Interview with Walter Kaiser

Andy Cheung has a nice interview with Walter Kaiser. He notes:

More recently, there has been a view, from a good reformed position, that the New Testament has the right to reinterpret or attach meanings that were not in the text of the Old Testament. My way of thinking, as I have argued very hard in the book, is that this is eisegesis and I don’t see how that has any apologetic strength.

Read the entire interview here.

18 responses to this post.

  1. I had the privilege of sitting under the teaching of Dr. Kaiser at GCTS for two years at GCTS before he retired. He definitely seems to have a passion for both the academy and the church, a rare combination.

  2. Posted by Dan on June 16, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    Have a hard time respecting Dr. Kaiser due to his advocacy of female pastors. I still struggle with how one so versed in theology and “expository” preaching can make such erroneous conclusion. Academia and truth don’t have to be mutually exclusive and indeed they are not. I know he has written much in which we should be thankful for, I just wish he would put a little more “sweat” in a few other areas.

  3. Dan,

    I too lament Kaiser’s egalitarian stance on certain issues. However, after reading all of his major works I have never once seen a sustained polemic for his position clearly articulated. I would even say that one would have to look hard at his many works on preaching and the OT to find even a passing reference to female preachers. If his position pervaded his books then I would think twice about promoting them but it clearly does not.

    One caution is in order here. We all have blind spots that shade our theological conclusions in various ways so we all need to humbly put a little more sweat in all areas of biblical study.

    Thanks for your comments and for dropping by.

  4. Posted by John on June 17, 2008 at 4:35 am

    This is more of an amen to Paul’s comment about humility than about Kaiser’s position. Almost 50 years ago A.W. Tozer wrote, “The soul of man, says Matthew Arnold, is a mirror suspended on a cord, turning in every breeze, always reflecting what is before it but never reflecting more than a small part of the whole. The size of the mirrow varies from man to man, but no one is able to comprehend the vast panorama that lies before and around us. The mental giant has a large mirror, to be sure, but even the largest is pathetically small. As long as we know that our view of truth is partial we can preserve that humbleness of mind appropriate to the circumstances; but let us once get the notion that our view is total and we become intellectually intolerant. Let us become convinced that ours is the only sensible view and our ability to learn dies instantly. . . . Unity among Christians will not, in my opinion, be achieved short of teh Second Advent. There are too many factors working against it. But a greater degree of unity might be realized if we all approached the truth with deeper humility. No one knows everthing, not saint nor scholar nor theologian.” (“Our Imperfect View of Truth,” The Alliance Witness, March 11, 1959, p.2). I am starting to learn that humility of mind is a large part of any ability to continue learning.

  5. Posted by Dan on June 17, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Amen, and well received! Thank you for your post.

  6. I am not a seminarian but Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews are all guilty of eisegsis if we follow that though pattern.

  7. sorry eisegesis

  8. Lionel,

    No need to apologize for not being a seminarian, some of my favorite preachers and theologians could claim the same thing.

    You seem to be referring to the possibility of what’s called the “apostolic hermeneutic”. We have discussed this faulty construct at length here at ET so feel free to read our thoughts on this grand assumption (look under the tag “hermeneutics”).

  9. Lionel,

    Additionally, I would agree with John Feinberg who has pointed out, “there is no such thing as the NT pattern of OT usage” but rather that “there are varieties of NT uses of the OT.”

    Would you agree with this or do you believe there is an objective hermeneutical approach used by the NT writers? Furthermore, do you believe the assumed approach is repeatable for interpreters today?

  10. I think there is an objective hermeneutical approach and that we can follow such a pattern, but only if there is clear identifiable connections to Christ. The boundaries would be types and shadows. So I wouldn’t go as far as some but I think some of my more moderate dispensational brothers ignore this. So I wouldn’t go randomly picking something out. But we would not be wrong to identify Moses as a type of Christ in his act of deliverance being a mediator (especially in Numbers), and being the voice of God to the people. I believe I can take much of what he does and point it to Christ. Same goes for David and other biblical figures. I would also think things that have been clearly identified can be taken its totality. Thing like the land being the rest of Christ, the tabernacle/temple being a type of Christ (and all stories pointing to the rebuilding and what transpired in them), the Levites and so forrth. I am sort of a New Covenant guy so this is where my conviction is.

    Is this a position you disagree on? BTW the reason I responded was to help sharpen my postion and any flaws in that position so I appreciate it greatly. I am wrestling through all of these issues and it would be good to interact with others (I don’t get this opportunity much).

  11. Lionel,

    Thank you for your gracious spirit and edifying comments here at ET. On a side note, I read your testimony at your site and was greatly encouraged by the work of God’s grace in your life.

    Your comment was helpful to me in understanding where you’re coming from. As I said before, this is a subject that we have spent a lot of time on here at ET because we believe it to be a watershed issue in many respects (exegetically, hermeneutically, theologically, etc). How we understand the relationship between the Testaments is of fundamental importance.

    I asked if you could offer an objective standard for seeing the presumed “interpretations” of Paul, Peter, etc. as normative for today. Please correct me if I misstate your position but I think you are saying that types/shadows are the “objective” means by which we limit OT referents and their NT “fulfillment” (there might be a better word to use here but I am using it in a general sense).

    While I appreciate the delicate balance you are trying to give I still think this leaves the fundamental issue in the realm of subjectivity. So the issue then becomes, how do you define a type? In short, I would limit a true type as something in the OT which corresponds specifically to something in the NT. The objective measure in this case is whether Scripture makes the connection or not. I would argue that if such a measure is not recognized then the Scripture is laid bare to any sort of allegorical interpretation (which is not true typology).

    So let’s apply this to one of your examples (the tabernacle/temple being a type of Christ). What is the basis for making such a connection and furthermore does Scripture make such a connection? If it does then you have clear merit to “connect the dots” on this particular issue but if not, then who is to say that the tabernacle/temple does not represent something else of our wildest imagination (Benjamin Keach claimed that Samson’s defeating a lion in the dessert is a type of Christ overcoming the devil, a lion, in the wilderness)? Does the Scripture ever say that the OT tabernacle/temple was a type of Christ? This was not the point Jesus made when he referred to Himself as “this temple” in Mark 14:58; John 2:19. Nor was it the connection in Hebrews 8:5 or 9:23-24 where the writer specifically notes that the antitype of the holy places “made with hands” (i.e., the temple) was a type of the heavenly abode of God.

    This is an example of why the so-called “apostolic hermeneutic” (also, christo-centric, redemptive-historical, biblical-theological) suffers from subjective application. All of these approaches claim the same thing yet have wildly different interpretations of OT events, places, and persons. Without criteria for determining types and shadows we have no tangible and objective controls for interpreting the OT. Saying that we interpret Scripture like the Apostles did or that “Jesus is the key to interpretation” is far from clear and obfuscates the real issue.

    Thanks again for your helpful interaction and love for Christ.


  12. Got you. I would like to interact more about the Tabernacle/Temple pointing type if possible. Maybe you can help me becasue if I am wrong I definitely would like to change. So I have a little list of things and would love your critique of it. You guys are on top of here and I love it.

    1. In John 1 it says that the word became flesh and “tabernacled” among us.

    2. Ephesisans 2 says “you are a dwelling place for God”

    3. 1 Cor 3 says “we are the temple of God”

    4. We are called a spiritual house in 1 Peter 2

    It seems to me that the temple motif becomes the people of God under the New Covenant and that is because we are in Christ. While Christ was here God’s prescence was not in tabernacles or temples but God’s prescence was clothed in humanity not a building and Christ being the High Priest and the Lamb that “takes away” the sins of the world enters into the most Holy Place and offers Himself. I don’t see how there isn’t a direct parallell between the two.

    Once again I am wrestling through all of these issues so your insight and interaction would be quite helpful for me.

    BTW what is your position on the New Covenant. I have been interacting with a few of my progressive brothers and for some reason they don’t believe that Jeremiah 31 has been fulfilled but when I turn to Hebrews 8 and subsequently Hebrews 9 when the writer says:

    15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

    Thanks again. I do see where you are coming from on the loosey goosey allegories though and I am wrestling through Luke 24 and how many great bible teachers take that to mean hermeneutically.

  13. Lionel,
    It might be helpful if you define what you mean by “type” which will then provide a parameter for examining various passages. For example, I do not believe that the three examples you gave in your last comment are types strictly speaking (see my brief definition in my last comment). I think it may be more accurate to see these as illustrations, examples, or parallels which is NOT the same thing as a “type” (there is great confusion on this in hermeneutical textbooks). There is also the problem that the clearest typological text that refers to the tabernacle/temple explicitly points to heaven as the “fulfillment” (Heb. 8:23-24). Again, I would encourage you to define what you mean by type.

    As far as the New Covenant is concerned you can see my last post on the theology of the NC. I think I was fairly explicit and nuanced on the issue. I have no problem acknowledging an already/not-yet aspect to the NC, which I believe most “dispensational” interpreters would see as well. There is no question that certain aspects of the NC have dawned (a word I prefer over “fulfilled”) and that other aspects have yet to be completed. I’m aware that some older dispy’s see two NC or walk all around the issue of the church’s relationship to the NC. For me, I just try to acknowledge what seems obvious from my own study. When we talk about something being “fulfilled” then it’s done. I can’t in good conscience say that about Jer. 31. What do you think?

  14. Would you say that the land was a type or an illustration? Coming from Hebrews 4. Or could you give me an example of what you would call an type. For me it would be something that points directly to the other. For example the rock that Israel was drinking from was a type of Christ, or the serpent being lifted up, or again the land/rest as a type of salvation things along these natures. You would say these are not types? Or even Paul when he speaks of the festivals and sabbath being something that pointed to Christ “he being the fullness”.

  15. BTW no interrogation here just tyring to understand what you mean by type by example.

  16. Lionel,

    I believe you just asked me the question that I posed to you in my last comment. I said, “It might be helpful if you define what you mean by “type” which will then provide a parameter for examining various passages.”

    Nevertheless I will give it another try. I fully acknowledge that this is a difficult issue and should not be one that is viewed along party lines (i.e., dispensational vs. covenantal) because there is no consistent position in either construct. I think most evangelicals will agree that a type is “at least” a person, animal, object, place, event or institution which has a definite historical position yet is intended by the Lord to pre-figure a future reality.

    Now the place where interpreters divide is over the limits of comparison. I personally would limit a type to something that has a definite historical reference point (not just a symbolic concept like “sacrificial system” which I would call a symbol) and is then applied by the writers of Scripture to a future event or person in the NT. So the key for me is that a a writer must make the connection. Who am I to take the meaning of Scripture and connect it to persons or events that were never intended by the Author of Scripture? I believe anything outside of this can be explained by other literary devices without resorting to the language of typology.

    I hope this helps.

  17. BTW: I have already received one email saying that my understanding of this is novel. Rather than argue the point further I’ll just agree with Duvall & Hayes who write in their excellent book “Grasping God’s Word” that “In our opinion an Old Testament passage usually cannot be confirmed as typological unless the New Testament identifies it as such. Therefore, while other Old Testament texts may bear some similarities to New Testament realities, they cannot be confidently classified as typology unless the New Testament indicates the fulfillment” (197).

  18. I will pick up that book. Thanks a lot for the dialogue.

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