Archive for September, 2007

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Who is the “Seed of Abraham”?

In Genesis 12:3 the foundation is laid for the concept of blessing the seed of Abraham. The LORD tells Abram, “. . . And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Not using any sort of hermeneutical principle employing grammatical historical exegesis but speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:8 that this was a pre-cross (“beforehand”) promise of the gospel.

The NT usage of the concept “seed of Abraham” (sometimes translated “descendents ” as in the NASU or “offspring” in ESV) is not used in one exclusive way in the NT. A common fallacy among some interpreters is to exalt one usage of “seed” to the exclusion of the other usages as if one canceled out the others. John Feinberg has warned of this when he writes, “no sense (spiritual especially) is more important than any other senses.”

So how is this concept used in the NT?

  • In can refer to biological descendants of Abraham such as in Romans 4:13, 16.
  • It can refer to the Messiah, who is uniquely the individual seed of Abraham as in Galatians 3:16.
  • It can refer to the righteous remnant of Israel (cf. Isaiah 41:8 with Romans 9:6).
  • It can refer in a spiritual sense to believing Jews and Gentiles in the faith as in Galatians 3:29.

Sunday: The Best Day of the Week

Our friend Sean Higgins has penned a thoughtful series on “The Best Day of the Week.”

Part One: The Lord’s Day
Part Two: The First Day
Part Three: Caveats and Clarification
Part Four: The Best Day

What not to do when reading the Scripture

Could I offer any examples of reading Scripture backwards that could discombobulate the meaning of OT texts? Yes, but first a warning. When we quote someone here by way of disagreement it should not be read that we are pronouncing Ichabod on a man or his ministerial work. The man I am about to quote is right-on in just about everything he set his quill pen to. However he offers the following example which I think is misguided. Another caveat: I understand that we don’t start with Genesis 1:1 every time we preach or read Scripture. This discussion concerns which Testament informs the other. Thus far we have been arguing that priority goes to the OT. In the year 1592, William Perkins argued the opposite in his classic The Arte of Prophesying:

” Read the Scriptures in the following order, Using grammatical, rhetorical and logical analysis, and the relevant ancillary studies, read Paul’s Letter to the Romans first of all. After that, the Gospel of John. These are the keys to the New Testament, Thereafter, the other books of the New Testament will be more easily understood. When you have completed this, study the doctrinal books of the Old Testament, especially the Psalms; then the prophetic books, especially Isaiah. Lastly, the historical books, particularly Genesis.”

UPDATED: Are we rationalist?

(Thanks to Mr. R. Scott Clark who has responded to this post.  After reading his post my initial concerns and objections remain. For further explanation, see my comments to our friend Colin Adam here below. I have given about as much attention to this as I can at the moment. Matt will be back at the end of the week and can then give a follow-up to his post. Thanks to all and especially Mr. Clark for the interaction.)

R. Scott Clark has responded to Matt’s post with the following:

“It’s isn’t that complicated. Pay close attention here: The Apostolic hermeneutic is to see Christ at the center of all of Scripture. We’re not reading him into
Scripture. We’re refusing to read him out of it. There, I said it.
That’s what it is. Perhaps the reason our dispensational friends cannot
see it is because they are blinded by their rationalism.”

His response is as misguided as it is seemingly uncharitable. Clark has used the classic red herring that this is a “dispensational vs. reformed” theology dispute. History and the facts could not be more opposed to such lines of thought. My concern is not that the world put their faith and trust in dispensationalism or the Westminster standards for that matter. I will be the first to admit that many classic dispensationalist have erected mountains where there should be smooth plains but I will also point out that many reformed interpreters have flattened the text and are quick to excuse elements of discontinuity. I really don’t care about labels such as these because, more often than not, they merely confuse or misdirect where simple clarification can be more helpful. If a label has to be qualified a thousand times before it can be understood then it may be more helpful to simply explain your perspective.

Additionally, those who are currently writing on these issues from more dispensational vantage points would have no problem saying that Jesus the Messiah stands at the center of Scripture. Clark needs to do better than pull out fifty year-old third-hand negative quotes from Dwight Pentecost to bolster his supposed argument. I have no problem saying that the anticipation of the OT was the Messiah and that the NT is the realization of that expectant hope. Don’t most Christians say this? To suggest otherwise is slight of hand meant to confuse or belittle those raising dissenting questions.

Clark also drops the “R” word saying that his dispensational friends are blinded by rationalism. Really? Did he actually read Waymeyer’s post where he stated in albeit, rational terminology: “Of course, any principle which cannot be proven clearly from Scripture would not be allowed on the list and should not be used by the one committed to using the apostles hermeneutic.” This does not sound like a plea for interpreters to rest on their reasoning or enlightenment posteriors.

Last time I checked, christology is a branch of systmematic theology and not a branch of hermeneutics but don’t get everything bunched-up just yet. Please do not conclude from this that we think Jesus the Messiah is somehow absent in the OT, no far from it! Kaiser (not a dispensationalist mind you) rightly notes, “To reject the Old Testament as the prior, authoritative revelation of God is to reject the Bible’s own basis for determining who is and who is not the Messiah.” So the question still remains: if “the Apostolic hermeneutic is to see Christ at the center of all of Scripture” then how do you do that without resorting to a subjective approach or worse a hyper-allegorical approach to the OT? Additionally what are the specific principles in this regard that can be objectively applied to every passage of the OT?


Jude 14-15 application

Apostates come in all shapes and sizes.  In Jude 15, Jude talks about the coming judgment of Christ (during his 2nd coming).  The text says Jesus will come “to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds and…of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”

MSNBC records a recent example of sinful speech in a recent news article. 

 ‘Oct. 1, 2007 issue – Some stories are best told straight. On Sept. 8, Kathy Griffin, a bawdy, foulmouthed comedian, accepted an Emmy Award for her reality show, My Life on the D-List, and in her acceptance speech she explained that while other actors might thank Jesus for such an honor, she wouldn’t consider it. Suck it, Jesus,‘ she exuberantly added, waving her statuette in the air. ‘This award is my God, now.'”

Jude 4-16 makes a very sobering point: Sin and judgment go hand and in hand! 

With that said, praise God for his grace and his forbearance!  Perhaps Kathy will repent and embrace this Jesus as her Savior and Lord one day?  For her sake i pray she does!!!

What Exactly is the “Apostles’ Hermeneutic”?

In a recent blog post entitled “Dispensationalism and Modernism,” Tom Hicks writes that one of the biggest problems with dispensationalism is its refusal “to accept as paradigmatic and normative the NT’s own hermeneutic of the OT.” According to Hicks, the hermeneutic we use should be derived from the Bible itself.

This criticism of dispensationalism is often articulated in terms of an exhortation to imitate the “apostles’ hermeneutic.” In other words, rather than coming up with our own hermeneutic, we should seek to discern the hermeneutic modeled by the apostles in the way they handled the OT, and then we should use that same hermeneutic to interpret Scripture.

As often as this argument is repeated, it is interesting that nobody actually sets forth exactly what they believe the “apostles’ hermeneutic” to be. I find myself waiting for a list of hermeneutical principles, each one with biblical references from the OT and NT which show clearly where this specific principle is modeled by the NT writer’s use of the OT. Something along the lines of this:

  1. Principle #1: _______________________ (OT/NT)
  2. Principle #2: _______________________ (OT/NT)
  3. Principle #3: _______________________ (OT/NT)
  4. Principle #4: _______________________ (OT/NT)
  5. Principle #5: _______________________ (OT/NT)

And so on. Of course, any principle which cannot be proven clearly from Scripture would not be allowed on the list and should not be used by the one committed to using the “apostles’ hermeneutic.”

In case you 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’ hermeneutic,” I find myself with questions like these:

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? If not, why not? Should these hermeneutical principles be applied consistently to all of Scripture, or only certain parts of it? If only certain parts, which parts, and why only those parts?

I realize that these questions may seem designed to badger more than inquire, but I think they highlight part of the problem with exhorting people to avoid the evils of dispensational modernism in favor of a “biblical hermeneutic.” After all, if we’re going to use the so-called “apostles’ hermeneutic,” we need to know what it is, don’t we?

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