is a gracious God. But you’re mistaken on the “expansion” of the Law, from Adam to Abraham to Israel through Moses. Paul makes that clear, isn’t it funny how I keep going to the NT to interpret the Old at points ;), in Rom. 5:12-14 that there was no LAW, prior to Moses–so you’re mistaken there. Not only that but there was no formal covenant made with Adam or Eve either (and Hos. 6:7 does not apply as a biblical covenant, see O. Palmer Robertson, “Christ and the Covenants”).

    Anyway, we disagree, shalom . . . and I’m sure I’ll see you at Fide-0 some time soon.

    In Christ

  20. Those familiar with my blogging habits may have noticed that I’m not a big fan of the comment section, but let me weigh in briefly to highlight what I believe are two radically different approaches to the use of the OT in the NT. In comment #12 above, Jason Robertson made the statement that “the interpretations of Jesus and the Apostles are the primary meaning of the OT texts.” Perhaps I am mistaken, but I think he is saying that every time a NT writer uses an OT text, he is interpreting that OT text and thereby providing its “primary meaning.” (If Jason would take issue with me saying “every time,” I would be interested to learn how he knows when the NT writer was interpreting and providing the primary meaning of an OT text and when he was not.)

    In contrast, in my original article, I wrote this: “When one recognizes the plurality of ways in which the NT writers use the OT, it becomes clear that the NT writers often referred to the OT without seeking to interpret it. Helpful here are the insights of Moo: ‘Much like the speech of a person raised on the classics will be sprinkled with terminology and idioms drawn from those texts, New Testament writers often–without intending to provide a “correct” interpretation of the Old Testament text–use Old Testament language as a vehicle of expression.’” This approach does not ignore the NT writer’s use of the Old (as Jason kept saying repeatedly in comment #15 above); it simply insists that today’s interpreter can only know how the OT is being used in the NT after a careful examination of both passages in their original historical and literary contexts.

    Put simply, the difference between the two is this: The first approach assumes (naively, I believe) that every use of the OT in the NT is an example of the NT interpreting the OT and providing its primary meaning. The second approach recognizes that the NT writers use the OT in a variety of different ways and refuses to make that assumption. I hope this is a fair way to communicate the difference. If not, I’m sure that Jason or someone else will provide some correction or clarification.

    At this point, I am tempted to list out several examples of uses of the OT in the NT which I believe demonstrate the folly of taking the first approach. But frankly, I don’t think my schedule will allow me to interact any further on this comment thread and I hate to begin a line of argumentation I don’t have the time to carry through to the end (perhaps Bobby Grow would like to pursue this—seems that he has already started the list in comment #14 above with Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 in Matt 2:15).

    So instead, I would like to issue a challenge to the readers to Expository Thoughts, especially those of you who are wrestling with this issue: As you read and study the New Testament in the coming year, every time you come to a place where a NT writer quotes or alludes to the OT (even if he alters the wording of the original OT text in some way), study the two passages carefully in their original contexts and ask yourself whether the NT writer is interpreting the OT text and providing its “primary meaning.” If not, ask yourself how the OT text is being used in the NT context. Then let’s meet back here on March 18, 2008 and compare notes.

    Till then, gentlemen, keep preaching the Word!

  21. Jason: Big-time apologies for referring to you in the third person without even greeting you. It was great to meet you and Scott at the Shepherds’ Conference, and I look forward to having lunch together when my schedule lightens up. Looks like that won’t happen until some time in May, but I’ll be looking forward to it. Blessings.

  22. Matt, I don’t mind being referred to in third person. I usually then don’t feel the need to respond :) Seriously, I did enjoy meeting you, too, you seem like a real cut-up. Gene Cook is interested in having you on his Narrow Mind radio program to discuss this topic.

    Having read this post, Dr.Thomas’ articles, and Dr.T’s “Evangelical Hermeneutics”, I think I have come to understand that the “literal-grammatical-historical” hermeneutic that has discarded the “L-G-H-theological” hermeneutic has simply decided to ignore NT theological revelations about the OT so that one’s theological presuppositions about the OT can be safeguarded.

    And this is not just about eschatology although that is where it is most seen as causing theological divisions.

    In reality it is more about Christology and Soteriology. But Dispy’s have either “leaked” or “progressed” in order to soften those divisions.

    I was reading Luke 24:44ff today and noticed how Jesus was referring to the fact that He was the focal point of the entirety of the OT — and then he opened the disciples mind to understand that truth. That is a clear reference to the fact that there are things about the OT that were not clear to our understanding until the incarnation of Jesus and revelation of the Apostles.

    That is not to say that the OT is not clear. But it is a warning not to separate the NT from the OT when we exegete the OT.

    And that is not to say that we have a God-given liberty to read into the OT whatever we wish as if we too are inspired. BUT HEAR ME — Most Amillers aren’t claiming such a liberty in our hermeneutics. We are simply interpreting the NT according to basically the same rules that Expository Thoughts would affirm. And when we do so we then let that be our authority when understanding the OT.

    So, when Peter says that Joel’s prophecy about the kingdom is fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost — we take that as our with us into the OT as we deal with Joel.

    When Paul says that the Abrahamic Covenant is not about ethnic Jews but about all peoples, both Jew and Gentile, who have faith in Christ, then we take that with us into the OT as we deal with the Abrahamic Covenant or any text that is related to it — which would be all of the Covenants that followed it.

    That is not us trying to do what Paul or Peter did, which is what your points are about in your post.

  23. […] Mar 18th, 2007 by bobbygrow  Jason Robertson, an amillenial pastor from Murrieta, CA said: Concerning Dr. T.’s article I commented at length at FIDE-O on the fact that Dr. T.’s dispensational presuppositions drives his interpretations of OT texts. Thus he is forced, as admitted in the article, to claim that Jesus and the Apostles found “new” meanings in the OT texts. Amillers are simply claiming that the interpretations of Jesus and the Apostles are the primary meaning of the OT texts and then there are the secondary, clothed in typological purposes, meanings. (quote taken from: Expository Thoughts) […]

  24. […] Matthew. It is rather academic, but is significant in light of recent discussion on this topic at Expository Thoughts. What I believe this over-view demonstrates, although not the primary intention of Gundry’s […]

  25. Matt,

    I really appreciated your comments about the two approaches. I still do not understand what you meant by “interpreting” the text and “primary meaning”. Could you please elaborate/provide an example?

    I am having a difficult time with all the issues being discussed and maybe I am jumping into an area of study in which I may drowned.

    In addition, what I am to do with the apostle’s interpretation when I read the OT text? Does that meant that there are multiple interpretations and only one primary meaning.

    I will continue to read the articles.

    Respond when you can.

  26. Martin: Regarding the “primary meaning” of the OT passage, I was quoting Jason’s terminology from comment #12, so it might be better to direct the question to him. Regarding your question about what to do with “the apostle’s interpretation” of the OT text, I would reiterate what I said in the original post and caution against assuming that the NT writer is necessarily providing an actual “interpretation” of the OT text. See my post on Paul’s use of Hosea in Romans 9:25-26 for more on this.

  27. […] can’t tell, I’m not very optimistic that such a list could be produced. As I wrote in a previous post here at Expository Thoughts, whenever I hear about the need to use the “apostles’ […]

  28. […] The Relationship of the Testaments: Apostolic Hermeneutic […]

  29. I would humbly observe that those who deny sensus plenior on an a priori basis, and those who assert that there is no normative model of NT hermeneutic may fall logically into the same fallacy of the atheist who cannot prove that something does not exist. It only takes one example to falsify the statement.

    I have been a bi-vocational evangelist/pastor in Utah for 25 years.

    Recently in my studies, I have been blessed to see shadows of Christ everywhere in the scriptures.

    Here is an example of what I am finding:

    God was so intimately involved in history that:
    a town was named Timnath (the appointment)
    a law was given requiring that a brother give his deceased brother and heir
    a daughter-in-law lost two husbands without an heir
    a father-in-law denied her his third son
    the daughter-in-law played the harlot to her father-in-law
    she was promised a goat
    she asked for assurance for the goat
    she was given three items as an assurance: rod, ring, bracelet
    she had twins their names mean “breaking forth” and “the sunrise”
    God was so involved in the life of the author that the author recorded this odd transaction without really knowing why it was important. But God used the history, and the author, to paint a picture of the birth of His own Son such that:

    Tamar:Mary made herself available near the appointment:the appointed time
    Tamar:Mary was promised a goat:scape goat “for he shall save his people from their sins.”
    When Tamar:Mary asked for assurance of the promise, she was given three things:
    Rod: “The power of God will overshadow you”
    Signet ring: “He shall be called the Son of God”
    Bracelets: Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife (in Numbers an empty vessel without bracelets is unclean. Mary was not unclean, and Judah was told “there was no prostitute here”
    Tamar:Mary conceived , not by her legitimate husband, but by his father Judah:God
    Tamar:Mary was going to be killed:divorced until the father was identified.
    Afterwards she was honored.
    Tamar:Mary had twins: God-man
    their names mean “breaking forth” and “the sunrise” ::dayspring
    Phares:Jesus though born to Tamar:Mary first, was really the second breach:second man
    God was so involved in the history and lives of the people and authors that the human scribes were almost typewriters incarnate, and God left his fingerprints throughout his word with such shadows as the story of Tamar. The inspiration of the scriptures goes well beyond our conception of it. Every jot and tittle had real history behind the living, observation and recording of it. Every paragraph had God’s hand on the whole of the author’s life.

    I am not sure why God is allowing me to see these shadows nor what I should be doing with them. I have stumbled across some papers referring to sensus plenior. I believe the same hermeneutic that flushes out the shadows explains the NT authors’ use of the OT.

    I am sharing more diagrams at http://idontknownuthin.com

    Thanks for the look, I hope they bless you.

    I would like to dialog with interested parties, skeptics as well, to see if we can flush out a formal, reproducible sensus plenior.

    Bob Jones

  30. […] The Relationship of the Testaments: Apostolic Hermeneutic […]

  31. The problem with this conclusion is that it is presumptuous in that we presume that if we cannot immediately understand a citing of the OT by a NT author, then he must have used some sort of liberty with regard to the text that we, who are uninspired, cannot do. Such a conclusion comments upon our inability to properly read the OT rather than upon a convoluted hermeneutic of the NT writers.

    Furthermore, if we accept such a stance, can we really conclude that the NT writers were writing concerning the proper Christ being that they, in our minds, had to twist the OT in order to make Jesus the Messiah? I think this dangerous territory on which to tread.

    This difference of hermeneutic (and it is a hermeneutic, because no one can read anything without having a hermeneutic) is the precisely the same as those who missed the Messiah the first time. They interpreted the prophets “literally” and missed Christ. Why do we resort to the same distorted way of thinking?

    In the end, I think we are left with this option: we interpret the OT insofar as it accords with the declarations of the NT. In other words, we don’t necessarily use the NT to interpret the OT, but when our personal interpretation contradicts a use by an inspired, Spirit-filled apostle of Christ, we should at least consider that our hermeneutic might be flawed. Dispensationalism is, at its core, chronological snobbery.

  32. Matthew,

    Silly deductive fallacies aside (i.e., “Dispensationalism is, at its core, chronological snobbery”), I appreciate your comment even if I think you missed the point. We have said a good amount about this here at ET and you repeat a misnomer that I continually hear. It is the idea that you assume we’re saying that the the OT must be interpreted in a wooden literal way and therefore guilty of same issue as Scribes, Pharisees, etc. You state, “This difference of hermeneutic….. is the precisely the same as those who missed the Messiah the first time.” The problem with this is that it is not what Jesus said. Those in the audience of Jesus did not miss Him as the Messiah because they took the OT at face value. If only it were that easy. To the contrary it was their failure to believe “all that the prophets” said concerning the Messiah. Sermon after sermon in Acts, the apostles say we are simply proclaiming what you (the Jewish leadership) would not believe. The basis of the apostolic faith and their gospel was the message of the OT Scriptures (e.g., 1 Cor 15).

    In your last paragraph I’m not sure I would disagree with anything you said. However, your argument does beg the question. You state, “when our personal interpretation contradicts a use by an inspired, Spirit-filled apostle of Christ, we should at least consider that our hermeneutic might be flawed.” Who here in this series of posts of the NT use of the OT has done this. Please offer examples. Somewhat related you seem to imply that an Apostolic “use” of an OT passage renders the original intent invalid. Forgive me if that is not what you are saying but if it is, then there is a serious issue with your hermeneutic.

    Thanks for the interaction. I can’t promise that I will be able to engage you much here since this is a very old post/topic and my time is given to my church and my sick wife. Thanks for understanding.

    Blessings,
    Paul

  33. […] Introduction by Paul Lamey Christological Hermeneutic by Matt Waymeyer Apostolic Hermeneutic by Matt Waymeyer The NT View of the OT by Paul […]

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